Happy New Year! Wow...It's kind of hard to believe that I've survived yet another year in this place. When September rolls around I'll have been locked up (minus a month...) 20 years. Unbelievable! I've spent more than half of my life behind bars and that is just freaking depressing to think about. That being said, we live our lives, regardless of the circumstances, the best that we can. Right? A long time ago a guy told me that "freedom is an inside job". You can live your life totally free in the physical world, but be a prisoner of your soul.
So, here I am, facing another year. Each year, on the first day is like stepping into the realm of the unknown. Everything and anything is possible. What will 2016 bring? What won't it bring? Who knows? I'm not big on new year resolutions because I feel that if we know our problems and what we want to do with ourselves or change we should constantly work on that. Not pick out a point of time and say "This is when I want to try to do it..." Because don't we always set ourselves up for failure? Instead, everyday we should say "Today I am going to..." Fill in the blank. Or as Yoda says, to paraphrase "There is no try, only do". Little green dude was on some serious Jedi Master shit!
So, over the past day I've been writing down little things that I'd like to see happen in this new year. Some of it, I feel, is in the realm of possibility. Other things, it is going to require work and human determination to change. We have to want it. Not just talk about it. I'm so sick and tired of talkers...Stop talking and just freaking do it! Be a doer. Some of these things are directed at Americans. And they are political. I mean no bones about being a true blue liberal - it is what I am. You may not agree with some of what I think should change but don't close yourself off to it. Think about them, debate in a healthy way with your friends and family. There's nothing wrong with a healthy dialogue between two people of different opinions. That being said, I might be somewhat abrasive with what I write but only because I'm making a point...If you're not into this stuff, feel free to skip over the next few pages...
Of course, I would obviously like to see a Democrat win the presidency, whether it be Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I prefer Bernie because he's a true Democratic Socialist and not an establishment elite. Another thing I really like about him is he hasn't been afraid to step into the lion's den and TALK to people with opposing views. I listened to a question and answer forum he had at a conservative Christian university and he was calm and polite. He didn't talk down to the students and even though they didn't agree, he TALKED with them. That is how you get things done, or at least create dialogue. You don't dig in and say "it is my way or no way at all" like a lot of Tea Party conservatives believe that the government should be run. Regardless, in a selfish way, many lives on death row depend on a democrat winning the White House.
Comprehensive Criminal Justice system reform...It goes without saying that things need to change. We lock up kids for LIFE for crying out loud. We ruin lives of those who get caught with a small amount of drugs. The U.S. incarcerate more people than anywhere else in the WORLD. And because we support the death penalty we rank up there with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and a list of other countries who have real human rights problems that kill their own citizens. How can the U.S. can be the "shining light on the hill" and expect people to follow our lead when our own hypocrisy is laid out for the whole world to see?
An end to xenophobia and fear mongering against those who seek asylum, and a new beginning without worrying about having their heads chopped off or be blown to bits. If you want to know a perfect example of how a peaceful, loving Syrian can start anew in the U.S. I suggest reading "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers. One of the best non fiction novels I've ever read. An end to institutional racism. Seriously. It is 2016...
An increase in the minimum wage for ALL workers. I heard an interesting report on a conservative talk program that was going on and on about how under Obama there are more people welfare than ever in U.S. history. He cried foul by saying "People would rather sit around and do nothing and get paid for it! Hell, in some states they get more from welfare than in a minimum wage job". I had the image of John Stewart looking at the camera with a serious look on his face, as this guy said it, because I'm no economic expert but I'm pretty sure the dude just argued to increase minimum wage. Pay people more. If you can't fork out a few extra cents for that ultra processed cheese burger you are devouring as ketchup sauce dribbles down your chin, then you should seriously re-evaluate what IS important in life. These people slave for YOU. Pay them extra so they can buy a delicious McCheese burger for their kid every now and again.
Comprehensive gun reform...Now, I interpret the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution differently than some in believing that our founding fathers meant what they wrote: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed...(my emphasis). I'm not a Constitutional scholar but I can read and it seems pretty self explanatory to me. That being said, there are many, many, MANY Americans who interpret this as meaning a right to have as many guns as you want. Regardless, the 2nd amendment does include the words "well regulated" and I believe that it gives the government authority to regulate arms. And what is the definition of "arms" anyways? Lets see what good ol' Oxford has to say...Arm: weapon...Hmmm...So, by that definition and some people's interpretation of the 2nd amendment it means that if you want a nuclear weapon you should be able to have one, right? It doesn't say assault rifles or hand guns. Though, I'm pretty sure that letting just anyone go out and buy an atom bomb would be a pretty bad idea...You would think.
I'm not a fan of guns. Even as a kid I wasn't. Now, Lazer Tag was a whole other ball game! I didn't like cap guns or air rifles. Sure, I played around with a few, but I would rather take the caps from the toy guns and beat them with a hammer and risk blowing my hand off than point it at another person and say "Bang! You're dead". I don't think guns do a service to anyone. I had this conversation with a guy back here and he said "Well, what if the U.S. government turns on its people. How will they defend themselves?" Dude, really? You're going to pit your hand gun or rifle against bombs or even a nuclear weapon? I think you're going to be dead pretty fast. A rifle against a Tow Missile? Just look at the civil war in Syria. The rebels are begging the U.S. military for heavier weapons because they're being bombed to bits. The Taliban or Iraq's insurgency wasn't effective because they're running around with AK-47's. They use I.E.D'S and car bombs. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people". Yeah, but they do it a whole lot faster and more efficiently with a gun.
What is wrong with some regulations? Here's some hard numbers to consider from the CDC: in 2013 there were 32,383 firearm murders or suicides in America. Of those fewer than 300 were deemed justifiable. Which is to say, if you have and use a gun, you are about 100 times as likely to murder someone or kill yourself as to defend yourself or your family, and those numbers are higher if you are a man (reported in the December/January Esquire 2015). Let Obama do his job. He's not trying to take your guns, but he is and has to do something to slow or stop these mass shootings and all around homicides. I mean, seriously, who the fuck thinks it's a good idea to let college students pack heat now? I'm tired of these knee jerk idiotic reactions to mass shootings. "People got themselves killed dead? That means we need MORE GUNS" YAY FOR AMERICA!
I love my country; I love Texas. But Jesus Harold Christ...I'm tired of the violence, mass deaths, and living in a society that is one of the most violent in the world.
And stop killing in the name of ANY religion or God. I doubt very seriously God is telling you "Hey, lets go shoot down some people or blow them up". Or "Hey, you know what you should do because you're a protector of "life"? Go down to that planned parenthood clinic and shoot a bunch of people up. I've got a nice place in heaven for you". Seriously people? You know what we need to do? We need to screw more like the bonobo apes. Man...wouldn't that be sweet? To quelch any agression or possible violence, you could be like "Argh! I'm so mad...I could kill your ass, but you know what? Let's get it on, donkey kong". Problem solved. And yes, bonobos really do screw to keep peace. What a life...!
I'd like to see more kindness, more humility, more love...More people should hug and tell each other what you're grateful for in life. I think more people should write letters, send more cards and "thank you" notes. People, don't say you are too busy when all you have to do is put the phone down for 10-15 minutes and write to a person that you care about! Someone PLEASE start this movement #BRINGTHETHANKYOUCARDBACK. I'm serious! Write a note to someone, take a picture of it and of you putting it in the post box and post it on the internet or Instagram or wherever you kids do things like that.
I'm sure I could think of a hundred other things to change or hope for and this is a good start. Ghandi said "Be the change you want to see". We do have to start with ourselves. We only have ourselves to blame for the way things are right now. We can go on business as usual or really do something. 2016 has such potential. It could be the year we back slide, or it could be the year that a real, true cultural revolution begins. What do you want 2016 to be?
January 4th, 2016
We are still on lockdown...They're back to the shakedowns, and I believe today they're doing C-pod, which also means sack lunches! Yesterday for dinner...good G-d! I had no idea what it was until I took a bite (and spat it right out). Imagine a tuna stew - yes, tuna stew. It was slimy and well...okay, a starving village wouldn't turn it down but personally I'd rather go hungry. Come on Bologna!
I slept so good last night but had some of the craziest dreams and they are incredibly vivid. In one I was fighting this real asshole of a guy and I mean really putting the smack down on him and he just laughed saying "I'm still going to kill you". I woke up thinking "Damn...that was one tough son of a bitch!" Another dream I had I was willingly letting a guy remove my liver. He cut me open and was scraping it out and I'm like "Wow, it doesn't even hurt !" Weird.
I woke up at about 6:30 a.m. but didn't get out of bed until 6:50, and began the day with my normal morning ritual - exercise. By 7:30 the sun was rising and there was frost on the grass outside. As the sun reflected on the grass, it looked heavenly. I haven't seen frost in a long time. As a kid I used to love walking across frozen grass and the way it crunched under my feet. Remember when things like that amazed you as a kid? How everything was exciting and filled with wonder? Why do we lose that as adults? So, in between workout sets I would look out the window and at some point all of the horses came into view in the field. It was really nice to watch.
Another couple of changes here: we now only get 10 minute showers. There's good and bad to this because they lock us in the shower, and it really sucks when you get trapped in what is essentially a hot box for the 30-45 minutes that it takes for the officers to come back and get you. 10 minutes is more than enough time to shower. However, it's not enough time to shower AND shave. Because I shave my face and head it takes a bit longer than normal and if I'm rushed I'll look like I was attacked by a ginsu knife weilding ninja, or I got in a fight with a Cuisinart.
