Jan-June 2021 - Randy Halprin

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

Go to content
Journals
  
January 24th, 2021

I'm definitely on the mend...I still have a slight cough that is more irritating than anything, and I have a mild headache – nothing like the one I had a few days ago that literally had my eyeballs throbbing! I feel really fortunate that I got through having COVID, and believe me, when people say,

“Oh, it's just like the 'flu...”

No, it's not!! I've had the 'flu almost every year and this is NOTHING like the 'flu.

The sad news in all of this is that the guy downstairs in 63 cell went to the hospital late Thursday night, and hasn't been back since. He goes by the nick name, 'Tree', and already has a slew of medical issues, including diabetes.

What gets me in all of this is how – as of today – they're still trying to sweep all of this under the rug and fudge the numbers. They've done zero testing since Tree left to go to the hospital. They passed out some cleaning supplies and even came around FINALLY spraying vital oxide everywhere, but that's been it...Nothing else has changed. I was certain that once Tree left in an ambulance, we might've been put on quarantine. The guards and ranking officers can walk around and hear ¾ of the pod coughing and moaning in pain. It's ridiculous...It has me really angry with how all of this is being handled.  

I shouldn't be surprised though...This has been how the virus has been handled in Texas by our wonderful Governor. All that being said, I'm just really grateful to have gotten through it and I will be even more careful going forward.  

I still have myself on a 'self-quarentine' and don't plan on coming out of my cell until Tuesday, when I should have a legal phone call scheduled. And I'm going to give it a full 14 days before I go back to having recreation.  

Otherwise, the weekend has been uneventful. I'm keeping busy as best I can, and I'm looking forward to a new week.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


  
January 25th, 2021

Now that we are in the midst of a full-on COVID outbreak on 12 Building, suddenly the guards and administration want to start taking the virus seriously again. Well, they can't put that genie back in the bottle because it's spreading like wild fire back here.  

On one hand, I feel very blessed that I'm on the mend. On the other hand, I'm very upset that it even got to this point. The guy, 'Tree', is still in the hospital and we don't know what has happened and haven't even had an update. My neighbour had a phone call over the weekend, and he told his friend about it, and the only thing that worries me about that is his wife reading on Facebook that her husband is in the hospital...I can only imagine the panic that would cause, and I pray everything turns out okay for them.  

Anyways, today they came around spraying vital oxide and the administration are making the guards wear N95 masks, but it does little to guard others when they don't wear it properly and pull the mask down to their chins or below their noses. Then, some of the inmates here are going out to rec and not wearing their masks either, and saying things like,  

“If I haven't gotten it by now, I'm not going to get it.”

Really??

You know, I can't help but think back to when I was on B-pod and from my cell I could see the front of the prison and the guards coming and going. Any number would be walking around in clusters, as well as not wearing their masks until they walked into the very first building. I firmly believe I was moved to A-pod so that I couldn't write about things like that, and here we are facing what I predicted would happen.  

As I write this in the evening time, they're short staffed and only 8 guards showed up to work on 12 Building for second shift. The first shift guards are still here until they can find people to relieve them on duty. Just craziness all around...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.
  
February 3rd, 2021

I went to bed last night around 10.30pm, and was too tired to stay up and wait on the mail. We had our COVID testing last night and they are doing mass testing for the entire unit. I don't really know how long this virus stays in a person's body so I'm expecting that I'll test positive, especially since I still have a nagging cough. I mean, otherwise, I feel fine.  

It's going to be interesting to see how bad the outbreak is. As of yesterday, the warden gave a statement on the prison radio station and said there were only 25 confirmed cases of COVID...But you have to keep in mind that this was during their random spot testing. They didn't test the neighbors of the confirmed, or any other guys on the sections. So, you have to know there's going to be a lot more coming up positive. It's simple math.  

When they came to our doors, what I found a bit troubling is that it wasn't medical personnel doing the testing, but instead, guards. Now, I could be wrong here, but I don't think these guards are in any kind of way trained, and probably shouldn't be handling anything to do with  medical. That just doesn't feel right to me. If you were going to Walmart and the greeter at the front door said,  

“Howdy! Welcome to Walmart! I'll have to test you for COVID before you come in...”

You'd probably ask if they were a nurse or some other professionally trained medical person.  

“Oh no, sweetie...I'm just a little old door greeter!”  

I bet you'd turn right round and head back to your car. Just sayin'...

So, they come to our door, stick a q-tip thingy through the screen of our door and tell us to grab it, cough into our elbow three times, then run the q-tip around our mouth and gums, and then we put it back through the screen and they put into a vial with some sort of solution in it. They screw the cap on and put it into a biohazard bag with our information on it, and that's that. All done.  

In other news...Yesterday we had sack meals, but today we're having regular trays. That's pretty much been the day – no rec, no showers, and just trapped in our cells.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.
  
February 11th, 2021

I begin this entry with a heavy heart...We lost someone from death row due to COVID complications. His name was Jorge Villanueva  and he lived downstairs along with some of the disabled men on that run. He left to go to the hospital (at the time he was sick, but we had not yet known that we were in the middle of a COVID outbreak) for a liver biopsy, as they believed he had cancer at the time. He had 'flu like symptoms at the time and well, that turned out to be COVID and we learned that he passed just a couple of days ago. Very sad...

As far as I know, on D/E/F sections, no one has tested positive for COVID and the remaining guys that were positive at the time of the testing were moved, scatter shot-like, to the other side of the pod in A/B/C sections. It's been a mess with the way they've been doing everything and it's clear that they had no real plan in place when the outbreak hit. In fact, one Lieutenant said as he passed through,  

“We're trying to figure this out as we go.”

My neighbor was dumbfounded, and told me,  

“They've been dealing with a pandemic for a year now, and they're trying to figure this out as they go? No wonder all of us were sick and it took weeks to start doing something about it.”

In fact, until Tree had gone to hospital for what turned out to be COVID, they had done nothing at that point! Guards were coming and going from work when they were sick, guys back here were coughing and hacking, and they just went on 'business as usual.' I shouldn't be surprised at all of this, but I am...I always am.  

So, as it stands, we're still on a quarantine lockdown, and it will remain that way for at least another week and a half. We had hoped that we'd go to commissary but they've returned our orders. Showers are 3 times per week and we're receiving sack meals, although for lunch yesterday we did have a hot tray. Last night we received some real milk in a carton, and that was really good! I can't understand why they only give us real milk on a COVID lockdown...Why  not every day, regardless of an outbreak?

We went from warm weather the past couple of days, to a really nice cold front. What has me most excited about this current cold front is the latest weather report which says that we could possibly have snow- SNOW! Yes, snow could be coming by Monday! That would be really nice to see coming down outside of my window.  

That's been pretty much it for the past two days...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.
  
February 16th, 2021

As I write this, Texas is experiencing one of its deepest freezes it has ever experienced in recorded history. Over the weekend the reports had been hyping up the coming winter storm, and whilst Livingston did get some snow and ice, I don't think it was nearly as much as neighboring towns and cities. It was quite lovely though....To wake up to see the grass and road that runs behind the building, covered in white dust!

I will say this...It's COLD!!!! Having lived in Kentucky I know cold, but we're at 9 degrees F right now and as I type this out I'm freezing. Yesterday was bad, but with a lot of cloud cover it wasn't nearly as freezing as it is right now. I have thermals on, two pairs of socks, clothing on top of that, and a head cap. My cell is colder than other cells for several reasons: I live in one of four corner cells on the building...I have the back wall to contend with, and then, the pipe chase wall where all of the plumbing is accessed via the outside of the building. Other cells have their pipe chase inside of the building, so, the cold seeps into the pipe chase of my cell and slips through the cracks and crevices. No amount of heat (when it's this cold) is doing any good. I was freezing last night when I went to bed, and even though my blanket does keep me relatively warm, when it gets to BELOW ZERO over night, well, I might as well be using a sheet!  

I woke up at 6.55am when the night time guards (yes, they are still here!) were passing out breakfast sacks. I got up, got dressed, worked out...thinking I would have to have a bird bath. To my surprise the guards started doing showers and said they would run them until 9.30am. Then, the night time guards will leave to go to sleep in their cars as the Livingston Roads are closed. For the past couple of days, the guards that have been here since the winter storm started, have been trapped and not allowed to leave the unit. That really has to suck!

The thing is, they're still going to be trapped because another winter storm is supposed to be moving in this afternoon, with sleet and snow predicted. We've got two more days of extreme cold and then on the weekend it's expected to warm back up.  

Something funny happened on the prison radio station last night. So, at 6pm each evening, they play the 'Evening Audio Movie' where they'll play a movie for the prisoners that don't have access to television – death row/ad seg/closed custody. Now, I've been listening to movies since I've been here, and listening to movies requires a bit of exercising of the imagination muscle. You have to allow your imagination to take over and fill in the blanks for what you can't see. You do that from sound cues like foot steps, doors closing, things banging, cars running or explosions and gun fights. When I listen to a movie my surroundings disappear and I can literally 'see' a movie in my mind. The really good movies are when an actor can emote 'body language' through their dialogue. It's not difficult for me to follow.  

Well, last night, the movie 'Anna' was on, and the prison DJ said he was going to narrate the film as it played. Now, at first I thought he was doing that because the first part of the movie was in Russian and admittedly, it was difficult to follow. But as the movie continued the DJ would say – over the film - “Anna is walking down a hall...She turns to the left and now she's walking again. Okay, now Anna just opened a door and there's a KGB guy. He's talking to her, looking her body up and down. He wants her...Okay, now Anna grabs her gun and she shoots someone walking towards her...”

He does this throughout the entire movie!!!!! It was driving me nuts. I can appreciate what he was doing and the intent behind it. I'm sure some guy told him,  

“Hey man, I don't know what is going on in these movies you're playing.”

So, I wrote a little note to send to the DJ and said, basically, that it was distracting and part of the magic of listening to a movie is allowing the imagination to take over. I'm just one voice, and if there's a majority that wants that, then it's cool. But I had to express my opinion (ha ha). I did, however hear others guys complaining about it as well.  

That being said, “Anna” is a really good spy thriller with lots of twists and turns. The night before – and narrative free, I should add, we heard 'The Old Guard' which was a fairly decent movie as well. That movie is based on a comic book series by the great and super smart Greg Rucka – I highly recommend his Lazarus series.  

Before the freeze, we were scheduled to be off this quarantine lockdown by next Monday. I hope that still stands as now the number of COVID cases are beginning to drop. I think the official number of confirmed cases was 38, maybe 40 cases, but now it's in the 20s. So, that's good! Now let's just hope they'll stop letting sick guards come to work in the future...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.
  
March 23rd, 2021

Another day on COVID lockdown. I think we have to go until last week of March. What worries a lot of us is that it's also about time for a Spring shakedown/lockdown that they do each year, so there's the possibility that right after the COVID lockdown, there'll be a shakedown/lockdown on its heels. I hate being trapped in this cell and I need to get out and get some fresh air and sunshine. We pretty much lost our spring and summer due to COVID last year, so I hope we don't have a repeat of that this year.  

The weekend was fairly boring, although there was some good music programs on the prison radio station, as well as some new movies to listen to. Friday night they played an entire night of albums – Tool, Sound Garden, STP, White Zombie, Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy...It was pretty cool. On Saturday night they played the horror movie, 'The Grudge' and then a Pearl Jam and Ben Harper concert until 10pm.  

On Sunday I listened to some Star Wars and then the night time movie was a new movie called, 'Killerman' which was a crime drama with a tonne of twists and turns. It was pretty cool I'd have loved to actually see that movie.  

