July 2022 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson
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July 11th, 2022

When I'm stressed I find it difficult to write a journal, which is not how it should work because writing is supposed to be a cathartic practice. But my thoughts tend to get all jumbled up and so I end up not writing anything.

I don't know what has happened but things on this pod have turned really negative...Mostly the people. Couple that with being excluded from taking classes to better myself for no other reason than I can't be around my co-defendant. It's like having a boulder tied around your neck...It's been pulling me down and so I woke up this morning, did my exercises and prayed that I'd do my best to not let myself be dragged down in everyone else's misery. I need to be a little more empathetic and patient with the guys around me as well, because I think at the root of it all is that many guys are either at the tail end of their appeals, or completely run out, and facing potential execution dates. I understand that for them, seeing someone in my position or others whose cases are going well, it can be rough on them and I get that. I also know – and I told this to a guy who went to death watch on Thursday – that no matter how impossible it seems, and no matter how many people try to convince you it's over, it isn't. You can't give up, and anything can happen.

No one can prepare someone for an execution date, and everyone handles their experience differently. But why spend those days in bitterness and despair? Make the most of your time. Be grateful for the friends, family, and things you might have and just live. Anything can happen!

That all being said, it still doesn't give anyone the right to be belligerent, mean, or nasty to another person. Being here, in the position we are in comes with a certain acknowledgement and acceptance that taking responsibility for the choices we make does come with consequences. Right or wrong, or whether or not we're guilty or not guilty, you can't get mad at the world or everyone around you. That is the same for how you choose to live your life in this place. If you've wasted your time and find yourself suddenly at the end of the road and you're mad, you've got to acknowledge that you wasted your time.

When I was on death watch, one of the most awful things to witness was to see a man in complete panic for being in the state he was in because he had 'sorry' attorneys that dropped the ball, but all of these years, he didn't pay attention. He didn't seem to care. He could tell you every sport statistic known to man, but could tell you nothing about his appeals. It wasn't until he was at the end did he realize that his attorneys missed filings, and didn't bring up certain issues that could've potentially saved his life...

So, some of that, in my opinion, has lead to the turn towards darkness on this pod. I think it's also frustration...Everyone was expecting the tablets by now. Visitation has still not fully returned to the way it was pre-pandemic, so guys can't get their special visits, only one four hour extended visit with the approval of the warden. Staff shortages that derail recreation or phones, the disappointment that while the field ministers roll in a movie every now and then, there were promises of putting a TV in each dayroom that still hasn't been fulfilled. So, there are definitely other 'agitations'. I get it...Just don't take it out on the people around you. Be a big boy and suck it up.

I'm still in the process of fighting the decision that I couldn't attend the multi-faith classes on A-Pod. I filed the grievance and Field Minister Troop came by and said, “They talked to me about your grievance” so at least I know that the matter is being looked into. We talked for a bit and he said he was going to talk to the Head Warden for me as well. I did write a passionate please to the warden so we'll see what happens. It's a bit ridiculous when you really think about it because I'll be nowhere near my co-defendant, and again, it's because of something that happened almost 22 years ago. They  just let a guy out of AD SEG into general population and he now has a trustee job. This dude has escaped twice, has numerous staff assaults, and has been found with handcuff keys and weapons over the years...and he gets to go to General Population. I've had no disciplines, no assaults, no incidences of being a threat of any kind, and I can't take some classes to better myself after something that happened almost 22 years ago?

I'm going to keep trying though, and pray and keep positive...I refuse to give up, or give up on myself.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace

July 13th, 2022

By the time this is posted I'll more than likely be back in Dallas County Jail and either beginning my hearings or about to. At first, when the CCA ordered new hearings I was a bit bummed out, but now it's like, “Bring it!” Let's put my trial judge's bigotry and racism on a stage for the entire world to see. Let the State defend all of that. My first hearing, as of now, is scheduled for August 29th.

I do hope the ride up is similar to the ride to Dallas last year because the ride back to Livingston just sucked. Worst trip ever! I'm looking forward to seeing civilisation again.

