Jul-Sept 2020 - Randy Halprin

Randy Halprin
 "We tend to see a person in the moment, not as the journey they travelled to get here."  Kat Lehmann

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July 5th, 2020

4th July weekend...It's been so difficult to write of late. I've been feeling quite lethargic and depressed. I've been able to function and get through the day, but everything has been foggy. As I write this we've not had rec since Friday, and we almost didn't even get that. Some people didn't. I had to take a bird bath when I came back in because they weren't doing showers at all.  

When I woke up yesterday, there was a breakfast sack on my floor and it was one measly pancake, and some powdered milk in a bag. We were all grumbling and wondering what happened to the improvement we were supposed to have in our food, according to a Houston Chronicle news report. We were supposed to be getting fruit cups and sack meals were supposed to get better too – according to the TDCJ director. Not on Polunsky!

We were all wondering if we'd even receive a good meal for the holiday...When we asked what was going on with rec a guard said,  

“We are in crisis mode due to staff shortages...No one is coming to work. New officers quit within days or weeks, and no one wants to work in a prison anymore.”

The good news is that we did have a really good holiday meal – BBQ chicken, cake etc. My neighbour wanted to cook some tacos so I tagged and bagged my chicken and sent it over to him so he could use it. The tacos came out really good!  

I went back to my day and was restless and feeling a little down when at 2pm I decided to check the radio again for movies...I heard the announcement and sat up straight!!

“Movies on 106.5!”

My neighbour said,  


I said,  

“Movies on...Movies on...Movies on!!!”

It turned out to be, 'Captain Marvel'.

When that movie went off there was a pause and then silence...I waited for several seconds when suddenly I heard the familiar 'Star Wars' music and I let out a cry that probably scared everyone! I yelled,  

“RISE OF SKYWALKER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!”

Yes, I'm a geek...Can't help it!

I had tears of joy...It was an amazing movie and it tied everything up perfectly and I loved how the movie score worked its way through the movie, paying homage to the various themes throughout the decades of movies.  

Well, the movies continued well into the evening. On Saturday we heard 'Us' – a social/horror commentary on America. It was a bit difficult to follow without actually seeing it, and I was confused in places – definitely not easy to just listen to. They also played 'Glass' which is the third movie in a trilogy that began with 'Unbreakable', then 'Split'. It was pretty good, but again, one you probably had to 'see' to know what was going on. M. Night Shyamalan is very much a visual storyteller, and drops a lot of visual clues throughout his movies. After that they closed out with 'Zombieland 2' which was really funny!

Today, the movies started at 8am with 'Super 8', and then 'Aquaman'. And later they played 'Secret Life of Pets' and then an Afghan war movie before closing the day off with 'Creed 2' – surprisingly good!  

They started to replay all of today's movies again, and I'm listening to Captain Marvel as I type this, and it's really good. I don't think I've heard a Marvel movie that I haven't liked. They keep it grounded, humorous, and a perfect balance of action.  

My spirits felt lifted after all of that!

I hope everyone is doing okay and staying safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 6th, 2020

Geeze...Well, it was bound to happen! We woke up to the news that the entire unit is on a COVID-19 lockdown again...Ugh! They said they've had cases pop up all over the unit and dozens of officers have tested positive as well. We don't know how long this will last, but these sack meals have to improve. Breakfast was awful – it was a single pancake that had some kind of cheese baked onto it, and that was all. We didn't get lunch until 5pm and dinner came at 9pm. Lunch was okay, but dinner was really bad.  

They still had the movies playing over the weekend, so at least we had that. The guards said we'd only receive showers every other day, and there would be severely limited movements from both officers and inmates...Basically, we're trapped. It sucks, but what can we do about it? I worry that with the 4th July weekend and all of the people who probably went out and partied at Lake Livingston, then went back to work, the spread of the virus will be phenomenal! We're likely to see more and more cases continuously pop up.  

I'm just going to put my head down and try to get through it. It's difficult though...Really hard! But hey, I've listened to 'Rise of Skywalker' three times, and I can't complain too much.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 7th, 2020

I woke up with an unusual pep in my step and energy I've not had for a while now. I saw the breakfast sack on my floor, grabbed it, and noticed two pancakes and a handful of raisins and thought,  

“I'm so sick of pancakes!”

Now, I'm not a person who likes to waste food...I feel guilty if there's something I don't want to eat or can't stomach, and normally I'd offer it to my neighbors, but they're all sick of pancakes too. What do you do? I mean, they know we're all sick of pancakes and yet, they still make them. It's a waste! They'd save far more money making a decent breakfast that won't be thrown away.  

Anyways...I decided to make a bowl of oatmeal with the raisins, and ate it before I began my work out. Once I was done I took a bird bath at my sink and then scrubbed my cell down.  

I realised as I was writing to my girlfriend that it's one year ago this week that I was moved to Death Watch...I'll never forget the day because it followed the 4th July weekend and I had my stuff all ready and packed because I knew a date had been scheduled and signed off on by a Judge. Monday passed and nothing happened...Then on Tuesday, if I remember correctly, they did one round of rec and then cancelled it for the rest of the day. I spent the day lounging around and thought I was safe for another day when second shift came on...Then, suddenly an officer came to my door and said,  

“Hey. You're moving to A-Pod, 12 cell.”

My heart and stomach dropped, and everything became dream like. I said goodbye to everyone and as I was leaving I was so moved by the support I had from all around me...Guys were yelling my name and saying I'd be back...It helped me a lot.  

It's just so difficult to believe it's been a whole year, and I feel extremely lucky to be alive. Yes, I've been depressed lately and feeling quite lethargic, but the fact remains: I'M ALIVE! So many don't make it and I wish it was different and we could all be saved.  

I was thinking last night about how it's past time for the death penalty to end, especially in this time of uncertainly. I think of all of the money wasted on an act of pure revenge. You could save so many lives in this COVID-19 pandemic by diverting that money to where it's needed most. As well as all of that, think of all the people sitting on Death Row because they are poor, or black etc, or had a bigoted judge or DA...Does anyone remember the racist emails from the disgraced Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal? Or that for decades, Dallas County used to have a jury selection guide for prosecutors that specifically advised to not pick black jurors for a death penalty case because they would more than likely vote against a death sentence? There are guys sitting on death row right now who were sentenced under those very administrations.

In the quest for equal justice under the law, there's no better time than now to demand an end to the death penalty. People talk about divestment and defunding...think of the money that is spent on a single death penalty case that could be used for a far better purpose. Is the thirst for vengeance so strong that it bypasses rationality and humanity?

Tomorrow there is a scheduled execution...It's insane that this guy is facing execution when he just barely missed the ruling by the Supreme Court that a juvenile couldn't be sentenced to death. He was just 18 years old and sentenced to death – how ugly is humanity that we can do that and think it's okay? Governor Abbott is talking daily about how the COVID crisis is hurting the Texas economy and yet, they still have hundreds of thousands of dollars to waste taking a life...How does this make any sense?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 9th, 2020

Today feels a bit strange. Texas has started executions again, and yesterday I watched as they put a guy in the van to take him to Huntsville. At first, I was not going to look out the window because it's a trauma we all feel here each and every time they take someone away to be executed.

I heard someone say,  

“Here he comes.”

Then we began the ritual of banging on the windows to show our support to him, as we watched him being taken along the side walk. Seeing the procession of guards, wardens, and a use of force team follow behind (in case the poor guy put up a fight) is not something you could ever get used to seeing.  

They marched him into 12 building to run him through metal detectors and carry out a thorough strip search, and then put him in chains and restraints. Then I watched as they put him in the white van to go to Huntsville.  

I really and truly believed that the guy would receive a stay (if only because of the Corona situation) because he is someone who has changed and grown and should NEVER have been sent to death row at all. Despite the rising number of COVID infections in Texas, they still went ahead with it...I guess the thirst for vengeance is stronger than the safety and health of everyone involved in the process. There are several guys who received stays because of the virus, months ago, and now they are naturally worried that this sends the green light for counties to start issuing execution dates again.  

This morning on the prison radio station I listened to the warden give us an update on what has been happening with the virus and the prison as a whole. I was happy to hear the update because there had been what seemed like an administrative back slide to the ways of before, and I think they're trying to figure stuff out and work on improving things. So, the update was we're on a 14 day lockdown as of now. [Note from Webmaster: As far as we're aware (and the postal system is dire!) they're still on lockdown. Please check with other groups on Facebook who have more up to date information]. They do have pockets of outbreaks across the unit where both inmates and officers have contracted the virus and those areas are essentially quarantined.  

The rest of the unit is on 'preventative lockdown' or a 'shelter in place' rule to prevent it from spreading further. This weekend, starting on Friday, a COVID Strike Force Medical Team will start testing all of us again. If positive cases are found, they will put that area on quarantine.

Meanwhile, the warden said that we're required to wear face masks whenever we leave our cells, and both inmates and officers will receive disciplinary cases should the rule not be followed. This seems fair and I've been advocating that guards wear masks because they're the ones bringing the virus in! I don't know how many times I've heard,  

“I have a right to not wear a mask!”

Well, you don't have a right to put peoples' health at risk, and I'm glad the administration is acknowledging that.  

He also addressed the fact that he knew morale was low and people were at their breaking points, and he asked for patience as they figure out ways to alleviate the stress and tension. He also said that ALL custody levels were going to be allowed a 5 minute phone call, and that isn't happening at this point on Death Row. We've not had the phone calls in a couple of months now, so we're all hoping they'll get onto that.  [Note from Webmaster: The phone calls have since resumed!] They have telephone jacks on the pod, and could easily set up a table outside of the control center and bring the phone to us without us ever having to leave the pod and risk spreading the virus. I don't see why this isn't a plausible idea, not just during this crisis, but going forward when we're back to 'normal'.

He also addressed the problems with the food. We've been underfed with the sack meals, and they're working to address that issue as well – we'll see! [Note from Webmaster: Randy has told us that the food has improved a lot, although it's not yet consistent. They've had fresh milk, fruit, and some vegetables. However, there are still days where the food is paltry, but the good changes are something to celebrate and this warden does seem to be dedicated to continue making things better]. I'm glad to say that the last 3 meals we've had have been very good, so we'll see how it goes.  

And that's all of the news for now...I'm pushing through the days, and although I'm feeling quite depressed, my energy is coming back up and I'm doing my best to keep upbeat and help those around me to do the same.  

I hope everyone is staying safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 12th, 2020

Well, it sucks being trapped in our cells for weeks on end, but at least the prison radio station has been keeping us entertained. Friday night started with some movies, then a new music program with a lot of good music I haven't heard in years.  

They started doing phone calls again which is great news! We all really need those calls back here whilst we're locked down and feeling even more cut off from the world than we usually do.  

Over the weekend I did a little work, and listened to some repeat movies on Sunday as I did my laundry and scrubbed my cell.  

We were told that Covid testing would begin again next week, and we're all hoping for good news. Several death row officers are infected, and some are in bad shape – I hope and pray they will all get well.  

Other news...The sack meals continue to get better, but they're coming extremely late, with 12-13 hours between meals. We realise this is most likely due to staff shortages, and we can only hope it improves.  

That's all for now...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 17th, 2020

It's Friday evening and I'm in a little better spirits. I was told today that I had a legal call and I was excited to get to talk to my attorneys, and to move around the building and get a few minutes of fresh air as I walked over to the visitation building.

It was about 12.40pm when I got out there, and my call was scheduled for 2pm, so I was waiting and waiting...I noticed when I was out there that they've taken advantage of everything being shut down, and they're having the place painted. Visitation is now grey and black – pretty depressing!  

I could see the vending machines and they were empty. Well, there was a lonely 3 pack of cheese crackers, probably well past their expiration date, but that was it. The unit looks like a ghost town though. It's really weird.  

The call with my attorneys was great, and hearing their voices really raised my spirits! No legal news that I can talk about right now, but the best news of the day was that they had spoken to my girlfriend...As you all know, she was very sick last year and had to deal with my pending execution date on top of that...It broke my heart that she had to go through all of that and other stuff that came her way even after I got my stay, but the good news is she is doing really, really well and finally 'in the clear'! I was teary-eyed when I got the news! It's the best news in the world and proves she's my Warrior Queen! I'm over the moon! Thank you all for praying for her and for me, and for the support from all of our many friends, and beyond, that my Taffy has had in such a stressful time.  

