It's been a strange couple of days...It all started on Friday when I woke up to the news that there was going to be a new mail policy that begins on 1st March. It's another example of TDCJ's over-reaction to a problem, instead of trying to find an actual solution so that inmates don't get caught in the middle.
So, firstly as little background history...There's a chemically engineered drug called K2 (also know as 'spice') and apparently people have been dying because of it, in prisons right across Texas and around the country. Because it can be sprayed onto literally anything, it's the number 1 choice for people to get high on. The TDCJ claims that people on the outside are spraying it on cards and letters via lipstick kisses and/or perfume, and apparently guys are shredding the cards/letters and smoking it. Because it's so potent some guys are freaking out and either having medical problems like heart failure, or hurting themselves because of the extreme hallucinogenic effect.
Fine...That is serious and should absolutely be addressed. However, what I do know is that the MAJORITY of all drugs don't come from people's loved ones and friends, but instead they come from those working for the State. With the extreme staff shortages, it's no surprise that there would be an influx of drugs/contraband, and a break down of security.
But...the reaction/response is the following, beginning in March:
People who write to inmates in Texas prisons will no longer be able to send a greetings card or post card of ANY kind...NO holiday cards, NO birthday cards, NO Valentines cards or 'Thinking of You' cards. NOTHING.
All letters sent to inmates must be on plain white paper, and the envelopes must be plain white as well.
No letter may contain ANY stickers, perfume, lipstick kisses, or even any kind of drawing by crayon, coloured pencils, or paint. (I know some people get drawings from their kids or nephews/nieces). So, when you write beginning in March, be aware of this because if you send a letter via a card or post card, or on colored paper and envelopes, the letter will be denied and destroyed...If it happens more than a couple of times from the same person, they will be banned from writing to inmates.
If you mail photographs, you are only allowed to send 10 photos per envelope, at a time.
Now, this part is really important! Sometimes Amazon.com will use personal carriers to deliver books etc. TDCJ will no longer accept ANY packages/books that do not come directly from UPS/Federal Express or the United States Postal Service...If you order books for someone, it's very important that you specify delivery via one of those services, and not by an individual carrier.
And now for those who visit inmates...Please be aware that TDCJ is saying that visitors are going to be subject to drug dogs sniffing them. If they smell ANY drug (including marijuana) then that visitor, and ALL visitors in their party, will be turned away from visiting that individual. If it happens a second time, the visitor will be banned from EVER seeing the inmate again. Now, I know some people smoke weed at home, or in the car...Please keep in mind that the smell sticks to your clothing! So, even if you don't have anything on you or in your car at the time you visit, that scent is on you and the drug dogs will sniff it out, and you will be turned away – regardless of whether it's on your person or not. Think smart, people! It might be legal in some States now, but it's still not legal in Texas.
Sigh...I'm really upset at the card thing because I enjoy sending cards to my girlfriend, and to my friends. I really enjoy receiving cards from my girlfriend who is an amazing crafter, designer, and artist, and recently she's been making some amazingly beautiful handmade cards, and it sucks to now have to lose that...
Anyways, when I know more about these rules, and if by chance they're amended in any way, I will talk about it again. I personally hope they get push back on the cards because a lot of organizations and churches send inmates cards on their birthdays and the holidays – it really helps to lift our spirits up.
Well, the weirdness continued when my radio had just stopped working...I was sick to my stomach!! I fiddled with it all Friday afternoon, giving up around 10pm. I told myself I'd mess with it again on Saturday after some sleep – I did not want to miss my girlfriend's shout out to me on Christmas night! I didn't expect us to have recreation because I had heard we wouldn't be off lock down until Monday...I went to sleep feeling sad and sick.
When I woke up the following day, they were setting up rec. I told myself I'd go to rec and then after a shower I would start trying to fix my radio again. Well, rec and showers were soon cancelled due to staff shortages...again! I got to work on my radio and it came back to life and I was relieved. I settled into a Star Wars marathon on the radio, and then listened to a music program called, 'Live From Here' that comes on NPR every Saturday night...This is date time with my girlfriend, and it's a special thing we've been doing for over two years now.
After the show was over I went back to Star Wars, then I heard a review of the new movie! I was excited because the critics (not that I listen to them anyways, but still...) say it's good. I can't wait to read the book and all the material along with it, which my girlfriend is sending to me!
This morning I was still fast asleep at 6.45 when an officer asked if I was going to rec. I said, “When?” and she said, “Right now.” I asked her to give me some time to get up as I hadn't expected recreation on a Sunday because it's typically an 'off' day for the building. It was nice to get up and get out and I caught up with my friend, Blaine, who had recently received some really good appeal news. I'm so happy for him and hope it turns into something really positive!
