A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 31, 2008
Tighthouse (Tight House)

"Tighthouse” (or “tight house") is a Texas prison term that can mean something less than an official lockdown (or “lock down"). In rehab programs for female inmates, the “tighthouse” is also called “the chairs.”

According to one description of the tighthouse (cited below): “At one point the entire unit was on what they call ‘TightHouse’. It is a type of punishment, or disciplanary action. On tighthouse they have to sit in straight back chairs, feet flat on the floor, hands on top of knees, look straight ahead, can’t talk, can’t move around, nothing, and this is for 16 hours a day.”

The term “tighthouse” has been used since at least the early 2000s. A lengthy article on the “tighthouse” appeared in the May 23, 2008 Austin (TX) Chronicle.


Google Groups: alt.drugs.hard
Newsgroups: alt.drugs.hard
From: ravnetard
Date: 13 Aug 2001 14:35:33 -0700
Local: Mon, Aug 13 2001 5:35 pm
Subject: Re: chores at rehabs??? wtf.

YOU WERE IN DAYTOP!!!!!!!!!
spare parts, tighthouse, hotseat, etc.  its all coming back to me now…

Prison Talk - “Tight House”?
Rain Storm
09-18-2003, 10:34 AM
Ok guys I finally got a letter from my man yesterday and he is fine but when he was transfered into the Johnston Unit he was put in a cabin that is on “tight house”. I was wondering if anyone knows what this means. Sounds like a lock down to me but I am not sure. Also why would they put a new boot in a cabin that is on tight house. This does not sound right to me but I am sure it is very common. Also he had money on his books in the Dallas county jail do they transfer that money to where he will have access to it now?

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Newsgroups: alt.support.single-parents
From: “a boy named sue”
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005 11:32:36 -0400
Local: Tues, Jun 14 2005 11:32 am
Subject: Re: Rant. Vent. Serious anger.

So the deal at this place is if anything “big” happens ( two kids fight, group dynamics aren’t what staff want, or whatever ) the whole unit gets locked down, we are forced to wear PJ’s and scrub walls with toothbrush’s for days and days. ( ok I know I said i woudn’t get into the food, but in a “tighthouse” which is what they called this lockdown, only peanut butter and bread is served, and did I mention this IS NOT A CORRECTIONS unit LOL) ok but enough of that.

Prison Talk - Lock Down versus Tighthouse
Hopeful Grandma
08-03-2006, 07:50 PM
What is the difference between Lock Down and Tighthouse in SafP? Is it normal for things to last 40-50 days and have counselors calling people names, telling them they are ugly, families don’t love them, etc? 
(...)
30Flat
08-05-2006, 10:45 PM
Thought I would jot down a few notes...we used to house PRTC, which also does the ‘tighthouse’ thing. Tighthouse is not an official lockdown. It is just something the counselors use as a tool. It is used when the wing/dorm is being disruptive as a whole, not when just a few people act up. The counselors are attempting to (from what they explained to me when PRTC was on the unit) show them that there are repercussions for their actions. They are trying to make them accountable, in order to be prepared for the freeworld. Never heard them use the verbal abuse on our unit though. It was just the quiet treatment in the dayroom..with all their property at their side...cells being shook down. The bad thing about being in PRTC...the counselors have to power to tack on days for you to be in treatment. Lockdown on the other hand is official. It is strictly monitored...reports are sent daily. It is usually the direct result of a major incident on the unit...except for when it is time for the semi-annual shakedowns.

Prison Talk - U.S. Regional Forums - Texas
pami57
01-12-2007, 08:18 PM
She was SAFP and yes they are the same. Halbert is where my daughter was. Just wait, you will hear all about it from your sister. At one point the entire unit was on what they call “TightHouse”. It is a type of punishment, or disciplanary action. On tighthouse they have to sit in straight back chairs, feet flat on the floor, hands on top of knees, look straight ahead, can’t talk, can’t move around, nothing, and this is for 16 hours a day. My daughters first experience with this lasted 32 days. It is cruel and inhumane punishment. But you can’t find any higher beings that will talk to you about it or agree that it is bad. There are many posts on here about it and it will make you sick to your stomach. As I understand it each group goes through it at least once, sometimes more. My daughter had two rounds of it, the second one lasting only 8 days. They do get to go to the restroom every hour, but that is it. They bring them a sack lunch during this time. Many girls break and admit they can’t do it, they get sent back to prison. So tell your sister to just look straight ahead and focus on something pleasant in her mind. She will have to learn to remove herself from their games, mentally that is. It is really bad, much worse than you can ever imagine. Parts of it are OK, but this senseless game they play just consumes your mind and that is all you can think about.

