Death row inmates not given mental rehab
 01/13/02                                                                            Houston Chronicle

    The Texas Department of Criminal Justice offers help to mentally retarded prisoners - but not the ones who live on death row . At the James Byrd Diagnostic Unit in Huntsville, the first stop for new Texas prisoners, just about every inmate undergoes a battery of tests to determine IQ, temperament, mental health, education, job and life skills. The exceptions are those headed to death row , since there will be no attempt to rehabilitate them through academic programs or job training. Consequently, prison system officials insist they have no idea how many of the 455 death row inmates are mentally retarded.These officials estimate, however, that as many as 5,000 of the 150,000 people incarcerated systemwide show signs of mental retardation. Many of those non-death -row inmates are sent to the Hodge Unit in Rusk. There, more than 700 men and 100 women participate in the TDCJ's Mentally Retarded Offenders Program. Rapists, burglars and robbers study rudimentary academics and learn basic life skills, such as how to open and heat up a can of soup, make change or follow a recipe. The relationship between inmates and correctional officers also is different in the Hodge Unit program. Guards show more  patience and consult with the treatment staff before punishing an inmate for violating rules. "The whole environment is different," said Dee Kifowit, director of the Texas Council on Offenders with Mental  Impairments. "They're accountable. I'm not saying they're not. (But) it's an institutional environment."