Taking a Chain

On April 15, 2022 (Good Friday) I was awakened by a guard in the SHU at Seagoville at 3:30AM. The day had come when I would finally be leaving the SHU and transferred to FMC Fort Worth. I learned this is called “catching a chain” in prison lingo because your hands are handcuffed in front of you and attached to a chain you wear around your waste and your ankles are handcuffed together. At 3:30AM I was given a garbage bag to pack the limited property I had accumulated in the SHU at Seagoville and was escorted across prison grounds to the R&D Department “Receiving and Departures” at 4:00AM. From there I was given a sack breakfast and placed in one of two holding cells which contained about 30 inmates split between the two cells being transferred on the route bus which would leave a few hours later. The bus originates from the BOP transfer center in Oklahoma City and stops at the FCI facility in Texarkana on Thursday. From there it picks up inmates and travels to FCI Seagoville. The inmates picked up at FCI Texarkana spend Thursday night in Seagoville and then wake up the next morning and get back on the bus with the inmates being picked up transferring from Seagoville (i.e.. Me). The exception to this is any inmates being transferred from FCI Texarkana to FCI Seagoville in which case those inmates get off and stay at Seagoville once they arrive on Thursday. On Friday AM at around 7:00AM we loaded the bus our hands and feet handcuffed and head to FMC Fort Worth which is only about a 30-40 minute drive. The stop at Fort Worth functions similarly to the one at Seagoville. The bus drops off anyone transferring to FMC Fort Worth from the prior two pick ups (Texarkana and Seagoville) and picks up anyone transferring from FMC Fort Worth. The ones transporting from FMC Fort Worth plus the ones picked up at Texarkana and Seagoville not transferring to one of the facilities on the route end up going north to the BOP Transfer Center in Oklahoma City. My understand is the BOP Transfer Center is a short term regional housing facility, on an air strip, which temporarily houses inmates of all security classifications for a short period of time prior to busing or in many cases flying them to their new designated facility.

We arrived at FMC Fort Worth’s R&D department at around 7:45AM and around 10 inmates on the bus, myself included, departed the bus. I was told my property from Seagoville would go on the bus with me so I would have it when I exited but that is not what happened. My property was apparently shipped and as of today 2 full weeks later I have not received it. The intake process at R&D involves a lot of waiting and being screened by various departments. We have to change into their clothing, get photographed, finger printed, screened by medical, screened by psychology, screened by “Special Investigations”, and screened by a counselor. All of that took a little over 4 hours and the counselor who screened me notified me I would be housed in the “Houston” unit. I thought that was fitting since I grew up in Houston from age 3 to age 18 and am a diehard Houston Astros fan.

A little side bar about FMC Fort Worth is technically classified as an administrative medical facility for the BOP and is not classified as a “camp”, “low security”, “medium security”, “high security”, etc.. This means that FMC Fort Worth houses people of all security classifications who meet certain medical criteria and need a higher level of care than their facility they came from was able to provide them. The vast majority of those individuals are houses in either the “Lubbock” unit which is the medical unit or one half of the “Fort Worth” unit which is a psychiatric unit. The rest of those individuals are housed in the “Dallas” unit which is the first floor of a three story housing unit. The Dallas unit functions as a step down unit from the medical Lubbock unit and most people housed there (maybe all) are in wheel chairs or walkers. The rest of the housing units “Houston”, “Austin”, and “San Antonio” house low security inmates and the prison functions identically to a low security prison. I am housed in the Houston unit which is the second floor of a three story housing unit.

After about 4 hours at R&D we followed a bop correctional officer as a group to our respective housing units, losing people on the way. The prison has the look and feel of a college campus with a number of on average 3 story buildings (beige brick with dark red concrete tile roofs) but of course is surrounded by barbed wire. The housing units resemble an on campus college dormitory with communal bathrooms and showers. Most of the rooms are two man rooms with one bunk but there are some 4 man and 6 man rooms that are larger. I spent my first few days in a giant room called the “bus stop” which had about 12 bunk beds and contained about 24 inmates. The radio reception was bad in that room so I couldn’t pick up many stations and that is the only room in the unit without air conditioning so it was pretty hot. Thank goodness I didn’t arrive a couple months later. After spending the first few days there I was able to finagle by way into a prime cell about 10 feet from the sports television in one of the day rooms (more on the day rooms later). The room has great air conditioning and the only rooms with doors are the four rooms on each side of both day rooms. All the other dorm rooms in the units do not have doors. With this spot, I am able to pull my chair in the door way of my room and watch sports without having to deal with the politics. The inmates refer to their dorm rooms as their house so if someone is looking for you and they come by your room and miss you and see you later they will say “I came by your house looking for you.” The housing unit has one full time correctional officer assigned to it all day who has his own office and occasionally walks the unit making sure he doesn’t see any contraband or inmates doing things against the rules.

There are two large day rooms with 3 televisions each and each day room has two rooms attached to it on the end which function as television rooms segregated by race. There is a fair amount of politics here mostly centered around the televisions and driven by race. That is not to say that people of different races don’t talk and hang out but the four satellite tv rooms off of the day rooms are segregated by race. There is a fair amount of sex offenders here and they are treated as if their own race. They don’t have seats in any television room or either day room and have their own section of the chow hall they sit in. Each day room has around six computers which do not get used very often so if you like to email there is plenty of access. Each day room also contains two large industrial ice machines and two 190 degree hot water machines which inmates use to cook and for drinking over ice or for coffee. Inmates also play a lot of cards including poker, dominoes, and other games in the day rooms or in their respective rooms. There is one telephone bank in the housing unit which consists of I think around 8 wall phones which can get fairly busy especially in the evening time.

The recreation area has a full court basketball court, multiple hand ball courts, outdoor weight pile, softball field, soccer field, and track. The recreation area also has an indoor rec area with cardio machines, pool and foosball table, movies, etc.. You can special order baseball/soccer cleats, batting gloves, and baseball gloves from the rec department.

The education department has a law library and regular library which function as one. The regular library has a large selection of books. There is a wide array of post secondary education courses available at Education including associates degrees, bachelor degrees, and masters degrees. There is also a coffee shop on the first floor of education I have not been to yet. There are job opportunities in education as a tutor for inmates pursuing their GED as well as working in the library. There is also a barbershop located in education.

The commissary selection is very good compared to where I came from at Seagoville with about 2-3 times as many items available.

The overall compound is very pretty with a large grassy area within the surrounding buildings which include several little gazebos with benches. Right now the compound is on level 1 green modified operations so we still have some restriction on movement from covid so we don’t get to spend much time in the grassy area “the yard”.

Lesson Learned: By and large this is a really good spot and better than FCI Seagoville. As miserable as those 45 days were in the SHU and having to transfer by “taking a chain” instead of just being able to self surrender and settle in at my main destination it was worth the torment. God’s thoughts and ways are bigger and larger than our thoughts and ways. No matter how bad your circumstances are God is good and loves you. Trials do not come upon you because God is against you and we all have to be mindful of that. If anything trials and bad circumstances have strengthened my faith as I have seen the fruit produced from them when at the time of the trial I would have never thought something good would come out of it. Use trials to strengthen and refine your faith.

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