I've been keeping busy writing some silly stories about my misadventures at boarding school...I want it to be funny and light-hearted. There was a lot of psychological trauma from attending that school, but there was also some really funny and crazy moments. That's what the memoir will be about. So, when I woke up this morning I forced myself to exercise and then clean up and get to work. I finished the first story and will continue on, trying to do one story a day.  

Otherwise, things are moving along in this place...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.
  
March 28th, 2021

A very Happy Passover! It's Sunday  morning, a bit humid and grey, but I'm feeling okay. I had a really wonderful Seder with the guys around me. A couple of weeks ago I was asked if I'd lead it because the guys didn't really know what to do, so I agreed.  

A growing tradition amongst Christians is to honor Passover, and because I'm the sole Jewish guy on my section, I was asked to lead it. I thought it was an honor...Well, during our talks of preparations and what I wanted to do and what we'd improvise for certain items, one of my friends, Big Will, said he wanted to read the Haggadah. So, what we worked out is he'd lead the Seder, I'd guide him and recite the Hebrew prayers. I found myself becoming a bit emotional throughout the service, one, because we had about 7 guys participating, and two, in that moment I felt close to G-d and a flood of childhood memories came rushing back to me. I had a really good time and so did the other guys participating. It was an honor for me.  

What really impressed me is that as we were doing this, the entire half of this pod was absolutely quiet and respectful. Afterwards I said,  

“Leshanah haba'ah be-rushalayim- next year in Jerusalem!” the guys were happy and celebrating. It was probably one of the coolest things I've experienced since being here...Especially in a time when things have been so stressful, depressing, and tense. We could actually RELAX and enjoy ourselves.  

So, in the past few days it's been okay. On Thursday I had a really good call with my attorneys. Nothing new is really  happening, as yet, so we just caught up with each other and talked about how they're doing visits etc. It was agreed that they wanted to wait until it was safe and they'd been vaccinated before they start making trips up to the unit to see clients. My girlfriend had just mentioned something similar about how crazy it is to be opening up visits when things aren't safe, and even guards haven't been vaccinated. The danger is that visitors can catch it from guards, and take it home to their friends and families...We don't even know when we'll be off this current COVID lockdown.  

Today I've been mostly kicking back. I've been listening to the movies, 'Avengers' and 'Infinity War' and 'End Game'. Really cool movies, and pretty funny too.  

I'm in a fairly good mood...just getting through the days as best I can.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


  
March 29th 2021

Today has been pure and unadulterated insanity! It actually started late last night when the guard woke us up saying we had to hurry and make our commissary list out because we'd be allowed to spend $30 plus stamps.. After that I went back to sleep and woke up to craziness, further pushed into chaos as commissary showed up super early. It's weird eating ice cream at 7.30am! Your stomach is like, “Whoa...what's going on here?”

I think we might be getting off this lockdown in another day or so...On the prison radio station they said that starting on Tuesday, for guys in population, they'd be broadcasting church services for various faiths on the unit TV channel, from Tuesday until Thursday. I'm assuming they'll then give them the secular content like movies, for the weekends. It's cool they have that. As of right now, general population (outside of the trustees) are on lockdown and cannot watch television. They're only allowed to use the phones.  

It went from grey and humid to clear and dry today. Absolutely beautiful! Every day I've been looking at the grass outside becoming greener, and watching the trees bud. I imagine that the tree I can see best will be fully leaved in two more weeks...It's really coming to life.  

Something I forgot to mention yesterday was that on Friday I received kind of packet in the mail about changes to the Law Of Parties, and the push to pass a bill in the Texas legislation. The bill would be great only that it's not retroactive so that those lobbying for it – mainly family members of people like Jeff Wood – would be left dealing with the same problem that they're lobbying against...However, one lawyer did write a very good article in February, called,  

'Inviting Common Sense Into the Texas Law of Parties Doctrine.' by Amanda Marzullo.  

You should be able to find it easily online. I recommend reading the article and thinking about the issue because the California Legislation has already made changes to their Felony Murder rule...

Something interesting that is going on in TDCJ is they're changing the way they refer to prisoners, moving away from the term 'Offender' to either 'Client' or 'Inmate'. Honestly, I'd rather be called 'Inmate' or 'Client' than 'Offender'. There are so many assumptions that come with that word, plus, when a prisoner gets out of TDCJ it's demoralising to have an ID card that says, 'Offender' until they can get a real ID or driver's licence. So, things are beginning to change – a small change is better than no change!

I've been spending most of the day working on my new memoir, 'Groove is in the Heart' and listening to the radio. I haven't really been working on my horror story...I have so much to work out with it and it's daunting. I do want to tackle it though, even if the first draft is crap.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  




March 30th, 2021

I was pleasantly surprised to wake up and be scheduled for recreation this morning, even if that started a bit bumpy because these new officers are not being properly trained. The female officer setting up recreation asked if I was going out and I said, 'yes' and then she told me it was our section's inside day! I said,

“It's our outside day.”

She told me it was our inside day and I said,

“No, we're on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

She wasn't trying to hear it and scheduled me for the day room. About 10  minutes later the senior officer came through and said,

“She messed up...ya'll are going outside.”

I got ready and started to stretch as I waited for the guards to take me outside. It was warm and a bit grey, but otherwise, I was just grateful for some fresh air! I jogged and did some leg exercises, and then came back in not really expecting to make it to the shower anytime soon, but the guards put us in around 10am. I was happy to get all of that out of the way because second shift were shorthanded  and didn't do any showers.

Most of the day I've felt drained. I'm not sure what it is...maybe the humidity. As soon as my radio program, 'The Lizard Lounge' is over with, I'm going to sleep!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.

  
March 31st, 2021

The last day of the month...I woke up after a fitful night of sleep and started my day hoping that there was recreation...but it was cancelled because nobody showed up to work on first shift. They're supposed to do showers, but they don't even have the guards to do that.  

I was talking to a guy earlier about a grievance he filed on the officers not wearing their face masks or even wearing the properly. The warden – our death row warden, Rigsby – wrote on the response that his claim was unfounded, and upon investigation it was shown that officers are wearing masks etc. We both laughed because clearly there was no investigation and the warden was basically calling the dude a liar. Any random check of the camera system or its archives, would show that the inmate was right. I mean...why have a camera system if they NEVER use it to check things? Drugs are still coming in...phones are still coming in...officers get away with all sorts, but let one of the guys on death watch cover the camera in his cell so he can use the bathroom, or to take care of personal business, and there will be 20 officers standing at the door within seconds, with cans of gas...It's ridiculous!

I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do for the day. It's grey, wet and just 'bleh'. I've already exercised, and I've had two hard boiled eggs for breakfast.  

Something cool I did see this morning is in the tree that's blooming. I was watching the nest sitting upon one of the branches, and it looks like there are two chicks up there because I could see movement in the nest and the heads bobbing about. The mother was perched on the branch a few inches away and was looking all around. Maybe for breakfast? That was so cool.  

The other day I was listening to a radio station that plays a lot of music from the '70s/'80s/'90s...The song 'Tiny Dancer' by Elton John came on and I started laughing to myself as I changed the lyrics from,  

“Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer...” to  

“Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”

I feel like someone has probably done that before, so it might not be original, but having that thought in my head lead to this little skit I made up about Elton John being in front of a record label executive, and playing the song for him for the very first time...

“Well?” Elton John asks as the last notes of the song play out.

The record executive opens his eyes, having listened to the song very intently.  

“The piano bars are lovely. That opening line, what was it? (begins to sing) 'Blue Jean Baby...L.A. Lady...' I love it!” The executive says.  

“I feel like there's a 'but' coming.” Elton replies.  

The record executive pauses and looks at Elton as he composes his thoughts.  

“Elton. Baby...You know no one loves you more than me! You're a star! But...we've got to do something about that chorus.”

“But I love Tony Danza!” Elton John proclaims.  

“I get it! Who doesn't? Look, Elton Baby, no one in this industry is more progressive than me. I'm at clubs with all kinds of people every week! I can disco with the best of them, baby! But the US market just isn't ready for something like that. How about we change it to something else?”

“Errrr...Tiny Dancer?”

“That it! It's a hit! I know it!”

Anyway...I thought it was funny.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


April 4th, 2021

Easter Sunday...Surprisingly I woke up to the guards setting up recreation. It's what they call a 'make up day' because in the past week I've been able to get out of my cell only once, because recreation keeps getting cancelled. My friend, Jeff, asked the guards if he could go outside with me and they said it was cool, so we'll be headed outside in a little while.

It's been a pretty stressful week, but I'll get through it. I'm hoping that this next week is a little bit better. Something has to change about this year. It's been very distressing and I guess in our own distress we can often overlook, however unintentional, the hardships of others. I try not to be a selfish person, I really do. Even back here I give a lot of myself to others at times when I want to be left alone and inside my own head, but I try to listen to peoples' issues and to give or offer advice, or give material things to people in need.

But still, at times this place has a way of magnifying our own doubts, paranoia, or insecurities, and whilst we might not mean to seem like the world revolves around us back here, we can project those insecurities towards the people on the outside, losing sight of all they  might be struggling with. It's something I need to work on.

I was telling one of my friends back here that the way things have been here seem to have completely broken the majority of us. Whilst I have a strong desire to live – I want to live and I will always fight hard to live – there have been times when things get so bad that I think,

“Geeze...death would almost be more inviting than this garbage.”

I have to quickly chase the thought from my mind...

I'm watching people around me fall apart. There's a guy a few cells away literally beginning to break mentally. He's hearing voices, becoming very paranoid, and thinking that inmates and guards are conspiring against him...He used to be absolutely normal.

The COVID restrictions have a lot to do with it, but also, being kept in our cells for weeks at a time with no recreation, no information other than what we hear on the radio, no kind of stimulation...I don't know what's going to happen to us when they really begin to crank up executions again.

More than 70 people on death row have completely exhausted their appeals and are sitting in a legal limbo. Some have been for years, but already there are pro-death penalty groups, as well as the AG's office and the CCA in Texas, all saying that it's been long enough and the State needs to crank it up and get these people on the gurney. It's scary...

Death row feels like it's very close to being a broken collective...The hope giving way to despair...

I have a lot to be hopeful for, but seeing the despair in others is distressing and exhausting to my spirit. I just pray that things will eventually change.

Just returned from being outside. I needed that. It was overcast with little bursts of sunshine here and there. Birds were out, the air a little cool. Jeff and I jogged for 30 minutes and then talked, and I'm glad I could get outside.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace

  
April 5th 2021

I want to clarify what I wrote yesterday...Under NO circumstances would I prefer death – even on the worst of days. It's just that this place can break a person down so miserably that sometimes you think,  

“Why am I subjecting  myself to this garbage?...Why do I allow myself to go through this?”

I don't always have an answer...

A life of all kinds of trials and tribulations, and often I can't find the purpose. But there has to be one, right? There's got to be a reason...Or so I'd like to believe.  

Today has been been slow with not a lot of chaos. It's been peaceful in terms of noise, but the guards are so lazy! I was trapped out at rec for five hours yesterday, and again, five hours today. I'm grateful for the fresh air and to be out of my cell, but I just wish that things would run smoothly sometimes.  

The prison radio station has managed to anger a bunch of guys...They're changing the day time schedules again, and going heavy on religious content. They've cut some of the album programs and the request show on Mondays. They also said we're no longer allowed to request albums. When/if an album is played, it will be selected by 'staff'...Well, at least there's the night time moves and music shows.  

I'm feeling a bit drained, and emotionally tired today. I had plenty of sleep yesterday, so it has to just be stress. I'll be fine though.  

