June 2015 - 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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June 7th, 2015

So, lately, with the uncertainty of appeals and all of the executions going on, I've been thinking about how arbitrary and capricious the death penalty really is. I've been focused a lot on my own mortality, and it's frightening...Feeling frightened is an understatement, but being pissed off is as well. Pissed off with myself - there's a bit of self hatred and loathing, because as I tell people all the time, I do have to accept a certain degree of responsibility for my actions and choices throughout my younger years.

Remorse, regret...I think people who say in they have 'no regrets' are full of shit...how can you go through life not regretting anything? They use the old adage of "well, it's shaped and guided who I've become now." True, but really no regrets? No relationship done differently? No, remorse towards anyone and anything you've done wrong? Is your mind a vacant jug of air and dust?

Examine your life...really sit down and examine it and surely you'll find something you wished you could've done differently - all of those things. Yes, I do forgive myself and I do love myself, but dammit if I wouldn't like to go back to the younger version of me and say "Take your head out of your ass!" I get angry at myself because the mistakes I've made were easily avoidable.

I wake up each morning and wonder how much longer I have on this planet. I can't be one of those people who doesn't fear death. I'm too tethered to this world and I'm too afraid of the unknown. I want to believe in something greater than us, but the random chaos in this universe makes me doubtful...never mind the mathematical perfection, and that whole theory of creationism...but like, I'm sitting here typing this out - a FREAKING PRISONER - and I get three meals a day, a place to sleep etc, and someone who has never done anyone any harm or wrong is starving to death half way across the world. Life makes no sense to me at times. G-d makes no sense to me at times...

Maybe my own fears and doubts are not rational, I'm aware of that...If we just die and turn to dust what does it matter, right? But...don't we all want to have had this mean something and have our lives be defined by a certain amount of purposefulness? Thinking about all of the recent executions, though, I can't help but zero in on Lester Bower...Almost 70 years old, an insane amount of execution dates, a legitimate innocence claim and he's dead now? Killed by the State of Texas? Really? What purpose did that serve the citizens of this state or country? How do you justify strapping a 70 year old man down and exploding his heart?

The only argument that the pro-death penalty movement has any more is based on emotion. An emotion of vengeance and fear. And like most emotions, when you strip them down to their basic function, they are really irrational when you think about them. Most fear based emotions are really irrational. How do we kill a person like Lester Bower? Fear and the manipulation of it. When you look at any death penalty case at the sentencing phase, one of the 'special issues' that have to be considered is whether or not a defendent is going to be a continuing threat to society or "Future threat of dangerousness". If this cannot be answered 'yes' then the life must be spared. Generally, this is decided by looking at the crime. Usually heinous in its manner and based on the prosecuters assertions that even in a general population prison environment, a life sentence would only allow for the oppurtunity that the defendent hurt another person.

What is the argument then, for Mr. Bower? Consider the facts: 30 plus years without any major disciplinary infraction. When, in those 30 years, was Lester ever looking for the oppurtunity to hurt someone? He was on the Ellis Unit, before the state shipped all of those inmates to Polunsky and a more controlled and segregated/isolated environment  after an escape attempt happened there. He worked in the garment factory as a death row prisoner, using heavy machinery and tools. He was the officer clerk for the officers who supervised the garment factory, had a cell mate, access to myriad 'weapons', as did the 400 plus inmates. Where were the murders, death and mayhem that prosecuters promised a jury?

We live in a society of fear. America is built upon fear and the wholesale distrubution of it. Fermented by ignorance, hate, prejuidice, religious ignorance and bigotries...I'm amazed at how big, tough and badass we think we are. With this whole 'the sky is falling' irattionality of fear. I'm surprised more people aren't afraid of their own shadows. You can disguise our fear in the name of Justice, but it is still only fear.

