This place just can't seem to get the AC worked out. I was writing in a letter earlier today, that either someone is messing with the thermostat constantly, or maintenance just doesn't know what they're doing...or it could be a combination of both. It was nice and cool in the cells over the weekend, and all the way until morning. Then around 6am, everything got wonky and stuffy.
They've been passing out iced water quite frequently, which has been nice, and up until last night there hadn't been any problem with officers giving the 2 cups of eight ounces we're supposed to receive by policy. Now, some guards have been really cool about guys getting even more than that, or filling up their bowls with ice or iced water, so that they can cool their sodas down or whatever - and nothing beats an ice cold V-8 juice! I'm just sayin'...As my girl says, "It's the dog's!" Anyway, none of the guards have been pissy about it at all, until this hot shot guard comes in and he's passing out water (to give you an indication of his personality, he's got the word "Carnage" tatooed on his forearm...) and starts yelling, "One cup of water! That's all you're getting". At first, the other officer isn't saying anything...Then this one guy down the run starts yelling at the officer and saying, "We get two cups. Policy says we get two!" And they start screaming at each other back and forth until the other officer says, "The offender is right; policy says we're supposed to give them two cups of water." But the guard refuses to give in and gives his c-worker a look of disgust, like, "How dare you take their side!" I'm sitting in my cell thinking, "Geeze, it's ONLY water..." Like, did we suddenly become like Mad Max, and water is precious, and everyone is fighting over the last drop?
What really got to me was that look the officer gave the other...and I don't understand why some people have that mentality when someone else is doing the right thing...they see it as a betrayal, even if they're in the wrong and KNOW they're in the wrong. Some of the officer's hats have "We take care of our own" on the back, and they are usually the ones who have that kind of attitude. It's a dangerous attitude to have in prison, and I hate making this comparison, but it's no different than Nazi Germany..."You're going to do what I tell you to do, even if it's morally questionable. You wouldn't take the side of an ANIMAL would you?"...But not speaking up makes you equally culpable.
This weekend, otherwise, was quiet and peaceful. I just can't believe this month is already coming to an end.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 26th, 2018
You know, this month has just flown by...I mean, I look up at the calendar, and I see the date, and I'm like, "wow!"...crazy! And while waiting on the courts to see what happens next can be stressful, I do have some wonderful things to look forward to in coming months.
As I write this, I'm waiting to find out when I'm going to recreation. It's going to be one of those long days, and just...well, you just have to roll with it.
Today, I want to write about how I'm feeling, and to show my appreciation to my friends who have stuck by my side, through thick and thin...It means more than they could ever know. But I really want to thank someone extremely special, and who I am just enjoying so much, and who makes me the happiest I've felt in a very long time...For a while I'd been looking, but not looking, if that makes sense. And in my non-search I'm sure I've inadvertently hurt a couple of people, which I am sorry for...But there was nothing that could "fill" that emptiness I had inside, and I've written about it often over time. I just felt like I was always missing something, and I couldn't put my finger on it. Then, last year, I made a friend who forever changed me, and it's one of those "once in a lifetime" things...Yes, I've made friends before, and yes, some of them I've become extremely close to and would literally give up anything for them, if it meant them having a safe and wonderful life...but this...it's like my heart could explode! My drive is back, my creativity is at an all time high, and my brain is constantly firing on all cylinders! Sure, there are sluggish days and depressed days - I'm locked in a cell for 22 hours out of the day for crying out loud! But to have someone encourage me and support me the way she does, and to kick around ideas on projects...I've never experienced that with anyone before. And as well as that, to be able to contribute to THEIR own creativity and dreams, is something I've never experienced before, and it's wonderfully fulfilling! It's like my heart is full all of the time. I've described myself doing the "Snoopy Dance" - you know, where he's got his head in the air and his feet are flying away...That's me on a regular basis. And it's not just the support of that person, but the support of all of her friends too? It's pretty amazing, and it's changed me in a very profound way...It's a wonderful journey. Nothing is ever 100% perfect all of the time, but that's part of life. You can drive half way across the country to reach your destination, and you're bound to have a flat tyre, or some other issue pop up. But you're still happy when you reach that destination.
I just wanted to show my gratitude, and let that person know that they are "everything..."
Courage. Strength, Faith and Hope...
