July 2020 - Randy Halprin

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

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Journals
July 5th, 2020

4th July weekend...It's been so difficult to write of late. I've been feeling quite lethargic and depressed. I've been able to function and get through the day, but everything has been foggy. As I write this we've not had rec since Friday, and we almost didn't even get that. Some people didn't. I had to take a bird bath when I came back in because they weren't doing showers at all.  

When I woke up yesterday, there was a breakfast sack on my floor and it was one measly pancake, and some powdered milk in a bag. We were all grumbling and wondering what happened to the improvement we were supposed to have in our food, according to a Houston Chronicle news report. We were supposed to be getting fruit cups and sack meals were supposed to get better too – according to the TDCJ director. Not on Polunsky!

We were all wondering if we'd even receive a good meal for the holiday...When we asked what was going on with rec a guard said,  

“We are in crisis mode due to staff shortages...No one is coming to work. New officers quit within days or weeks, and no one wants to work in a prison anymore.”

The good news is that we did have a really good holiday meal – BBQ chicken, cake etc. My neighbour wanted to cook some tacos so I tagged and bagged my chicken and sent it over to him so he could use it. The tacos came out really good!  

I went back to my day and was restless and feeling a little down when at 2pm I decided to check the radio again for movies...I heard the announcement and sat up straight!!

“Movies on 106.5!”

My neighbour said,  

“Huh?”

I said,  

“Movies on...Movies on...Movies on!!!”

It turned out to be, 'Captain Marvel'.

When that movie went off there was a pause and then silence...I waited for several seconds when suddenly I heard the familiar 'Star Wars' music and I let out a cry that probably scared everyone! I yelled,  

“RISE OF SKYWALKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!”

Yes, I'm a geek...Can't help it!

I had tears of joy...It was an amazing movie and it tied everything up perfectly and I loved how the movie score worked its way through the movie, paying homage to the various themes throughout the decades of movies.  

Well, the movies continued well into the evening. On Saturday we heard 'Us' – a social/horror commentary on America. It was a bit difficult to follow without actually seeing it, and I was confused in places – definitely not easy to just listen to. They also played 'Glass' which is the third movie in a trilogy that began with 'Unbreakable', then 'Split'. It was pretty good, but again, one you probably had to 'see' to know what was going on. M. Night Shyamalan is very much a visual storyteller, and drops a lot of visual clues throughout his movies. After that they closed out with 'Zombieland 2' which was really funny!

Today, the movies started at 8am with 'Super 8', and then 'Aquaman'. And later they played 'Secret Life of Pets' and then an Afghan war movie before closing the day off with 'Creed 2' – surprisingly good!  

They started to replay all of today's movies again, and I'm listening to Captain Marvel as I type this, and it's really good. I don't think I've heard a Marvel movie that I haven't liked. They keep it grounded, humorous, and a perfect balance of action.  

My spirits felt lifted after all of that!

I hope everyone is doing okay and staying safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 6th, 2020

Geeze...Well, it was bound to happen! We woke up to the news that the entire unit is on a COVID-19 lockdown again...Ugh! They said they've had cases pop up all over the unit and dozens of officers have tested positive as well. We don't know how long this will last, but these sack meals have to improve. Breakfast was awful – it was a single pancake that had some kind of cheese baked onto it, and that was all. We didn't get lunch until 5pm and dinner came at 9pm. Lunch was okay, but dinner was really bad.  

They still had the movies playing over the weekend, so at least we had that. The guards said we'd only receive showers every other day, and there would be severely limited movements from both officers and inmates...Basically, we're trapped. It sucks, but what can we do about it? I worry that with the 4th July weekend and all of the people who probably went out and partied at Lake Livingston, then went back to work, the spread of the virus will be phenomenal! We're likely to see more and more cases continuously pop up.  

I'm just going to put my head down and try to get through it. It's difficult though...Really hard! But hey, I've listened to 'Rise of Skywalker' three times, and I can't complain too much.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 7th, 2020

I woke up with an unusual pep in my step and energy I've not had for a while now. I saw the breakfast sack on my floor, grabbed it, and noticed two pancakes and a handful of raisins and thought,  

“I'm so sick of pancakes!”

Now, I'm not a person who likes to waste food...I feel guilty if there's something I don't want to eat or can't stomach, and normally I'd offer it to my neighbors, but they're all sick of pancakes too. What do you do? I mean, they know we're all sick of pancakes and yet, they still make them. It's a waste! They'd save far more money making a decent breakfast that won't be thrown away.  