I went outside and it was beautiful. The sun was out and there was a lovely breeze. I thought about how fortunate I am, in my life, and how I have some of the greatest people on my side in life, especially Catherine. I just want her to know how eternally grateful I am for her friendship and love.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


  
April 11th, 2021

Firstly, let me start this by explaining the reason for journals not being posted recently. A little while ago there was a glitch with the editing software used for the website, and it needed some fixing which took a while to get completely right and ready to post stuff again. There are also some gaps in journals due to  missing mail – the mail situation here has been at an all time low.  

But, more importantly, my Webmaster has been under an ungodly amount of stress and bereavement following the loss of friends and family due to COVID, as well as health issues of her own. So, if things sometimes take a little while to be posted, I hope that you, the reader, will be mindful of this, patient, and keep coming back! As much as this site is about my life, my writings, and the fight to save my life, it can only be accomplished by the help and precious time of friends and the people I love dearly, especially Catherine. She has been extremely dedicated to the fight for my life, and has fought harder than anyone else I've had in my life to see this website successful and to see me live...I'm forever grateful for that.  

And so...if there's a gap from time to time, please...be patient with us. Thank you.  

It's a lovely Sunday...Very peaceful. The sun is shining brightly through my window. I've been watching these trees bloom and the one I can see directly is fully bloomed. I can no longer see the birds nest on the branches. It's gotten quite warm here already, and I dread a very hot summer...but I'll get through it as I always do.  

Things on death row are as stressful as ever, but there are encouraging signs that things will look better even if we don't get our recreation and visitation, while limited...

Firstly, it was announced on the prison radio station that video visits are going to be established soon on Polunsky, and the DJ even said that Death Row should have access to the visits as well. I don't know how it's going to work, but I do know that the video monitors are being set up as I write this. I'd suggest monitoring the TDCJ website for further information.  

Also, the rumors about secure tablets for prisoners are growing stronger, and whilst the information is limited about who will able to use these, there is some hope that we will have the chance. There's zero reason not to...they are secure. The majority of states in the US have systems set up and have shown that it's safe and secure, so we'll see.  

I've spent most of the weekend vegging out and listening to movies on the radio.

I'm hoping the coming week will be a good one!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  

  
April 12th, 2021

I woke up this morning with determination and hope going into a new week. I had a really good night's rest for the first time in over a week, and my eyes popped open at 5.30am, and I jumped right out of bed. Lately, here, it's been a fight to force myself out of bed. I'm never one to just lay about because once I'm up, I'm up, and rarely take naps. But having felt so drained by this place, getting through a day – even when I've done absolutely nothing but go to rec - has zapped me of all energy. It felt good to wake up and just 'go'.

When the guard asked me if I was going to rec I was told I was set up second round outside with a friend, which was great. I went about the day and then made it outside a little after 10am. The sun was hanging high and bright, and it was perfect. We talked and then jogged, and after jogging we lay in the sun for a while. I got a little sun and turned red – a few more times of that and I won't be a ghostly pale! It was also commissary day but they were out of everything which was disappointing because a friend's birthday is this weekend and I'd promised I'd cook him something. I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything.  

So, there's a running joke of sorts that I started and which began with listening to the movie, 'Witch'. It's a weird movie, and apparently the big reveal at the end (SPOILER ALERT!) is that this family had been making deals with a demon possessed goat named 'Black Phillip'. Then, a friend said,  

“Oh it's clear that Big Will made a deal with Black Phillip!”

That brought some laughs...It's a silly inside joke. When I was outside I took a piece of soap and drew a cartoon strip of Black Phillip, this cute little goat with a furry belly and goatee beard. He was trying to convince people to sign the book and have everything their heart desires. Big Will signs the book and in the next panel you see Big Will sitting down with a ton of sodas and chips all around him, and in his hands he's holding a giant Hershey's candy bar and in his other hand he's holding a Coca Cola. He says,  

“Look at all of the goodies Black Phillip gave me!”  

I thought it was funny...

The sun completely zapped me of all energy and I'm ready to go to bed.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  

  
April 13th, 2021

Woke up and got out of bed at 5.50am and got straight to it! I still have my energy and I feel a whole lot better. My hope is strong, but this crew we've had working today is something else...Lazy...Indifferent. You'd think an institution like a prison would be run with efficiency, and that things would run like a military...but you just never know what you're going to get from day to day. It's a wild pendulum swing every day!

Apparently my 'Black Phillip' cartoon offended the guys who went outside after me. One of the guys though it was insensitive, so this morning he jams me up and I'm just standing at my door dumbfounded...He says,  

“Why is he 'BLACK Phillip'?”

“I don't know. Ask the people who made the movie. It's a freakin' demon possessed goat. A goat!! Could you not see his hooves and horns and little furry belly? I even used Big Will's name in the cartoon.”

Sheesh...I think because it's extremely warm in the building right now, it has everyone's nerves a bit frazzled. It's HOT!

So, about a months ago I filed a grievance about guards not wearing their masks properly, and the response I received last night said I had nothing to substantiate my claim...Really?? All they need to do is look at the surveillance cameras at the time I noted the incident, and there it is! What's the point of having cameras EVERYWHERE if they aren't used?? Drugs coming in is at an all time high, guys are being caught will cell phones all the time, and guards don't do their jobs on a regular basis...Really??

I'm getting fired up. Better simmer down.  

That's been my day! Fun times...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  

  
April 18th, 2021

It's been a long and boring weekend...Actually, the past three days have been a bit stressful for me. Some of it could have been mitigated by a couple of days of recreation, but once again, the prison is severely understaffed and we are trapped in our cells...

I think what gets lost in the details is that out in population and the rest of the unit, even if those men can't go outside for recreation, they can go to the dayrooms. They can play chess and dominoes, scrabble and monopoloy...They can watch television or called loved ones and friends on a regular basis.  

What is the difference between us on Death Row and guys in general population? A death sentence. That's it. Not the crime...not the behaviour (though it can be argued, and I would believe that MANY officers who work here think we are some of the most well behaved prisoners in the State – I'm willing to bet that statistics bear that out). There are people in general population for capital murder. There are people who have committed such heinous crimes that it would make your stomach heave, but because a jury sentenced us to death, we are treated much worse than they are...like dog dookie. Equal justice under the law? No way!

So, we're stuck in cells like dogs. I'm restless, I'm anxious, I'm beat down and I'm tired...Where I muster the energy to keep going, I don't know. But I will keep on.  

On Friday I met a cool inmate from General Population. TDCJ has been piloting a program called 'Field Ministers and Out Reach'. The inmates involved go through a four year college, seminary, and training/counselling course, and once they're approved they are sent to different prison units across the state. There, they are pretty much given carte blanche to move around the unit and minister or just talk to inmates that want to. It's a pretty progressive and forward thinking program.

When he introduced himself I began to chat with him. I was shocked that he was serving a capital life sentence. He told me that there was a guy going through the program right now who had been on death row! A guy I knew well. When I asked if you had to be a Christian to participate in the program, he said that any religion was welcome. I talked about being Jewish and he said that he used to be in an Aryan gang, then he got out of the gang and decided to change his life around.  

After we finished talking my mind was racing. I thought...wow...this program could be what I need! I've always wanted to give back...To counsel...And if I could change the lives of guys who have a chance of going home one day, that is what I should try to do. I don't know if they'd allow me because of the escape, but I would do my very best to show I was sincere and would do anything and everything it takes. If you've ever read my writings in their entirety, you'll know that my long term goal has been to reform AD-SEG and help the guys in solitary. This could be the way to do it. Just the mere fact that they've allowed a guy I knew who used to be back here with us, gives me hope.  

Later that evening I received a Jpay letter from a friend I've not heard from in a long time, and it was nice. I thought, 'things are turning around a bit.'

Saturday was another day of no recreation. I mostly listened to some movies and read, and tried to keep my mind occupied. I go through bouts of sadness...Going through some personal issues, but I manage to push through. I hate being trapped in the cell. Even if I complain about being stuck at recreation, at least I can move around, stretch my legs, get some fresh air.  

Today has been okay...I listened to a classic top 40 from 1985, and listened to a movie, and that was pretty much the day.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


April 19th, 2021

Another day of no recreation. I slept pretty good though, and jumped out of bed to exercise and then went to a freezing cold shower. Our water heater is out, and nothing wakes you up more than doing the polar bear dive into a freezing shower!!!

They're short staffed today...You know, this could be mitigated a bit if they'd allow us tablets or television. I'm sure some people will roll their eyes reading that, but c'mon...Every other state allows their inmates to have personal TVs, or secure and safe smart tablets. Something has to give in the state of Texas! Some kind of stimuli is necessary. Believe it or not, I don't even care that much about watching TV all day long. I'd check out some documentaries and movies, but there is nothing otherwise that really interests me. Unless a station did LOST re-runs...Yeah, I'd be there for that!

I don't know...it just seems that we don't even get what we're mandated to have and we're still not acting up. Surely that counts for something?

I'm looking outside of my window every now and then and it's so gorgeous! To have some fresh air right now would be a treat.

I'm really happy for a couple of guys back here...They've received sentence reversals from the CCA! One guy is a friend, 'Beto', and over the years he's suffered severe depression, anxiety and insomnia. He was sentenced under the Law of Parties and even the state admitted he killed no one. So, for him to have a chance at some kind of life outside of Death Row is such wonderful news!!! He told me last night that he's been having some of the best night's sleeps he's had in years...I'm just so happy for the guy.

Another guy who had been on death row for 40 plus years, and is mentally ill, was given a sentence reversal as well. Everyone is beyond happy for this man!

Seeing the courts do the right thing did give me a bit of hope. It's always the best kind of news! I'm certain more sentence reversals for other guys are in the pipeline, and I pray for all of them...Everything is going to work out how it's intended to work out.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 21st, 2021

I woke up yesterday at about 5.30am for recreation. I was really happy that they were running it, and although they didn't give us much time to get ready, it doesn't take me long. Most of the time I can roll out of bed and go – I've been doing that since I was 14 years old, and it's like second nature.

It was absolutely gorgeous...a little chilly, but it warmed up fast. I did some exercising and then talked with the guy I was outside with for the rest of the time. We came in at 8am on the dot and then I went to the shower – that's when things went pear shaped and I was trapped in there for over an hour and a half. It sucks. You're in a little box smaller than a closet and the only way to breathe is through a small mesh screen. It's difficult to describe, but if you're not claustrophobic it will will make you so.

I kept busy most of the day and was in bed by 10pm. People were happy about the outcome of the George Floyd murder trial yesterday, and we were all talking about it back here. I do hope there is some kind of healing that comes from it, and that it pushes things forward in the criminal justice reform movement. I hope it wakes people up and that things truly change.

Today I woke up at 5.30 again and got my day started. I was hit by a sudden sadness but I'm pushing through it. I'm not going to get into details, as this is a private matter, but what I can say is that my girlfriend and I have decided to transition back into a friendship.  It's with  much love and respect for each other and I know things will be okay. It sucks, and yeah, the heart hurts. We are great friends and I'll always love and respect her and encourage her happiness and goals. She's a wonderful team mate and things will be fine...I'll be fine, and she'll be fine...It's all good.

It's another bright and beautiful day. I'm scheduled for recreation – third round – and things seem to be moving smoothly. I've already done most of my exercises and will jog when I'm in the day room.

For those who write prisoners, the mail room has changed its policy on sending cards to prisoners in Texas...You can now send cards on the following dates:

April 25th – May 9th
June 6th – 20th
December 11th – 25th

The envelope must have a post mark on or between these dates.