Wow, we did got a hot lunch tray for a meal and not a sack lunch. Maybe we'll get the same for dinner? Time will tell. It's now 2 p.m., the sky is bright, clean and blue outside of my window. Finally a full day of beautiful sunshine after two plus weeks of dreariness. Looking at the horses, they're just grazing what grass is out there. I could spend the entire afternoon watching them. Lunch was okay but I'm feeling hungry. I have no snacks, just workout fuel - definitely not something to munch on. It doesn't help when one of the guards is doing his security check with a bag of delicious, oh so mouth watering, salsa verde chips in his hands, aggghhh. You know what people take for granted? The act of running to the gas station and buying some freaking snacks! I can't recall a time that I didn't buy some kind of bag of chips and a soda at the gas station!
Well, I need to attend to some other stuff. I will close this here.
January 5th, 2016
As I write this I'm listening to a program called "Totally 80's Tuesday". I'd normally be listening to the "Classic Club Hour" but he's doing a Natalie Cole tribute. Rest her soul but not really my cup of tea. Right now John Waite's "Missing you" is on. I feel like a kid roller skating at "Big wheel skates" in Arlington. Remember when the D.J. would say "all single skaters leave the rink...couple skates only, couple skates only!" Now kids all running around on these hoverboards or whatever the hell they are. I feel old, haha.
The day started off with a cool sunrise. There was this vibrant violet line on the horizon. A nice way to start the morning. Then I listened to a speech on Executive Action for gun control by Obama. It actually got me choked up when he mentioned all of the lives lost in mass shootings. Guns suck! They fucking suck!! Worst human invention EVER. Anyways, he called for tougher background checks. He even said "I'm not trying to take your guns. This is just common sense".
Curious as to what conservative thought was, I went to a couple of stations and as expected they totally misinterpreted and mischaracterized his speech. It's a shame that people can get away with being so - not just intellectually dishonest, but dishonest in general. Shame on them. Each Republican presidential candidate has vowed to overturn the executive action should they win. Fine, let's see how they deal with a plethora of mass shootings in office, should they become president. Bunch of intellectual cowards they are. Just another reason why a Democrat has to win.
Anyway, they should be doing B-pod, or even possibly A-pod on the shakedown tomorrow. I sure do hope it's A-pod so I can be done with it. It's the wait/anticipation that blows the most.
You know, I have a very easy last name to pronounce. Phonetically you break it down into two syllables "Hal - Prin". It isn't difficult and yet you'd be surprised with how many guards say my last name wrong in so many mind boggling ways! They add extra syllables, vowels, letters that aren't even in it and while I've gotten to the point where I respond to every iteration and pronunciation, I do think "How did they get that out of Halprin?" I've heard Harplin, Haplin, Halperlin, Hiplin, Haplerin...Clearly, the American educational system needs an overhaul.
January 7th, 2016
And it begins...It's 8:50 a.m. and the shakedown crew has arrived to begin the searching of the cells. I've gotten everything just about packed up and in the red crate so the guards can then DUMP everything out and ransack my stuff. Fortunately, I haven't got any excess property and I'm pretty good at packing stuff. The key is books first, as they take up most of the room. You can strategically jam other crap in the nooks and crannies of the crate. I'll be fine.
That being said, you never know which guard you'll get and what kind of mood they might be in. Here's a fact: we can buy our own stuff, radios, fans, etc...People can send us things like books but NOTHING and I mean not a single item that we "own" truly belongs to us, the inmate. At any moment, for any contrived reason, a guard has the authority to confiscate or throw away our items. It's just the way it is.
They seem to be moving pretty fast though, which means if they get A-pod out of the way the lockdown could be over by Friday or Saturday. I sure do hope so. Well, hell, they're already on B-section. There are six sections to a pod. I'm currently on C-section so they could be over here in an hour or two. Time to get this over with.
I don't know what it is but we've had two good breakfasts in a row. This morning was like freakin' Denny's. Two biscuits, hot oatmeal, apple sauce, a big ol' glob of grape jelly and potatoes and eggs. I ate the oatmeal and apple sauce and went back to sleep. After I finished exercising at 6 a.m. I heated everything else back up and it was delicious. I expect a loooong stretch of pancakes soon.
Around 7 a.m. the mail room showed up with my copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens novel! My body was full of excitement and I'm thinking to myself, as I signed the receipt and the mail lady was still holding my book, "Just give me my damn book!" haha. Okay, I need to finish packing and I'll finish the shakedown report when they finish C-section.
12:45 pm. WHEW! Got that out of the way. They spent about 30 minutes on my cell. It was ransacked, but nothing was missing. I straightened everything up, cleaned my cell, washed my floor and here I am. The one thing I hate more than anything about a shakedown is the absolute feeling of being violated. Imagine being taken from your "home"/cell and having a group of guards go through every one of your personal items, pictures, letters, everything. It's a feeling that sucks extremely and has a quality of intimidation much like the Gestapo in World War II. I can't describe it any other way.
Now there's nothing left to do but settle down with a cup of tea and my book. It's possible that I will have to pack all of my stuff tonight to get moved so we shall see. Until then I'm going to read as much of this Star Wars book that I can.
January 8th, 2016
Friday...I didn't get moved last night so I spent the evening reading and finishing "The Force Awakens". So, now I know the secrets, know the movie, and all I can say is it was freaking AWESOME. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. Even the novel had that classic Star Wars feel to it. I won't give any spoilers in here but there was a part that absolutely shocked - gutted me - and I would've liked to see more of Luke Skywalker but I understand the mystery of his whereabouts is what propelled the story and gave it a sense of direction. The ending was perfect.
Because I know the Star Wars universe so well, the sights, sounds and even the characters personalities, it was as if I was there, as if I was watching the movie. The book - and I give credit to the author tasked with the novelization of a script - found that Star Wars pacing of the movies. He didn't over explain or get bogged down in big language. He just told the story which works perfectly for an adaptation. I knew I wouldn't be able to go to sleep until I finished. It was about midnight and I had 20 something pages. My eyes were getting heavy and I was tired from a very long day. I considered taking it up early the next morning but the Force compelled me to keep going, haha. I'm excited for episode VIII. Lord willing I'll be around to read it.
So, last night I stumbled across the quote that will forever define my life. It was from the latest Rolling Stone magazine and an article on the new Star Wars movie. In the article Harrison Ford is quoted saying "I'm somehow extraordinarily lucky, for a guy with shitty luck". Isn't that the truth?!? I will have this quote on my tombstone...I'm somehow the luckiest guy in the world, and yet, I have the shittiest luck at times...
You know I'm incredibly grateful for those who follow "my life" on Facebook or even the website. There are a thousand ways to say thank you and I mean every one of them. I know there are those who come across my words and feel I don't deserve anything for mistakes I made at 18 years old, and poor - very poor - choices at 23 years old, and a part of me can understand it. I'm mindful of the cynicism, but judging me now, at 38 years old, a completely different human being, is in no way a fair representation of me. Someone recently told me that they know I'm not full of shit because they have read the volumes of my journals going back to 2005, and it would be difficult to put up a facade for so long, but also the entries read like a story and you can see the growth/changes throughout the years. One of these days I'll go back and read them all and see what they're talking about. Anyways, for those who do believe in me: THANK YOU!
January 10th, 2016
6:20 a.m....They're doing recreation today but I still feel the need to file my grievance about how we are constantly getting screwed out of it. Anyone who knows me, knows I hate feeling like an habitual whiner about things. For the most part I accept the hand that fate has given me and deal with it, but back here we have few comforts. I'm not one that gets super excited over commissary. But two things mean more to me than anything: seeing friends at visitation, and recreation. Essentially, just the opportunity to get out of my cell. If I was free I would never again be one of those people who waste a beautiful day sitting around at home. I'd go anywhere, everywhere! Rain, sleet or snow!
Contrary to this journal entry I'm not a super social person. Large crowds make me nervous, meeting new people scares the crap out of me at times (irrational, I know). I'm incredibly shy and introverted. However, I push that out of the way so that I do interact with other people outside of rec or even talking out of the cell. I almost crave the interaction because it helps to feel normal. I think I would do the same if I was free. I think I would throw myself into some sort of volunteer service, more than likely a homeless shelter of some sort because I have been homeless for a brief time. Plus, helping others does truly feel good. I would spend all available time out in the open.
Oh man, I watched the most incredible sunset out of my window last night. Picture this: a blue canvas with wide paint strokes of wind swept clouds. The sun began to sink into the horizon exploding into a kaleidoscope of violet, orange and purple. The lower the sun sank the more vivid the colors became. It was quite breathtaking. I watched until the sky became a navy bluish grey. Speaking of outside my window, I'm scheduled to go outside 3rd round. It's cold as can be but it's supposed to be a really really nice day.
It's late now and man was it ever a really nice day. I ended up going outside third round. The temperature was mild, not too cold. The sun was out, the air clean. For about half an hour I focused on every breath, taking in the fresh air. It was invigorating. I also had another basketball win. I'm on a roll!
