This pod sucks! I didn't used to mind it, but they are doing everything ass backwards over here now. They are tripping majorly about recreation and showers. You can only recreate on your own section and shower on your own section. No guards are allowed to walk through the crossover doors now, so it's slowed everything down big time. You can only exit and enter from one place on the section now. We didn't get lunch until after one in the afternoon when usually it comes around nine and dinner is late now.
This morning it was storming bad. I thought that lightning would surely strike the building, as it seemed it was right outside my window. It only reflected the crap that's happened over the past few days. Dude kills himself, and now Huntsville officials in their suits and ties have swarmed this building and are looking at everything. Nuts. Oh, well, everything in cycles, I suppose.
I'm about to start reading the Cormac McCarthy book "No Country for Old Men". It looks like it'll be good, and the movie version was nominated for an Oscar. I'll give my opinion in the next few days. I'm currently reading "Infernal Angel" by Edward Lee, a very weird book.
January 30th, 2008
Man, this day really sucked. I just got moved to E-pod and it's a mad-house over here right now. It rained all day long! The good news is I'm off in a corner and out of everyone's way, so I can't complain too much. Just the noise...but I better get used to it because in Dallas County it's noisy 24-7. I'm in training.
Peace and love.
January 29th, 2008
I'm getting over the worst case of the flu I've ever had in my life. Heck, I think the past week was the sickest I've ever been. It was bad. It started creeping up on me Tuesday, and I thought at the most I had a cold, but by nighttime I had cold chills. I thought, ahhhh crap! I tossed and turned all night. Wednesday I only felt worse but I tried to fight it. I got up, made my bed and got ready for recreation. I went out to the day room shivering and dizzy, but I'm not one to make a big deal about being sick. I tried to be Mr. Tough Guy and ended up puking in the day room. Yuck. A guard came by and let me go back to my cell. I brushed my teeth and crawled, clothes, shoes and all, back into bed and passed out. I felt like I was dying. I stayed in bed until Friday when I got up, forced myself back up to write a couple of letters and then I went back to sleep. Saturday I felt well enough to try to go back to recreation and so I got out of my cell. I still had the cough (and even now I can't stop coughing!) but it felt good to get out of the cell.
I was well enough yesterday to start writing again, but I was just too lazy. Though an odd thing did happen yesterday...I was called out to see some defense investigator for a guy who is mentally ill. The investigator asked me if I'd be willing to testify that I felt he was indeed mentally ill and I said I had no problem helping out because I truly believe this guy needs help and I think it was wrong to try to put him to death. So, he made no guarantee that I would be called to testify, but I could be going to Austin for a day next month.
It's a fairly warm day today and I'm trying to play catch up. Hopefully things will get back on track from this day forward. I wanted to share a story in a book I just recently read, "The Devil and Miss Prym" by Paul Coelho. The story in the book is about loyalty. It reads:
"By the way, what's this place called?"
"Heaven? But the guard at the marble gateway told me that was heaven!"
"That's not heaven, that's hell."
The traveler was puzzled.
"You shouldn't let others take your name in vain, you know! False information can lead to all kinds of confusion!"
"On the contrary, they do us a great favor, because the ones who stay there are those who have proved themselves capable of abandoning their dearest friends."
(End of story)
I thought that was a pretty powerful little anecdote. We just heard some tragic news here on death row…A guy named Jesus Flores killed himself not long ago. He was on F-pod, and they found him dead in his cell with his throat cut and lacerations to his forehead. I thought the latter was kind of odd, but still it bothers me because I have been around this guy before while I was on the discipline pod last year. He was always very content and happy-go-lucky. Loved to tell jokes and good to be around. He got along with everyone and even the guards would laugh around with him. He stayed on discipline out of choice. He would just refuse to shave or little minor things because he didn't like being on the 'normal' pods because of the way some guards treated people. I'm kind of in shock right now and no one has any clue why he did it. I guess maybe he just got tired. If I find out more I will report it. On that sad note I will end this for the day.
