There are a thousand ways you can help in the fight against mass incarceration. There are also a variety of ways to specifically help Mona in her struggle to gain her freedom and raise awareness about the inhumane treatment of prisoners in Texas jails and prisons. Here are a few actions to get you started!
1.)Donate to Mona’s GoFundMe here. All proceeds are used to pay legal fees that will help Mona gain her freedom.
2.) Send a letter, email, or call the following places and request that an investigation be conducted into the inhumane treatment of prisoners at the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville Texas:
- Lane Murray Unit Prison: 1916 North Hwy 36 Bypass, Gatesville, TX 76596 ; Phone: (254) 865-2000
- ACLU Texas: File an online request for legal assistance here
- TDCJ- Office of the Ombudsman: Shannon Kersh (Ombudsman Coordinator)
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77342-0099
Phone: (936) 437-4927
- Senator John Whitmire: Texas State Senate, District 15, Chair of the Texas Senate Criminal Justice Committee):The Honorable John Whitmire P.O. Box 12068 Capitol Station Austin, TX 78711 ; Phone: (512) 463-0115 email@example.com
When contacting these offices, consider using the following script as a template:
“Dear (Office you are reaching out to),
I am writing to you to request an investigation into the unsatisfactory and inhumane facilities and treatment of prisoners at Christina Melton Crain and Riverside Units in Gatesville, Texas. I am a concerned citizen and a friend of an incarcerated individual named Mona Nelson (#1877556). I have recently been informed of the abuses of power carried out by corrections officers at this facility as well as the dilapidated conditions of the facilities themselves. These failings include but are not limited to:
- Undrinkable water. Mona has written that the water at the Crain and Riverside Units is consistently so heavily chemically treated that it appears blue in color and that prisoners often vomit after drinking it.
- No air conditioning and prisoners being denied respite. In the summers, prisoners are being consistently denied respite by the COs for no discernible reason or because of overcrowding on the unit. Because Lane Murray Unit does not have air conditioning outside of areas such as the chapel and the library, respite is an essential way for prisoners to cool off during hot days. As I’m sure you are very well aware, temperatures often reach triple digits during Texas summers. Some prisoners have even been witnessed having seizures due to their exposure to the extreme heat. For officers to be denying prisoners respite in any climate (but especially on dangerously hot days) is inhumane and negligent.
- Lack of personal protective equipment. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, officers have failed to wear face masks when entering dorms. Mona reported one incident that occured at 6:45pm on the evening of April 18th, 2020 where an officer handcuffed and physically assaulted her when she requested that he put on a face mask upon entering the dorm at Crain Unit.
- Hygiene. Prisoners have not been given enough soap to properly wash themselves/sanitize. This issue is particularly salient during a national pandemic. In particular an officer named Coco has denied prisoners access to a full ration of soap.
- Sexual violence and harassment. Mona has written to me many times of sexual harassment and cohersion of sexual favors being carried out by corrections officers at Crain and Riverside Units. The guards deny showers and food, and accost prisoners for sexual favors. For example, there is a shower stall in the segregation section located at Crain Unit’s reception area. Adjacent to this shower there is a room where officers take prisoners to illicit coerced sexual favors. Within the shower stall itself, there is a metal plate in the wall that can be removed and replaced by hand. Some prisoners have reported being watched by officers through the hole as they undress and shower. Specifically Officer Arellano has been named as an individual who elicits sexual favors in exchange for passing things between cells and threatening to “cross prisoners out” if they report him (crossed out refers to a situation where a prisoner is unfairly moved from a favorable location, job, etc. to a less favorable one as a form of punishment).
Mona has informed me that the majority of prisoners are afraid to speak out or report any abuse because of the retaliation that occurs after the abuse is reported. I am sure that you are appalled as I am to hear of these abusive patterns occurring in a state run facility. I believe that the great state of Texas can do much better to serve the needs of its citizens and that Texan tax dollars can be put to better use than to fund practices such as these.”
Help Eliminate Prisons and Support Folks on the Inside
1.) Donate to or volunteer with reputable organizations such as:
Black and Pink– A prison abolitionist organization supporting LGBTQIA+ and HIV-positive prisoners in the US.
Critical Resistance– A prison abolitionist organization working to build a mass movement to dismantle the prison-industrial complex.
TexasCURE– A group of concerned citizens that monitors Texas prisons and interacts with TDCJ administration, elected officials and political candidates to raise awareness to the values of preventative rehabilitation, restorative policies and programs, and to create positive changes within our our state prisons.
Equal Justice Initiative– A non-profit organization that provides legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted, poor prisoners, and other prisoners who may have been denied a fair trial.
The Marshall Project– A non-profit journalism organization focused on the issues related to criminal justice in the US.
Texas Inmate Families Association (TIFA)– A Texas-based non-profit whose mission is to break the cycle of crime by strengthening families through support, education, and advocacy.
Black Lives Matter– An international activist movement that campaigns against violence and systematic racism towards black people.
2.) Write to someone on the inside. The following organizations have great pen pal programs!
Prisoner Correspondence Project
3.) Send books to folks on the inside
Most larger towns and cities have a Books to Prisoners program, which aims to send books to incarcerated individuals who have requested reading material. These programs usually host weekly volunteer meetings. Find a program near you here.