I was thinking about something earlier...Why is it people accept the idea of "redemption" in stories, whether it be biblical or literary, in movies/TV shows and even societies "elite", yet, for the average person who does something wrong, redemption is seen cynically and is very, very elusive for those trying to obtain it. If a villain in a movie kills 100 people but throws himself on the bomb at the end of the movie to save the hero etc, people leave the theater thinking "That was the bravest thing I've ever seen! He did have good in him". If a society elite does something horrible, but turns their life around, we all say "Isn't it amazing how so and so got their life straightened out? I wish I could be so courageous...". But those of us who truly are trying to do better, change, ask for forgiveness and ultimately be redeemed...What do the majority of people say? "Oh, he doesn't mean it...bullshit...he's just trying to save his own life". Sigh...Something to think about.
January 14th, 2016
It's 2:30 p.m. on a bluish grey afternoon and I'm entering that point of the day where I'm winding everything up and going to kick back, read and listen to shows on the radio. It has kind of been a slow day with not a lot going on. We didn't have recreation today so I exercised, took a bath in my sink because I see no point in going to the shower at 5 something in the morning, exercising and then having to rinse off again. People probably wonder how a person bathes out of their sink and I used to have a "shower hose" made from the rubber tubing of a coax cable, but I lost that in the shakedown so until I can get another cable and strip that down, I just jam the button with a pen cap, pour in some body wash, get a wash cloth and go to town. After I'm done I have to mop up the water off of the floor, but hey - I clean the floor in the process. Clean body, clean floor. It's a win-win.
Yesterday was a lovely day and I went outside for rematch with the guy I beat in the cold this past Saturday. Wednesday was close to 70 degrees and a considerable difference in weather. It felt like spring. I came out ahead with a four to zero lead and I got a bit cocky thinking, hey...maybe Saturday wasn't a fluke. Maybe...just maybe I've gotten really good. But like a fat kid having a delicious piece of cake swiped out of his hands, I was beat down and lost the following 16 games. Dude beat the living day lights out of me. Nope. Not as good as I thought I was.
Last night I received a few of the Facebook comments on my journal entry of December 21st and I really love when something I write strikes up a conversation or debate because I really think that is how people educate themselves or can potentially find some common ground. I wish I could join those conversations in real time and give my opinion from the unique perspective of actually being here as opposed to people who have never had to experience this kind of life. I know that by the time this is read it will be a conversation long past, but it does irritate me a bit when I hear people say that prisons shouldn't be a country club etc. That most definitely doesn't apply to the state of Texas. And while I agree that prisons are prisons and shouldn't be a hotel resort, there are basic things prisoners should have and be able to do for various reasons...First, let me ask this question: what makes a killer on Death Row anymore different than a killer in General Population? There are THOUSANDS of killers in general population who can have jobs, receive phone calls, watch TV, go to recreation, have contact visits...While people on death row in Texas sit in a cell all day, every other day now. Everywhere we go we are handcuffed, we have no physical contact whatsoever, no access to phone calls (and if we do get a call it is a five minute, heavily censored call ONCE every 90 days), no contact visits, very little recreation now, no jobs...nothing. And if you don't have family or friends who support you, you don't even get to buy basic things like soap or shampoo.
It is a game of chance when it comes to who is sentenced to death or not. A jury of nine people get to decide your fate. And even that comes down to what kind of defense a person gets, or whether you're indigent...You just have to hope the attorneys appointed to you are going to do the best they can, but even they are handicapped because the Judge doesn't want to give them the necessary funds required to put on a good defense. So, you can have two men with the exact same crimes, one can receive a life sentence and go to General Population and the other could possibly receive death.
But forget all of that for a second, and think about this...Why should men or women who have committed horrible crimes have things like TV or recreation? The consequences of depriving those people of such things is this: a more hostile environment that potentially leads to more assaults on staff and offenders, and mental degradation. I've seen guys I met years ago who were in total control of their faculties, break down and completely lose it over the years as a result of being in solitary confinement. Some of these guys I've been out to recreation with and had deep conversations, played basketball with them, and now they scream and yell paranoid rants, rub faeces on their body, or throw faeces at people who walk by their cells. I've seen guys who were once social butterflies withdraw, and never talk to another person back here again.
The biggest example of where any kind of mental stimulation (whether it be of a social of physical kind) comes from, is when they used to house me on the Ad-Seg pods, and they were a freakin' mad house! Guys beating and banging 24/7, or cussing at other inmates or the guards because they have no free world support, and therefore couldn't get mail or books or even commissary. If I was ever successful in getting this death sentence overturned, I would somehow start a book program for guys in Ad-Seg, and also find a way for every guy in a Texas Ad-Seg facility to have a right to a radio. Without these things the guys have nothing else to do but to scream, fight and go crazy. How do you expect someone who spends years living like that to re-enter the world and contribute to society in a productive way? There's a saying that goes, "You are a product of your environment." Odds are if you are treated like an animal, you're going to act like an animal. On death row, most of us try to look out for one another; if a man is down, there's going to be someone to try and lift him up. Whether it be by giving him snacks, or trying to get him a penpal and some support. There's a "brotherhood" amongst us because we all share the same fate. Though, if I'm honest, even that is starting to deteriorate as a result of years in isolation.
And why wouldn't you want a prisoner to have an education? I don't know many people who can't afford college committing crimes so they can get a "free education" (which as a point of fact isn't free in Texas, because once you are paroled you are expected to pay a certain amount back to the State that comes out of your parole fees). Why not educate them so they don't feel they have no other choice but to go back to what they were doing that lead to their incarceration anyways? Besides, Texas makes it very difficult to get an education as it is, other than a GED.
Here's something I haven't really talked about, but it's absolutely true: when we escaped I had nothing. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to build on in my life of having been in prison. I wanted an education; I wanted to go to college. I told myself "If TDCJ accepts me in their school program I'll have a reason to stay. It'll be something to do and I will finish my education. I won't escape..." And so, without the other guys knowing, I sent in an I-60 that is a request form, to the educational department. I was turned down because I was too far away from coming up for parole. I thought, what a bullshit reason to turn someone down! My reason for disclosing this, is to expose the lack of any kind of rehabilitation in the TDCJ...If someone is TRYING to better or improve their lives, why not make the chance available?
Also, as far as Texas is concerned and contrary to popular belief, guys in general population don't get to sit and watch TV and recreate all day long. You are required to work a certain amount of hours a day. You don't get paid for it either, well, they claim to give you "good time" but that is a fucking joke! If you have a sentence that requires you to do a certain amount of time before you are even considered for parole, none of that so called "good time" is added into that time. Texas is more of a labor camp than it is a "resort". And besides, just as a general practice...regardless of whether someone has done something heinous or not, isn't it a benefit to humanity to be above those who have done the awful, and treat people with a basic dignity? Again, if you treat people like animals you can't be surprised when they, in turn, act like animals.
January 17th, 2016
I have a bunch of little things I have wanted to write about over the past week but it has been so difficult to concentrate because last Friday night I was moved to another pod/another cell and the section I'm currently on is the LOUDEST section on death row. It seems to be the one with the most jackasses. There was a psych patient on this section, but he's gone now (more on that in a bit) and that only added to the chaos.
I've been in a lot of cells in the 13 years since I've been here. Most of them, for the most part, are relatively clean. I may have to do some basic sanitizing but it won't take very long to sweep (with my towel, we're not allowed brooms and mops) and wipe everything down. But some cells...my God, I don't know how some people can live the way they do. I keep a top ten that kind of rolls. It has been a while since a cell or a person has made my list, but Friday? Sweet purple baby Jesus...this one took the cake. I won't go into the gross details but it took me all of Friday night to get it to the point I wasn't afraid to touch the walls or go to sleep. Then, I spent a good chunk of the next day scrubbing and cleaning as well. I don't even understand how the guards allow someone to live like that, but oh yeah, they don't care...It has no affect on them personally.
The noise on this section is insane. I live around a bunch of buffoons. Pure bonafide idiots and I'm not one to really berate people. To top it off there was a mentally ill guy who would just yell and scream out of his door all day. I'm not mad at the guy. I have a high level of tolerance for peole who are mentally ill and I don't like to see them picked on by inmates or guards and both were doing it on a regular basis. Some of the guys on this section were purposely antagonizing him and I would get so upset over it. My neighbor yells "bitch and ho" at him, just to rile him and I was like "Man, leave him alone. The more y'all do it, the more agressive he becomes". And the response to that is "Oh, fuck that ho. He's a bitch. He ain't crazy". I reply with "Dude, you're a retard you know it?" And the response I get is no surprise...."Well, he ain't foolin' me".
Well, one of the guards wrote the psych patient up for "creating a disturbance" and I'm thinking, you wrote him up for something he has no control over. You're supposed to contact the psych department (which honestly is abysmal and a joke but there is still a protocol in place) and inform them of the situation. Then, psych is supposed to come down and attempt to talk and figure out the problems. If medicine is required, give him what he needs or if he needs to be transfered to the psych facility you do that. You DON'T send him to the freakin' dungeon and compound his problems! This place...!!!
Speaking of dungeons and isolation, I was listening to a program on NRP today and they were talking about solitary confinement, how Obama has called for an overhaul of its use in prisons etc...Well, they had experts, officials talking about the issue and one proponent for solitary was going on and on about how these things are necessary and we get to leave our cell everyday etc...And I'm like "Really? We leave our cell everyday, huh? Because I've been out of this cell TWICE since Sunday and that is it". I don't understand how these people get away with the lies they do.
