Texas

Texas Inmate With a Wool Allergy Has Spent 10 Years Trying To Get a New Blanket

He's now representing himself in a lawsuit.

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Todd Yateas/2005 Todd Yates/Black Star/Newscom

A Texas inmate with a wool allergy has been trying to obtain a cotton blanket for 10 years. He eventually opted to file a pro se lawsuit alleging civil rights violations, and a federal judge ruled last week that the suit, or at least parts of it, can move forward.

Calvin Weaver's suit says he was diagnosed as "hyper-allergic to the wool blanket issued by" the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). He reports that he got a medical pass in 2001 allowing him to use a cotton blanket. But in 2009, inmates with wool allergies were given non-wool blankets "with a recycled blend of waste by-products," the suit says.

"He alleges that the new blankets caused itching, open sores, and sleep deprivation resulting in hypertension and anxiety," according to a summary of the lawsuit included in Judge Kenneth Hoyt's March 29 ruling.

In August 2018, the defendants, all whom are employed by the TDJC, filed motions to dismiss the suit. While Hoyt did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit, he did decide whether or not Weaver can seek monetary damages and injunctive relief (i.e., a new blanket).

Weaver's suit named five people as defendants: the warden of his unit, a unit supervisor, the executive director of the TDCJ, a medical doctor employed by the agency, and a manager at a prison unit medical practice. The warden and the executive director cannot be sued, Hoyt says, but the three other employees can, because Weaver claims they knew he had complained about his medical reaction to the blanket yet either ignored him or denied his requests for relief.

"Under the liberal reading required on a motion to dismiss, these allegations are sufficient to state a claim for deliberate indifference to Weaver's serious medical needs," Hoyt writes. Weaver cannot sue them for monetary damage in their official capacities as TDCJ employees, though he can seek damages "in their individual capacities."

"Since the mid-2000's the blankets distributed to TDCJ offenders have been manufactured by Texas Correctional Industries," TDCJ Communications Director Jeremy Desel told Reason via email. "These blankets contain no wool and are made of 40 percent virgin synthetic poly staple and 60 percent recycled synthetic natural fiber. An offender who asks for an alternative due to a potential medical issue is tested for any potential allergies and if warranted offered a medical pass for an alternative blanket."

With that in mind, it's hard to understand why prison officials would be so opposed to granting a man's simple request of a cotton blanket. Unfortunately, this is par for the course for the TDCJ.

In 2016, six Texas inmates sued the prison system over dangerous conditions due to extreme summer heat. The issue was a lack of sufficient air conditioning. "Each summer, including this one, Plaintiffs face a substantial risk of serious harm from the sweltering Texas heat, and Defendants have been deliberately indifferent in responding to this risk," a federal judge ruled in 2017. But the state has fought efforts that would require all uncooled prisons to have air conditioners installed, The Texas Tribune reported last month.

As of August 2017, Texas had more prisoners who'd been in solitary confinement for six years or longer—1,326—than any other state in the nation. The second-place state, Pennsylvania, had just 151.

The TDCJ is the same agency responsible for recently refusing to allow a death row inmate to spend his last moments with his spiritual adviser. After the Supreme Court granted the man a stay of execution last week, the TDCJ changed its policy: It will now ban all chaplains from execution chambers.

This post has been updated with an emailed comment from TDCJ Communications Director Jeremy Desel.

NEXT: In the Space of One Minute, Joe Biden Defends the Death Penalty for Drug Dealers, Asset Forfeiture, and Mandatory Minimums

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  1. When I was a kid, we used to dream of wool blankets in prison even though we were allergic to wool too.

    In our prison, we had to sleep on metal spikes with rusty steel wool blankets.

    1. Gosh at least you had blankets we slept naked outside with ice cold water thrown on us every 30 mins and I wasn’t even in Prison…
      Does Reason really expect the average Libertarian to give a rats a$$ about what kind of blankets child rapists, murderers, drug dealers are being given? What is wrong with this magazine?

      More proof that Reason is now a tool of George Soros ..
      What a rag!

      Allen

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  2. Calvin Weaver

    Why didn’t he build himself a new one?