Well, the past two days went really pear shaped. Actually, it's more of yesterday than today. We had the worst crew possible and I was screwed out of my rec. They were leaving people in the day room for 5 hours which all but guaranteed that I would never make it to rec because the night shift is so short handed the daytime has to be done with all of their rec by 5pm. Admittedly, I didn't take my own advice that I wrote in a recent journal, and I kind of blew a gasket. I was trying to let the guards know that had they not dragged their butts we wouldn't all be in the predicament we were in. The male officer said,

“I don't work for you. I don't have to explain shit to you, murderer.”

Well...I blew  up and then my neighbour jumped in and stated cussing the officer out and I realised this was spinning out of control really fast because the officer started punching my neighbor's door and yelling,

“Do something, bitch! Do something!”

My mind was racing, like, oh man...I hope my neighbor doesn't do anything and I started yelling,

“Hey! Hey! Stop...Everyone calm the fuck down!”

They paused and I said,

“Look I get it. You don't want an inmate telling you what to do. I apologise for snapping at you, but ya'll have to start seeing things from our perspective. We used to get rec every single day. Now we get three days and when you don't work, we get two days, and then if the next crew doesn't do their job it's one day. Can't you see why we get all worked up? I know ya'll have a lot to do. I know this, but please, for the love of G-d see it from our side too. Please.”

He stopped, looked at me, nodded and apologised, then he apologised to my neighbour and my neighhbor apologised in return, and it turned into a big kumbaya fest!

That's all I'm asking from these people – to just see why we get frustrated and some people explode. We can't do anything on our own. We need an officer for everything but wiping our own butts.

Well, when I woke up this morning it sounded like they were pulling people out for rec, so I jumped out of bed and someone said they were doing the rec guys missed yesterday. My neighbors and I jumped at the opportunity to go outside and we ended up playing 30 games of basketball, then doing a bunch of exercises. I was back in at 9am and let me tell you it is HOT!!! It wasn't too bad early in the morning, but it has taken no time for this place to turn into an oven.

Today I spent the rest of the day getting things in order to go back to Dallas. I have a travel bag packed and ready and I really can't wait. It's going to be great. I know what to expect this time around, and can mentally adjust so it won't be a problem. I'll be doing journals from Dallas as well, so stay tuned!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace

July 17th, 2022

It's Sunday morning as I begin this entry and I'll be going to recreation in another two hours or so. We've got a good team of officers working today so I'm holding onto hope that no chaos bombs explode and derail everything. That's exactly what happened yesterday...we had two really A-team officers working and I made it outside around 10.30am, stayed out for a bit, and then those two officers were pulled off the pod to work elsewhere, and were replaced with two buffoons and BOOM! Chaos bomb...Guys were screwed out of recreation, out of showers...and chaos ruled the rest of the day. The one redeeming factor (at least for A/B/C sections) was when Field Minister Troop showed up to play a movie – Aquaman I believe.

I've been in decent spirits...I'm really looking forward to getting back to Dallas. You know, it has its pros and cons, but even with the worst of it – noise, banging, sleep disruption, and the fact they never turn off the cell lights) it's a change of pace, environment, and people. The jailers are generally  more professional, and treat you with a bit of humanity. You get to talk to your loved ones and friends on a regular basis, and nothing beats going to the gym and seeing the view of down town Dallas. The hearings are completely unnecessary, but hey, if it means a little break from this place, I'll take it.

I'm pretty much ready to go! I think my neighbours are ready to see me off as well because all I keep talking about is going back to Dallas (ha ha).

I was sitting here wondering if by the time I return they'll have started the so called 'work program' for death row inmates that qualify. What we've been hearing of late is that the first people that will be allowed are those that are involved in the Faith Based Program...But we'll see!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.

July 19th, 2022

Today was interesting...I had a great legal visit and I was out at visitation around 8.50am, when my investigator and a really nice intern showed up. I was informed that my hearings – initially scheduled to begin on August 8th, have been re-scheduled to start on August 29th, but still expect to leave for Dallas anytime before then. I told him, “Believe me, I'm ready to go.” This time around I'm better mentally prepared, and know what to expect from the hearing, the stress factor at the jail, etc. I think that last year, while it wasn't horrible (except for the ride back to Polunsky) I often felt like a deer caught in the headlights...I hope it's a bit better. I also have my Taffy, and I don't have any emotional conflicts etc, and I'm happier than I've been in years and years. Plus, any break from this place is a gift! No matter how much noise I have to deal with in the Dallas jail.

