January 2nd, 2023
I can't believe it is a new year and new week. They're treating today like a holiday and it has been very boring and lazy. Made more so because it's extremely humid and icky feeling in the cell. East Texas humidity has the effect of zapping the life right out of you. How did folks live back in the old days before complex structures and climate control?
Well, its been a so- so start to the new year. I'm hopeful for a lot of good things, but I also know it's not going to be a great year for other guys and I am worried about all of the execution dates they're about to set in the coming weeks and months...
Today Troop came to the pod to show movies on one half of the pod. He showed A- section " Disturbia" B- section one of the Hunger Games movies and on C-section " In Time" ... He'll be back over here on Friday to get this side of the pod. We're still dealing with staff shortages. Averaging about 1 shower every few days. We're wondering if we'll have rec. tomorrow. I decided to reboot my exercising yesterday because waiting on recreation isn't going to cut it. I need to be proactive.
I don't mind the section I'm living on. Everyone is fairly positive and these guys keep telling me I'm on the way out from this place. It means a lot but I try to be humble about it and not put it in people's faces when we're all still on death row. I always say that I'm not out of the woods yet. But I do pray these are my last days, weeks, or months. Time will tell!
Well, as I get used to typing these journals on the tablet I'm hoping it might speed up the process a little bit. It still feels a little weird but we'll see!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 4th, 2023
It's Wednesday and I'm feeling a bit lazy. I did manage to get quite a bit accomplished though. I went to rec. yesterday but sadly, not everyone made it because in the afternoon rec was cancelled as well as showers.
So, today I was catching up on some writing duties and thinking on a lot of things. I'm always frustrated and saddened by misinformation and an inability to control fact versus fiction, as well as opinions formed about me by taking moments out of my life, and picking out certain mistakes to paint a portrait of who they might think I am. I've screwed up...no doubt about that and over the years I've had stumbles and missteps but I do know my heart and those that do mentor me, support me, and care about me, know I'm not perfect. I don't hide behind trauma, I don't play the victim...I own my mistakes. But they do know my heart and my constant desire to want to give back and to make right my bad choices.
My life, even in the hard times, is always about trying to be of service. I know I can't convince everyone of that and I won't even try. I can only let my actions and words speak for themselves. That's really all I can do. Trying to live a life of validation and trying to impress everyone around me has never worked for me. In fact, it always has gotten me in trouble. I'd also like to say that I've never 'hid behind religion' or tried to make myself look like a saint. I'm proudly Jewish and my faith is important to me, but I'm far from religious. I do what my heart tells me and I do my best but yeah, I like cheese burgers. I can cuss like a sailor at times. I have an irreverent sense of humor. And I'm in love with a gentile. But I am Jewish and my trial Judge hated Jews. He was biased. That isn't my fault.
I do not want to have to go through this process all over again. I don't want people to hurt all over again. But its not 'hiding behind a religion'. I recently heard a legal expert do a Q and A and someone asked him how he felt about cases affected over 'technicalities' and he corrected the person and said there's no such thing. He explained that the justice system is built on laws and rules and when those are broken whether a person likes it or not, the only remedy is to fix it by giving new trials, or throwing cases out. You can't call it justice if you're willing to bend the rules, break the rules, or violate your duties. People get mad at attorneys for exposing the violations within the rules. But that is how the system is designed so that it can course correct itself. That's why we have a constitution. But no, I'm not 'hiding'.
I'm deeply sorry there is pain and suffering and anger in this process, and I pray with all that's in me that peace and forgiveness can be given...I am sincere and one day I hope people can see this in my actions and not just my words. I'm not perfect but I am always trying to be better.
The day is winding down now and I'm easing into the evening. Be kind to one another. A little positivity can go a long way.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith
January 5th, 2023
I know my heart...I know my intentions... I know who I am and the life I want to live and have already started to live: a life of service to others...a life that returns goodness for any harm I've caused in the past. I might stumble and occasionally require guidance and patience, but I know I want to live in light and love. I am a good person. I can say that in confidence. I can say that even if I'm still judged by my past, I won't allow it to change me from being the person I want to be.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 10th, 2023
Well, its clear that these emessages aren't flawless. I think I had some messages and a weekend journal go missing. Here's to hoping this entry gets out.
My spirit is a bit heavy today because I received some attacks and I guess I should've expected it with the possibility of a new trial. I don't feel sorry for myself and while it does hurt, I can handle it. I guess it hurts because I have done my very best in offering atonement and asking for forgiveness. Not in words but in actions. I have to live with shame and regret, remorse...sometimes self hate and disbelief at some of my actions going all the way back to my first offense. I live with this, but I also know I'm not that person and I wish with all of me I could make it all right somehow. If I could sit down with the people that have been affected by my choices and mistakes I would and the offer is always there. Scream at me, spit at me...I'll accept it all but I also want to ask forgiveness and for them to see my eyes, the sincerity of my soul. That's all. I do try to show in words and actions and people don't know half of my efforts to atone and give back. I just have to do my best to keep moving forward in light.
The rumor mill is back at it saying more is to come with the tablet by!the end of the month. I think people mistake gratitude with being lied to and being punished for no other reason than guys being on death row. Its not being ungrateful. The guys here are grateful for the tablet and messaging, but where as every other inmate in Texas can gain more content through good behavior, death row can't, and that is the root argument and why so many are upset. It's more than attitude and outlook.
