Another planet By Karen Northcott The constant state of turmoil and tension existing on the Ellis Unit [of the Texas Department of Corrections] is calculatedly designed to brainwash every inmate, to create an atmosphere of hostility, to turn inmate against inmate, to make stool pigeons out of everyone and to strip every man of the last shred of pride and to reduce him to an unprincipled animal. Hate, fear and shame are instilled in every inmate who knuckles under, and it goes so deep that any hope of rehabilitation is lost. Inmate of the Texas Department of Corrections Houston For the men imprisoned in the Texas questions of life and death, of freedom and repression, of dignity and fear are crystallized in daily life. The prison world is a world of walls, bars, chains, clubs, cold cement floors, rotten food, cheap labor, bad medical care, isolation and solitary confinement. The act of demanding respect and treatment as a human being with constitutional rights, not as an animal is a revolutionary act in itself. Frances T. Freeman Jalet Cruz, a Houston attorney who represents convicts attempting to win constitutional and human rights through the courts, is awaiting a decision in a legal battle of her own. Three inmates of the TDC, Robert Slayman, Donald Lock and Freddie Dreyer, originally filed a complaint against Cruz under the Civil Rights Act, alleging that she conspired with some of her clients to threaten the security of the prison system by teaching revolutionary ideas, to endanger prison morale and foment revolution, thus denying them some of their rights. The inmates are seeking to bar Cruz from the TDC and halt her work with prisoners. The six-week trial was controversial and complicated, partly because the credibility of the witnesses was hard to determine. U.S. District Judge Carl 0. Bue took the case under advisement May 24 saying, “Frankly I’ve never seen a case like this before. One of the problems a judge runs into is familiarizing himself with the myriad areas of the law with which he has had no contact. For the past six weeks, as a member of the judiciary, I have felt that I have lived in another planet.” THE TRIAL involved issues which will set precedents for cases to come. At The writer is news editor of Space City! in Houston. issue is the authority of the prison system to discredit an attorney on the basis of his or her professional conduct. Volumes of information concerning the TDC and its policies toward inmates has been added to court records, and, as a result of this case, subsequent prison litigation in Texas will be shortened. The near tyrannical power of a federal judge was exposed and recorded. During the trial, Judge Bue set aside all ordinary rules of evidence concerning hearsay, leading questions and self-impeachment. He said they just didn’t apply. Bue handpicked the lawyers for the three inmates. Tom Phillips, chief trial lawyer for Baker Botts, a large and prestigious Houston law firm, was Crawford Martin’s campaign manager; Martin is a defendant in the counter suit brought by Cruz asking for $150,000 damages. Bue also appointed Donald Eckhardt, a trial lawyer for his old firm of Royston, Rayzor and Cook, as a lawyer for the plaintiffs. Max Jennings, the other appointed lawyer, has his law office on the same floor in the same building where Bue officed in private practice. The judge guaranteed that the expense of the trial for the inmates will be paid for by the federal government by allowing them to proceed in forma pauperis \(as a proceed in forma pauperis, although at the time the suit was filed she was living in poverty as a VISTA volunteer. Thus, the expense of the lengthy trial was borne by the participating defense lawyers Bill Kilgarlin, Stuart Nelkin, Henry Rosenbloom, William Kimball, David Berg and Fred Grossberg and the Houston branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The court costs may bankrupt the Houston ACLU unless large sums of money are raised. During the first three weeks of the trial, two of the plaintiffs, Donald Lock and Freddie Dreyer, testified that Cruz, through her intermediary Fred Cruz, solicited clients and then urged them to join in a conspiracy to take over the prison. The two also testified that Fred Cruz had threatened to kill them if they did not drop their suit seeking to bar Ms. Cruz from the prison system. \(Much was made both in the trial itself and in newspaper coverage of the proceedings of the fact that Ms. Jalet, 61, married Fred Cruz, 32, after securing his release from prison on a The third plaintiff, 27-year-old Robert Slayman, was paroled the second day of the trial and vanished soon after, abandoning his suit. Slayman’s deposition alleges that one of Cruz’s clients told him an Attica was needed at the TDC and that an incident like the purported throat-cutting of three San Quentin guards was also needed. Another inmate, Julius Perry, testified that he fired Cruz after she told him prison riots were sometimes necessary “to open the eyes of the public.” The final witness for the plaintiffs was Warden C. L. McAdams, who has been with the TDC at various units since 1948. McAdams testified that from the arrival of 0. B. Ellis in 1948 and continuing under the present direction of Dr. George Beto, Texas changed from an inmate-run system, rife with dope, sex perversion and knives, to a modern institution where inmates may enter a two-year college program, learn trades and rehabilitate themselves. To illustrate the changes McAdams showed pictures of the early prison depicting the poor living conditions, the poor working conditions and the inadequate laundry and shower facilities. He then showed pictures of the prison facilities taken in 1968, demonstrating physical improvements in the cell block, the prison .chapel, the hospital, the schoolroom, the laundry and the sewing room. The warden testified that Cruz made an inordinate number of visits to the prison to see her clients. After each visit, he said, the inmates were restless, edgy and tense. She would even demand to see a prisoner who was in solitary confinement, he continued. “After one or two visits from Mrs. Cruz,” he said, “there was more work stoppage, more fights, more tension, more men in solitary.” THE DEFENSE lawyers cross-examined McAdams at length concerning his attitudes towards prison discipline, homosexuality, Ms. Cruz and the “Ellis Report.” The warden said a prison can’t be run by the inmates, that the warden must have complete control and that control is guaranteed by strict discipline. He repeatedly compared the inmates to children who must be punished. He acknowledged, however, that it wouldn’t be unusual for him to sit on the three-Man disciplinary committee which tries the inmate for an infraction of one of the many obscure prison rules and regulations \(rules that in many cases are unwritten and even nonexistent except as Thus he serves, the defense lawyers pointed out, as both the judge and the apellate body. He denied that his conception of prison reform includes the denial of a man’s self-respect and dignity and the instilling in the men an attitude of fatalism and defeatism. McAdams also testified that he felt no July 7, 1972 3
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