We were just asked if we want the COVID vaccine. I signed up for it and should have my first shot next week. I was quite surprised and a bit disappointed that many guys refused. Many of these guys complain about officers not wearing their masks properly...Well, I'll have mine and I'm relieved – thank G-d!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


  
April 22nd, 2021

Woke up this morning to learn that the entire unit is on its 6 monthly lockdown/shakedown, so that means another 3 weeks of delicious sack meals and cabin fever! Woohoo!

Last night was a good night of music on the prison radio station, and I listened to the movie, 'Soul', which was pretty good. I loved the music elements and jazz throughout the movie. Later that night the prison DJ came on and jokingly announced that I am the official 'co-producer of content and ideas' at the station, because I'm always making suggestions and putting forward my ideas. I don't want to let it go to my head, but it did put a smile on my face. It goes to show you that even in a cell 24/7 a person can be effective and accomplished if they set their mind to it.  

I didn't get to sleep until around one in the morning because the music was so good. I woke back up at about 5.50am and after learning we were on lockdown I just couldn't get back to sleep. I got up, exercised, and set up the day.

I read an interesting quote from the music producer, Nile Rodgers...He was a big name for disco in the '70s, and also produced some of the biggest names in music during the '80s. People like Bowie, Madonna etc. It resonated with me because I often apply a similar tactic to get through the days. He said,  

“When you're powerless, for your sanity's sake you have to just relax, understand what the situation is, and come to terms with it.”

That's pretty profound and may sound like submission, but it's actually taking control of things. When you relax and accept the situation is out of your control and you let go, that's actually when the situation no longer owns you and you can move beyond that. Sometimes that tactic doesn't work for a person that is neurotic as all get out, but still...I've found when I do that, I'm usually able to get on with the day...mostly.  

I'll make the best of the lockdown, it's really all I can do.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


April 25th, 2021

Sunday...warm, bright, sunny...but still stuck in the cell due to the shakedown/lockdown. I'm making the best of it, but they should've at least let us have a shower by now – it's been 4 days! The pod is starting to smell a little funky. More so because there's no clean up crew either, and there's a growing mound of garbage at the end of the section run where the guards keep pushing all of the trash.

It's been quiet at least. Friday afternoon we had a huge storm blow through that knocked the power out two different times. Not for long periods of time, but enough to knock out the prison radio station. Being that it was the primary station I listen to these days I thought it was going to be a very long lockdown without any good programs or music shows. Fortunately Saturday morning they were able to reboot everything. At 4pm I listened to the station premier of 'Wonder Woman: 1984'. I was excited because I really enjoyed the first one. It had action, but more importantly, the movie had a lot of heart to it. The sequel? Blew monkey chunks...It was slow, corny and soulless. I was so disappointed in it. I'm sure the visuals were great, but really...even just listening to it. Don't waste your time. What a let down. 2 ½ hours of my life I'll never get back.

The Saturday night concerts were Selena for the first hour and then U2. Now, as a lover of music and especially live music, I was excited about the U2 concert. Selena wasn't really anything I was interested in, but it was the very last concert she performed in Houston, Texas before she was murdered by her fan club manager and she's a Texas legend. Right up there with Buddy Holly,  Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughn and others. Even if you don't listen to their music, they're Texas and part of being Texan is wearing them proudly. So, I listened to here band and her powerful vocals..it was amazing and I was left a bit dizzy with excitement over the performance. What is sad about it though, is she was just getting started. I was very impressed.

U2 came on after and as the song 'Zoo Station' began I had a sense of Déjà vu...it was eerily familiar. I suddenly remembered that I had seen about 30 minutes of this concert from 1992 at boarding school. It was fall of 1992. Before I became a room monitor and a hall monitor I was a night time janitor. I had to clean a kindergarten classroom that was in Baker Hall, my dorm, and the TV room. When I was in the TV room I flipped through the channels to see that one of them had a U2 concert on. I turned the volume up and began cleaning. I knew last night that I was listening to the same one because I remember when Bono was flipping through this giant screen of television programs and he paused on Garth, from the Wayne's Word SNL skit and movie. They talked for a second over the feed and then Garth joined U2 on drums for 'Even better than the real thing'. I couldn't believe I was listening to a moment from my teenage memory. It was weird, but really cool.

The sound quality of the concert was a bit washed out, but still to hear some music you normally don't get to hear is always great.

I was in bed by 10.30pm out like a light and woke up at 5.50am. Had to shave and bird bath and have spent the day doing laundry.

Because they're so short staffed we expect this this lockdown will be really long. Something else that sucks is they're not allowing us our weekly five minute phone call until the lockdown is over...Makes no sense, but that's the way this place is.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.

  
April 26th, 2021

Does it ever feel that right when you're about to score a point some unseen force moves the goal posts of life on you?

So, yesterday afternoon I was cruising around the day. Feeling half way decent about things. Actually, all things considered I was was in a pretty good mood. I was half way through my thousandth listening of Avengers: Infinity War (that and Endgame are so freakin' good). And then the radio went dead. The clock read 0:00 and I was confused. I gave the radio a couple of good jostles (okay, in the interest of full disclosure...wacks. I gave it a good few wacks, because hey, it's worked before) and nothing. So, I opened it up, looked to see if maybe a wire was touching something or if something maybe burned out. Nothing. My heart sank and I was filled with grief. If it was the old days I would've torn my shirt, fallen to  my knees and cried to the heavens.  

A radio is one thing...radios are replaceable. But they don't sell the radios that pick up television any more and finding one to trade with someone these days is almost an impossibility because they're so rare. I'm crushed. More so because at the time I had nothing to listen to. My neighbour offered a piggy back off his (it's complicated to explain but I can tie my headphones into his) and that is temporary, but it got me through the night even if I had absolutely no idea what was going on in that movie. The imagination can fill in the blanks only so much! Time inversion, time travel, occupying to moments of space and time at the exact same time...Whoooaaa. Heady stuff.  

He let me listen to my music show at 9pm as well and then I went to sleep. I woke up at 5.50am to the sounds of an officer asking me if I wanted a shower. I rolled out of bed and zombie walked to the shower, shaking off my sleep.  

Now, last night I thought about trying to get hold of the Property Officer. But with the lockdown and everything I thought it would be next to impossible because she handles the shakedowns and confiscated property. Often, they'll have a 'loaner radio' or fan...something to replace an item that was either broken by an officer, of if a guy is indigent. So, any hopes I had of making it through a lockdown with a new radio hinged on that possibility.  

I came back from the shower and suddenly, miraculously, the property officer showed up on my section to deal with someone else. I asked if I could talk to her really quick and she told me it would have to be fast because she was busy.

“You have one minute,” she said.  

“That's all I need.”

“What's the deal”

“My radio died yesterday and I was hoping you'd have a loaner I can borrow-”

She cut me off and said,

“It won't be today, but I got you. First thing tomorrow I'll bring it.”

“Please! Thank you!”

“I got you, Halprin. I'll write it down and bring it tomorrow.”

“Thank you!”

Whew...that helps mitigate some of the heartache and sorrow of losing my beloved radio. May its electronic spirit rest in radio heaven peacefully. I won't be able to listen to TV but I have the prison radio station and they do great music and a movie every day so that helps. Plus, I won't be dependent upon someone else to listen to something.  

I've started this entry a bit early today. As I write this, they're still doing showers. Our first in five days now. Breakfast sacks were pancakes with a smear of PB&J, a cup of oatmeal and some raisins. Yummy!  

Part of the process of going through a shake down and whittling property down to what fits into a red create. Sometimes you're forced to make a choice between books, food, essentials etc. because there's only so much room in the crate. Over the past few days I've been going through things that are important and things I can give to someone else or donate to the library.  

  
As I was going through some old letters I was reminded of all the hard work my friends and lawyers put into the fight to save my life – to the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. I was also overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers who came to my support and aid as well. So many people! It helps me put things in perspective, but it does make me sad as well at those guys that never get the kind of support that people like myself and Rodney Reed had. Does any life have more value than the other? Sure, injustices give a person reason to rally behind, but whereas causes like George Floyd and others help bring about certain reforms and changes, when it comes to things like the death penalty, a life might be spared, but nothing really changes on the grand scale of things.  

There are always those fighting the fights but it is if they're doing with one hand behind their back. They're handicapped. How many people stand outside the execution changer when there is a guy being put to death? We're always grateful for the handful there are, but shouldn't it be so much more? I think about all of the groups online, on twitter and facebook...maybe some of them are doing what they can behind the scenes, but how many of those people that pick fights with pro-death penalty people, or don't properly educate who are on the fence and just need a little guidance or convincing..how many of those people are really willing to give to the cause to end things once and for all?

I was fortunate and I know that I still have a long fight ahead, but how many others back here need the support? How many others deserve the support? It's easy to rally around the high profile cases and I intellectually understand that. I do. But there are guys back here that need the same kind of support.  

I think back to when I was on death watch. There was a guy there who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome and other things...Yes, his crime was awful, but when you consider everything else in his life that was stacked up against him and how he was raised – in a vicious cycle of violence in which beatings to him and the witnessing of family members murdered in front of him, as he was a child...is it really a surprise?  

It irritates the heck out of me when people paint things in terms of black and white. Life isn't black and white. It's grey. The thing is every one knows it, but they reject it. We're human. We fail, It's how we get back up, try to correct or change things that matters.  

The power to change the death penalty is there. There's no better time than now to seize the momentum. I mean, Virginia a slave state and the seat of the confederacy just abolished the practice! Nevada is considering a bill to abolish it as I speak. Heck, even the CCA the most conservative appeals court in the country has been reversing cases every once in a while. It can be done.  

Just had word that they'll begin vaccinations on Wednesday, 28th. It'll take a few days to do the entire unit, but that's something to look forward to.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  




April 27th, 2021

I woke up this morning at about 5.30am. I was a bit dazed and confused when I didn't see any kind of breakfast sack, and I thought I'd missed breakfast. Sometimes, if it's a hot meal, the guards won't announce anything and if you're sleeping, they'll pass your cell and not even wake you up. I thought  that because we did have a hot meal for lunch and dinner, maybe this was the case.

When I looked out my door, however, I could see a stack of brown paper sacks and the guard was just sitting next to them. When the guard did a security check I asked why the meals weren't being passed out and I had to shake my head at his response. He said,

“Well, I don't have a wheel chair or barrel with wheels to push them around on.”

I asked why he couldn't just carry them like most people do, and he said,

“Oh no, they're too heavy for that!”

This place...ha ha.

We finally received our breakfast, rolled around on a barrel with wheels, at around 7am. I was eagerly waiting the property officer's arrival to bring the loaner radio, but so far she hasn't showed up. I'm still hoping though. My neighbour has been more than accommodating to let me listen from his.

I heard on the news yesterday afternoon that TDCJ has updated its execution protocol to allow ministers/chaplains into the death chamber, and the news said that this paves the way for the state to execute my co-defendant, Patrick Murphy. It gave me a bit of anxiety last night because I hate hearing that kind of news, but also, I hate that when it comes to the last two of us – the actual non-shooters – all it is about now is revenge. No other reason.

The other thing I realised in hearing the news is that should he get a date, and because we're not allowed to be around one another, not even on the same pod, I'll more than likely be moved off the pod and away from some of my closest friends.

Something that's giving a lot of us anxiety (and don't be surprised if it happens) is that the State is about to issue a shocking amount of execution dates. I know of 4 people just waiting for their orders to be signed. With COVID vaccinations and Texas treating the pandemic as if it's winding down, this is inevitable. I go back to what I wrote recently and I implore people to stand up and truly throw yourselves into the fight. Not just for the Halprins and the Reeds of death row, but for the truly voiceless...

