October...Yes, I'm stressed and yes, I'm anxious and a bit panicky, but I also have to believe that things will turn out alright. The CCA has to be really looking at this...I mean, maybe I'm magically thinking here, or being overly optimistic, but they could've denied this a long time ago if it was meritless...The truth has to prevail!
As I write this we're still on lockdown and today we had our shakedown. I didn't get mail last night until almost midnight which I wasn't too thrilled about because I knew we'd have to get up super early. I was dreading today because it's rumored the 'Regional One Shakedown Team' was on the building and let me tell you, they're nothing nice...They'll deliberately break things, tear up pictures, and take our stuff, even if there is no legitimate reason to take it.
Well, I woke up at 6am when they were passing out the red crates for our property. I packed up and finally they started a little after 8 in the morning. I went outside with my neighbour, Justen, and we talked for a couple of hours as we waited. He's got a bit of gallows humor and I know he doesn't mean any harm, but he's constantly giving me this countdown to October 10th and it's annoying. Sometimes he'll say,
"What does it matter about the shakedown? It's your last one!"
I have to then say,
"I'll suffer a thousand more if it means having a second chance at life..."
Or, I'll rebuff his comment with,
"You volunteered...Don't take me to the grave with you."
I'm trying to not let it get to me.
Well, thankfully, Regional One never showed up and we didn't lose anything. My cell was a mess so I had to clean it up and then I took a bird bath in my sink because it was hot outside and I was a little sweaty.
I hate this anxious feeling of waiting...I hate feeling restless. I must have read the filings we've made to the CCA a thousand times already. I have to tell myself it's good and there's a little wiggle room out of this...Unless they really want to defend a bigot and let him get away with this. I just don't understand when given the chance why it is so difficult to just do the right thing.
I have to believe...I have to believe...Maybe tomorrow will bring good news.
I do want to thank everyone for the amazing amount of support...Keep praying, and thank you for believing in me!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 3rd, 2019
Yesterday I really didn't have my thoughts sorted out to write anything, but I think I'm a little clearer headed today. On Tuesday we had our 90 day shakedown and then that evening I was feeling super anxious...I kept praying over and over to calm my nerves. When mail was passed out I received some wonderful letters of support, one from an 80 year old man who was appalled by the things the Judge said about me, and everything else. It's nice to have people believe in me as a person, and I don't want to let anyone down - I won't let anyone down if G-d sees fit to spare me.
As far as I know, they're completely done with the shakedowns for 12 Building, so I started my day off as I usually do and then I was told I had a legal visit. When I got out there it was one of my investigators, so we talked a bit and he gave me the filing we just made to the Supreme Court on the 5th Circuit denial. He said there was still no news on a ruling from the CCA in Texas though.
We talked a little and he told me a few interesting things, none of which I can disclose right now, but they were interesting to say the least. It gave me some renewed hope. Then we chatted some more about life in general before wrapping things up, but then things took a strange turn...
After my investigator left, an officer told me I had to be moved to an isolated booth. I said,
She said she didn't know, and at first I was thinking that maybe they gave me a stay and they're moving my stuff...Then, the officer came back and asked if wanted to eat lunch out there. I said,
I didn't really believe she'd bring me a tray, but she turned up with one and a cup of water. It was weird eating in a small booth by myself in total silence. I didn't mind the silence - I could think with a clear head, so I read over the Supreme Court filing and it was really strong. In my limited understanding the 5th Circuit had said I should've known the Judge was biased. Well, my attorneys argue that that logic is very dangerous and undermines the Judicial process because it will open the door for every attorney going forward to ask to investigate a Judge before a trial. You go into a legal proceeding with the assumption that a Judge isn't prejudiced or biased.
At the time of writing this journal, Clemency have still not voted either, so I supposed I have three things in play right now.
As I waited to come back to my cell I thought about things, and my life, and then I prayed. I know a lot of people are praying for me and that's such a comfort. In Judaism there's a belief that if a person saves one life, they save a world. I can only hope for mercy!
I finally came back to my cell at 3pm and to the good news that another guy received a stay...His name is Randall. I'm sure it was on the grounds that he has a mental disability, and this will be his second stay of execution. I'm going to listen to the news to see which court gave him relief...I can only hope I'll be next. Whilst it's frustrating to be waiting for news of my own stay, it's a wonderfully positive thing that someone else receives a stay in the process.
So, the really big thing I wanted to write about, and has been on my mind these past few days, is the trial of the police officer who killed a black man because she claimed she went into the wrong apartment, thinking it was her own home and there was an intruder inside. As we all should be held accountable for our own actions, she was found guilty, but I admit to being unsure of what an appropriate sentence would be.
