Outrageous Government Waste of Texas Taxpayer’s Money (To Harass and Intimidate Yet Another TDCJ Inmate)

An Interview with “Sharif”, Plaintiff in
Lakeith Raqib Amir-Sharif v. Angela D. Allen, et al.
Cause No. 67247-I, Brazoria County, Texas, 412th Judicial District

Interview conducted March 2022.

HANDOUT: What is the ‘Angela Allen case’? 

SHARIF: It’s a huge waste of taxpayer money – at least $106,000 – by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the Texas Attorney General’s Office (OAG) to defend an ex-employee for their unethical abuse of inmates, and not repay me $8,500 for property they stole from me.

HANDOUT: When did it happen?    

SHARIF: In December of 2011, during my fourth year of incarceration, I was transferred from a West Texas prison to the Ramsey II prison Unit in Rosharon, Texas – which is right outside of Houston.  

At the time a Corrections Officer (CO) by the name of Angela D. Allen (“Officer Allen”) was working the unit. Officer Allen (like most prison employees) didn’t like writ-writers, and I had been so labeled by the TDCJ staff. This label was given to me because of my engaging in “constitutionally protected activities” – through letter writing to elected officials, repeatedly using (and helping others use) the prison’s grievance system and the civil court system, etc., to challenge unconstitutional acts being committed by officers against inmates, to improve the deplorable living conditions that existed and the lack of meaningful rehabilitative & re-entry opportunities for myself and other inmates confined in the TDCJ.  

On December 23, 2011, when Officer Allen announced Law Library – meaning inmates with a “Law Library pass” can now go to the Law Library – I went from the dayroom back to my assigned cell on the 1st floor and reached in between the bars to grab my law books and legal materials that were in these big accordion folders and manilla envelopes. As I proceeded to exit the cellblock, Officer Allen stood in front of me and told me I couldn’t take my (authorized) legal materials to the Law Library and she demanded “Give me that stuff…..” She took my law books and all my legal documents: about my criminal case, family cases, a set of transcripts, photographs of evidence, my law books – and she told me if I wanted to go to the Law Library to “Get the fuck on.” Officer Allen went on to tell me that I had no business going to my assigned cell to retrieve my authorized legal materials. What Officer Allen said is untrue, as I have access to courts rights, and it includes being allowed to get my legal materials to take with me to the Law Library. Mind you, everything I had in my possession was authorized under TDCJ’s own rules, policies, and procedures, so Officer Allen’s action had nothing to do with the performance of any legitimate duties or responsibilities related to her job.

HANDOUT: What is the reason that Allen took your property?  

SHARIF: She was just being the nasty rogue officer she was known to be to those she didn’t like. She didn’t like me because 

   I had been labeled a writ-writer/jailhouse lawyer. 
TDCJ Officers like to target and “bad jacket” 
(i.e., write bogus write-ups/disciplinary cases) 

And that’s all it was, because I was new to the prison unit so she had no other interactions with me to base her animus towards me on. I was the new writ-writer at the prison unit so to speak, so Officer Allen was trying to make an example of me, trying to provoke an incident by harassing me (a/k/a “hogging me”) – that’s what they call it when an officer just fucks with an inmate for no reason.  

HANDOUT: What is a writ-writer, for anyone who isn’t familiar?  

SHARIF: Jailhouse lawyer, writ writer,   You write litigation – but not just for civil matters, you help inmates in general with any issue. Domestic, family law issues – anything that dealt with the law. That’s what a writ writer is. Any issue that affects your sentence, or the conditions of your confinement. I’m the type of guy that will be involved in trying to make things right.

HANDOUT: What happens after she takes your property?  

SHARIF: She just threw my legal property in this little closet on the cellblock. However, the closet was not secure – they had a closet on the cellblock where the officers put their lunch and other stuff. She told me if I was going to the Law Library to “Get my ass on” there, so I went to the Law Library and told the Librarian Mrs. Rodas, and she told me to let the Captain know what had happened. So I went and did just that, once my Law Library session had ended.  

