April 2022 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. The best is yet to come.”
Zig Ziglar
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April 3rd, 2022

It's a very peaceful Sunday...Very quiet. The sky is perfect outside of my window, and it's a bit on the warm side, but that's okay. As I write this I'm listening to some Bollywood music on a Hindi station that has popped up out of nowhere on my radio. It's lively music and hard not to want to shimmy and shake to! Ha ha.

Yesterday the Field Minister 'Troop' came through and told me I had to wait on the the classes I'd signed up to until a new semester started. It was a bit disappointing to hear, but at least I know if I'm still here, and if the CCA takes a long time to rule, I can take them.

There was quite a bit of buzz over the weekend as Securus passed out papers with price lists for the tablet options. The subscription rates aren't too unreasonable, but I do think there are 'hidden fees'. I think the subscriptions only give you access to the content. I think that the inmate will have to pay individually to rent the games and movies, as well as the newspapers/magazines. That being said, there's a ton of free content – I mean free access to e-books/audio books and podcasts...Do you know how fantastic that is? Anyone who knows me has heard me talk about getting a program started so that indigent inmates have access to free radios, books etc. Now, with the tablets, every inmate in TDCJ will have a free FM radio, access to books/podcasts etc. Even a handful of free games! If you can't afford movies, I'm sure the guys that have a cellmate will share if they can. It's going to make life a little more bearable and ease so much tension. Watch and see...We're so close.

I love this section I now live on. What a blessing to have been moved over here! There's zero negativity...Everyone gets along...There no arguing...No noise...We can talk to each other and try to help one another. I liked where I was at on A-Section, but there was tension, negativity, and a lot of noise. It's night and day.

We should have our shakedown this coming week and I'm ready to get it over with. It'll be the 4th week of lockdown this week. I really need to get out of the cell, stretch my legs and hopefully have a chance to get fresh air and sunlight.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 5th, 2022

Today we're breaking 90F with the temperature...It's a bit hotter than that in the cell, and it feels miserable. Yes, the death row building has air conditioning and don't let anyone tell you that it doesn't...Now, population cells don't. I really feel for those guys because it's hotter than Hades there! They've got the AC blowing, but it's a trickle. I think there's something wrong with my vent, like there's a blockage or something because you can barely feel it. Oy!

We're still on lockdown as I write this. The rumor is that it should be over by the weekend. I certainly hope so. Speaking of rumors, someone said that they're taking the Polunsky Visitation schedule back to the way it was Monday-Friday, but I've not seen that anywhere. Someone's girlfriend told him and the guy kind of ran with it. I started to probe deeper and asked questions because no one went to visit yesterday, and so far as I can tell, the Tuesday/Thursday and Saturday night schedule is still in place. He got frustrated with me asking so many questions and I said,  

“Hey, I like to read the fine print. You just can't say something is so, when by all appearances it isn't so at all...I'm not being negative, but we do bad enough getting caught up in the rumor mill.”

He had also said special visits are going to resume, but again, that's yet to be seen.

It's been a fairly peaceful day. I was super excited when on the radio station today they played a narrated audio version of Pete's Dragon (the movie, which I love...even though I loved the original version that was a musical when I was a kid). My Taffy donated it to the station which is funny because she said she chose it on a whim because she knew I liked it and took a chance, hoping everyone would enjoy it...I had just sent her a letter suggesting it. It was a total hit with everyone, and guys around me were surprised as how good it was. One guy said,  

“Man...I didn't expect I'd get teary-eyed and dismissed Megamind when he gave us the warning it was a tear-jerker...And the next thing I know, I'm tearing up over a stupid effing drafon!!” Ha ha.

It got me exactly the same way!

And yes, the Prison Radio Station IS accepting DVDs and CDs. They must come from a legitimate store or online vendor like Amazon. They can be used, as long as they come from a legitimate source. They can only be PG-13 or under, and please steer clear of unrated movies as they might not make it through. If you send music, it cannot have an 'explicit lyrics' label on it...nothing violent...nothing Satanic...But again, the CDs can come via a legitimate store or online vendor. Don't worry about repeat CDs or DVDs either. They keep back ups in case music/movies are lost or the hard drives crash. They also send the music and movies to other prisons that are developing similar programs like on Polunsky.  