It was a sad story all the way around, though the introduction of racist text messages made me feel less sorry for her fate, and I thought maybe a stiff sentence should be imposed because of the horrible comments made about Martin Luther King and black people in general. It showed that prejudice and bias had poisoned her duty to 'Serve and Protect'. She was given a ten year sentence...
The most powerful moment during her sentencing phase was when the brother of the victim offered forgiveness and asked to hug her...When I heard the audio of that moment I welled up with tears and thought,
"That's exactly what I've been talking about!!!"
Not just forgiveness, but breaking this cycle of vengeance. I know a lot of people were upset that she received only ten years, but the only real way to heal, to move forward, is through sincere forgiveness...To communicate and have a community dialogue...For people to understand how minority communities are harmed every day and they still want to move forward, but for the other people of power and white privilege to understand their pain and why they feel under-represented and are angry. The whole tit for tat thing isn't working...We've got to break this cycle.
That hug - that simple gesture of love and forgiveness is a way to start. People need to start talking more and not yelling at each other...Not accusing each other, but just stopping to listen - really listen! Oh yeah, and hug...
May G-d have mercy on me...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 6th, 2019
Geeze...how to even begin this journal entry! I've been in this euphoric fog since Friday afternoon when I received news of my stay. I've been having random bouts of emotional crying and thankfulness. and a relief from the building anxiety. I imagine it's much like going off to a major war, surviving, and coming back home...
Before I can write any more I want to send my prayers, as well as my regret and remorse, to Officer Hawkins' family. I cannot imagine what this roller coaster has done to them and I agree wholeheartedly with anyone who feels this process is cruel for both sides. I am in no way gloating or bragging – nothing like that. I know that I'm not a killer, but I also take responsibility for my choices in the escape and for being associated with the people I was with. I continue to ask for forgiveness and I hope (it's my biggest wish) for forgiveness one day. That will never change...Please forgive me.
Friday 4th October started with praying. The guard setting up recreation told me I was getting bumped up from 3rd to 2nd round, so I started my letter to my Taffy and then headed to rec. There's a guy on death watch named Abel Ochoa, who I met back in 2002 in Dallas County when I was waiting for my trial. We were joking that everything had come full circle – we were both sentenced to death in 2003 within months of each other, and now we were both on death watch together. Abel had since become a devout Christian and always had a smile on his face. We talked about hope when another guy on the section said,
“Y'all need to accept reality. I'm not delusional. I know what my fate is.”
Then I said,
“I'm not delusional either, but I also know that anything can happen. What's wrong with having hope? You can put yourself in the grave, but don't put me in it...”
Granted, I have been extremely anxious and stressed, and it was growing. There's another guy here named 'Big White' who's on another section; he called me over to talk and he asked me what was going on with my appeals. I said,
“I'm still waiting on the CCA. I'm not going to lie, Big White, I'm getting scared.”
“Listen, I was one day from my execution...ONE day. It's not over 'til it's over.”
When my rec ended I went back to my cell when I was told I had a legal phone call at 2pm. I got ready for that and then the guards came and got me a little before 1.40pm. I took a deep breath and waited for the call in a legal booth. My mind was all over the place and I began to think about making a start on my 'goodbye letters' and writing my very last journal for my website. I didn't want to do any of that, but neither did I want to be in complete denial.
I'll be honest...Whilst I've had plenty of 'good signs' that allowed me to think positively, I've also had some really 'bad signs'. Well, they're ridiculous 'bad signs', but they did have a part of me thinking like, “Holy crap! My life is wrapping up...” I used to joke that I always hoped to live to the ending of the comic book series, 'The Walking Dead' by Robert Kirkman, because he'd tease that he planned on it lasting for decades. Well, in the summer he ended it! Then, recently, one of my favourite music programs on KPFT did a two hour Cure special...I was super excited but thought, “Oh man, this will be the last time I hear the Cure!”
And finally, I wondered if I'd ever be able to listen to the Star Wars movies one last time, and then it was announced that TNT would be doing a movie marathon on Monday...I thought, “Oh man, the end is nigh...G-d is neatly wrapping my life up with a bow.”
So, the legal phone calls take place in a legal booth out at visitation. There were some guys in the booths next to me and behind me, and I sat there quietly and nervously waiting for the phone to ring. When it rang, a female guard answered it and handed it to me and I heard my attorney's voice...
“Randy? How are you doing?”
“I'm nervous...Trying to stay hopeful.” There was a brief pause and then,
“Well, you got the stay!”
My brain went to fog...Was I hearing this correctly?
“What?? Huh? I got a stay? Seriously??" I could hear the sound of my heart beating excitedly.