Peace and love.
January 22nd, 2008
Today I woke up coughing and sneezing. Living on this dungeon of a pod has gotten me sick! Ugh. I can't stop coughing now. Wonderful. I don't feel like crap yet, but it seems every few hours I get a little sicker. Well, it's been quite a while since I've been sick, so…everything in cycles, I suppose.
The day is cold and still wet. I'm about to drink some hot tea and listen to the radio and relax…such fun.
January 21st, 2008
Man, where did the sunshine go? You know, last week I said I liked my cell but I've changed my mind. This pod sucks! It's wet, mildewy, there's no heat, and it's generally in pretty bad shape. The walls are leaking…
I went outside today and it was really chilly and damp, but it felt nice. I've always loved cold air and walking around in it. I haven't found any ballplayers around here so I'm just doing my normal exercises. Tonight on the news they were talking about another escape that just happened nearby. I said to my neighbor, "You know, this is just going to keep on happening more and more. You know why? Because they give no one any incentive to stay. Good time doesn't count; they hand out life sentences like they are handing out candy; there are no types of rehabilitation programs, and most of the guards are poorly trained and underpaid. It's like, what do they expect? Unless a guy is completely content in his surroundings, and has accepted that freedom comes from within, what does he have to lose? Blue Bell ice cream can only keep a person passive for so long. Thay say, "Well, we don't know why he ran." Wake up! Hey, I've said this before and I'll say it now so no one misreads me or takes me out of context, but there has to be some give and take. You can't lock up over 150,000 men and not try to rehabilitate them. If you've got a three headed monster and you only chop off one of his heads, he's still got two more! It's not a solution to just lock them up and throw away the key.
I've said my piece…
January 20th, 2008
A bright and sunny but cold day. I'm sitting here listening to football and waiting on my laundry to finish soaking. All is quiet and well here today. Nothing to really report.
Peace and love.
January 19th, 2008
I am pissed...Apparently the Supreme Court has already decided on the constitutionality of using the three poisons in an execution. No, the decisions is not published yet, but I believe a decision has been made because they've kicked out (denied) five Texas cases that were pending in the Supreme Court. That means those five men can be issued an execution date. Why would they do this if they had not already decided in favor of the constitutionality of it? Many of us think this is a sure sign that soon - maybe by spring - they will crank the gears back up and get the machine rolling again. Sickening! In Texas there are a bunch of guys waiting to be executed - well over 20. Argh! When will this country take its head out of its ass?
January 18th, 2008
TGIF…Not really, but I'm trying to keep the positive vibes going. Actually, in spite of the hardships I feel pretty effin' good. Maybe it's all of the exercise and stuff. I'm a mad man. Still no word on the discipline case. I'm actually starting to think they were all thrown away. But (don't want to jinx myself) you can never be too certain in this place. It's raining cats and dogs and cold - very cold. I had to stuff cardboard in my vent because I was tired of living in a refrigerator! You can't imagine how hard the vent was blowing! Yet, it's still like a Frigidaire refrigerator.
Peace and love.
January 17th, 2008
I was moved last night and it's okay here. The cell I am in is nice and clean but exceptionally cold. The vent is blowing gale force winds and I feel like I'm living in what must be a space vacuum. Yes, this must be what it's like to travel though a black hole. I'm a dork!
Still no word of a case (fingers crossed) so things look good. Maybe I've been shown some mercy.
January 16th, 2008
I had the strangest dream last night. I was with my ex-girlfriend from high school, but we were both all grown up. Weird dream. I woke up thinking, man, where did that come from?
