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

Go to content
  
June 28th, 2021

It's Monday afternoon and we just had some beautiful summer rain to cool everything down a little. It's also another day without rec, and all they did was showers this morning, which turned into a fiasco! The guard working tried to skip me saying I did not want a shower because I told him I didn't. We went back and forth with me asserting that I never said that and finally he relented and gave me my shower. I think he thought he could get one over on me because I was in bed with my light out when he was at my door. Sometimes they'll try to get slick and just skip you saying you were asleep when they asked you...I was very much awake! Sigh...

I heard the Warden on the prison radio station today, and he announced that nothing can return to normal until we hit a 70% vaccination rate. This is for the combined number of inmates and guards, and whilst there are a fair number of inmates who have not been vaccinated, I know of many guards who have said they're not getting vaccinated. So, this puts us in an unfair predicament because I do feel it should be a requirement of the guards to be vaccinated because it's us who are vulnerable.  

All I can say is that if you do write an inmate on Polunsky, please convince them to get vaccinated if they haven't or else we're going to be in this restrictive limbo where visitation and everything else is screwed up. There are a hundred things people do every that puts them at far greater risk of hurting or killing themselves than getting a flipping shot! It's an irrational fear. If you drink you're doing far greater harm to your body than a COVID shot would ever do!

The warden also mentioned the new mail restrictions and changes, but was very vague. I'll need to read the new rules properly to really understand what is going on. ALL he mentioned was tighter restrictions on what qualifies as 'sexually explicit' and 'pictures depicting sexual acts, clothed or unclothed'...But I really don't know. My only concern is when they have these new changes they're written in a way that it's often ambiguous and gives the mail room leeway to interpret it however they see fit. For example, when they first banned nude photos years ago, there was an exception for art, science, and educational material such National Geographic. But the fine print said that ultimately it's left up to the mailroom to define what qualifies as sexually explicit, and because people who work here aren't particularly well cultured, or versed in the fine arts...

National Geographic is often denied here as well as pictures from many artists, in particular, renaissance artists and images from the Sistine Chapel. I once had a Frida biography denied, and she is one of the most recognised Latin artists in the world!

So...we shall see. My complaint is that they create these arbitrary rules, often under the guise of security or trying to prevent sexual deviancy, but I'm pretty sure it's counter-productive and probably creates more problems in the long run. You can't expect prisons to be convents or monasteries.  

That's pretty much been my day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace


  
June 20th, 2021

Happy Father's Day...As I usually do on these holidays, I think of a memory of my parents and share it. So, I was thinking of some of the moments with my dad and one (I can't remember if I've shared or not) is the first time he took me deep sea fishing. It would be my first time out on the open ocean far away from the shore, and I was super excited about it. It was just the two of us and we joined a party boat. There was about 20-30 other people along with us, and I think I was the only kid; I was 11 years old at the time.  

As the boat was heading out dad and I went to the galley where there was a snack bar. He bought us burgers and fries and we ate those before heading back up to the deck and getting ready to fish.  

I'd never seen so much water in my life! I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and whilst not a big fan of fishing, I was really excited to deep sea fish. A boat hand gave us each a rod and a bucket of squid cut up into strips. They were disgusting and slimey. My dad showed me how to hold and to fold the strips of flesh and how to place it onto the hook.

We waited as the boat reached its destination. It slowed and first thing I noticed was the immediate rocking and swaying...The swells raising the boat up and down. My dad told me to keep my eyes focused on the horizon to keep from getting sea sick, but it did no good. All I could feel was my body and stomach going up and down like an endless roller coaster. I remember saying,  

“Dad, I don't feel so good.”

And then I handed him my rod. He told me to sit down and keep my eyes on the horizon.  

Suddenly, I began to get the cold sweats. Another fisherman saw me and said,  

“I think the kid is going to pop!”

I felt bile rise in the back of my throat and ran to the edge of the boat and exploded, throwing up everything we had eaten earlier. There were groans from other people fishing, and my dad grabbed me, helped me get back to a seat, and asked if anyone had any ice. I lay across the seat feeling like it was the end for me when a couple came to me with a sock filled with ice, and wrapped it around my neck. I lay there sweating and asking my dad if I was going to be okay. He joked that people should have no trouble catching something now that I just chummed the waters.  

The entire trip was a wash and I felt bad that I had ruined it by getting sea sick. But dad assured me it was natural, especially since it was my first time out at sea. Over the years, we'd take a few more trips out deep sea fishing, and I fared much better! I enjoyed our trips and the time with him.  

Happy Father's Day, dad...

So...things here have been about the same. We had two days of recreation this past week and then, starting on Friday, we've been trapped in our cells. I've written the Chaplain and the Head Warden about coming up with an alternative to recreation. I hadn't expected to hear anything back on it, but on Friday afternoon a Field Minister came to my door and said,  

“The Chaplain got your letter and thought it was a great idea, and something he thinks could be implemented. He's talking to the Wardens and we'll see what happens, but it's a good and feasible idea. He wanted you to know that.”