Well by the time I get back to the cellblock from the Law Library, all my legal property Officer Allen confiscated, is gone. Stolen, trashed, or whatever. But she is responsible – when a CO takes an inmate’s property, they’re supposed to first secure it, fill out property confiscation forms and then follow certain other procedures, etc., – there’s a detailed process they’re supposed to go through, and Officer Allen knowingly failed to follow that process, in violation of Texas Penal Code under Title 8 “Offenses Against Public Administration,” Chapter 39 “Abuse Of Office, Section 39.04 (a).

HANDOUT: What then?

SHARIF: First I went to Lt. Follis and he gave me a line of BS so I then went and told Captain Graham. Right then and there. I said, “This CO Allen confiscated my authorized legal stuff, and now she can’t find it.” So Captain Graham called the cellblock and briefly spoke with Officer Allen. When he hung up the phone, Captain Graham said they were going to look for it, and if necessary they were going to “shakedown” the cellblock where Allen had confiscated my legal property. But I said, “No, my property is long gone now and she didn’t follow the procedures, so somebody should hold her accountable for that.” Nevertheless, Captain Graham made some officer go to the cellblock and do a little shakedown (searching inmates’ cells), and they couldn’t find any of my confiscated property items. Officer Allen was supposed to have filled out TDCJ property confiscation forms. But because of personal relationships between Officer Allen and her superiors (the Lt. Captains, Major and Warden etc.) they were gonna brush it under the rug. They thought I wasn’t gonna pursue the issue as far as I did. But they were mistaken. 

I filed the TDCJ’s Step 1 grievance at the institutional level and it was denied. I then filed a Step 2 (appeal) inmate grievance to the TDCJ’s Huntsville Office, and it too was denied. Curiously, Officer Allen waited until after I had filed the inmate grievance against her about my wrongfully confiscated legal property before she wrote up a fabricated disciplinary report against me to cover her ass.

Once the Step 2 grievance came back denied, I realized the only way I was going to get any redress for this incident was to file a lawsuit under the Texas Theft Liability Act, in court in Brazoria County. On February 28, 2012, that is exactly what I did, naming Allen, the Warden, Lt. Follis and then TDCJ Director as defendants. I named all of ‘em.  

HANDOUT: Is it common for CO’s to destroy inmates’ property?  

SHARIF: Sad but true, the answer to your question is a big YES. This is a common practice to intimidate, harass, and provoke incidents with inmates. As you realize we inmates are only allowed to possess a small amount of personal property, so officers know they can really get at an inmate by taking away our authorized property items. And they do that BS frequently. I’m telling you from experience.

TDCJ Officers specifically target the writ-writers for this type of low-visibility and Unconstitutional form of reprisal and retaliation.  

HANDOUT: Will the unit try to compensate inmates at all?  

SHARIF: Because these property incidents happen so frequently – yes, the TDCJ does an annual Property Settlement offer, wherein they try to resolve inmate property claims/grievances by compensating you with confiscated commissary items. The commissary TDCJ uses for the property settlements comes from inmates who had “too much commissary in their possession,” and the inmate can’t account for the commissary items with receipts of purchase from the prison store. These “Property Settlements” take place once or twice a year at each prison unit. They’ll line up all the inmates who had property improperly confiscated, destroyed or lost by TDCJ. They put a value on the confiscated commissary and they’ll try to match that to the value of your property claim. Inmates must sign off on a “Property Settlement” form. What that does or means is the inmate agrees not to file a formal lawsuit or any other grievance about the property, because they’ve been paid.

HANDOUT: So you filed this lawsuit in February 2012, to get TDCJ to pay for the property Officer Allen destroyed or lost, and it’s still not settled 10 years later? Why? What happened after you filed it?  

SHARIF: TDCJ and OAG’s LEDD (Law Enforcement Defense Division) repeatedly tried every legal maneuver (ethical and unethical, that is) to get my lawsuit dismissed. They have filed every potential motion, and they’ve raised every argument possible to get a lawsuit dismissed – and all their motions have been denied.  The case was before one of the most dignified, honest and honorable individuals to ever sit on the bench, and I truly mean this, man. The Honorable Judge W. Edwin Denman is a remarkable example of what you get when you have a fair, impartial, and highly educated jurist who bases their decisions only on the law as applied to the facts, and does so without the influence of fear or other external factors – namely, the social status of the parties before the court.