I went outside early this morning. It was cold and wet, but the cool air was very refreshing. I walked around and thought about life in general. I'm reading a book on Epictetus' philosophies, thinking about the human condition, and something I heard on the radio a while back came to mind. "What makes me human is not my suffering; what makes me human is my yearning to heal." I think that's pretty powerful because we're taught that human strength comes from suffering, and what we gain comes from that suffering, but I think that our strength really comes from the healing process. Whether it's physical or emotional, it's the desire that creates a spark and that spark sets fire to the driving force which is uniquely human.
Another theme that popped to mind is, "Sometimes courage is a quiet thing." I heard this recently. We believe that courage should be worn like a badge of honor, when sometimes the greatest courage is that inner yearning to drive on. It's not my suffering or heartache that pushes me. I don't need to feel pain to feel alive, but instead I want to heal from the wounds of my past. Yes, learn from the pain, but also heal and take with me into the next chapter or chapters, the desire to be a better human.
Random thoughts/things I want to do for 2008 - to be a better, more loving individual (I stumbled many times this past year and let my anger drive me at times). I want true love, but also to realize and accept that true love comes from many places. It doesn't have to be limited to a relationship. Though, it would be nice to find a woman who doesn't want to fight with me or for me, but beside me. I really want to stop letting things I have no control over bring me down and I want inner peace and the ability to let go of things that keep me from that inner peace.
Still no word on a case. We are all waiting to see if the discipline is served…Tonight I should be moved so I'm about to tidy up my cell and get my property in order.
Peace and love.
January 15th, 2008
Still no word on whether or not the bogus discipline case will stick. Usually after the initial write-up they send a guard to your cell door with a computer print-out of your discipline infraction and ask if you want to waive your hearing or not. Nobody has received the computer printed copy…yet. So, who knows? I really hope that they get tossed because for most everyone they were bogus, just a guard trying to make her portfolio look good so she can become a ranking officer. It's really sad when someone will railroad you for their personal benefit...and they call us "sociopaths…"
Storms have settled in, but it hasn't been a terribly bad day. I should be getting moved to another pod tomorrow. Good. I'm ready to go.
January 14th, 2008
Crap! I'm so freakin' upset right now…Last night they decided to do a cell search for our whole section. The guards are just going through the motions, not really making a big fuss, not really taking anything, a smooth operation in and out of the cells. Have a nice evening, Sir, blah, blah, blah. I go to sleep at 11:30pm and at 4:30am there's a knock on my cell door. Surely I must be dreaming so I ignore the knock…
"Halprin, get up! I need a statement," a voice says.
"Huh?" I mumble.
"You got a case. I need your statement."
"A case? For what?" I ask, confused.
"For having tape," the sergeant says. I jump out of bed now, wide awake.
"For tape? I've never had any tape! Did the officer turn any tape into you?"
"Who wrote the case?" I ask.
"Ms. Nawlins! She was in the picket when the guards were searching cells. She can't write a case!" I say flabbergasted.
The sergeant is now shocked at this revelation. "She was in the picket?" (Picket is slang for control room.)
"Yes!" I say. "Sergeant I seriously did not have any tape. This is bogus."
"Well, she wrote eleven cases and I'll go through them all and maybe you'll slide by," she says.
Agh! If I get [another] bogus ass case for something I did not do or have I'll blow a gasket. I will not spend another three months on level 2 discipline POD for crap. I won't know for another couple of days if the case will stick or not. Then depending on who runs the kangaroo "court"...we'll see if I get any punishment. I could get cell restriction, commissary restriction or be sent to the discipline POD. I'm hoping the sergeant will throw the case out. She seemed to have concern. So…we shall see.
The day is still young. Lunch is here and I need to exercise…At least the day is bright and beautiful outside my window. Lord, please…let them throw the damn case out!
6:08pm I ended up getting to go outside for recreation. It had to be about 69 degrees or so and it was lovely. The guy I went out with played some ball with me and I lost. I'm playing horribly here recently. My mojo is zapped.
I'm winding my day down and I think I'm going to go to sleep early 'cause I'm so stressed. I've got a full plate, that's for sure.
Peace and love.