Sigh...It can be difficult at times...So difficult.

Vaccinations are supposed to begin tomorrow. I'm ready to get mine out of the way.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


  
April 28th, 2021

It's another day on lockdown. I had to talked to the property officer again yesterday, and she said she'd bring me the loaner radio today, but still, nothing...oh well.  

I just received some legal mail from my attorneys and it looks like some things are shaking and moving. I can't really say in what kind of way, but things are on the move and my attorneys are planning the next steps. I get a bit anxious when I receive legal mail, and so I have to breathe and stay hopeful and believe that the right thing will happen.  

Something that has guys upset back here is the warden came through and said that death row would not be included in the video visitations...Some guards were upset about it as well because, as they pointed out, guys who behave badly and are on restrictive custody levels like on 7 and 8 building (medium and closed custody) are being given access to the video visits. It doesn't seem fair by any measure. But things won't change unless people on the outside voice being upset that they can't talk to their friends and loved ones back here via video chat.  

That's pretty much it for today.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


April 30th, 2021

I can't believe it's the last day of the month...It feels like we've spent the majority of it trapped in our cells due to staff shortages, and this current lockdown. I don't know...everything has felt a bit weird for me lately. I've had this unsettling feeling of anxiety just barely at the surface for a while now, and can't wrap my head around it. I really want it to pass, or for me to come to terms with it.

So, yesterday was a pretty good day – I'd say great actually. It started off on the 'this could go any way' spectrum, because the property officer had showed up to deliver something for someone else but avoided me. I admit to feeling a bit irritated and feeling like I was being given the run around, but then I told myself,

“Why are you getting upset? No one owes you anything. She's under no obligation to give you a loaner radio.”

It's true. No one owes me anything and so I let it pass and just accepted it. Well, later on she came through and brought me a loaner radio and apologised for taking so long because she was really busy. I thanked her again and again, and then felt stupid for feeling irritated because things don't happen when I expect them to.

It's a symptom of this place; we tend to not understand that life doesn't stop for us when we need it to. People have lives; people have jobs; they have things to do. I guess that's where the sense of frustration comes in because if I had the ability to do things on my own, for myself, and not be dependent upon others...I wouldn't be frustrated. I would love to take care of myself, provide for myself, fight for myself, and be the one that takes the hit when things go bad, but I can't. It can be difficult to accept.

Anyways...so that was cool. They began vaccinations yesterday and stopped around 3pm, so I'm hoping to get mine some time today. I want to get it over with. The guys around me are saying that it's the Pfizer vaccination, and that you also receive a card that you have to carry around if someone asks for it. I'm cool with that.

It really was a good day, and then my neighbor was given the news via Jpay, that the CCA shot him down. He was upset, but I told him,

“The fight isn't over. Don't lose hope.”

Seems like empty words, I know...but that's really all we can do around here. When you lose hope and stop believing, it's a horrible feeling. Often my appeals feel like the world's worst roller coaster ride, and like the carriage could go flying off the tracks at any time. But you hold on for dear life and pray you get to the finish alive. You have to! That's where the phrase 'Courage, strength, hope and faith' comes from...It's my mantra. Someone blessed me with those words.

In a recent WIRED magazine (a tech publication) there was an article about a couple trying to adopt a child, and they posted their journey online which led to them being viciously trolled by these groups of anti-adoption people. I didn't even know those kinds of groups existed!! Who wouldn't want a child to end up in a safe and loving home? I just don't understand the logic or benefit of bullying anyone. I've stated before that I don't agree with cancel culture because it completely excludes the possibility of educating or rehabilitating a thought process or behaviour...it excludes forgiveness or a chance at redemption – something I feel American culture desperately needs. Our justice system often fails because it's a legal form of cancel culture.

The thing about bullying, especially in today's era, is that it's often done with anonymity or without societal repercussions. A person or group of people can get on their computers and have their way, but again...why? It's like when celebrity couples break up and you hear about the fans of a male star viciously attacking the woman he was dating. Why?? People break up all the time...It happens. Often it's no one's fault and it just might be the circumstances of life. Life can really stink sometimes, but it's not a reason to attack people.

I just don't get the need for such vitriol because someone has a different political opinion than your own, or they have a lifestyle that differs from yours, or they don't agree with your way of tackling an issue or whatever. If you have a hateful comment about something, what is the benefit of expressing it or attacking someone with it? Can you honestly say it makes you feel better?

Let me go back to the article I read...I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of this anti-adoption group attacking the couple for just wanting to have a family. If their argument is that a lot of adoption organisations are wishy washy and often CPS yanks a child away from a family before the parent has a chance of drug counselling or treatment, or that it's like a puppy mill, why not approach the family in kindness and say,

“Hey, we understand your desire to adopt and have a family, and that's beautiful. But here's why we think under current practice that's not such a good idea. Just consider it.”

Why attack them??

It seems to be no different in other areas of life as well. I've made friends with people whose opinions are the polar opposite of my own. I don't tolerate certain things like racism, or jokes about racism, period. What I try to do is say,

“Hey, I'm Jewish. Why do you hate me or hate black or Latino people?”

If I go in all fired up they just dig their heels in and this somehow gives them justification for their belief systems. I don't believe you just magically make something go away with love and kindness, but I do believe changing just one person's mind or heart about something has the potential to start a chain reaction. No one should ever expect a person to see eye to eye on everything. There are things with my own closest friends that we might not agree with, for example, the man who was my mentor and the closest person to me in my life (may he rest in peace) was a die hard Republican. He voted for Trump and didn't agree with homosexuality, but we never screamed at one another. I told him my views, he shared his...sometimes I could see a point he made, and he could see some point I made. We weren't at each other's throats and we loved one another.

I guess my whole point in this tangent is to say that I really wish people would stop being undercover bullies, or bullies in general.

So, today I woke up to lightening and thunder. We were hoping on getting a shower but that doesn't seem to be happening. I went ahead and exercised in my cell, and I'll be taking a bird bath in my sink in a minute or two. I'll make it a decent day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace!

May 2nd, 2021

It's early Sunday morning and it started off a bit negatively on the pod. My eyes shot open at 5.30am because all the cell lights were on. I lay there hoping they would turn off because, whilst I did have a decent night's sleep, I had a mild headache and wouldn't have minded another 30 minutes of sleep time.

Well, there was some new guard coming around...Really young, and with a chip on his shoulder, and guys began to ask him to turn the lights off. That's when things became negative because the guard wanted to be confrontational, and no inmate was going to tell him what to do. He cussed...guys cussed back at him, and I thought,

“Here we go...”

One of the guys I'm living near was super angry and I had to tell him,

“Man, ignore it. Don't let the guy rile us up. It's obviously how he gets his jollies. Ignore it.”

I admit, it's not easy when people act that way towards us, but I'm really trying a new strategy within myself. I felt so silly having gotten irritated over the property officer because I was owed nothing. Nothing! I thought,

“You know what? You need to change your thought process and stop letting things get under your skin.”

I've always been proud of my patience, but lately it's short and I feel I complain too much and I'm frustrated all the time.  It's got to stop! I hate feeling this way...I feel like I've come up short on promises to G-d when I received my stay. I'm sure everyone in the world does, but it doesn't make me not want to do better...and I really, really want to do better. I'm trying...

I woke up telling myself yesterday,

“It's a new month, heading into a new week, and a whole bunch of promise. Let's make it better.”

Friday night we received some awesome news that one of my closest friends, Clinton, received a recommendation from the trial court judge to receive a new trial. I was so happy about that and I pray that the CCA will adopt that recommendation. He was once on Death Watch a couple of years ago and has been fighting so hard for this...G-d willing it will work out positively for him. I'm just so happy for him!

Things have to get better...

On Saturday I listened to some radio programs, then on the prison radio station the night time movie was, 'Book Smart', which is pretty funny. It was followed by a concert with the band 'Police' and a comedy set from Eddie Murphy. It was pretty funny. It was the old comedy, 'Eddie Murphy: Raw'. That said some of the jokes he told could not be repeated today and were a bit.....well, not funny.

The sun is finally out today which is a true blessing. We've had a week of storms and it's just....when you're stuck in your cell all day and it's dark and 'bleh', you just want some sunshine to come pouring through.

I heard the Cure song, 'The Loudest Sound' the other night. It's on the Blood Flowers album. It's been about 20 years since I last heard it and as I was listening all I could think was,

“Wow...what a beautiful and perfectly written song.”

Sparse lyrics that say so much....The music is dreamy...The guitar work and rhythm are flawless. I highly recommend it. Heck, if I were to pick my favourite songs off the Blood Flowers album, they would be:

Our of this World
The Last Day of Summer
There is no If
The Loudest Sound

And the two longest songs on the album:

Watching me fall  
Blood Flowers

Check them out!

I'm still waiting on my vaccination as they never made it to us last week...hopefully this week. I'm sending in a request to medical just to make sure. Some guys refused the shot initially, and then changed their minds so they have to go through the sign-up process all over again.

Well, here's hoping that May will be a great month, that this week will a great week and prayers will soon be answered for everyone...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


May 4th, 2021

Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you...ha ha.

Yesterday was a bit on the dull side of things, and then last night the guards kept making a bunch of noise throughout the night, so I didn't get a great night's sleep. Still, I woke up feeling energetic and upbeat, all things considered. I got out of bed, and when the laundry officer was exchanging razors, I was thinking I'd like to go back to bed for an hour, but I decided to get the show on the road and dived right into it.  

At first, dazzling sunlight was blasting through the slit that is my window. But as I write this it looks like the apocalypse and it's storming pretty heavily. G-d willing, we won't lose the power!

I had my first vaccination this morning. I was told by the nurse that the shot I was getting was Moderna. Some of the other guys received Pfizer, but I'm not concerned one way or the other. I'm just happy to have gotten it out of the way. The guard that took me out to the nurse said,

“You're going to get it in the arm, right?”  

I said,  

“Yeah, isn't everyone?”

He said,  

“Well, I took a guy from AD-SEG for his shot, and he asked the nurse to give it to him in his penis.”

I scrunched my face like, “Ouch!” Then I said,

“Yeah, I think he had other motives with that request. What did the nurse think?”

To which he replied,

“She cussed at him and jabbed him in the arm really hard.”

I received a vaccination card too. A lot of us have instinctual feeling that those who refuse the shot are going to be restricted in some kind of way when things begin to open up more. It might be with recreation, it might be with how they receive visits, who knows? But I know TDCJ and I know that even when you have a choice on certain things, refusal comes with a cost. I've been trying to encourage others to get the vaccine...The benefits of getting the jab will far outweigh lockdown after lockdown, and restrictions on everything else.  

Here's to hoping to get back to normal!

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace.

  
May 6th, 2021

So, I've had my COVID vaccination. At first my arm was a bit tender, but when I woke up yesterday I could barely move my arm, but thought that if I did a little light workout it would loosen up. It did.

After that I rinsed off in sink and started my day when suddenly I felt like crap. I had a throbbing headache, the cold chills, and my body ached all over. I spent the entirety of the day in bed.  

I woke up feeling much better this morning, but still a little funky. As the day goes on I'm getting more of my strength back. My arm still aches a little, but I'm glad I had the shot.  

We're still on lockdown as I write this and it's looking it's going to be another two weeks. The biggest reason it's moving so slowly is because of staff shortages in terms of prison guards. It's really bad right now.  

We were allowed to fill out orders for stamps and hygiene supplies, so at least they're letting us have that.  