HANDOUT: Why are both TDCJ and OAG involved in paying for all of this?  

SHARIF: The OAG’s LEDD represents TDCJ employees.  The Attorney General of Texas is the state’s chief legal officer. To fulfill the agency’s constitutional and statutory responsibilities, the OAG through its LEDD provides “free” (taxpayer-funded) legal representation for authorized entities and employees, such as the TDCJ and Officer Allen.

HANDOUT: Over the years of this case being litigated, you and others have made several Public Information Requests to TDCJ for expense records related to your lawsuit, and TDCJ has not provided the requested information. Why do you think TDCJ does not want to release the information?   

SHARIF: Yeah, TDCJ Director Bryan Collier, by and through his agency’s General Counsel Kristen Worman, has repeatedly violated the  Texas Government Code,  Chapter 552, which gives members of the public the right of access to the financial records sought from the TDCJ concerning my lawsuit.  It’s worth noting that after much ado, Ken Paxton and his LEDD staff begrudgingly released a portion of their financial records dating from 2012 to 2019. Those records reveal that at least $106,744.55 has been spent by Paxton’s LEDD itself defending individuals who no longer are employed by the TDCJ.   

They are simply padding the stats to justify the next budget request, and given the lack of oversight, they’ll continue to engage in this and other unethical conduct until someone has the intestinal courage to question and put an end to it.

I think TDCJ has refused to release its financial records in connection with the Allen case because they know it could set off a political firestorm that will be difficult to extinguish. 

They don’t want the public to find out that while they are struggling to pay high-ass gas and food costs, their hard-earned money is being wasted representing former TDCJ employees such as former-Officer Allen.

HANDOUT: How much is your lawsuit requesting?

SHARIF: Initially it was $3,500. Transcripts for my criminal trial and other court proceedings cost quite a lot of money. More than the $3,500 I initially requested. I was just trying to give the TDCJ an easy out and resolve the lawsuit as quickly as possible to avoid a long drawn out and costly ordeal, which this case eventually became.   

When the judge found out TDCJ/OAG had spent tens-of-thousands-of-dollars fighting this lawsuit, Judge Denman was unamused at the wasted taxpayer money and expressed this sentiment in so many words over the years. So after years of going back and forth, in 2015 Judge Denman instructed me and the LEDD’s assistant AG assigned to the case – Patrick Pope – to sit down and discuss a potential settlement. What I’m about to tell you is mind-boggling: in October 2015 at taxpayers expense Attorney Pope flew from Austin to Houston; rented a car, and came to meet me at the Ramsey II prison unit. After a bunch of wrangling back and forth that left Attorney Pope visibly upset, Pope offered me $50 (fifty). He told me that they had “a war chest” (i.e., the LEDD’s budget was a war chest) and they would use it to fight and defeat my lawsuit no matter what the cost. The case came to achieve that end. He told me, “You either take the $50, or you’ll get nothing in the end.” He said, “We don’t just settle property cases with inmates.”

Later, Attorney Pope wrote me and offered to replace the legal property that had been destroyed or lost by Officer Allen, along with the $50 – but as I had told him during our initial meeting, by then I had already replaced everything I needed. So I told him: No.  

The crazy thing is, it’s been at least 8 years since Allen worked at TDCJ, and 6 years since any of the other named defendants worked for TDCJ. What makes the defense money spent on this case even more egregious is the fact that it is well-known that Officer Allen left her job with the TDCJ and married an inmate she had overseen as CO at the Ramsey prison unit. All of this and more was known by Attorney Pope and others within Ken Paxton’s LEDD, but they brushed that mess under the rug.  

HANDOUT: Why is TDCJ / OAG still fighting a lawsuit when none of the defendants are part of TDCJ?

SHARIF: That’s a question only Attorney General Ken Paxton, TDCJ General Counsel Kristen Worman, TDCJ Director Bryan Collier, and legislators on the Corrections Committee can answer.  

I’ll tell you this: every TDCJ employee I know who is aware of the lawsuit and Officer Allen’s well-noted history is pissed because they all complain that TDCJ and the OAG are willing to spend tens of thousands to defend a corrupt ex-employee, but they refuse to increase the officers’ pay to meet the increases in the cost of living.  