I didn't get back to my cell until close to 4pm but it was nice just sitting out there and having a change of scenery and getting away from the place for a bit. I'm hoping they'll do some new movies this weekend and I have my new music show to listen to tonight!  

I hope you're all doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 19th, 2020

Today is my friend, Clinton's, birthday...I asked the officer to let him know I said 'Happy Birthday' and he did. Clinton and I have been very good friends for years, and I wish him all the very best!

I want to talk a little about the sack lunches we've been getting – they have seriously improved! Well, it's hit or miss on occasions, but they've been throwing in some fresh fruit and veggies – apples, oranges, and a banana. But the best thing? Milk!!! It's been well over a decade since they took away the little cartons of milk and replaced it with disgusting powdered milk that much of the time seemed more like water than milk. I never thought I'd see real milk again in my life! So, when I received that first milk carton with breakfast...it was divine! I love milk...I've always loved milk since I was a kid. I was the kid that would open up the fridge, grab a bottle of milk and chug it down. My brother, Jimmy, and I would pour a glass of milk, open a packet of chocolate chip cookies, and dunk them...It's so great that we got fresh milk, and I hope it's here to stay.  

They've been giving us fresh broccoli and cauliflower, but I can't eat it – I've always found those two particular veggies to be revolting, ever since I was a small child. But the best part of the food is the apples, oranges etc that we normally only get on holidays. We are all most definitely appreciative of the improved food, and that we are getting more to eat than we were. The warden has done a very good job of sorting out the kitchen and making things better. [Note from the Webmaster: We've spoken to the warden who seems sincere in what he is saying will change, so hopefully this will continue to be the case].

Rumour has it that A-Pod as well as D/E/F Pods all have confirmed cases of Covid-19. One of my long time friends, Big Will, is said to be infected, but I don't know how true that is. When I look out of my window I can sometimes see nurses and guards walking around in full PPE which is a bit shocking to the eye. At 11 Building for General Population, they have a big Biohazard disposal box parked outside the building. I guess it was inevitable with guards coming and going, and some not taking this virus seriously, and refusing to wear their face masks.  

It's been an incredibly boring day today and I've been trying to get through it as best I can. I'm still feeling restless, but I'm still happy following the news of my girlfriend, and that makes me smile every time I think of it. In just a few months we'll have been together for 3 years...Pretty amazing if you know my track record (ha ha). I couldn't be happier though, and it's been really great.  

I hope everyone is safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 20th, 2020

Today has been one of those 'bleh' days. They started showers really late and then after that I couldn't really find the energy to do much of anything. I was hoping 106.5 would do an album at 3pm, but instead they're playing 'Rambo' for people to listen to. Geeze, the sound quality on this movie is really poor...It sounds ancient!

It started to rain, which we really need. It's been blazing back here and even though the air cooling system is on, it's not compensating for the 100 degree heat we've had for almost two weeks now. Pretty bad! But the cool down is much needed and appreciated.  

Rambo is over...hold on...new movie as I type this! 'Avengers: End Game'. Awesome! I have to catch this. 'Infinity War' was amazing.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 21st, 2020

I woke up feeling really groggy. I fell asleep around 10.20pm...The movie 'John Constantine' was airing, so I went to bed after they shut the lights out and I had given up on receiving mail. Then, around 11pm the guard gave me my letters, I read the one from my girlfriend, then crashed. I slept all the way through until 5.20am. I was going to roll back over, but instead I ate my breakfast of PB&J, hard boiled egg, and coffee cake. I washed it down with the milk and then tried to go back to sleep for a little bit. I tossed and turned...

I grabbed the headphones and heard Clint Eastwood's 'The Mule' which was good, but I missed the ending because my neighbour currently doesn't have a hot pot, and I wanted to pass him some hot water so he could make some coffee.  

They said they're not giving us showers today which sucks, so I took a bird bath in my cell. Right now I'm about to start my work for the day, and hopefully the day will go well!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 26th, 2020

We're heading into week four of the current lockdown. On the prison radio station the head warden gave an update about what has been going on and he basically said that until they can get the outbreak under control, we'd stay on lockdown. He said that he knew everyone's limits were being tested and everyone is stressed. He also said that the outbreak had put on hold some “really big plans” he had for the unit. I could hear in his voice that he was sincere in what he was saying, and I do believe he's been trying.  

The prison radio station has become a whole lot better again in recent weeks. I think the key is finding the right balance for everyone, and knowing that the content isn't always going to be to everyone's individual tastes. They're offering an audio Spanish class in the evenings, as well as playing some movies for everyone to hear. They've got some spot light music shows now too, offering a couple of hours of a particular genre, which is great. My show comes on late night Friday night, and I've heard some music I've not listened to in ages, as well as some really good new stuff. It's been nice. For the late-nighters they've been playing electronic and techno music. I think I could hear my neighbour dancing and shuffling around the other night!

The movies have been really great to listen to. I have a mental 'wish-list' of movies I read about and would like to hear, and 'The Joker' was on that list – I got to hear it on Friday night! Geeze, that movie was brutal, but the acting was phenomenal! As far as a character study of a mentally ill man descending into madness and violence goes, it was done very well. The best Joker performance? It was good, but Jack Nicholson will always be my most favourite version of The Joker. I'm really hoping to hear 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' now, as well as 'It: Chapter 2'. The first 'It' movie was perfection!

As far as things are back here...The meals continue to be good. There's' a time or two where the meals are a little paltry, but they've still been trying to add fresh fruit and veggies (the other day we had baby carrots...I love baby carrots! The only thing missing is some ranch dressing to dip them into!). The milk is amazing and now I'm getting double because my neighbour has been passing his milk over to me. Can't beat that!

The other day some medical dude came in dressed up like a Ghost Buster...He had this back pack that looked like a proton pack and a huge cannon attached. Remember the slime cannon they used in part two? It looked just like it, but it blasted out some kind of disinfectant. They pulled us out of our cells, he walked in, and then I heard this, “Rrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmm...WHOOSH!” sound as he blasted my cell. Apparently the cannon is highly pressurised and when it blasts the disinfectant out the mist goes everywhere around the area it's been fired.  

B-Pod is still Corona free which is good news...Fingers crossed it will stay that way! I'm praying for all who are infected that they will make a 100% recovery, and that the rest of us stay safe.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


July 29th, 2020

Well, we're into week 4 of our quarantine...Still restless and bored out of my mind, but trucking through it. Actually, I'm a little worried this will carry on and on because whilst they're doing a great job of keeping things sanitised, they're not doing such a good job of restricting movement. They're allowing certain transports from other units and county jails which risks spreading the virus, and contamination by guards who were out sick with COVID and now returning...Some claim to have tested negative, but they're still coughing and showing other symptoms which is a bit scary. One of the officers who made noise about it being her 'right' to not wear a mask was out for two weeks with the virus!!! Now she's back – wearing a mask – but every time she speaks she pulls the mask down and freaks everyone out. Then she says,  

“I can't talk with this thing on!”  

Well, there's a simple solution to that: DON'T TALK!!

There's been rumors that a couple of people have died on the unit, but I don't know if that's true or not – as of now it's just a rumor, and I hope it stays that way! Nothing has been said on the prison radio station either.  

The sack meals have been difficult to figure out. One day they are unbelievably awesome! Last night, we actually had a carton of fresh orange juice with dinner. I've NEVER had a carton of fresh cold and delicious orange juice whilst I've been incarcerated all of these 24 years. Then on other days, the sacks are paltry...Still, we're all very grateful for the good days.  

It's been over a month since we had commissary, although they have allowed us to buy stamps and hygiene products a couple of weeks ago...But that was it. They're saying that the next time we go we'll only be able to spend $15 to buy snacks, and this has sent everyone into a tizzy, and all day every day it's,

“This isn't right. It isn't fair. When are we going to commissary?”  

Every ranking officer that goes by...every officer...on and on and on. It can get a bit annoying, but I do understand, and commissary is important to us back here. I enjoy my snacks, chips and ice cream as much as anyone else, and there's always a bit of excitement on commissary day. It shouldn't be a carrot that the State can dangle over our heads and control us with. I try to think about the friends and all of the love I have...These things can last forever, but a bag of chips lasts just 5 minutes and then you go back to being miserable again. And while our lives literally hang in the balance, there are people on the outside right now who can even feed their families...

Anyway, I'm trying to keep upbeat and positive. I listened to 'The Green Mile' last night. I'd forgotten just how good that movie is, and I really enjoyed hearing it again!  

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  


July 30th, 2020

A warm and boring Thursday...I'm getting through it! I stayed up late last night because the prison radio station started playing movies at 9pm...I had planned to be in bed by 10.30pm but then after the first movie – I've no idea what it was called – 'The Matrix' came on and I just had to listen to it. It's one of the last movies I ever saw when I was 'free'. I didn't get to bed until turned 1am, and I'm feeling quite tired today.  

I was listening to the news and political programs this morning, and just keeping my mind occupied. Yesterday at dinner they gave us a pack of real cookies – a healthy 'all natural' made with wheat, and real chocolate. They were really good! I couldn't believe that the State would provide these, but I'm so grateful. In our breakfast sack this morning we had a delicious red apple...Geeze, I love apples! I love fresh fruit, period, but more of this, please!  

If they can do this during a lockdown in pandemic times, they can do it all year round...hopefully!

Keep strong...

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  


August 2nd, 2020

On Friday we had our $15 commissary spend and a little bit of something is better than nothing. We were told that the next time we go we'll be able to have the $15 of whatever we want plus an additional $10 in hygiene/writing supplies. I have to admit that it's a bit weird that they're doing things this way...But anyway...It's a stupid thing to complain about because so many people don't have anything in this world, and we have to take our blessings however they come.   

I was really saddened on Friday because a good friend of mine was taken to Death Watch after receiving an execution date just six hours earlier. Because of the lockdown we didn't even get a chance to say goodbye or to encourage him. I personally think he has some good issues that can help him, and hopefully his lawyers will be successful. This is his second execution date and the last time he received a stay only days from his date. My heart goes out to his wife, his mom and his family, and they're all in my prayers.  

What really irks me (and has done for the last year when I received my execution date) is how the execution process, from appeals, to each individual county in the state setting dates etc, is grossly unfair and inconsistent. In some counties the DA may not actively seek an execution, but in another county it can depend on the political environment. Small counties seems to aggressively seek execution dates, whilst the larger and more democratic counties aren't as active – unless it's a particularly high-profile case. There are guys back here who have had appeals exhausted for years and don't have to really worry about receiving a date because the political environment of their county doesn't have a DA asking for dates. Meanwhile, some guy with his case in a rinky dinky town will receive a date within days of his appeals being exhausted. I don't see how this is equal justice under the law...I think, if anything, it should highlight another reason why the death penalty should be abolished. Food for thought...

I stayed up late on Friday night listening to the prison radio station's 'alternative' music show, and it was really good. It's good to have those programs. You have to check the station regularly because you don't know what's going to be broadcast – it might be a movie, or it might be some really good music, or an audio book.  

As I write this, the movies have been a bit hit and miss for a while. They've played some new ones, but they've mostly been 'action' movies with little dialogue, so it makes it difficult to follow on just listening alone.

Otherwise, I'm getting by!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 3rd, 2020

Heading into week 5 of lockdown...This is officially the longest we've ever been on lockdown on Polunsky Unit. Someone said that there's over a thousand cases on the unit now – again, I'm willing to bet it's because they're not doing a great job of controlling movement, but what do I know? Someone said that you can check on the unit case numbers on the TDCJ website, if anyone is interested.  

We had showers this morning and I was trapped for over an hour in there. The guards were kind of moping about and they didn't even finish, leaving several guys without their showers.  

So, last night they played 'Knives Out'. It's a movie I've been wanting to hear because I'm impressed with everything the director, Rian Johnson, has done from 'Looper' to 'The Last Jedi'. But this movie...WOW! I was completely blown away by the writing, how funny it is, how witty and smart the dialogue, and how great the acting is from all involved. It had me listening intently, and with white knuckles, trying to solve the 'whodunnit' mystery. Daniel Craig really impressed me as the sleuth, Inspector le Blanc...He was so funny and took on the most insanely exaggerated southern gentleman accent I've ever heard! There's a part where he's getting close to solving the mystery and then says,

“This plot has a big hole in it...It's a donut! A donut missing the hole.”  