To donate music or movies, you can send them addressed as follows:

Chaplain Department/106.5 The Tank
C/O Chaplain Martin
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston
Texas 77351
USA

I highly recommend you get involved...You'll not only be putting a smile on many faces and making life just a little bit better, but you'll also be participating in a groundbreaking program that no one ever thought would be possible in Texas, where faith, rehabilitation, and a real focus on restorative justice is the primary focus...Please!  

And thank you :-)  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace.


April 6th, 2022

I was listening to the news yesterday, and they went on and on about the crime problem of late. What frustrated me though, is the common theme from the politicians and Houston Police Chief that "We've got to get these people off of the streets and put pressure on Judges to stop giving bail." And yes, it sounds great...You can even slap it on a bumper sticker, but locking everyone up doesn't work and has never worked. Unless you're trying to get to the root of the problem, all you're doing is filling up understaffed jails and prisons, and putting stresses on the state and country budgets, creating a revolving door that puts criminals in and spits them back out ad nauseam.

I just keep thinking, "why won't politicians and police just try to fix the problems?" I don't know what's so hard about that. Are you going to erase all crime? No...Humans are humans...but can you put in place policies that minimise the problems? Educational programs...addressing domestic and gun violence? When I wrote that stream of consciousness rant, I said that guns weren't the problem, but I should have clarified that they are definitely part of the problem. There are way too many of them, and they're too damn easy to get hold of. They are a vile mechanism - worst invention in the history of humankind! Their potential to be used for evil is unprecedented. But the fact remains that society has to get to the root of this issue. You can't just lock everyone up!

Well, today was our shakedown day...It really wasn't bad at all. Whenever I come back to my cell after a shakedown, I always expect it to be a mess, but everything was nice, neat, and orderly. Most of the time it looks as if a tornado passed through!

The CCA didn't rule today...My gut is telling me it's going to be a while longer. Not much I can do about that but wait...patiently.

Oh! We were watching Securus dig a ditch outside behind our pod, to lay a fiber optic cable. It brings us one day closer, and the excitement grows.

I wrote about how yesterday The Tank played a DVD my Taffy donated to the station, called Pete's Dragon. I was really surprised by how many guys back here liked the movie. I mean, I get it...I'm a Disney geek and a kid at heart, but I half expected to get teased and it's been the opposite of that! Someone actually requested that the station play it again...Who would've thought a movie about a dragon and a little boy would have pulled at the hearts of the "worst of the worst?"...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 10th, 2022

It's a brilliantly bright Sunday, and I'm glad the lockdown is finally over. I think it ended officially on Friday, and while we've yet to have any recreation, at least they're running showers regularly. The Field Minister 'Troop' stopped by yesterday and said he was going to try and bring a movie to B-Pod on Tuesday or Wednesday, so we have that to look forward to next week.

I had a phone call last night with my Taffy! We'd not been able to talk in so long it was a real treat and blessing, and brings a lot of positivity and energy going into the new week - especially as the holidays approach. I'm looking forward to Passover and I'll do my own little Seder in my cell.

This past week we've been watching a Securus crew dig some trenches and lay down some fiber optic cables leading up to our building. It has everyone excited, and while our projected date to receive the tablets is June 1st, most of us are keeping optimistic that we may have them sooner. Securus has been struggling with labor shortage issues, but they seem to now have a couple of large crews which means things will move much faster. When they pushed things back to June, they had a very small crew and they only had 50% left to do on the unit. Now, with a big crew, that will speed things up tremendously.

I listened to a really interesting movie last night called Another Earth and it's difficult to explain, but I know that if it's available on the tablet, I'm watching it again! The score was beautiful...I love great cinematic scores and some of my favorites are from Pete's Dragon, The Last of the Mohicans, Batman 1999, Edward Scissorhands, Interstellar, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, to name but a few...I'd love to write some music for movies one day. Gotta dream big, right?

Here's to hoping this new week is full of great things, a ton of positivity and love...Happy Passover to my Jewish sisters and brothers, and Happy Easter to my Christian friends!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 12th, 2022

Tuesday...a chaotic day. We were able to get recreation, but a bunch of guys are really upset because they've already cut recreation down from about one day every week, to one day every two weeks. It had been for two hours, and it's been for two hours since 2004 or so. Well, now, they've told us we only get one hour and we should, and I quote, “Be happy that you get that.”