Anyways...I decided to make a bowl of oatmeal with the raisins, and ate it before I began my work out. Once I was done I took a bird bath at my sink and then scrubbed my cell down.  

I realised as I was writing to my girlfriend that it's one year ago this week that I was moved to Death Watch...I'll never forget the day because it followed the 4th July weekend and I had my stuff all ready and packed because I knew a date had been scheduled and signed off on by a Judge. Monday passed and nothing happened...Then on Tuesday, if I remember correctly, they did one round of rec and then cancelled it for the rest of the day. I spent the day lounging around and thought I was safe for another day when second shift came on...Then, suddenly an officer came to my door and said,  

“Hey. You're moving to A-Pod, 12 cell.”

My heart and stomach dropped, and everything became dream like. I said goodbye to everyone and as I was leaving I was so moved by the support I had from all around me...Guys were yelling my name and saying I'd be back...It helped me a lot.  

It's just so difficult to believe it's been a whole year, and I feel extremely lucky to be alive. Yes, I've been depressed lately and feeling quite lethargic, but the fact remains: I'M ALIVE! So many don't make it and I wish it was different and we could all be saved.  

I was thinking last night about how it's past time for the death penalty to end, especially in this time of uncertainly. I think of all of the money wasted on an act of pure revenge. You could save so many lives in this COVID-19 pandemic by diverting that money to where it's needed most. As well as all of that, think of all the people sitting on Death Row because they are poor, or black etc, or had a bigoted judge or DA...Does anyone remember the racist emails from the disgraced Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal? Or that for decades, Dallas County used to have a jury selection guide for prosecutors that specifically advised to not pick black jurors for a death penalty case because they would more than likely vote against a death sentence? There are guys sitting on death row right now who were sentenced under those very administrations.

In the quest for equal justice under the law, there's no better time than now to demand an end to the death penalty. People talk about divestment and defunding...think of the money that is spent on a single death penalty case that could be used for a far better purpose. Is the thirst for vengeance so strong that it bypasses rationality and humanity?

Tomorrow there is a scheduled execution...It's insane that this guy is facing execution when he just barely missed the ruling by the Supreme Court that a juvenile couldn't be sentenced to death. He was just 18 years old and sentenced to death – how ugly is humanity that we can do that and think it's okay? Governor Abbott is talking daily about how the COVID crisis is hurting the Texas economy and yet, they still have hundreds of thousands of dollars to waste taking a life...How does this make any sense?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 9th, 2020

Today feels a bit strange. Texas has started executions again, and yesterday I watched as they put a guy in the van to take him to Huntsville. At first, I was not going to look out the window because it's a trauma we all feel here each and every time they take someone away to be executed.

I heard someone say,  

“Here he comes.”

Then we began the ritual of banging on the windows to show our support to him, as we watched him being taken along the side walk. Seeing the procession of guards, wardens, and a use of force team follow behind (in case the poor guy put up a fight) is not something you could ever get used to seeing.  

They marched him into 12 building to run him through metal detectors and carry out a thorough strip search, and then put him in chains and restraints. Then I watched as they put him in the white van to go to Huntsville.  

I really and truly believed that the guy would receive a stay (if only because of the Corona situation) because he is someone who has changed and grown and should NEVER have been sent to death row at all. Despite the rising number of COVID infections in Texas, they still went ahead with it...I guess the thirst for vengeance is stronger than the safety and health of everyone involved in the process. There are several guys who received stays because of the virus, months ago, and now they are naturally worried that this sends the green light for counties to start issuing execution dates again.  

This morning on the prison radio station I listened to the warden give us an update on what has been happening with the virus and the prison as a whole. I was happy to hear the update because there had been what seemed like an administrative back slide to the ways of before, and I think they're trying to figure stuff out and work on improving things. So, the update was we're on a 14 day lockdown as of now. [Note from Webmaster: As far as we're aware (and the postal system is dire!) they're still on lockdown. Please check with other groups on Facebook who have more up to date information]. They do have pockets of outbreaks across the unit where both inmates and officers have contracted the virus and those areas are essentially quarantined.  

The rest of the unit is on 'preventative lockdown' or a 'shelter in place' rule to prevent it from spreading further. This weekend, starting on Friday, a COVID Strike Force Medical Team will start testing all of us again. If positive cases are found, they will put that area on quarantine.