“The CCA granted your section 5!” In the background I heard the whole team in the office erupt into cheers and claps and my eyes welled up with tears...I began to shake. The first thing I needed to know was if they'd told my girlfriend...
“Yes,” they said. “Everyone knows now.” Then the phone went dead!
I went, “AGH!!” Then I started calling for the guard to let her know the line died. Another guy they call 'Teflon' was a few booths away and he said,
I said, “Teflon! I got a stay!”
Then he said,
“I'm serious! I just found out!”
Teflon yelled out...
“Randy got stay!”
And then I heard other inmates yelling it out and people cheering. One of my close friends back here, Clint, was having a visit with his sister and he started fist pumping in the air...It was just amazing!
Then the guard came back down and said,
“What's the deal?”
“I got a stay!” I yelled.
“You called me down here to tell me that?” She asked.
“No...the phone went dead. I need to get back on the line to my attorneys!”
They dialled again and we got to talk for a few more minutes, then the line went dead again! AGH!
The guard told me they weren't going to call back again, so I sat there waiting to go back to my cell. As I was waiting, another attorney who used to work as an intern in the Austin office that represents me, came running down to my booth. He picked up a phone and said,
“Randy! Is it true?”
“Yeah, Tivon just told me!”
He put his hand on the glass, got teary eyed and said,
“Oh my God, that's great..Just great! Oh man, I'm so happy!”
“You guys have been amazing and thank you...Thank you so much for fighting so hard for me.”
I asked him to call the Office when he left and explain that the phone kept dying, and to let them know I am so grateful for everything. He said he would, and kept saying it was amazing I received a stay.
My mind was all over the place as I sat there. I didn't know what to do...I can't explain the feeling...I wasn't sure if I was going to return to my cell to pack things up, but that was quickly answered when two guards came to take me back to 12 Building, and when I entered I was told I was moving to C-Pod, 26 cell. I said,
“My property is already there?”
“It's on the way!”
I walked to C-Pod and when I entered the guys there began cheering and saying,
I was moved to just one cell away from my friend, Clint, so that was cool. I finally had a view of the field where the horses used to be, but now there are cows there...Still cool to watch. I was also excited to be able to see a sunset again.
As I waited for my property to arrive I talked to a few guys and then paced back and forth saying,
“G-d is good! G-d is with me! G-d is merciful!”
I thought how amazing it was to have my prayers answered, to have my Taffy, to have wonderful friends, and this amazing swell of unseen supporters. To have such wonderful attorneys! I have been promising that if I survived this mess I would be a force for good...I promised not to let anyone down and I will keep that promise.
I began to think...I get to have my friends, I get to have my girlfriend and enjoy our favourite season together with our little traditions like me listening to 'It's a Wonderful Life' on Christmas Eve, whilst she watches the DVD at the same time...I get to be the coolest 'uncle' to my little buddy and fellow Star Wars fan (okay, he's too young to be a fan right now, but he will be! I'll see to it ha ha) Sebastian. It was like I was reborn...A whole life ahead of me...G-d chose to show me mercy. Amazing...
My property arrived and they put it in my cell. I didn't know what to do! I just stared at it. I went back to talking to some guys and then Clint came back from his visit and we talked. Then I watched a beautiful sunset for the first time in months...Just wonderful. I prayed for Shabbos and then finally relaxed a bit. My attorneys told me that my girlfriend would be calling into the Prison Show that night, and when I heard her voice it was the icing on the cake...I slept the sleep of angels that night.
The following day I tried to settle in and get ready for recreation, but they shut everything down due to staff shortages. I didn't care...I'm grateful to be alive.
Saturday night I listened to Sound Awake when the DJ gave me a special little shout out and played a Cure Song I had requested. They are in fund drive right now and I'd like to ask people to go to KPFT.org and donate to his show...It has helped me to get through 16 years of this mess and his taste in music is wonderful!
Sunday is here now and everything is shut down again, due to staff shortages. This used to really get to me, but now I don't care...I'm alive!
There are soooooo many people I have to thank for the non-stop campaign to save me over the past few months. If I leave anyone out, please know I'm grateful in every way imaginable...
Firstly, my awesome team of attorneys who fought so hard and went above and beyond their duty. Thank you for taking the time to visit me each week, and keeping me up to date on everything...Thank you for keeping your promises, and for the wonderful conversations that were incredibly intellectually satisfying...Thank you for listening to my life story, and most importantly, for believing in me. I've always been at my best when people believe in me, so thank you! I will keep my promises to all of you and be a force for good and change. Your compassion and dedication hold no bounds.