I received one of those 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books the other evening, and this one in particular is filled with Jewish wisdom and quotes. I'm reading one story a day and it's quite good.  

One of my ideas for the prison radio station was accepted today. I'd been trying to convince them to do a scary movie night on Friday nights called, 'Friday Night Frights'. We're all looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

That's been my day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.

  
May 8th, 2021

I'm sitting here on a Saturday morning, sunlight pouring through my window, and feel fairly rested after a stressful Friday. Actually, it began on Thursday afternoon when the red crates for shakedown arrived.  

For those who haven't read about me explaining the red crates...It's a large plastic crate that ALL of our property, excluding electronic items and legal work, has to fit into. It's a way of preventing inmates from holding onto too much junk in their cells. For some guys, food is the most important, and for others it's books, cards, letters etc. So we make room for what we value most, first.  

The first crate arrived on Thursday afternoon, for a person the ranking officers search. He's super high security for various reasons. The officer on the pod said she didn't expect that they'd give the red crates to us, but then came the rest of them. They passed the crates out and we knew they'd begin the shakedown on Friday.  

I began to pack up my stuff and was surprised I didn't need to sacrifice anything, and had room to spare. Out of force of habit from many years of being moved from cell to cell every couple of weeks, I've learned to keep things light and I've never been one to hoard things or get overly sentimental about property, books etc. I usually give things away.  

So, I waited and waited to be shaken down and then two guards arrived, strip searched me again, and brought me back to my section. I took a deep breath expecting to see a mess in my cell, but to my surprise, everything was nice and orderly, stacked up neatly on my bed. My clothes line was still up and that usually gets pulled down.  

I couldn't see anything damaged or missing, so once the cuffs were off I set to the task of straightening out my cell. I was back in shape in no time.  

Today, I woke up feeling okay and we're fortunate to be having a hot lunch. It's my brother's birthday today, so a BIG 'Happy Birthday' to him!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  

  
May 13th, 2021

I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I woke up this morning a little tired, but ready to take on the day. The sun is shining brightly and it's a nice change from the storms we've been having lately. I don't mind the rain and cloudy skies...Sometimes it can be the most wonderful and beautiful thing in itself, but when you're trapped in a cell and can't get out of it for weeks on end, having the sunlight and standing on your bed to look at a bright and beautiful world...It's medicine for the soul! I crave the sunlight on my face and skin. I want to breathe some fresh air and jog outside, and then lay on the hot concrete and stare at the sky as the hawks circle high above.  

We're still on lockdown and probably will be until next week. Many of us were really happy when we heard the news that yet another guy has had his death sentence thrown out – I hope we continue down this path. I'm praying hard for the guy whose execution is scheduled for next week...May G-d grant him a stay.  

I didn't get much sleep last night because I was listening to some late night music programs on the prison radio station. I was in bed at 1am and then got up at 7. Our breakfast was a cup of oatmeal, a pancake, a pb&j sandwich, two hard boiled eggs, and a handful of raisins. That's definitely more than they've been giving us lately...No complaints from me!

That's pretty much been my day.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.

May 14th, 2021

Friday...Still on lockdown. Will this ever end? The way it's looking, maybe next Wednesday.  

I woke up at about 5.45am, and started to get ready for my shower. I wanted to exercise but I knew I wouldn't have time, so I'll do things throughout the day to keep  my body moving.  

I spent a good part of the morning trying to lift someone's spirits. He's going through some person al health issues, dealing with some bad appeal news, and some family troubles. He told me things were becoming too much to bear. I said,  

“Look...you can have all of the bad pile up and beat you down. But it only takes one good thing to turn all of that around. I have my bad days where everything feels like it's piling up, but I try to push through and carry on. It's all we can do in this place. Tell yourself, 'It only takes one good thing to turn things around', and keep hope alive.”

I received some legal mail...Nothing really happening right now, but it did make me realise how much I miss actually seeing my attorneys and talking with them. With the TDC shifting guidelines, and more of us receiving our injections, it's only a matter of time before things begin to open up more and return to normal.  

We've been getting hot meals more frequently, which is a plus. Sometimes they'll throw a sack meal at us, but at least with a hot meal you can get some fresh veggies. Well, as long as it isn't broccoli...Please, no broccoli!

I'm waiting to see what tonight's movie is going to be for this Friday's prison radio station scary movie.  Mostly though, I'm just missing people, and I hope they know it...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


May 15th, 2021

Saturday...Still on lockdown!! Still trapped in our cells!!

I was watching the sun rise earlier, and geeze...what I wouldn't do to be outside and enjoying a bit of fresh air.  

They've been giving us three hot meals a day now because General Population are completely off their lockdown. We should be finished with ours, but because they wanted to bounce around to other buildings, there are three pods left for shakedown and they probably won't finish that until next Wednesday. So, we're looking at Thursday or Friday...Maybe. They're extremely short staffed as well, which always affects whether we leave our cell or not for recreation. All I know is that something has to change in terms of giving us some  kind of stimuli. You know, I've said it before, but we are the most well behaved prisoners in the system, and yet we are treated like pariahs.  

I'll give an example...A friend of mind just went to the hospital to have hernia surgery. They perform all surgeries for the incarcerated, in Galveston. So, during the process of a couple of trips, he'd stay for a few days each time in a filthy cell with nothing to do – no writing material, no books, nothing. He was saying that because there are guys from all across the system in cells around him, many of them mentally ill, it's been impossible for him to sleep. There might be a guy rapping in the cell next to him, or another guy whistling, or guys banging on doors and yelling...Officers would come by to check on people and my friend would be pacing the cell, or laying quietly. Just about every officer would say,  

“You guys that come from death row are the most well behaved people across the state!”

Everyone knows this. Guards tell us this all of the time and still we're treated like raving mad men, by the state. It's easy to get frustrated when we're treated the way we are, when most of us are remorseful and regretful and have learned from our mistakes. Most of us just want – at the very least – a chance at life, and to show how we've changed. Believe what you want to believe, but just because the state tells you the sky is purple, doesn't mean it's true.  

The state sells juries the big lie that we're all 'future threats of dangerousness' – one of the 3 special questions they must answer 'yes' to in order to sentence a person to death. But it's a lie...There's no data or empirical evidence that comes close to supporting that. NONE. Do the research yourself and you'll see. It's one big freaking lie – a lie so that the state can scare people into believing the only solution is to kill them.  

Rant over...

I'm trying to figure out what I want to do for the day. Mail is so jacked up that no one is getting their reading material, letters or anything else, on time. We're bored out of our skulls. Morning programs on the prison radio station are varying faith based programs, and I'm so bored by mainstream music on the radio that it leaves me few options. I'm a little restless today. When my mind is like this I can't even focus on reading a book.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


May 16th, 2021

Sunday...I've been spending the day thinking about some programs that the prison radio station played from National Geographic, about the death penalty. The series was originally aired on the BBC, I believe. Yesterday they focused on Texas and it was very difficult to listen to, but I forced myself. Every one of those guys that the series focused on, I knew or still know. I was and still am filled with so much emotion from listening to it.  

I was surprised at how fair and even-handed the docu-series was from both points of view – the victims' families, and the condemned. And people may roll their eyes at this, but I did cry for both sides. To hear the pain in the families' voices...some refusing forgiveness, some torn about giving forgiveness, and some willing to give forgiveness...And then, the pain of the family of the condemned...losing a son, a brother, a nephew.  

It made me think about a lot of things and I can only speak for myself on this, but it cemented my personal beliefs about the act of forgiveness and my own walk in seeking forgiveness – even if it's never given. Genuinely seeking forgiveness is a very important part of redemption. In my own walk in seeking forgiveness, I've acknowledged this about myself: I'm flawed...I'm deeply flawed...I can be immature and sometimes have unrealistic expectations, and operate in a way that seems naïve or even oblivious at times. But that doesn't mean I can't ask for forgiveness daily – not just forgiveness in itself, but for the chance to learn and grow from each thing I get wrong, and for any bad decisions I make.

In spite of these flaws, I do believe I'm a decent person and I try to live in a way that reflects decency. I don't always say or do the right things, but I have the drive and desire to do the right thing and act in compassion and forgiveness. That's really all I can do, right? Walk the walk, or talk the talk.  

“To become different from what we are, we must know who we are.”

I'm definitely witness the mental breakdown of the guy whose spirits I tried to lift on Friday. He's recently begun to hear voices, and often accuses people of talking about him when no one is saying anything. I know he's under tremendous stress right now, and all we can do is try to encourage him to keep positive and hopeful, and to continue to lift him up and be there for him. What saddens me though is the behaviour of my neighbor, because, whilst meaning no harm (I hope not anyways!) he'll rile the guy up and mess with him, thinking it's funny. I've told him to knock it off and he'll stop for a while and then start messing with him again. He'll say he's just playing afterwards, but this really isn't a situation to be 'playing'.

The power went out late last night for a few hours, but no one seems to know why. I went to sleep early and didn't even notice.  

That's been my weekend...I pray that this new week brings some good things, and hopefully an end to this dreadful lockdown.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace.  

  
May 18th, 2021

Yesterday it stormed for most of the day. In the evening I was laying in bed, half listening to the radio and staring at the ceiling. A splash of yellow poured across the ceiling, but I didn't think anything of it...I just laid there in deep thought.  

Because of where my cell is, I can see the sun rise towards the east, but I really can't see the sunset. I can see some of the sky change colors in the west, out towards the field where the cows are, and every now and then I'll get up and look for a short while, and then get back down from the window. But when someone yelled from D-section (their cells face the field and can watch the sunset in all of its glory),

“Hey, y'all! Check out that sunset.”

I thought,  

“Ehhh, I'll not even bother tonight.”

But something nagged at me so I stood up and peered out of my window to see the most breathtaking rainbow in a complete arc, stretching across the entire prison. The colors were so vivid and it practically shimmered against a grey and orange sky. I must've stood in awe for 10 minutes, just watching it. I've had the good fortune to see a couple of rainbows since being on death row, but this truly was the most beautiful of them all.  

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and felt fully charged and ready to go, even though you've only had a few hours of sleep? That happened to me about about 2am. My eyes shot open and I had a surge of energy. I felt like I had slept a full 8 hours! I lay in bed for a few minutes, checked the radio (I was able to purchase a brand new radio recently, and the reception is remarkable. I still miss listening to some TV, but I'll get over it) and then I thought,  

“I need to get myself back to sleep!”

I fell back to sleep about ten minutes later and woke back up at 5.50am.

At 6am I heard the album 'Our Time in Eden' by 10000 Maniacs – most definitely in my top 20 of all time favourite albums. As I got up and listened to it I had a funny memory come back to me...I had never heard of the band and I was over at my best friend, Chad's, house. We were all in his living room – myself, Chad, his sister, and a few of her friends. I must've been about 14 years old. One of her friends was wearing a t-shirt that said '10000 Maniacs' and I asked,  

“What is that? A heavy metal band?

The guy looked at me like I was joking, and said,  

“You serious, dude?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I've never heard of them.”

“No, it's not metal...”

How was I to know?

Anyways...When 'Our Time in Eden' came out I bought the album and was blown away by it. I highly recommend it to everyone. I can't really describe it, but if you like Natalie Merchant, you'll love it.  

Sigh...There's a scheduled execution tomorrow, and that's on my mind, and I'm praying hard that the guy receives a stay. I can't imagine what it must do to a person when they get right down to the very last minute...It's an unbearable thought.

I wanted to share a story from my Chick Soup Neshama...Now, my Rabbi has told me a variation of this story before, and it's always resonated with me. Here it is...