I wish your sister all the luck in the world. Please try to explain to her what is going to happen and get her prepared for it. Oh by the way, it wasn’t really for punishment that is just what they say. Sometimes it is a rotation program more or less, for the guards to take vacations. So they figure with everyone sitting - LESS TROUBLE FOR THEM TO DEAL WITH.

Prison Talk - U.S. Regional Forums - Texas - TDCJ Prison Lock-Down Status
TDCJ hand
02-13-2007, 09:14 AM
The last time there was anything close to a state wide lockdown was back in ‘03 when the Barrio Azteca and Raza Unida hispanic gangs were at war, and then it was only about a third of the units locked down. There hasn’t been anything said at Gist about a state wide lockdown. During a genuine bonafide lockdown visitation is suspended along with all other offender movement. The first week of is johnny sandwhiches. The second week is a hot meal every three days. Showers are every three days for the duration of the lockdown. Most of the time it isn’t officially lockdown but “tight house” when just mass movements are are limited.

About.com: Alcoholism
From: txrickb
Posted: Aug 30 07 12:43 AM
I ran across this link and posting on a forum while looking for some information for a friend about SAFP, the Texas “Rehab” for prison inmates. 
http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-216413.html

At our visit today with our daughter we learned that the Halbert Unit (SAFP) is on what they call “tighthouse”. Some of the women were talking when they were not suppose to and talking to loud so they all are being punished. They have to sit in straight back chairs from 4am ‘till 8pm, with feet flat on the floor, hands in their lap, looking straight ahead, can not talk, smile, make any movement at all. No priviledges such as commissary and visits and mail maybe cancelled for the duration of the punishment time. The first five days they were brought a sandwhich for breakfast, two for lunch and two for supper and given a couple of sips of water with the sandwhich. Other than that they can have nothing. Bathroom once every hour. A counselor comes in for 4 hours at a time and screams and yells at them how bad they are, their families do not want them and tells them how ugly and unwanted they are. Those who can not deal with this, which already there has been many, get put out of the program and sent back to prison or jail and labeled as incomplete program requirements. They were told this would last 45 days. This is the 5th day, but they are still counting it as the 1st day due to those that can not follow the rules and not talk or move. They will not move into day two until everyone complies. This time also does not count towards their 6 month program which means they will all be extended another month and a half.

This really does sound like too harsh of punishment to last 45 days, 16 hours a day sitting in a straight back chair without being able to move. They do still go to classes and their job so that gives them a little break if it is a class day. How on earth do these people think this type of punishment is “rehabilitating”?