July 25th, 2018
Sometime in the afternoon, the air petered out again yesterday, but this morning it was back to being cold, and has stayed that way since...I went to recreation 2nd round, in the F-section day room (F-section is completely enpty) and I had a great workout! I wasn't bothered or interrupted by anyone, and could just think as I was exercising. It felt pretty good. I like when it's peaceful and quiet, and I can think...
It's really been one of those ho-hum kind of days.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 24th, 2018
At the time of writing this, it appears they've got the AC sorted out, because it's really cold. I was thinking yesterday about the guys in general population, and it made me feel really bad for them because the buildings out there have no AC at all. It's pretty crazy. I guess the justification over the years has been that because they can "open their windows" they don't need AC, well...if you've ever seen those "windows", they are basically little rectangular slits in the concrete! They make no difference to the temperature, especially when it's 100 degrees outside. The day rooms are worse...They've got huge factory fans there, but it just turns the dayrooms/buildings into a giant convection oven. In the last couple of years there were several law suits filed against the TDCJ, with successful settlements, and I think Texas will eventually be forced to convert their prisons to air conditioning. There's a lengthy article about it in the July 2018 issue of Prison Legal News...If you want to check it out, you'll find it at prisonlegalnews.org, titled "Litigation Heats Up Over Extreme Temperatures In Prisons and Jails", and it was written by Matt Clarke and Christopher Zoukis...My Webmaster has posted a link to the article under "News Article Links", which is under the **News** tab on the website.
It's been a pretty slow day today; I went out to recreation first round, came back in, and I'm now just trying to keep busy...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
**Warning...Contains some bad language**
July 23rd, 2018
Finally...We're off lock-down. I had a feeling when, for breakfast, we had a hot meal of eggs and biscuits, and not the usual sack meals we get during lock-downs. I ended up going to recreation 1st round, and it was just nice to finally get out of the cell - even if it was really hot this morning and I had to exercise. I think they're working on the air now, and that's a relief because I heard on the news that the high was going to be in the 100s again...It's insane! But hey, that's Texas.
Remember when I talked about how inadequate the psych department is here? Well, this morning one of the mental health "Doctors" was making her rounds, and she stopped off at this guy's cell on our row - a guy who is actually mentally ill, and in need of proper care. He lives in filth, and we often have to get onto the guards because they don't make him shower, and then it starts to smell like road kill down here amongst the cells. I suppose the irony is the guards take his shower time away from him because he's too doped up and can't function well enough to know it's "shower time", then they complain about "how nasty he is...".
So, this "Doctor" goes up to his cell and knocks on his door, then jumps back about 5 feet because it stinks...She then has the nerve - the freakin' nerve! - to say, "Everything good in there? You doin' okay?" My neighbour blew a gasket, and yelled out, "Apparently not! You just jumped back 5 feet because he smells like shit, and you ask if he's okay? What the hell is wrong with you people?!?" I think he scared the lady because she clenched her clip board tightly, and got off the section fast...But I mean, geeze, he was absolutely correct. All this "Doctor" was doing is marking off her clip board, and not really trying to address the problem that this man obviously has. He smells like feces...Obviously he's NOT okay. It's a joke!
What really bothers me is that with all of the advances in science, and being in the 21st century, we really should be able to understand mental health issues, and take them more seriously. It's like we're still stuck in that "pray it away" mindset, and people don't think it's a serious problem. Well, it is, and we still haven't pulled our heads out of our asses! I have a theory on why a lot of people don't take it seriously, and it's this: if we start attributing many of our problems and decisions on our mental faculties and neural cognizance, then it begins to cast doubt on things like religion and free will...And so we're stuck in this circular thinking process and it's like...Come on people! We've got the tools...Science and technology...We can probably fix it now and we choose not to, because why? I don't get it...
Other than that, the day has been kind of "blah" - another typical Monday. I was just happy to get out of the cell for a while. It seems I spoke too soon about the AC being fixed...It wasn't...And it's just hotter than it was before!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 22nd, 2018
I don't know what happened on Friday afternoon, but the air on C-Pod went from arctic to mildly cool. It was 100 degrees that day, and I'm no AC expert, but I knew something had to be up with the system. We'd heard reports that other pods were blazing, and to the rank's credit, they were handing out ice, and iced water, every few hours...Anyway, on C-Pod, we were okay, but on Saturday, it got even warmer...Something was clearly wrong with the AC system, and by Saturday evening it was blazing, and I mean BLAZING HOT!