That made me feel good, and I remain cautiously optimistic. Something has to give and I'm trying to get others involved in writing the Warden and offering up ideas. I mean, the fact remains that regardless of how you feel about prisoners or death row prisoners in general, you cannot avoid the fact that we are the best behaved prisoners in the system. It's just fact. We defy every illusion that the state portrays us as, and we are not these 'continuing threats to society' that Jurors decide we are in order to see us executed. I just wish more people could see this.  

I'm still hoping that I return to Dallas soon, though, because I just need to get a break from this place.  

That's about it for this weekend...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


June 9th, 2021

Monday...I had my second vaccination of Moderna. By that evening I felt really weird with stomach pains, like I needed to go to the toilet but couldn't. It stayed with me the entire evening and early  morning when I got up. Then, all of my energy was completely zapped and I felt like death warmed over. I managed to drag myself to rec and then ended up laying across the table in the day room, and doing nothing. When I came back I lay in bed and as the day wound down my energy slowly started to recover.

I woke up feeling 100% this morning and I'm just glad to have it all out of the way. I  just want things to return to normal here. I want people to have their special visits back, to have regular visits, and for people to have optimism and their spirits raised....There is an air of defeat here and it sucks seeing person after person losing their minds.

Apparently a guy on Death Watch cracked on Sunday night and had a full on melt down. When we were hearing about it and told who it was, we were shocked. I've known this guy for a long time and he always had his wits about him and seemed very strong-minded. I guess everyone has their breaking point though.

There's another guy on my pod on F-Section who had a mental breakdown and for two days they had a guard sitting outside of his door with a can of gas in case he tried to hurt himself. It's all just sad. And again, it gets back to the system and them doing nothing about mental health or replacing the recreation that we don't get at times, or barely get. There's nothing else to occupy the mind. Not everyone can afford books and magazines...Not everyone has friends and family to see and to write to them. What are they supposed to do when the only thing they do have is recreation and they can't even get that most of the time?

Well, at least the sun is out. I went outside and it was amazing. I exercised and then lay in the sun, feeling the cool breeze against my skin.

Today has been really peaceful...Thank G-d for that!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace

June 5th, 2021

So, this week we had two days of recreation and that is it...There's a petition going around amongst the guys back here with a list of 'demands' to the Administration to get our privileges etc, and I read it, but I chose to not sign it because I fundamentally disagree with the approach and believe that some of the demands are unrealistic and over-reaching. Yes, I'm tired of being trapped in the cell but the reality of the situation is that they're short staffed.

Take today, for example...Only 8 staff members showed up to work. They had to have the night time officers stay until 9am to help get showers done. Then, they had to ship in officers from other units to staff the building to an acceptable level. So, in going back to my conversation I had with an officer a week ago, I think we do have to be mindful of that.

That being said, I don't like being trapped in the cell feeling anxious and with cabin fever setting in. I believe that if they don't allow us recreation, then they should provide an alternative. We can't demand that from back here – no amount of civil disobedience is going to work because of the environment we're in and because if we act up the knee jerk reaction is to 'lock the building down, give them sack-lunches, take their visiting privileges away, put them on discipline', and so on and so forth. Furthermore, any disobedience could be used as an excuse to restrict us even more. I can see the administration saying,

“See...they're acting like animals. This is why they can't and shouldn't have that.”

No. I think it's better to apply pressure from the outside, but that also requires people caring and I know that some people do, and more voice that they care, but actions speak louder than words.

I had a legal visit yesterday which was nice. I got out and talked to my investigator for a bit. I think everyone is excited that things are moving in my case and hearings are finally planned and I could potentially return to Dallas, even if for a short while. I don't know when I'll be going but I'm as ready as ever. I cannot tell you how great it is to see different faces at visitation, and to talk to my legal team in person. Phone calls are nice, but there's no comparison to sitting across from someone, looking into their eyes, and just talking like normal human beings. It's wonderful.

My investigator told me the Law of Parties Bill had died in the Senate, which is no surprise. Our legislators seem more concerned about addressing non-existing voter fraud phantoms and and anti-choice/anti-transgender Bills, than working on real problems.

But hey, that's Texas for ya!

I'm sick of the rain! This has been one of the wettest springs I can remember. Rain, rain, rain. On one hand, it's keeping things on the cool side, which I love. Normally by now we're in the high '90s and it feels like an inferno, but I really miss the sun. The other thing is there are mosquitoes everywhere and I'm not talking about your standard sized mosquitoes. These things are the size of pterodactyls and I wouldn't be surprised if one day I'm looking out my window and see one snatch a person up and fly off with them. They're freakin' mutants! When they get you they leave a welp the size of a quarter. And they don't bother flying off. They look at you like,

"Yeah, I did that. What's up? You want some more?”

I'm in my cell and I have bites all over me!

That's been my day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace!

June 2nd, 2021

I'm happy they running rec for two days in a row, but today is a mess and as the hours tick by, my odds of getting to rec become slimmer because we have these guards who want to leave people in the day room for 5 hours, not do their jobs and the things they're supposed to do without any accountability. Not every guard, but many, are just here for what is essentially a free pay check. Your tax dollars hard at work.