My friends...Thank you for believing in me! Ale, you have been a trooper and down in the trenches with my girlfriend, and y'all made an awesome crew. Plus, how many people get to say they were put in 'Twitter Jail' just for posting the words of what a bigoted Judge said about me? Wear it as a badge of honor!
Sylvia, Sabrina, Ellie, Susan, and the others who contributed in their own way. Thank you!!!
Tanya, thank you for being part of the trio of Twitter warriors with Ale and my Taffy – I've heard it from so many people that y'all rocked!
Rabbi Gordon and Rabbi Goldstein...Thank you for visiting me, for believing in me, and for your countless prayers. The fact that you both were willing to be there in the end for me meant more than you could ever know. I haven't been the most practising of Jews in the world, but through your guidance my faith has been awakened and my spirit renewed by G-d's mercy. Thank you! L'Shana Tovah!
For my Taffy's friends and family...You have all been so wonderfully kind, supportive, and loving towards me. You accepted me as your friend and as part of your families...I'm so blessed! Y'all wrote the most beautiful clemency letters for me, and I thank every one of you. I also thank you for helping my Catherine both physically and emotionally through this time...The pictures of Sebastian helped me to smile so much in the hardest of times...I thank you for your love and support...Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!
And now my Taffy...This is probably the craziest 6 months that we've ever had to face in our lives, but your strength in coping with the fight for me, dealing with a serious illness, and still working hard to keep your business going...You amaze me every day, and you need to rest! I may be a 'Tough Cookie' but you, my love, are one butt-kicking chick! :-) Thank you for loving me...Thank you for your friendship...Thank you for always being by my side...And most of all, thank you for always believing in me and for never giving up! We're still on this journey and with a full tank of gas, and I can't wait to spend the fall and winter season with you, sipping on cocoa with you and enjoying the holiday time together. I love you beyond anything I thought possible! Now we can start working on my 2nd memoir again :-) I can't wait to see Falling Down published, and to do good by donating ALL of the proceeds to charity :-)
And finally, to all of the unseen supporters who rushed to my aid in my time of need...I don't know any of you, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart. From the many organisations who filed briefs in support of my case, to the true activists and strangers who wrote to the Governor asking for clemency, those who signed petitions, those who took the time to read about me and the real facts in my case, and worked to spread the word...I wish everyone on death row had the same amount of true and genuine support that I have had in all of this.
As much as some of the guys on death watch saddened me with their negativity, I do miss them and pray for them...I came to love every single person over there and I can only hope and pray that their lives are spared as well.
Thank you to everyone...Thank you...Thank you...Thank you! The fight isn't completely over, but we've got a second wind!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
Never doubt. Always believe.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
October 8th, 2019
It's been a bit strange re-adjusting to life, post-execution date...I think I'm handling it okay. I like it where I am right now; it's pretty quiet and everyone gets along. C-Pod is now mostly Ad-Seg and the only Death Row sections are A and B, with B-section being a mixture of Level 2 (disciplinary) and Level 1, and it's okay like that. There are no real 'bad actors' over here, just guys being disciplined for stupid reasons.
I had a visit with one of my very close friends today, and it was wonderful! We had a little hiccup when one of the guards told us it would be just a two hour visit, and tried to end it abruptly. I told the guard that this was supposed to be a special visit, and then the guard took my friend to see the warden in his office to have it straightened out.
I sat there nervously and uncomfortably, waiting for the visit to resume, and luckily it did, although my friend told me that the warden's secretary had been really rude. This seems to be a growing trend around here...This place lacks any professionalism whatsoever! I get it that when they treat inmates as less than human, that's how they're programmed. It doesn't make it right, but I sort of get it. But to treat friends and family members like that is uncalled for.
It all worked out in the end though, and when the visit was over, I came back and relaxed, and called it a day.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 9th, 2019
I had another great visit today! I've not been in my cell for much of the day at all, and I feel quite pooped! When I got back to my cell I pretty much went straight to recreation, and then stayed out at rec until 4.30pm.
Tomorrow I'll be seeing my Rabbi and I might have an attorney visit as well. I keep thinking that if tomorrow was the day it could have been, I'd be a mess right now...but I'm thanking G-d I'm still here, and enjoying the chance to embrace life and just relax a bit.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 10th, 2019
It's weird writing the 10th down...I should be...I hate to even say it! I'm just thankful to be alive. When I woke up this morning I let out a breath of air and said,
"Thank you G-d! And thank you to those who fought so hard for me, and who took the time to really know my case as it is now."
I got a bit emotional, but it's a day to be truly grateful for.
