I Couldn’t Believe The Conditions

I just wanted to get a letter to my friends at the New Abolitionist and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to say "Happy New Year" and to update everyone on the death row struggle that Angel and I are going through.

In my last letter, Jester and Polunsky Units had become too much for Angel to endure, and he had written a letter to the judge in Houston asking for an execution date. I find it ironic that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) finds Angel incompetent enough to be confined to a psychiatric unit and given medication for anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, but suddenly when he requests to be executed, he is sane enough to make his own decisions!

At the end of November and beginning of December, I made a trip from Ohio to Texas to see my Angel. He has been transferred to the Harris County Jail awaiting a hearing for an execution date. Although Angel tells me that the treatment in Harris County is much better than on death row in Livingston, I could not believe the conditions he was living in.

The floor sergeant at Harris County reminded me that Angel is a "suicide threat" and that he was under 24-hour watch and could have nothing sharp. When Angel was dragged out to our 15-minute visit, shackled hand and foot, I was horrified at what I saw. His hair hung to his shoulders, he had a scraggly beard, and his inch-long mustache was stuck in his mouth. I guess that because he was not allowed anything sharp, this also meant that the jail personnel could not groom and clean him.

The guard pushed Angel onto a small stool behind the glass in a community visiting room. I waited for the guard to undo the handcuffs behind Angel’s back, but this did not happen. I tapped on the glass and reminded him that he had not uncuffed Angel. He grinned and told me to "get real."

When I questioned the floor sergeant as to why Angel was shackled and the other inmates were not, he informed me that the county was afraid that Angel might harm someone. When I pointed out the fact that Angel was shackled and a lot smaller than the other inmates and that someone might hurt him, I got another grin and a shrug. When our 15 minutes were up, they dragged Angel away, fingers blue and cuffs cutting into his wrists.

On the second day I went to the jail, the floor sergeant came out and told me that Angel did not want to see me. I knew this was not true, and I asked him to inform Angel himself that I was there for a visit. When Angel was dragged out, shackled again, the grinning guard steered him roughly into the visiting room and into a wall!

I pounded on the glass, and the guard just smiled. When I asked Angel why he would not come out at first, he explained to me that this guard had quite a history of cruelty, and Angel had been run into many walls.

My last view of Angel was of him trying to wave his blue hand at me, regardless of the handcuffs, which held his hands tight behind his back. He mouthed the words "I love you" through the glass while trying to get his long mustache out of his mouth. My heart just broke.

So friends, in closing, I will promise to keep you updated on this small part of life in the TDCJ death row. If anyone wants to share their story with me or Angel or has any comments, please feel free to write to me.

Nancy Resendiz
18309 Puritas Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44135