I am looking forward to the coming week, and Chanukah begins tonight! Happy Chanukah to all of my Jewish brothers and sisters...My girlfriend made a beautiful cardboard Menorah for me so that I could color in the flames and candles each night, but the mail has let us down and it hasn't arrived yet...[A picture is attached below]. The black and white picture I saw attached to a Jpay was enough to show me how lovely it is and to imagine 'lighting' it in my mind.
And of course, there'll be some decent holiday food on Christmas Day, for everyone. I'm going to make some food for my friends on one of these Chanukah days. I've not picked a day out yet, but more than likely Friday or Saturday. (I know it will be Shabbos, but still....ha ha).
Anyways, happy holidays to everyone, and as always:
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 11th, 2019
Another day...Day 8 on lock down, to be precise. I am making do as best I can but it sucks because we're all running out of supplies and we haven't been to commissary for some time. The lock down just pushed it away even further...I'm hungry, but not starving, thanks to my neighbour who has raisins and prunes and always offers some to me which is very kind.
I was listening to a Trump rally last night and as he was talking I couldn't help but wish I had access to a computer and some cool film editing software. I'd love to put Trump's voice over scenes from Star Wars and Darth Sidious (aka the Emperor). I think the juxtaposition would be seamless and quite funny! Maybe it's already been done, but if not, please...somebody do it. It would be hilarious!!
I didn't sleep very well last night because we had a jerk of an officer working our pod. Besides waiting until almost 11pm to pass out mail, he kept turning the lights in the cells on and off just to irritate people. He seemed to get a kick out of it. I stayed up late listening to late night talk shows...One of the best is Seth Myers. His 'A Closer Look' is one of his best segments, and whilst being humorous, he really breaks down a political issue and gets to the heart of the matter in a really informative way. His break down of the Trump impeachment was spot on and he showed how the Republican's were spinning and misrepresenting Trump's actions. I think both he and Samantha Bee are the best at getting to the meat of the issue.
I finally fell asleep and got out of bed close to 8am. The sun was out whilst still being cold, and the guards said they're shaking down on D-Pod which means that they might be here on Friday or Monday?? I hope so!
Sadly there's another execution today...I'm really trying not to think about it and I won't be listening to Execution Watch tonight...After the way I felt following Justen Hall's execution, I'm just not emotionally strong enough...I was over there with those guys and it feels too close to home...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 9th, 2019
I woke up and laid in bed until around 7.40am...I couldn't believe how quickly the month was moving – nine days into December already??
Well, we're still on lock down. They shook down E-Pod today (and Ad-Seg) and I expect they'll do D and C-Pods tomorrow, which means they could be here where I am by Thursday or Friday. They should be done with 12 building by Monday or Tuesday, but I still don't expect them to be finished with the unit until the week of Christmas.
We learned today that there was a death on F-Pod on Friday night/early Saturday morning. Apparently the man died of natural causes. It's another thing that should raise eyebrows as we seem to have a death on 12 building every few months because of either natural causes or suicides, and then there's the recent murders...
The thing about F-Pod is I know for a fact that many of these men are often starved by the guards, as a further means of punishment. F-Pod is commonly used as the discipline pod – or the 'dungeon' as we refer to it. The food trays are bad enough, but if you piss off a guard they often refuse to give a person any food...Over time, this can lead to malnutrition.
Because F-Pod is in the very back of the building and the 'supervisors' never go down there unless there's a use of force, the guards get away with starving and abusing tactics. So, I wouldn't be surprised if the man who died of natural causes was malnourished...Of course, this will be another death that'll go unreported and the public will never hear about it...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 8th, 2019
It's a grey Sunday morning and quite chilly. Whenever it's like this I'm always taken back to the fall/winter of 1994 when I was obsessed with Morrissey's album, 'Viva Hate'. I was a huge fan of the Smiths, and my friend and guitarist, Dan, told me I should really give that particular album a chance. I liked it straight away! There was something about the atmosphere of the album that fit that particular season.
So, we've been on lock down since Tuesday last...There were rumors that we could possibly go on lock down, especially with the recent murders in general population and another attempted murder of an inmate who was found stabbed in his cell. The guards got him to hospital quickly enough to save him, thank goodness.
Most people think they will wait until after Christmas to start shaking us down, but it's going to be a long and tough one, especially with the incredible staff shortages we have right now. I think they'd still allow us a Christmas meal, but I feel bad for the guys in general population because their holiday season is ruined. We're used to being trapped in our cells all the time on death row, so it doesn't change anything for us...But for them...I do feel sorry for them.