I always sleep with my fan on, but by the middle of the night, I had turned it up on high and kicked off the sheet I was covered with. Today, it's no cooler, so the AC needs to be fixed...Again! It's nuts how many times it breaks down, but hopefully, they'll get it fixed on Monday.
I'm not sure if we'll be off lock-down tomorrow, or not. One of the guards said they did finish A-Pod, but they were working on 11 building and 10 building today, and that should be it. We're still getting sack lunches though, so that means the lock-down is still in effect. Maybe we'll get a hot meal sometime today...I sure do hope so!
I'm really hoping for some recreation time tomorrow. I need to have a proper jog, and just get some good exercise. I woke up with a lot of energy this morning, surprisingly, so I decided to go ahead and work out in my cell anyway. Then I cleaned my cell, and took a bird bath in my sink. I'm sitting uder my fan as I type this; I was listening to Star Wars but I needed to get this typed out and work on my movie list, and then I can plug my radio back in. We've only got two outlets...
Well, that's another weekend over and done with!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 20th, 2018
Well, it doesn't look like they're going to finish up shaking down A-Pod today, which means we'll most definitely be on lock-down until Monday, at the very least. What I find strange about all of this is how each lock-down seems to get progressively longer. This is only conjecture on my part, but it seems that these things are starting to become week long breaks of "vacations" for the officers, because they litterally don't have to do anything except pass out sack lunches and take us to the shower three times a week. They get to sit around the rest of the time. There was a time when we'd have these once-every-90-days lock-downs that would be over in a week.
Maybe it sounds like complaining, and yeah, it is, but it's hard for anyone on the outside to know what it's like to be stuck inside of a small cell with no access to anything whatsoever - not even a hot meal - for weeks on end. I have a strong mind and resolve, so it would be very difficult for this kind of environment - or any environment for that matter - to break me. I'm fortunate that I have an active mind; I'm fortunate that I have friends to write to and books to read, but not everyone has that. Not everyone can adapt or hold onto their mental wherewithal, and I've watched over the years as men crumble like pieces of clay as they succumb to this place...That is the essence of my complaints.
Speaking of mental wherewithal...I have a growing problem with our psyche department. I don't know if anyone who keeps up with the death penalty news or execution dates has noticed the MANY mentally ill/disabled men, losing their appeals and ending up on the execution list...It really is frightening, and it makes me wonder what kind of reports the psychiatric department is writing when they "check up" on guys. All we ever see is the MHMR lady come to a cell and say, "You okay in there?" before checking off something on her clip board, and moving on to the next cell. I didn't know that qualified as a psychiatric check up. There is NO WAY that in that amount of time she can assess someone's state of mind. No more than 20 seconds is all she spends at each cell door...That's no exaggeration or embellisment!
So, when you look at the execution list, you'll see the names of guys who are legitimately mentally ill; there is no way in the world that men like Rockwell or Kemp should even be on death row...Shit is getting real here, and fast! I don't know how many more times we can beg for people to step up their efforts to educate and inform people, and their activism to end the death penalty.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 19th, 2018
Well, that's all over with! Now we sit, stuck in our cells, waiting for the lock-down to end. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend...
By "that's all over" I mean the shake-down that happened yesterday...It was beginning to look like another day wasted with nothing done, when at about 1pm, a gaggle of officers poured in to shake down C-section. I'm on E-section, and we still didn't have our red crates - the thing that ALL of our personal property has to fit into. I had a stack of books and Star Wars related material that I was going to donate to the library, and thankfully was not destroyed by the flood that happened to me earlier this week. So, donating that stuff helped me with saving some space...Everything was ready to roll...
They breezed through C-section in about an hour, and on to D-section...they spent about an hour on D-section, then the officers came to our section to pass out the red crates for us. We all hurriedly packed our things and were ready to roll when at a little after 3pm, the guards just stopped...Stopped cold in their tracks, and the sergeant yelled to the officers, "Okay, I think we're good for the day. One section left and we'll let night shift do it!" A guy on my section yelled out, "Are you kiddn' me? Y'all have done enough? You got one more section to go and don't get off of work 'til 5.30pm!"
But the guards didn't care. As soon as the sergeant said they could leave, they got off of the pod faster than Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes.
And so we waited on second shift...