I was almost missed out on rec today, and while I had to sacrifice my shower (due to chaotic lazy guards) I did get my two hours of rec. I cleared my head by jogging in the day room, and then chatting to the group around me. I came back to my cell, bathed out of my sink, and here I am, laying under the fan (it's hot!!) and completely exhausted.

Tomorrow is a non-rec day, so I'll enjoy a day free of insanity!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.

July 24th, 2022

It's been an interesting few days...On Thursday they changed our rec schedule again, for the gazillionth time, because they've just had a bunch of guards quit again. They've gone back to the one hour of rec about every three days, IF they have the staff. We were supposed to have rec today but they were short handed, so that didn't happen. You've read my thoughts on this many times, and how I think they could keep staff, but TDCJ doesn't listen to inmates, so...I'm just spinning my wheels, but I do like to ask this question to people over and over again when all of the 'tough on crime' but short on solutions rhetoric pops up with politicians and pundits: If we lock everyone up and throw away the key, who is going to watch over the prisoners when the prisons are filled up to capacity (actually, they already are in Harris County, to the point that they've had to send inmates to private facilities at the taxpayers' expense, in other states)?

That same Thursday I had a great legal phone call with  my team and it was supposed to last about an hour, but we were really lucky to get two hours. From what I know at this point, my  hearings have been changed and rescheduled from August 8th, to August 29th, and we are putting forth one hell of a presentation to highlight my trial judge's bigotries, and showing how it was harmful and shouldn't be allowed in any court. I'm nervous about the process, but there's an equal amount of excitement if that makes sense...I mean, in no way would I willingly want to be in this position, and having to go through all of this, but it could've been resolved last Fall...It should've been resolved last Fall!! As my Taffy and I always say, this process is hard on everyone, and dragging it out like this is unnecessary, and causes undue stress and anxiety to all concerned.

So...I'm pretty much all packed and ready to roll...I'm living out of my bags for now, which is okay. I have my important items out, but with that recent escape and the response to it, they're not telling people that leave the prison the night before like they used to, which is understandable. But it doesn't give the inmate a chance to pack his own stuff and leaves the duty of that to the guards. This creates a lot of problems as sometimes things get lost, thrown away, or yes, even stolen. They steal snacks, pictures, momentos, if they believe you to be 'infamous'. Better to have it all packed up and keep that possibility to a minimum. I don't mind living out of the bags for a few days, or a couple of weeks.

I'm ready to goooooo!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

Peace.

  
July 31st, 2022

I'm back in Dallas!! It was one heck of an adventure this time around...Today is the first day I feel a little settled – not totally settled – but at least I had a much needed solid night of sleep! I feel rested and a little less anxious this morning.  

Everything started on Friday morning on the 29th. I had just gotten out of bed and put on The Tank to catch the morning album, and made a cup of coffee, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got ready to work out when I heard a guard scream to another guard,  

“Ask 84 cell if he wants to go!”  

Then, a guard came to my door and said,

“Hey, do you want to go on a bench warrant?”

“I didn't know I had a choice, but yes, I want to go.”

At that point I knew I was going back to Dallas on that day. I started yelling to friends that I was going, then frantically began to get my property in order and have my travel bag ready to go.  

At around 10am an escort crew showed up to take me to a booth in the hallway to wait for the Dallas County Sheriff Department to whisk me away.  

I waited for about another hour when I had to do my first thorough strip search. Then, my shirt and shorts were handed back to me. Not long after that the same Deputy that brought me back to TDCJ last year, arrived, and I had to strip out again. My ride back last year, on my birthday, was in a windowless van and I was bounced around like a ping pong ball, so I figured the same was about to happen.  

After I was strip searched again, I was taken to a metal detector chair, and my bag of property was checked and run through an X-ray machine. Once I was given the all clear the deputy shackled me up and off we went right out the front of the prison.  

Once in the prison parking lot, the windowless van pulled up and I climbed into the back, but at least I could see out the front of the van and had a good view. I was still bounced around in the van because there are no seats – it's a long metal bench turned sideways. A three hour ride in that thing is not a pleasant experience.  