So, I did have my legal visit around 10.30am, and it was nice to see one of my investigators and one of the attorneys on my team. I thanked them for their hard work and just for being wonderful human beings. It was good to see them. Some other people I haven't seen for a while - guys on death row - congratulated me and then I was told my Rabbi was here. I went and saw the Rabbi a little after noon, and it was a really great visit! We talked about life, sharing stories, and he even sang a prayer for me.
As it got close to 4pm a very polite female guard said,
"Yikes...y'all's visit was supposed to be over a long time ago!"
We had gotten some extra time, and I really enjoyed every single moment.
I came back to my cell and said another prayer of gratitude, and I'm just so glad to be alive...I'm still trying to process all of this and it is...just weird...But I think I'm doing okay.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 13th, 2019
It's a cool and grey Sunday...We had a legit autumn cold front come in on Friday, and I'm loving it! This is my favorite time of year, more so because I get to share it with my beautiful girlfriend, my Taffy. It just so happens to be her favourite time of year as well, and very early on in our friendship we bonded over the love of hot cocoa and marshmallows...But you can't forget the mint - gotta have the mint! She gets the gourmet cocoa and I'm stuck with a generic prison brand, but hey, I'll take it however I can get it!
Friday was a very ho-hum kind of day...We were screwed out of recreation and showers because of staff shortages. It's strange because they are always hiring new guards, but just as soon as they're here they quit! No one wants to work in a prison anymore.
Saturday I was able to get out of the cell and went out to recreation at 5.30 am. When I came back in I did some work and then I spent some time thinking about something my girlfriend told me that's been bothering me. It seems to be a death row phenomenon - especially for those with execution dates...
I understand that some people in your past might come bubbling back up to the surface once they know you have a 'date'. They might have read an article about your execution date, or seen something on social media, and some of these people are genuinely concerned. On the other hand, it also brings out some of the more 'odd' people.
I've never been happy when those I no longer write (and haven't written for years) suddenly appear on social media platforms claiming they write me, and claiming to be something or some part of my life when they're not...I have to just shrug my shoulders, but it does really irritate me. This seems to have suddenly happened when I got my execution date. Then, I hear that they're supposed to be coming out to visit me when they're not even on my list, and on the 10th October they post something about how they'll "see me on the other side"...Dude, I received a stay on the 4th! Everyone who knows me knew on the actual day that I got a stay! I don't know...I don't want to be mean about it, that's not me...but it's just too weird.
Something I've always been uncomfortable with is this 'infamy' label on me, or somebody's 'claim to fame' kind of thing when they post things like this that I'm really not comfortable with at all. So, let me be clear: I do NOT like this kind of thing and have always distanced myself from it. It's embarrassing!
I'm also in a 100% committed relationship and very much in love with my Taffy...Anyone who knows me knows who Taffy is and what she means to me, and she is who I'm with and in love with. I just want to focus on her, on my REAL friends, and on my writing work...NOT this strange and other side of being on death row.
I've never been a fan of 'groupies', but please don't misunderstand my use of the term 'groupies' - it does NOT apply to those who genuinely support people who are in prison. I'm talking about those who jump into this solely because of the attraction is has to them of being with a person, or being a friend to a person on death row or with an execution date like they were rock stars or something. It's just..weird.
Anyway, this has happened to me a couple of times recently and it bothers me, so I had to get it off my chest. As my Taffy always tells me: Onwards and upwards! (ha ha).
It's so peaceful and quiet right now; I'm sure it will change as soon as the football games start up, but I'm enjoying this moment. I think I'm going to jump on my bed, look out the window, and watch the cows for a bit.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
October 14th, 2019
It's Indiginous People Day (I refuse to call it Columbus Day anymore...) and things are slow, and honestly a bit 'meh' today. I went outside first round and it was raining, which I loved! It wasn't cold at all and I told my friend I was out with,
"You know, when I was on death watch there was a day I had outside by myself, and it was raining, and I wondered if I'd ever feel the rain on my skin again. This is just a beautiful blessing!"
He looked at me kind of strangely as I stood there letting the rain pour on me, but I was really grateful for the moment. Fortunately we had a good crew of officers, and when I came back inside they put me straight into the shower.
As well as re-adjusting to still being alive, I have a lot of projects to start working on - both sole projects, and projects with my girlfriend. We are both still re-adjusting to things, catching our breaths, and planning things...but it is taking time to get back into the 'I'm alive' mindset. It's happening though!
The section I'm living on right now is C-Pod, which only has two death row sections - A and B, with C, D, E, and F all being Administrative Segregation now (Ad-Seg). Technically we are separated, and that's how they justify it, even though death row and Ad-Seg are supposed to be kept apart.