Anyway...just thought I'd get back on the ball and try to write something. More to come!
January 20th, 2016
I've been contemplating things recently...Thoughts I've had of late concerning a guy on Death Watch who is facing execution this week...I want to believe in the basic goodness of people; I imagine our souls being placed within our body or vessel...Imagine a circle, and inside that circle is a complex spiral that leads to a beginning. Our life experiences dictate how many swirls each soul has. The more hardships, the more turmoil...I think the more layers the spiral has, the more it takes you further from your essential being or "self". I don't believe in over-simplistic terms like "evil", and I think life is far more complicated than just defining things as black and white. I believe that certain acts can be evil, but that doesn't necessarily make the person evil. There can be a myriad of circumstances that make a person what they are, or influence how they act: nature vs. nurture, mental health, a predisposition to drugs, etc.
That being said I'm not naive in thinking that bad people don't exist; for whatever reason they can't or won't change. These may be issues only science and/or medicine can fix. Anyway, yesterday I felt the need to tell this guy (currently on Death Watch) that I forgive him for all his crap over the years, and that I hope he finds peace within himself in his last moments. I sent him a note, but never received a response back. I'm only two sections away from Death Watch and I fully expected, at least, a "fuck you", as was his nature to do. He had a lot of rage; but after listening to "Execution Watch" earlier this evening, they gave a run down of his life, and he had it rough. Not only that, but it appears a lot of his anger came from the fact he was gay and hated himself for that. Maybe his life wouldn't have been so difficult had he just accepted that. Or maybe he was "out" early on but dealt with bullying, etc...Who knows? I'm curious to know where the seed of his hate and rage originated. He's passed now and I take no pleasure in it. I can only hope his soul is at rest.
The day was kind of blah, but there's a bit of good news, and rumors have been confirmed! Firstly, the officer who assaulted an inmate with a steel food slot bar did get fired. Amazing! This woman has reaped the benefits of nepotism for so many years, we thought she was untouchable. The other good news is that the captain who has caused such upheaval here on death row, is being sent to general population sometime this month, and our recreation schedule should go back to normal. It's all good!
You know, I'm always being told that I should write a book and that it would "sell big!" But honestly, while I am flattered and grateful for those compliments, my main reason for writing is for the therapy it offers...To just get it all out there is so healthy, and helps me to keep from bottling up my feelings...The other reason is simply because I've always enjoyed writing (for the most part) although it can at times feel like a chore, if I'm honest! But, I don't really think in terms of "selling big" or anything like that; besides, I'd just end up giving the money away to some kind of domestic or child abuse organization or something like that. When I was younger, I used to think, "maybe I'll tell my story, cash in and be comfortable in prison!" But to think like that, to have those thoughts, only illustrates how immature I really was back then. Whether or not I write a book, get published, or whatever, I'm extremely fortunate and grateful for this avenue; for the readership I have, and those who have shown interest and support over the years. That means more to me than any amount of "selling big!"...Or anything else for that matter. I will always be incredibly grateful.
For better or worse, all of the experiences I've had in my life - good, bad and ugly - have all lead to who I am NOW. And to those who see me as I am now...Thank you!
February 2nd, 2016
Another day in paradise...if paradise really means hell. Oh well. I'm trying to find motivation today. I actually started the day off motivated but the further it goes the less motivated I seem. Amazing how a place like this zaps all of the energy from you, even if your intentions when you begin the day, are to get things done.
Last week I received the reply to my grievance on the recreation schedule and it essentially was a non-response to the issues that I addressed. I didn't expect anything more than that, really...I'm debating on whether or not I want to file a follow up to it and have it sent to Huntsville, but I'm pretty sure it'll have the same response, so why bother? But you know what, screw it! I want someone to take the time to respond, so yeah, I'll file a "step 2" as it is referred to.
A funny thing happened last week. The officer who told me he responded to the grievance was pulling me out for recreation on Friday. On the way to the day room he says "Halprin, what kind of job did you have out there in the world?" I was like, "Uhhh. Subway? Sandwich artist. And I worked at a place called Steak Fest for a bit. Why?" I asked. "Oh. I don't know. I thought maybe you were doing something for a business or something. You just seem like a guy who's got it all figured out." I laughed and said "Dude, I've been locked up since I was 18 years old and I assure you I don't have it all figured out. I have almost nothing figured out. Maybe I just fake it really well." He said "Nah, what I mean is you just seem smart." I laughed so hard....."Yeah, I'm a smart guy who has done really, really dumb things. I wasted my parents' private school money." I just thought the interaction was funny because I had no idea where it came from. Really? A businessman...me?
Here's a thought I had the other day...I was bored and listening to a pop station and I was thinking about the state of mainstream music and how awful, really awful it is. I mean, sure, there are some songs that make you nod your head and dig inside of your brain and stay on a loop, but most of mainstream music is written/produced by about 5 people. This is most of the music you hear! It is insane. But something that irritates me more than anything is how some of these pop stations take an otherwise good song, say like something like Adele and put an EDM beat to it. I love electronic music. I mean, I was on the ground floor with new wave/industrial/techno in my teens. But that doesn't mean you can take a song like "Hello" and put a dance beat to it. It doesn't work. It is horrible. Or, how a lot of songs that would be otherwise good, have like this agressive "WHAT ! WHAT ! WHAT ! WHAT!" in the background...Please, corporate music companies, stop doing this to music! You make me want to stick pencils in my ears. And I hope I don't sound like an old dude who laments "the good ol' days of music". I like new music, but I expect a higher quality, I guess.
February 9th, 2016
I don't think I've mentioned the great razor shortage of 2016 that TDCJ is undergoing...It seems whoever orders supplies for the entire system has made one of the great blunders of the 21st century. It's a bit crazy because in the 20 years that I've been incarcerated, the one thing the prison enforced more than anything else, was shaving. But now everyone is running around with beards and not just for religious purposes. Right now I have about a week's worth of growth on my face and my head, and man...not only do I look about fifteen years older than I am, but my stuff is grey...in fact, one of the mailroom ladies said this morning "Halprin, you look old!" And I have a young face! Word is that they'll have razors again on the 19th of February. I'll look like a hairy Bozo the clown by then!
Well, it is another sunny day and while the morning was cool it is starting to warm up. We had recreation today so I got up early, went to rec. at about 6 in the morning, jogged and did some leg exercises, came back in and immediately jumped into the shower which is rare, but I'm glad I got all of that out of the way because today is all about the Classic Club Hour...The station it comes on is having a fund drive and during the show, the DJ will do a two hour block. Can't wait to shake my groove thing!
Today is the New Hampshire primary and I'm eager to see if Bernie Sanders wins. I'm hoping so because he practically tied with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. I think that the more wins he can rack up, the more Black Democrats will learn about him and hopefully go for him. Right now, Hillary is the most popular amongst African American voters and the media is pretty much handing the south to her, but honestly, I think black people are more aligned with Bernie Sanders' policies than with Hillary's. They just don't know about him. Also, back in the 60's Bernie was in the trenches during the civil rights movement. He was there and gave his own blood, sweat, and tears to fight for equality. A lot of people don't know this about him, but neither is he the kind of guy to boast about all of that. He's very modest and sincere. I may piss some Hillary supporters off, but she's a politician and will say/do anything to get elected. Would I support her if she gets the party nomination? Sure. I would throw it all in, but Hillary is a moderate at best, in my opinion. Not a true blue progressive liberal like Sanders is. And now that the Bern is resonating with his progressive message, especially amongst young voters and millennials, Hillary is being forced to use phrases like "progressive" and "universal health care", when before, she wasn't. In fact, she said she didn't want to take up the universal health care fight with congress because she didn't believe it could win. And she may be right, but consider what happens if she doesn't fight: The Obama care program will be dismantled by the republicans. I think a lot of the disappointment with liberals in Obama is that it seemed he didn't fight HARD ENOUGH. They want someone who is going to at least try. When Hillary says it isn't a battle worth fighting for...she loses progressives. Also, in 2000 she said that the death penalty had her "unenthusiastic support". Unenthusiastic?! And it isn't just that...she just doesn't sound sincere or authentic. I don't discredit her work and record. But people want to know that you truly take their plights seriously.
I suppose I will have more on the subject at a later time. But right now, I'm feeling the BERN.
February 11th, 2016
Today would've been the most awesome pre-spring day to go outside and play basketball. In fact, I was scheduled for 2nd round which would've been nice, but it wasn't to be. Apparently a riot broke out on 8 building which shut everything down. 8 building is what is refered to as close custody. It's youngsters, primarily gang members, who have limited privileges but are not yet Ad-Seg classified. I used to work that building on the Conally Unit and I hated it. Now, why this incident affected death row is anyone's guess. Probably just an excuse not to do recreation.
I also have an ant infestation in winter! They're coming from the foundation; I did my best to seal the holes/cracks and so far so good but last night some had made it to my bed. I pull the blanket up, put my ear plugs in and I think I felt something crawl on my thigh. I scratched at it but figuring it was a phantom crawler I settled back in to go to sleep when I felt a sharp bite on, of all places...wait for it...my balls! I threw the covers back, pulled my boxer shorts down and there, as if it was king of the mountain(s) was a little red ant. I looked at my bed...ANTS EVERYWHERE!!! I was not happy! I got everything under control though, and the boys seem to be okay. Whew!