HANDOUT: And what is the amount you are seeking in the lawsuit now?

SHARIF: $8,500. And my criminal case trial transcripts alone cost about $10,000. The other transcripts cost a pretty penny as well, not to mention all of the hundreds of other certified copies of court documents that Officer Allen confiscated from me.   All of these items cost more than I’m requesting.  

Eighteen months ago, the attorney from LEDD assigned to this case – Bruce Garcia – sent TDCJ’s General Counsel Kristen Worman a recommendation to settle for $7,500, which I was cool with 18 months ago. The additional one thousand dollars now sought amounts to less than $2.00 a day redress for the ongoing violations of my constitutional rights committed by Officer Allen and the continued deprivation of my authorized personal property – 10 plus years after the fact.  

HANDOUT: Have you contacted anyone else connected to TDCJ about this case and the settlement recommendation?  

SHARIF: Yes, I spoke with an employee of the board members at the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, in March 2022. (The Texas Board of Criminal Justice runs TDCJ. They’re responsible for everything TDCJ does. That’s Bryan Collier, all the top dogs.) She asked, “What did General Counsel Worman’s legal department say?” I said, “They just sat on the recommendation. They haven’t acted on it, and it’s been almost 2 years. Did someone just let Attorney Garcia’s recommendation to settle the case slip through the cracks, or what?” I even called Kristen Worman’s office – who is the TDCJ General Counsel, she’s over the TDCJ legal department. The office worker asked for my phone number and said the information about the lawsuit and my number would be given to Attorney Worman whom I was told was in a meeting when I called. Worman was supposed to call me back, but I never expected that to happen, and she didn’t do so.
Generally, if the LEDD makes a recommendation, the recommendation goes to TDCJ, and Worman is responsible for making a final decision on the recommendation.

HANDOUT: Why do you think it’s so important to TDCJ and OAG to spend so much taxpayer money, just to not reimburse you for property they destroyed/lost?

SHARIF: They don’t like writ-writers. In fact they despise writ-writers, and remember I was involved in the landmark “heat sensitive federal lawsuit” that has forced TDCJ to spend millions to address the extreme heat conditions in the Texas prison system. Moreover, TDCJ and the OAG’s LEDD office have money (“ a war chest” filled with taxpayer money, according to former assistant AG Patrick Pope) that they can foolishly spend without fear of anyone holding them accountable for doing so. They’ve got this extraordinary budget, and they need to spend that money in order to get more during the next fiscal year. Never did they think that they’d have to spend all this money on this particular case, but they’re willing to do it because the system lacks appropriate oversight and thus they will never be held accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ money to fight certain civil cases. The public doesn’t know that TDCJ and OAG are giving free legal representation for people that don’t even work for TDCJ anymore, or people that worked for TDCJ that were known to be involved in activities that were against the rules and policies of the TDCJ. No one holds them accountable for it. Like Patrick Pope said to me, “We’ve got a war chest, and we’ll use it, and you won’t get nothing.”

HANDOUT: Do these TDCJ and OAG employees, who hate writ-writers – do they know who you are? Who Sharif is?  

SHARIF: Yes. From other litigation. (At one point my name was in the Keith Cole/heat-sensitive litigation –  (Cole V. Collier; Civil Action No. 4:14-cv-1698)  – because I was basically representing everyone from Ramsey/Stringfellow – so that’s why one of the attorneys from LEDD fighting the Cole case came down to the Leblanc prison unit and asked me, “What do you want? You want us to transfer you to an air-conditioned unit?” I told him:  “It’s not what I want; you can’t just send me to some cool air-conditioned facility and everything goes away. I want humane living conditions for everybody confined in TDCJ. It’s about protecting lives, man. I ain’t fixing to sell out like that; that ain’t in my blood.”

But they know me. They know I sued ‘em before, and I won settlements, we’ve agreed on previous property settlements. Because COs fuck with writ-writers regularly – so I’ve had other cases where they went ahead and did a property settlement to avoid going to court over the incidents. Fighting my lawsuit was a status thing to Patrick Pope – he didn’t want to lose to no writ-writer. Because they go to these fancy law schools, man, and to them, I’m just a convict in a white uniform. No one wants to lose to someone like me.
HANDOUT: And no one is monitoring, no one is watching how this taxpayer money has/is being spent.  