The delivery was just brilliant and I have to say it's one of the best movies I've listened to in a long time.  

I've been trying to be a bit more constructive with my time lately. I've been having bouts of anxiety because I let my mind wander too much and I get to thinking about 'what if this and what if that' with regard to my situation. For so many years, whilst being optimistic, I didn't really think beyond death row and now I've allowed myself to day dream a bit more. I've also gone to some depressingly dark places....Where there's 'no guarantee'...I'm not out of the woods yet and what if life outside of death row is worse than this? I've been here now for just over 17 years and I guess I'm used to being here and having all of that upended and possibly starting over and having a 'new life'...I never thought that could be so frightening, but it kind of is. Of course, I'm not even off death row yet, so I guess it's silly to get into these thought processes....But I do feel like I have a huge question mark over my head.  

The anxiety comes and goes, but I'll be okay.  

As I type this, I'm waiting to see what 106.5 will do for the 3pm album, and I'm trying to keep busy with my work as and when I can. Of course, I look forward to a couple of movies to listen to tonight as well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 4th, 2020

This has been a bit of an odd day. It started at 3am and I woke up with my cell light on. They can control our lights manually from the control center and normally they only turn them on for 'count time' or for some kind of emergency. I got up and looked out the door and could see the female officer messing with the sack meals for breakfast. Guys were yelling out for the guard in the picket to turn off the cell light, but the woman yelled back,  

“It's chow time! We'll turn them off after we feed!”

She fumbled with the bags for a bit longer and then took FOREVER to pass them out. It was only two pancakes, and a biscuit as hard as tack they ate on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s! The biscuit was so hard it could've been used as a hockey puck!

She made it to our section close to four in the morning and we said,  

“Turn the lights out!”

“I still have milk and a cup of oatmeal to pass out!”  

I was thinking,

"You could've just put that in the bag with everything else like a normal person does.”

So, she finishes that and then I watch as she goes to a big blue barrel that had the milk in it, packed in ice. She pushes the barrel into A-section, changes her mind, and pushes the barrel back out. Then, she pushes it back in before pushing it out for a final time, deciding to put the milks in a crate. She does that and throws the cups of oatmeal on top, and then goes back to feeding. This takes until FIVE IN THE MORNING to do!! Meanwhile, a guy on my section decides it's time for him to wake up and turns his speaker all the way up....I'd had enough at this point! I said,  

“Dude! Just because YOU want to start your day now, it doesn't mean everyone else wants to. Please...turn that crap down. Geeze.”

I drink my milk, ate my oatmeal, and got back to sleep until 8am. After I'm up and about there's a lot of commotion and a full clean up crew of trustees come into the pod to clean... They're saying that the quarantine is over in General Population, and things should begin to return to normal – whatever that means these days! My only concern is that with more movement, things will flare back up which seems inevitable. I just hope they do this smartly and enforce mask wearing strictly.  

A group of ranking officers and the Wardens poured into the pod and were looking around at things. They were pointing to something, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. They looked around a bit longer and then walked off the pod...Who knows what that was about??

Other than all of that, I'm as upbeat as I can possibly be...Just trying to get through the day.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 6th, 2020

I woke up to chaos and noise today...Firstly, I was surprised that they were doing showers because, for the last 5 ½ weeks, our showers have been Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I rolled over and went back to sleep until it was my turn.  

They're also doing 'semi-recreation' and I'm assuming they're doing it that way to keep movement minimal? Well, some recreation is better than none, and I hope to get out of the cell soon.  

Yesterday I had a bit of an anxiety attack...I think some of it has to do with being trapped in the cell for so long, and whatever psychological effects that has – even if we don't acknowledge those effects, or even realise what's happening to us. Spending 24/7 locked in a cell with no recreation, no visits, no minister visits – nothing...It can wear you down. That's not me whining – it's simply fact! Some would say,  

“You deserve that.”


We don't even treat animals that way – in fact, it's a crime to do that animals...

The rest of it is due to thinking about my case, and I guess, the natural fears that come with all of that. I can't fathom the State or Dallas County fighting something that is clear cut and irrefutable: I had a bigoted judge, even by his own acknowledgement with certain things. What I find interesting is how a lot of people say,  

“I have a Constitutional right!”


“They're violating the Constitution!”

Even in today's pandemic-driven world, people scream that out as a reason to not wear a mask! What I've experienced is that people cherry pick what they 'believe' when it comes to the Constitution of the US. If it doesn't mesh with their world view, or political agenda, the Constitution becomes a hindrance to them and gets thrown out the window. I don't mean just for Conservatives either – people on the left are just as guilty. I fundamentally disagree with the interpretation of the second amendment and guns...but if someone wants to buy a gun there are creative ways to limit the sales and access to ammunition, weapons of war sold to civilians etc.  

I guess the point I'm getting at is when it comes to one of the biggest Constitutional rights a US citizen has, it's the right to a fair trial...If evidence shows that a defendant didn't have anything remotely close to a fair trial, it's fought tooth and nail. If a conviction is thrown out or a person gets a new trial, some people scream,  

“It's an injustice!”

No...it's the Constitution. When evidence is overwhelming, it shouldn't be a political burden to just do the right thing whether you're conservative or liberal. I'm not fighting to be set free...I'm just trying to get a new trial – a fair trial – where the Judge doesn't make decisions based on the fact I'm Jewish.  

It gets to me sometimes and it's scary to think that some people would find it hard to just do the right thing...I'm not perfect, and I have great remorse and regret for the actions in my past, and the choices I've made in my life. I'm not a killer, but I've not been perfect. It can be difficult to do the right thing when it gets muddied by influence, impulsive behaviour, and drugs. But it shouldn't be hard to do the right thing when you're a person or people with a certain amount of power and the Constitution backs you up.  

Anyways, to get through the anxiety I prayed for a bit and read some Psalms...I have to trust that the right thing will eventually happen.  

I spent pretty much the entire day reading the book, 'Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership' by Steven Livingston. Once it gets going, it's impossible to put down! I finished the book convinced Joe Biden is the right candidate for President in this moment. I was a Bernie Sanders guy, and I still believe that if Bernie had ran against Trump, he would have won. But right now...Whilst I would love huge changes in this country, I think more than anything we need civility, empathy/compassion, and normalcy returned to the Presidential Office, and the way decisions are made. Bernie would've shaken things up, but I don't think we're ready for fundamental shifts right now...

The book convinced me of Biden's heart and instincts, and the guy truly cares and is selfless. He never used politics as a way to enrich himself or for ego purposes...The book convinced me that he did it because he wanted to help the little guy. We need someone who can pull this country back together again...We really need civility. I highly recommend the book – but be warned that you'll need Kleenex at the ready because it'll bring tears a few times...

I hope everyone is safe and well.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 10th, 2020

I was going to do a journal entry yesterday, but things devolved into chaos when, unexpectedly, they ran recreation. I was out at rec from 8am until 11, and then I went to the shower. When I got back to my cell I was behind on my weekend chores, and by the time I finished I didn't feel like doing much of anything else.  

I was a bit down over the weekend because on Friday night I heard on the Prison Show that a guy who had been on death row about 10 years ago, passed away from COVID-19. We called him 'Big Joe'...A Latino dude and great man! One of my best memories of him was when I turned 30 years old...We were neighbours, and I hadn't broadcast that it was my birthday, but as the guard was doing the roster check he looked at the paper and said,

“Dang, it's your birthday today, Halprin. Happy Birthday.”

I said,  


Then I went about my business and 'Big Joe' said,  

“Hey, dip shit!”  

(He called me that a lot because he always let me know what I was an idiot for escaping back in 2000).

I went to the door and said,  

“What's up, Big Joe?”

“How come you didn't tell anyone it's your birthday?”

“I don't know...it feels like any other day to me.”

“How old are you?”


“Thirty????? You're not going to celebrate that?”

He said,  

“Happy Birthday!”  

I thanked him and went back to what I was doing.  

Later, around dinner time, I could smell something cooking from his cell and it smelled really good...I yelled over,  

“Hey, Big Joe, that smells good, whatever it is.”

“Yeah...I'm tired of waiting on dinner. I'd offer you some, but...sucks to be you! This is just too good to share.”

I laughed, and waited on my dinner tray. When the guard came with the carrier, he went to Big Joe's cell, popped his slot and Big Joe said,  

“Give this to Halprin.”

I could see him hand the guard a brown paper sack from the side of my door, and I thought, 'I wonder what this is?'

The guard came over, popped my food slot open, and handed me the bag. I looked inside of it and it was a soda and 5 tacos – the food he had been cooking earlier!  

“Thanks, Big Joe!” I hollered out...

“I was just messing with you earlier,” he said. “I didn't cook anything for myself, so enjoy them. Happy Birthday, but next time, say something, dip shit.”

That'll always be how I remember him, and a lot of guys back here will remember a lot of good things about him too. We're all painted as these horrible people and yes, some people have done some horrible things, but the act doesn't make the person. We're defined by bad choices, and rarely remembered for the good ones, or for kind acts.  

So, today I woke up and at first they said recreation had been cancelled and they were only doing showers. I got out of bed and waited...As I waited, the mail room lady brought me some legal mail. Since the beginning of this year, the Dallas DA, John Creuzot, has been trying to have his office recused. The first attempt, the trial court Judge denied his motion. Some time passed and he tried again with success. It is what it is and can't be changed now, but my attorneys said almost nothing changes except for whoever is acting on the State's behalf. It could be another county or the State Attorney General's office. The fact remains – as my attorneys pointed out: the claim is SOLID! That's reassuring, and I have to remain faithful that the right thing happens.  

It's scary, and gives me bouts of anxiety, but the fact remains that my claim is indeed solid, and I have mountains of evidence that we've acquired over the past year and a half that is hard to get around, but I'd be naïve to believe that the State will just roll over and concede, no matter how solid my case is.  

I recently heard a report about a man who had been locked up for over two decades. DNA completely cleared him, and the man whose DNA it was, was having a trial for another similar crime and confessed, allowing the other man to be cleared. You would think that would be it, right? NOPE! The Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas is, in spite of ALL the evidence, refusing to acquit the wrongfully convicted man. So, of course, they'll fight us on what is clear cut and solid...It's not a surprise when a system's foundation is rooted in racial inequality, religious intolerance, and other bigotry.  

Still...I have to keep the faith.  

It's hotter than blazes! August is my least favourite month...It's so hot in Texas and I can't believe how hot it can get in August. It makes you long for the end of September.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


Dedicated to 'Big Joe', and all who knew and loved him.

August 16th, 2020

It's hotter than hot right now!!!!!!! Again, it's not that we don't have the air cooling system – the building does have that, but it's just that it's so beyond hot that it isn't making any difference. The walls could fry an egg, I'm sure of it – it seems to pulsate heat! The good news is that it's supposed to break tomorrow and I'm more than ready for Fall!

It's been a pretty boring weekend. Yesterday, with the heat being so bad, I was drained of all energy and couldn't get much done. On Friday we were able to get out of the cell. I talked to another guy who lives near me about getting outside together...He's a nice guy to talk to and a good exercise partner. We both always push each other and don't criticise one another's workout. That irritates me more than anything – guys who don't help, but just criticise. It's annoying! So, we talked the night before about getting outside but the problem was that he stayed up to listen to a movie at 3am, so on Friday he slept in. I was a little upset, but decided I was going out regardless. I really needed the fresh air.  

I asked the guard who he was going to put me out with and I wasn't happy about who it was...The guy is known as being really strange, and there was a time when he stripped naked in the visitation booth whilst there were people all around the place. Still, I wasn't going to let it deter me and I didn't have to talk to him, so I went outside.  

I began to jog when he went to the other side of the rec yard and the first thing he did was make some weird noises, but then he began to exercise as well. The water worked on my side but not on his, and I couldn't ignore that because it was so hot outside and very humid. I said,  

“Hey, do you want me to fill your bottle up?”

I climbed the bars/mesh that separated us, grabbed his bottle, and filled it up. I told him that if he wanted more to just let me know...Then I went back to working out.  