The sand sparkled in the sunlight along the ocean shore. Scattered along the beach were thousands of starfish, dehydrating in the afternoon heat. A little boy walked along the shore, picking up each starfish and gently tossing it into the sea.

An old man watched the child's actions in dismay. He ran to the boy and asked,

Why are you bothering? Look how many thousands of starfish are scattered along the sand! Do you really think you are making a difference?”

The young boy reached down and picked up a starfish, and with pride he tossed it into the ocean.

I just made a world of difference to that one!”

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!

  
May 19th, 2021

Today there is a scheduled execution. I'm praying that by the time I close this journal entry, there will be some positive news of a stay...Please G-d!

Since I came back to A-Pod in mid-November last, this is the first time someone with an execution date has gotten to the actual day of his execution. I haven't liked being so close to Death Watch as it was such a dreadful experience for me – as it is for all of us back here – but I've been glad to be around guys I call close friends.  

I'm also glad that Captain Carter makes sure that the guys on death watch receive their recreation, get their phone calls, and she treats them with humanity. Even in the worst of circumstances, that's all you can hope for. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, or even the condemned individual, when the humanity is taken from the equation, you're really no better than the people you despise.  

I've been really anxious and jittery today...I hate that this still goes on, and I wish it would just end. I don't understand it and I don't want to accept it because, as a country, we truly lose any kind of credibility with human rights and the like. Sure, some people say,  

“Well, I'll take this justice system over anywhere else in the world, because it's better than any other.”

But is that really true? Do you really believe that when there is still racial injustice, when a person doesn't have due process or a fair trial because he has a Judge who hates him merely for the fact that he's Jewish or Black or Latino, or gay? Do you really believe it's the best system in the world?

Anyways...I'm praying hard that the stay comes today.

Yesterday evening I listened to the narrated version of 'A Quiet Place'. Now, I've listened to this movie before, but I honestly had zero idea of what was happening because most of the film is silent. So, a narration fit this movie perfectly and I was blown away! Even some of my neighbors were like,  

“That was amazing!! I don't even like listening to movies, but that just had me all the way!”  

I really feel like I've 'seen' this movie now. The opening sequence is truly terrifying and so heartbreaking, and then a scene towards the end, with the father and his daughter...I was in tears. I don't want to spoil it, but even if you're not into thrillers or scary movies, this one is so brilliantly made. I think it will have to go onto my list of 'movies to see before you die'. I'm really excited about the sequel that comes out next week. It'll be a few  months before the prison radio station can get it, but that'll be one to not be missed!

The rainbow I described made the Houston news! Apparently there is a video and pictures of it. You must check it out online. It was truly breathtaking!

Well...the evening closed out with one of my favourite music programs, and I heard some really great songs, especially the Cure song, 'Home Sick'. I love that song. I also heard 'Ghost of You' by Psychedelic Furs.

We're still on lockdown whilst the rest of the unit is up and doing their thing. I really need to get out of this cell.  

Well, we'll see how the day ends...Please, G-d, grant a stay!

6.08pm...We've just heard that the execution is going ahead...Please let this crap just END!

Wait!...We just heard that Governor Abbott is considering a 30 day reprieve...Please G-d!

9.30pm...Still no word, here. I'll keep praying, and hoping we hear some good news.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


  
May 20th, 2021

I'm sad, dismayed, and angry this morning, as many of us are back here...When the Execution Watch program on KPFT 90.1 (kpft.org) ended yesterday, Quin Jones was still alive. It had been reported that his attorneys were talking to the Governor in hopes of receiving a 30 day reprieve.  

It really looked like it was going to happen, so much so that the guards back here had been told to prepare a cell with a mattress, clean laundry, and be ready for Quin to come back to the prison later that night. We were all hopeful and excited about this.  

Then, on the 10pm news, someone yelled out that the execution went ahead, and we were all shocked and upset. You could feel the energy drop out, and the entire place went silent. I shook my head in complete disgust  

Our Governor had an opportunity to show a modicum of mercy and compassion – it was a 30 day reprieve, not a flippin' life sentence! It would have given Quin's attorneys just a little more time to either re-address clemency, or file some kind of appeal, and it would have cost Abbott nothing politically. Nothing! In fact, he would have looked wise, compassionate, and like he really cared what the victim's family thought because they were begging him for a stay as well. They did not want the man executed. The sister of the victim, Quin's great aunt, said on the news,  

“I've visited him. He has changed and I forgive him. I don't want to see him executed.”

Earlier that same day, Abbott, in signing an anti-abortion bill in Texas went on and on about the 'sanctity of life'. Greg Abbott goes on about his strong Catholic beliefs, and still executes people in spite of the Pope being against the death penalty!

And I hate to 'go there', but I'm going to! The racial overtones in this case reek to high heavens!! Thomas Whitaker, a white man who came from a very affluent background and who had his mother and brother killed, and also had his father shot (who survived), well, his father asked the Governor to not make him a victim again and take away his son. Clemency granted!!

Quintin Jones, poor, black, and who grew up in the Fort Worth housing projects, has his family beg and plead for clemency, and then a 30 day reprieve after clemency was rejected, is executed. I mean, come on!!!!!! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out...I don't know the Governor's heart. He has to answer to a higher power. What I do know is that he had a chance to show mercy and he rejected it. I would hope that this wakes more people up to things, but will it really? Will more people begin to get active, and not just talk the talk, but walk the walk? We're tired of being let down...We don't have the luxury of putting our faith in politicians...I don't know what else to say about the issue, except that Quin did NOT deserve to die.

They've begun the second round of vaccinations today. Some of us, myself included, are a few days away from the other guys who received it, so I expect to have my second shot next week. I think I'll give it until next week before I might request one if I have to. Hopefully they're keeping track of everything.  

We're still on lockdown and it's really grey and wet. I feel so 'bleh' today...I'm trying to push through it, but honestly, I'm just angry and depressed and it's doing me no good.  

On with the day...

Because they didn't do showers yesterday, they started doing showers this morning at 3am. A guard asked me if I wanted mine and I said,  

“YES!”

I really hope they'll let us go to recreation next week. I'm so tired of being trapped in this cell. I had gotten back into a really good exercise routine and jogging before the lockdown, and whilst I'm still exercising in my cell every day, nothing beats a good thirty minute jog outside.  

Other than that I'm working on writing projects and keeping my mind busy.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


May 23rd, 2021

It's Sunday morning and I've just returned from the shower, which since Friday we've been getting on a regular basis again. Our month long lockdown was the longest we've had since 2008, and ended yesterday morning. I was finally able to get out of my cell and go to recreation, first round.

The entire weekend has been pretty good. I hope this positivity continues into the nex week and good things are coming. It's time for things to turn around.

On Friday afternoon I was surprised with an attorney phone call. Normally I would go out to the visitation room, but instead they have mounted phones outside of these 'legal booths' on the building. I was told it would be for an hour, and it was a great call. I had some promising news and I was super-excited to learn that in-person legal visits have opened up fully from Monday-Friday, and so I'll more than likely have one this coming Friday. I can't begin to describe how great that will be. To actually see someone in person after so long – over a year! I'm supposed to have some legal updates this coming Friday that I'm eager and excited to hear about. All I can say is that I left the cell feeling much lighter and hopeful. This past year has just beat us down back here...

I don't want to dismiss the feelings and damaging effects of the pandemic and lockdown for people outside. It was thrust upon them and it's easy for us to think,

“Oh, even if you're trapped in your house, you have all of these things to make life comfortable.”

That might be true, but I'm also mindful of the emotional and mental impact it's had on everyone. Losing friends, family members, and losing work. I get it.

For us, back here, the effect is not seeing our loved ones. Being cut off completely from the world, restricted to a five minute phone call every now and then, having a rogue mail room who sits on mail or denies every little thing because of new FAILING mail room policies of restricting cards and paper, and everything else, to 'prevent the smuggling of contraband'. It's always been the guards bringing in the drugs and other contraband. In fact, since the new mail room policies, contraband has only INCREASED.

For the record, the mail room is still rogue, sitting on mail weeks before they mail it out. Sitting on incoming mail for weeks, finding an excuse to deny every little thing. I once was denied religious material because they classified it as a 'brochure'. I was like,

“This is a Jewish newsletter...not a brochure.”

Anyways, I don't want to make this a rant about the mail room. My point is it has been really hard on all of us with the feeling of isolation. Some had had their paranoia and mental health issues increase, and a long list of other symptoms due to COVID-19.

It's nice to know things are slowly opening up again.

After the good news on Friday afternoon, I settled into the evening and that was really nice. I woke up on Saturday and was able to get out to recreation early in the morning and talk to some guys I've not chatted with in a while.

I talked to one guy who's getting off death row and could leave any day now...He has a reputation for being a bully, and I said,

“Look...You may be getting a life sentence. Don't let that be an excuse to go back to old ways. You're in a very unique position. You were on death row. You have a chance to speak to younger prisoners wherever you go and lift them up, give them hope and talk to them in bettering themselves and getting out and staying out. The best way to change things for yourself and for the youngsters out there is to encourage them to do good and educate themselves. Take advantage of what the system has to offer. The best way to stick it to the man is to become better than the man. Period.”

He said he was going to try and I had to pull out my best Yoda impression and say,

“No. Do or do not. There is no try.”

I'm really happy for the few guys about to get off death row, and I pray for my own day as well.

The execution of Quintin Jones hit a lot of us hard. I knew him for almost 18 years...There are so many questions that need to be answered concerning his execution. They never allowed the media in to witness and that is highly suspicious. TDCJ is calling it a 'miscommunication' but everyone is like,

“Get real...the busiest execution machinery in the world for 40+ years, and you had a 'miscommunication'??”

I just hope people won't let this slide and they'll demand an investigation and answers. As someone said on the news the other night,

“This only highlights one of the reasons the death penalty should not happen. The chances are too great for human error.”

We'll see what happens. All we can do is hope that the coming week is a bit brighter and full of hope.

Well here's hoping this next week will be full of....

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


May 25th, 2021

Yesterday was a start to a very promising week. I was able to get outside with a friend – the guy I'm collaborating with on my screen play – and it was so nice outside. The storm clouds had abated and the sun was out. I did some exercises (he couldn't because he just had hernia surgery) and then we talked about the screen play, running ideas around and just enjoying being outside. When our rec time was up, the clouds immediately returned and it began to storm again. I'm not making that up! It was almost divine...ha ha.

I came in, cleaned myself, and waited on a shower which I was lucky enough to get because right after that, they shut rec and showers down for the rest of the day. Apparently a guard lost a handcuff key on F-Pod. We figured that the shut down would last for just an evening, but when I woke up, they told us we were not having either rec or showers today. Sheesh...!

We really don't know the reasoning behind today's decision either. So, I've spent the day today catching up on some writing work, listening to the radio, and passing the time as best I can. It does no good to sit around and mope.

Honestly, I'm eager for Friday and my visit with someone from my legal team. It'll be the first in over a year, and it'll be great! Just to see a familiar face and catch up...Of course, I hope to have a positive legal update as well.

That's pretty much all that's been going on.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


June 2nd, 2021

I'm happy they running rec for two days in a row, but today is a mess and as the hours tick by, my odds of getting to rec become slimmer because we have these guards who want to leave people in the day room for 5 hours, not do their jobs and the things they're supposed to do without any accountability. Not every guard, but many, are just here for what is essentially a free pay check. Your tax dollars hard at work.