January 13th, 2008
It's Sunday, and Sundays are usually the most boring day of the week here. No one has recreation and we can't leave our cell for anything. Usually I do all of my laundry on this day (hand wash), catch up on writing, and listen to to the radio for a while.
I woke up about 8:00am and crawled out of bed about 8:30. Then I worked out for an hour. I've got a hose made out of coax cable that I plug into my sink to make a shower so after my exercise I rinsed off, cleaned up my cell (there's no drain so the only down-side to showering in your cell is sopping up the small lake that remains) and started my day.
It's a warm day, almost 70 degrees. I listened to KDOL and then listened to the Cowboys football game with the Giants. They choked. What a gyp!
Guess I will end the day with a cup of cocoa.
January 10th, 2008
Today began with a knock on my door from a mailroom lady. At first I thought it was a guard pestering me because I hang my towel over my cell light when I sleep, because sometimes they will turn on the lights to do a physical count. There are five bright fluorescent lights in a fixture behind a steel grate that contains our sink/toilet. So, I ignored the first knock and then I realized a lady was calling my name. I was in a daze because last night I didn't get much sleep. In my zombified state I accepted the letter and went back to my bed.
After sleeping about 45 minutes more my first thought on waking up was the letter. So I grabbed it off my desk and opened it up. Turns out it was from my attorney saying my hearing had been rescheduled (again!) for the beginning of April. He sent me a hearing itinerary and it is as follows:
So, it looks like when I do leave for Dallas I'll be gone about a month and a half. Man, I was ready to go now! I should've guessed it was bound to change again and no way am I under the impression it is a solid schedule. In the world of legal activities, nothing is set in stone. I am kind of excited that I will be gone for a while though. It'll be a much needed break from life on death row. If anything changes be assured that I will keep you posted. Note to friends: Continue to write me here at Polunsky. I'm not going anywhere yet.
The day has been smooth. I've exercised, done laundry and some writing. The view out of my window is lovely. It looks like a beautiful spring day. The construction hasn't been resumed, though.
It's time to listen to "The Progressive Forum" on KPFT. Bye-bye!
Peace and love.
January 9th, 2008
Yesterday was muggy and wet, while today is crisp, cool and beautiful. I went outside this morning at six to play basketball. I'll be honest, though, the guy I called out to play and trash - talked was really psyched up to play, and I dreaded going out that early…I was hoping he'd skip out and let me sleep in. No such luck. Not only did we go out and play in the cold, but he demolished me fifteen games to five and then beat me five games to three on football. As I was getting smashed I kept thinking to myself, why am I playing so bad? I'm better than this! Obviously not better than him. Huh. Oh, well, it's the exercise that counts.
Right now I've been jotting down notes for chapters that I'll be contributing to an anti-death penalty book that will be published in Europe. I'm really excited about it and have been trying to decide what exactly I would write. I know what I'll probably do…I'm thinking about writing something that clashes with the humanity that does exist on death row against the inhumanity of the actual act in which they lead guys out to the executions. When I told a friend of this project he suggested that any direct argument I would make against capital punishment would be dismissed by those who say, "Of course he's against it. He's on death row." And I agree with his observation. The only real way I feel to argue against the death penalty is by showing that humanity does exist. I have just the stories…
I wanted to also quote a passage of my friend's letter in which he carries on commenting on the article that the Dallas Morning News wrote against those who are pen pals with death row inmates. He wrote:
"The article you mentioned in the Dallas Morning News about pen pals of death row inmates was interesting. All I can say is "only in Texas". The true believer (in the death penalty) thinks anything, like [non-death row] inmates having sex with teachers, is a valid argument in favor of capital punishment. What's really ironic is that their fervor allows them to forget the most important teachings of Christ, about whom many also claim to be passionate. Even the ones on death row who have committed terrible crimes (and we know there are plenty who haven't) deserve love and forgiveness, at least according to Christian doctrine. The disconnect between these two separate beliefs in Texas is so great that it borders on schizophrenia. I don't see how people can hold two beliefs so in opposition to each other and be healthy…"
Oddly enough, last year, the Dallas Morning News' editorial board came out against the death penalty and it seems that they don't see the contradictions in their own propaganda. It's easy to say you're against the death penalty. It's a whole other ballgame to offer solutions outside of death. Of course those in favor of killing someone for punishment refuse to see any alternative.
