Coming to a Roost Near You

Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 248 –251
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096741
Coming to a Roost
Near You
William Jones
“Say man, where are you goin?” The prisoner asked as I passed the long line of men
waiting to see classification.
“Charles T. Terrell unit,” I replied.
It was like a grenade fell into the room. Everyone froze, moments ticked, silence
dropped like a heavy cloud around the prisoners. Then the grenade exploded.
“The Terror Dome? They don’t like you!”
“Today is a bad day to see reclass.”
“They’d killin’ on Terrible T.”
My stomach tightened. I’d never heard of the Terrell unit, but this proved to me Terrell
was not a good unit. As I walked by the prisoners pity manifested in their eyes. It didn’t
matter, I attempted to encourage myself, I had made it in El Paso County. That place
was tough. I could make it anywhere.
Yet none of my experiences prepared me for Terrell unit. Before I was able to put
my red onion sack chain bag and mattress in my cell, I was attacked by three black
prisoners and received a brutal beating. But I never gave up and so earned my “wood”
card. I was given respect. The following day I witnessed a Hispanic prisoner get
stabbed multiple times in the hallway. He slumped to the concrete as he bled out.
That was my introduction to prison. In the mid 1990’s it was either Dateline or
20/20 that declared Terrell unit the most violent prison in America with an average of
one murder per month. I was there. I lived it. I survived it. Everyday there was fight-
ing, violence of one kind or another occurred. For the white prisoner you were either
a “wood” or you were someone’s property, their boy-toy, or a human coat rack. Being
a wood was something to be proud about. You had respect, you still fought, still got
tested, but you were respected or feared. You were your own man. Violence was a way
of life. It meant survival. I had consecutive life sentences and would die before I was
someone’s boy/property.
That was twenty plus years ago. Today, Texas prisons have drastically changed.
Cameras discourage most violence, but give credit to Texas’ Safe Prison Program and
the Federal equivalent PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) for the changed dynam-
ics. Yes, prisoners still fight occasionally, but it’s not the norm. Guards once were only
0.1177_CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096741Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeJones

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