Well, he asked for another refill, and I obliged, and started talking to him. I realised very quickly that he has a mental disorder. Because nobody really talked to him, and he didn't act like some other other mentally ill people, everyone just assumed he was being provocative and just strange at times.

I started to feel really guilty about my own judgements towards him, and in the end, I actually enjoyed the almost FOUR HOURS we were outside. Once I figured out how to talk to him, we had some really pleasant and good talks. He loves animals and birds, especially, so we talked about watching the birds outside and birds in the jungle, and the birds he used to have as pets. It was a moment I needed for myself because in the end, even with the weird things he sometimes did, I ended up understanding and liking the guy.  

Even as one who defends the mentally ill, and doesn't like seeing them being picked on, I realised that I had my own biases towards people I didn't think were truly mentally ill, but who were just acting strange or being provocative. The reality is that mental illness is not a 'one size fits all' diagnoses and I think we should all be more mindful of that. I know that going forward I certainly will be.  

So, last night I heard the movie, 'A Star is Born' with Lady GaGa...Now, I've never been a fan of her music, her voice, or the stuff she does for her 'art', and I went into the movie feeling sceptical, but found myself surprised at how good the movie actually was! (But geeze, it was depressing!) Get ready to reach for the Kleenex a few times because the acting from everyone – including Lady GaGa, and how her real singing voice is worlds apart from her 'pop' voice. She can actually sing!! I really enjoyed the movie.  

Not much else is going on around here. I'm just trying to keep my head above water, staying positive and bit more focused than I have been.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  


August 17th, 2020

Yesterday evening was insane...I settled into the evening, waiting on the night time movies, when the power flickered on and off. It did it again a few seconds later, and then the third time it completely went out. I heard the generator – which happens to be behind my cell wall – come to life, but everything else went out, despite that. It was already hot, but by 5pm it was still blazing hot and we immediately felt the building turn into an oven...I dreaded the evening before us.  

When I was in general population in the late '90s, there was no air conditioning on the buildings – and most units remain air-less to this day. (There are lawsuits pending trying to change this) and let me tell you, it was MISERABLE.  

Anyways, it felt like that until about 7pm or so when the power jumped back on. We still don't know what happened, but if I had to guess it's the giant mutant rats that run around this place – they're as big as coyotes and they were probably chewing on the wiring.  

A storm rolled through Livingston late last night and cooled things down considerably. Even as I type this it isn't nearly as hot as it had been. The humidity is low, thank goodness. It looks nice outside and there's still a lot of cloud coverage, but they're not grey clouds, they're the fat, white and fluffy clouds that look like marshmallows ready to be sucked out of the sky and eaten. What I wouldn't give to have a bowl of those sitting before me right now – is there anything better in the world than marshmallow? Probably not!

I woke up this morning, jumped out of bed, and because recreation was cancelled ONCE AGAIN I started exercising as I waited on my shower. When I got back I set to the day by writing and selecting old poems for a new collection I want to put together. I need to reignite my creativity and be a bit more constructive with my time since I'm trapped in the cell all day long...I'm working on it.

Stay safe and well!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 18th, 2020

Yesterday I tried to get to bed relatively early. After listening to the first night of the Democratic National Convention (the movies never came on last night so I opted for that instead) and then waiting to hear Stephen Colbert's take on the first night, I crawled into bed, pulled the sheet over the top of my head, and fell asleep. Some time after that the guard woke me up to bring some books that a friend had sent, and then I fell back to sleep.  

My eyes shot open again at 1.45am with a ridiculously early 'breakfast' which was only two pancakes and a box of Cheerios. Some of us asked about the milk, and the guard said,  

“I'll pass it out later.”

I was bit confused on why he would want to create more work for himself by making several trips up and down the stairs when he could've just put seven small milks on top of the tray carrier and brought it all at the same time. But hey, I don't get paid to make the big decisions around this place. I went back to sleep only to wake up at again at 3.30am when the dude decided to pass the milk out.

At around 7am I woke up, slammed a cup of coffee, and took my vitamins before working out. At the time rec was cancelled (again) and so I wanted to get my workout of the way before going to the shower. They ended up starting recreation for C-section and the typical noise and chaos ensued. At the time of writing this, that's essentially been my day. Well, I decided to wash my bed sheets and they're drying out right now. FUN, right?

Someone is passing around a really good article by Keri Blakinger, about the quality of the sack meals served to us during the lockdowns we've had. The article is spot on in what it says, and even includes pictures (somehow taken)  of the food given to us. [Note from Webmaster: The article can be found here:

This morning I was listening to some of the commentary on political programming for both the left and right side of the arguments. It's always interesting to hear how both sides of the aisle frame the debate/conversation. One program on American Family Radio – a conservative/fundamental Christian station - had some guy on the show telling the other hosts that an election shouldn't be about character, or whether they're a decent person or not, or if they're honest or dishonest. They were making the argument that because of some of the things Trump has done for 'religious freedom' or in his picks for Federal Court Justices, or even his Supreme Court picks, that it 'trumps' (no pun intended) any bad behaviour on the President's part.  

“You don't have to like the man to like his policies.”

I was flabbergasted that this would be a legitimate argument – especially on a Christian radio station. Well, I use the term 'Christian' loosely because AFR is actually a politically motivated activist station that masquerades as a Christian organization...listen to them for a day and I don't think there would be a single person who disagrees, especially when they  make calls to action throughout the day for various issues. It irks me to high heaven that they get a tax free exemption under such duplicitous reasons!

I think, as humans, it's natural to overlook certain behaviours if it benefits us in some way...To a certain extent it's part of evolutionary survival. We overlook a President's sexual dalliances or overlook something we might deem as week or strong...If a friend does something that doesn't sit well with us, we tend to ignore it or not call them out on it because they are our friend. I get that.  

What I can't wrap my head around is making excuses for a person who lies every day – someone who is an outright racist and bigot, and one who pits Americans against fellow Americans...Who talks about being a 'Law And Order President', but is arguably a criminal himself (whether it be using the system to his benefit or a serial sexual assaulter – his own words, not mine. Has anyone forgotten the Access Hollywood video?) A person who has zero empathy for anyone, always whines about how unfairly treated he is, and has made us a laughing stock of the world. A person who coddles dictators and despots whilst ostracising our allies, and a litany of other things that make him morally reprehensible. And for what? A few extra dollars in your pocket? A few extra dollars that are going to cost the country and planet billions, if not trillions later down the line? I feel like the country is in an abusive relationship and we're making excuses for the victimiser!

Integrity, decency, an ability to empathise with people – these attributes matter! It's everything! Who are we as people if it doesn't matter? How can we even begin to lead the world in human rights, the economy, and climate change, if it doesn't matter? If decency doesn't matter in this election, then we truly have lost our way. No one is perfect, but we have an opportunity to show the world who we are as a people, and as a country. So yeah, It matters!

They also mocked one of our congresswomen for suggesting more people use the postal service by getting pen pals, which would help bring money into the struggling US Postal Service. I definitely think she's on the right track...If not pen pals, I do believe more people should use it to send 'thank you' notes or 'thank you' cards, or even a card just to tell someone you're thinking of them. Technology has been a wonderful thing in connecting people to one another faster, but there's something so much more intimate and joyful when you open your mail box and see a card from a friend or loved one – in their own hand writing – that says they're grateful for you, or that they're thinking of you.

I can remember before emails the joy I would have running to the mail box after the postal service dropped off something to our home. It could be anything! More often than not it was for my father, but every now and then there'd be a card from my Aunt Carol, or a friend. We've lost that now and it would nice if people would start a card campaign of sending 'thank you' or 'thinking of you' cards, and it would help to keep the postal service alive. For kids (and even adults) it would be an amazing teaching moment for them to connect via a hand-written letter through the post, to a person in another country.  

I don't know...I just worry we truly will lose our souls with another 4 years of Trump. I would expect that there would be things that Joe Biden does that I don't agree with on a governmental level, but what I do know is he's not going to denigrate people. He's not going to call women, 'nasty' if they're strong. I believe he'll listen...I believe he will bring 'heart' back to our country.  

I was thinking about Michelle Obama's wonderful speech last night and especially about what she said about getting out to vote. She said,  

“Pack a dinner sack or even breakfast if you have to.”

Meaning, standing in long lines to vote. I'd really like to see people standing outside of poll stations offering snacks, hot cocoa or coffee, tea or even blankets to voters waiting in lines so that they won't be discouraged from waiting and leave. I hope someone will have had the same thought as myself and gather up volunteers to do just that. Regardless of who you vote for...to just get people actively involved in our democracy would be amazing! It's a gift that I don't get the luxury of having – I gave up my chance to vote because of my own stupidity and at 18 years old I didn't think it was an important thing to do...I remember my dad telling me,

“Well, if you don't vote, you don't get the right to complain.”

Geeze, how true that statement is! Please...register to vote and then VOTE! In Texas it's important to point out that there is no longer 'Down ticket voting' meaning you could just check one box for the candidates in your preferred party. This was a power move done by a Republican controlled state legislature to confuse voters and hopefully win some votes by the uneducated voter. It's important to let Texans know this so that they'll be aware that it's going to take a bit of time to go through the ballot and vote INDIVIDUALLY for their choices. Also, for those trying to reform the Justice system in Texas...The Court of Criminal Appeals is an ELECTED POSITION!!! It's not appointed by Greg Abbot, so voting in democratic justices is CRUCIAL to begin to implement change in the Texas Justice system...If you're in Texas....please, please, please VOTE and educate people about this.  

I think I've got all of that out of my system for now!!! I'll probably write more about this leading up to the election, so stay tuned!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 19th, 2020

A sucky and miserable day...I didn't get much sleep last night. The movies came back on, but I blanked out on the second one. I fell asleep close to 1am and then woke back up at 7am, did a little exercise and started my day. They ran rec on D-section and it was a bit loud, but I did my best to not let it distract me. I'm hoping I'll get to rec by the weekend...I hate being trapped in this cell and I could use a really good jog to clear my mind.  

I was reading some Jewish literature this morning – a newsletter on Jewish thought, and it had something in it about being wise, and it was really interesting. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a guy back here who I personally believe is the smartest dude on death row. His ability to retain information and apply it to situations is almost supernatural. He knows he's smart, so when I asked him,  

“Who do you think is the smartest buy on death row?”  

I fully expected him to say it was himself, but he humbly replied,

“Everyone back here has varying degrees of intelligence. Just because someone isn't book smart, doesn't mean they're dumb. I don't have an engineer's mind, and I couldn't build my way out of a wet paper sack, but there are guys who (without ever taking advance mathematics) can design, figure out angles and mechanics and other things that would make them seem like a genius. There are guys back here that meet the standard for mental impairment, but can replicate a renaissance painting using nothing but home made paint and brushes. So...what is smart? There are guys who can read people and their emotions, and empathise when others can't. I dont' think it's easy to quantify intelligence.”

It's interesting that I would read essentially the same thing in this newsletter. It says,  

“Do we define a wise person by his IQ, the number of letters after his name, or how much he knows about the ancient Incas? In the Mishnah, Rabbi Ben Zoma asked the question, 'Who is wise'? And his answer was, 'One who learns from every person'. Another sage offered, 'Who is wise? One who sees the results of his actions'".

To see or have the ability to know and understand our faults and to work to improve on those can, I would hope, make us wiser...I have a lot to learn in life and life is always a teaching moment – every waking day. I think we all have a lot to learn in life.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 21st, 2020

I normally don't do journal entries on a Friday because it's going into the weekend and I typically summarise the few days into one journal...But my mind is so full of thoughts this morning and I need to get them out before they're blunted or forgotten.  

For the last two days almost everything has been shut down, and they've done no recreation because of a critical staff shortage which I've talked about before. It's so critical at this stage that the night shift officers have had to stay over a few hours in the morning to help run showers and get first shift up and running. I do feel for them because each shift is already 12 hours, so staying over must be tough. Some have to drive to Houston or Huntsville which is an hour away, and then just a few hours later they're back at work to do it all again. How the State of Texas thinks this is any way safe for anyone just boggles the mind.  

I've been hearing lately that people are making parole at break neck speeds, and that's a good thing. I'm assuming it's to alleviate some of the pressure of staff shortages because they have to have a certain amount of officers per inmate ratio, and like I said, that's critical right now.  

