It's a new year! A wonderful person told me that we shouldn't worry about the destination but instead, focus on enjoying the journey, moment by moment...I've been reflecting on those words a lot in recent days, because for too many years I've been so focused on the destination that I forget to enjoy any of the journey.
You may well ask, "Well, how can you "enjoy" the journey on death row, Randy?", and that's a fair question...This place does leave a lot to be desired, and there has been many times over the past 17 years where I've thought that death was preferable to a life in prison...But my thoughts have changed a lot recently; I now hold firmly to the belief that when a person in my situation can open their eyes and their heart, and realize that good things can and do happen, we can affect the people around us in positive ways...There is a way to live in these circumstances! My desire to see that through overrides any sense of capitulation or defeat. My life isn't over, and I can effect change now, in the present moment! This doesn't necessarily mean there aren't potholes and bumps in the road along the way - wreckage even! At some point I'll have to get out and fix a flat tire, change a wheel, and probably get a ticket or two for speeding. I'm not perfect, but whatever the destination is, I'll get there.
Over the entire holiday season I've been reflecting on so much. A big part of what I've been thinking about is the uncertainty of what 2018 will bring...Is it my last year on this planet? Is it anyone's last year on this planet? How do we know the answer to that question? My life is no more a guarantee than any human being's life, and those in the state who fight to see me killed are not guaranteed a single breath five seconds from now either. I just want to believe that the right thing will be done; that I won't be killed for something I didn't take part in. I believe in justice and I believe in punishment...But justice and punishment should not mean executing someone, and definitely not executing someone who did not kill anyone...I'll take my licks for the messed up stuff I have done, but a huge part of me refuses to accept being executed. That's where I hope that G-d, the universe, and everything, somehow at least gets that part right. I really need my prayers heard on that one - I need ALL the prayers I can get! I'll deal with whatever else comes after that.
For the coming year, I have many things I'd love to do - most of all encourage and inspire goodness, kindness, and change in an environment that is designed to do the opposite. 2018 holds so much promise! Not just for me but for the whole world, if we are open to it. People will push against hate. Women will rise up and finally have their voices heard. The oppressed (as is witnessed by a new revolution that has sparked in Iran as I write this) will finally push back. We don't have to accept politicians that deal in hate and ignorance. This has to be the year that all of that garbage is stopped in its tracks.
I've written about choosing kindness...and that's a step we should choose, absolutely; but we should also strive to be good. Don't give because a book tells you to do so; give because you should, and because it's the right thing to do. Don't be kind because someone tells you to, but be kind because you should. Don't do things out of a self serving interest, but do them because in helping another human being, you're helping humanity as a whole. Be kind, be good, but more than anything, focus on doing the right thing for one another. Nothing else should matter. I don't mean to sound like a Tony Robbins feel good speech but it just seems like the answer to this human question is so simple: Be a good and kind person!
I will close this entry with the positive feeling that 2018 will be full of good things, and that this will be a wonderful year. For everyone who has believed in me, even in my moments of mis-steps and my flaws; those who have encouraged me even if not directly, but by reading my thoughts through my journal, and to my very dear friends...Thank you! May you be blessed throughout this new year, and may you have the happiest new year possible. We will make it to 2019!
February 20th, 2018
At the time of writing this, I'm in the middle of having a new website set up, so I'm not sure when this will be posted...A set of unfortunate events have transpired, and all I can say is I'm hurt and disappointed that those involved in posting my writings (up to now) have decided to act in a very hurtful and immature way towards me. I expected better. That being said, I will always be grateful for the help I've had. I would also like to say thank you to the true friends who literally dropped everything in order to get me up and running again with a new website...I am eternally grateful for all your help in getting me back on my feet!
After much soul searching over the last few weeks, I'd like to pose this question to people involved in a prisoner's life, or with a person on death row: What was your ultimate intention? If things don't go your way, or you don't have the control you want or expect over that individual's life (some of us have desires and minds of our own, and we're not all birds with broken wings, or automatons) then why did you actually get involved in their life? If all that the prisoner offered to you was transparency, openness, and honesty (something you always said you appreciated and respected) then why react in such a vile way that is both vengeful and hurtful? Did you really want to be a friend and encourage the prisoner, support them, and help save their life? Or did you expect more, or something in return?
In the many years I've been on death row, I've seen the most ardent of so-called “Anti Death Penalty Activists” go completely batty – almost to the point of wanting to plunge the needle into the condemned person themselves, and all because something THEY want or expect doesn't go their way, or they can't have what they demand from that inmate. Makes me wonder are they in it for the right reasons...? If you say you're anti-death penalty, doesn't that mean you're anti-vengeance? So, why react to situations outside of your control, with...vengeance??? Life happens, life is messy, and imperfect – it's freakin' complicated! We can't always guess what will happen or where our hearts will lead us, but it doesn't mean that you've got to scorch the earth when things don't go your way. We've got to behave better than that as a species. Shouldn't we (as part of the anti-death penalty movement) promote understanding, love, and the ability to react peacefully to something, no matter how much the situation might hurt us? Shouldn't we be the example to others, and not behave in a way that is contrary to what the anti-death penalty movement is about? It's okay to feel hurt – my life is filled with being hurt...I suffer, and then I move on. I don't try to make others suffer with me...And as I always say, vengeance is NEVER the answer!
So, what is on my mind today? Where to even begin? I've had this really conflicting thought working its way around my noggin. It came from hearing the news about the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole voting in favour of granting clemency to Bart Whittaker and commuting his death sentence to life without parole.
Now, don't misunderstand me here...I'm thrilled, if not surprised that they did, but I had to pause and really think about this and what it represents in terms of EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW, particularly after my neighbour said to his neighbour, “I guess I gotta be rich and white to have my ass saved.”
It was no secret that Whittaker came from a family of wealth and influence, and whilst he was sentenced to death by a jury of his so-called “peers”, I wonder why so many poor/poor minorities never were granted clemency themselves – even after some of their victims' family members have come out and said, “Don't kill this man in my name!” What distinction was made in their cases that made them more eligible for death? These are hard and tough questions you must ask yourself.
Granted, there's no guarantee that Governor Greg Abbott will uphold the Board's decision – I think this is his first time since being Governor of Texas that he's been faced with such a choice. I will be shocked if he decides in favor of clemency, especially in an election year. But if he does decide to grant clemency, we really need to think about WHY he decided to do so. What makes Whittaker an exception? Numerous victims' families have begged the state to not kill in their name! Is he less dangerous than anyone else back here? Not if you take a Jury's word for it...They've got to answer “yes” to a specific threat of future dangerousness to give a death sentence, and every single one of us sitting on death row had that stamped in big bright red letters on our foreheads! No “yes”, no death penalty.
Is it then an issue of personal culpability? I don't think his case is a typical “Law of Parties” case, but maybe some would differ. Personally, I feel there is a HUGE difference between a person robbing a store with his buddy, and not intending to harm a single soul, only to then have the buddy kill someone unexpectedly, because the INTENT was not there, as opposed to handing some cash to a couple of people and telling them “Go wipe those fellas out. There's more cash for you when you get the job done.” I'd say there was a shit ton of intent and equal culpability between them and the killer.
All that being said, I do have an issue with the sentencing, when it isn't equal, and this is one of the strongest arguments against the death penalty in my opinion. How is justice equal under the eyes of the law when one Jury can sentence the actual shooter/killer to a life sentence, but a different Jury sentence the non-shooter/killer to death? I'm surprised that a lot of people don't see a problem with that, shrug their shoulders and say, “Hey, it ain't a perfect system, but it's the one we've got.”