Ad-Seg consists of a lot of young guys who are short-timers and who can't behave in general population...They act up or are in gangs and can't be around other prisoners, so they're put in 'restrictive housing'. Many of them lack guidance and/or support from outside either from friends or family, and they get no chance at any of the already minimal programs offered by the TDCJ, so they have little incentive to behave in a good way. One of my long term goals (should I get off death row) is to wake up some of these guys and help them to realise their own individual potential by getting them access to books and other things to occupy their time. I day dream about the part in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne pesters the State for money to build a good library at the prison. That's a real goal for me...
That's pretty much it for today...I'm re-adjusting, regaining my focus on my work, and thinking about all of my long term goals.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 15th, 2019
Another grey and wet day, and our section doesn't have recreation today anyway.
They moved a guy into the cell next to me and he's mentally ill...He came back from the Psychiatric Hospital and he doesn't have a radio, hot pot, or anything for that matter...I'm going to see what I can do for him. The psych doctor came and talked to him a little while ago and...these people just anger me! All she did was antagonise him, threatening him that if he didn't take his medicine, she'd have him sent back to the hospital. He said,
"I don't like the way it makes me feel."
She then said,
"I don't care if you like the way it makes you feel, or if you don't like the way it makes you feel. I prescribed it for you, so you better take it."
Seriously? You don't bother to ask him why he doesn't like the way it makes him feel? Is it making him sick? Making him sleep all day? You just tell him to take it and don't try and figure out the problems he's having?? What a bunch of quacks!
I was looking out of my window and really missing my girlfriend today...I hope she's feeling better and able to get even further back into her work and regain some pep in her step. We're both very excited about finishing up this edit job on my memoir and get it out there. The last chapter we edited was when I landed back in the homeless shelter in Arlington, so we're getting close to the end. This has been a big project we've worked on together, and it's amazing to see how far we've come with it. The cover she has designed is perfect, and we make a truly awesome creative team.
I'm continuing to readjust to life, and there's no new legal news for the moment. Speaking of which...Any news will come through via my website and/or via the official Twitter account. Every now and then someone tells me something they've seen on FB and it's not always accurate information. Check my website!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 17th 2019
It seems we have a very slow running mail situation!...So, if anyone I write to is waiting to hear from me, I apologize. I've not received any mail in a week and it sucks! I just hope it sorts itself out pretty quickly.
On top of the mail issues I've been having little bouts of depression. Another guy here who was a few days away from his execution date told me that this would happen. It's like a form of PTSD...being exposed to watching guys being taken away to be executed, as well as my own worries and fears of being killed...I mean, I'm happy, grateful, and relieved that I've been saved, but there is also this weird re-adjustment after staring down death, and literally making plans because I'm going to be murdered. It's perverse and traumatising...I'm dealing with it, but it comes over me in waves at times.
Today I went outside for 3 hours, and even after winning at basketball I thought,
“I almost didn't have the chance to experience this beautiful autumn day!”
The weather was just how I like it! Grey, cool, and with a bit of sunlight breaking through occasionally. I held my face to the sky and said,
“Thank you, God.”
I'll get through this and re-adjust the way I need to!
I was anticipating a legal visit today, but it didn't happen. Maybe it will be tomorrow. Yesterday we had a seriously lazy crew of officers. They didn't do any showers the entire day, and then the night time crew was short handed so they couldn't do showers either. We had the same crew today...but fortunately they're actually working, although it's looking like I'll be stuck on 2nd shift for a shower.
Everything else is okay. I just hope I get some mail tonight...It makes no sense that we're all waiting on mail for so long.
Here's to still holding onto...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 20th, 2019
I woke up on Friday morning ready to take on the day...I had my coffee and did all of the usual 'first thing in the morning stuff, but when I went to flush the toilet, the button to flush stayed put and the toilet kept running and running, and didn't shut off. I notified the guards and the run around began...I went the entire day with the toilet flushing, and in the evening I notified the officers on second shift, and they said they were too short staffed to get anyone down to fix it. So the toilet ran all through the night...
The next morning I notifed the guards again, and even managed to talk to a sergeant. Having worked in maintenance during my time in general population, I knew you could turn a valve resetting the flush button, and most of the time it fixes the problem. It takes a total of 5 minutes to do! Instead, the toilet kept running, wasting water and money as well as taking a toll on my sanity. These toilets are loud! They're not your typical quiet 'whoosh' like a toilet in your home...This is an industrial sounding 'WHOOSH' designed to flush away polar bear turds! These toilets would suck a towel right down without getting stopped up. When you sit on the toilet and flush, you can feel the suction...THAT is how powerful these things are. One flush probably uses several gallons of water, so imagine 24 hours of constant flushing.