Sadly, there's an execution today and those always bring morale down a bit.
Be kind to one another.
Courage, Strength. Hope and Faith
January 11th, 2023
Actions prove sincerity. I woke up this morning with those words on my mind. As if my dearly departed friend and mentor was speaking to me from the great beyond. David, a proud Marine who lost his foot to a land mine, often told me that when I talked about striving to be a better person. In prison people say, "A pair of lips will say anything," meaning that unless there's something to back it up, it can't be trusted.
Before I went to sleep, I was thinking about how it seems impossible to prove to the world, especially the doubters that will say that I'm just faking it or pulling some great con in trying to show I'm not dangerous, or how I'm a different person than I was at 18 years old or 23 years old, 25 and so on...All I can say is that Actions Prove Sincerity.
I have 15 years of writings that chronicle my life here. When I falter, I don't gloss over it. When I'm upset over something, I let it out. I've stumbled and I have hurt people's feelings. I've not been a perfect person. I've let pain, fear, and people hurting me control my decision making process and faltered. I'm human. I'm sure that even Gandhi and Mother Theresa stumbled on their paths to be better people. But throughout, I have learned, tried to atone, and grow. I've tried to give back and be better. That's why I always tell people to let my actions speak for me, not my words.
I was also thinking about how unforgiving people are in this country. There was a study recently done about Americans being some of the most unhappy people in the world and it's mind boggling that a country so advanced and wealthy, a country that provides entertainment and other forms of art to the world, could be miserable and yet we are. It shows itself in subtle ways though...Gun culture, revenge culture, politics, and other ugly forms. You would think in a country that primarily views itself as founded on Judaic-Christian values that forgiveness would be the key driving force. And yet, it isn't. It just makes me wonder what the root cause for misery in this country is.
Well, as I said, Actions Prove Sincerity.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith
January 15th, 2023
I've had a slight headache today and so I've really accomplished nothing other than washing one bed sheet. I was going to do both of them but then I thought, ehhh, I'll do the other tomorrow.
Field Minister Troop came by yesterday and we had an hour theological debate. We recently gained the religious app called Pando on our tablet and its pretty much Christian based content and a few shows. Some of the content is super preachy but a lot of it is surprisingly modern and progressive and there's some music videos, a TV show called The Chosen, which wasn't really bad at all. And if you dig deep enough there's even a few Christmas movies buried in the content. I watched Elf for the first time Friday night.
Anyways, Troop and I got into talking about The Chosen and I felt some of it was contradictory to jewish teachings and there were even some anti-semitic tropes in it and well, it wasn't horrible, and we talked about all of that. He said he would be back today to show one half of the pod movies, and will also be back to show us a movie tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to that.
We've not had showers in two days either but what's weird today is that there were three officers on the pod the entire day. It ticked off a bunch of people but not like we can do anything. Maybe tomorrow. That's really been it for the weekend.
Courage. Strength. Hope. and Faith.
January 18th, 2023
Wednesday...and another day on one of the finest penal institutions in the country! Man, waking up in this place I have to pinch myself and ask, “How did I ever become so fortunate to land in a country club!?” And if a person here really does that, they need to have their head checked out.
So, I'm starting this a bit early today so that I can ride the ebb and flow of the day. I'm curious where it will take me. What worries me is how tense things are right now. Some guys have really had enough, and the sucker punches keep coming...the latest kick in the proverbial testies came Monday night when the night time officers announced our weekly five minute phone calls had been reduced to one call a month now. When asked why that was they said someone abused a call by doing some interview with a YouTuber and it was posted after their execution. Well, while the Officers were quick to throw a dead man under the bus, in my own mind I had a bunch of questions...Okay, let's assume this incident happened...
- The guy can't make a call on his own. The officer has to call the switch board, verify the number by making sure the person is calling an approved number, and then the call can go through.
- An Officer has to monitor the call. When I call Taffy there is an officer standing inches from my door while the phone is clipped to my door screen and on speaker.
- There is no policy that forbids a call from being recorded, or posted for that matter. I'm sure guys do it all of the time in general population.
So, getting back to questions one and two...The Officers had to have failed at their job, assuming what they said happened was true. Of course, being punished arbitrarily and collectively for the failure of an Officer's job is nothing new to us. But I need more information. It sounds to me like they're making a dead dude a scape goat to justify not giving death row the phone app. That's conjecture, of course, but it wouldn't surprise me.
I had to calm some guys down yesterday and keep them from acting out. I said, "Look, get more information first. Then file grievances. If you act up and do something stupid, it'll only help the administration by giving them justification. Simmer down a bit. Don't be dumb." I don't know if it'll work, but it can't be ignored that B pod feels like a tender box right now. You can only expect men to take broken promises and the fact that things never improve for so long. Right now Death Row is a tale of two cities. There is A pod and B pod. The majority of A pod is the faith based program. They get classes, they have regular visitors from all walks of life, they get free world food, movies on a regular basis, concerts etc. Talk to most men on A pod and they'll boast about how wonderful things are and all of the wonderful changes. Yet, they are a little blinded by the fact that we've lost more than we've gained. Then, you have B pod...all we get is a couple of showers a week, it seems and one or two days of rec. We might get a movie once every couple of weeks...The highlight of each week was the five minute call.