SHARIF: Nope, although the heads of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Attorney General Ken Paxton and his LEDD have an ethical and fundamental responsibility to be competent and effective stewards of the taxpayers’ money. They are responsible for money that comes into their agency’s budget, money that is spent, and money that is used in running each respective government agency itself. What the Amir-Sharif v. Allen case illustrates is a lack of adequate and effective oversight for the spending of hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funds. The only way to curb this type of unethical behavior and reckless squandering of taxpayer money is for elected officials, such as, but not limited to, Senator John Whitmire and Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman McDaniels (and the other current members of the TBCJ) to closely scrutinize the budgets of the TDCJ and LEDD, the process used in deciding which lawsuit will be fought and for how long, how much will be invested to defend TDCJ employees, and which will and should be settled; and then hold department heads in TDCJ and the LEDD accountable for the choices that they and those they supervise make. Spending over $100k (and counting) in taxpayers’ money to avoid settling a “decade-old” lawsuit – in which none of the defendants have been employed by the TDCJ for over 6 years – is inexcusable on all levels. At one point the lawsuitIt is critical of our Texas elected officials to regularly reexamine such wasteful litigation expenditures by the TDCJ and Ken Paxton’s LEDD.  A reexamination of the statute that authorizes the “free” legal representation provided to TDCJ employees in the civil lawsuit must take place.  That is if continually striving toward improvements in the effective and efficient use of taxpayer’s money to defend against lawsuits, and to manage the operations of the TDCJ is the goal. If it’s not the goal, then by all means the heads of the TDCJ and LEDD’s office will continue business as usual at the taxpayer’s expense.

In 2015, Judge Denman said, “This case should’ve been settled a long time ago without the need for court intervening in the matter.” And he said that I have constitutional rights, and should not be subjected to inappropriate behavior of TDCJ officials like officer Allen. Judge Denman further made it clear to LEDD attorneys and TDCJ officials who were made to appear in his court over the years that, “We’re going to follow the law in this case,” and that’s why all the LEDD’s/TDCJ’s motions got denied because they were dilatory and bullshit-ass motions to dismiss the case.  

HANDOUT: Attorney General Ken Paxton – do you see this use of taxpayer money as part of the corruption of his office?

SHARIF: Yes. It’s his mismanagement of his LEDD office and conscious mishandling of taxpayer money. Paxton knows what his LEDD staff is doing. They wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t give them the OK. And that just allows 
them each year to say, “Look how much we’ve spent, now we need at least this amount of tax dollars for next year.” 

HANDOUT: Over the years of this case, we’ve reached out to many journalists about it – some of whom expressed interest in covering it. Why do you think none of them did?  

SHARIF: Everybody’s got their connections, loyalties, and several of the journalists said the editors of those newspapers shot it down once they provided the editor with all the background information – very revealing information that if brought to light would anger many members of the public who are struggling financially from day to day and paycheck to paycheck.

Several journalists expressed their belief to me that their editors might be politically tied to Attorney General Ken Paxton or other public figures such as TDCJ Director Bryan Collier, so they didn’t wanna put anything out in print that is damaging to their political connections. I figured they were right about their editor’s motivations, and didn’t think any more about them – because you can only keep a story like this one suppressed for so long. The editors don’t want to cut their favors off – monetary and otherwise.  

This just exposes the sleazy dark side of journalism and the media itself. I, like many other conscious individuals,  believe that public enlightenment is the priority and the forerunner of justice and the foundation of true democracy. Ethical journalism and media itself are supposed to strive to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair, unbiased, and thorough. An ethical journalist and editorial staff act with class and integrity in delivering news to the public. However, in today’s world, you’ll rarely find such qualities. The newspapers and their editors should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information.  But they are not. This reminds me of the quote, “It’s not necessary to censor the news, it’s sufficient to delay the news until it no longer matters.” Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly said that.