Again, you have to ask yourself why – why did the Parole Board rule in his favor? Why are they not ruling the same for many others? This question demands an answer. When my neighbor made that statement it really messed my head up. I mean, up until that point I hadn't really considered the influence issue, I just thought, “man...so many guys back here deserve to have their sentence commuted – they way the Board have voted is so arbitrary!” I believe it's been over a decade since the Board's last “yes” vote, and Governor Perry went against it anyway. It just begs the question “why even have a review board if the Governor can just rule against it?
Anyways, food for thought...
Since my last entry (was it New Year's Day?) I've had so many things happen with my life. It's been really topsy turvy, but mostly good topsy turvy. There have been minor stresses, but I'm handling them...for the most part! I've got to get this having no control over things “thing” under control, but otherwise, I'm rolling with the punches. A lot of my focus has been on hope...My girl recently said to me, “Hope is the conduit for miracles” and I've been meditating on those words. Honestly, I think my spirituality in recent months has strengthened. I've been praying more and not just for my life to be saved; there is that – yes – but I've also been praying for calmness, acceptance of things outside of my control...For courage, strength, and hope. To enjoy the journey and not get so hung up on the destination with all facets of my life. And whilst I have my moments of anxiety, I've found myself much more at peace and more encouraging to others around me. Honestly, I think in the past year, my heart had hardened a little bit....not gotten angry or mean, but just more, I don't know...a bit more cynical, and that isn't who I am. I don't want to question everything around me, and everyone's motives, or why they behave in the ways that they do. I want to understand, not question. From that, I've gotten softer and kinder. It also helps a bit when you can focus more on love, and the people and things around you to have love for...
I don't know, as I try to get more into this journaling thing, and be more productive, I'm sure there'll be times when I vent and get on my soap box...My sarcasm, snark and wit will be out in full force! But for now? I'm good.
I will close up for today with some of the prayers I say every day - I hope you will pray with me/for me as well:
I ask for mercy.
I ask for forgiveness of my flaws and shortcomings.
I ask for protection over my friends and family.
I ask that my attorneys are granted wisdom and the knowledge to put together a successful appeal.
I ask that the Court's hearts are softened, that they can show compassion and fairness, but ultimately that they see that I didn't have a fair trial, and that I was NOT a shooter.
I pray for an end to the madness that is the death penalty.
Will you throw these thoughts out to the universe/G-d for me?
February 21st, 2018
It's a very wet and stormy day. I was scheduled for recreation outside and then it was cancelled, then the cancellation was lifted, then back on...Finally, the officer said, “Do you just want to go to the day room?” I said “Sure”. After getting into a heated debate with someone over yesterday's journal topic, and how he couldn't understand the point I was trying to make about the unfairness in how clemency is decided, and the justice system as a whole...I headed to recreation slightly brooding...Actually, I was really quite upset! I intended exercising but instead just walked around in circles for two hours.
For the most part the day has just been kind of blah...Maybe it's the weather...Maybe I'm just ready to move off C-Pod. It seems every time I come to this pod in my move cycle, I end up getting stuck here. I really dislike this pod and the negative energy that surrounds it. Oh well, deal with it, right?
Here's an example of our Government's absolute stupidity...The brave teenagers that survived the school shooting in Florida were on their way to talk to the Florida state legislators about gun control. Before the kids arrived, the house voted AGAINST a resolution that would've opened up a debate for gun control, and instead voted for a bill that addresses the health risk that pornography is having on Florida citizens...WTF? Is there, like, a mass number of people dying from masturbation? Did I miss something? I didn't notice prisoners dropping like flies all around me from this problem! And there's enough masturbation energy to power entire cities in prisons! Could help the energy crisis!
Don't really have much to say today...
February 23rd, 2018
I had planned on writing something yesterday, but was sidetracked when the guards told me at 5.30 pm that I was moving to another cell on the same pod that I've been on since right before Christmas...I don't know what it is about this pod, but I seem to get stuck on it for a long time every time I'm moved here...at least I have a really good view. I need to hang up an FM antenna on my window though, because the coax system we use for our radios is really poor over here...I'll do that in a bit. I'm just happy to have a good view of the outside after staring at the back side of another building for the past two months! The energy of the people around me is much more positive as well, and I'm not being facetious when I say that it's probably because I'm right in the middle of two Christian dudes. They're both pretty dedicated, and kind, and I'm down with that!
I was really shocked when the Governor granted a life sentence to Bart Whittaker. I'm happy for him, and especially for his father who fought so hard to save his life - the life of the very guy who tried to kill him. However, I stand by my entry from a couple of days ago that others wouldn't be as fortunate, but man...The real moral of this story is the power of forgiveness. I've not seen or talked to my family in 20 plus years, and there are many guys back here that have family disown/abandon them for lesser offences. I guess that is what can make this place so sad, if you let it. I've always had the utmost respect for the families that travel such long distances for visits with their son each week, or whenever they can. I can't imagine the emotional strain it puts on their hearts, but geeze, that is the definition of unconditional love! I would do anything to have the love of my family. I wouldn't even care if they fought for me or not. I just want to be able to sit across from my mom and dad and say, “I'm sorry and I love you.”
I was out at visitation yesterday meeting my new attorney, and after we talked about business and what was going to be done and what is to be expected, the conversation turned to the personal side of things...This really took me by surprise because often, it's ALL business! Attorneys can be cold and impersonal; I get it...they've got a job to do and I suppose it's a bit unprofessional to get “close” to your client. But in a death row prisoner's case, each and every one of us just wants to know and take comfort in feeling that they believe in the value of our life, and that they can see us as people, and not the “monsters” a lot of society makes us out to be...So, we began to talk about family and I told him, “No matter how my parents responded/reacted...no matter what they might have missed or gotten wrong in the raising of my brother and I, I still love them. I hold no animosity or hatred towards them. I will always love them.” It would be nice to have that love reciprocated, and even though they've missed the last 20 something years of my life, and I've been locked up longer than the amount of time they spent raising me, I still have a connection to them. I still have a love deep inside of me for them. I have always forgiven them, and I wish they'd just forgive me.
It was good to get out of my cell yesterday and meet the people who are working on my behalf; they gave me a bit of extra hope and I believe in them. Got to keep pouring that hopeful and positive energy into the universe!
I guess I'll stop here, get my antenna up, and kick back for the rest of the day.
February 26th, 2018
After a very long and stressful weekend, I'm trying to pull myself back together...I feel like I was dragged by a pick up truck for a few hundred miles, then kicked and punched and dragged a bit more...Geeze, negative people can really drain you! I've been receiving some pretty nasty and emotionally hurtful mail, in response to a decision I made at the beginning of the new year. I knew it would hurt someone on an emotional level, but I had to be honest about my feelings, nonetheless. Even here on death row, we can only live our lives for ourselves, not for others, and just like what happens in free world relationships, you can find yourself in a situation where you can't reciprocate feelings that someone else may harbour for you...All you can do is continue to be honest and transparent with the other person.
So, I know over the past few years I've been adamant about being private if I ever got into a relationship, and saying that “No one would ever know!”...However, in light of recent events it has sort of forced my hand – if only to show that I'm not some kind of philandering S.O.B., because I'm not! I'm neither a player, nor a user, and in the years since my divorce I've been content and settled in the friendships – true friendships – I am lucky to have. Not those fly-by-night pen pal type of “friendships” that pop in and out of my life, nor those conditional types of friendships where things can go screwy when you want to make your own choices...do your own thing...But those true friendships I've built on gradually, over the years...Friendships where people support you, and don't judge you for the decisions and choices you make, and are happy for you when you find happiness for yourself. I've been lucky to find and hold onto those true and good friendships, and long may they continue!