Second shift came, and the guards were pissed off that first shift didn't finish their work which never bodes well for the inmates, because they just take their anger out on us, and we were all thinking we were screwed. It was going to be a blood bath for us! And so we waited and waited, dreading what was to come, when at 7pm the guards came pouring in like Army Ants!! They strip searched us, took us out to a metal detector, ran us through it, and then put us in empty cells on F-section. We waited for about an hour, and then they came back to get us, ran a metal detector wand over our bodies, and then brought us back to our cells.
Now, when I got back to my cell the first thing I look at is my desk where my radio sits along with my lamp etc. We don't have to put electronics in the crate, so what I usually do is turn the radio on with some music playing, and leave my cell. I haven't seen an officer take a radio in a very long time, but you just never know...It was there when I got back to my cell, although the station had been changed to some god awful pop station! I guess they weren't *feeling* The Spot - an '80s/'90s station that I mostly listen to these days, 'cause everything else is crap!
Anyway, I noticed that everything - and I mean everything - in my cell was neatly stacked in piles on the bunk frame. So, once the hand cuffs were removed, I began to look through everything and see if anything was missing. Nope. It was all good.
So, really, it wasn't that bad. I didn't lose anything at all, and they treated my cell with a bit of respect, which is not a guarantee and often looks like a tornado ripped through the place...And even more surprisingly, the guards passed out mail before 10pm!
The wait sucked, and it was stressful, but once it was done it was a relief. Just one more pod to go (A-Pod) and the lock-down should be over with!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 18th, 2018
Wednesday...We're still in this holding pattern on C-pod. We've gotten our showers for the day, but when asked if they were going to finish shaking down this pod, the guards were like, "Don't know...", and it's getting to the point of being very frustrating. We've all had our stuff packed up/piled up since Monday morning, and we haven't had clean laundry since Friday because the pod is blocked off due to its being "in the process" of going through the shake-down. But nothing is getting done. Granted, it's only 9.44am at the time of me writing this, so I guess they could start/finish today, if they really wanted to, but that remains to be seen.
So, the execution yesterday went through, and from what I heard on the news this morning, the victim's family is really upset at the State and the AG's office (Attorney General) for not only ignoring their pleas, but for being very hostile and dismissive towards them. So much for victim's rights, huh? Typical of Texas. I was recently reminded in a letter, of an old journal entry in which I quoted my dearly departed mentor and friend, David, and he had written:
"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. The disconnect between these two separate beliefs in Texas is so great, that it borders on schizophrenia...". Leave it to David to be so succinct!
Anyway, yesterday I listened to the Execution Watch program on KPFT - a program that is supposed to educate people on the death penalty, and how it is applied in Texas. It's only broadcast on nights where executions are taking place, and to be honest, since it's inception some many years ago, the show was never well produced, but it has gone from bad to worse and seems to be more about bashing the condemned, than education and reform. Sure, Ray Hill is legendary in his activism and outreach for prisoners, but it is surprising that on a proud, left-leaning radio station, we hear a group of people (outside of Ray Hill, and one other attorney who regularly defends the condemned) make the case for why a person SHOULD be executed...When you start the show by giving a history of the person's case and say, "This is a really bad guy..." and then go on to disparage him, even when mitigating factors are brought up...Then you have an attorney say, "Blah, blah, blah...people need to stop blaming their backgrounds and take responsibility..." the program's mission statement is lost.
You are neither educating nor reforming. Ray Hill, bless his heart, is not good at guiding the direction of the program, and the show often devolves into a mess of personal opinions, tangents, and digression. It's time for the show to end, and if anyone out there who listens to this program agrees with me, I highly suggest you call the station manager on 713 526 4000, extension 310, and state your reasons why this program should end. It's doing more harm than good.
On another note, and anyone who has read and kept up with my journals over the years will know how strongly I feel about this subject...The so-called "anti-death penalty" groups out there, and the many missed opportunities there have been for educating people...