I know it sounds terribly cynical of me, but I'm just trying to show the stark contrast and why people are so upset and why it's more than 'attitude is everything' or more than just being grateful. A grateful heart doesn't mean you have to tolerate a kick in the nuts when it happens. I mean, who on earth says " Man! You landed that right on the left one...but thank you for missing the right one!" Well, today is CCA ruling day and I'll be checking on all of that throughout the day. we shall see what happens. Shockingly they're doing rec. I went outside before noon and it started pouring rain! I was soaked from head to toe so we came back in within minutes.
And that's the day!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 22nd, 2023
It's a chilly but beautifully bright Sunday. A stark contrast to yesterday's damp and grey day that honestly ended horribly. Things were starting off positively with recreation and a buzz of excitement that it had been confirmed by various reliable sources we would begin to have recreation more regularly as well as receiving more content and apps via the tablet very soon. After the disappointing roll out of the tablets the spirit of this place had been crushed here on B pod and everyone was miserable.
When I went to rec I spent the entire two hours answering questions on how the podcast app and media app worked so those guys would be ready should they eventually pop up. We talked about music and movies and I got teased when a guy asked what movie I wanted to watch first and I said, "Well, I definitely want to watch Avatar, but I have to check with Taffy and see what movie she wants to do first for a date..." They were like. “Wait. What? You have to check with your girl first?” I said, “Hey dudes, I've no shame in movie dates and keeping her heart happy and besides I like doing them, too! We're doing Elf today on the pando app. Ha ha”
I came back in and had to wait quite a while for a shower and when I made it to the shower I was stuck there for an hour which sucked. Later I did Elf which is a funny movie for anyone who hasn't seen it. I love the childlike innocence of Buddy the Elf. It was after the movie that we learned the upsetting and shocking news of yet another Death Row suicide, Terence Andrus. The guards were freaking out and everything was shut down to deal with the situation. He was liked by a lot of people both guards and inmates alike but in the past year he had mentally declined severely and would say he was tired of this place and having everything taken from us all of the time...Sadly, that is the reality of this place. Some people can be strong for only so long. And then there's the cruel irony that the state wants to try and keep you alive for the sole purpose of murdering you when your appeals run out. They don't care about your well being, just that you stay alive. To murder you. That twisted reality can weigh heavily on a person.
I suggest people watch the series The Chosen...I think you'll learn something about how we should act towards even the worst of us. Since I've been here I think I've been exposed to over a dozen or so suicides. That is not something any human being should have to live with. It's sad.
I slept okay and then started my day. Sundays are typically lazy after I do my chores and today is no different. I'm telling myself now that tomorrow I need to get off of my lazy butt and get back to some of my writing projects. The only writing I've been doing of late is my home work assignments, when given, for my Voyager 2 class where we're often asked to write an essay on the topic we're covering. I can't believe I'm 13 weeks in now with that program.
We shall see what the week holds for us back here. I hope they will continue with recreation more frequently. I know getting out of the cell for a little bit always helps me clear my head. I need to start jogging again. Yeah, if I get to rec tomorrow I'm going to do that.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 23rd, 2023
It's another fine day on Polunsky Unit. We had recreation today but it's been a mad house with lazy guards who are upset they have to run recreation from Monday through Friday now. The unit is still short staffed so what they're doing is bringing Officers from other prison units to work over time here in an attempt to keep things running. If it is really true that we will soon receive the other apps on the tablet you would think the ranking officers or administration would want that fast tracked because two thirds of the pod will more than likely skip recreation to do other things on the tablet. I know a lot of guys who have said “screw rec.” I'm not one of them! Even in Dallas where I had the tablet, access to the phone and phone app etc. I had to get out of the cell when I could. I hate the feeling of being cooped up.
Today I vowed to get back on my cardio work out. I was doing the jump rope regularly before the lock down back in December but I really want to get back into my 20 minute high intensity cardio blast I was doing. I'll do the jump rope occasionally but it's really hard on my joints. Geeze, I sound like an old man!
It's been a really beautiful day. Cold, but lovely. Tomorrow we're expecting major storms and a ton of rain. There's been some rumors that we might get our five minute call back this week. That will be great if its true. Not having it this past week sucked for all of us.
I'm doing my best to keep busy and getting into a writing routine for a new collection of writings that have never been on my site. I'm mixing it up with all new poems and short stories. I want to work on my second memoir, but it has to wait for awhile. I have a few chapters written, but it just has to wait for now.
Well, I was out at rec today for over four hours. They're stopping rec now and just finishing showers, so the last rounds of rec were screwed out of it. It doesn't surprise me. On top of that I've received no long emails since last Thursday so that was upsetting. Crazy how things with technology are supposed make life less stressful and it ends up complicating things. That is pretty much the day today!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 24th, 2023
Today has been a grey day. As I write this I'm still hoping to make it to recreation outside, but it's been shut down because it was supposed to storm. There's been a drop of rain here and there but nothing like last week when I was outside in the rain. I was hoping on a good jog or playing a little basketball.
With recreation everyday now, the field minister said the movies are going to be a difficult thing to do on a regular basis. It requires shutting down a day room to hook up the equipment and would require sections to give up their rec day to do it. They can get some sections to agree but not all because some guys want their rec and could not care less about a movie and I understand that. I don't like being cooped up in my cell either, but I also know some guys would prefer a movie so sacrificing a day is worth it. Troop said he might be able to work it out every month or so on a Sunday, but really we have to just hope they are serious about allowing us to purchase movies on the tablet. As I write this we have yet to receive any additional apps.