For anyone keeping up with my journals and following my life, you will know how often I have expressed a deep emptiness...That feeling that I was missing something. I'd crack jokes about “I know it's not Jesus!” or whatever, but it bothered me for a long time, and I couldn't figure it out. I knew I'd been lacking in the spiritual department for quite some time, and even though I have always been a proud Jewish person, I am not “religious”. In fact, over the years, I'd become a bit standoffish with domestic principles...I've questioned faith and G-d and all that, but I've never not been a “believer”. I just don't believe in the same way that a lot of other people might think I should.
Anyway, I really wasn't sure what it was...There was stress over appeals, the environment I live in, the natural cycles of depression, but again...I wasn't sure that those things were at the root of me feeling the way I did. Then, last summer, I began exchanging letters with someone. At first, they were casual as a typical “pen pal” (I really hate the term “pen pal”, but in this example, I'll use it). As a starting point, we began with discussions about music, because that really is the topic I have the most passion for, and I'm most comfortable with. There was a real interest in reconnecting with music on her part, so I began suggesting songs (mostly The Cure ha ha) and building song lists for her. Then we talked about books, movies, politics, life in general...Letters went from a couple of pages to many pages, from a letter for letter exchange, to many a week...By December, I found myself getting anxious and eager for her letters.
As well as all that, you know what else I noticed? That empty feeling I'd been carrying around for years had vanished! Each one of her letters made me feel like I'd just tore up the buffet line at the Golden Coral!! Feelings were expressed by Christmas-time, but nothing was certain. Mail had slowed down to a trickle because of the holidays, which sucked! But I began to think about a conversation we had about life being a journey, but all too often, people get caught up in worrying about the destination...worrying about the future, which is something we have absolutely ZERO control over. I thought about that and quoted Yoda to her, from "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back"...When Luke, in his training, gets a glimpse of his friends in pain through the Force, and worries what might happen to them, Yoda tells him “Hmmm...Hard to see, the future it is always in motion”. So, why worry about the destination? Just enjoy the ride!...Nothing really matters but the present and being in the present.
Anyway, mail got even crazier in January when everything in Livingston came to a halt after a couple of days of freezing temperatures and ice. We both waited anxiously for mail...At this point, deeper feelings had been expressed on both sides, but because my mail wasn't getting to her, she was worried she had crossed a line and scared me off...And I also waited on her mail, responding to my letters. It was a mess! But when all of that sorted itself out, and after thinking long and hard about everything, discussing things thoroughly in our letters and weighing up the options (particularly making sure that she understood my situation and what could happen...) we decided to go for it! We began our journey!
So, here I am now, and I'm happy to say that I'm 100% in it and both dedicated and committed to HER, and I'm the HAPPIEST I've been in a very long time - YEARS - and on a VERY deep and emotionally fulfilling level. Of course it hasn't gone over well with some people, and that makes me sad...That being said, I can't do anything about how someone else feels about my right to make my own choices, and at times like this, you really do get a true picture of some of the people in your life...Things don't always work out the way we wish they would, but we must try to act reasonably and peacefully, even when someone else's choices hurt us. Life has no guarantees, even on this journey, but I'm embracing the present and living in the moment. If my happiness is what matters to some friends, then they should be happy for me, and I'm lucky to be able to say that my true friends are both happy and supportive of "us", as are her friends! With so much love and support and goodness behind us, I know we'll be just fine...
Anyway, that's all I will say on this topic because I want to keep things private between her and I.
Geeze, it's gotten sooooo loud here! How can one person make so much noise? Oh, dinner is here...I'll close this up and maybe write tomorrow.
February 27th, 2018
Here's a funny exchange that I heard between a male guard and a female guard, as they were taking me out to recreation...
Female guard: “Have you seen the new “Black Panther” movie?
Male guard: “Yes. It was very good! Hollywood did a good job”.
Female guard: “Oh, it was so cool! One of the best movies I've seen in a very long time. Wakanda looks like one of the most beautiful places on earth! I would love to go there some day”.
Now there's an awkward pause, and I'm biting my lip to keep from busting out laughing because I know the “Black Panther” comic fairly well. The male guard looks at me and I shrug like, hey, I'm just an inmate! Then the dude says...
“Ummm...Wakanda is not a real place. It is make believe. But, if you want, you can travel there in your mind!”
That made me smile.
I got my butt handed to me today in basketball; I lost 23-7...It wasn't that I hadn't been shooting well – I was only ever 1-2 points behind him in most games, and we did have two overtime games. He just had more energy and I was feeling sluggish. I couldn't match his pace and speed.
The sunset tonight was kind of a dud...It was just a big yellow haze.
February 28th, 2018
To a select few people: I'm sorry. One day, you might find it in your heart to forgive me, as I've forgiven you. I just want to move on and be happy in my journey, and leave this mess behind me...
What a day! It's been hot and humid and just blah. As I type this, it's 5.28pm and they just had shift change. I went to recreation around noon and came back in after 3pm...Something odd happened out at rec: I was sitting at a table, lost in thought, when a booming voice (not the voice of G-d!) started yelling at me...
“Hey! Hey, day room guy!” I looked at the cells on one row to see who was calling at me and said, “Yeah? What's up?”
“Are you throwing snakes at me?” the voice said...
“Huh?” I asked
“Are you throwing snakes in my cell?” the voice demanded...
“No...I don't have any snakes to throw and I'd never throw snakes at anyone, anyways. I'm afraid of snakes”.
“Oh...” the voice answered. There was a slight pause and then, “You say you would never throw them at me?”
“No”, I said, “I don't even know who you are...”
Another voice jumped in from upstairs, a guy they call “Moe” and he cracked, “Hey, Randy, ever seen “Snakes On A Plane”?”
Turns out the guy was mentally ill...Weird exchange though. I've been accused of a lot of things, but never throwing snakes at someone!
There's this strange thing the mail room is doing with the Jpay service – the printed version of a prisoner email service...They're making us sign for them like certified mail because so many have gone missing, but it's the mailroom's fault, not the guards'! I don't think that this signing for Jpays is really going to solve anything, it only creates more work for the guards. But who knows, maybe it will work?
Just waiting on a shower now...I'm just so emotionally exhausted and stressed right now...Hopefully the negativity will burn itself out soon!
March 1st, 2018
I cannot wrap my head around the fact that today is the first day of a new month...Almost spring! Actually, I think today marked the first real day of spring in Texas. It is my section's outside day and I was scheduled to go out first round; I had a rematch on the basket ball court, but a storm moved in and outside rec. was cancelled; then, around 8.30am the rec. yards opened back up. It was still grey outside, and a bit chilly, but I was happy that the humidity was gone because yesterday was horrible and just plain miserable! Anyways, we started playing ball and I lost the first three games in a row...I almost let the guy get in my head, but I knew that I could beat him! He doesn't have a better shot, he's just quicker, so I kept telling myself to push as hard as I could and I started to rack up the wins - the final was 25-5 my way. Then cloud cover broke up and the sun popped out; I could hear birds chirping and it began to really warm up. I thought, finally...spring! I love the fall and winter; there's something incredibly beautiful and a bit haunting about the grey skies, the crisp cold air...bare trees...I love it! But it has been an unusually harsh winter for this part of Texas, and a little bit of sunshine never hurts.
After the game I was talking with the guy I beat, and we talked about this place, the stresses and whatever. I made a comment about a lot of the hypocrisy we see in some people who write guys back here, especially when they get mad at you. They overlook their own faults and make you out to be a demon. He was telling me that he was struggling with an issue...He writes to someone in a marriage, on the outside, but the chick was getting freaky with him in letters and he tries to live a “Christian” lifestyle. I told him “See! It is stuff like that – hypocrisy! And watch...you reject that from her and she's going to go off on you and throw crap in your face about how she supports you and blah blah blah...and you're thinking, 'damn...you're a married woman'”. He started to laugh. This place boggles my mind. I'm really tired of trying to figure it out.