Yes, it's a blessing to get out of the cell and I'll take one hour over no hours, but there's no reason to cut our recreation time when there are three officers working the pod. They do it because they can and no one wants to push the issue or cause trouble because they don't want to lose tablet privileges before we even get them. They're already using the tablets as a carrot on a stick, and we don't even have them yet! Well...not much we can do about it.

Getting out of the cell was nice though. There are times when I get so restless and stir crazy I used to never pace the cell, and over the the past two years I've started to pace back and forth...back and forth, just to keep my body  moving and working off the stress. Exercise helps too, but nothing beats going to a larger space and getting out of the confines of the cell.

I was really lucky to get outside and have fresh air. A space opened up and I jumped on it it. It was a bit overcast, but the air...oh geeze...It's not natural to keep humans inside for long periods of time without fresh air and clean oxygen. It's no wonder so many guys have health and lung problems.

I hope they bring a movie around tomorrow. We were told that was the goal, so we'll see.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 17th, 2022

Passover/Easter Sunday...I slept in today until about 7.45am. It was so quiet and peaceful and with my fan blocking out any other noise, it was easy. As I write this they're passing out lunch which is baked chicken, cake (which I can't eat because it's Passover (sad face) beans, and carrots. The piece of chicken I have must be the size of a tyrannosaurus rex leg!

We just watched the movie Dirt. I was surprised the Field Minister actually brought the TVs in on Easter Sunday. He was going to show us a different movie, but there's a Muslim guy from Jordan on my section, and Field Minister 'Troop' told me it had some scenes that were disrespecting Muslims, so decided not to show it. I was happy to hear that from Troop and the fact he didn't want to upset someone of another faith.  

I'm in 84 cell, all the way in the corner of my section, and far from the day room. So it was difficult to watch the movie, but I stood there and and watched what I could and from what I could tell, it looked well shot. The movie is about a young black adult who gets arrested for stealing cars, after a high speed chase. One of the cops was impressed by the guy's driving skills and talks to his friend who owns a racing team. The owner agreed to take the guy under his wing to mentor him and keep him out of jail...The young guy goes on to be an awesome dirt road track racer and is redeemed. It was cool. They had an AM transmitter hooked up to the TVs so that we could listen to the movie on our radio, but the sound was a bit garbled. I think that was because the sound on the television was too loud. It was cool though, I mean, never in a thousand years would I have thought I'd have seen a total of 4 movies now on death row. Bring on the tablets! I have 21 years to catch up on...ha ha.

Troop told me that this 12 Building movie treat has been such a huge success in calming guys down, that a Major on another unit wants to start doing it for guys in solitary confinement on his unit. It goes to show that when you treat people with decency and they deserve that treatment, it makes people better all the way around. There's nothing wrong with rewarding good behaviour.

I'm still in the clouds after a fantastic phone call with my Taffy last night. That definitely got me through the rest of the weekend!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 18th, 2022

I woke up at 5.20am this morning and hit the ground running. I worked out, ate the breakfast I put in my  hot pot and then had to bird bath because we didn't have any showers today, which was odd because we had three officers on the pod all day long.

I've been a little irritated because it's Passover and I'm supposed to have a meal without bread (or anything leavened). I've been eating Matzo in place of that but the kitchen is supposed to give me a specially prepared tray. For three nights – four tonight – they've not brought it to me. I'm on the list, and I was told by the Chaplain I'm on the list and they keep (they – the officers/kitchen) saying I'm not on the list, yet (and this is what gets my goat!)  guys that aren't Jewish by faith and only want special privileges, are getting their trays and it's like, “Wait! How does that work? The real Jewish guy doesn't get his Passover.” I have no leavened products in my cell. I'm keeping Kosher for Passover and I'm the one messed over? When I try to explain to these new officers (who are, like, 20 years old and probably have never been outside of Livingston) they look at me like I have a third eyeball growing out of my head.

I filed a grievance, but by the time it's processed, Passover will be long over...Sigh...