So, on Saturday afternoon I went to recreation and was stuck out in the day room for over 5 hours. My ears were ringing from the toilet flushing non-stop, and I was happy to get away from the noise. I talked to the second shift officers and was given the run around about getting the toilet fixed...again. I was irritated and frustrated and said,
"It will take 5 minutes to fix! You'd rather waste thousands of dollars and drain Lake Livingston than fix the freakin' thing?!?"
My cries fell upon deaf ears...
I did my best to keep my sanity, went to sleep, and braced myself for another long day of torture on Sunday.
I woke the next morning and caught a guard passing by, and told him it would take 5 minutes to fix. I said,
"Please, man...this has been going on for 48 hours and I can't take it anymore!"
"Yeah. I got you. Let me get the pipe chase key."
About 15 minutes later he returned, turned the valve in the pipe chase key, and the water went off. The button popped back out, resetting the flusher, and then he turned the water back on. Five minutes...That's it, problem fixed. I said,
"Thank YOU!!! It took two days to get someone to do that. Two days!"
"No problem. Lazy mother-effers..."
He walked away shaking his head.
I know for certain that thousands of dollars were wasted in letting this simple problem go unfixed. The State won't give a pay rise to the guards, or spend money on education for inmates, but they'll let a freakin' toilet run for two days straight, impacting the environment and wasting money. That money could've been used to buy books for guys in Ad-Seg. It could've been used to go towards some kind of prison rehabilitation program, but no...they'd literally rather let it flush away.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 22nd, 2019
Don't know why, but I've been having this headache off and on for the past few days. I can function, but it's really annoying. I'm still adjusting to 'normal' life and I guess it has to be related. I'll be fine...
Yesterday I went outside and it was drizzling and grey...I really loved it! I even jogged for a bit because I'm trying to get back into my new exercise regime after life on Death Watch. Even though I still exercised during my time over there, I was also emotionally eating junk food and gained what I refer to as the 'Death Watch Belly'...I'll get it all off again! I'm 3 days into the reboot and whilst I do have the headaches, I'm getting my energy back up. I also think this lovely autumn weather is giving me some pep in my step. My girlfriend loves this season, and so do I..,We have our 'cocoa' dates, and it may sound silly, but it has become a tradition these past couple of years. Since we had our first holiday season together in 2017, we made several little traditions together that we're looking forward to marking again this year. I'm just grateful I get to do it all again with her.
There's this really great song on the radio right now...It's one of those songs that stops you in your tracks and you just think, "Holy cow, that song is amazing!" The band is 'Highly Suspect', and they had a song out a couple of years ago called, "Human." It wasn't a bad song, but I did judge them as a one hit wonder at the time. Now, they have this song called, '16' and besides sounding amazing, it is the kind of song that you just FEEL...It's raw with emotion and you can hear the pain in his vocals when he sings,
"Oh God! Where did I go wrong?"
Apparently the singer wrote it based on a real life experience when he was in a long term relationship and expecting a baby with his girlfriend. At the hospital when his girlfriend was in labour, the baby turned out to be mixed race...but they're both white. It crushed him! Anyway, it's just a great song, and probably one of the best songs of this year.
Well, I think I'll go listen to some more music and watch the cows outside the window for a while.
Courage. Strength, Hope and Faith.
October 27th, 2019
It's been a bit of a stressful week...We've had serious mail problems coming from this prison unit. Of course, we cannot prove that it is the unit because they always blame the USPS (though, if the mail was that bad it'd be a pretty horrible business model...)
"We'll just let this letter sit here for two weeks in the Livingston post office, and maybe we'll get it out...maybe we won't!"
What do you think?
"Why, that's brilliant Post Master General! That'll keep the folks coming back!"
Since my stay I've found that the little things that used to bother me don't affect me as much as they once did (except the mail situation) but I do still get a little irritated at how poorly things are run here...I'm also a bit perturbed by the ever increasing lack of professionalism in this place. I get it, we're inmates and blah blah blah...and we 'deserve' to be treated a certain way according to some people's mindset. But then there's just...Take this example: Thursday night on the 24th I went outside to recreation with another guy; it was a lovely night and we played some late night basketball, talked a bit, and then through the window we noticed the guard about to pass out the mail. We waved him over and he came outside and we asked if we could have our mail outside. I gave him my cell number and he rifled through the letters, found mine and then said,
"You write an English bitch?"
I looked at him, trying not to get upset, and firmly said,
"You mean an English WOMAN?"
I mean, who talks like that? Regardless of how you feel about inmates, there should be a bit of decorum and professionalism that comes with doing your job - especially in the official capacity of working for the State!
Earlier that day I had a legal visit. The guards had people waiting on visits for over an hour - both families and attorneys. The guards that were taking me to the legal visit were walking so slowly like they were having a stroll in the park! When I got out there the attorney I visited with said her co-counsel partner had been waiting to see a client for over an hour!