Many of these groups are very cliquey, and very mean towards those who are new to the movement, and/or are genuinely curious about why a person should be against the death penalty. I know that in this day of "everyone has an opinion and wants it to be heard", and the 24 hour news cycles that we live in, it so often seems that no one is actually and actively listening, or even wants to listen. I truly believe that people just need to be educated and SHOWN why they should change their opinions. But few are making the case...Few are truly reaching out, being patient, or guiding people. If a person shows up to a Facebook page or forum, who is either new or relatively new to any group or movement, and asks an innocent question like, "Well...what did he do?", and you instantly attack that person, scream, and run them off the page, you've missed a golden opportunity to educate someone and bring them into the fold. They run off thinking, "These people are freaking nuts!" and they will tell OTHERS to stay away! If a person asks, "Well, what did they do?", your reply should be...calmly, "It doesn't matter what the person did...as abolitionists, it's not our duty to judge. People make mistakes, people change. Those executed are often not the same person who committed the crime, and this is one of the reaons we feel the death penalty should end...". Nobody wants to be screamed at and run off of a page or a group before they got to learn about anything! Stop screaming!! (I just yelled that, I'm sorry :-) ha ha). Start listening...Start talking and reaching out...Start educating...Things aren't going to change until that begins to happen.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 17th, 2018
What a mess of a day!...It actually kind of started last night when they moved a guy upstairs into 64 cell. Now, if you remember, just last week they tried to put me in that cell and the toilet was broken? Although before they moved the guy in there, they had maintenance go in and "fix" the toilet. I heard him banging around in the pipe chase, and causing quite the ruckass, so when he popped back up and said, "Everything is fixed! You're good to go" to the guard, we all assumed it was fixed. They moved the guy in there and he settles himself in, checks everything, and the next thing we hear is, "Hey! Hey Officers!!! The toilet doesn't work!!!" I just shook my head. To add insult to his injury, they just took him out of 8 cell - THE BEAST - after telling him that it was fixed (it wasn't). Maintenance shows back up, bangs around, and once again tells him, "You're good to go!" When we didn't hear anything else the rest of the night, I assumed things were finally fixed.
Breakfast gets passed out in sacks at about 3 in the morning...I crawled out of bed, grabbed the sack off my food slot, and throw it in my locker...Crawl back into bed, and sleep until 6.30am. Now, here's where things get interesting...I sleep with a sock over my eyes, and ear plugs in my ears, so, when I woke up I pop the ear plugs out and I hear the pattering of water somewhere. It's hitting so hard and loud that I think it's raining hard and slamming agsinst my window. I take the sock off of my eyes and see water all over my floor, and a cascade of water flowing like Niagra Falls, out of...MY AIR VENT!!! I'm like, WTF?!?!?!? I jumped out of bed, splashed in all of the water on my floor, and see that much of what I had piled in stacks ready for the shakedown - books, legal work, a pad of paper and magazines I had received the night before - is all soaked in water! I freak out and start hurriedly picking things up off the ground, and then I ran to the door and screamed, "LOOK OUT OFFICERS!!! I HAVE AN EMERGENCY IN 57 CELL!!!" A few other guys help me yell, and try to get the guard's attention, but no one comes until a little after 7am. Now, if I was dying, I would be already been dead with rigor mortis setting in by the time they came, but thank G-d it was just water...
A guard comes through doing a security check and I say, "Do y'all just not care when a person screams 'emergency'? Are you trained to ignore us?" She looks down and sees the tidal wave of water heading out the bottom of the cell door, and I said, "I've got water pouring from my vent!" Apparently the maintenance guy broke a pipe whilst attempting to fix the toilet, and it took about an hour to get everything under control and properly fixed by a more professional crew. By that time I've got water up to my ankles and I'm wading around in it. I was just soooooo pissed! I dried out what I could and threw everything else out: books, comics, magazines, and some paper and envelopes. It was a mess!...But not surprising. I just wonder why it always happens to me? ha ha.
On a sad note, according to the latest news report, it looks like today's execution is going to go through. I mean, anything can still happen, but the Clemency thing is out the window, which sort of proves my theory about white privilege, wealth and influence...Today, it's a poor black man whose victims have pleaded with the State to halt the execution, and don't want it carried out in their names...But the board seems not to care about that. Maybe there are unseen reasons and I'm completely wrong...I think it just looks bad though. I mean, do these victims not get to have their voice heard? Or is the State just hell bent on revenge? Again, the whole freakin' death penalty is a sham...the whole stinking operation.
So, we remain in this holding pattern, waiting to have our shake-down, and nothing is happening...They've had C-pod like this for two days now, and I really just want to get it over with. There's no way we'll be off lock-down before Monday now...Sigh...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 16th, 2018
Raisins + prunes + peanut butter and jelly...catastrophy of gastronomical proportions!...Ugh! Anyone have any Pepto-Bismol???