This situation is what makes outlets such as yours and others, like Scott Henson’s Gritsforbreakfst blog, so critical to public enlightenment and the true enjoyment of freedom of press rights.

HANDOUT: When is the next hearing? What’s supposed to happen.

SHARIF: March 21. We’ll discuss the reason why the case should go to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). It should go to ADR because it’s ten years old, none of the defendants work there anymore, and TDCJ doesn’t have a snowball’s-chance-in-hell of winning the case without spending a lot more than $8,500. They’ll spend $2,000-$3,000, just for this hearing.  

HANDOUT: Are TDCJ and Ken Paxton’s LEDD office the only entities that incurred expenses in connection with this lawsuit?

SHARIF: No.  There were expenses incurred by the taxpayers of Brazoria County, in particular, that are not reflected in the TDCJ nor LEDD’s records. For 
instance, the costs associated with having the Brazoria County Sheriff deputies come to the prison and transport me to a holding cell outside the courtroom for the countless unnecessary hearings requested by the LEDD attorneys (so the judge could listen to the LEDD attorney’s meritless motions and arguments before denying the same). The gas for vehicles and salaries of the Sheriff deputies who acted as additional bailiffs and sat through every in-court hearing conducted that I was present at. The costs associated with processing me into and housing me for overnight stays in the Brazoria County Jail to attend evidentiary and other hearings – it’s a huge cost that is hidden from the taxpayers footing the bill. It would be interesting to know the exact figures and financial burden TDCJ’s refusal to settle years ago and instead drag this lawsuit out ended up costing Brazoria County taxpayers.

HANDOUT: What happens if the ADR hearing doesn’t settle things?  

SHARIF: TDCJ and OAG’s LEDD will waste another $20,000 in taxpayer’s money picking a jury for trial. Also remember that none of the defendants work for TDCJ anymore so they’ll have to spend taxpayers money to locate, pay for the transportation, lodging and food expenses for bringing the defendants back to Brazoria for a 1-2 day trial. And then you have to add in the potential expenses to be incurred for an appeal.

HANDOUT: What do you hope comes from your work on this issue?

SHARIF: First and foremost, let me start by saying, a system only has as much integrity as the top people who comprise it. Now what I hope, is that this will cause Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairpersons Patrick O’Daniel, Derrelynn Perryman, and their colleagues to recognize that it is in the public interest that an urgent fireside chat be held with AG Ken Paxton, TDCJ Director Bryan Collier, General Counsel Kristen Worman, Senator John Whitmire, and State Representatives such as Alma Allen; to discuss the need for greater transparency and oversight with respect to TDCJ’s and the LEDD’s litigation budget and expenditures. This fireside chat warrants a reexamination of the feasibility of the current state statute itself, which authorizes (regardless of the underlying facts of the litigation) free legal representation for “current” and “former” TDCJ employees – at the taxpayers’ expense.

Moreover, this fireside chat must also include discussions about misguided litigation objectives, what factors will determine which lawsuits should be settled and which ones fought/defended, how long the lawsuit will be fought/defended, and establish an expenditures ceiling for litigation defense so taxpayers are not burdened with any more of this runaway spending. Finally, I am hoping that the services of whoever has participated in allowing this ongoing waste of taxpayers’ money are immediately reconsidered.

I always said, TDCJ: I’m gonna make you famous. Well with the requested interviews currently scheduled, this may be another famed moment for TDCJ and its hierarchy!

Finally, I would like to make clear that the revelations made in this interview are by no means an indictment of all TDCJ employees because I have met some truly honest, hardworking, good-hearted, and incorruptible employees. Many are focused only on doing their job to the best of their ability (according to the laws and constitutional provisions that govern the operations and management of the TDCJ) so they can earn a decent living and support themselves and their families.

However, many other TDCJ employees are as corrupt, evil-minded, dishonest, and mentally unstable as the sun is hot. These rogue individuals, such as former Officer Allen, represent a liability and disservice to their employer, co-workers, and the public’s interest in the true rehabilitation of the men, women, and children incarcerated in the TDCJ.

HANDOUT: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.

SHARIF: Thank you all for asking me. Hopefully this interview will contribute to the bigger story being collaborated on about the TDCJ.

artwork of Sharif by
Steve Perlman