Not much else to do for the day...I'll probably read for a bit, wait on a shower, and hopefully get in bed around 10.30 pm. I'm starting to live like an old man...Being 40 sucks...ha ha!
March 4th, 2018
It's been one of those weekends that seem to go on and on...As I write this, it's Sunday afternoon, very humid, and just, 'blah'...There's some strong rumors going around - spread by some of the trustees who clean death row (death row prisoners aren't allowed jobs, or to clean anything other than our own cells) and a few Officers, that a “unit spring lock-down” will start on Monday or sometime this week. If not this week, definitely next. The timing is about right because a unit lock-down will take about 3-3 ½ weeks to complete all shake-downs, and that would bring everyone back up before Easter weekend when General Population inmates can attend church services (death row inmates do NOT receive religious services and it's rare to see a chaplain unless one is facing execution). If the lock-down does happen, I guess I better get prepared for the long haul...Ugh!
Friday night I was listening to “The Prison Show” and they had the head of the TDCJ on the phone as a guest. In the studio as a guest host, they had Anthony Graves – an exonerated man from Death Row. I knew him in passing when I first came here, but never really had any in depth conversation with him. I may have passed some food or magazines for him, but that's about it. Anyways, when the conversation came up about the use of Solitary Confinement and Ad-Seg (administrative segregation) I was hoping that Graves would've really pushed him about solitary confinement and Death Row...He had a unique perspective, as he's lived it and could've really pounded the issue and pressed for change. He didn't. Instead the hosts and Graves kind of soft balled the questions and gave him way too much wiggle room. Like when the guy said, “Well, we're not calling it solitary confinement or Ad-Seg anymore; we'll be changing the name to “Restrictive Housing”. Come on, that's the same freakin' thing...You can shine up a turd, but it's still a turd!
Asked by the hosts of the show if there were programs for people to get out of “Restrictive Housing”, he mainly addressed the issue for gang members, which is great...But how, if I were to receive a life sentence, would I get out of solitary confinement? Will I be able to take a program or show that I'm not a danger and have zero desire to escape or whatever? Issues like that were never addressed. I just really wish Anthony Graves had pressed on the death row thing, though. We're in a cell 22 hours a day; we have no access to religious programs, no telephone access...nothing! I've got guys around me literally losing their minds from these conditions. Guys, who just ten years ago were totally cognisant, now completely batty. And the Mental Health Department is a joke! Do you know what their 90 day evaluation is? It's a guy with a clipboard, walking up to your door and saying “Halprin, just doing my 90 day walk through...” marking you off a list and going to the next cell. How is that an evaluation? One guy asked one of the Psych people “How can you tell if a person has lost it by just looking at them?” The reply was “I've been doing this a long time”. Really? That's what they're teaching in medical school these days? I can just see a professor...”Okay class...now, we could waste all of our time studying science and the great Psychologists of the past, or I could just save you the trouble, 'cause you'll learn in time how to spot the crazy ones....”. Unbelieveable!
I really need to clean my cell up, it's a mess right now. I've been spending the morning cooking for my neighbors and I still have things in the hotpot. While that's cooking, I'm catching up on writing, sitting here thinking, geeze, this cell looks like a tornado hit it! I've got stuff everywhere!
I've got this really great book my girl sent to me...It has meditations and micropoems, and I flip through it daily to find a bit of peace when my anxiety gets the better of me...It's called “Small Stones From The River” by Kat Lehmann, and I highly recommend it. I'll share one with you, here. They aren't titled...
does not require liking
is more peaceful
you do not need to like
an inclusive love
March 5th, 2018
This humidity has me feeling a bit grumpy and restless....I've been waiting on a shower all day long, and we've got some super lazy guards working. They're supposed to have the 4th round of recreation out before 2nd shift and it's inching up to five in the afternoon right now. Shift change is in about 20 minutes...I don't see that happening! They've not started to pass out dinner, so they've done almost nothing. Oh, well, I'm wrong, they each took over an hour long break when they're only supposed to get thirty minutes each...
You're thinking “Waaaah! You're such a whiner!” and maybe so, but my frustration comes from two places: the inability to feed myself or take a shower when I want to, and the lack of any real leadership and oversight by the ranking officers, also known as “Supervisors”. They're supervising diddly squat! Second shift is coming on and they'll drag their feet in everything they do because they know at 10.30 pm, everything shuts down. If they've not finished showers or rec., who cares? They'll blame first shift for not doing their job, and round and round it goes. Now that the weather is warming up, more inmates are starting to go to recreation which means more rounds of rec. During the winter this pod was getting about 3 rounds of rec., maybe 4 some days, but by summer time there'll be 5 or 6 rounds of rec., which means that inevitably, some inmates will get screwed out of their recreation. It's happened to me many times. Anyways, I'm trying not to get in a bad mood. Think positively! Ha ha!
It's been grey and muggy all day long, but it seems like some sunshine is finally breaking through. When I just looked out of my window, a lot of the clouds appear to be breaking up and the top half of the sky is blue. There's still a border of thick dark grey clouds on the horizon. If it stays this way, it could lead to a really nice sunset...I'll be watching closely.
I want to share something a bit more positive from my “Small Stones from the River” book...
Take your love into the sunshine
take it into the rain and snow
love likes to get out and stretch a bit
so teach your love to dance
your love already knows the rhythm
with a little coaxing
your love will learn to sing
do not worry
if love wants to go for a walk
no need to follow it
love knows the way home
let your love take a nap
it's not a sprint, after all
do not think your love is lazy
your love just knows
how far it has to go
I think it's about just letting love do it's thing and not forcing yourself to love someone but even if it feels like you don't have love...it will find its way to you. I especially liked the part about love not being a sprint. I think that's getting at what I'm practising now in just enjoying every moment of the journey. Love knows where to go and it'll find it's way to whatever destination there is...it knows. Just kick back and enjoy it.
I'm smiling now, because on my desk is a really cute card from my girl that has a marshmallow hugging a cup of hot cocoa...it's a bit of an inside joke between me and her, but it really put me in a better mood. I sometimes let this place/environment get under my skin and there's really nothing I can do about it...Then a silly and cute card takes my head right away from here and lifts my spirits...
I guess I'll wait on dinner and catch the news for a bit.
March 6th, 2018
I wish you could see how beautiful it is today...It's the perfect pre-spring/spring day! The sun is out high, it's in the 70's right now...the sky so clear and blue...After several days of just feeling miserable and grey, well, not necessarily the grey – I can deal with that - but the Texas humidity? Ugh!
I woke up this morning at 5.25 am. I was a bit tired because after yesterday's mess of a day...I didn't get a shower until well after 8 pm and we didn't get mail 'till after 11 pm. I was dreading the morning, but I don't like missing recreation either, so I got up and started the day. I expected to play some ball, but the guy I went out with wasn't feeling it, so I jogged and did some leg exercises instead. That crisp morning air really livened me up though, and I'm not tired in the least - I feel great.
I'm listening to this radio program right now and they're talking about sweat shops and how Americans in principle condemn them, but our shopping activities suggest that we really love them in all actuality. It reminds me of this news expose I listened to years ago where they had set up a monitor outside of places like Wall-mart and showed shoppers the horrible conditions and life stories of actual sweat shop workers. These customers would make statements like “Oh that is horrible! Oh...how awful!” Some would have tears in their eyes and get choked up but when asked, “Would you be willing to pay more for clothing or other items to end the horror of these sweat shops?”...Almost everyone said they couldn't give up their great prices...What does that say about materialism? What does that say about American culture? I don't know...