So, we've officially been on lock-down for a week, today. I was certain that we'd have our big "shake-down" today as they had started on A-section early this morning, at around 6.30am. I was all ready at 5.30am for a shower, but the guards said they weren't doing any showers as they want us in our cells. As it turns out, almost no one came to work today so they had ONE sergeant doing the shake down by himself (14 cells total) and he said, "screw that" and told the guards to put everybody back in their calls and just do the showers. They weren't going to work his ass to death, on his own...
I am now assuming that they're not going to do anymore until tomorrow, but that might not happen because there's a scheduled execution. That could slow everything down because they like to have extra man power to handle any situation should the condemned put up a fight, or family members/friends go crazy out at visit...Guess we'll just have to see. I hate being in this holding pattern though, 'cause you just want to get it over with and can't really live "normally" because half of your stuff is piled up and ready to be packed into the red crate they make us put all of our belongings into. First world problems, I guess.
Something interesting has developed concerning the scheduled execution...and I think it'll test my theory on the white privilege thing with Thomas Whittaker, and a poor minority...So, Christopher Young, the guy scheduled to be executed, is seeking clemency (as do most people back here) but the twist is that apparently the victim's family has been openly telling the prosecutors and the State that they don't want him executed. Where do you think Greg Abbott will fall on this? One of the arguments that pro-death penalty supporters make for the death penalty, is closure for the victims' families...but if the family doesn't want it, what then? Are you doing it for the victim's family? For closure? Or does it just then become a blatant act of revenge by the State? I suppose we'll find out tomorrow.
This day is kind of going by quickly. I've been working on something new for my memoir section that I hope will be finished by next week. I'm writing ten parts each day...Stay tuned!
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith!
July 15th, 2018
It's early Sunday morning as I type this up, and I'm listening to the news and getting things in order for our potential shake down tomorrow. I thought they'd have us done by now, but they stopped shaking down on Thursday, and when they picked it back up again on Friday, they only did half of that pod (E-Pod, I believe) and finished them up on Saturday. They've stopped for today, so our guess is they'll be over here bright and early Monday morning. Now, the question and speculation is where on C-Pod will they begin? A section or E section? F section is completely empty as they had shifted us over to E section when they replaced the shower doors. Either way, I think we're in a good position because when they shake down early in the mornings, the guards are still zombies, and in that "I don't give a crap" mode, just kind of half assing everything. If they do E-section late in the evening, they just want to get everything finished with and kind of hurry through everything. It's midday where things gets chaotic, and the guards are wide awake and tearing through the place like a Tazmanian devil on looney tunes!
The past week wasn't that bad. I've managed to catch up on a lot of reading, and while I've not done much in terms of writing anything, I've been doing a lot of thinking. Mostly prompted by the State's response to our application for a Certificate of Appealability...It's never easy reading nasty things written about oneself, and the State's impression of you...I just tell myself they're wrong, that the overwhelming facts support my side of the story, and while I don't know how all of that shakes out in Constitutional Law (Justice Scalia infamously once said that the constitution doesn't protect the innocent, because if you've had a fair trial, innocence doesn't really matter...to paraphrase) we'll see what happens. Hope and faith...that's what I have right now.
This week I am going to make more of an effort to do some writing. I have a couple of ideas I want to do for my memoir section that I think will be pretty fun. It's been inspired by all of these "Things to do before you die" books that have been popping up, and I thought it would be fun/cool to do a must watch movie list from my perspective, sharing little memories and why they're important to me. I'm also going to do one relating to music...It should be cool! Keep your eyes opened for that!
Well, prayers and hope are still needed, so thanks to everyone who has been throwing them my way. It means more than you'll ever know!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 11th, 2018
Day three of the lock-down...As I write this, the maintenance crew are installing the last set of shower doors on the pod. I went to the shower this morning at about 5.30am (on lock-downs we only get three showers a week) and the door is pretty spiffy! They cannot be cheap...Solid stainless steel, and a big mesh window which definitely makes it easier to breathe when we are stuck in there. The slot that we place our hands out of to have the handcuffs taken off, is a bit wider and not as low to the ground; you still have to squat down, but not nearly to the point where your butt is touching concrete, like it is in our cells.
So...let me talk about last night...I seem to have really bad luck in being assigned to broken cells, just lately! Because of the work they are doing in the showers, they have been clearing out an entire section and bumping the whole section down to the next section. I was living on F-section, 78 cell, which meant I was to be moved to E-section, 64 cell...However, 64 cell has been broken for weeks without being fixed, and I worried that if I didn't address the problem in the day time, I'd have problems AGAIN at night. I wanted to avoid the stress that I had a few weeks ago. I was already a bit on edge and stressed because of the State's response to my appeals, that were filed on the 6th - any more stress would potentially send me into a spiral of depression.