Prison Talk - Halbert SAFP Prison Unit (Female) - Texas
scottha558
03-20-2007, 09:51 PM
No, she was held in a County jail for 4 months and finally got a “bed”... I really want/need to see and touch her… But it’s a 200 mile drive and I would rather send her the money than waste it on gas. I’ve read about Tight House and it makes me want to throw up! Seriously, physically sick! The only hope is that we will be back together sooner rather than later…
(...)
pams lilsis
03-21-2007, 03:02 PM
if she just arrived there she missed the tighthouse this time they just got off hope she does not have to go through that
(...)
pami57
03-21-2007, 09:02 PM
scottha558 - my daughter left Halbert this past November. She was there from April - November, the last month just waiting on space at the halfway house. She endured two “tight house” diciplines. One was for 35 days and one for 5 or 7 days, I can’t remember now. Other than the tight house she says it wasn’t too bad. Her biggest complaint was not being able to rest much during the day. The days are full of “groups” and classes plus work. her other complaint was medical care, lack of. We visited her every weekend and I wrote her every single day and she says that is the only way she could make it through it. She would have made it without our support but it would have been very sad and difficult for her. They need the support of their loved ones. I also kept a little money on her books so she could have “treats”. I had magazines and newspapers from our local town sent to her from the publisher/book store. Our drive was 2 1/2 to 3 hours every weekend but it was so worth the drive to be able to sit with her for two hours. Sometimes the visits were sad because she would cry so much, and beg to get to go home. It’s so hard to walk away from them when they are going through such an emotional roller-coaster. My daugher was in prison 5 months prior to SAFP and I must say that it was SAFP that helped her the most. Even with the torture of tight house, she survived and the halfway house being a big joke - she survived that too. She is home now and doing ok, working full time from 2 weeks after arriving at the halfway house. She calls SAFP - a brain washing and a place that breaks your spirit. She is still very subdued, and doesn’t talk much. She says that is from being afraid ‘cause at SAFP they can’t talk, or they aren’t suppose to except withint their “groups”. She is not the same happy go lucky daugher I used to have, but if it means staying off the drugs and drinking then I’ll take that!
(...)
sks32cheer
10-23-2007, 02:13 PM
What is tight house? Anyone

Austin (TX) Chronicle (May 23, 2008)
Rehabilitation or Torture?
Inmates charge privatized state ‘rehab’ program subjects women to prolonged physical stress and degradation

BY PATRICIA J. RULAND
(...)
But judging from more than a dozen narratives written by female SAFPF inmates and recently provided to Austin attorney Derek Howard, such facilities – which in Texas currently house 900 female inmates – in reality may be employing unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. Some women incarcerated and assigned to SAFPF programs say they have been routinely deprived, humiliated, and degraded. Among other allegations, the women have charged they must often sit silently, rigidly, face-forward, in plastic chairs for long hours or days, occasionally through periods of weeks on end, sometimes as an individual punishment, at other times in collective punishment they fear and loathe as “the dreaded tighthouse.”

To Howard’s knowledge, no official Gateway/TDCJ therapeutic or disciplinary protocol recommends or allows a treatment so extreme as a “tighthouse.” To the contrary, a Gateway official described tighthouse as a limited and carefully monitored therapeutic practice, but the inmates’ descriptions of tighthouse (or “the chairs"), as a form of arbitrary and often harsh punishment, are starkly different from the official description. Women write, “It just is,” and is “a big secret.”
(...)
The Official Response
Asked for a response to the inmates’ charges, Gateway President and CEO Michael Darcy disputed the inmates’ accounts of the use of the tighthouse as “false,” insisting that it is a carefully limited method designed to aid in the inmates’ rehabilitation. Darcy insisted on written questions via e-mail and responded accordingly. “The therapeutic community model adopted by TDCJ has been one of the most effective means of reducing recidivism. A tighthouse [or Tight House] is a regular and integral part of the process of the ‘Therapeutic Community’ that is called for by the staff when the behaviors and attitudes of the clients need to be refocused on recovery issues.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (2) Comments • Saturday, May 31, 2008 • Permalink


Can anyone specify the nature of harsh verbal comments made to inmates on a SAFP tighthouse? Do you know of any physical assaults?

If you have any comments or material you’d like to share, please email me at pruland@austinchronicle.com

Posted by Patricia J. Ruland  on  11/15  at  12:49 PM

My daughter is in halbert safp. She says so far it is ok except for a few people , including a nurse who shouldn’t be one. But i haven’t heard from her in 2 weeks because she doesn’t get to make store very often while she is going to school. I am going to try to visit this weekend. Haven’t been yet on account of i live 307 miles away.  She has been there around 2 months so far. She was in county jail 3 months before being sent to halbert. I don’t know alot about it but i can tell you it is better than where she was. She wouldn’t be alive if she wouldn’t have got caught. I hate that she had to go for so long and so far away for a first offence though But i am thankful that she is alive.

Posted by Debbie S  on  09/21  at  03:15 PM

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