It's later now and I made it outside which was nice. It sprinkled a bit but now the storms are making their way in and it looks apocalyptic. We just had some news and update on the tablets and now some officers are saying we aren't for certain getting the media app. The warden is now saying it isn't a guarantee. Geeze, I'm so tired of being yanked around. Well onto another day!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 25th, 2023
So, it's another CCA week and I'm all nerves. I'm starting this early in the day as I check the news and see what happens.
Yesterday I was still processing the suicide that happened over the weekend and on Sunday night I heard my neighbor talking about how the dude was a close friend of his and it really messed with his head, but he knew the guy wasn't right after losing his appeals. Apparently he had been screwed over really badly in his trial and when the Supreme Court was a 5-4 majority they had sent his appeals back to the CCA to have it addressed and he was certain it would be reversed. Well, Trump happened and RBG passed and that majority grew 6-3...The CCA basically ignored the Supreme Courts directive sent it back to the new majority and they denied it. I wanted to read this for myself and I kept putting in the wrong spelling for the legal Lexis Nexis app where you can look up rulings – the same app I keep checking for a CCA ruling today. I asked my neighbor why it kept telling me 'no search found' and he told me I spelled his name wrong.
The day got away from me as I was checking all day for messages. Other than some love notes from Taffy NOTHING was getting through and then around dinner a gazillion messages popped up all the way back to Friday! It wasn't until later in the evening I looked up the case and wow...he really did get screwed over. His trial lawyers put up no case in the sentencing phase, no mitigation, and totally screwed him over. Its a shame the courts have allowed that to happen. The courts always say this one line that is such BS... "Even if there was error, it was harmless because the crime was so awful or the evidence so overwhelming that it would not change the jurors mind." But how can they act like they know what would or wouldn't change a jurors mind? Have a look at the case of Paul Storey and listen to the Snap Judgement or This American Life podcast where some jurors said had they known his victim's family didn't want him executed they would have never voted for death. That decision ruined their own lives.
So, yeah, Terence felt helpless and hopeless. On top of that a mental health nurse here mocked him some weeks ago when he told her he was going to kill himself saying "Why haven't you done it already?” And he was in complete isolation on F pod in the dungeon. It was a perfect storm of horribleness. It gets my blood boiling. The Tank read a poem from him last night and it was one of pain. Ugh. And yet, some way, some how things go back to the way they were and remain.
Our recreation schedule has gone back to the pre pandemic one and while it means we'll get at least two outside days and three inside, it all but kills the field minister movies and we worry that guards will quit because they haven't had to do this much work in two years. If they'd give us the media app it would cut their work load by two thirds guaranteed! A lot of guys would just stay in their cells.
It's later in the day now and there was no CCA ruling and surprisingly the officers got everything done quickly. They're worn out and tired but they got it done. I always find it interesting when we have an all women crew working and society has deemed us the worst of the worst and a continued danger but...not too dangerous to have. three women running a pod on death row.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 26th, 2023
I always find it interesting that TDCJ is always more than willing to violate security protocols and policy when it best suits them, but if an inmate does something as silly as passing a snack to another inmate some officers write them up for 'trafficking and trading' which is what happened today. All the while there were three women working the pod, a violation in itself because it requires a male officer to strip search an inmate when they leave their cell. Then, the officers working rarely did a security round every 30 minutes, never did a proper count time, as they are required, instead just cooking the books as they call it. And still after all of these violations one of them writes a disciplinary on an inmate for passing some ramen noodles to another inmate?? What kind of world do we live in? Insanity.
The phone app came on for about an hour today and then disappeared again. We were told it would take 2-4 weeks to sort it out before they would approve phone numbers but it did have a lot of guys excited. I joked and told some guys around me that people don't really talk much on the phone these days and after the novelty of it wears off people on the outside won't want to talk much, and we'll be back to square one.
It has been a long stressful day...I made it to the shower only to get trapped for an hour. Sheesh.
Courage. Strength Hope and Faith.
January 28th, 2023
Saturday..I'm writing this in the morning at 9:32 am as I wait to go to recreation. The officers are in no hurry to begin and have been sitting in the control center horse playing. Its the only place I know that won't fire you for not doing your job. Of course, who cares about inmates when it comes to recreation or other basic needs? And that is why a law suit on death row conditions has officially been filed. You can read about it in the Texas Tribune news paper on line. It hasn't made big news but I know from talking to one of the field ministers yesterday that the head warden is ticked off about it. It's not his fault per se, and to his credit, he has done an outstanding job on the. changes he's made back here. That must be noted. However, there is a backwards culture when it comes to any change or reform in conditions especially when it comes to Death Row and Ad-Seg. You can't feign concern about mental health, the increasing rate of suicides and then continue to pursue policies that laugh in the face of that. There are those that will say , "Screw you, scum. You need to suffer. You need to die", but those thoughts or beliefs run contrary to most civilised standards in developed countries as well as our own Constitution. Even the three Abrahamic faiths. You can't call out other countries for their human rights violations when your own are just as bad, if not worse than the countries you call out.
So, we shall see what comes of it. Knowing TDCJ they will put up a fight and blow millions of tax payers dollars of money they say they don't have for things like improved food and conditions.