I suppose I've rambled on enough for this day.
Peace and love.
January 8th, 2008
The day began with a little bit of sunshine coming through my window, but it didn't last very long. As I write this, it's pouring rain. There was some construction going on outside, but it's come to a halt. Apparently they are putting in stadium lights all around and focused on the Death Row building. Anyone who has been around here knows that the whole unit is lit up brighter than an airport. I guess Texas is aiming to be the first Death Row facility to be visible from the Space Station. I wasn't sure what kind of construction they were doing, but now it's obvious. About 200 yards away from my cell you can see these huge steel posts. They've already laid the cable and conduit (in the process hitting a gas line and a water main - that's TDCJ competency for you!) and they've poured the concrete for the base of the lamps. Rumor has it that they are also going to be putting up some sort of cell phone scrambler because they've found a butt load of inmates with cell phones in recent months. I still don't know why they would want to put up stadium lights around this building. It's a waste of government money, if you ask me - oh, yeah, Texas is run by Republicans. My bad.
They were pulling a guy out of his cell to take him to recreation and he had a brace on his wrist. When we come out of our cells we have to be handcuffed, even if we're only going five feet away. So, the guard puts the handcuffs around his brace and then snaps them super tight and the inmate lets out this howl of pain. Then he starts cussing out the guard, but the guard doesn't feel that he did anything wrong. They start arguing and I'm certain they are about to slam the inmate on the ground for hostile behavior… It got so quiet in here, fortunately the guard apologized and everything went back to normal. Whew.
I'll be going to recreation today kind of late. Things are moving real slow for some reason. Must be this humidity.
January 7th, 2008
Today has been long and boring. I think the humidity zaps the energy right from you. That would be a good horror story. Instead of a fog, mist or a giant monster, you could have this town that has never experienced real humidity and it's been relatively dry…then humidity settles in. There's so much moisture - warm, uncomfortable moisture that these people with almost leather-like skin plump up like raisins. Suddenly people begin to take on so much moisture they explode like a watermelon being thrown to the pavement. You could have this really anally-retentive character who loves to do laundry, but because she's used to the air being so dry it only takes a few hours for her clothes to dry she flips out when one load takes over a day to hang dry. She screams, "Why ain't my clothes dry yet?!?!" Fades out, grabs a sledgehammer and starts attacking people…Okay, so Stephen King I ain't…
I just finished listening to NPR and they were talking about the arguments being heard by the Supreme Court against lethal injection… The case originates from Kentucky and the argument is if you can use chemicals that not even veterinarians use to euthanize animals, why then is it okay to use them on humans? They also argued that no one is properly medically trained to administer the lethal injection without ensuring that it won't cause pain and suffering. Those in support of the death penalty are arguing that this is just a back door into abolishing the death penalty altogether (well, duh). Thought it should be made clear that the Supreme Court is not deciding on the constitutionality of the death penalty. Executions will resume, be sure of this.
My realistic and honest opinion is that either the courts are going to rule that a different chemical or method be used, or that it is constitutional because there really is no way of knowing. What I find interesting is that pretty much the same method is used for assisted suicide and that practice has been banned by the government because it is unethical and "inhumane." Even Bush has spoken out against assisted suicide, but it's okay for murdering people? What kind of backwoods logic is that?
Well, a decision is expected by summertime so we shall see.
Peace and love.