    1. Ah, do you take delight in mocking the least amongst us?

      1. I knew people weren’t going to get it, but I figured they’d just move on. You shouldn’t feel like you have to let me know you didn’t get it.

        1. Calvin Weavers don’t actually weave blankets, silly person…

          Calvin Weavers weave CALVINS, dammit!!! That’s where my Calvin-Kleins come from, for example…

        2. Its OK, my first thought was also about the irony of a man named Weaver being involved in a blanket controversy

  3. Little known fact: WHY is Calvin Weaver a Texas jailbird in the first place? He was caught blowing on a cheap plastic flute, w/o permission from a Government-Almighty sanctioned doctor of doctorology, with current license, degrees, and doctorology credentials, and ALSO w/o board certification!!!

    Do NOT follow in the footsteps of Calvin Weaver!!!!

    To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/DONT_DO_THIS/ ? This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

    1. Good afternoon Most Righteous Feelz –

      Can you furnish me the Readers’ Digest version of why Calvin was incarcerated?

      You know that I am generally empathetic towards those railroaded by the state and public actors.

      1. Good afternoon Dude-Sir!!!

        “Readers’ Digest version of why Calvin was incarcerated”… Calvin (perhaps secretly enabled, aided, and abetted by un-indicted co-conspirator “Hobbes”, but I digress into the unknown) was SUPREMELY arrogant, and BLEW ON A CHEAP PLASTIC FLUTE (AKA “lung flute”) w/o proper permission!!!

        That’s all I know actually…

    2. Try to never get arrested in a red state.

    3. AGG SEX ASLT OF CHILD, so maybe the flute wasn’t plastic.

      1. Irrelevant, though, unless the statute prohibiting aggravated sexual assault of a child specified open sores as part of the penalty.

        1. Seriously? Maybe you should ask the parents of the child he assaulted. Since lying is second nature to most Cons perhaps a little vetting would be helpful.. What is wrong with Reason these days.. just another progressive rag.

          1. He means its irrelevant to the blanket controversy. You can aggravatedly assault all the children you want and still have a reasonable expectation of a hypoallergenic blanket while in prison (“cruel and unusual” and all that)

  4. But in 2009, inmates with wool allergies were given non-wool blankets “with a recycled blend of waste by-products,” the suit says.

    Green initiative, renewable resources, recycling, wind power. Suck it up, it’s for the earth, convict.

  5. He’s lucky they didn’t issue him a smallpox blanket.

  6. He’s allergic to wool; he got a blanket with no wool. What’s the problem?
    He is not asking for a blanket, he is demanding a cotton blanket. Texas is right to refuse this obvious ‘camels nose’ ploy.

    1. He’s allergic to wool;

      Read it again. He’s *hyper*-allergic. Any more allergic and he’d be ludicrously allergic. Just be glad the sheets aren’t plaid.

      1. according to him … do some real vetting this guy assaults and rapes kids you think he is capable of the truth?

    2. Cotton is way cheaper than wool, so this is obviously just a power move by assholes.

      1. We were given used blankets from the TDC for our dog rescue and they were all very heavy duty but soft cotton … this story is a lie. typical of most of the Reason progressive editorial staff these days. They simply don’t do much research.. I am expecting an anti-second amendment article any day now from the South Asian Nationalist/ Socialist.

  7. Given that he already has a non-wool blanket, isn’t his wool allergy basically irrelevant? His claim has to be something like “the blanket I was issued is toxic”.

    And, well, sure, it might be, but on the other hand, pro se litigation by prisoners on bullshit grounds are hardly unprecedented, so maybe let’s wait until facts are established at trial before deciding that the TDCJ is in the wrong.

    As to why the TDCJ might be averse to giving him a simple cotton blanket, presumably the switch-over in 2009 from cotton to the new fabric was motivated by something. Major reasons might include flammability, suitability for conversion by prisoners into a garrotte or noose, and resistance to harboring disease/parasites.

    1. The reason is obviously FYTW. It’s good to know what sort of justifications are sufficient for you, and don’t come whining when the shoe is on the other foot.

    2. I hadn’t thought of the flammability issue. There’s at least one prison system where blankets are required to be non-flammable.

  8. It will now ban all chaplains from execution chambers.

    So, obviously the solution is to ball all blankets from prison cells.