Yesterday was an okay day. I was out at rec for over 4 hours, but only three rounds of rec, so it wasn't that big of a deal to extend the time. I was happy to get out of my cell. I had to wait until second shift to get a shower, and the guards at night time got straight on it because it was A/B section's phone calls that night. When they finished the work they went straight to the calls. They told us mail would be late because they wanted to ensure that all of the calls were finished for those sections which was okay with us...I hope they do something similar on Thursday night when it's our section's turn for phone calls. We shall see.

So, a friend of mine back here had a visit yesterday and it looks like things are getting closer and closer to being back to normal. Apparently visits are still one hour, but they've filled the vending machines back up and are allowing snacks and drinks again. Both visitors and lawyers can purchase either drinks or snacks...that's cool. I think he said there were no sandwiches or salads yet, just chips, candy and pastries. He also said that if visitors can prove they're vaccinated they no longer have to take a COVID test before coming into the prison.

All very positive steps in the right direction. I'm eager to get my second vaccination. I'm due for the shot any day now. I'd like to have it before I leave for Dallas.

Yesterday we had storms and today we're sunny and bright. It's quite warm in the cell right now...I hope they can get the AC situated.

There's a bit of speculation and controversy back here right now...Some contractor has mounted these red boxes with what seems like an antenna of sorts on the buildings. Now, some people were told they were 'weather stations' which makes absolutely zero sense. Others speculate that it could be some kind of cell phone jamming technology, but that would be illegal because we are next to an airport and the FAA would never approve of something like that because it would effect the small planes in the area.

Others -  myself included – believe they are routers or some kind of wi-fi hot spot tech because some months ago it was approved that TDCJ would have a contract to approve secure and safe prisoner tablets to have access to a service like Jpay (again, I want to stress that this is all very safe and prisoners cannot access the internet or anything not pre-approved) for Jpay letters, and educational services etc. Now, we are all dubious that death row is included in that because we get left out of everything including the new video visit service, but one can speculate and hope, right? I just find it all very interesting.

Other than that, that's all that's going on in the world of death row for today...Trying to keep positive and hopeful!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


May 25th, 2021

Yesterday was a start to a very promising week. I was able to get outside with a friend – the guy I'm collaborating with on my screen play – and it was so nice outside. The storm clouds had abated and the sun was out. I did some exercises (he couldn't because he just had hernia surgery) and then we talked about the screen play, running ideas around and just enjoying being outside. When our rec time was up, the clouds immediately returned and it began to storm again. I'm not making that up! It was almost divine...ha ha.

I came in, cleaned myself, and waited on a shower which I was lucky enough to get because right after that, they shut rec and showers down for the rest of the day. Apparently a guard lost a handcuff key on F-Pod. We figured that the shut down would last for just an evening, but when I woke up, they told us we were not having either rec or showers today. Sheesh...!

We really don't know the reasoning behind today's decision either. So, I've spent the day today catching up on some writing work, listening to the radio, and passing the time as best I can. It does no good to sit around and mope.

Honestly, I'm eager for Friday and my visit with someone from my legal team. It'll be the first in over a year, and it'll be great! Just to see a familiar face and catch up...Of course, I hope to have a positive legal update as well.

That's pretty much all that's been going on.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


May 23rd, 2021

It's Sunday morning and I've just returned from the shower, which since Friday we've been getting on a regular basis again. Our month long lockdown was the longest we've had since 2008, and ended yesterday morning. I was finally able to get out of my cell and go to recreation, first round.

The entire weekend has been pretty good. I hope this positivity continues into the nex week and good things are coming. It's time for things to turn around.

On Friday afternoon I was surprised with an attorney phone call. Normally I would go out to the visitation room, but instead they have mounted phones outside of these 'legal booths' on the building. I was told it would be for an hour, and it was a great call. I had some promising news and I was super-excited to learn that in-person legal visits have opened up fully from Monday-Friday, and so I'll more than likely have one this coming Friday. I can't begin to describe how great that will be. To actually see someone in person after so long – over a year! I'm supposed to have some legal updates this coming Friday that I'm eager and excited to hear about. All I can say is that I left the cell feeling much lighter and hopeful. This past year has just beat us down back here...

I don't want to dismiss the feelings and damaging effects of the pandemic and lockdown for people outside. It was thrust upon them and it's easy for us to think,

“Oh, even if you're trapped in your house, you have all of these things to make life comfortable.”

That might be true, but I'm also mindful of the emotional and mental impact it's had on everyone. Losing friends, family members, and losing work. I get it.

For us, back here, the effect is not seeing our loved ones. Being cut off completely from the world, restricted to a five minute phone call every now and then, having a rogue mail room who sits on mail or denies every little thing because of new FAILING mail room policies of restricting cards and paper, and everything else, to 'prevent the smuggling of contraband'. It's always been the guards bringing in the drugs and other contraband. In fact, since the new mail room policies, contraband has only INCREASED.

For the record, the mail room is still rogue, sitting on mail weeks before they mail it out. Sitting on incoming mail for weeks, finding an excuse to deny every little thing. I once was denied religious material because they classified it as a 'brochure'. I was like,

“This is a Jewish newsletter...not a brochure.”