Well, yesterday was interesting. It does appear that we are for certain receiving the phone app. Securus came to our pod yesterday and set up recording stations in each day room via a portable phone. Then, individually, we were taken to the day room and we were told to speak into the phone and say our name three times after a beep, then say a phrase three times. After it recorded our voice biometrics, we had to say it again to make sure it worked and a voice said "You have now been accepted into the Securus phone system." What we don't know is how the prison is going to do our pre approved phone list and how many people we can call. General population gets 30 numbers. I doubt they will allow us that many people to call. Field Minister Troop was over here yesterday and we talked about an hour and he said that Warden Enriques told him we were getting all the apps, he just doesn't know when. It runs contrary to Warden Dickerson saying he doesn't know if we will or won't.
I told Troop I was tired of the towing and froing and if we got it, great. If not, we will just have to make do with what we have and then we talked about a system in which he could still show movies even when we have rec. six days a week now. We both agreed it would probably require a section skipping their rec. day. Which I'm sure most sections would sacrifice every now and then. Of course we also know that if these guys had the media app most guys wouldn't go to rec. and it would make the guards job much easier.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
January 29th, 2023
Sunday evening and I'm here listening to the world news as I type this. Earlier I did a Star Wars marathon, doing chores as I listened to a few of the newer movies, then at three I had a date with Taffy watching a show that is on the Pando app we have on our tablet. After that I've been lazy and relaxing, thinking and listening to the radio.
My neighbor has taken the suicide of Terence Andrus really hard. They were close friends and since his death he's been in a funk. I've been checking on him and talking every now and then.
Tomorrow the phone app is supposed to go live from 9 am to 5 pm but even if it comes on there's speculation on whether or not anyone will be able to use it because we don't know if we have to submit a phone list nor do we know how many people we will be allowed to call. There are still uncertainties.
It'll also be interesting to see how TDCJ responds to the law suits filed on conditions. The firm that filed them has had success in other states so Texas has a fight on their hands. Its crazy that the month is almost over. It went by in a breeze. And that is about it for today.
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith.
January 30th, 2023
I woke up feeling positive and full of hope, even in spite of the bad events of recent weeks and the coming executions. John Balentine is scheduled for next week and is a good friend of mine and I know it will be difficult for me, but I have to find light in the darkness and keep moving forward. If I survive this place I've made a promise to myself and to the guys here that I will continue to speak out about the death penalty, the possibility and power of redemption and change, and be a voice for these men. Even if I don't like everyone here, it doesn't mean I should be silent.
I do feel intuitively it's going to be a good week and beginning of a new month. I hope that spirit and feeling continues on throughout the week!
So, last Friday we did our voice biometrics for the phone app. This brought about much joy throughout the pod and the Securus technician told us, once we did our recording we were in the system we were ready. By Monday it should be good to go. Actually, a sergeant just came by and said we would be able to make calls later this week. What we don't know is how many people we will be allowed to call, how we'll have to do our phone list, meaning, do we submit a list for approval or just have you out there register online or what? We're flying blind and the administration is not helping guide us.
We are also getting mixed messages on whether or not we'll get the media app or even podcasts. The death row warden told the field minister we were but the head warden said he didn't know either way. I'm not understanding all of this cloak and dagger antics and why we just can't get a solid yes or no,you know?
In the midst of all of the confusion a law suit has officially been filed by a HUGE firm that has had success in other states with their death row and so this isn't some slapped together fly by the seat of your pants law suit. It has been in the works for over two years. TDCJ will waste a bunch of money fighting it as they do and we are already hearing that the head warden and the TDCJ director is pissed off so... We'll see what comes of it. There's hope and most of the guards here want us as well as ad seg to have more content on the tablet because it means less work for them.
So, I spent most of the weekend vegging out. I did have five hours of rec. on Saturday which was crazy, but I spent most of the weekend listening to movies. I did a star wars marathon, some Avengers and Fast and the Furious. We don't know when we'll see a movie back here from the field minister, though...doing rec every day makes it difficult for him.
Breaking news...they're starting to install televisions in the day room. No doubt in response to the law suits...They just put up the televisions in 4 day rooms and will finish tomorrow. Unfortunately they can't turn them on yet because the coax cables out there have to be replaced. Ad seg is getting TV as well. Still I knew something positive was happening this week. There is zero excuse to not allow us the media app now! I mean, what would be the argument?
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 2nd, 2023
I haven't really been able to get my brain to function and write because of the chaos of the week and the execution and everything else. But as I write this I'm feeling a bit clearer headed. I'm happy for the guys on the rest of the pod that have working televisions in their day room as they finally got their stations changed from Fox News, and right now they're watching Jurassic World. My section's TV doesn't work so we're just staring at a blue screen. Fun!
I thought my friend John was getting a stay of execution today. They moved him in on our section and then five minutes later moved him back to A-Pod so we were all really confused and we still don't know what is going on. Well...hopefully they will get our TV working some time soon. It kind of sucks hearing TVs blast every where except on our section. I heard a Star Wars commercial earlier and yelled NOOOOOOO! Haha...It's my lot in life I suppose.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 4th, 2023
I'm starting this on a Saturday morning and it's like a ghost town with only one Officer on the floor. They've been short handed of late and so to fill the gap, Officers from other prison units in the region use their over time to work here. I imagine that costs a pretty penny for the state and I wonder if the state is footing the gas bill to drive over here as well. To their credit they're trying to run more recreation but inmates are still getting screwed over because the Off Unit officers don't arrive until 9 or 10 am and then we will get a lazy officer that works here.