If there's a silver lining to any of this it's forcing both Warden and the powers that be at Huntsville, to FINALLY think outside of the box and create real change. At least with the Polunsky Unit Administration, I've seen more change since this pandemic than I've seen during my 20+ years of incarceration...

I've been an advocate for more educational programs for years, and yesterday on the prison radio station, they announced that they had permission from Huntsville to simulcast programming from the National Geographic channel, which I think is awesome. A lot of us back here are really excited and waiting for it to be programmed in. For years the Unit has been without an educational TV station. They used to have PBS, which was one of my favorite stations to listen to on the radio – a couple of months ago I wrote to the Administration asking if they'd consider programming it back in for simulcast on the prison radio station, as they've been simulcasting other TV content like the Houston News and other shows...To finally have the NatGeo channel is going to be great. I'm in no way saying I did this (ha ha). Many people back here and on the outside have been pushing for this and I'm beyond grateful for their efforts!

If you could peer inside my mind, I'm always thinking of ways that can make this place better. Not out of the desire to have some kind of country club existence, but because I've been locked up long enough to understand on a fundamental level what should be done to end recidivism, to educate and enlighten...To reduce violence amongst inmates and officers, and give back to society.  

I'm not someone who is very materialistic. My dad used to pound into me and my brothers' heads to “be happy with what you have, not with what you don't” when we wanted something so badly. If it was expensive he'd make us work for it, and I remember in the early '90s I wanted this pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes...I begged and cried and pleaded,  

“But dad!!! All of the cool kids have them! Please!”

One day he buys them at $120. He showed the box to me and said,  

“You want these, you have to work for them. I pick the jobs, and I don't want to hear gripes or complaints. If you complete the jobs within a month, you get to have the shoes. If you don't, I'm returning them.”

At first I was excited. I took to the tasks with vigour, but as most 13 year-olds would do, I began to slack off, thinking,  

“Ah, dad will give me the shoes. He won't return them.”

How wrong I was!! After a month I never saw those shoes again. It was the same when my dad had gotten a dog for my brother. He was required to feed, walk, and bathe the dog...When he didn't do any of these things, my dad gave the dog to a family friend.  

Those lessons in life always stuck with me and I'm never comfortable with handouts. If I could have a job right now I'd cherish the ability to work and pay for the things I want or need...I'm very low maintenance and I don't like clutter either. I give most of what I have, whether it be books or magazines or comics to the guys around me less fortunate than myself. I went years without anything, having to 'hustle' for basic needs like hygiene...Sure, I have things of sentimental value that I hold onto – I have every single card that my girlfriend sent to me over the last 3 years...I have a cherished Rumi book, a book of meditations, a Stoicism book and some music books she sent to me, and I wouldn't part with any of them for the world...I have a graphic novel that my good friend, Big Will, gave to me as a birthday gift some years ago, and I've had a hard time letting go of that because it was HIS favourite and he loved it so much.  

“Keep it.” He said.

Things like that, I keep. I'm not really attached to my radio (ha ha).  

One thing I recently suggested to the Administration and chaplaincy department (in light of the pandemic and the economic down turn) is for a way that prisoners with the ability to go to commissary, can give back to the communities we've hurt by creating a sort of 'food bank' where we could donate it to a free world food bank or shelter. I think that would help some of us to show that we are human, and we have regrets and remorse.  

About 3 years ago – almost to the date – we had a terrible hurricane come through the area. TDCJ allowed for inmates to have money taken from their accounts to give to the American Red Cross. The newspaper article I read about it said that over a hundred thousand dollars was raised from INMATES...The desire for us to help and give back is there! Imagine if the 100,000+ inmates in Texas gave just a couple of dollars in commissary each couple of weeks, and the amount of food that could be donated from that to a food bank. It would be phenomenal! That's remorse in actions, not words!

I guess my point in all of this is to say that I'm glad that the Administration on both Polunsky and in Huntsville is finally receptive to ideas and innovations. Not everything suggested can or will happen, but things are slowly changing.  

Going back to the 3 years worth of cards I have from my Taffy...I think this weekend I'm going to read through all of them again, because I'm really missing her.  

They announced on the prison radio station that they're going to rebroadcast 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' and even though I've heard it several times, I'm excited it's going to be on again. A couple of guys on my section are huge Star Wars fans, but missed it the last time it was played, and so they're excited. It was funny because I guess guys back here had been requesting to hear it again, and the DJ – a prisoner whose moniker is 'The Megamind' said,  

“Alright guys...Y'all want to hear Star Wars again...I don't know how y'all listen to space ship sounds and lasers,but it'll be on this weekend.” (ha ha)

Stay safe!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 22nd, 2020

I can't wrap my head around the fact that this is the tail end of the month. Time is flying by at break neck speed, and I'm full of anxiety on so many levels...An election is right around the corner, not being able to get out to recreation on a regular basis, pending appeal issues, personal issues, and a whole lot more. It's crazy because 2020 had really started out with so much promise and hope, and then it became a horror show and a bad reality TV show all rolled into one.  

So, the evening movie was Tarantino's 'Kill Bill' volumes 1 and 2. I'm a huge fan of his movies, for sure, but the violence in this movie is particularly over the top and cartoonish, but no one, and I mean NO ONE writes dialogue like that dude! It makes you question certain pop culture references and puts a different spin on it via the ridiculous conversations the characters have with one another. He makes his characters ask the questions that go around in our heads, but are afraid to ask because they're either politically incorrect, or would be interpreted as stupid. Anyways, I listened to that and then caught the Alternative music show they do at 11pm. It was okay, not great. They played a lot of new bands I wasn't too impressed with because they sounded over produced and too polished.

So, I set my alarm for 3am just so I could check out the late night movie they play on the prison radio station, for the late owls. I overslept, and then my sleep was interrupted at 4am by screaming! My eyes shot open and I was confused...until I realised I had my head phones on and a horror movie was playing...I turned off my radio and went back to sleep. Then I woke back up at 7.30am and was told that the power went off sometime around 5am. The prison radio station was completely out because it's automated in the late night, and has to be reset whenever the power goes out. I got up and started my day and thought that there was another staff shortage; but apparently they were waiting for officers from other units to show up and help. They are doing recreation for A and F sections, so I'm hoping tomorrow or Monday I'll be able to get to recreation.  

I don't really have a lot planned for the day...I look forward to my 5pm 'Date' with my girlfriend every Saturday...We used to listen to a program called 'Live From Here' together on NPR, but that's been cancelled so now we use it as time to just think of one another and reflect. She has music lists of mine she likes to play until she falls asleep, and today I'm going to look at three years worth of her cards. Cheesy and sentimental? You bet! But I'm a cheesey and sentimmental kind of guy.

One of the things giving me huge anxiety recently is that there was a guy some years ago who had an execution date - we call him 'Big Jay' - and he received a stay for reasons I'm not entirely sure about. I think it might have been junk science and a witness who changed their statement...Anyways, it was a strong enough case to receive a stay and be sent back to the trial court for review. He languished for, geeze, I think close to 5 years, and after all that the State was successful in arguing against him...The CCA agreed with the State, and he was denied just like that, and back in the Supreme Court.

If the Supreme Court denies him he'll be right back on death watch, and whilst I know each case is very different and I know my case is solid and very strong, it's still scary to think about having to go through all of that. I try to push it out of my head, but it's so darn difficult when you watch this happen time and time again to other people. I mean, even someone like Duane Buck...the facts were on his side, and the State fought tooth and nail to still see him killed. Thankfully the Supreme Court saved his life, but with the possibility of another four years of Trump, and several of the more progressive Justices barely hanging on as it is, there's no guarantee that a super-ultra-conservative court majority would ever do the right thing again. It's terrifying to think about.  

Fundamentalists know this and I believe it's why they excuse Trump's behaviour because an ultra conservative court could hand them this country on a silver platter, and it should NEVER be that way! They've made their Faustian Bargain with Trump, and everyone gets to suffer for it.  

I'm not thinking solely about myself in this...When the Supreme Court is decided by politics and ideology, we no longer have a democracy – and I say that whether it be far left or far right. It's no longer representative of 'We The People', and the decisions are no longer made through the lens of 'us'. It's scary to think about...

I'm really frustrated with young progressives right now because, whilst they have every right to be upset with everything that has been going on with both Democrats and Republicans, and the world that they will inherit, they're losing sight of the bigger picture when they say,  

“Joe Biden is just another old white dude who doesn't care, and I won't vote for him.”

That's the most idiotic kind of thinking you can have...Voting anyone in doesn't give that elected person the right to do anything they want – you have to hold them to the fire and make them accountable! Laying it down before that is just stupidity. Refusing to vote will LOSE your right to complain. Don't take to the streets after Trump wins to air your grievanes...No! You don't get to do that...In remaining silent when it counted the most, you gave Trump his mandate. Now, if you voted for Joe and Trump wins, then you have every right to pour into the streets and demand accountability. Think about that!

Young people...Please! You cannot allow this guy to win. He's not a 'Law and Order' President. He doesn't get to use that! The dude is a damn criminal himself, and almost everyone around him is either under suspicion of breaking the law, or has been arrested and charged with something. No...You've got to make him accountable by electing him out of office and then you go to Biden and Kamala and say, “WE ARE THE FUTURE! YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO US!” That, people, is democracy in action...Think strategically. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face...Please!

Okay, rant over...albeit temporarily!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.  


August 23rd, 2020

Sunday...I woke up at about 7.45am and started my day with writing my girlfriend, as I always do. I had been hoping that our section would be going to recreation and it would be an absolutely beautiful morning to have tried to get outside. We've got a big storm/hurricane system that is expected to dump a bunch of rain on us by Wednesday/Thursday, so I really hope I can get outside before that happens. They're 'short-staffed' as of now though, so it doesn't look like any kind of recreation is happening.

I was disappointed at breakfast time when we had a return to powdered milk instead of the real milk we'd been getting. I really hope they've not returned to that! As I drank it I thought,

"This is digusting!"

It was like drinking the milk of a stegosaurus - not that I know what that tastes like, and they're reptiles...so...but if they did have milk I'm sure it would be warm and thick like this was! My stomach is churning just thinking about it.

As I was cleaning my cell today I battled with a couple of mutant cockroaches. These things have incredible speed! What's crazy about them is that when see them, they'll pause and know you're watching them. Their little antennae begins to move around - I'm assuming to plot their course of escape. You move slowly as you're about to squish them, and just as your hand twitches the subtlest twitch of intent, ZOOM! They're off! You're like,

"Come on you SOB!"

We went years without ever seeing a cockroach, until around 2013/2014 they began to use two sections on B-Pod, A and B sections, as transit or holding cells for guys being shipped to and from Polunsky. All it took is one of those guys to have some cockroach eggs amongst his belongs, and that starts an infestation. Because there are all sorts of cracks and crevices in the walls, as the building is literally falling apart and the foundations are shifting so much that doors and gates jam because they're warped, the cockroaches set up shop and became official squatters. At some point they decided to revolt against the humans in their path, and now it's a daily battle between man and insect...I swear, one had sharpened a staple into a shank and tried to kill me in my sleep...They're silent assassins...You'll never see them coming...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 24th, 2020

It's hard to believe that this is the last full week of the month! Where on earth is the time going?

Well, it's another day without recreation. I don't even know what to say or think about it anymore. I've been out of my cell for only a total of a handful of hours in over two months. It's hard and stressful, and with everything else going on the world, any distraction is needed...

There was an update on the prison radio station from the head warden, and he was chastising people for not wearing their masks. He also said that he didn't know when/if visitation would ever resume any time soon, but in the meantime he said that TDCJ was working on getting technology set up for video visits. I don't know if they'd ever allow death row inmates to use this, but I did get hopeful about it because I'd do anything in the world to see my girlfriend's face for a few minutes...That would be amazing! The warden said he didn't know when or how long it would be before everything was set up, but I'm hoping soon.

Later on I was listening to the radio and the song, 'Pictures Of You' by the Cure came on. I always have trouble settling on a favourite Cure song...For me, there are just too many of them, and as I was listening to it, I thought,

"This has to be it."