Anyways, I don't want to make this a rant about the mail room. My point is it has been really hard on all of us with the feeling of isolation. Some had had their paranoia and mental health issues increase, and a long list of other symptoms due to COVID-19.

It's nice to know things are slowly opening up again.

After the good news on Friday afternoon, I settled into the evening and that was really nice. I woke up on Saturday and was able to get out to recreation early in the morning and talk to some guys I've not chatted with in a while.

I talked to one guy who's getting off death row and could leave any day now...He has a reputation for being a bully, and I said,

“Look...You may be getting a life sentence. Don't let that be an excuse to go back to old ways. You're in a very unique position. You were on death row. You have a chance to speak to younger prisoners wherever you go and lift them up, give them hope and talk to them in bettering themselves and getting out and staying out. The best way to change things for yourself and for the youngsters out there is to encourage them to do good and educate themselves. Take advantage of what the system has to offer. The best way to stick it to the man is to become better than the man. Period.”

He said he was going to try and I had to pull out my best Yoda impression and say,

“No. Do or do not. There is no try.”

I'm really happy for the few guys about to get off death row, and I pray for my own day as well.

The execution of Quintin Jones hit a lot of us hard. I knew him for almost 18 years...There are so many questions that need to be answered concerning his execution. They never allowed the media in to witness and that is highly suspicious. TDCJ is calling it a 'miscommunication' but everyone is like,

“Get real...the busiest execution machinery in the world for 40+ years, and you had a 'miscommunication'??”

I just hope people won't let this slide and they'll demand an investigation and answers. As someone said on the news the other night,

“This only highlights one of the reasons the death penalty should not happen. The chances are too great for human error.”

We'll see what happens. All we can do is hope that the coming week is a bit brighter and full of hope.

Well here's hoping this next week will be full of....

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


  
May 20th, 2021

I'm sad, dismayed, and angry this morning, as many of us are back here...When the Execution Watch program on KPFT 90.1 (kpft.org) ended yesterday, Quin Jones was still alive. It had been reported that his attorneys were talking to the Governor in hopes of receiving a 30 day reprieve.  

It really looked like it was going to happen, so much so that the guards back here had been told to prepare a cell with a mattress, clean laundry, and be ready for Quin to come back to the prison later that night. We were all hopeful and excited about this.  

Then, on the 10pm news, someone yelled out that the execution went ahead, and we were all shocked and upset. You could feel the energy drop out, and the entire place went silent. I shook my head in complete disgust  

Our Governor had an opportunity to show a modicum of mercy and compassion – it was a 30 day reprieve, not a flippin' life sentence! It would have given Quin's attorneys just a little more time to either re-address clemency, or file some kind of appeal, and it would have cost Abbott nothing politically. Nothing! In fact, he would have looked wise, compassionate, and like he really cared what the victim's family thought because they were begging him for a stay as well. They did not want the man executed. The sister of the victim, Quin's great aunt, said on the news,  

“I've visited him. He has changed and I forgive him. I don't want to see him executed.”

Earlier that same day, Abbott, in signing an anti-abortion bill in Texas went on and on about the 'sanctity of life'. Greg Abbott goes on about his strong Catholic beliefs, and still executes people in spite of the Pope being against the death penalty!

And I hate to 'go there', but I'm going to! The racial overtones in this case reek to high heavens!! Thomas Whitaker, a white man who came from a very affluent background and who had his mother and brother killed, and also had his father shot (who survived), well, his father asked the Governor to not make him a victim again and take away his son. Clemency granted!!

Quintin Jones, poor, black, and who grew up in the Fort Worth housing projects, has his family beg and plead for clemency, and then a 30 day reprieve after clemency was rejected, is executed. I mean, come on!!!!!! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out...I don't know the Governor's heart. He has to answer to a higher power. What I do know is that he had a chance to show mercy and he rejected it. I would hope that this wakes more people up to things, but will it really? Will more people begin to get active, and not just talk the talk, but walk the walk? We're tired of being let down...We don't have the luxury of putting our faith in politicians...I don't know what else to say about the issue, except that Quin did NOT deserve to die.

They've begun the second round of vaccinations today. Some of us, myself included, are a few days away from the other guys who received it, so I expect to have my second shot next week. I think I'll give it until next week before I might request one if I have to. Hopefully they're keeping track of everything.  

We're still on lockdown and it's really grey and wet. I feel so 'bleh' today...I'm trying to push through it, but honestly, I'm just angry and depressed and it's doing me no good.  

On with the day...

Because they didn't do showers yesterday, they started doing showers this morning at 3am. A guard asked me if I wanted mine and I said,  

“YES!”

I really hope they'll let us go to recreation next week. I'm so tired of being trapped in this cell. I had gotten back into a really good exercise routine and jogging before the lockdown, and whilst I'm still exercising in my cell every day, nothing beats a good thirty minute jog outside.  

Other than that I'm working on writing projects and keeping my mind busy.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


  
May 19th, 2021

Today there is a scheduled execution. I'm praying that by the time I close this journal entry, there will be some positive news of a stay...Please G-d!