Yesterday was an okay day. I was out at rec for over 4 hours, but only three rounds of rec, so it wasn't that big of a deal to extend the time. I was happy to get out of my cell. I had to wait until second shift to get a shower, and the guards at night time got straight on it because it was A/B section's phone calls that night. When they finished the work they went straight to the calls. They told us mail would be late because they wanted to ensure that all of the calls were finished for those sections which was okay with us...I hope they do something similar on Thursday night when it's our section's turn for phone calls. We shall see.

So, a friend of mine back here had a visit yesterday and it looks like things are getting closer and closer to being back to normal. Apparently visits are still one hour, but they've filled the vending machines back up and are allowing snacks and drinks again. Both visitors and lawyers can purchase either drinks or snacks...that's cool. I think he said there were no sandwiches or salads yet, just chips, candy and pastries. He also said that if visitors can prove they're vaccinated they no longer have to take a COVID test before coming into the prison.

All very positive steps in the right direction. I'm eager to get my second vaccination. I'm due for the shot any day now. I'd like to have it before I leave for Dallas.

Yesterday we had storms and today we're sunny and bright. It's quite warm in the cell right now...I hope they can get the AC situated.

There's a bit of speculation and controversy back here right now...Some contractor has mounted these red boxes with what seems like an antenna of sorts on the buildings. Now, some people were told they were 'weather stations' which makes absolutely zero sense. Others speculate that it could be some kind of cell phone jamming technology, but that would be illegal because we are next to an airport and the FAA would never approve of something like that because it would effect the small planes in the area.

Others -  myself included – believe they are routers or some kind of wi-fi hot spot tech because some months ago it was approved that TDCJ would have a contract to approve secure and safe prisoner tablets to have access to a service like Jpay (again, I want to stress that this is all very safe and prisoners cannot access the internet or anything not pre-approved) for Jpay letters, and educational services etc. Now, we are all dubious that death row is included in that because we get left out of everything including the new video visit service, but one can speculate and hope, right? I just find it all very interesting.

Other than that, that's all that's going on in the world of death row for today...Trying to keep positive and hopeful!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


June 5th, 2021

So, this week we had two days of recreation and that is it...There's a petition going around amongst the guys back here with a list of 'demands' to the Administration to get our privileges etc, and I read it, but I chose to not sign it because I fundamentally disagree with the approach and believe that some of the demands are unrealistic and over-reaching. Yes, I'm tired of being trapped in the cell but the reality of the situation is that they're short staffed.

Take today, for example...Only 8 staff members showed up to work. They had to have the night time officers stay until 9am to help get showers done. Then, they had to ship in officers from other units to staff the building to an acceptable level. So, in going back to my conversation I had with an officer a week ago, I think we do have to be mindful of that.

That being said, I don't like being trapped in the cell feeling anxious and with cabin fever setting in. I believe that if they don't allow us recreation, then they should provide an alternative. We can't demand that from back here – no amount of civil disobedience is going to work because of the environment we're in and because if we act up the knee jerk reaction is to 'lock the building down, give them sack-lunches, take their visiting privileges away, put them on discipline', and so on and so forth. Furthermore, any disobedience could be used as an excuse to restrict us even more. I can see the administration saying,

“See...they're acting like animals. This is why they can't and shouldn't have that.”

No. I think it's better to apply pressure from the outside, but that also requires people caring and I know that some people do, and more voice that they care, but actions speak louder than words.

I had a legal visit yesterday which was nice. I got out and talked to my investigator for a bit. I think everyone is excited that things are moving in my case and hearings are finally planned and I could potentially return to Dallas, even if for a short while. I don't know when I'll be going but I'm as ready as ever. I cannot tell you how great it is to see different faces at visitation, and to talk to my legal team in person. Phone calls are nice, but there's no comparison to sitting across from someone, looking into their eyes, and just talking like normal human beings. It's wonderful.

My investigator told me the Law of Parties Bill had died in the Senate, which is no surprise. Our legislators seem more concerned about addressing non-existing voter fraud phantoms and and anti-choice/anti-transgender Bills, than working on real problems.

But hey, that's Texas for ya!

I'm sick of the rain! This has been one of the wettest springs I can remember. Rain, rain, rain. On one hand, it's keeping things on the cool side, which I love. Normally by now we're in the high '90s and it feels like an inferno, but I really miss the sun. The other thing is there are mosquitoes everywhere and I'm not talking about your standard sized mosquitoes. These things are the size of pterodactyls and I wouldn't be surprised if one day I'm looking out my window and see one snatch a person up and fly off with them. They're freakin' mutants! When they get you they leave a welp the size of a quarter. And they don't bother flying off. They look at you like,

"Yeah, I did that. What's up? You want some more?”

I'm in my cell and I have bites all over me!

That's been my day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace!

June 9th, 2021

Monday...I had my second vaccination of Moderna. By that evening I felt really weird with stomach pains, like I needed to go to the toilet but couldn't. It stayed with me the entire evening and early  morning when I got up. Then, all of my energy was completely zapped and I felt like death warmed over. I managed to drag myself to rec and then ended up laying across the table in the day room, and doing nothing. When I came back I lay in bed and as the day wound down my energy slowly started to recover.

I woke up feeling 100% this morning and I'm just glad to have it all out of the way. I  just want things to return to normal here. I want people to have their special visits back, to have regular visits, and for people to have optimism and their spirits raised....There is an air of defeat here and it sucks seeing person after person losing their minds.

Apparently a guy on Death Watch cracked on Sunday night and had a full on melt down. When we were hearing about it and told who it was, we were shocked. I've known this guy for a long time and he always had his wits about him and seemed very strong-minded. I guess everyone has their breaking point though.

There's another guy on my pod on F-Section who had a mental breakdown and for two days they had a guard sitting outside of his door with a can of gas in case he tried to hurt himself. It's all just sad. And again, it gets back to the system and them doing nothing about mental health or replacing the recreation that we don't get at times, or barely get. There's nothing else to occupy the mind. Not everyone can afford books and magazines...Not everyone has friends and family to see and to write to them. What are they supposed to do when the only thing they do have is recreation and they can't even get that most of the time?

Well, at least the sun is out. I went outside and it was amazing. I exercised and then lay in the sun, feeling the cool breeze against my skin.

Today has been really peaceful...Thank G-d for that!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace

  
June 20th, 2021

Happy Father's Day...As I usually do on these holidays, I think of a memory of my parents and share it. So, I was thinking of some of the moments with my dad and one (I can't remember if I've shared or not) is the first time he took me deep sea fishing. It would be my first time out on the open ocean far away from the shore, and I was super excited about it. It was just the two of us and we joined a party boat. There was about 20-30 other people along with us, and I think I was the only kid; I was 11 years old at the time.  

As the boat was heading out dad and I went to the galley where there was a snack bar. He bought us burgers and fries and we ate those before heading back up to the deck and getting ready to fish.  

I'd never seen so much water in my life! I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and whilst not a big fan of fishing, I was really excited to deep sea fish. A boat hand gave us each a rod and a bucket of squid cut up into strips. They were disgusting and slimey. My dad showed me how to hold and to fold the strips of flesh and how to place it onto the hook.

We waited as the boat reached its destination. It slowed and first thing I noticed was the immediate rocking and swaying...The swells raising the boat up and down. My dad told me to keep my eyes focused on the horizon to keep from getting sea sick, but it did no good. All I could feel was my body and stomach going up and down like an endless roller coaster. I remember saying,  

“Dad, I don't feel so good.”

And then I handed him my rod. He told me to sit down and keep my eyes on the horizon.  

Suddenly, I began to get the cold sweats. Another fisherman saw me and said,  

“I think the kid is going to pop!”

I felt bile rise in the back of my throat and ran to the edge of the boat and exploded, throwing up everything we had eaten earlier. There were groans from other people fishing, and my dad grabbed me, helped me get back to a seat, and asked if anyone had any ice. I lay across the seat feeling like it was the end for me when a couple came to me with a sock filled with ice, and wrapped it around my neck. I lay there sweating and asking my dad if I was going to be okay. He joked that people should have no trouble catching something now that I just chummed the waters.  

The entire trip was a wash and I felt bad that I had ruined it by getting sea sick. But dad assured me it was natural, especially since it was my first time out at sea. Over the years, we'd take a few more trips out deep sea fishing, and I fared much better! I enjoyed our trips and the time with him.  

Happy Father's Day, dad...

So...things here have been about the same. We had two days of recreation this past week and then, starting on Friday, we've been trapped in our cells. I've written the Chaplain and the Head Warden about coming up with an alternative to recreation. I hadn't expected to hear anything back on it, but on Friday afternoon a Field Minister came to my door and said,  

“The Chaplain got your letter and thought it was a great idea, and something he thinks could be implemented. He's talking to the Wardens and we'll see what happens, but it's a good and feasible idea. He wanted you to know that.”

That made me feel good, and I remain cautiously optimistic. Something has to give and I'm trying to get others involved in writing the Warden and offering up ideas. I mean, the fact remains that regardless of how you feel about prisoners or death row prisoners in general, you cannot avoid the fact that we are the best behaved prisoners in the system. It's just fact. We defy every illusion that the state portrays us as, and we are not these 'continuing threats to society' that Jurors decide we are in order to see us executed. I just wish more people could see this.  

I'm still hoping that I return to Dallas soon, though, because I just need to get a break from this place.  

That's about it for this weekend...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


  
June 28th, 2021

It's Monday afternoon and we just had some beautiful summer rain to cool everything down a little. It's also another day without rec, and all they did was showers this morning, which turned into a fiasco! The guard working tried to skip me saying I did not want a shower because I told him I didn't. We went back and forth with me asserting that I never said that and finally he relented and gave me my shower. I think he thought he could get one over on me because I was in bed with my light out when he was at my door. Sometimes they'll try to get slick and just skip you saying you were asleep when they asked you...I was very much awake! Sigh...

I heard the Warden on the prison radio station today, and he announced that nothing can return to normal until we hit a 70% vaccination rate. This is for the combined number of inmates and guards, and whilst there are a fair number of inmates who have not been vaccinated, I know of many guards who have said they're not getting vaccinated. So, this puts us in an unfair predicament because I do feel it should be a requirement of the guards to be vaccinated because it's us who are vulnerable.  

All I can say is that if you do write an inmate on Polunsky, please convince them to get vaccinated if they haven't or else we're going to be in this restrictive limbo where visitation and everything else is screwed up. There are a hundred things people do every that puts them at far greater risk of hurting or killing themselves than getting a flipping shot! It's an irrational fear. If you drink you're doing far greater harm to your body than a COVID shot would ever do!

The warden also mentioned the new mail restrictions and changes, but was very vague. I'll need to read the new rules properly to really understand what is going on. ALL he mentioned was tighter restrictions on what qualifies as 'sexually explicit' and 'pictures depicting sexual acts, clothed or unclothed'...But I really don't know. My only concern is when they have these new changes they're written in a way that it's often ambiguous and gives the mail room leeway to interpret it however they see fit. For example, when they first banned nude photos years ago, there was an exception for art, science, and educational material such National Geographic. But the fine print said that ultimately it's left up to the mailroom to define what qualifies as sexually explicit, and because people who work here aren't particularly well cultured, or versed in the fine arts...

National Geographic is often denied here as well as pictures from many artists, in particular, renaissance artists and images from the Sistine Chapel. I once had a Frida biography denied, and she is one of the most recognised Latin artists in the world!

So...we shall see. My complaint is that they create these arbitrary rules, often under the guise of security or trying to prevent sexual deviancy, but I'm pretty sure it's counter-productive and probably creates more problems in the long run. You can't expect prisons to be convents or monasteries.  

That's pretty much been my day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace


Back to content