The way that our death penalty is applied in this country defies any sense of logic. I used the words arbitrary and capricious because they are the best definition for it. There's no ryhme or reason, no fairness as to how it is applied. It makes me mad back here when I see people who truly deserve another chance be put to death, and then dudes who could be truly defined as a 'monster' get off of death row and get a second chance.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm 100% against the death penalty for any crime. I'm just using those circumstances as an example. I've read about serial killers who recieve life sentences because  they work out a deal with the prosecuters to reveal where other bodies are, and a kid who runs into a gas station, robs and accidentaly kills a person be put down like a dog. I've seen so called Christian Governors talk about redemption and salvation, then turn around and mock death row prisoners who seek or have found that same salvation.

There's a Christian radio station called American Family Radio. Now, I'm a person who likes to hear all sides of an arguement or particular issue and while it is TORTURE to sit through just about any program on AFR, I do try to listen and take in what I can. I try not to generalize or condescend a person's view, or people for that matter, but one host named Brian Fisher on AFR is a real nutter. His vitriol and hatred towards homosexuals, muslims, President Obama...I can usually only stomach about 30 minutes of his voice before I want to run to the toilet and vomit...but he said something interesting the other day in regards to this Duggers family scandal and it goes to show the general hypocrisy in our society as a whole...I have never seen any t.v. episode of whatever program the Dugger family is on, but I have heard on various programs their outspokenness against gay marriage, and fundamentalist Christians hold them in high regard, apparently. Well, from what I understand one of their children, who is a grown adult now was at some point in his teens a sexual abuser...he apparently went through treatment and such and the matter was swept under the rug. Forgive me if I don't get all of this 100% right, I am getting somewhere with this...When this came to light recently, the Duggers were attacked and publicly shamed and Brian Fisher, a man who says the death penalty is a righteous punishment held up by God and the bible, came to the defense of the Duggers and the son in question who commited unspeakable acts against young women, citing forgiveness, salvation, and rehabilitation...But by Mr. Fisher's own definition of how the death penalty should be applied, and his own biblical standards, the Duggers son should've been dragged to the back yard and stoned to death. Why is this same standard not applied to the hundreds of men across the nation who are currently waiting to be executed? Surely, some of those men have asked for forgiveness, have asked for any kind of rehabilitation and salvation. Why is their desire for redemption not taken seriously, but a pseudo celebrity is held up as some sort of role model for forgiveness?

I'm just tired and worn out...I'm too damned stubborn to throw the towel in, but as a whole, I do wish this would end...all of the fear, the anguish, the mental torment and self doubt. Doubt about G-d, the universe, and everything...But most of all I just wish we'd stop using fear to kill each other. It has to end at some point...Right?


June 6th, 2015

Well, last night was relatively painless...Actually, it was hassle free. They put us all in the shower, let us wash and shave and by the time we were done, they were done. They didn't take anything from me at all. I was relieved and happy, as most guys were, although some guys in the day time didn't fair well as another demon hell spawn showed up to create havoc and chaos. A  crazy world we live in. It was rumored that this particular, demon had been fired for an unauthorized use of force, but I guess those rumors were not true. Oh well. They didn't get us at night so again, I'm relieved.  

It is one of those very peaceful days of quietness. Not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of the day, though. Probably read and listen to the radio.


June 5th, 2015

A couple of things have happened today. One, as I write this we're waiting for this section to have its shake down, but the way that it's looking, the guards won't make it over here until later this evening. We'll probably have to deal with second shift and who knows how that will go...another uncertainty to worry about. My brain is filled with enough uncertainty, so to have to worry about another thing...I really wish I had a head key (reference to the wonderful series Locke & Key, by Joe Hill) so that I could just take the unwanted thoughts away and be worry free! Looks like I'm also going to miss Jurassic Park tonight as well. B0000!

A funny thing happened this morning. So I'm fortunate to get some comics from time to time. They usually are brought to me by the mail room in the morning and I have to go through this senseless process of signing a recieval notice and then the mail room says, "These are being sent to Huntsville for review." Cause you know, comics are the equivalant to porn...Every now and then they'll review them on the unit and just give them to me instead of making me wait an additional 30 plus days to get them...So, when the mail room just handed them to me, I thought cool! I've got something to read that I don't have to wait for. I sat down like child recieving a birthday present and began to read...Well, about 30 or 40 minutes later, a different mail room lady shows up at my cell door and says, "Halprin...you recieved some stuff this morning that wasn't reviewed? We need that back." Now, I could've been a real asshole and put up a huge fuss, but I generally don't like getting on the bad side of the the mail room people...You learn several rules when you are in prison and one of those key rules is never piss of the property officer, commissary officer or mail room officer...they are crucial to  a person's sanity. Screw that off and you're doing 'hard time' indeed.

I've had this happen before with the mail room and I know there are other guys back here who would say, "Fuck 'em! They gave it to you, don't be a dumb ass and turn it back over. "But again, it goes back to that rule of not pissing off the mail room. Mistakes happen and I'd rather not have potential problems later down the road. So, I just handed them back, and besides I had ample time to read them before giving them back. I'm confident that the people, who approve these things will give them back. I just wish they weren't so damn slow in the reviewing process...

Speaking about comics, they really are growing in popularity back here. I think  that it comes down to the sheer entertainment value of them. No longer considered  'just for geeks'. The publisher, Image Comics, has been nailing it in terms of writing/story telling and art. They have titles in just about every genre you can think of. Walking Dead is by far the most popular series back here and it only continues to grow. I highly suggest any friends of guys back here to consider ordering comics or graphic novels for their friends if you're hunting for material to send  them. I try to do my very best to share with others and believe me, the comics that I do have get around, but it is increasingly more difficult to keep up with demand and popularity of certain series. You can order Volumes (typically 4-6 issue collections of a particular series) or Graphic Novels via amazon.com, or even used titles via amazon.com market place. Single issue comics and subscriptions are really easy to order from a wonderful business - Midtown Comics.  

I suggest ordering first, the Previews guide...it´s basically a HUGE monthly catalog that gives you a complete break down of all the titles/releases for a particular month. Midtown comics offers this for a little over three dollars each month.  It will allow your friend to find titles he or she might be interested in.

Some of the most popular titles around right now are The Walking Dead, Thief of Theives, The Tithe, Locke & Key, Rat Queens, Any super hero comic (X-Men seemingly the most popular of that genre...I'm more of a BatMan dude...)  Alex & Ada (which sadly ends this month), Copper Head, Star Wars and on and on...There's some really good stuff out there and I'm sure your pen friends would enjoy them. Okay, gotta get ready for the shakedown.  I hope it goes well.  


June 3rd, 2015

Everyone knew it was coming at any time and today it happened...the 90 day lock-down for death row. A little refresher course: Towards the end of 2008 there was a hug cell phone scandal...An inmate by the name of Richard Tabler was able to get  his hands on a cell phone and decided it would be an awesome idea to call a Texas State Senator and threaten him and his family. What purpose he thought this would serve is anyone's guess, but what it brought upon death row inmates was holy hell, and this place has been the worse for it ever since. From cameras being EVERYWHERE, to random shakedowns, a shakedown team, a death row designated mail room where mail is scrutinized closer than ever (and the main reason why it takes mail about seven days on average to get off of the unit) and lock downs every 90 days. What is the old adage? It only takes one person to srew it up for everyone else...But whatever, it is here and there's nothing anyone can say or do about it. Just prepare and hope for the best. I just hate the shake down part...having to fit ALL (exept electronics like a radio, hot pot, fan etc.) personal property into a bread crate that is about 3 and a half feet x 2 and a half feet or so...I've written about this before, but besides having almost no control over anything, I also don´t really own anything. Maybe in a quasi sense of ownership, but the truth is any guard at any time can break, throw away or confiscate any of our property. Wait, you say, they can't do that! People bought that for you, people used their own blood sweat and tears to work for that...to pay for that! And we're forever grateful, but the fact remains  - anything can happen to it. It is a real fear for us back here. Well, maybe fear is a strong word but there is always a sense of dread that fills the air of any lock down. What will we lose?

To add to the air of uncertainty, we have a new warden and new wardens like to make their mark. To show their authority. Each warden has their own pet peeves and how they like shake downs to happen. So, will this warden keep things as they've been for about the last two years or change it up?...

To be continued....


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