I guess what I find so mind blowing about all of this is how it's being kept under wraps and out of the media. TDCJ's propaganda and misinformation campaigns are really effective, I guess. I mean, how are several murders not a big deal? How are dangerously low staff shortages not a big deal in the media? The media has been turning a blind eye to the alarming rate of suicides, and attempted suicides – we're used to that! We're used to the fact that no one really seems to be disturbed by the growing prison mental health crisis, but you'd think that murders would shake some people awake. But then again, they're just inmates, so who cares?
“Let them all kill themselves” is what some people probably think. But what do you tell the family of the murdered inmate? Aren't they victims too? Aren't they deserving of the same sympathy that any other victims' families receive? What has happened to the world???
Speaking of the world...I've been ignoring politics for a while because I am just so sick and tired of the incessant 'Trump coverage'. During my time on death watch I was purposely avoiding all things political, but with the 2020 elections on the horizon, I was thinking,
“Well, it's time to get back on my soap box for a bit...”
Not that anyone will listen, but I do need to vent and will do so in future journals. I bet you're all looking forward to that! (ha ha)
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 2nd, 2019
It's been hard to write
anything of late, but I feel like I'm returning to normal. I hadn't
been able to read anything outside of something like magazines or
articles, and over the weekend I read two books, so my concentration
is returning. I suppose I hadn't really understood how much Death
Watch had affected all levels of my emotional health.
Something I've been
doing recently – and it's not really a conversation a person wants
to have back here – is thinking about those who are facing
execution dates with exhausted appeals, and how I can help them to
mentally prepare for being on death watch. It isn't like it used to
be over there when those facing execution were treated with a little
bit of humanity; and if you had an issue that needed to be addressed,
it would be handled. Those days are gone, and people need to be
prepared for that. Also, they need to be prepared for the emotional
toll it takes to watch someone leave to be executed.
Conditions on death
watch are at an all time low, but it's also a whole Unit
thing...There's been two murders by inmates killing each other,
saying they were “pushed by the conditions of this unit.” Whilst
that really is backwards logic, and not a way to fix anything, one of
the trustees recently told me (as he was mopping the floor),
“I'm sick of this
place. They've taken everything away from me...The food is shit...The
previous administration at least let us watch movies on the
holidays...We had something to look forward to! Sometimes I feel like
punching someone to take my frustrations out on something.”
“Don't do that – it
just makes it worse!”
“Yeah, I know. I'm
blowing steam, but a ton of us don't know what else to do.”
murders in general population when there had been none for years,
should be raising alarms...Suicides and attempted suicides across
State prisons should be raising alarms...Guards quitting in droves no
matter how much money the State throws at them to make them stay,
should be raising alarms...And yet, everything is 'out of sight, out
I had decided over the
weekend to pull back from things and focus on my own well being. I
will go to recreation when I feel like it, but no longer let it work
me up or get stressed over it. If I feel things look iffy, I'll just
get my day on the road and do what I want to do. I'm creating my own
Thanksgiving was an
okay day, but I skipped recreation. We did have a good meal
though...Our dessert tray had three pieces of cake, and pie. Lunch
was a giant biscuit, beans, corn, green bean salad, stuffing,
cranberry sauce, and a slice each of turkey and chicken breast.
You'll hear no complaints from me on that – I was quite stuffed!
For dinner we received a sack meal with two sandwiches, and an apple
The rest of the weekend
I relaxed. I went outside on Friday with my neighbour, and felt bad
for him. He's being ostracised for some kind of filing he made with
the whistle-blower act, and he's been labelled as a 'snitch' and guys
have been cutting him off. He tried to explain it to me outside and I
stopped him and said,
“I don't care...Guys
create these pseudo-moral standards that they don't even apply to
themselves, so I could not care less what anyone has to say about you
or if you did something or not. When they apply their own standards
to themselves and their friends, maybe I'll start listening. But this
is a bunch of grown men being childish. We're not in the fourth
Ostracising or cutting
someone off like that is just plain mean and unnecessary. It's okay
to talk about things reasonably with someone when you don't agree
with them...It's okay to be pissed at someone for the choices they
made, but nobody needs to be cruel or mean about things.
Saturday I had my usual
'date time' with my girlfriend. We listen to the same program on the
radio (even though she falls asleep ha ha) because it's nice to think
of one another and just 'be' in real time together.
Sunday I vegged out...
Today I went to
recreation a little after 6am, and exercised. I've been waiting on a
shower ever since. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep myself busy.