It's evening now and I'm just waiting on mail and then I'm going to bed. What is that Elvis song that goes "In the cold Kentucky rain...?"...I hear it on the radio every now and then and it makes me think of Kentucky. I miss Kentucky...I'm actually writing about some of my "adventures" in Kentucky for my memoir right now. I just wrote a chapter on a place called Tolly Ho. I had some crazy stuff happen there.
Anyways, I'm rambling. Take care people.
February 13th, 2016
I'm trapped in Kentucky right now. I've been writing my memoir and such a huge part of my life happened in Kentucky...When I'm writing it is like I'm there - everything. So strange. I also think it's funny that most of my time in Kentucky was spent wishing I was back home in Texas, and now it's like, I want to go back to Kentucky! Life manages to force things into perspective.
Nostalgia makes us long for even the worst of times. Life....But the good news is that I am hard at work, although something I've realized as a writer, is how little discipline in the craft I have. Haha. I love writing and painting pictures with words. I've always been able to write, but I don't like spending hours at a time over a piece of paper or typewriter writing. I'm too restless, and my mind wanders too much. Zero discipline! I get bored easily, and I end up questioning myself a lot. Like, did I write that paragraph well enough? Why did I write that sentence like that? Will people even find this stuff interesting? It isn't the same as blog or journal writing. When I do that I'm just writing. I don't bother correcting much or changing things. I'm writing as it is. I'm putting it all on paper and I'm done with it.
Holy crap!!! Oh man...this is freaking huge and breaking news...I don't even know how to process it right now. Justice Anton Scalia has passed away. God rest his soul. Truly. But to pass at a time when so many social issues are literally hanging in the balance - whoever Obama selects for appointment could shape the country for years to come. And...the death penalty. I'm just shocked. When I heard the news I stopped in my tracks like, WTF? Oh man, I can't even begin to fathom how badly conservatives are collectively shitting their pants right now. In fact, Ted Cruz, a Texas Senator and potential presidential candidate is already making comments via twitter saying Obama should allow the next President to pick a Justice. Really Ted? You think he's going to allow that to happen? There's no way someone doesn't get appointed. I don't even want to allow my mind to get too hopeful too soon.
Topic change! I will add this, we sure do know how to pick them in Texas, though. In fact, there's a woman running for the Texas State School Board right now, and she's called Mary Lou Bruner...She's a real doozy...She's on record saying Obama is a closet muslim, a homosexual (isn't that like well, never mind) that standard testing for schools is a communist plot, evolution is a tenant of the religion of atheism and Obama's political agenda is taken straight from the playbook of Joseph Stalin. Texas, y'all!
So, recently some guys had a National Geographic denied by the mail room for being "sexually explicit". I didn't know that NG had gone all porn, but apparently the TDCJ's decency standards have gone way overboard...I've railed on this issue before because it is ridiculous that as a grown ass man I can't even get comics that are geared for mature audiences, and God forbid there be like some cartoon boobies or sex. I assure you I'm not wackin' my willy to comics. It just sucks because we're regulated to PG-13 type material because of their fear that everyone is going to turn into a sexual predator if they see something of a sexual nature. But in fact, what they've tried to prevent has only increased! I can't offer any emperical evidence, but I know from what I've witnessed myself and heard from various officers, that masturbation cases on female guards has increased, and sexual assaults on inmates in general population are on the rise. It is ridiculous! But to even go as far as to deny science/art and educational material is beyond the realm of common sense!
Anyway...The weather here is astounding. Spring like in the middle of February. I can't believe it. And it is supposed to last as the rest of the country is being pummelled by the B movie of the week, "The Polar Vortex". Suck it, PV, bring on the spring!
February 17th 2016
Something a guy never gets used to on Death Row is when a guy who lives on the same section as you goes to Death Watch. It usually happens like this: two guards show up out of the blue at some random time during the day...They say: "Leave all of your property where it is, strip out and hand us whatever clothing you want to take to A-pod. We'll pack your things for you, take them to the x-ray machine and go through everything and return it to you later this afternoon or tomorrow morning". They don't have to say you just received an execution date or that you're going to Death Watch. You just know.
Everyone on your section knows and there's a reverent silence as the guards stand there strip searching whoever it may be. Thoughts of your own mortality began to fog your mind. Some get scared. Others say: "That is fucked up", in disbelief. We all deal with it in our own way. And so it was with a guy today.....As they took him out he wished us all well and told us to keep our heads up. He looked a bit shell shocked as he only received the news from his attorneys via a letter earlier this morning.
My neighbor and I had a conversation at how messed up it was because Monday was a federal holiday meaning that the letter sent to him was sitting there since Friday, at the very least. His attorneys probably mailed it to him last Wednesday and so for almost a week, maybe longer, people have known he had an execution date and he knew nothing. I thought it was pretty shitty that his attorneys couldn't visit him or at least give him a phone call. Instead he had to find out in an indirect and impersonal manner. These are matters of life and death, and unless you live a thousand miles away you don't send a letter that says "Hey, just thought you should know...you're about to die in three months. Sorry, we did the best we could". What BS...
I think about how impersonal our justice system really is. We don't see an individual, only a crime. From the prosecutors to the jurors...they don't view you in terms of being human...That isn't to take away from the crime itself or the victim(s), but how can any society expect any kind of change in their criminal justice system when we only see victim vs. monster? Where is the human element in all of this? I had a whole bunch of other stuff to write about today, but seeing a guy walked off to his impending doom kind of stole the wind from my sails.
February 18th, 2016
Yesterday was one of those reflective days that I spent thinking about life and death. It started the evening before, after Gus Garcia's execution. I didn't really know the guy on any personal level, but seeing his interactions amongst other people, he was quiet, personable and never got in trouble. When I see things like that I wonder how can this person be a "continuing threat" to society? At some point people are going to have to start to re-evaluate that phrase...
So, right now there's a bit of shenanigans going on on B-pod, and we, the inmates, don't really know how to address it, because on one hand it doesn't personally affect us, but on the other some dudes in Ad-Seg are being royally screwed. Now, there are two schools of thought here: some guys feel like they deserve to be treated the way they are because they're acting like animals, meaning they keep pulling their dicks out on every female guard that passes by; and the other line of thinking is well, as messed up as that is, it doesn't warrant the kind of treatment the guards are giving them...They are starving them, and denying them access to water. I am in the second camp...Isolate them, lock them down, give them sack lunches...I'm okay with that, but do not use starvation as a method of control. Apparently those guys were placed on Ad-Seg because of the riot in GP that happened last week. Interestingly enough, that riot was started when a black dude was masturbating in the dayroom. A Mexican guy knocked him out and other black dudes jumped on the Mexican guy which kicked off a massive fight amongst the blacks and the Mexicans. They put all of the black guys on B-pod because it was a completely empty section. Myself, and a few others, caught wind of the starvation tactic when some guards were bragging about "jacking" their meals. They thought it was funny. Me and my friend Big Will said something along the lines of "Hey, no mater what they're doing, don't take their food. You have things you CAN do such as place a blanket over their door, write disciplinary cases, etc. but you CAN'T take their food". They claimed the order came from ranking officers and I personally said "Guess what dude, ranking officers cannot enforce orders that go against human rights or your conscience. There was a little thing called Nazi Germany, and guess what they did to the officers who said they were just following orders? They were hanged. An inmate shouldn't have to distinguish right from wrong to a guard..."
We'll see how this develops.
February 23rd, 2016
As I type this it is early on a Tuesday morning; rain is sputtering against my window, and after a couple of really humid and muggy days, it feels cool in here. So strange that the weather in Texas has pretty much skipped winter and gone straight into spring.
I wanted to get outside with my friend Irving today - that was the game plan anyway. He's one of the only few people I can get to actually exercise with me. Well, half exercise...The dude is amazing at yoga but has zero wind for cardio...Still, he tries. But since the outside rec. yards are shut down, I'll be going to the dayroom instead. It's been a relatively calm morning; maybe it's the weather, or maybe it's because I heard from one of the guards that those Ad-Seg guys they've been screwing over, have been shipped off the unit now...They kind of messed up the vibe of the whole pod, but it just serves to illustrate the point I made about depriving human beings of certain stimulations. It's as if they devolve...No books, no radio, no magazines to look at. All there is left to do is lose your ever loving mind, or act like idiots and scream out of your cell door all day long. It isn't just that isolating human beings is bad, it is also the fact that these humans have zero support from the outside. Nothing to keep their minds occupied.
In a lot of ways it isn't completely fair that guys on Death Row get a lot of support because, let's be honest, a lot of it is out of sympathy and pity. Please don't misunderstand me or interpret that support as being ungrateful. It is just that the mentality of a lot of people is "Okay, these guys are going to die...let's give them as comfortable a life as is possible before they die". Whereas, say a guy who robs a store, gets life in prison and then lands himself in Ad-Seg...You really don't think "poor guy". It is more like "Well, he should've behaved". The point is that a human being, whether on Death Row or in Ad-Seg, is still a human being. They need the encouragement and support as well. If only to keep them from losing their collective minds.