  9. Wool blankets are pricey! Looks like a place where the Lone Star State can cut their budget. Maybe give him one of those cheap-ass synthetic foam blankets you always find even in mid-priced hotels.

    1. Considering here in Texas most “Prisons keep the ambient temperature in Prison between 68 and 72 degrees .. Texas really doesn’t get cold enough long enough to justify much in the way of bed covers. What is wrong with you progressives?

  10. The Texas Prison system is not the Club Med. I get it and then it shouldn’t be. That said I have experience with the surplus blankets provided to the TDC. Our animal rescue charity was given a truck load .. They were well made heavy duty cotton. they were soft enough, warm enough and certainly better than what I was issued in boot camp. Since most con’s are not known for being pillars of veracity I question the child molester Joe Seyton lead the article with. What is wrong with Reason? My guess is that ever since they promoted the dual dunce progressive ticket of Johnson and Weld for President / VP they have found it necessary to appeal to a more progressive base in order to survive financially. Sorry Mr Seyton this article was a waste of space and a waste of time better suited for the Atlantic or Salon.

    1. “What is wrong with Reason? ”

      Maybe 3 or 4 years ago they were taken over by the Left. Hence the journalistic standards plummeted into the postmodern toilet.

      They had one very good new journalist for a while. Ed K. Old school journalism. Actual relevant facts, light on the propaganda.

      Naturally they shitcanned him in short order. Can’t say I was surprised. Way too honest and objective for the Postmodern Press.

      “Sorry Mr Seyton this article was a waste of space and a waste of time better suited for the Atlantic or Salon.”

      Don’t be sorry. This is the best compliment Seyton could hope for. Atlantic or Salon “journalism” is *exactly* what he, and most of Reason, is aiming at.

      But since I’ve been indulging in my daily 2 Minutes Hate for Reason writers, in the interest of fairness, I’ll say that ENB seems to me to be improving. More like journalism, less like the hysterical pants shitting propaganda Reason favors these days.

      If she gets any better, she won’t last the year without getting shitcanned.

  11. Apparently the judge has merely said there’s enough of a claim to go to trial – so far the prisoner hasn’t proven his assertions, he’s simply sufficiently within the bounds of plausibility to warrant further proceedings to ascertain the true situation.

  12. “It’s hard to understand why prison officials would be so opposed to granting a man’s simple request of a cotton blanket.”

    Is there anyone here who finds this a puzzle?

    Prison is not the Hilton. The customers to be served are the taxpayers, not the inmates. Particularly where security is important, “let’s have the employees make exceptions for special snowflakes” is not a policy that flies. And that’s merely the legitimate reason.

    All the usual reasons one would expect of government apparatchiks apply. Dems Da Rules, and You’ll Take Em and Like Em. File under “Not My Problem”. BFYTW.

  13. What a waste of money. Just give the guy a cotton blanket.

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  15. This inmate’s plight truly reminds me of the classic movie, “Cool Hand Luke”. Next he is going to file a suit about losing his egg eating bet!

  16. I have the same wool allergy.

    I’m now officially scared straight.

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  18. When I discovered libertarianism in my mid-30s, I was so excited that I finally found a political platform that so closely matched my own beliefs. However, in the last 5+ years, I’ve moved further away from it. If I had to name the single biggest reason, it would be: weakness on criminal punishment. Look, I get the concept of victimless crimes and I am all for decriminalizing them (drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc.) Violent crime and property crime are a different matter. We are WAY WAY too lenient on these criminals in america.

    This story is about a man convicted of child sexual assault. This guy is lucky he is left to live. The LAST thing in the world
    I care about is whether or not he gets a comfy blanket.

    Libertarianism was about individual rights I thought? If someone is violating those rights through violent crime or property crime- why would we side with him? Just for the sake of going against the government? I thought most libertarians were FOR limited government. Specifically, I thought most were for limited government that, AT A MINIMUM, protected the rights of individuals. If that’s true, why are so many libertarian intellectuals preaching for the rights of the criminals that rob people of individual rights?

  19. That is an insane article – with all the new items jails are buying and all the options out there – I cant figure this one out.
    Look at these options https://www.charm-tex.com they have a full line of bedding option

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