Since I came back to A-Pod in mid-November last, this is the first time someone with an execution date has gotten to the actual day of his execution. I haven't liked being so close to Death Watch as it was such a dreadful experience for me – as it is for all of us back here – but I've been glad to be around guys I call close friends.  

I'm also glad that Captain Carter makes sure that the guys on death watch receive their recreation, get their phone calls, and she treats them with humanity. Even in the worst of circumstances, that's all you can hope for. Regardless of how you feel about the death penalty, or even the condemned individual, when the humanity is taken from the equation, you're really no better than the people you despise.  

I've been really anxious and jittery today...I hate that this still goes on, and I wish it would just end. I don't understand it and I don't want to accept it because, as a country, we truly lose any kind of credibility with human rights and the like. Sure, some people say,  

“Well, I'll take this justice system over anywhere else in the world, because it's better than any other.”

But is that really true? Do you really believe that when there is still racial injustice, when a person doesn't have due process or a fair trial because he has a Judge who hates him merely for the fact that he's Jewish or Black or Latino, or gay? Do you really believe it's the best system in the world?

Anyways...I'm praying hard that the stay comes today.

Yesterday evening I listened to the narrated version of 'A Quiet Place'. Now, I've listened to this movie before, but I honestly had zero idea of what was happening because most of the film is silent. So, a narration fit this movie perfectly and I was blown away! Even some of my neighbors were like,  

“That was amazing!! I don't even like listening to movies, but that just had me all the way!”  

I really feel like I've 'seen' this movie now. The opening sequence is truly terrifying and so heartbreaking, and then a scene towards the end, with the father and his daughter...I was in tears. I don't want to spoil it, but even if you're not into thrillers or scary movies, this one is so brilliantly made. I think it will have to go onto my list of 'movies to see before you die'. I'm really excited about the sequel that comes out next week. It'll be a few  months before the prison radio station can get it, but that'll be one to not be missed!

The rainbow I described made the Houston news! Apparently there is a video and pictures of it. You must check it out online. It was truly breathtaking!

Well...the evening closed out with one of my favourite music programs, and I heard some really great songs, especially the Cure song, 'Home Sick'. I love that song. I also heard 'Ghost of You' by Psychedelic Furs.

We're still on lockdown whilst the rest of the unit is up and doing their thing. I really need to get out of this cell.  

Well, we'll see how the day ends...Please, G-d, grant a stay!

6.08pm...We've just heard that the execution is going ahead...Please let this crap just END!

Wait!...We just heard that Governor Abbott is considering a 30 day reprieve...Please G-d!

9.30pm...Still no word, here. I'll keep praying, and hoping we hear some good news.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


  
May 18th, 2021

Yesterday it stormed for most of the day. In the evening I was laying in bed, half listening to the radio and staring at the ceiling. A splash of yellow poured across the ceiling, but I didn't think anything of it...I just laid there in deep thought.  

Because of where my cell is, I can see the sun rise towards the east, but I really can't see the sunset. I can see some of the sky change colors in the west, out towards the field where the cows are, and every now and then I'll get up and look for a short while, and then get back down from the window. But when someone yelled from D-section (their cells face the field and can watch the sunset in all of its glory),

“Hey, y'all! Check out that sunset.”

I thought,  

“Ehhh, I'll not even bother tonight.”

But something nagged at me so I stood up and peered out of my window to see the most breathtaking rainbow in a complete arc, stretching across the entire prison. The colors were so vivid and it practically shimmered against a grey and orange sky. I must've stood in awe for 10 minutes, just watching it. I've had the good fortune to see a couple of rainbows since being on death row, but this truly was the most beautiful of them all.  

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and felt fully charged and ready to go, even though you've only had a few hours of sleep? That happened to me about about 2am. My eyes shot open and I had a surge of energy. I felt like I had slept a full 8 hours! I lay in bed for a few minutes, checked the radio (I was able to purchase a brand new radio recently, and the reception is remarkable. I still miss listening to some TV, but I'll get over it) and then I thought,  

“I need to get myself back to sleep!”

I fell back to sleep about ten minutes later and woke back up at 5.50am.

At 6am I heard the album 'Our Time in Eden' by 10000 Maniacs – most definitely in my top 20 of all time favourite albums. As I got up and listened to it I had a funny memory come back to me...I had never heard of the band and I was over at my best friend, Chad's, house. We were all in his living room – myself, Chad, his sister, and a few of her friends. I must've been about 14 years old. One of her friends was wearing a t-shirt that said '10000 Maniacs' and I asked,  

“What is that? A heavy metal band?

The guy looked at me like I was joking, and said,  

“You serious, dude?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I've never heard of them.”

“No, it's not metal...”

How was I to know?

Anyways...When 'Our Time in Eden' came out I bought the album and was blown away by it. I highly recommend it to everyone. I can't really describe it, but if you like Natalie Merchant, you'll love it.  

Sigh...There's a scheduled execution tomorrow, and that's on my mind, and I'm praying hard that the guy receives a stay. I can't imagine what it must do to a person when they get right down to the very last minute...It's an unbearable thought.

I wanted to share a story from my Chick Soup Neshama...Now, my Rabbi has told me a variation of this story before, and it's always resonated with me. Here it is...