I don't think people can really grasp how isolating prison can be. Yes, there is the public mindset of "Well, it's prison...they are there to be punished". But at what cost? At what cost to society? And besides, is it ethical or moral to turn your back on those who are incarcerated? People are there for ugly things. I was there for a very ugly thing. But I was also very much human. There are those who want to change; to do better; to be better. But the system in Texas, as it is now, is not geared to help you be better. It is designed for one singular purpose: PUNISHMENT. But how can you expect people to strive for goodness if you punish without guidance? Example: what is more effective, sticking a kid in the corner for 30 minutes and then letting him go back to do whatever he was doing, or putting him in the corner, explaining why it happened, and then saying "but this is how you can prevent it from happening again?" Texas doesn't operate like that. They claim to have programs in place, they claim to even have "good time" but it is a facade. What good is "good time" when you end up having more days built up than your actual sentence? You spend your days in prison busting your ass working - without pay - or going to some kind of school, whether it be G.E.D. or some kind of remedial trade like fixing toilets or fluffing mattresses, being a role model prisoner and then coming up for parole for them to say, "Well, you just haven't been punished enough. So sorry". Or, say you do have a lengthy sentence and you're trying to get into school, only for them to say, "Yeah, you want to get an education but I'm sorry you just have too much time" or "Your sentence is too short for us to invest in any program for you. Good luck out there!" And WTF is up with states locking up teenagers FOR LIFE without even attempting to rehabilitate them?
My point is this: Texas has created its own monster and has done little to stop it. Family and friends are also crucial for survival in prison. I had neither when I was in General Population. I'm fortunate now, that I have some wonderful friends in my life who I consider to be family. I never felt more alone in my life than the five plus years I was in General Population. Hopelessness, isolation, despair...it's a bad combination. I'm a very introverted person, but I still like having people to laugh with, and share life with. To have hopes and dreams with. It is the experience of being a normal human being. How can you expect someone to act normal if they aren't treated as though they are normal?!
Anyway...Something else I would like to see happen is for more men to be involved in the anti death penalty movement. People in the reform movement have also commented on the abnormally large number of women drawn to the movement, and the sheer lack of male voices. We need to bring more men into the fold, and balance things up a bit. I'd like to see more men reach out to guys in prison or on Death Row. There just aren't enough, and I don't think there's anything emasculating about that.
Well, I didn't expect today's journal to be a long-winded rant but...oh well. Haha. I need to get ready for recreation and eat some lunch. I'll be headed out 3rd round. I might write some more later.
February 28th, 2016
Sunday morning and it is a bit on the nippy side. But spring is definitely in the air. Sunlight is pouring through my window as I sit here listening to a new sci-fi show that I've gotten into called "Colony". It's produced by one of the creators of "Lost" so I had to give it a try, and so far so good. Another good program I've gotten into is "Lucifer"...but it really isn't what you'd think with that title. Based on one of Neil Gaiman's characters in his graphic novel series "Sandman"...Anyways, Lucifer has abandoned hell and is roaming earth and the longer he spends on earth the more "human" he becomes. It's pretty funny.
So, last week I was moved to a cell on the opposite side of the pod (B-pod) and I have a pretty good view. There's a sidewalk and building behind me that leads to the inmate side of visitation so I can see guys coming and going all day long. But the greatest part of the view is cat watching...There is a generator on a concrete pad directly in front of me, and I can watch the cats all day, laying in the sun on the pad. There are three cats who "live" there...Two greyish colored cats and one bright orange cat with real tiny ears. Without a doubt the orange cat is running things because whenever he pops up they back away. The two grey cats get along but you can tell it is not something they particulary like. In fact, one of the grey cats got too close to the other and was hit upside the head about five times, by the other cat...like "back the eff up beeyotch! You be all up in my business..." Which then lead to an awkward stare off between the two. I swear, I could watch those fellas for hours. It is nice to be able to watch nature.
Besides liking this cell and location, I'm on the same row as one of my closest friends back here, Big Will...He's been really depressed over some personal things that have recently happened and I've been trying to lift his spirits...We got into a conversation about friends on the outside and people who write, and things that irk us, which is really two things in general: people who write with a lack of commitment, meaning, those who pop into our lives and then just disappear without any real reason or explanation; and the close friends who get upset with you for reasons beyond your control, and then refuse to discuss those things with you. What then happens is the prisoner gets worried, stresses out and doesn't know what to think because issues can sometimes take weeks to level themselves out, and we don't have a direct link to the outside in real time. Things move at the pace of the mail room and postal service. Contrary to popular belief, Death Row and Ad-Seg prisoners don't get to use the telephone like in General Population. We don't have access to the internet other than printed emails sent to us via a service like jpay.com. We're trapped in a cell all day long with no outlet, no means of really solving a problem. When communication is key, communication is limited, and therefore if your conversation and communication isn't strong in letters, it can lead to a break down between you and the friend, lover, or whoever...which isn't healthy for either party. If a problem arises, at least try to discuss the problem...Don't immediately assume things or make accusations without first giving the other person a chance at an explanation or a chance to defend themselves. The person on the outside is at an advantage because they can go about their life and bury themselves in distractions. We don't have that luxury, and problems are only magnified in our cells. Keep in mind, any problem large or small is enhanced BY THE ENVIRONMENT we live in, ten fold. A book or a radio is not going to offer up a suitable distraction. This is why it is so important to have that strong communication. And if you're going to disappear, at least HAVE THE BALLS TO SAY GOODBYE!
But life goes on and Big Will will get over whatever he's going through in time. It just sucks to be in that situation as I've been there before.
March 8th, 2016
I was sitting here thinking about why I have been feeling so bored of late and just not been able to get my mind to function, and I realized that it is totally this new recreation structure. We have more time on our hands and then even more days when we don't get to have rec. due to "a shortage of staff". I tend to wake up and structure my day around when I'll be going to rec. What I mean by that is the guards begin to set up recreation at about 5:20am. They'll go down the run from cell to cell asking each individual if they want to go to rec. and then they'll say "Okay...first round" onto the next "Second round" etc...On average they have 4-5 rounds of recreation so you can guess when you will be leaving your cell. So, if I'm told "2nd round" I know that I can get some things knocked out of the way before 8:30 a.m. I'll be back in my cell around 11am, depending on how long it takes the guard to feed lunch. Then I'll get my lunch, wait on a shower, and maybe knock out a few more things before relaxing in the afternoon. With this extra time in the cell, it throws everything all out of whack, and I have extra hours in the day that I normally didn't have...
I realize that whole paragraph probably made no sense to anyone but myself, haha, but it's how my days are now. That being said, we haven't had recreation on this pod since Saturday, due to a number of reasons, number one being SHORT OF STAFF! But enough complaining...There's some heavy storms moving in and it looks pretty nasty. Looks like another day of no recreation. But anyway...
So, on Sunady I listened to a program on CBS called "60 minutes". It's a news magazine type show and usually I'll see what the topics are and one of them was about Death Row on Polunsky. Of course I'm going to listen to something about the place I'm in! I let some other guys know that it was coming on so they could hear it as well and honestly...the story was a bit weak. It really didn't focus on anything of substance and seemed to me to be a bit pro-death penalty leaning. The reporter talked to three guys from back here, and he asked questions like, "Do you believe in the death penalty/do you think you should die/who is responsible for your being here". Only one of the guys took responsibility for his actions...When the reporter asked "Who put you here?" he said "I did. The only person I can blame is myself". Another one of the guys kind of took responsability in a half-assed way, but he did say that no matter what happened and even though it was an accident, he wasn't going to stop when the police told him to. I thought about what he said and what one of the prosecutors in my trial asked me when I was on the stand testifying...He said "And what would you have done if the Officer tried to stop you? You weren't going to let anything get in your way!" And I said "No, you're wrong, I would've stopped. I wouldn't have tried to run". I remember him kind of blinking in surprise. And that is the truth...Had Rivas not started shooting that would've been the end of it. Back to prison I would've gone. When we were captured in Colorado I was alone with Larry Harper. There was a freakin' arsenal in that RV. There could've been a shootout but neither of us wanted that. I asked Larry "What are you going to do ?" He said "I'm not going back to prison". I knew that meant suicide for him. He'd talked about it before. I told him "I can't hurt anyone else or hurt myself...I've gotta go out there"...I surrendered.
Circumstances and environment will always be a factor in answering the question, "Who is resonsible for putting you on death row?". That isn't blame shifting and it irritates me when people say that, but...ultimately, in my case, it was my choices, my actions (escaping from prison and going on the run with 6 potentially dangerous individuals) that put me here. I have to accept responsibility for that, and I do. Now whether or not I should DIE for those choices, is debatable, but I really can only blame myself for this predicament. I own that. I'm just trying to do right, correct the wrongs, and be as good a human being as I can be. I just want the chance to carry that forward, to prove the jurors wrong, to prove the system wrong. I'm far from perfect...I can be a complete dumbass at times. I'm impulsive, I don't always think things through, but...I do believe I'm a decent person. I really try hard to be.
Anyway, one thing I'm glad people got to see from that report, was the police officers revving their engines during Lopez' execution. I hope people at least agreed that such behaviour is tactless, tasteless, and downright inhumane, regardless of who is being executed.
March 8th, 2016
Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle! I'm getting recreation today. Gotta get ready but will return...
I started this entry earlier in the morning and now it is 3:45 p.m. I actually got stuck out at rec. for almost four hours. The officers were out on a break...Here's something interesting, because they are so short staffed they are breaking themselves out, meaning that only one Pod Officer is on the floor when there is technically supposed to be two at all times. I guess we are not all that dangerous after all...Very interesting. Actually, they've been doing this for some time now, even before they were "short staffed".