Seneca, one of the great Stoics, is quoted in his Moral Letters, 42.6 as saying, “So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we own this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren't useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren't worth that much. But we don't discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.”
At what cost is our materialism? At what cost to others and THEIR well being? People should think about that. And don't just consider people, but the toll it is taking on our environment from pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, and our planet as a whole. Anyways, I was just sitting here, listening to this program and it's making me think...
I was thinking about changing how I end each journal entry, and as it's a favorite saying between me and my girl, I hope it will offer the same inspiration as it does for me...It's become a sort of mantra – a point of meditation...Something to focus my positive energy on.
So, I'd like to close today with:
Courage, strength, and love...
March 7th, 2018
Ugh!...What a mess of a day...I expected to go to recreation at 5.25am, but the female officer had no idea how to set up recreation. I was told 3rd round, and so I decided to crawl back into bed and sleep a bit because I didn't get to bed the day before until midnight. I woke back up at about 7.25am, had some coffee and made some oatmeal for breakfast...I hadn't even had my first mouthful when the guards showed back up to my cell and said, “Come on! You're going to rec now!” I was like, can I at least finish eating and brush my teeth? Sheesh!
I went to rec. and got stuck out there until noon, and at 3.14pm it doesn't look like I'll get a shower, again, until late tonight...Where do they find these people? Free money - I'm serious! They get pay cheques at the tax payers' expense for doing nothing. Glorified babysitters...Most of them, not all...You have some that come and bust their butts. Yesterday, during the day time, they were on it and finished almost everything by 2nd shift. It was 2nd shift who then did absolutely nothing. Anyways, I shouldn't let it get to me.
I was thinking about how I've got exactly a month until my appeal to the 5th Circuit is due. I'm being as positive and hopeful as I possibly can be. I believe in the people who are working on my behalf and know they're sincere and dedicated. G-d willing, everything will be fine. What I ask of the reader is to please send prayers and positive thoughts into the universe, or whatever your belief system is, and hope that good things happen. I'd be forever grateful. Unless I get an extension, my appeal is due on April 6th.
I wonder when we'll go on the spring lock-down..It was rumored to be this week, but it doesn't look like it's happening. A trustee came through just a little while ago and said it could be the 19th, saying something about letting anyone who observes Passover get their seder orders in for the holiday at the end of the month. I'm skeptical of the 19th only because this lock-down will be a long one and will go over Easter Sunday, and I just don't see them not allowing general population inmates to attend Easter services.
When I went to school in Kentucky, a Baptist boarding school in Oneida, they did a special Easter service; I am Jewish, but I did like going to it. They'd do it at sunrise on Easter morning, and at the beginning of spring...It was just so beautiful to see the sunrise over the mountains and fog. I couldn't really give a hoot about the religious aspect of it...it was just so pretty. They had a good Easter morning brunch as well. Anyway, whatever the prison decides to do, I'm cool. I'll be ready.
This guy in the day room right now is really irritating me...He's talking crap about all of these guys back here and picking on one of the mentally ill dudes on this section, and there's nothing I can't stand more than someone picking on the mentally ill. I don't like conflict and I don't like arguing with people, but it's taking all of my self control to keep from going to the door and telling him to knock it off...What points do you think you get by picking on someone who can't take care of themselves or have no control over their mental faculties? You think this makes you a man? Argh...
Alright...I couldn't not help. I just went to the door and told him, “Hey, give it a rest, dude.” He told me to stay in my cell and mind my own business. I told him he was making himself look weak by picking on/wiring someone up who can't defend himself. Another guy jumped in to back up what I said, so he gave up picking on the guy.
Well, well, well...I might make it to the shower after all! They're getting someone right now, so I should be next. Woohoo!
I suppose I'll close on this note...
Courage, strength, and love...And lots of HOPE!
March 12th, 2018
It's a bit on the cool side today, but otherwise a picture perfect spring-like day. Lots of sunshine and birds outside of my window. I'm just finding it hard to register the fact that the month is moving so fast. I had a bit of anxiety set in when I was out at recreation early this morning; a guy waiting to get an early shower, said...
“I can't wait to go to A-Pod”.
A bit confused, I said, “Why? Is that where you want to go if they move you?”
“No,” he said. “I'm ready for that needle. My appeals are over”.
I mean, what do you say to that? It kind of hit me in my gut, but I said, “I can understand being tired of this place”
“Yeah...I'm ready to check out. Every day I'm tired.”
“I'm tired,” I replied. “But I'm no way ready to go. I'm going to fight.”
He just nodded his head and I went back to exercising. I started thinking about my appeals and...whenever I do that, I start feeling a bit anxious. I tell myself to not let that self doubt in and to keep being positive, but then my neurosis fights me and is like, “What makes YOU think that out of the hundreds (who probably felt they weren't going to be the one) executed, that you'll be spared?” That's when I tell myself to just shut up and stay positive. It isn't over 'till it's over...It's a crappy feeling to have to have that internal dialogue with yourself, though. I don't wish it on anyone.
I was thinking not long ago about how if a lot of the time and energy spent on trying to kill us back here, or just hate us in general, was applied to love and the act of love, it would probably accomplish the goal which they set out to reach. Instead of retribution or revenge, it could nurture people and prevent horrible crimes from happening in the first place. Saying “an eye for an eye” or “Thou shall not kill” isn't a deterrent. When has it ever been? I like to say that faith or prayers without action are useless...so why not really try to affect and change lives instead of just condemning them AFTER the fact? Don't talk about it in church services; get out into your communities and really try to change things. I think about my own life and how different it might've been if the president of my school had said, “Randy, what can we do to HELP you...?” Instead of, “Geeze, we think you might be suicidal and we're just not equipped to handle something like that, so we're going to send you off on your own....good luck!” Or even my parents, when I stole from them, left for Louisville, got arrested and sent straight to school and then kicked out for the whole suicidal BS...you would think a concerned parent wouldn't say, “Hey, Randy...you can go anywhere in the US except home or where your girlfriend is.” But instead, “Randy...what is going on with your life and how are we going to get you straightened out?”
No, but that's not how a lot of people do things. They just condemn and ignore the problem(s) at hand. Maybe it's just easier to ignore a problem than to actually fix it. Seems like that's what Americans do best! A little bit of love would go a long freakin' way! And that's just not some hippy dippy idea. MANY religions are based on that principle.
They're doing moves right now and it's only 3.39pm as I write this; it's a bit strange for them to be moving people in the day time. I wonder what that is all about? Usually 2nd shift gets the pod move sheet and then another team of guards comes around 8-10pm and does the moves...They could just have so many that they're splitting it up into two shifts. That makes sense. We'll see.
Courage, strength, love, and HOPE!
March 15th, 2018
I didn't get to sleep last night until well after midnight...I had been waiting on mail until after 10 pm, and when the guards didn't seem to be passing it out, I thought, "I can't hold on any longer...I'm too tired" and decided to crash. I ended up tossing and turning until the guards finally did pass mail out AFTER midnight...I wasn't a happy camper, but at least I'd be able to sleep in the following morning because they started on one row for recreation. WRONG! This guy called me out to play basketball, and so I got out of bed and headed outside, a little after 6 am, and I've been up ever since. And surprisingly, I've only had just one cup of coffee!