The sand sparkled in the sunlight along the ocean shore. Scattered along the beach were thousands of starfish, dehydrating in the afternoon heat. A little boy walked along the shore, picking up each starfish and gently tossing it into the sea.

An old man watched the child's actions in dismay. He ran to the boy and asked,

Why are you bothering? Look how many thousands of starfish are scattered along the sand! Do you really think you are making a difference?”

The young boy reached down and picked up a starfish, and with pride he tossed it into the ocean.

I just made a world of difference to that one!”

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace!

May 16th, 2021

Sunday...I've been spending the day thinking about some programs that the prison radio station played from National Geographic, about the death penalty. The series was originally aired on the BBC, I believe. Yesterday they focused on Texas and it was very difficult to listen to, but I forced myself. Every one of those guys that the series focused on, I knew or still know. I was and still am filled with so much emotion from listening to it.  

I was surprised at how fair and even-handed the docu-series was from both points of view – the victims' families, and the condemned. And people may roll their eyes at this, but I did cry for both sides. To hear the pain in the families' voices...some refusing forgiveness, some torn about giving forgiveness, and some willing to give forgiveness...And then, the pain of the family of the condemned...losing a son, a brother, a nephew.  

It made me think about a lot of things and I can only speak for myself on this, but it cemented my personal beliefs about the act of forgiveness and my own walk in seeking forgiveness – even if it's never given. Genuinely seeking forgiveness is a very important part of redemption. In my own walk in seeking forgiveness, I've acknowledged this about myself: I'm flawed...I'm deeply flawed...I can be immature and sometimes have unrealistic expectations, and operate in a way that seems naïve or even oblivious at times. But that doesn't mean I can't ask for forgiveness daily – not just forgiveness in itself, but for the chance to learn and grow from each thing I get wrong, and for any bad decisions I make.

In spite of these flaws, I do believe I'm a decent person and I try to live in a way that reflects decency. I don't always say or do the right things, but I have the drive and desire to do the right thing and act in compassion and forgiveness. That's really all I can do, right? Walk the walk, or talk the talk.  

“To become different from what we are, we must know who we are.”

I'm definitely witness the mental breakdown of the guy whose spirits I tried to lift on Friday. He's recently begun to hear voices, and often accuses people of talking about him when no one is saying anything. I know he's under tremendous stress right now, and all we can do is try to encourage him to keep positive and hopeful, and to continue to lift him up and be there for him. What saddens me though is the behaviour of my neighbor, because, whilst meaning no harm (I hope not anyways!) he'll rile the guy up and mess with him, thinking it's funny. I've told him to knock it off and he'll stop for a while and then start messing with him again. He'll say he's just playing afterwards, but this really isn't a situation to be 'playing'.

The power went out late last night for a few hours, but no one seems to know why. I went to sleep early and didn't even notice.  

That's been my weekend...I pray that this new week brings some good things, and hopefully an end to this dreadful lockdown.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace.  

May 15th, 2021

Saturday...Still on lockdown!! Still trapped in our cells!!

I was watching the sun rise earlier, and geeze...what I wouldn't do to be outside and enjoying a bit of fresh air.  

They've been giving us three hot meals a day now because General Population are completely off their lockdown. We should be finished with ours, but because they wanted to bounce around to other buildings, there are three pods left for shakedown and they probably won't finish that until next Wednesday. So, we're looking at Thursday or Friday...Maybe. They're extremely short staffed as well, which always affects whether we leave our cell or not for recreation. All I know is that something has to change in terms of giving us some  kind of stimuli. You know, I've said it before, but we are the most well behaved prisoners in the system, and yet we are treated like pariahs.  

I'll give an example...A friend of mind just went to the hospital to have hernia surgery. They perform all surgeries for the incarcerated, in Galveston. So, during the process of a couple of trips, he'd stay for a few days each time in a filthy cell with nothing to do – no writing material, no books, nothing. He was saying that because there are guys from all across the system in cells around him, many of them mentally ill, it's been impossible for him to sleep. There might be a guy rapping in the cell next to him, or another guy whistling, or guys banging on doors and yelling...Officers would come by to check on people and my friend would be pacing the cell, or laying quietly. Just about every officer would say,  

“You guys that come from death row are the most well behaved people across the state!”

Everyone knows this. Guards tell us this all of the time and still we're treated like raving mad men, by the state. It's easy to get frustrated when we're treated the way we are, when most of us are remorseful and regretful and have learned from our mistakes. Most of us just want – at the very least – a chance at life, and to show how we've changed. Believe what you want to believe, but just because the state tells you the sky is purple, doesn't mean it's true.  

The state sells juries the big lie that we're all 'future threats of dangerousness' – one of the 3 special questions they must answer 'yes' to in order to sentence a person to death. But it's a lie...There's no data or empirical evidence that comes close to supporting that. NONE. Do the research yourself and you'll see. It's one big freaking lie – a lie so that the state can scare people into believing the only solution is to kill them.  

Rant over...