I'll give yesterday as an example. Rec. started at 11am and I went outside for first round. It was lovely. A slight chill, but brilliant sunshine and the air was fresh. I came back in a little after two. Second round stayed out until after four. Third round received less than two hours of rec. because everything has to be shut down before second shift...because they are short handed as well! This leaves two rounds of rec. incomplete and a whole bunch of showers that never happened. Now with TV in the day rooms everyone wants to go and watch a little tv....I'm no rocket scientist, but it goes without saying that one way to mitigate these issues is to just allow the media app on the tablets. Then, a lot of guys would say “screw rec” and others will say, “screw rec and the TVs, I'll watch my own content.” Simple solution!
I feel like a hamster on a wheel these days because we are running around in circles getting nowhere and even the supervisors know how to mitigate the problems but no one can solve it because the higher ups WON'T solve them. Is it any wonder why people are losing their minds here or wanting to end it all? My patience is tested every day and if I wasn't a master at compartmentalization I'd probably have flown over the cuckoo's nest myself. Thank G-d for wonderful people in my life to hold me up mentally and spiritually. I'm also good at finding humor in crazy situations...when you see absurdity in life and how it can be a comic farce and just laugh... its really cathartic. For example...these new TVs have a default setting when they are unplugged. No one knew that. It's been 23 years since death row has had television. On Thursday after several days of non stop Fox News torture, they were able to get the channels changed to TNT. They watched Jurassic World and then Basketball. At 10.30pm the Officer unplugged the TV. The next morning they plugged it back in and it was back on Fox News! It stayed on there all day! I found it funny for some reason. It figures that the default setting would he Fox News! Fortunately, as I am typing this a trustee just showed up with the remote control and put it on the movie station for the working TVs and my section is stuck out. Its my lot in life, I suppose. I was joking with my neighbors that Troop owes my section an entire day of movies.
Well, on with the day! I think lunch is on the other side of the pod. Its 10:25am now and I have a splitting headache and nothing is working. I took an aspirin but its not working! Its now close to second shift and I spent the day watching movies! I asked the guard if he'd keep the section door open we could see the TV in D section and he said he would, but would close it before shift change. I watched Secario part one and then half of the Northman because I had date time with Taffy at 3 pm watching a series on the Pando App, and after that I watched Secario 2. Then the guard closed the door. I could listen on my radio so it made it all the better. I just had to stand for five hours. The torture I put my self for movies I've never seen. I really wanted to see Everything And Every Where All At Once as it is the next movie but I will probably have to just listen.
On to a new day!
Courage. Strength Hope and Faith
February 8th, 2023
As I write this it was another day without rec or showers. Well, they did showers yesterday but because I was out at rec until after six in the evening and 2nd shift was short handed I was screwed out of a shower. Five days now that I've had to bathe out of my sink.
With TVs in the day rooms now everyone wants to go to rec. to watch TV, especially on my side where the TV is working. Well, it was working on my section after a trustee ran a wire from a cell to the TV on Saturday and I watched a few movies, but some bozos today messed up the whole thing so now the TV isn't working again. I won't get into the rest of the craziness that will probably cause us to loses TV privileges that some idiots did as well. When they come to fix it all and see how screwed up it is ...well, we're going to be punished.
The crew we had working is another story altogether... I was waiting on recreation all day long and the only reason I made it is because the guy out in the day room was going to go in early after he exercises. While I was out two DC comic book movies were on: Suicide Squad and Justice League and they were awful! Bad CGI, bad acting. DC has nothing on Marvel. All of commercials were pure food porn. It was torture! Burger King, Pizza, Chicken... tacos... Commercials for super bowl food and snacks. I was jump roping, practically drooling!
At least the weekend was better though and the movie channel was on and this side of the pod enjoyed it. I can't really see the TV from my cell unless D section door is open so as I said, I watched a few movies. Secario 1 and 2 were great.. I did strain to see WaterBoy and gave it my best, but after that I was out of it.
The rumor mill is back at it saying the phone app will be on by the end of the week and now our hours are from 2pm to 8 pm....I don't know and really don't care anymore. I just want off of death row. I was on the verge of a full blown meltdown yesterday and I hate having that poison and anger in my system. I shouldn't have to pray for serenity...I just want peace.
It's later now and I did make it to rec. They started right before noon and I went outside for three hours. I still won't get a shower, though. Ugh. Well, tomorrow is CCA day so I'm going to keep positive and hopeful.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 10th, 2023
Another day of uncertainty. As I write this, it is Friday morning at 7:55 am and the pod lights are off. It doesn't bode well for recreation today which kind of stinks because my section goes outside and I love outside days. Any chance for fresh air is a blessing.
So, the execution of my friend, John Balentine, was depressing. I really believed he'd get a stay and I had thought, as we all did back here, that the execution was off. The news wasn't mentioning anything planned and then around 11am on Wednesday everything was shut down and I asked a guard what was going on and she said Balentine's execution. Talk about a punch in the gut. John was one of those guys that even the officers liked. He was always smiling and joking and had this child like spirit about him!. He was a big kid and I mean that in the best of ways. What angered me most about his execution is the revelation of how racially motivated and charged his case was...it doesn't excuse his crime, but how do we allow a system to justify killing him simply because of race? When his trial attorneys pass notes to each other saying it is a justifiable lynching or the Jury foreman says their gonna kill that n---- or else he'll do it himself. He had one of those cases that activists love to rally behind and there wasn't a peep. That really angered me. Justice, no matter how you paint it, should mean fairness. I don't care if you hate the person and want them to rot in hell for eternity. You should still want a system that is free of racism, of revenge, that is a level playing field for both the state and the defense. That is truly constitutional.
