NEWS: Moving On Up
The ECHO: Texas Prison News
Eva Shelton, Contributing Writer – Lockhart Unit
A woman serving time at the MTC-operated Lockhart Correctional Facility in Texas wrote an article about her experiences at the facility. The article was published in The ECHO: Texas Prison News. It’s a powerful testimony of how staff in prisons can have a positive impact on lives of the men and women they serve.
Moving On Up
On Monday, September 23, 2019, I was moved to the Lockhart Unit in the Lockhart, Texas. The experiences has been very positive. The journey starts with bright, colorful affirmations and pictures painted on the walls. There are staff and ranking officials introducing themselves, shaking your hand, and saying, “Welcome to Lockhart,” as if you had just landed in Hawaii.
When you come in, they automatically inventory your property and then give you everything you need. Then it was UCC [unit classification committee], get a job, get a cell, see STG [security threat group], meet the rank and off you go. On Wednesday comes a lay-in for orientation. Orientation might be the best idea ever and should probably be implemented in units statewide. The peer educators host the class and tell you about PREA [Prison Rape Elimination Act] and available PREA classes. Then there are visits by teachers, aides, food service, property and the chaplain. You will know everything you need to about classes, processes, schedules and available jobs by the end of the five-hour session.
The Lockhart facility has a faith-based dorm, Paws in Prison program, and a PIE program. There are free college courses taught by volunteers willing to donate their time to correctional education. Incarcerated individuals are encourage to become tutors and help those working to raise their EA levels, taking the HSE [high school equivalency], and those enrolled in a six-month program from which they will receive their high school diploma. There are vocational classes, a CHANGES program and a variety of classes to teach you things like finance, typing and career planning. There are constant PREA classes as you can sign up for like Somebody Cares, Woman to Woman and Wall Talk. The variety of religious programs never ends.
The Lockhart Unit operates under a guideline for the officers referred to as BIONIC (Believe It or Not I Care) in which officers ask how you are doing, do you need anything and respond to your questions with respect.
I’m now feeling like a new arrival all over again. I’m asking about toilet paper issue, I’m finding someone to follow to the chow line, I’m asking for directions to the infirmary or the rec yard. After six years of basically not caring at all about parole readiness and doing nothing to prepare, I’m enrolling in some classes and I am excited about developing workplace skills and computer skills. I am due to see parole again in six months, and I will have some skills under by belt this time.
I believe the Lockhart Facility will offer me the things I need to better myself and enter the world with more confidence. I believe that women who have gotten a good dose of what prison really is, women who have some time under their belts are the ones who will truly appreciate and take advantage of what Lockhart has to offer.
I’ve learned a few things about this journey. One is that we can’t become too comfortable in prison because that comfort vanishes in the time it takes for the officer to say, “Pack it up!” Second, I’ve learned that what’s important is not who and what surrounds us, but who we are inside that determines if we can deal with tomorrow. I will always remember that the tears of someone put in a terrible position make my fear seem insignificant by comparison
There are things that should be second nature to us all. Always be kind to those around you because you don’t know what they are going through. When a newbie arrives on the unit, remember that they know nothing and help them without demanding things in return. Do not let prison shut you down and don’t let repeated set offs cause you to stop trying to better yourself. All it takes is one eye-opening experience to let you know that things could be much worse, or one move to show you that things can actually get a little better.
About Lockhart Correctional Facility
Lockhart Correctional Facility is accredited by the American Correctional Association achieving over 99% compliance for both mandatory and non-mandatory standards in its most recent audit. Other accreditations and certifications include the Correctional Education Association and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA).