New Journals - 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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March 23rd, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

February 16th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

February 11th, 2021

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

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

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

My neighbor was dumbfounded, and told me,  

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

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

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

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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

February 3rd, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

January 25th, 2021

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

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

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

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


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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

January 24th, 2021

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

“Oh, it's just like the 'flu...”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


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