Anyways, today was supposed to be my outside day and because of the storms the Officers were cool enough to let us recreate inside which I really appreciated because I needed to get out of this cell, stretch my legs and get some jogging in. It was so humid though. By the time I finished jogging a couple of miles I was drenched in sweat. I was grateful that the guards allowed our section the opportunity to get out of the cell when some other guards would've just screwed us and said "Sorry, no rec., outside is shut down". I could name a few that would do that, but it also proves my point that not all guards are out to screw us over or punish us. It is just a job and they treat us like humans instead of monsters. While I was out there some kind of small tour came in with a couple of people in suits. A young black guy jammed them up and said "What are y'all? What do you want back here?" One of the suited men said "We're just here to see how you live". The youngster went on a rant of "Well, how the fuck we live? We ain't got no T.V., we ain't got no mother fuckin' telephone so I can call my T-Jones...". The other suited man said "Well, you have three hots and a cot". "Shit! We ain't even got that! This food is cold as a mother fucker!" The suit said "What, you want a microwave?" And kid came back with "No, dumbass...but a nice hot meal would do!" I couldn't help but laugh at the exchange...When the people left I talked to the youngster and said "I appreciate the effort you made at trying to open a dialogue with them, but your approach was wrong". He said "What you mean by that?" I took my time explaining and told him "You were a bit on the aggressive side. And when you started talking about T.V's and phone calls, even if you are in the right, you're going to lose people like that every time. The argument isn't T.V., the arguments are this...1) We're in a cell all day long, and because of our new rec. schedule, we have very little to occupy our minds. 2) Regardless of how you may feel we should live, you could treat us a bit more on the humane side. And 3) Our contact with the outside, with family and friends, is limited. Why is a KILLER in G.P. allowed to have access to more visits, daily telephone calls, etc...What is the difference between them and me? You have to frame the conversation a bit differently. Even if you don't respect them, talk to them respectfully, don't give them a reason to think 'Geez, what a dumbass, this guy deserves this'."
I hope I made him think a bit. It turned out they weren't anybody of importance, just a couple of detectives down here to talk to another inmate and wanted to see what Death Row "looked like". I came back to my cell and was fortunate to get a shower pretty quickly...Now I'm just worn out, so I'm going to listen to the news, read a little and call it a day...
March 14th, 2016
I knew something was up...I usually wake up as soon as the guards turn on the walkway lights at about 5:20am, but my body clock woke me up at around 5:45am, and it was still dark outside of the cell. At first I was thinking, crap...you bastards are screwing us over on recreation again! I kicked the blankets off, rubbed my eyes and muttered curses as I started my day. I walked to the door of my cell because I can see the area by the control center where the guards "rest" and they were out there. All three guards plus a new trainee...I thought, hmmm well, they CAN'T be short staffed today. What the hell is going on? And then I thought...oh no...please tell me this isn't the spring lockdown...
I went to the back of my cell, climbed up on my bunk to look at the back window. Usually you can see inmates from General Population moving about, going to work, etc...I didn't see anything. Please, please, please don't let this be lockdown, I thought. Screw it. I'll just start my day like I typically do and get everything in order until a guard walks around and I can get some answers. I drank my coffee, took my vitamins and brushed my teeth. I had breakfast in a cup, saved from earlier (some scrambled eggs) and I thought, well, I'll do some exercise and then heat that up with some sriracha sauce (I'm hooked on the rooster sauce!). Finally a guard walked by and I said "What's the deal? Why aren't you setting up recreation?" He said "Unit lockdown. Spring break". NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I fell to my knees crying! (Just kidding, I didn't really do that but in my mind I did!) I let out a sigh and walked away sad faced. Never make plans in prison, 'cause they almost never turn out how you want them to...I was really amped up for today because me and Big Will had already talked about trying to get outside. It was going to be perfect. In the high 80's, sunny and bright. I even planned on getting a sunburn so I could get some seasonal color to my deathly pale skin. I was going to jog in the fresh air. Well, maybe in a couple of weeks. I figure this one will be longer than usual because it is the entire unit that is on lockdown. But it is strange because in all of my years they usually don't lockdown right before Easter. And a lot of guys go to church for Easter services in General Population...I guess this current administration really doesn't care. Also there's a Christian ministry that comes around this time of year called Kairos and they do special services for GP inmates and they deliver a bag of cookies to each Death Row inmate. I'd be shocked if that happens now.
Well, for the most part the weekend was peaceful and unventful. I was able to see Ms. Cox, the salvation army minister (alive and kickin' at almost 94 years old, I believe) on Friday. I hadn't seen her in so long that I was beginning to get worried. You can tell she's really tired, starting to wear down and becoming forgetful. But I will say this, when you get into a long conversation and talk about things that really interest her...she just lights up and you can see that (divine) spark and the life comes back to her, and she's as sharp as a tack. It was nice to get away from this place for a while and be out there.
I've been teaching my friend and neighbor Big Will how to play Scrabble to keep his mind off of his personal stress going on right now and it has been fun...On Sunday we brought our boards (home made with a grid system on them) outside early in the morning and played a game. I've been helping him with words and strategy. So, he'll put down a bogus word and I'll be "Nope. Try again. You can get more points spelling the word so and so on 'g' 5". He's beaten me twice with my help and I told him yesterday "Dude, the training wheels come off tomorrow and I'm getting dead on yo' ass!" But he said that this is really helping him with his own spelling and reading skills and that is a great thing. It really is a good way to teach people how to read and write. I have no earthly idea what I'm going to do the rest of the day. I guess probably just start getting ready for the big shakedown.
I'll close with this: "Cherish your visions; cherish your ideas; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts. If you remain true to them, your world will at least be built." (James Allen)
March 16th, 2016
What a long and extremely boring day. At least we were able to get showers today. Sometimes after the building is put on lockdown, they say we can't get a shower for the first 72 hours, which has really never made any sense to me when there's signs all over the damn place talking about hygiene and cleanliness being essential to a "smooth" running prison. I was happy to shave as well, even though the new razors they give us would qualify as torture under the Geneva convention. Seriously, you wouldn't need to water board the terrorists with these things - just tell them to shave with a Texas Department of Criminal Justice razor. They'd give up the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa! I don't know if beavers have ever gone all murderous on some poor dude skinny dipping in a river, but it feels like a hundred beavers eating your face off...It was nice to get the hair off of my face though; I was beginning to look like a hobo ha ha.
I'm also a bit down that I no longer get to watch the cats, because I was moved to another cell on another pod last night. I swear...if it's a thing they moved me into a cell where this guy we call "Runaway Chuck" just moved out of, then I'm going to ask him if it would be so difficult to clean it up before he moves out. This is the second time I've had to clean up a badass nasty cell after some dirty inmate, and it's pissing me off. A grown man shouldn't live like this, and there's just no excuse for this kind of laziness. But I digress...So, I moved to C-pod after spending nearly two months on B-pod. I was kind of sad to leave and I had really enjoyed watching the cats outside of my window. Now, the upside of my new cell is that I do get to watch the horses now, and the sunsets, so not a terrible trade off.
I got to my new cell around 9pm, put everything on my bed and commenced cleaning, working up a sweat. I'm a bit of neat freak as it is, so I scrub the walls, the door, the toilet area and then wash the floor. After everything is dry is when I start to unpack things. I never keep a whole lot of property because I move so much and I'm not too attached to much other than certain sentimental cards, letters, pictures and my radio. Everything else is dispensable. What was strange about this particular move is that typically during a lockdown all movement is supposed to cease, but for some reason the administration decided to move the guys who are "security risks" or "escape risks" (Am I still an escape risk almost 16 years after the incident?).
Today I haven't really done much. Mostly listened to the radio and the prospects of a Hillary vs. Trump general election. I just don't understand how any rational citizen can think this guy is a good idea for America. Not only that, but the dude is so far removed from reality and the "average American"...These redneck idiots get all hyped up on him, but they have NOTHING in common with him. I mean, Jesus, the guy gives his victory speech at one of his country clubs that requires over $100,000 for membership. You really think this guy is going to fight for the average citizen? This is about one thing to him now that he's made it this far: winning! He just wants to win. He's got no substance or policy plan. "We're going to make America great again". That isn't substance, dip shit. That's a tagline. If America has lost its greatness it is because of jackasses like you. More to come on that subject as we near the general election. Oh Lord, can we please have a brokered convention so the Republican party implodes??? Is that too much to ask for (well, a Supreme Court Justice who votes to end the DP too if I'm not being too greedy!)?
March 20th, 2016
Yesterday I was too mad to write any follow up report. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing but it wasn't. I packed everything up in my red crate; it all fit snugly, and I had ZERO excess property. I had only the things I wanted to keep, and of course my electronics and legal work, which is allowed to remain outside of the red crate. Anyway, the guards show up at my door, I strip down, hand them my shower slides and boxer shorts, and do the song and dance of spinning around to show nothing is in my buttocks...Then they put the handcuffs on me, take me to the shower, take the handcuffs off, and I shower and wait for the guards to come back and get me after about an hour.