I did win the basketball games 13-7, and that made me feel good. That horrible loss I experienced last week was something I never wanted to go through again! It was a beautiful crisp morning, though. Just wonderful! I love seeing the sunrise and the sky lighten, and to hear those early bird chirps, and the air fresh and clean. It's just a wonderful feeling. I wish I could go on an early morning jog down a street or park...
I was just listening to this conservative Christian radio station, AFR, and Bryan Fischer...I've written about him before, but this guy! He gets my blood boiling, and I know it's going to happen everytime I listen to him. That being said, I do like to get varying opinions, and I don't think that anyone should be in an echo chamber and just listen to people who agree with everything you say. I think it's one of the main problems in our current political process: listening to someone who makes an idiotic comment can bolster your own views, and that's not a good thing, but pointing out the weaknesses in theirs, can only strengthen yours!
Well today, Mr Fisher was talking about torture vs. waterboarding; he believes that waterboarding isn't torture because it caused no physical harm. The feeling of drowning is not the same as drowning, it's merely psychological, and it gives the government more control over the person being tortured. When he said that I thought "Huh?...So, if a husband or boyfriend is verbally or emotionally abusing a woman, it's not really 'abuse'? It's merely a psychological tool to have CONTROL over the victim?" I wonder what he'd say to that argument, and if he'd come out against that kind of ABUSE happening to someone? My guess is he'd say it's a bad thing to verbally abuse a woman...Waterboarding IS torture - psychological torture!...Breaking the mind, making a person fear for their life is no different than physical abuse...I'd argue that it's actually worse, and that's why it is supposed to be unethical for a registered psychologist to participate in those kinds of practices. Anyways, it just got me going. I don't understand how anyone of any religion could justify torture of any kind, or the death penalty!
I've been talking a lot lately with my girl, about living in the present/moment, and I found it interesting that today, in my book of Stoic Quotes, the chapter is "The present is all we possess". Marcus Aurelius basically says that the past and the future are the same; you can't live in either of them, so you might as well just enjoy the moment because it very quickly becomes the past. I've really been trying to keep my attention and focus on that...I can PREPARE for the future, but there's no guarantee that anything I do will go my way. So, why then get worked up about it? Just love the present! In the chapter it quotes a famous cartoonist, Bill Keane, as saying "Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is the gift. That's why it's called the present".
Yes! Today really is the gift...
Courage. Strength. Hope. Faith...
March 17th, 2018
I feel like a spring chicken! I finally got some much needed sleep last night – about 8 ½ hours of it, and I feel like a new man. This past week has just been a mess. I really don't understand it. It was like the ranking officers said “We need to shake things up on C-Pod. They're getting everything done before 9 o'clock at night and that just isn't acceptable! Let's throw the laziest most incompetent officers we have down there and give those inmates a little bit of chaos...” Madness.
Thursday night I was so tired that I told myself, if I'm 1st round for recreation, I'm going to skip it and just sleep in. I don't like giving up my recreation because I get a bit antsy and stir crazy in the cell if I'm in it for longer than a day, but I need sleep! So, Friday morning rolls around and the Officer says “I need you to go to A-section ...1st round”. I said “Really? I can't go outside later or something?” She said “No...they are filled up already”. I wanted to say “no”, but I knew if I did, I'd regret it later on that day. So, I said, “Fine...Okay”. I kicked back my blanket and got out of bed...I felt like the walking dead though.
I slammed a cup of coffee, brushed my teeth, straightened my cell up and was ready to go when suddenly I hear someone else being put in A-dayroom. I'm thinking, “am I hearing that right? Did I just hear someone go to A-dayroom?” The guards finish getting all of the inmates out to rec. and the female officer that set me up in the first place, passes my door. I say, “Hey! Didn't you tell me 1st round A-dayroom?” I'm not going to lie, I was really mad...I'm already grumpy from lack of sleep and I'm looking for an argument...something – anything to blow off steam! Her eyes get wide and she goes, “I messed up. I set up recreation and had two guys going to the same dayroom at the same time. I'm sorry.” She apologised profusely, something most guards DON'T do...it just took the fight out of me. I mean, how could I stay mad when she admitted she messed up?” I said, “Okay...when am I going to rec. now?” She told me 2nd round.
The damage was done, though. I was already up, caffeinated and agitated...I started a letter to my girl, and then decided to blow off steam by scrubbing my cell.
I went to rec, around 9 that morning but got stuck out there for almost 4 hours. I normally wouldn't care, but I just wanted to get back in for a nap so badly. The day was super humid as well, which didn't help my mood much. But I did have a really interesting conversation with a guy back here and he asked me for advice because he felt betrayed by someone in the free world, and didn't know what to do about it...Apparently he visits with someone who sees multiple guys back here...They don't seem to be a “groupie”...according to him. I don't know. I do make a distinction between someone who has it genuinely in their heart to help a guy back here, get them out of their cell for a bit, maybe buy them a meal, and to make them feel like a human being, as opposed to someone who is just in it for the thrill of it, or is psychologically damaged. I don't want to question a person's motives and put a cynical spin on it, but from this guy's viewpoint, the person he sees is just someone who genuinely cares. And he cares about them and appreciates what they do.
Anyway, he was upset...This person is a bit on the gossipy side and can sometimes get embroiled in drama. He told this person things in confidence and she, in turn, repeated it to another inmate and his private business was blasted all over the place because that inmate came back and told everyone around him. He didn't know if he should stop seeing this person or just forget about it. I told him that maybe he should write her a letter and explain that he felt it was a betrayal and it hurt his feelings. Don't scream, don't cuss...just explain how it made you feel, give them one more chance, and if they do it again then go your separate ways. But they need to understand that it wasn't a cool thing to do.
Now, I don't know about this person, but I know there are others who have stirred stuff amongst people/inmates back here before. I don't know why they do it...Maybe they enjoy the drama...Maybe they enjoy the attention it brings to them. I've long had a theory that some people crave attention so badly that they don't care whether it's good attention or bad attention...the focus is on them and they foolishly satisfy whatever kind of neglect they're experiencing in their lives. (Oh man...have I been caught up in that type of drama with exactly that type of people just recently!) It's fleeting though, and you're chasing ghosts; you'll never feel fully satisfied, and you'll continually try to feed an empty soul.
That being said, I feel strongly about this: if I write to an individual – whether they write to someone else, or see someone else or not...No matter what our relationship is, even if it's the most casual of friendships, I write in confidence. I don't write for you to spill it out to everyone. Unless I say it's okay to repeat what I write, don't repeat it! People shouldn't have to explain that to you. It should be understood. I'll never understand why people have the need to broadcast things, or even GO to places like Facebook! Whatever happened to real life (in person) friendships? It seems that these days, meaningless, superficial friendships on Facebook, mean just as much to some people as their real life friendships do...(Sigh...). Anyway, if wasting your day and your time gossiping about people (instead of getting on with your own life) means that much to you, knock yourself out! But I digress...What I'm saying here is that unless it's actually information that serves a purpose, how about just pressing your lips together? Nobody cares how many letters someone sent you. Nobody cares if you've got the hottest boyfriend on the planet, or whether or not he does more for you than someone else's penpal or friend...The anti-death penalty movement isn't a freaking competition! It's an important cause that should not be infected with drama and meaningless gossip. If you could just put an ounce of the energy you spend on gossiping and getting wrapped up in drama, towards really solving REAL WORLD PROBLEMS...man, this death penalty thing would've been over a long time ago! Just shut up and enjoy your friendships and the relationships that you've built with people. Embrace their humanity. Forgive their faults, and make a real difference in someone's life!
I just hope that I gave the guy some good advice and he'll be able to address it with the person he sees. He didn't sound like he wanted to end the friendship; he was just hurt a bit. I understand...I've been there numerous times with people...It's part of being locked up on death row, unfortunately.