I'm trying to figure out what I want to do for the day. Mail is so jacked up that no one is getting their reading material, letters or anything else, on time. We're bored out of our skulls. Morning programs on the prison radio station are varying faith based programs, and I'm so bored by mainstream music on the radio that it leaves me few options. I'm a little restless today. When my mind is like this I can't even focus on reading a book.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


May 14th, 2021

Friday...Still on lockdown. Will this ever end? The way it's looking, maybe next Wednesday.  

I woke up at about 5.45am, and started to get ready for my shower. I wanted to exercise but I knew I wouldn't have time, so I'll do things throughout the day to keep  my body moving.  

I spent a good part of the morning trying to lift someone's spirits. He's going through some person al health issues, dealing with some bad appeal news, and some family troubles. He told me things were becoming too much to bear. I said,  

“Look...you can have all of the bad pile up and beat you down. But it only takes one good thing to turn all of that around. I have my bad days where everything feels like it's piling up, but I try to push through and carry on. It's all we can do in this place. Tell yourself, 'It only takes one good thing to turn things around', and keep hope alive.”

I received some legal mail...Nothing really happening right now, but it did make me realise how much I miss actually seeing my attorneys and talking with them. With the TDC shifting guidelines, and more of us receiving our injections, it's only a matter of time before things begin to open up more and return to normal.  

We've been getting hot meals more frequently, which is a plus. Sometimes they'll throw a sack meal at us, but at least with a hot meal you can get some fresh veggies. Well, as long as it isn't broccoli...Please, no broccoli!

I'm waiting to see what tonight's movie is going to be for this Friday's prison radio station scary movie.  Mostly though, I'm just missing people, and I hope they know it...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  


  
May 13th, 2021

I love this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I woke up this morning a little tired, but ready to take on the day. The sun is shining brightly and it's a nice change from the storms we've been having lately. I don't mind the rain and cloudy skies...Sometimes it can be the most wonderful and beautiful thing in itself, but when you're trapped in a cell and can't get out of it for weeks on end, having the sunlight and standing on your bed to look at a bright and beautiful world...It's medicine for the soul! I crave the sunlight on my face and skin. I want to breathe some fresh air and jog outside, and then lay on the hot concrete and stare at the sky as the hawks circle high above.  

We're still on lockdown and probably will be until next week. Many of us were really happy when we heard the news that yet another guy has had his death sentence thrown out – I hope we continue down this path. I'm praying hard for the guy whose execution is scheduled for next week...May G-d grant him a stay.  

I didn't get much sleep last night because I was listening to some late night music programs on the prison radio station. I was in bed at 1am and then got up at 7. Our breakfast was a cup of oatmeal, a pancake, a pb&j sandwich, two hard boiled eggs, and a handful of raisins. That's definitely more than they've been giving us lately...No complaints from me!

That's pretty much been my day.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.

  
May 8th, 2021

I'm sitting here on a Saturday morning, sunlight pouring through my window, and feel fairly rested after a stressful Friday. Actually, it began on Thursday afternoon when the red crates for shakedown arrived.  

For those who haven't read about me explaining the red crates...It's a large plastic crate that ALL of our property, excluding electronic items and legal work, has to fit into. It's a way of preventing inmates from holding onto too much junk in their cells. For some guys, food is the most important, and for others it's books, cards, letters etc. So we make room for what we value most, first.  

The first crate arrived on Thursday afternoon, for a person the ranking officers search. He's super high security for various reasons. The officer on the pod said she didn't expect that they'd give the red crates to us, but then came the rest of them. They passed the crates out and we knew they'd begin the shakedown on Friday.  

I began to pack up my stuff and was surprised I didn't need to sacrifice anything, and had room to spare. Out of force of habit from many years of being moved from cell to cell every couple of weeks, I've learned to keep things light and I've never been one to hoard things or get overly sentimental about property, books etc. I usually give things away.  

So, I waited and waited to be shaken down and then two guards arrived, strip searched me again, and brought me back to my section. I took a deep breath expecting to see a mess in my cell, but to my surprise, everything was nice and orderly, stacked up neatly on my bed. My clothes line was still up and that usually gets pulled down.  

I couldn't see anything damaged or missing, so once the cuffs were off I set to the task of straightening out my cell. I was back in shape in no time.  

Today, I woke up feeling okay and we're fortunate to be having a hot lunch. It's my brother's birthday today, so a BIG 'Happy Birthday' to him!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.  

  
May 6th, 2021

So, I've had my COVID vaccination. At first my arm was a bit tender, but when I woke up yesterday I could barely move my arm, but thought that if I did a little light workout it would loosen up. It did.

After that I rinsed off in sink and started my day when suddenly I felt like crap. I had a throbbing headache, the cold chills, and my body ached all over. I spent the entirety of the day in bed.  

I woke up feeling much better this morning, but still a little funky. As the day goes on I'm getting more of my strength back. My arm still aches a little, but I'm glad I had the shot.  

We're still on lockdown as I write this and it's looking it's going to be another two weeks. The biggest reason it's moving so slowly is because of staff shortages in terms of prison guards. It's really bad right now.  

We were allowed to fill out orders for stamps and hygiene supplies, so at least they're letting us have that.  