I thought the day time guard was a decent enough guy, so I ran the situation by him; I asked him to check out 64 cell and see if 1) it was black tagged or not, and 2) to please check the cell and make sure everything worked and it was in good shape, if it wasn't black tagged. He said he would.
A few hours pass, and I ask him what the deal is...He told me, "Everything is great in there; everything works, and it's not black tagged." I was like, "cool...appreciate it!" I packed up my things and waited on second shift to come on and get the moves started. At the same time, I had this strange feeling that maybe I should have second shift check the cell again, just in case something wasn't quite right. Over the years I've learned (from many move cycles) that once that door closes behind you in a cell, it takes an act of congress to get moved out of it again! You're in a much better position to negotiate a move to a different cell if you just don't go to the cell you know isn't working...That's not to say that some officers won't still try to force you into a broken cell - like the one who recently tried to force me into 8 cell...So, the odds are in your favour if you're proactive to begin with.
Second shift came on, and we had a really decent crew. One guard in particular, a Nigerian dude, is super kind, professional, and a genuinely good person. He'd given me an extra cinnamon roll breakfast tray just a couple of weeks ago, and he treats everyone the same - even the asshole inmates. So, he passes by my cell, and I say to him, "Check it out...they're going to be moving me to 64 cell. When you pass by that cell, will you please check it out and make sure everything works? The day time officer told me everything is good, and while I have no reason to not believe him, I just want to be on the safe side. You know how it is once you get stuck in a bad cell". He told me would check it out, and so I waited. Well...things went pear shaped fast! Before he could check the cell, he was called off the pod and asked to go and help with the shake-downs on B-pod. Another move crew came in and began moving us to E-section. I asked the guard if the cell was cool and he said "yes". Again, I had no reason to not believe him. I moved to 64 cell, had the handcuffs removed, checked the toilet, and...
THE BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEP THING DIDN'T WORK!!!!!!!
I yelled back to the guard. "Hey! Hey! Man!!! This toilet doesn't work! You just told me everything worked!" He came back and said, "It doesn't work? I thought it did".
"You thought it did? You told me you checked it!" I said. In my head I'm telling myself to calm down, and kept repeating, "Serenity now! Serenity now!" from an old Seinfeld episode.
He told me he'd notify rank, and walked off...
At this point I'm tired, frustrated...I keep telling myself to breathe...When the officer comes back, he'll get it sorted out for me...I don't even bother unpacking because I am NOT staying in that cell!
An hour passes and the Nigerian dude comes back around 10.30-ish pm. I tell him the situation and he begins to apologize. He didn't have a chance to check the cell because he had to leave the pod...I said, "Look, it's not your fault. Your fellow officers lied to me; you did nothing wrong. All I'm asking you is to please get me out of this cell". He looked me right in the eye and said, "Halprin, I will have you moved in a minute. I promise".
I'm assuming he immediately got in touch with a ranking officer because about 10 minutes later, he came back with another officer, and I was moved right out of that cell and to 57 cell downstairs. I thanked him a thousand times, and a crisis was averted. I'm actually thinking of writing a grievance because whoever is doing these moves in the main office, is not logging cells as "broken". It's really crazy. They used to stay on top of things like that, but whoever took over doing the moves on the computer is either really bad at their job, or just doesn't care. Not every inmate is as calm as I am in this situatiion; some would have blown a fuse, and things would turn much uglier...But something needs to change about this because it happens ALL OF THE TIME with us guys on c-pod. I'm sure it happens on other pods as well.
Anyway, 57 cell is much better...Geeze, 64 cell looked like something out of a horror movie. It was filthy! Dead bugs everywhere, spider webs, some kind of mildewey fungus/mold on the walls - it had been THAT long since someone lived in it! I had the heebie jeebies, and I wasn't even in that cell for very long. Had the toilet worked, and I ended up staying there, it would have taken me a whole day just to scrub it down...And I hate bugs - spiders especially! I would've been screaming "ahhh!" all night long...
Thank G-d for good people.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
July 10th, 2018
I don't know why it's been a little difficult to write anything of late, but I'm hoping to turn that around...Today's Stoic quote was about the humble art and practice of doing what you love, and I do genuinely love writing, and so I need to do something each day. Even on days when I feel "blah".