Meanwhile, the warden said that we're required to wear face masks whenever we leave our cells, and both inmates and officers will receive disciplinary cases should the rule not be followed. This seems fair and I've been advocating that guards wear masks because they're the ones bringing the virus in! I don't know how many times I've heard,  

“I have a right to not wear a mask!”

Well, you don't have a right to put peoples' health at risk, and I'm glad the administration is acknowledging that.  

He also addressed the fact that he knew morale was low and people were at their breaking points, and he asked for patience as they figure out ways to alleviate the stress and tension. He also said that ALL custody levels were going to be allowed a 5 minute phone call, and that isn't happening at this point on Death Row. We've not had the phone calls in a couple of months now, so we're all hoping they'll get onto that.  [Note from Webmaster: The phone calls have since resumed!] They have telephone jacks on the pod, and could easily set up a table outside of the control center and bring the phone to us without us ever having to leave the pod and risk spreading the virus. I don't see why this isn't a plausible idea, not just during this crisis, but going forward when we're back to 'normal'.

He also addressed the problems with the food. We've been underfed with the sack meals, and they're working to address that issue as well – we'll see! [Note from Webmaster: Randy has told us that the food has improved a lot, although it's not yet consistent. They've had fresh milk, fruit, and some vegetables. However, there are still days where the food is paltry, but the good changes are something to celebrate and this warden does seem to be dedicated to continue making things better]. I'm glad to say that the last 3 meals we've had have been very good, so we'll see how it goes.  

And that's all of the news for now...I'm pushing through the days, and although I'm feeling quite depressed, my energy is coming back up and I'm doing my best to keep upbeat and help those around me to do the same.  

I hope everyone is staying safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!


July 12th, 2020

Well, it sucks being trapped in our cells for weeks on end, but at least the prison radio station has been keeping us entertained. Friday night started with some movies, then a new music program with a lot of good music I haven't heard in years.  

They started doing phone calls again which is great news! We all really need those calls back here whilst we're locked down and feeling even more cut off from the world than we usually do.  

Over the weekend I did a little work, and listened to some repeat movies on Sunday as I did my laundry and scrubbed my cell.  

We were told that Covid testing would begin again next week, and we're all hoping for good news. Several death row officers are infected, and some are in bad shape – I hope and pray they will all get well.  

Other news...The sack meals continue to get better, but they're coming extremely late, with 12-13 hours between meals. We realise this is most likely due to staff shortages, and we can only hope it improves.  

That's all for now...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!


July 17th, 2020

It's Friday evening and I'm in a little better spirits. I was told today that I had a legal call and I was excited to get to talk to my attorneys, and to move around the building and get a few minutes of fresh air as I walked over to the visitation building.

It was about 12.40pm when I got out there, and my call was scheduled for 2pm, so I was waiting and waiting...I noticed when I was out there that they've taken advantage of everything being shut down, and they're having the place painted. Visitation is now grey and black – pretty depressing!  

I could see the vending machines and they were empty. Well, there was a lonely 3 pack of cheese crackers, probably well past their expiration date, but that was it. The unit looks like a ghost town though. It's really weird.  

The call with my attorneys was great, and hearing their voices really raised my spirits! No legal news that I can talk about right now, but the best news of the day was that they had spoken to my girlfriend...As you all know, she was very sick last year and had to deal with my pending execution date on top of that...It broke my heart that she had to go through all of that and other stuff that came her way even after I got my stay, but the good news is she is doing really, really well and finally 'in the clear'! I was teary-eyed when I got the news! It's the best news in the world and proves she's my Warrior Queen! I'm over the moon! Thank you all for praying for her and for me, and for the support from all of our many friends, and beyond, that my Taffy has had in such a stressful time.  

I didn't get back to my cell until close to 4pm but it was nice just sitting out there and having a change of scenery and getting away from the place for a bit. I'm hoping they'll do some new movies this weekend and I have my new music show to listen to tonight!  

I hope you're all doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!


July 19th, 2020

Today is my friend, Clinton's, birthday...I asked the officer to let him know I said 'Happy Birthday' and he did. Clinton and I have been very good friends for years, and I wish him all the very best!