On a lighter note, the rest of the Pod was able to watch a movie today. Troop gave them a choice of Dirt, American Outlaw, or The Passion of the Christ. All of the other sections picked out American Outlaw – a Western about Jesse James. I could hear the movie on my radio and the further away the transmitter was, the better it sounded. It was okay. I'm not a big fan of Westerns, but I would have watched it.
The day has been peaceful though and I'm about to listen to Nathalie Merchant's Ophelia album on The Tank. I love Nathalie Merchant so I expect it to be good. Whether with 10000 Maniacs, or solo, she's never disappointed.

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.

Peace.


April 19th, 2022

I woke up at 5.25am this morning and was going to hit the ground running and exercise, when they began to run recreation. It was to be our day outside and I thought, “Great! By the time they get to me I'll get some sunshine!” But everyone downstairs skipped it which made me first round. I was a bit disappointed I wouldn't be getting sunlight, but still happy I'd be getting the fresh air.

It was wonderful! I jogged for 30 minutes and exercised, and stayed out until almost 8am. Then I came back in and went straight to the shower. I had my breakfast in my hotpot, ate that, and set to the day.

I'm still not getting my Passover meals which is frustrating. I received a note from the lady I talked to yesterday and she said,

“There is no Passover meal list.”

I almost blew a gasket! If there's no list, how do they know who to give the meals to?? Some guys are getting meals! They don't pick names out of a hat and say, “Today were going to send Bill a Passover meal.” They have to have a list! Look, I may not be the smartest person on the planet, but I don't need to be treated like an idiot either.

I completely understand how some guys go crazy in this place...A human being can only take so much.

Sigh...Serenity now!

All in all, not a bad day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 20th, 2022

As I write this it's a warm Wednesday morning. I'm starting a bit early because I've been a little irritated – okay, more than a little irritated – and I'm flat out disgusted with the way politicians, and especially a lot of District Attorneys, play politics with a person's life when it comes to the death penalty. There are few of them that actually stand on principal and have the back bone to say, “The system is broken,” ESPECIALLY when it comes to the application of the Death Penalty.

Two things happened yesterday that sent my mind racing. The first was an interview on NPR with the District Attorney of Corpus Christi in regards to John Henry Ramirez. He first set a date for him, and then, cancelled the execution date after coming to the conclusion that he had that authority under Texas State Law, and also deciding to stand on principal instead of politics. He said that after much 'soul searching' he realised he is 100% against the death penalty and doesn't think government should be deciding who gets to live or die. AMEN! Finally, a DA that can stand on moral conviction. He said he doesn't care if it hurts him politically; he doesn't believe he should be saying to gets to live and who doesn't.

Now, the exact opposite of that is happening in countless other counties across Texas – especially in Harris County and District Attorney Kim Ogh....There are numerous, and I mean numerous exhausted capital murder appeals out of Harris County. Probably close to 50 – give or take. This means every avenue of appeal afforded to a defendant has run its course. There is nothing left for them. Some of these men have been finished for years. What does Kim Ogh do? She cherry picks particular cases that give her political coverage to say she's 'Tough on Crime' and wants to bring 'closure' to victims' families by seeking an execution date for them. This all but proves that the death penalty and how it's applied is not only cruel, but arbitrary and capricious. You are a fool if you believe that the Death Penalty is fair. It's anything but!

Ask yourself this question: Should a politician have that kind of power in which they can use a LIFE as a political pawn or tool? The Death Penalty cannot be applied equally or fairly, so how is it JUSTICE? How does this not show how broken the system really is?

Well, it's a fairly peaceful morning. I woke up a little before 6am and did my normal routine of exercising, and having to bird bath as they didn't showers today. I'm in a positive and hopeful mood as today is what I've been calling “CCA Day” and so I pray and try to keep positive and hopeful for a favorable ruling. Stressful? YEP. But nothing I can't handle. It'll come when it comes. It could still come today, who knows? I'll monitor the news and go about the day.

You know, it's always nice when this place, or a particularly cruel person, surprises you with an act of kindness. This morning when I got up for breakfast, we were having eggs, oatmeal, and apple sauce. Eggs are a rarity so usually almost everyone gets their tray, but this time round there had been an extra tray on the carrier. Now, I wouldn't have dared ask the officer passing out the trays because she has never and I mean NEVER given anyone an extra tray. If I were to skip breakfast and say, “Just give it to my neighbor” she'd still say “no” and the tray would get dumped in a slop bucket. She handed me my tray and I silently said, “goodbye delicious eggs...” to the lone tray remaining on the carrier. And then...she unexpectedly reached down, grabbed that tray without even asking if I wanted it, and put it on my food slot. I looked at it in shock and before she could change her mind or yank it back from me, I grabbed it and said, “Thank you.” I couldn't believe it.