I'm struggling to think today for several reasons: my mind is on my appeal, and the State's response that was just filed...It's what I expected from them, and I'm hoping, praying, and wishing that something positive happens and I can turn all of this around. Again, thanks to those who have been praying for me; it means more than you'll ever know.
The other reason is I'm being rattled to death with the beating, banging, and grinding that is going on in order to remove these shower doors on this section (e-section), right next door to me...Ugh! I'm sitting on my bed, and I can feel it rattling in my buttocks. I'm jiggling and not even dancing! Anyway, they're replacing each shower door (12 doors in total) on 12 Builiding. They're pretty fancy stainless steel doors and can't be cheap; from what I've seen, the "window" on each door is really big, and has a mesh screen which is going to make it easier to breathe. The current doors are rusted heaps of metal with a plexiglass window that has nine "breathing holes" drilled into them.
As they do each section on a pod, they move/empty out the inmates in those cells, and bump them down a section. So tonight, I will be moving to e-section. I'm currently trying to be proactive because the cell that I could end up in is said to have been damaged. So, I don't want to have a repeat of the night I had a few weeks ago. I'm talking to guards and the rank today/this morning, to see if the cell is working or not. If it isn't, I'd like to be changed to a cell that does work...We'll see what happens.
Oh, and did I mention that we're on lock-down? It started yesterday morning. I had a feeling it was coming up because it seems to always happen in July. My neighbour told me, "But it hasn't been 90 days yet!". To which I replied, "When has that ever mattered?"..."Good point, he said.
Anyway, here's to hoping for good and positive things to happen! I'm holding onto...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 4th, 2018
Independence Day...We had a really good meal for lunch! A cheeseburger with pickles, a hot dog, beans, corn, potato salad, and peach cobbler. That was definitely appreciated, and I know I was grateful...It's a bit of a grey and wet day, so there'll be no watching fireworks tonight, but that's cool. On the NPR station, they'll do "patriotic" symphony music, and I like to catch that late in the evening - especially the 1812 overture, which is a great piece of music!
I guess not much else to say...It's just kind of slow moving today. Hopefully I'll get the writing back into gear tomorrow.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
July 1st, 2018
July 1st...I cannot believe it's already a new month. June went by so fast, that it feels like it hardly existed. I haven't written anything in the past week or so because the air conditioning was out until Thursday, and it was just too hot to function or focus on anything at all. Thankfully, they finally got it fixed, and as I type this it feels like the North Pole! That baby is cranked all the way up! I will give the people in charge some credit because they were passing out ice water every couple of hours, and even continue to do so now...I'm not big on sodas, but some of these guys back here have been putting their Coke cans in the cold water, and chilling them down into an ice cold drink! Small comforts go a long way back here...Some would see it as pampering inmates, I guess, but I just see it as treating people like human beings.
I had an interesting conversation or exchange, rather, with a mail room lady recently...My location on the inmate roster has been all out of whack since they tried to move me to 8 cell, and I wouldn't move to a broken cell. I was placed in 78 cell on C-Pod, and have been here for the past two weeks, almost. But whoever makes the count roster, has had me in 15 cell, 64 cell, 8 cell, etc. So, I receive a book and the mail lady finally finds me and I said, "yeah, they've got me all around this place." She says, "well, other offenders know where you are, so we just ask them"...And I then said, "yeah, just ask other PEOPLE" and "Oh, another PERSON told you?"...I kept emphasising people and person because I can't stand the word "offender"...TDCJ switched from inmate to offender in the mid-1990s; it seems its sole purpose is to dehumanise and make a person a lesser individual. I don't much like the word "inmate" either, but at least it doesn't make me cringe like the word "offender" does. How can you expect or ask a person to be rehabilitated or be a productive member of society, if while they're incarcerated you do everything in the world to show them what pieces of crap they are and treat them as a lesser individual than you are? It has always irritated me!
Anyway, that was a tangent...ha ha!
This week, the State's response to my application for a COA in the 5th Circuit, is due...Unless they ask for a further extension. I'm naturally nervous, and a bit anxious, but it's one of those things that I really have no control over. I can ask for prayers and positive thoughts, though, and I'd really appreciate anyone who wants to throw some my way...Here's to hoping for the best.
I'm going to be getting back into the groove of writing, so stay tuned!