I remember 3 years ago writing to my girlfrirend and introducing her to some of the songs I liked, and I said,

"Some Cure songs are like mini-movies"

And they really are! Robert Smith is brilliant at telling a complete story in a song - that's a rare talent. The way that 'Pictures of You' starts with the long intro, setting the mood for the song/story and then the opening line,

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you..."

Then he reminisces on his relationship...I imagine the camera fading as it flashes back to his relationship and relives it. Then, it comes back to the present where he's dealing with the loss and then the realisation of wishing he had come up with the right words to try to save his relationship, before closing out with longing and regret. From start to finish, the song takes you away. There are a ton of Cure songs that do that. From, 'Jupiter Crash' to 'A Pink Dream', 'To Wish Impossible Things' to 'Swimming The Same Deep Water As You', and one of the best - 'From the Edge Of The Deep Green Sea'. These are epic songs...Mini movies...Get lost in them.

We're expecting two hurricanes this week and I hope they're nothing too serious, and that people are safe.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 25th, 2020

These are such odd times...Right on the heels of the COVID outbreak on Polunsky (which, according to the latest announcements from the Warden, they've got the numbers down to less than a dozen cases out of 3000+ inmates - pretty impressive!) we're now facing a direct hit from Hurricane Laura. I'm listening to the news simulcast on 106.5, the prison radio station, as I type this...Usually, we get dumped with a ton of rain and the occasional power outage, which I pray doesn't happen, but units built in low lying areas are typically flooded. So, in order to be pro-active, the TDCJ has shipped a few hundred inmates to Polunsky. I think they're being housed in the gym areas that are used by general population.

The only thing I worry about in this is having some people carrying the virus into our unit and starting the spread all over again. Cramming a bunch of inmates into a gym can't be a good thing...

Because of all this, we're on a 'hurricane lockdown'...They gave us a sack meal last night which was only a sausage and PB&J - breakfast was PB&J with a handful of prunes...so, it's back to bad sack meals for the time being. Hopefully, lunch will be a bit better.

You wouldn't think there's a storm barreling down on us from the look outside of my window - it's gorgeous! Blue sky with a little stroke of clouds across it...It's really peaceful.

I'm just trying to get through this day...Otherwise, there's not much going on. I'm a bit down, but hopefully things will get better in time. I'll write again soon.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 26th, 2020

Wednesday...We're all on pins waiting to see what this hurricane is going to bring to us. I really hope we don't lose the power because it's hot enough already and having a few days without a fan is going to be nothing nice. But...other people in the world never have power so I have to be mindful of that when I complain - we'll be fine!

I didn't sleep too well...I had a bit of an anxiety fit last night, but it's personal stuff I'm working through and brought on solely by me and my own actions...It's difficult to get into, but if I can be honest with myself it comes to me just needing to grow up sometimes. I'd like to think that I'm a fairly well adjusted adult (I just laughed when I wrote that because it's kind of ridiculous...I've been incarcerated since I was almost 19 years old, so how in the world could I ever be 'well adjusted'? It's more like a case of arrested development) but I do need to grow up in certain aspects. I also like to believe I'm mindful of things and how they affect other people, but I still have my issues with impulsiveness sometimes. The truth of it all is that I can be a walking talking idiot at times, although nothing is ever done with the intent to hurt, but I guess sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.

I think back to this time I wrote about in my memoir, Falling Down, when I was out walking with my headphones on, lost in a song...People ahead of me were avoiding something but I thought it must be dog poo or something, and paid it no attention until I felt a squishiness beneath my foot. People stopped and looked at me like I was a piece of crap, and I was confused. I took my headphones off and could hear a bird in a nest built in the sign above me, chirping frantically...When I looked down I noticed it was a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest. It wasn't something I meant to do and would never intentionally do, and my knees literally buckled and I started crying. I felt like crap...but I hadn't been paying attention, and I was lost in my own world, so it was my own fault.

It seems I do that a lot in life and I don't know why. Sometimes I get lost in my own head too much and just don't pay attention to what is going on around me...

I'm trying to work through it and I hope things will get better.

The news on this hurricane is really confusing. Each report out of Houston has been different. One minute they're saying it won't be that big of a deal, and the next minute it's upgraded to a Category 4 storm and is going to cause chaos. I pray it isn't too bad because people in the world do not need this right now. It's like one punch after another, made all the more difficult by a President who can't lead his way out of a wet paper bag.

Last night the prison radio station introduced a new one hour music show at 9pm focused on '80s/'90s new wave. It was pretty good and I heard an Erasure song that I've not listened to in over 24 years! I think it's called, 'Weep For Me'. It's a really beautiful song!

The sack meals have improved a bit today as well. Nothing beats fresh fruit!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 27th, 2020

As I'm typing this I'm munching on a Golden Delicious apple that we got for breakfast. There's almost nothing better in terms of food than fresh fruit. That is the one benefit of these lockdowns lately...Oddly enough though, we've not had any fresh milk in a while now.

The hurricane had almost zero effect on Texas, thank G-d, although Louisiana seems to have borne the worst of it. We had a little wind, some rain, and now it's bright and sunny and expected to be 95 degrees today. I think the reporting on the hurricane was some of the most inconsistent reporting I've heard in a long time. Every few hours the models changed and they'd report,

"It's going to go right up this way so hunker down!"

Then a few hours later they'd report,

"Our model has changed slightly and now we expect it to avoid this area and go this way."

It was all over the place and very frustrating. It's also a bit dangerous because people think when the next hurricane is barreling in,

"They were so wrong last time, I ain't even listening to that...I'll be fine right where I'm at."

In the end though, thank G-d, it was okay here and I hope the people in Louisiana are okay.

So, last night the movies were supposed to be 'The Visit' and 'JoJo Rabbit'. My mind is on other issues and I'm still a bit down...okay, quite a bit down, but I was going to listen to them for a distraction when suddenly I heard the first notes of John Williams' Star Wars score...I jumped up and told some other guys that Star Wars Rise of Skywalker was starting...It was so cool to hear it again! I also listened to JoJo Rabbit which was really surreal and funny.

After that was all over with I went over to hear what our Vice President, Mike Pence, had to say at the Republican National Convention. That's 35 minutes of my life I will never get back! It was the biggest and most insane crock of crap I've ever heard outside of some of the fried bull crap that Trump spouts on a daily basis. It's like Pence's speech writer threw in every American cliché he could think of. Don't get me wrong! I love my country and I'm on Death Row using a typewriter and listening to movies on my radio. I get that we have it better than most...but no one talks like,

"When I look across these fields of amber grain from sea to shining sea, I can see our flag, its stars and stripes rising high into the sky and the hope and courage that it inspires across the fruited plain."

C'mon dude! You couldn't think of anything original to say? Your speech writer just stitched a bunch of patriotic songs together...I half expected to see a bald eagle fly across my cell with the American flag clenched tightly in it's talons.

But the funniest line of the evening?

"Believe this people...Joe Biden is a trojan horse for socialism"


And his final line of the night,

"Let's make America great again...again."

So, you have to do it twice??

Colbert, who threw away the jokes last night on his show, and got serious, said,

"I'm not going to give my time and attention to what is clearly an alternate reality and lies..."

His monologue was hard hitting and cut deep. I encourage people to check it out.

Colbert made a very strong point...Trump and Republicans continually pound in that if Joe Biden wins you'll see nothing but civil unrest everywhere; the cities will be smoking and in ruins...But the fact remains, all of this is happening under Trump's Presidency. He has made no effort other than to say he's a 'Law and Order President', whilst he continually protects his criminal buddies or denies his own criminality). He hasn't lead us at all...He hasn't tried to listen to why people are upset...Or to find solutions...He only says,

"Give me four more years or it will only get worse."

No, Mr President, four more years and it WILL be worse!

It's insanity. We live in a bizarre world where nothing makes sense anymore.

I had another rough night of sleep. When I finally settled into a deep sleep, I woke up at around 8.30am. I'm praying with all of me that I'm able to get through my personal stuff and be a bit brighter and lighter. As I get close to what I and others call, 'my new birthday', I do want it to be a time of reflection and happiness. I want to smile and be grateful for all I have. I know I am always grateful...I would just like to have a lighter heart and be full of love and joy.

I'm wondering when lunch will get here. We've been having it at around 3pm for the last few days, then dinner a few hours later.

Okay...it's a bit later now and lunch came at a reasonable time today. I was surprised! The day has turned unbelievably gorgeous...Hot, yes, but the sky is clean and clear.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 30th, 2020

I'm under the fan as I write this...We're in the middle of an unusual heatwave. Typically, entering into September things begin to taper off on the heat front. It doesn't mean September isn't hot, but definitely not like it is right now.

Today I was fortunate to have recreation. None of us on B-section were expecting it so when asked if I wanted to go outside I was like, "Hell yeah!"

I quickly got ready, grabbed two bottles of water, and headed out. I can't begin to describe how humid and hot it was. After being in a controlled environment for so long, the air was sucked right out of me. It felt unnatural, like stepping into an alien planet.

The sun was directly above me, so there was no respite or shade, and I was cooked like a Thanksgiving turkey. Totally my fault as I was so excited to go outside I forgot to put my sun block on. We were outside for four hours and whilst I loved it, the pain for the next two days absolutely sucked! I'm good now though, a little red and tender, but okay.

Saturday I relaxed, wrote my girlfriend off and on, and waited on the evening movies. The DJ on the prison radio station announced he would do a Star Wars movie night for the 'Star Wars fans on death row', which was awesome! After that, a movie I'd been hoping to hear for a while, 'IT:Chapter 2' came on. It was good, not as good as the first chapter, but still, as I reflected on it more, I would love another listen. I can do Pennywise the clown's voice, almost to perfection. It's a fun voice to do. I love figuring out new impersonations. Some can be hard on the vocal chords, but still, seeing the expresson people's faces is priceless. I've been making my neighbor laugh by doing the clown's voice.

I woke up this morning and because it was already so hot at 8 in the morning, I decided to get all of my chores done and out of the way. They're running recreation on C-section, which came as a surprise. I'm relaxing right now and will continue to do so.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


August 31st, 2020

Another scorcher of a day...made worse by disruption and chaos that began last night. We still don't know all of the details, but it began around 9.30pm when suddenly there was an explosion in chaos and noise...Guys on the other side of the pod (each pod is split into halves - A, B, and C on one side, and D, E, and F on the other) kicking on their doors, screaming and banging.

Initially, I shrugged it off as a night at good ol' Mos Eisley Cantina, as some of these guys can get rowdy when they imbibe. But around 10 minutes later, about 10 guards came pouring onto the pod like ants, and they went into F-section which is out of my line of vision from where my cell is. Clearly something was going on but we really had no idea until about 10pm when the air went out and the use of force team came in...They dragged some dude out of his cell after hosing him down with 'gas' (imagine riot strength pepper spray) for reasons still unknown.

During this time they had turned the air off - it's often used as a precautionary method to keep the gas from spreading everywhere, but that stuff is so powerful and spreads everywhere like fog, whether the air is switched on or not. It's already been hot on the pod because we're in the midst of an end of summer heatwave...but when they gas someone, by policy, they're still supposed to remove anyone with major health issues like heart or breathing problems, because the gas can create severe medical complications. A guy on A section called one of the guards and asked them if they had removed a man with COPD - Artie Aranda. He's almost 70 years old and has complications with lung disease, and to have him near this gas is a recipe for disaster.

The female officer went and checked on Artie and found him passed out, and unresponsive. She called medical and more guards and medical staff came running in and they took him off the pod. We haven't had any update on his condition as of this morning.

We've not had this kind of unrest here in a quite a while now, and I'm curious to know what kicked it all off. I know many of us are plain restless because we only get recreation time about once every couple of weeks, and another group of guys are frustrated that they can't see their families and friends at visitation because that's still closed down...And then, some are irritated because we haven't been to commissary in over two weeks...I suppose it's a bit of a perfect storm of frustration.

I'm getting through it all okay, but I get restless and depressed just like anyone else. I try not to take out my frustrations on other people, and the majority of guys back here, although we might snap or get a little cross with one another at times, there's an understanding of 'leaving our problems in the cell' so we try not to take it out on each other. I'm fortunate to have two really great neighbours - one is so funny, and makes me laugh a lot, and the other is a really calm and peaceful dude who spends his time making beautiful art, and listening to movies. We talk, laugh, and share food together when we have it.