January 6th, 2008
A warm and humid Sunday. It's like 75 degrees right now and just three days ago it was in the 20's. Nuts. I'm listening to KDOL and my wonderful friend, Josef, just called in and shared with me that many people are upset I decided to shut down my myspace page. I admit it evokes mixed feelings when I think about it, but I will say that I didn't do it because I was tired of being attacked. I'm used to it. I put up with guards, inmates and loony-tune hateful people on a regular basis, so it's not a big deal to me, but I have trouble dealing with the attacks when they are directed at people I care about and who are close friends. So I decided to shut the page down because I believe that someone was possibly taking information from my page and another's page and using that against them. I did it to protect another person, not me. That being said, I think myspace has some good purposes but all in all is a pretty trivial place. I don't support anything that Rupert Murdoch owns and I would rather associate with those who are truly serious about changing this world and ending the death penalty. I don't want to be a part of the "next best or cool thing," but I want to be a part of those who want serious change. So, I had to part ways with that place. I'm a pretty stubborn person and no one is going to chase me off from anything I believe in. I just didn't believe in myspace anymore. It's had its day. I still do have a link to myspace via my friend Josef, so I'm sure that he will continue his work against the death penalty via that site.
Man, I'm so ready to get back to Dallas...I really feel like it's going to not only recharge my spirit but also give me new things and ideas to write about. I live a Groundhog's Day kind of life and I'm ready for a little bit of change. Everything is so stagnant right now.
January 4th, 2008
Man, this month is already off to a fast beginning. I hopped out of bed and exercised, and then got ready to do my investigation...I feel a little more at ease that I wasn't the prime target. It has happened to several other people over here, which tells me that it originates from this pod. The guy whose name the letter to my friend was written in, swore up and down he didn't and wouldn't do something like that, and besides, he said they got his ID# wrong too (which begs the question of why the mail room allowed a letter written with the wrong ID# to go out in the first place). Oh, well…I'll probably never know for sure who did it, but I still believe I know who it was.
Peace and love.
January 3rd, 2008
Huh...I was just told I'll be moving to C-pod. I need to pack my stuff but once I get settled in my new cell, I'll write more…That didn't take long. Fortunately the cell was really clean so all I had to do was sanitize it and unpack my things. I'm not really too excited to be on this pod. This is where all of the drama of someone getting a friend's personal information began. Tomorrow I have to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and begin investigating the issue. Oh boy…
Fortunately it's really quiet here. I don't have a great view out of my window, but it doesn't matter. I should be back in Dallas before too long.
January 2nd, 2008
A cold, cold day and I went outside to play basketball. It was freezing, but after about three games of running, I was warmed up. I felt good. After winning ten games at 'speed ball' (that's where the first person to score ten shots wins) we played a game called '21' in which you can shoot any way that you want to. The first shot is worth two points and on the rebound you have to shoot from where you catch the ball. That is worth one point. Now, the goal is not to go over 21. If you do go over 21 your score goes back down to 17. I was down three games and came back four games in a row. I'm too good. Haha. Now that I'm playing in the winter most of the good players aren't, so hopefully I'll have improved over the cold months, to the point I can kick some major butt when everyone starts playing again. I want to be in tip-top shape.
Right now I'm waiting around to see if I'll be moved or not. Hold on, a guard just passed by…Nope. One more night on E-pod. (For those who aren't aware at the time of reading this, I get moved around from pod to pod and cell to cell because I'm a so-called "escape-risk…") That dumb shit already got me a death sentence...why oh why would I ever want to do that again?!?
January 1st, 2008
For New Years it seems nothing is different. I still woke up in a cell. I went to sleep right after New Years and then woke up. They gave us a nice lunch, but I gave the chicken to my neighbor. He's been eating like a king ever since I moved next to him. They haven't fed us this much meat in a long time.
This year I'm going to focus on being a better person and doing more things to help people. I really am going to try to stop worrying or getting depressed over things I have no control over. Easier said than done, but I can get better at it, I think.