I should say that the Dallas County Deputy in charge of me was professional and polite, and although I didn't ask, he did 'offer me the chance' to be subjected to 3 hours of gospel music and Billy Graham preaching over the vans loud speaker system. He set up his phone so that I could watch the video and it was crisp and clear, but it felt more like being tortured. I had zero desire to be preached to for 3 hours (ha ha).  

I took in every sight I could on that trip! We were moving along at a pretty fast pace until off in the distance I could see billowing smoke. Traffic on I-45 slowed down to a crawl, and at first I thought it must be some kind of car crash, but eventually I realised it was a wild bush fire – something that I've never seen in real life. There were emergency vehicles everywhere! There was also a huge tractor digging a fire line to keep it from jumping.  

Once we cleared that scene, it was back to a nice pace. As we neared Dallas I began to get excited because I'd soon be able to use the phone and find out if the jail had the tablets! There's something about the Dallas skyline that brings a kind of peace over me. The Dallas/Ft. Worth area is my home. It's where I grew up, and I loved it.  

The van drove through down town to the county jail, pulled into the jail garage, and when I stepped off the van I was greeted by 6 SRTs and I sighed, thinking, “why must they always make a spectacle of things?” I'm no threat to anyone and they all know me from my many trips to Dallas and I've never given them any trouble. They all surrounded me and I went through the book in process at lightening speed: Covid test, finger prints, mug shot, psych evaluation, physical check up...Now, keep in mind I've had no water (my fault because I didn't want to have a full bladder on a three hour trip), nothing to eat since breakfast at 3am that morning, and I just went through a stressful trip to get here, but my heart rate and blood pressure were really high. They sent me to a Nigerian doctor who asked me if I had a history of high blood pressure, and I replied,

“Only when I'm stressed.”

He then told me that last year I had high blood pressure and was on medication. I replied,

“Yes, I did have high blood pressure last year, but after a few check ups it went back to normal. But no, I'm not on any medication.”

“Yes, you were on medication,” he said.

“No, sir, I was not on any medication and I was never given any.”

He then pulled out a high blood pressure pill and all but forced me to take it. I was handcuffed!! I had no choice...

After that, I was strip searched again and the guards went through my stuff. Now, last year I brought a book, coffee, writing supplies etc, and this year I brought three books, coffee, my Voyager study book, and hygiene/writing supplies. They took my coffee and books from me! The two comforts I needed to pass the time until I was situated!

Then I'm told I'm going to the exact same cell I was in last year and as I'm being escorted to the floor, a lot of the same guards were there and they were like, “Dang! You're back already?” Everyone was cool.  

I was placed in my cell and could finally breathe a little. The cell was filthy though, so I had to clean that up, have dinner, and then try to make a few calls. In the distance I could see a black cabinet with a piece of paper on the front that said, 'TABLETS' in bold letters. I could also see the monitors for video visits so I got instantly excited. I asked the guard if I could get a tablet (silly me!) and he said I'd have to write Securus to request one and then purchase my own earbuds to use with them. He said, “But man...you're going to love it! Phone, music, movies...It keeps the place quiet.”

That's true – there is the occasional burst of noise but for the most part it's a thousand times quieter than it was last year. I can see the general population tanks and these guys walking around with tablets in their hands.

That Friday I did make some calls, but I still have no pen so I couldn't even write any letters. I had no books – nothing to do! On Saturday afternoon I was able to get a newspaper to read, and then later a guard was kind enough to find a pen for me.  

I was asleep by 10pm – completely wiped out, and slept right through to 6am. I needed that sleep! I have a minor 'lack of caffeine headache' but I'll get through it.  

I'm going to get the phone here in a little bit and try to make some calls and write some friends. That's about all there is to do tonight.  Tomorrow I should have recreation, be able to call my attorneys, and hopefully get the book cart if they still offer it. I don't know if they do that anymore with the tablets being available now. I wonder if we can even still have books sent in? Taffy will keep everyone informed on the front page, so check in regularly. She will also have my address on the front page of the site, for anyone who wants to write me.  

That's pretty much been the weekend! Stay tuned...!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  

Peace

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