I received one of those 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' books the other evening, and this one in particular is filled with Jewish wisdom and quotes. I'm reading one story a day and it's quite good.  

One of my ideas for the prison radio station was accepted today. I'd been trying to convince them to do a scary movie night on Friday nights called, 'Friday Night Frights'. We're all looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

That's been my day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.

May 4th, 2021

Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you...ha ha.

Yesterday was a bit on the dull side of things, and then last night the guards kept making a bunch of noise throughout the night, so I didn't get a great night's sleep. Still, I woke up feeling energetic and upbeat, all things considered. I got out of bed, and when the laundry officer was exchanging razors, I was thinking I'd like to go back to bed for an hour, but I decided to get the show on the road and dived right into it.  

At first, dazzling sunlight was blasting through the slit that is my window. But as I write this it looks like the apocalypse and it's storming pretty heavily. G-d willing, we won't lose the power!

I had my first vaccination this morning. I was told by the nurse that the shot I was getting was Moderna. Some of the other guys received Pfizer, but I'm not concerned one way or the other. I'm just happy to have gotten it out of the way. The guard that took me out to the nurse said,

“You're going to get it in the arm, right?”  

I said,  

“Yeah, isn't everyone?”

He said,  

“Well, I took a guy from AD-SEG for his shot, and he asked the nurse to give it to him in his penis.”

I scrunched my face like, “Ouch!” Then I said,

“Yeah, I think he had other motives with that request. What did the nurse think?”

To which he replied,

“She cussed at him and jabbed him in the arm really hard.”

I received a vaccination card too. A lot of us have instinctual feeling that those who refuse the shot are going to be restricted in some kind of way when things begin to open up more. It might be with recreation, it might be with how they receive visits, who knows? But I know TDCJ and I know that even when you have a choice on certain things, refusal comes with a cost. I've been trying to encourage others to get the vaccine...The benefits of getting the jab will far outweigh lockdown after lockdown, and restrictions on everything else.  

Here's to hoping to get back to normal!

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  

Peace.

May 2nd, 2021

It's early Sunday morning and it started off a bit negatively on the pod. My eyes shot open at 5.30am because all the cell lights were on. I lay there hoping they would turn off because, whilst I did have a decent night's sleep, I had a mild headache and wouldn't have minded another 30 minutes of sleep time.

Well, there was some new guard coming around...Really young, and with a chip on his shoulder, and guys began to ask him to turn the lights off. That's when things became negative because the guard wanted to be confrontational, and no inmate was going to tell him what to do. He cussed...guys cussed back at him, and I thought,

“Here we go...”

One of the guys I'm living near was super angry and I had to tell him,

“Man, ignore it. Don't let the guy rile us up. It's obviously how he gets his jollies. Ignore it.”

I admit, it's not easy when people act that way towards us, but I'm really trying a new strategy within myself. I felt so silly having gotten irritated over the property officer because I was owed nothing. Nothing! I thought,

“You know what? You need to change your thought process and stop letting things get under your skin.”

I've always been proud of my patience, but lately it's short and I feel I complain too much and I'm frustrated all the time.  It's got to stop! I hate feeling this way...I feel like I've come up short on promises to G-d when I received my stay. I'm sure everyone in the world does, but it doesn't make me not want to do better...and I really, really want to do better. I'm trying...

I woke up telling myself yesterday,

“It's a new month, heading into a new week, and a whole bunch of promise. Let's make it better.”

Friday night we received some awesome news that one of my closest friends, Clinton, received a recommendation from the trial court judge to receive a new trial. I was so happy about that and I pray that the CCA will adopt that recommendation. He was once on Death Watch a couple of years ago and has been fighting so hard for this...G-d willing it will work out positively for him. I'm just so happy for him!

Things have to get better...

On Saturday I listened to some radio programs, then on the prison radio station the night time movie was, 'Book Smart', which is pretty funny. It was followed by a concert with the band 'Police' and a comedy set from Eddie Murphy. It was pretty funny. It was the old comedy, 'Eddie Murphy: Raw'. That said some of the jokes he told could not be repeated today and were a bit.....well, not funny.

The sun is finally out today which is a true blessing. We've had a week of storms and it's just....when you're stuck in your cell all day and it's dark and 'bleh', you just want some sunshine to come pouring through.

I heard the Cure song, 'The Loudest Sound' the other night. It's on the Blood Flowers album. It's been about 20 years since I last heard it and as I was listening all I could think was,

“Wow...what a beautiful and perfectly written song.”

Sparse lyrics that say so much....The music is dreamy...The guitar work and rhythm are flawless. I highly recommend it. Heck, if I were to pick my favourite songs off the Blood Flowers album, they would be:

Our of this World
The Last Day of Summer
There is no If
The Loudest Sound

And the two longest songs on the album:

Watching me fall  
Blood Flowers

Check them out!

I'm still waiting on my vaccination as they never made it to us last week...hopefully this week. I'm sending in a request to medical just to make sure. Some guys refused the shot initially, and then changed their minds so they have to go through the sign-up process all over again.

Well, here's hoping that May will be a great month, that this week will a great week and prayers will soon be answered for everyone...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace


Back to content