Community - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 "We tend to see a person in the moment, not as the journey they travelled to get here."  Kat Lehmann

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Life On Death Row
  
"COMMUNITY"
Written by Anibal Canales, Jr. 999366

(Please note that this has been posted verbatim, and without editing)


"We have to stop cryin' and start sweatin'. We have to stop talkin'
and start walkin'. Working together in our common faith we cannot
fail!" Jimmy Carter

A body of people living in the same place, under the same laws. No truer words define this place, Texas Death Row, and for that matter, all prisons worldwide. Yet, there is no community that actively seeks to self destruct like here in Texas. Once, this community was filled with activism, faith, unity, working together to not only live in harmony, but to lift up and help save the life of a neighbor, applying personal experiences to the next man in hopes that it can help guide their journey on Death Row.

The brothers of the Row did what no
other farm across TDCJ could do. They created their own community within the larger prison system. While the rest of the units were embroiled in gang warfare, racial riots, prison murders, and a complete meltdown of rules and supervision of the 80's and 90's, Death Row forged a bond and worked as a whole to live in peace, united in common cause freedom from a death sentence imposed by a merciless Texas justice system! It can't be said that violence didn't touch the Row, but isolated incidents couldn't take away the efforts of the whole community.

How could the accused "WORST OF THE WORST" of Texas accomplish such a feat? Simple: LOCATION! Death Row was once housed on the Ellis Unit where social contact, open access, and freedom of movement was TDCJ policy, which allowed the brothers to communicate, congregate, organize, debate. But above all we could have a dialogue with each other as only those who live together, sharing each others joys, sorrows and pains in an open, yet enclosed environment like Death Row on the Ellis Unit, could do.

In 2000, TDCJ deemed it necessary to move Death Row to a secure and ISOLATED environment. One that was built for a singular purpose which had been tested and declared a success to its mission. The Administration Segregation Building on the Polunsky Unit! Its purpose? SOLITARY CONFINEMENT!
Taking a group of men, placing
them in  SINGLE CELLS, removing all freedoms of movement except when escorted by C.O.'s IN RESTRAINTS AT ALL TIMES!! Allowing only controlled and timed (2 hours) recreation in another enclosed and controlled larger cage which is for ONE MAN ONLY! Discouraging all social contact which turns the GROUP into individuals and allows TDCJ to control and deal with an inmate on a single level who finds himself no longer among the group, but
confined to a single, solitary space...ALONE!

I have witnessed what this segregated environment does to men/women since its conception in 1987 on the Michael Unit, seging inmates, placing them into single, solitary living conditions and slowly grinding them down over years taking, taking and taking all who are familiar to the inmate, removing the small privileges until all that is left is a social misfit prone to self conflicted hatred, violence, verbal outbursts, unable to process anything other than his single solitary life, and cutting themselves off from anything or anyone outside that lonely existence. They become insular concerned only with themselves.."MY WANTS, MY NEEDS!..." "IF IT AIN'T ABOUT ME IT AIN'T ABOUT NOTHIN'" becomes the cry of the segregated.

This is where Texas Death Row is now housed and has been for years, and the community which once helped and empowered those on the Row has been ground down to segregated individuals no longer concerned about the welfare of the group, but only his own wants and needs, reduced to the solitary, single mental state that TDCJ has perfected for over 20 years!!!

Yet out of the ashes.....

Over the years that Death Row has been housed on Polunsky Unit, I've seen what TDCJ has done. The rise of men who found inner strength, mental toughness, the spirit of humanity that resides in all of us that withstands the daily grind, year to year allowing to polish and shine the human being that arose from the ashes of the disseminated community! If you listen closely you can hear the voices of resistance, the cries for unity and the words of revolution. Men who talked have now begun the walk. Those who cried have wiped away the bitter tears of loss and lifted their heads unafraid to work harder. Sweatin' with honest labors of love for their fellow brothers urging to come together in our common faith seeking and encouraging those around them to raise their voices and add it to those who are in the struggle!!!

WE ARE A COMMUNITY! We live together under the same laws which has imposed a sentence of death on each of us and THAT is our common cause! It is that which binds us together no matter our color, creed or religion. Our community has no boundaries, lines, or fences...only LINKS which connected us to each other regardless of our circumstances. We can and should be our brothers' keepers, encouraging, helping those who find struggle within themselves giving direction to positive paths and teaching them to lift themselves up as they stumble in our community, yet always there to lend a hand-up when they fall.

We have all been reduced to single, solitary, segregated living, yet it can't be what defines us as human beings. Our struggle to empower and recreate OUR COMMUNITY should be a testament to the spirit and commitment that shows the world at large that we are redeemable! Capable of contributing to our society which by legal definition is part of the word community! Thus giving question to society's claim that we are an "endangerment" and unable to integrate in our community. WE ARE THAT COMMUNITY! We are part of society and if we are lifting, encouraging and contributing to this community are we not then also doing it for society as a whole? Of course we are!

Our community is a living, breathing entity. A part of each and every one of us is linked together and as a whole we are living as a GROUP regardless of our single, solitary living! It is up to US as a community together to bring change which can only come about through the effort of a SINGLE SOLITARY COMMUNITY!!!

Your brother in chains,

Andy Canales Jr.


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