I've also been playing Scrabble a bit more too...Although I keep barely losing because the guy I play has been studying a 6th Edition Scrabble Dictionary which has words that don't even seem real!! He's at an unfair advantage (ha ha). It's frustrating to lose by a handful of points just because you challenge some strange word that looks like gibberish. It's all in good fun though.

Nothing left to do but wait on the afternoon album on the Prison Radio Station, and pray Artie is okay. They're going to play some Star Wars tonight as well! All of that and waiting on mail...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 3rd, 2020

I'm filled with a lot of anxiety and heartache today, but hopefully it'll sort itself out...

Anyways, it's a strange day as it is. They did some moves earlier which surprised everyone. They swapped some guys out from C-Pod and B-Pod, and I guess this is a sign of things returning to a bit of normalcy. I've been in this cell for the longest I've ever been and I assumed (with all the moves I've had in the past) that I would have been moved by now. But who knows? Typically, before the pandemic, they moved everyone on a 6 month rotation...I was moved about every 2 months, sometimes a little longer, but for the past year and half I averaged about every 2 months. If they're moving everyone around it wouldn't be out of the question to put us on lockdown and do a shakedown as it's been a while.

There was no recreation today which sucks. It would've been nice to get outside and have some fresh air because the heatwave we're having seems to be ending, and we're expecting some much cooler and fall-like weather for next week - I'm really looking forward to it!

Not much of anything else has been going on...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 7th, 2020

As I write this it's Labor Day...It's been a long and boring weeend and I've been trying to keep my head above the water. Sometimes I feel an overwhelming sadness, and other times I feel better and full of pep. I really need to get more recreation and fresh air. We had rec on Friday and they did it for C/D section yesterday, but today there's been none. We average about one day out of the cell per two weeks now, and that just isn't right, especially since I have personally seen no sign of a staff shortage in the past two weeks - we've had 3 officers working the pod every single day.

Over the weekend they started doing hair cuts again, which is a sign that things are opening back up on the prison, and yet we cannot get rec. Oh well...

So, it's Labor Day and I overheard a funny conversation this morning: Two guys were arguing over what 'Labor Day' was really about. One guy passionately argued that it was a day to celebrate women giving birth. Get it? 'Labor'Day...The other guy said it was a day to honor America's workers and the guy that thought it was about women said,

"Man, that don't even make sense! Why would the government honor workers? They ain't soldiers. It ain't like they're out there dying or anything."

They went round and round with their arguments until the guy who was arguing for child bearing said,

"I'll bet you ten dollars in commissary that it's about women in labor."

I felt like trying to prevent a train wreck and stop the bet, but you know, sometimes people have to learn the hard way. It was quite funny.

Our holiday meal was pretty good. We had baked chicken, beans, green beans, potato salad and some weird fruit cocktail doughy thing...It looked weird, but it tasted pretty good.

I really don't have anything more to talk about for today...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 8th, 2020

It feels like a Monday because of the holiday weekend, but I'm glad it's Tuesday because I'm already ready for this week to be over. Last night turned into a nightmare for me...I've got a rogue toilet that won't stop flushing! I was listening to the final movie of the night, Harley Quinn, when I went to use the restroom. I flushed the toilet and it wouldn't stop flushing...My initial thought was,

"Why does this always happen to meeeeeee?"

The exact same thing happened to me in another cell last year.

I called and called the guards until one finally answered me and I had to yell over the noise from the toilet because they are extremely loud, and powerful enough to pull down a Wooly Mammoth's turd! I asked that if they couldn't fix it to shut my water off, and they said they'd call the plumber. No plumber was ever called...In fact, when I asked a sergeant at breakfast time, he said he didn't even know about the problem. I wasn't too happy about that but I went back to sleep and decided I'd try to get the day time crew to take care of it.

12 hours later and my toilet is still out...

I've talked to a lieutenant and a sergeant, and they're telling me that there are no parts available and they don't have a day time plumber which is complete and utter horse crap. So, I know I'll be going round and round with them for a few days until I'm at my wits end and have to sound like a mad man to get it fixed. I'm going to have to have them take me to the day room each time I need to use the restroom. They'll get tired of that, and I'll have to use it front of 14 men...Small price to pay to get it fixed though.

I didn't get much sleep last night and they started running A-Section to rec at 6am. My friend, Irving, was there so I got out of bed to wish him 'Happy Birthday', and as a gift I gave  him my complete collection of Deadly Class novels - the best graphic novel series ever! He likes the series a lot, and whilst the books had sentimental value to me, I know he liked them just as much and doesn't have the support to get them himself...I loved that I could give them to him. It's the least I could give to him and I know he'll take good care of them and enjoy them.

The property officer came by today and I donated some hygiene items to the Chaplain's Indigent program for men in General Poplulation who cannot purchase these items themselves. I think I'll donate each time we go to store now, and they're always talking about the program and how it helps guys in prison, on the Unit's radio station. It's the least I can do to share what I have and believe me, I know what it was like having to beg for a tube of colgate, or to have to hustle to get something I really needed when I was in General Population.

Giving to the program today got my brain turning...It's always been one of my long term goals to have outside organisations donate radios to those who can't afford to buy them. I was thinking now that the Chaplaincy has a donation program, I'm going to suggest that those of us who can, donate $20 or whatver it costs for a radio. If just a few hundred guys could do that it would cover a lot of those who are indigent and can't buy a radio. I think that with the Unit radio station this would be even more feasible to give access to men who can't listen to the church services or the movies, or music. I think it would be a fantastic opportunity to reach a lot of guys in Ad-Seg.

So, we'll see what we can do...When these movies come on at night it goes quiet back here, and when good music is on, guys are all in a better mood. Earlier they played a block of Tupac and so many guys were rapping along and saying,

"Oh man...that shot me back to when I was free!"

These are good things and a good way to rehabilitate and educate people.

It's getting grey outside and it looks like a storm might be moving in. We're supposed to have a cool front move through tomorrow so this might be the first sign of a real fall! I can't wait...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 10th, 2020

Insanity abounds...To quote Whoopie Goldberg,

"I half expect to see Godzilla come out of the East River."

Can this world get any crazier???

So, I woke this morning at 6am because someone was calling out my name, needing some advice. I crawled out of bed and started my day, noticing that the crew we had were made up of brand spanking new guards...Despite their limited training, they were tasked with doing showers and setting up rec, and didn't seem to know how to do it which created quite a spectacle. At the same time, a huge cleaning crew came in with 20ft long dusters, scrubbers, blasters, bleach, disinfectant etc, and who knows what else, and began scrubbing the pod. Whenever this happens it means someone very important is expected to show up and inspect the place.

On top of all that, my toilet is still out of commission and I've been reluctant to press the issue because I'm not trying to get moved out of the cell. I like where I am and I have good neighbors. So, I'm pouring bowls of water into the toilet to 'flush' it, and it's doing the job for now. It takes a lot of time, but it kind of works for the moment. I've talked to all manner of people back here and the story is they're out of the parts they need to fix ANY toilet on the unit. Whoever is in charge of ordering parts and supplies should be fired.

When I worked in maintenance in General Population it was my job as a warehouse clerk to have a proper inventory of all parts, from every little screw to copper pipes...The top priority items were always plumbing. From gaskets, seals, o-rings, and springs (back then they didn't have what's called a 'flush kit', which is an entire piece that snaps in place to flush the toilet) if the plumber asked us for a part, it was expected that they'd receive that part there and then. Plumbing/water works is the most important thing on this unit. It boggles my mind that they have zero flush kits.


We're having a nice cool front right now. It's grey and looks like a fall day outside of my window. It won't be long before the two trees I can see standing above a building will shed their leaves.

Geeze...two months until the holiday seasons begins! Time flies...I mean, it's been almost a year since I received my stay of execution...

Otherwise, I'm getting through the day...Just waiting on Godzilla!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 13th, 2020

It's my birthday today...43 years old. I feel blessed and fortunate to have another year of life and hopefully, G-d willing, many more. We're not guaranteed a single second in this life and to highlight that exact point, we've learned today via the prison radio station, that two men in General Population passed away yesterday, of heart attacks.

My day has been pretty nice...I've received many birthday greetings and some snacks as gifts. My neighbor made some really good tacos for me and some guys sent me the most ridiculous picture of a naked man wearing nothing but a huge sombrero on his head, and a tiny one covering his, um, business, as he's riding a donkey. In big bold letters it says,


And they all signed it with birthday wishes. I crack up every time I see it, and I'm going to send it to my girlfriend so that she can keep it and have something to laugh at (ha ha).

Football season is getting started today, so a lot of guys are excited about that and it's been a bit rowdy. I'm actually happy that football season is here because it gives these men (who are restless) something to focus their attention on. With the administration ending the Covid phone calls we were allowed to have every few weeks, and not knowing exactly when visitation will resume, some guys were getting frustrated with the situation...This will hopefully keep their minds preoccupied.

It's been a relatively peaceful weekend, all things considered. On Friday I had a legal phone call with my attorneys and they wished me a 'happy birthday' and passed on a birthday message from my girlfriend. I received some promising news about the status of my legal proceedings so I move forward with a bit of optimism. I'm grateful for the people representing me and whilst I do have my bouts of anxiety and worry, I also have a great deal of optimism.

It was nice to have the walk outside to and from the visitation area where the legal calls are made. I could smell the air, look at the sky and the clouds...I heard the birds singing and chirping, and after being kept locked up in a cell all day long, it always amazes me how vivid everything seems! Stepping outside on the walkway you notice so many things, and it's mind-blowing. Before being on death row I never really noticed many of these things, but if you pay attention and look, you can see it.

Yesterday I spent the day relaxing, reading a bit, and listening to the prison radio station. I heard an album by the Deftones, the 'Deftones', which was really good. Then later I listened to a movie called, 'The Mountains Between Us', starring Kate Winslet and Idris Elba. It was better than I expected. The ending was a bit of a downer, but I like it when movies aren't perfectly tied up and all neat and pretty. I like them better when they reflect human emotions and sometimes heartache that can't be explained away and made better. The DJ of the station said he was going to do a 'Rambo' movie marathon today for the guys who don't listen to football. He planned on airing all four movies which is cool. I like the first one a lot, but the rest are a little cheesy.

I want to thank everyone for the the birthday greetings, and to thank my Rabbi, as well as my Taffy, for giving me a ton of love this weekend. It means a lot to me and makes the day even more special. I'm a lucky guy to have her and I love her completely.

Here's to hoping the coming week is blessed as we enter into the Jewish high holiday season!

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 15th, 2020

As I type this I'm at my wits' end...It's been a week now since I've been trying to get my toilet fixed and each time I bring it up I get told the same thing,

“We don't have the parts.”

I'm having a difficult time believing that – especially when they can find another cell that's empty, or even salvage the parts needed. I'm having to take 15 minutes each time to fill up a bowl with water and throw it into the toilet to imitate a 'flush'. We're not going to rec regularly anymore, and guys don't use the toilets in the day room because they're out in the open and there's ZERO privacy – those images are not easily forgotten.

Yesterday was a bit of a stressful day. Things had been going okay when in the afternoon the Regional One shakedown team came pouring into our section. Now, Regional One comes from Huntsville and they are the professional shakedown team. If they're called to a unit it means they're looking for something that is a real security threat. Believe me when I say they are unrelenting and ruthless when it comes to shaking a cell down. They will trample on your sheets, tear up your personal papework, throw out your hygiene items, and take any electronic item you own - all but leave a giant crap in the middle of your floor just because they answer to NO ONE but the TDCJ director. They have absolute power and carte blanche to do as they please.

So, they come pouring into our section after they removed two guys from their cells and demolished everything...Items were being flung out on the walkway and the pile of things just grew bigger and bigger. They spent over two hours on two cells! The rumor was they were looking for a cell phone, but I don't believe anything was found in either cell, except for some pornography and maybe some prison wine...

Still, this is what gets me...TDCJ is always quick to blame visitation as the way illegal things come in. Now, the rumor here is that they've been finding things all over the unit recently, and visitation has been closed since early March – not a single visitor has been allowed in. So,it begs the question: How else are these items coming in??

Anyways...Regional One left sometime after 5pm, but it was a very stressful couple of hours. You never know if they want to pick a random cell to ransack, or even the neighbor of one of the guys who was being searched, just because they might think they're holding something for them. It's stressful for all of us!