Anyway, I got back to my cell and I knew I wasn't going to get a shower any time soon, so I tried to take a little nap and it was enough to get me through the evening. I ended up crashing and finally getting sleep. Because we don't have recreation on the weekends, I was able to catch up on much needed sleep and I feel ready enough to take on the world!
There was a point yesterday afternoon where I was suddenly just...sad. I don't know, it all kind of came crashing down on me and I said – kind of prayed - “G-d...I don't get this! Why not just put it on people's hearts to end the death penalty? YOU can end this. Just freaking end it! End it!” It came out of me pretty forcefully. I feel selfish when I pray to win MY appeals. I'm no more deserving of another chance at life than many others back here. I know this! I shouldn't have to make that prayer of “Save me...Have mercy on me...I don't deserve to be killed!” No...if this would end, all of us back here would be given a chance – and that's the way it SHOULD be.
I really don't know what I'm going to do over the weekend. Probably spend it reading. College Basketball's “March Madness” has taken over the radio and the only team I care to follow is Kentucky... “Go wild cats!!!” So...not much to listen to.
Courage, strength, hope, and love...
March 19th, 2018
"Hope is like the sun; if you only believe in it when you can see it, you'll never make it through the night." Leia Organa, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
You know, sometimes it is so easy to wake up with the feeling of defeat hanging over your head. I think on Saturday 17th, I was feeling like that and I'm not sure what triggered that feeling, but I was just down. As I was listening to Saturday Night Live, my mind was half way in it, but I was also thinking about legal stuff, and I pulled out my legal papers from over the years and began to dig out documents I wanted to post on my website. The more I read and re-read, for the thousandth time over the years, the more I believed that the universe HAD to set this right and I had more and more hope. I decided to post a good majority of the documents on my site just to show people what I felt were the three strongest points in my case. They are posted under "Randy's Case", and I encourage you to read them if you haven't yet checked them out.
Well, it's been a beautiful spring-like day today. I woke up with a lot of energy and when I went to recreation I had a really good workout. When I got back to my cell I got a little bit irritated; I was listening to the news, and heard Trump's "Plan" to combat the opioid crisis...I've always found it interesting that since the "War On Drugs" in the 1980s, to the present, we've yet to really tackle the problem. So, Trump's solution is to not only go after immigrants, but also to try and introduce the death penalty for drug traffickers and dealers (but only the really bad guys) and did I also hear him say drug users? Jesus H. Christ...So, what would happen is they'd go into the poor communities and minorities and start arresting, charging, and executing them? When they had the crack crisis, they didn't go into rich white communities and start locking up the coke heads. No, they went into urban communities and started locking up young black people - wholesale - and essentially created the Prison Industrial Complex...Good one, Trump! Let's just repeat things that DON'T work.
How about going after the pharmaceutical companies and doctors that get people hooked on painkillers/opioids? Isn't that how the problem started in the first place? People didn't all of a sudden say, "Wow...Maybe I should start shooting up heroin! That sounds groovy!" No, they wanted something even stronger than oxycontin etc...
Obviously, we need to find a way to stop traffickers, but we can't begin a whole new "war on drugs" because it never worked in the first place. The problem is the US, not the outsiders! We need to figure out a way to deal with drug addiction, because locking people up and executing them is not the solution. We need safe injection sites, drug addiction clinics...And the courts need to start really looking at treatment, and not punishment, as the only option. Punishment hasn't worked in the last 40 years! What makes Trump think it's going to suddenly, and magically, work?
Courage, hope, faith, and strength...
March 20th, 2018
Well I didn't get to bed until close to 11.30 pm last night as I was waiting on the mail...Another night of lazy guards! I crashed out and slept all the way until 7am this morning, woke up feeling good and headed outside around 8am to play basketball. It was a wonderful and beautiful first day of spring. The air fresh, the sky blue...There was some ravens perched on the lights that hang over the top of the outside rec. yard, and they were cawing at us. I kept telling them, "sorry dudes...I have no snacks to give you!" I think they really did want something to eat, but now we have bird nets over the rec. yards to prevent them from roosting and shitting everywhere. The downside of that is the insect eco system explodes, and there are june bugs, ants, and may flies, everywhere!..
I won the ball games today with a shocking 20-10 victory. I was in the zone and running my but off and it felt good. The guy I've been playing has a deadly shot...he's good. But I figured out if I can outpace him, I can beat him, so if I do miss, I've got to get two shots off to his one...And I've pretty much been beating him ever since. Thank G-d for cardio workouts!
When I came back inside, I ate lunch (corn dogs, cabbage and carrots), did my laundry, and rinsed off, took a little nap, and now it's 2.40 pm as I write this. Really, I'm just killing time 'til my music show comes on at 4pm.
Courage. Hope. Faith. Strength...
March 21st, 2018
Another beautiful spring day. I wasn't sure how the day would go today, because I didn't get much sleep last night due to mail not being passed out until after 11.30 pm...AGAIN! When I woke up, we had some real jerk guards and I thought it could go badly for the whole pod, but I was able to get outside and play some basketball...it was just perfect. I mean, I couldn't have asked for a better day for ball. And while I was tore off the bone with a horrible loss of 45 games to 15, I gave it my best and the run felt great.
The guards have pretty much everything done and only a few showers left for second shift, but that doesn't mean anything these days...we've got to sign for our Jpays now, and that just gives more work to the guards that they don't want to do. (Jpay is the TDCJ mail system that people on the outside can use to write to Texas prisoners. Some states have two way emails, but in Texas you can send emails, but we have to reply by snail mail. Maybe one of these days, Texas will get with the times and allow two way Jpays. But as of now...we're still in the stone age)
One thing that is getting me down right now is that the State is handing out execution dates like candy, again. I think three or four guys have gotten dates this week alone. A guy I know pretty well has his execution date next week. His case is really awful, but knowing him this many years...I just can't reconcile the person with the crime. I mean, we've had in depth political conversations (he's a liberal, like me), we both love sci-fi and all things Star Wars...similar tastes in music and books...It's just strange. But I also know that this world isn't black and white and when we begin to really dig at the root of why people do the things they do, there's always more to that person's life story.
Another guy who is scheduled for execution...I just don't get why they even bother. He's a complete invalid (is that politically correct? Cripple? I don't know!), and many years ago he was involved in a TDCJ transport van crash; the guard escorts died in the crash, but the inmate lived, albeit he was hurt very badly. Since then, he's been on a walker, then a wheel chair, and as well as all of his injuries, he has severe diabetes, AND Parkinsons...Now, some people are probably thinking, well...the State should just put him out of his misery, but my argument is WHAT danger is he? The dude can barely lift a cup of water to his mouth without flinging the liquid everywhere.
The other person I know of has already had a previous stay for mental health issues, but apparently Texas still wants to try killing him. Another case of, the dude is crazy...come on!
I just really can't understand the need to waste valuable resources and money on trying to kill people. We don't have money for our education system but we've got the millions for each person on death row just to kill them? Does that really make sense to some people? Are you so hell bent on revenge that to kill a single person you'll sacrifice educating hundreds of children?
Courage. Strength. Hope. And faith.
March 26th, 2018
In spite of a weekend where I suffered with some kind of weird stomach virus, and not getting any sleep at all, I'm in a pretty decent mood. It's been a nice day, guard-wise, and I had my recreation and shower fairly early. Now, I'm just listening to some Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and waiting on mail.
There was a guy a few cells down who (a couple of days ago) said "Isn't it strange that there hasn't been a gassing or use of force in a long time?" I thought it was a good thing because I can remember when it seemed to happen just about every day. Well, that dry spell was broken at about 3 am this morning...