I want to talk a little about the sack lunches we've been getting – they have seriously improved! Well, it's hit or miss on occasions, but they've been throwing in some fresh fruit and veggies – apples, oranges, and a banana. But the best thing? Milk!!! It's been well over a decade since they took away the little cartons of milk and replaced it with disgusting powdered milk that much of the time seemed more like water than milk. I never thought I'd see real milk again in my life! So, when I received that first milk carton with breakfast...it was divine! I love milk...I've always loved milk since I was a kid. I was the kid that would open up the fridge, grab a bottle of milk and chug it down. My brother, Jimmy, and I would pour a glass of milk, open a packet of chocolate chip cookies, and dunk them...It's so great that we got fresh milk, and I hope it's here to stay.  

They've been giving us fresh broccoli and cauliflower, but I can't eat it – I've always found those two particular veggies to be revolting, ever since I was a small child. But the best part of the food is the apples, oranges etc that we normally only get on holidays. We are all most definitely appreciative of the improved food, and that we are getting more to eat than we were. The warden has done a very good job of sorting out the kitchen and making things better. [Note from the Webmaster: We've spoken to the warden who seems sincere in what he is saying will change, so hopefully this will continue to be the case].

Rumour has it that A-Pod as well as D/E/F Pods all have confirmed cases of Covid-19. One of my long time friends, Big Will, is said to be infected, but I don't know how true that is. When I look out of my window I can sometimes see nurses and guards walking around in full PPE which is a bit shocking to the eye. At 11 Building for General Population, they have a big Biohazard disposal box parked outside the building. I guess it was inevitable with guards coming and going, and some not taking this virus seriously, and refusing to wear their face masks.  

It's been an incredibly boring day today and I've been trying to get through it as best I can. I'm still feeling restless, but I'm still happy following the news of my girlfriend, and that makes me smile every time I think of it. In just a few months we'll have been together for 3 years...Pretty amazing if you know my track record (ha ha). I couldn't be happier though, and it's been really great.  

I hope everyone is safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 20th, 2020

Today has been one of those 'bleh' days. They started showers really late and then after that I couldn't really find the energy to do much of anything. I was hoping 106.5 would do an album at 3pm, but instead they're playing 'Rambo' for people to listen to. Geeze, the sound quality on this movie is really poor...It sounds ancient!

It started to rain, which we really need. It's been blazing back here and even though the air cooling system is on, it's not compensating for the 100 degree heat we've had for almost two weeks now. Pretty bad! But the cool down is much needed and appreciated.  

Rambo is over...hold on...new movie as I type this! 'Avengers: End Game'. Awesome! I have to catch this. 'Infinity War' was amazing.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 21st, 2020

I woke up feeling really groggy. I fell asleep around 10.20pm...The movie 'John Constantine' was airing, so I went to bed after they shut the lights out and I had given up on receiving mail. Then, around 11pm the guard gave me my letters, I read the one from my girlfriend, then crashed. I slept all the way through until 5.20am. I was going to roll back over, but instead I ate my breakfast of PB&J, hard boiled egg, and coffee cake. I washed it down with the milk and then tried to go back to sleep for a little bit. I tossed and turned...

I grabbed the headphones and heard Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' which was good, but I missed the ending because my neighbour currently doesn't have a hot pot, and I wanted to pass him some hot water so he could make some coffee.  

They said they're not giving us showers today which sucks, so I took a bird bath in my cell. Right now I'm about to start my work for the day, and hopefully the day will go well!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


July 26th, 2020

We're heading into week four of the current lockdown. On the prison radio station the head warden gave an update about what has been going on and he basically said that until they can get the outbreak under control, we'd stay on lockdown. He said that he knew everyone's limits were being tested and everyone is stressed. He also said that the outbreak had put on hold some “really big plans” he had for the unit. I could hear in his voice that he was sincere in what he was saying, and I do believe he's been trying.  

The prison radio station has become a whole lot better again in recent weeks. I think the key is finding the right balance for everyone, and knowing that the content isn't always going to be to everyone's individual tastes. They're offering an audio Spanish class in the evenings, as well as playing some movies for everyone to hear. They've got some spot light music shows now too, offering a couple of hours of a particular genre, which is great. My show comes on late night Friday night, and I've heard some music I've not listened to in ages, as well as some really good new stuff. It's been nice. For the late-nighters they've been playing electronic and techno music. I think I could hear my neighbour dancing and shuffling around the other night!