I'm always amazed how so called originalists are so gung ho about the constitution but when it best suits their agenda or means, they're willing to stretch, bend or break it. The same can be said about their religious 'beliefs'.
The rest of the week, thus far has been chaotic.
It's later now and they have officially fixed all of the TVs on the pod and everyone on this side is excited for movies and the Superbowl. It should be a fun weekend. We had no rec. or showers today which sucked. If they do have it tomorrow I'll be first out. We shall see.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 12th, 2023
It's super bowl Sunday and hard to believe that for me and others it will be the first super bowl – and football game, for that matter – in 23 plus years. Crazy!
The weekend has been good. We watched movies all day long and by the end of a whole day literally on my feet and at the door, except taking out some timefor a date with my Taffy, I laid down and slept a solid 8 hours! We watched so many movies! Aliens was a blast and there was a movie called Deadlocked which had Bruce Willis as a villain getting revenge for the death of his son, and it was super graphic violent. Plot wise and cinematically it was a good movie but just too violent. I can handle the over the top cartoonish stuff like in horror movies but when it is portrayed to BE real it messes my head up.
They closed the night off with Insidious part 1 and 2, but I went to sleep in part two. These guys have decided to watch movies today until around 5 pm And then put on the Superbowl. My section, in an attempt for fairness wants to do a raffle tomorrow for TV days for each cell. So, the idea is we'll write down the cells and then put them in a bag, drawing14 cells for 14 days. I'm in 57 cell. So, if my number comes up on a Tuesday, when Tuesday comes I run the TV. The only exception is on big event days like sport championships etc and everyone would agree to put the TV on. It's a novel idea and we'll see how it turns out. I do foresee problems and hurt feelings on certain days. especially on weekends.
Well, today we watched Avarice, which was good. Cosmic Dawn which was a weird throw back to '80s style movie making but made no sense whatsoever. Though, the sound track was awesome. Crimson Peak, a scary movie beautifully shot, was decent but one I'd like to closer examine on a deeper view. Then before football was a weird but excellent art house indie horror called Bones And All. It was so good! Its now later, loud with football on... I'm tired from being on my feet all day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 15th, 2023
I'll begin this with an alert for anyone that uses Securus for emessages or the phone app. It was announced on the prison radio station, The Tank, that there are people running a scam by acting as a representative from Securus saying that an inmate's account has been suspended and to reactivate it for calls and messaging you need to pay a fee over the phone or email. THIS IS SCAM!!! No one from Securus will ever contact you and ask for money so please be careful!!!
So, today we were told that recreation is no longer every day but every other day...well, that didn't last long. I woke up early to get ready and then was told there was no rec. So, I exercised in my cell. Thankfully, they did showers. They kept the TVs on but you know, other than weekends or a really good movie during the week, there is no day time content that catches my attention. My section as a whole seems to be hooked on the show Supernatural though. It seems like they watch 8 hours of that every day. I'm looking forward to this holiday weekend and plenty of movies.
Nothing else has been going on. Been a pretty boring day.
Courage Strength. Hope and Faith.
February 20th, 2023
As I write this it is early Monday morning and not a creature is stirring, not even cockroaches. It's Presidents Day and today is my TV day from the drawing we did for days on our section. Sadly, though, I think after this cycle ends it will go to majority vote wins because the dude Friday started a fight with everyone. I stayed out of it because I'm a sojourner, a vagabond moving from section to section. Anyways, today is my day and while I wouldn't mind watching the movie channel all day long, I put it to a few people if they were cool with a Star Wars marathon to be diplomatic about it and surprisingly they wanted a Star Wars marathon and that is where it is going! On top of that, field minister Troop should be here with the big flat screens for a movie as well, or that is what he said on Friday when I last talked to him.
It was a good movie channel weekend, though. Black Panther was good, but the best movie of the weekend was a movie called High Heat. I almost bailed on it because the beginning was all about a female chef on her opening restaurant night. But...it turns out this was no ordinary chef! It turned into a really clever, snappy quick witted Quinton Tarantino type movie. It was great. I love snappy dialogue.
I also reflected on how there have been so many deaths in the past month, with Hank Skinner being the latest after he passed away from complications of a brain tumor. Then, Troop told me Friday that two guys back here received word from their attorneys they will soon receive dates for an execution. All of these things remind us of the reality of this place. Texas is in the business of killing and to them, business is a booming. As I wrote that the officer just turned the tv on. She was surprised when I asked for TNT and not the movie channel as all of the other sections had and I said, " Its all about Star Wars today!" They cut our recreation days back to just three days a week with two days being inside and one day outside. I guess they feel that TVs remedy that but you have to then consider what do those who can't see the TVs do? More importantly, we have an ageing death row with many man that have poor eye sight or conditions that don't allow them to stand very long. 23 years of being in solitary confinement and limited movement/ exercise and the body deteriorates. Are they expected to stand at their door all day? I'm in fairly decent shape for a 45 year old. I force myself to stay active, but it takes a lot of will power to not get into a state of inactivity. Still, standing at the door all day, straining to see through chicken wire is no easy feat. What is the remedy for those who can't watch tv but would love to?