I put the eggs in a bag and then into my hotpot to eat later after I worked out. An act of kindness can really get the day off on the right foot.

Well, on with the day and monitoring the news!

The day has now come to an end, and another week with no decision from the CCA. Well, my prayers and thoughts now turn towards the scheduled execution tomorrow. May it one day end.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 22nd, 2022

Congratulations Texas! You killed a 78 year old man who was wheelchair bound, and probably one of the most quiet, passive people on Death Row. That's really something to hang your ten gallon hat on...Sigh...I was so completely and utterly disgusted by yesterday's news coverage of the execution. To have the media put people on their program saying things like,

"This is a long time coming."

Or

"Carl Buntion was a rabid dog...and what do you do with rabid dogs? You put them down!"

Those are direct quotes, people!

What does that say about our society and its lust for blood, vengeance and death? It borders on psychopathy...And people really wonder why the US has the problems it has. No wonder other countries with horrible human rights records laugh at us and scoff when we chastise them on their abuses. Their response?

"Clean up your own  house first before you tell us to clean up ours."

Anyways...I'm upset because I don't see how it does society any justice by 'putting down' a 78 year old frail man. Is that really justice?

I wasn't going to listen to the Execution Watch show on KPFT yesterday because they generally upset me and get me into a state of depression. But someone yelled at me to listen because Clinton Young was on. It was good to hear his voice, and I was especially touched when he mentioned my name in his interview. It means a lot. It means a lot to us back here when someone who knows what it's like to be in this situation, knows what an execution day does to our spirit and has been here and lived this experience...Clinton was always one of the few people that treated execution days with the solemnity it deserves...I'm proud of him that he has stood on his promise when he left that no matter where he was in his life, he'd still act as an advocate and voice for us all back here. Many of the guys that have gotten off of death row make all of these promises...but rarely follow through. I get it, and hold no animosity towards them. People just want to get back to their lives and try to forget this place. Clinton has remained true to his words even when he's trying to rebuild his own life...and just as he had given his promise, no matter where I'm at if I should be blessed at another chance at life, I will use my voice to speak up for the guys back here as well. He's inspiring and I'm just really proud.

As we listened to him, we were laughing because he was getting fired up and I can hear him smacking his hand on the counter, and I said, "Yep...there he is!" I could see his mannerisms and body language in my mind's eye. It made me smile.

Entering into the weekend, I'm not sure what tasks I'll take on...No recreation and the same ol', same ol'...I'll figure something out.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 24th, 2022

A quiet Sunday...I'm trying to find my way through the day doing chores and catching up on odds and ends. Weekends of late have been incredibly boring. It's hard to believe that we're entering into the last week of the month...April has really shot by!

The news has been covering the upcoming execution of Melissa Lucio, and I think it'll be a test of both the clemency's ability to discern those who truly deserve it, and if recommended, the heart of Greg Abbott, our Governor. He's the worst kind of politician so I am thinking he'll not look at it from a point of humanity, but whether or not it's politically expedient (another reason why the DP needs to go) for him. I guess we'll know within the next few days.

That's really all there is this weekend.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


April 25th, 2022

Today is worth celebrating...I heard of Melissa Lucio's stay granted by the CCA and I smiled and did a big fist pump! Some of my attorneys worked on her case so I know they're celebrating as well, and I knew she was in very good hands. I'm really  happy that she got a stay because I had zero faith in Greg Abbott doing the right thing. I have one concern though...It's easy to get complacent and feel like the fight is over. It's not. There are a hundred other Melissas all throughout the country, and there's no better time than now to be vocal either on behalf of those struggling for their lives, or against the death penalty as a whole. Surprisingly, more and more conservative politicians are seeing the flaws, or understand that the costs are too steep to continue.

Going forward in the fight, we must be educated on the facts of each case, and also polite, respectful, and welcoming to all in the fight, regardless of any of our differences.

Anyway, it's been a relatively quiet and peaceful day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.


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