I woke up early in the morning after not much sleep, and decided to start my day. Of course, it's another day where we don't have rec again, but this time the excuse is 'pest control' which is a bit wishy washy to me. Why can't things just return to normal around here? Either that or come up with an alternative solution.

This COVID-19 crap has really messed up every aspect of life. If Trump had not deceived the American people and disregarded the science and advice of health experts, maybe things would've been okay right now. I can't believe people stand beside this buffoon! It's like a cult...No...it is a cult! It's scary. Anyways...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 21st, 2020

Just when you thought that American politics couldn't get any crazier...Don't worry, I'm not going to get into all of that right now. I have some different thoughts floating around my head as I write today...Firstly, if you have 100 people praying for something. Let's say, 50 people praying for something to happen and another 50 praying for the opposite to happen...Both camps proclaim themselves to be a 'believer' in a particular faith – any faith – and something happens in favour of one of those groups...Does that invalidate the others' belief system'?

To go a little further, if one side feels the other side's view is 'evil', or vice versa, who is really evil?Marcus Aurelius said in his 'Meditations',  

“Whenever someone has done wrong by you, immediately consider what notion of good or evil they had in doing it. For when you see that, you'll feel compassion instead of astonishment or rage. For you may yourself have the same notions of good and evil, or similar ones, in which case you'll make an allowance for what they've done. But if you no longer hold the same notions, you'll be more readily gracious for their error.” (Meditations, 7.26)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately because the majority of us think our own belief systems or our politics is the 'right' way, the good way of things. Another group of people view our thinking as evil...I don't know. It's a fascinating thought practice, although I do believe there are certain absolute or universal truths, and the manipulation or bending of those truths for political or personal gain is in itself true evil.  

It's early...I'm still feeling a bit panicky over Ruth B. Ginsberg's passing. Should the Supreme Court have a 6-3 conservative rule it's going to make it so much harder to end the death penalty – unless there's pressure on Congress to issue a moratorium, or put pressure on states to end it individually. It will  make the appeals process almost impossible. If a person has a last minute appeal the hurdle to receive a stay just became even harder because, whereas for the most part they had four liberal justices, they only had to convince ONE conservative to side with them. Now, with only 3 justices on the left they have to convince TWO justices to side with them...It just seems an impossibility, especially since there doesn't seem to be any moderates on the court. It's scary, but I'm trying to remain positive and hope for the best.  

In other news...We had recreation yesterday. I guess the way they're doing it now is we're going to have rec every other day. It doesn't make much sense because if you have the people run rec (and they currently do) why not just keep the normal schedule because you have less people to run to rec, and they're done before second shift. Yesterday, they ran all six sections to rec and had people in the day rooms until after 11pm! Before, you had one 'off section', two sections outside, and 3 in the day rooms; and rec would finish (if the guards weren't being lazy) before second shift. Now, we don't have a guarantee of an outside day because the guards get to pick and choose who goes outside and everything is chaotic!

Yesterday I went to the day room in the morning. I was initially scheduled for second round but they bumped me up to first round. It was nice to get out of the cell and I'm going to have to start jogging again every other day.  

I talked to the guy they got to test the new phone system...He was shocked because they randomly chose him. I think what they're going to do is have a phone with a magnetic clip on it and they'll stick it to the outside of the cell and put it on speaker. The guard will have another phone and will listen/monitor the call. The only problem is the background noise...Gates slamming...guys yelling out of their doors...people being generally rude...I can see this leading to problems if people aren't quiet and respectful during a call. Guys will get angry and tempers will flare. There's no guarantee that this new will be the 'new system' but it's looking like it. I wish I could get my call and speak to my girlfriend!

Anyways...I'm just rambling today...I can't seem to get my thoughts clear.  

Courage. Strength. Hope and  Faith.  


September 22nd, 2020

We had recreation today which was nice. There's still not a way to fairly get people outside regularly so I've been thinking of a way to write a grievance on it...We're supposed to be allowed one day out of the week of outside time, but with the way things are right now, it's a crap shoot!

The good news is I finally have my toilet fixed, and I don't know how to act...It's like receiving a Chanukah gift early! When maintenance showed up on the pod I was in the day room; I all but begged to have my toilet fixed and he said,

“Well, I've got a list of people I'm doing in order. I have to fix other toilets before yours, and I only have enough parts for 7 of them on the entire building.”

I walked away feeling ticked off and hopeless...He fixed the toilet on the section I was recreating on, and then I had a thought – maybe he could cobble working parts from the toilets he was fixing, and in turn fix mine? I ran it by the plumber and he was non-committal, so I didn't have any hopes. But he did it, and sweet purple baby Barney, the toilet is fixed!!

I exercised at rec and my thoughts just kept going back to the hypocrisy of the Republicans and how they're going to ram a justice on through to confirmation, but should Biden win (please...if there's any justice in this universe let him win!) there's all kinds of things the Democrats can do. I don't like the tit for tat responses of each party when one takes power, but I wish people would just talk and find middle ground. We're headed down a dangerous path and honestly, both parties are at fault. I just don't know what the solutions are.

In terms of the death penalty, abolitionists are going to have to work hard at state level. They're going to have to reach out to all faiths, give speeches at churches, bring forth new ideas and fresh arguments...Saying it's 'cruel or unusual' or 'it costs too much'...those arguments are plain old and just don't work anymore. I don't think that the anti-death penalty movement isn't less compatible with other racial/civil rights issues. It should be brought into the fold.

We've gotten to a point where the restorative justice movement is falling on deaf ears. I disagree with cancel culture because it leaves no room for restorative justice or forgiveness and rehabilitation. And...the cancel culture movement's own argument is used against them when it comes to trying to protest or make a real change. People need to rethink their strategies...

That's my rant for the day.

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.

September 23rd, 2020

Yesterday afternoon was quite amazing. It was around 3pm or so and I was having a conversation with a guy a few cells down, about the prison radio station. We were talking about requests for next Monday's 'All request Monday' that they've started. What the inmates are encouraged to do is send the station an 'I-60' form with a request. I had already gotten mine in this week – I requested The Cure's, “The Last Day of Summer” as it's a song I heard right after my stay of execution. The guy I was talking to said,  

“I can't think of any songs I want to hear, but if you want to use my request, just tell me what you want to hear and I'll write it down and send it out.  

I thought it was a very kind gesture, so I said,  

“Man, I'm craving The Cranberries! Something they don't play on mainstream radio. How about, 'Free to Decide' or any song they don't play on the radio.”

Well, around 4pm he hollered down at me and said,  

“I think you need to tell me another request because the DJ just said he was about to play an hour of the Cranberries!”

I couldn't believe it!

It was an amazing hour of music and for most of the songs I  had tears pouring down my face...The music is soooo beyond good, and I have a ton of memories attached to their first three albums. One in particular is 'I can't be with you' where I copied John Cusack in the movie, 'Say Anything'...

What had happened was a really bad break up in the Fall of 1994. I think it was late September, and back then, for me, every break up always felt like the end of the world. I had been listening to 'No Need to Argue' which had been out only a short while. I had this idea that when the girls went to the Canteen (our school store where you could buy snacks and other items like hygiene or detergents) I'd go into my friend's room, put his speaker in the window, and blast out, 'I can't be with you'.

The room was right above the Canteen and I knew it was a brilliant and romantic idea! I grabbed my CD, knocked on his door and shoved my way in. I took over the stereo and put the speaker in the window...When I pressed 'play' on the CD player, I looked out the window and could see my ex-girlfriend, Amy, standing in line...The girls looked up and their 'escort' (a supervisor from the girl's dorm) looked up and yelled,  

“Y'all need to turn the music down NOW or I'll write the whole entire room up!”  

My friend said,  

“Dude, you're going to get me into trouble. Turn if off!”

So...so much for the grand romantic gesture!

Anyways...it was just a wonderful hour of music. Today, the guy asked me if I had thought of anything else and I told him,  

“U2's 'Unforgettable Fire' or any U2 they don't play on the radio all day.”

He joked,  

“Watch...you'll get an hour of U2 today.”

We laughed...That would be so cool though!

Later that evening I had planned on listening to the new Cosmos science series, but almost an hour in I dozed off when I was jolted awake by two guards at my door.  

“Hey! You want to make a phone call?”  

I jumped up and said,  


They escorted me down the hall and my heart was thumping because I really wanted to hear my girlfriend's voice.  

I entered the office and the first thing I noticed was a group of guards (unmasked, I should add, which freaked me out a little since it's physically impossible to socially distance in there) and it looked like they were throwing a little party. They had an electric griddle, and one officer was cooking food on it and it smelled sooooooo good!! Real food being cooked right in front me – torture!!

I sat down and a sergeant dialed the number for me and everyone was quiet...It went to voicemail the first time, but the sergeant dialled again for me and she picked up! It was definitely an emotional boost of positivity which I needed, and I was so grateful to be allowed to call her.  

I can't help but see some good things happening...I think with all of the doom and gloom news in the media, the scariness of the Supreme Court, and the blatant hypocrisy of politicians, I still think good things will happen and prayers will be answered. I've been purposely limiting my news intake because it just isn't healthy. I think more people should limit how much news they listen to because it takes a toll on our mental health...It can create fear, panic, anger, anxiety...Much of it is irrational.  

I've also been thinking about the idea, or wishing there was a movement, to take a day like Sunday and just hit the pause button on capitalism. I'm a kid of the '80s and '90s and I can remember a time when almost everything was closed on a Sunday. There were essential services like grocery stores, and maybe the Mall was open for half a day...but for the most part everything else was closed. Kids were forced to find something to do. Me and my best friend, Chad, would ride our bicycles around, have adventures, sometimes get into innocent trouble because we went water sliding in drainage ditches (okay, not exactly safe in hindsight!) or we'd have sleepovers on Saturday nights. It was a 'reset' to the week. Now though? Everything is 'go, go' go' and 'sale, sale, sale'...There's no time to slow down at the weekend. No time to reset...This can't be healthy.

People need to shut things off for a while and just breathe, spend time with friends and family. Connect...Create bonds...Be human. We're losing our humanity in all of this crass commercialism...

Anyways...These are my thoughts for the day...

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


September 30th, 2020

I cannot believe it's already the end of another month! I think we're in some kind of weird time vortex, or the outer limits or something. It's so strange for so much to be happening in the world and have it feel like a blur.

It's been a wild few days...It started last Friday when a bunch of ranking officers swarmed into our pod and went to D-Section. They searched a couple of guys and one of them had a cell phone. This was right on the heels of them finding a cell phone on this pod a couple of weeks prior. We thought since they had found what they were looking for that that would be that, but Sunday evening we were told that our pod was about to be shaken down. They gave us the red property crates for us to pack our property into, and we were then on standby.

Monday came and they started the morning by doing showers, which was a bit of surprise. Everyone kept asking about the shake down and the guards didn't know when they'd begin. Then, at about 10.30am the professional Regional One team came pouring into A section about ten deep!

This crew is ruthless! They take their marching orders from Huntsville and no one else. They come in like heat seeking missiles with the latest technology, to find cell phones, weapons, and drugs, and don't think for a single second you're going to hide something from them because they are the elite shakedown team. The Navy Seals of searching a cell! If you were to hide a tiny cockroach turd, they'd find it.

They spent over FIVE HOURS in A-section! They were taking so long that we thought they were doing one section per day, when around 3pm they swung into B-section, pulled us out, and took us to isolated holding cages. I got back to my cell and it looked like a category 4 hurricane had come through...Everything was strewn about everywhere, and they confiscated my hot pot. Now, to be fair and honest, that was of my own doing because I had altered it so that it would 'boil'. I like to cook and I like to heat up the food they give us on the trays, and that's why I fix it to 'boil'.

For me, at least, other than losing my hot pot and having to clean up a disaster area, I came out okay. Others weren't so lucky.

On Tuesday they never came back to the pod to finish; instead, they jumped to another pod. Apparently they're doing it like this to be unpredictable because this morning they swung back to our pod and are currently shaking down D, E and F sections.

Also, we are currently going through a Death Row administration change and getting another new Warden...I don't know if it's a result of the cell phones popping up, or just routine. We go through Wardens back here like bubble gum, so who knows?

Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.


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