When I get back to my cell, the first thing I notice is my powdered detergent is spread all over my floor. This stuff comes in a see through zip lock bag and there isn't even a need to open it up. One of the guards who returned me to the cell says "Oops...we accidentally spilled it". Knowing it wasn't an accident but not feeling like getting into an argument, I only said "And it was too difficult to clean it up before I came back?" I mean, shit, they've got brooms with them...But whatever, I pick up all of my other stuff, not really concerned about whether anything is missing or not, and I just want to get the detergent cleaned up...But I then started to notice that some books, comic books, and letters are missing! I hurriedly clean up the detergent, wash the residue off of the floor and start going through my personal property. They took HALF of my books and comics. When I asked a guard why he said "Your name wasn't on them" which I know is total BS because I put my name on everything. I move around too much to come up with something missing and not have my name on it. So I said "So what is the excuse for taking pictures and letters?" And their reply was "Don't know what you're talking about. We didn't throw anything away". "Really? Then why is it MISSING?" Another informative reply of "Maybe you want to check again?" I don't know... Those are the kind of responses we have to deal with when things disappear. I guess they went to the magical realm of "we threw your shit away". I hear it's a lovely place.
I was so angry and upset that I just went to sleep at around nine in the evening. I slept all the way until eight the next morning which is very rare for me. I just couldn't get myself out of bed. I finally just forced myself to get up and deal with it. It is material (except the letters) and can be replaced. It's been quite some time since I was screwed over like that.
Anyway, I forced myself to start the day. I've been listening to a Batman marathon on the radio, doing some exercises, looking out my window, and doing laundry. I'm keeping myself as busy as possible to keep my mind off negative things. At least I'm well rested. Now I have all of this extra energy as I never sleep more than six or seven hours...I'm not even a "nap" person unless I'm just wiped out.
I heard a news report that said something close to a billion dollars has already been spent on this year's election cycle. Jesus H. Christ do you know how many people that could feed? Unbelievable the amount of money wasted in this country to influence other people. I just think of all the positive things that could be done with that kind of money. Peoples' priorities are all jacked up!
Dinner/lunch sacks are here. Mmmmm. Peanut butter and jelly time!
July 25th, 2016
I have no idea when this will be posted, but the goal is to have a new and improved site and outlet to be able to post these journals.
So, here's a recap of what happened back in April this year...An anti social media policy was inacted by prison officials. The policy, known as "rule #4" was written in an arbitrary and vague way and no one really knew how to apply or even interpret the policy. Inquiries were made and there was some push back from free speech proponents and prison reform activists, and a clearer definition was given. There are still some questions left unanswered but for now websites are allowed.
As I write this we're currently on lockdown...Day 7 to be exact. Death Row is placed on lockdown four times a year due to a scandal in which a death row inmate was able to obtain a cell phone and threaten a Texas State Senator. Ever since, we've gone through these lockdowns so that officials can "shakedown" each cell individually for contraband, although it's been several years since they've found anything "dangerous". It's mostly junk like homemade speakers or "fishing lines" - strings used to pass books or food. But even though it is a minor nuisance, I really don't mind the lockdowns if only because they offer a rare week or two of peace and quiet because everything is shut down.
Hopefully, I'll get back into the swing of writing more...
July 26th, 2016
Woke up this morning and it was quite cool - a much needed break from the record we've been having for the past couple of weeks. We had a thunderstorm move in yesterday afternoon, and it was surreal! I was waiting anxiously for the shakedown, as the guards were in the next section over, doing thier thing, and we all knew it was getting close to shift change...So, the question on our collective minds was, are they going to get to us before they leave? Maybe leave the other three sections remaining for 2nd shift or just leave it all until Tuesday? We already had our things packed up in the red property crates, cells cleaned and ready to go...And so I stood on my bunk staring out in the distance as clouds as dark as coal rolled in. Lightning began to flash all over the place...One bolt, while a few miles away, seemed to come crashing down right in front of my eyes because the thunder clap was a split second after the strike. It scared the living crap out of me and I jumped. I had a flash back to when I was back in Kentucky one summer attending summer school. Me and my friend, Wayne, had been doing something in the gym when a storm broke out. The adult supervisors told everyone to return to their dorms and so we left the gym and took off running through the rain. A bolt of lightning came barreling down right in front of us on the street. We both dived to opposite sides and were yelling "Holy shit did you see that?!!!" We were shaking and scared to death. We were shaking for an hour after that and then like young teenagers do, we thought it was the funniest thing in the world.
So, I watched the storm until 2nd shift came on and about ten minutes after shift change a swarm of guards came pouring into our section to finish the shakedown. I will say this: compared to the last shakedown where I lost some pictures and letters, this was painless. I lost only a pair of shoe leaces that I use for a clothes line, and that is it. I had left an empty eye drop bottle on my desk as an offering and they didn't even take that from me. When I was returning to my cell I was fully expecting to see my property strewn across the cell as is common practice for the guards, but instead everything was neatly stacked on my bed. We should be good to go for another 90 days or so. Yay!
The rest of the evening I listened to NPR's coverage of the DNC convention and I think it went pretty well. You had some die hard Bernie or Bust supporters who were constantly booing everyone, but I think Sarah Silverman, a Bernie supporter herself said it best: "to all of you Bernie or Bust people...you're being ridiculous". That needed to be said. I think Elisabeth Warren gave a rousing speech and I think Bernie made a case as to why his supporters should get behind Hillary. I think he did a good job and given the current circumstances, I think he was probably successful in converting some to a pragmatic logic in supporting Hillary. I also liked that he basically said, "Look, the revolution doesn't stop here...hold these people accountable". And that needed to be said. But by far the best speech of the night was Michelle Obama...It was honest, personal and emotional. She talked about her husband's election in a historical context and said we're at a moment in history to do it again by electing a woman to office. And I think she's right. Whatever reservations you have about Hillary's character, it is way past time to have a woman in the White House. I'm telling you right now...You're going to see Hillary tear Trump apart in debates. He doesn't stand a chance. Insults vs. solutions. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes down as the most watched debate in U.S. history. Bring. It. On. But please Hillary, don't be glib. That would be her worst mistake - to go in cocky and gleeful.
I'm not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of the day. I need to do some reading, then I'll listen to a two hour special of the "classic club hour". I'm telling you, if you're into new wave, 80's/90's modern rock...that is where it's at. You can listen at KPFT.ORG on Tuesdays at 2p.m. central time. And if you like it, please donate to the station because they are a community station and it is the only way prisoners like me can get some good music, because mainstream radio stations suck. Keep it going! I should add that on the last Tuesday of each month the DJ does a full two hours of classic club.
July 27th, 2016
I listened to Bill Clinton's speech last night at the DNC, and I think he did a very good job of really humanizing Hillary. He went through her history and all of the good she's actually done...Look, I would prefer Bernie Sanders...he would've been the better candidate by far, but I also think that nobody can take anything away from Hilary's career, and how much she has fought. She might be part of the system and she knows the system well, but I'll say it again, if progressives give her their vote, just hold her and the democratic party accountable. You have that ability and power. She'll owe that to you guys. Just don't give it to Trump. Don't NOT vote or do a protest vote...It is like knowing a hurricane is on the way and being indifferent to it. "...I may be the mayor of the town and can save my citizens but you know, I'm pissed off at 'em so fuck it. If it tears shit up, it tears shit up".
We're on day 9 of the lockdown and one of the guards said they're on A pod wrapping up the shakedown for the building. I don't know if that means it will end for us tomorrow or they'll just wait until next week...If I understand it correctly, they're supposed to shakedown 10 building (the medical building) and 11 building, which is general population, transit, and pre-hearing detention (where they lock people up if they get into a fight or any other serious infraction that requires them attending a sort of kangaroo court hearing) before next Monday...We'll see...!
August 10th, 2016
Another day of extreme heat. When the sun sets in the evening, the cell wall gets so hot! The sunsets are beautiful though, and I've noticed a strange phenomenon that I'm sure can be explained by bird watchers, but it is something I have never really paid attention to before...Right before the sun slips into the horizon, whole flocks of birds gather and land on the perimeter fence, facing the sun. They line up, and just as the sun dips out of view, they fly away...It's almost like they are watching it themselves. Pretty neat.
So today my mind is on some pending executions...Jeff Woods to be specific, because he has a law of parties case. They talked about him on the news the other day, and I strongly believe he'll get a stay. Now, people would argue that a person who participates in a robbery where someone was killed, should reasonably expect that something could go wrong and a death could occur; but this isn't even statistically backed up. The percentage rate of a shooting that leads to death in the course of a robbery is very, very low. In my case alone, the Uniform Crime Report compiled by the F.B.I., in the year 2000, stated that less than 25% of all robberies resulted in death. How can someone reasonably expect something to go wrong with those statistics? The truth is I doubt most people who take part in robberies, ever expects a death to occur. No more than when you get into your car and drive wherever you're headed to, only to find you've crashed and somebody died...Nobody sets out in their car and says, "Well, today I could get into a crash and die...or even kill somebody else. Better not drive anywhere today then!" Even though you have statistically more chance of killing someone in a car accident, than a robber has during the course of his crime...Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to make excuses...None of this makes robbery right, and those involved should be held accountable...But should all parties in the robbery be held equally accountable if a death occurs? Even if they had nothing to do with that death?
In Jeff Woods' case, the day the robbery happened, he didn't even expect it to happen...And only when the actual killer threatened Jeff, did Jeff feel frightened into helping. So, how is it "justice" to execute him, when he didn't kill anyone? Jeff also has a documented history of mental problems...It's insane that we have a system that allows this! There are actual cases where the gun-man has avoided a death sentence while the non-shooter gets death. Again, how is this justice?