Well, it is after noon now and the Star Wars marathon has begun. Nine hours of pure unadulterated geekery.
Courage Strength Hope and Faith.
February 22nd, 2023
As I write this it's early Wednesday morning. I'm doing okay, just figuring out my day. They've gone back to limited recreation so today is one of those days I'm stuck in the cell and just have to get through it. It is also the day the CCA releases rulings and so I have the anxiety of that as I listen to the news or check the legal app. What's cool about that is you can see rulings almost immediately after they are posted. I can put in my name specifically or the date and there it is. So, we'll see what happens through out the day.
I'm livid because I just heard some Texas republican introduced a bill here to remove polling stations from universities and schools during elections. Do these people have any shame? Also Ken Paxton wants Texas tax payers to foot his personal legal bills. Really, the irony is these people lambaste criminals when they are criminals themselves.
Yesterday was a mad house of a day. Complete chaos. I ended up going outside when a space opened with a mentally impaired guy who doesn't speak English very well and no one else wanted to be outside with. It turned out to be a blessing because I learned that in the two months he has had his tablet he has never been able to use it. Apparently his login number doesn't work and so I told him I'd get him some help to use it. He told me his lawyer put money on his debit and he has the 25 dollars we all received when we first received our tablet and he has never even read any of his messages! The poor guy probably has a ton of them. I wrote the chaplaincy last night to see if I could get a Spanish speaking field minister to come down and get him some help. Sometimes we end up in places we don't expect for the right reasons.
On Monday I spent the whole day watching the newer Star Wars trilogy. It was a long day but well worth it! We had the movie channel on over the weekend and I was able to see the Black Panther and Black Widow which were both really good! But the best movie that took me by surprise was one called High Heat! It starts off about this woman chef opening her own restaurant. Her husband is in debt with some crime boss and so they come to burn down the place which was a bad mistake because it turns out she's an ex KGB spy who defected and is total badass. The movie was really funny and smart, too. In just two weeks I've seen so many movies it's not even funny. I just realised I probably wrote that in a weekend journal, but hey, it is worth repeating.
I think spring is here early. It has been in the 80's and lovely. They even turned the air on. I have a feeling it is going to be a scorcher of a summer. We still don't have the phone app and no one knows what's up with that. But Field minister Troop just showed up to show a movie on the big screens and said we should have the podcast app soon. We shall see. The movie he is showing is called Gray Man.
Just watched the movie. It was so so. I don't really recommend it. He had some other movies which would have been far better to watch. Still, seeing movies on a big screen is better than straining to see a movie at a far distance in the day room! My section decided to come together and try the raffle for tv days again with some clear cut rules. It almost fell apart last week but for now we put out some parameters in place so people won't get angry. Or have hurt feelings. If I don't get moved I pulled the weekend which that's twice now I got movie days at the weekend! Somebody get me a lotto ticket, I'm hot! When I was a kid I always won raffles. I think the gift is back! I've won transformers toys, a scooter, a tool kit, amongst other things. And now two weeks in a row I pull movie days!
Courage Strength Hope and Faith
February 27th, 2023
It's Monday and I'm doing my best to keep busy, positive and focused. It isn't the tv that is a distraction. I don't stand at my door and watch tv unless there is a movie I want to see. Other than that, I have no interest. I am going to watch Thor: Ragnorok in a little while because I've never seen it, but I've not watched anything else today. Saturday they did recreation and when I was in the day room I watched an old 70' s movie called Savannah Smiles. It was sooo corny but I still watched it. When I came back in I caught up on some things, did some chores and then went to a visit with a friend that evening. It was super crowded and I'm not a fan of crowds, but I'll take getting out of my cell any time.
It was good to see my friend and I was able to see some of my friends I never see anymore from A pod. They told me they were all rooting for me and hoping I was off of death row soon. That meant a lot to me. A crazy thing, though, is they put plexi-glass over the mess of the booths that the inmates sit in making it really hot. I asked why they did that and the guard said because of the law suit siting lack of privacy during legal visits. I said, 'That's dumb...there's no privacy on the attorney side! It's completely open so other people can still eaves drop or hear conversations.' That is TDCJ for you!
On Sunday I pretty much stood at the door and watched movies all day long. We watched Twister, Avengers End Game, Ready Player One, and Mortal Kombat, I tapped out on that one because I was tired and some dude was being really disrespectful blasting his homemade speaker over the movie. There's no recreation today but at least I've been to the shower.
In two more weeks it'll be 90 days since my Judge's recommendation for a new trial went before the CCA. It typically takes about 90 days but it can take longer. Going forward, every week is going to be nerve wrecking! But I have hope and a lot of cautious optimism. I could definitely use prayers though. It is now the afternoon and I'm waiting for the officer to turn our television on. I'd really like to see the movie Thor: Ragnorok so I hope it will be on by then. Actually, I hope to get off of this section soon. It has the worst energy of the entire pod. There's just a heavy blanket of negativity that hangs over it. I've taken to yelling out "Someone get me outta here!" at random times for comedic effect.
They finally turned the tv on. I had dozed off listening to some chill music on The Tank and was out. Next thing I knew, the tv blasting away woke me back up. At least they got it on. And the day is pretty much over!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.