The whole incident began when a guy who is mentally ill, right beneath me, began cursing and talking to himself. He's been known to do it before, but it never lasts for long. As the two guards, one older male and a very young female officer were feeding breakfast, he yelled out "Suck my dick!" to no one in particular. The female officer said, "Who said that?" and of course she didn't get an answer. My neighbour told her, "Oh he's just talking to himself...that wasn't directed at anyone." But apparently it really bothered her and she clearly felt like the guy was directing it at her. She made a point to go to his cell and start antagonising him. I heard a guy downstairs try to say to her, "Man, the guy is a psych patient. You might as well be talking to a wall." She wouldn't stop. She kept cussing at him and antagonising him. The next thing we hear is, "Ahh! He threw piss at me...It's in my mouth!"
A few minutes later a sergeant came to his door and again...piss right in the face. A few minutes after that a "Use of Force" team came to take him to F-Pod.
Now, here's where I get upset at the whole situation. If you could see this guy...he weighs, at most, 120lbs. Skin and bones. The team, some of the biggest guards on Death Row, weigh collectively, over 1200lbs. It's like a bicycle going up against a freight train. Not only did they gas him, but they went into his cell, beat him up and dragged him out. He looked like a limp noodle flopping around. It really made me mad. There is a certain protocol that they're supposed to follow, especially dealing with the mentally ill. None of it was adhered to...A psychiatric doctor is supposed to be on hand to first talk to the inmate, then a normal nurse is supposed to be on standby as well, in case the inmate is hurt during the use of force, but there wasn't a nurse to be seen. Once the gas is used they're also supposed to give the inmate a chance to come out without getting banged up, but they didn't even give him that chance. It was literally: gas, open cell door, knock him around, and drag him out.
I couldn't get back to sleep after that and then I want to recreation at 5.30 am. The rest of the day has been relatively peaceful. I feel good - much better than I did over the weekend. I am good to go.
Strength, courage, faith, and hope...
March 27th, 2018
I avoided a melt down today...I was already irritated over the mentally ill guy being gassed the other day, but I managed to get to sleep early enough last night and I felt pretty relaxed and ready to tackle a new day this morning, when I woke up at 5.30 am. I could hear the guard setting up outside recreation down stairs, and by my calculations, I figured I'd be headed outside around 3rd round, which would be perfect. Finally some sunshine, maybe a light sunburn, because I need some color so badly. I look like death walking...But more importantly, I'd be back inside of my cell in time to listen to a music program that will be celebrating the 25 year anniversary of Depeche Mode's "Songs of Faith and Devotion" album...something I haven't heard since the '90s, and was a favourite of mine in my teens.
About 20 minutes later the female officer was asking me if I was going to recreation and I said, "Yes." She started flipping through the paper work and said, "5th round." Huh? I jumped out of bed, "What do you mean 5th round? That's an impossibility!"
"Are you going or not?"
"I'm still trying to figure out how the math adds up. This pod never sees five rounds of recreation. On a bad day with the most incompetent of officers, we have 4 rounds!" I said, incredulously.
"You gonna go or not? 5th round!"
I couldn't miss the show and honestly, I just didn't want to give the recreation any power over me. If I waited, even out of stubborness, I'd only be cutting off my nose to spite my face. "Just put me in the shower early", I said.
And you know what? I'm glad I did that because I've been able to catch up on things and if I had waited on recreation - even when I KNOW it would've more likely been 4th round, I'd just be irritated and worried I was going to miss the music, so why give it that kind of control over my day? The Stoics say that you can give the power to something else, or hold onto the power, as the problem is usually manufactured anyway. It's best to just take away the problem's power over you, and stay in control. Once you do that, it's no longer a "problem" and you feel much better. Of course it's easier said than done, but maybe with practice, I'll get better at it.
It definitely doesn't seem like we're going to go on lock-down until next week, which is a good thing as well. Though, I really want to get outside and run some basketball before we can't leave our cells for a few weeks.
Courage, strength, hope, and love....
March 29th, 2018
As I'm writing this, the sky is clearing up and it is looking like it's going to be a beautiful spring day. We've got a pretty good crew of Officers working today - not the fastest in the world, but they're good spirited and treat us like human beings. I don't mind when things are slow, it's when you've got guards that don't want to work, and they treat us like animals, that gets me riled up and irritated.
Yesterday was one of those days...I was already upset over the execution of a guy I considered a friend, and I was upset at myself for even forgetting his execution date was on Tuesday. I was jamming to Sound Awake, and the 25th anniversary of a favourite Depeche Mode album, completely oblivious to THIS place...Then the show ended and the program "Execution Watch" came on, and my stomach dropped.
We called the guy "Rod", short for Rodriguez. He was a huge Star Wars/film buff, like me, and we spent a lot of time talking about movies and geeking out. It's rare to find someone you can talk to about film - the way the film is made, dialogue and directors...I enjoyed that bond we had. I never judged him for why he was here (as I try not to do with anyone back here - things are always very grey, and never a case of black/white or good/evil) nor had we ever talked about it. I just enjoyed him as the person I knew him to be.
Apparently, according to the so-called "legal experts" on the Execution Watch show, they said that at some point during his legal proceedings he was offered a plea deal, and he didn't take it. So the District Attorney felt affronted and went after him with a vengeance...I was thinking about that and, you know, Jurors should be able to hear information like that because if the DA is willing to offer a deal before going to trial, then maybe - just maybe - he's not the worst of the worst and maybe they'd spare a person's life with that kind of information? I don't know. It just highlights what a messed up system we have and how Justice is not applied equally or even fairly.
Going into yesterday...We had the trifecta of assholes working, and it was a mess of a day. To add to the mood, a huge storm rolled in and it got crazy! The thunder was as loud as I've ever heard it - literally shook the buillding. The lightening was like fireworks. Just crazy! It went on all the way until six this morning.
There really is a much better vibe on the pod today, though. I'm just excited that I'm going to get some REAL SUNSHINE today around noon. It's the first time I've been out 3rd round since I moved to C-Pod in December, last year. Seems ages ago...
Everyone here is fairly confident that next Monday we'll be on lock-down. I'm as ready for it as I'll ever be, although I'm not looking forward to being stuck in the cell for 3-31/2 weeks...but I'll manage.
Courage. Hope. Strength, Faith. And LOVE!
March 31st, 2018
Saturday...And the last day of the month...March really flew by! I don't think it was a bad month, by any measure. Sure, there was a couple of stressful moments, but all in all, I'd say it was a good month. It closed out with the news that my attorneys asked for an extension from the 5th Circuit for my application for a Certificate of Appealability...it was due on April 6th, but because they've recently been appointed, they've had little time to review all of my records, and they want to be thorough. They've actually got quite a mess to clean up as my previous attorneys at the Federal Level did the bare minimum and it was as they say a "less than stellar" performance. I just hope that the Court grants it. Positive energy into the universe!
Yesterday was a good day...I went outside and was able to get some sun, and play 60 games of basketball, even if I did get my butt handed to me. When I first came to C-Pod I was boasting that I was the best on the pod...ha ha. Of course I lost a couple of times to a really god guy and I figured out that if I could stay out ahead of him with shots I would win, and after that I did. Than another really good ball player moved to the pod and he's just too fast and too good. I can hang with him on the shots, but he's got a level of speed I just don't have and I can't dig my feet in for a really good sprint because of a gun-shot wound to my left foot. My big toe and the next toe don't bend at all. So, he's got the speed that I don't, and he won yesterday 44-16...Ouch!
Today is a no recreation day and I'm just listening to the radio and trying to keep busy.