The movies have been really great to listen to. I have a mental 'wish-list' of movies I read about and would like to hear, and 'The Joker' was on that list – I got to hear it on Friday night! Geeze, that movie was brutal, but the acting was phenomenal! As far as a character study of a mentally ill man descending into madness and violence goes, it was done very well. The best Joker performance? It was good, but Jack Nicholson will always be my most favourite version of The Joker. I'm really hoping to hear 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' now, as well as 'It: Chapter 2'. The first 'It' movie was perfection!

As far as things are back here...The meals continue to be good. There's' a time or two where the meals are a little paltry, but they've still been trying to add fresh fruit and veggies (the other day we had baby carrots...I love baby carrots! The only thing missing is some ranch dressing to dip them into!). The milk is amazing and now I'm getting double because my neighbour has been passing his milk over to me. Can't beat that!

The other day some medical dude came in dressed up like a Ghost Buster...He had this back pack that looked like a proton pack and a huge cannon attached. Remember the slime cannon they used in part two? It looked just like it, but it blasted out some kind of disinfectant. They pulled us out of our cells, he walked in, and then I heard this, “Rrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm...WHOOSH!” sound as he blasted my cell. Apparently the cannon is highly pressurised and when it blasts the disinfectant out the mist goes everywhere around the area it's been fired.  

B-Pod is still Corona free which is good news...Fingers crossed it will stay that way! I'm praying for all who are infected that they will make a 100% recovery, and that the rest of us stay safe.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!


July 29th, 2020

Well, we're into week 4 of our quarantine...Still restless and bored out of my mind, but trucking through it. Actually, I'm a little worried this will carry on and on because whilst they're doing a great job of keeping things sanitised, they're not doing such a good job of restricting movement. They're allowing certain transports from other units and county jails which risks spreading the virus, and contamination by guards who were out sick with COVID and now returning...Some claim to have tested negative, but they're still coughing and showing other symptoms which is a bit scary. One of the officers who made noise about it being her 'right' to not wear a mask was out for two weeks with the virus!!! Now she's back – wearing a mask – but every time she speaks she pulls the mask down and freaks everyone out. Then she says,  

“I can't talk with this thing on!”  

Well, there's a simple solution to that: DON'T TALK!!

There's been rumors that a couple of people have died on the unit, but I don't know if that's true or not – as of now it's just a rumor, and I hope it stays that way! Nothing has been said on the prison radio station either.  

The sack meals have been difficult to figure out. One day they are unbelievably awesome! Last night, we actually had a carton of fresh orange juice with dinner. I've NEVER had a carton of fresh cold and delicious orange juice whilst I've been incarcerated all of these 24 years. Then on other days, the sacks are paltry...Still, we're all very grateful for the good days.  

It's been over a month since we had commissary, although they have allowed us to buy stamps and hygiene products a couple of weeks ago...But that was it. They're saying that the next time we go we'll only be able to spend $15 to buy snacks, and this has sent everyone into a tizzy, and all day every day it's,

“This isn't right. It isn't fair. When are we going to commissary?”  

Every ranking officer that goes by...every officer...on and on and on. It can get a bit annoying, but I do understand, and commissary is important to us back here. I enjoy my snacks, chips and ice cream as much as anyone else, and there's always a bit of excitement on commissary day. It shouldn't be a carrot that the State can dangle over our heads and control us with. I try to think about the friends and all of the love I have...These things can last forever, but a bag of chips lasts just 5 minutes and then you go back to being miserable again. And while our lives literally hang in the balance, there are people on the outside right now who can even feed their families...

Anyway, I'm trying to keep upbeat and positive. I listened to 'The Green Mile' last night. I'd forgotten just how good that movie is, and I really enjoyed hearing it again!  

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace


July 30th, 2020

A warm and boring Thursday...I'm getting through it! I stayed up late last night because the prison radio station started playing movies at 9pm...I had planned to be in bed by 10.30pm but then after the first movie – I've no idea what it was called – 'The Matrix' came on and I just had to listen to it. It's one of the last movies I ever saw when I was 'free'. I didn't get to bed until turned 1am, and I'm feeling quite tired today.  

I was listening to the news and political programs this morning, and just keeping my mind occupied. Yesterday at dinner they gave us a pack of real cookies – a healthy 'all natural' made with wheat, and real chocolate. They were really good! I couldn't believe that the State would provide these, but I'm so grateful. In our breakfast sack this morning we had a delicious red apple...Geeze, I love apples! I love fresh fruit, period, but more of this, please!  

If they can do this during a lockdown in pandemic times, they can do it all year round...hopefully!

Keep strong...

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace.


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