It's difficult to not get upset about the way other people are treated. I'm sort of used to it, but I don't expect people on the outside to be treated like inmates.
Friday was much of the same...Then on Saturday I was a bit tired so I skipped recreation, went to the shower, and listened to a couple of movies before having my cocoa and radio program date with my girl that evening.
Now it's Sunday and I'm doing laundry, cleaning my cell and getting some writing work done. Guess I'll get going for the day!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
October 29th, 2019
Yesterday was pure madness, and whilst we don't have the technical malfunctions of yesterday, today is a pretty chaotic day as well...
Yesterday morning I woke up full of beans and ready to take on the world. I was scheduled to go outside 2nd round, so I slept in until about 7.30, got out of bed, and started my morning routine. Then, around 8, the lights on the walkway started blinking and going off and on...I found it quite eerie because the night before I had just listened to the movie, 'IT'...Well, shortly after the lights started blinking, everything went dead except the power in our cells. The control center went pitch black and the control panels died. The run lights went out and everything had to be opened manually with keys. It was really bizarre...especially because the power in our cells was working.
The day passed and we ended up getting sack lunches for dinner, and then around 8pm or so the power came back on and was fully functioning. I ended up goofing around trying to do the clown's voice, 'Pennywise The Dancing Clown', from the movie, and it didn't take me long to get it right.
One of the guards who said the movie genuinely scared her and she had nightmares because of it, was walking down the run in the pitch black, late in the afternoon...I said, mimicking the clown's voice,
I did a creepy clown laugh as I said it, and she yelled out,
"Oh sweet Jesus! Don't do that to me!"
Everyone was laughing.
After that I waited on mail before going to bed.
I woke up this morning and at first things were relatively 'normal'. Then, downstairs, two guys started yelling and cussing each other out which shattered the peacefulness of the day. I think everyone is just frustrated with how things are right now. In the next section over from me there are Ad-Seg guys who routinely act out and get screwed over regularly because they are often overlooked. TDCJ offers them no programs, nothing to promote wellness and change (which is why I really want to work on making a change in the future) and then, the guards provoke them and atagonise them which in turn causes them to act out even more. Because we're exposed to it we get further stressed and agitated...so, things blew up this morning.
On top of it all we've got two brand new guards working the floor and they don't have the slightest idea as to what they're doing...They're running around like headless chickens and not doing any showers, not getting recreation out on time...It's a mess.
Oh well...I just went on with my day and have tried to not let it affect me. I'm good.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
November 7th, 2019
Yesterday was a tough day for me...I broke down whilst listening to the Execution Watch program on the radio. I started crying because I realised how close I had come to my own execution and also because I was Justen Hall's neighbor for three months. I also knew that it was something he wanted because he felt broken, and felt he could no longer carry on. He had told me,
"I don't have the nerve to kill myself, so this is the best way."
Whilst we were neighbours I asked about his ties to a white supremacist gang, and he told me he was young and stupid and had disavowed any kind of bigotry or racism, but he was most upset for having disappointed his family - especially his sister and his mom. He was troubled, but whilst I lived next to him I knew him to be a decent person so I cried for him...I cried for how insane our system is and how we allow people to be executed without any hope or chance for redemption...To not be forgiven for the mistakes of our youth.
I woke up today feeling kind of 'bleh' but went outside with my neighbour to play basketball. He kicked my butt 18-12, and then it started to rain cats and dogs. It wasn't cold so I quite enjoyed letting the rain pour down, and then I came back inside around 1.30pm.
Otherwise, I'm managing...I'll hopefully feel better tomorrow. One thing I did want to warn people about...I've been told by several friends about the misinformation that went around about my appeals and my case in general. Steer clear of groups on Facebook and other social media platforms because they are often full of misinformation. If you don't read it on my website, or from the official social media platforms of 'Friends of Randy Halprin', then take it with a grain of salt. My website will have all factual information, and Taffy and my friends will post updates on social media as and when things happen. I'm tired of hearing about misinformation, rumors and gossip being spread around.
Wow! I just heard that my co-defendant, Patrick Murphy, received a stay. That's really good news!!
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 2nd, 2019
It's been hard to write anything of late, but I feel like I'm returning to normal. I hadn't been able to read anything outside of something like magazines or articles, and over the weekend I read two books, so my concentration is returning. I suppose I hadn't really understood how much Death Watch had affected all levels of my emotional health.
Something I've been doing recently – and it's not really a conversation a person wants to have back here – is thinking about those who are facing execution dates with exhausted appeals, and how I can help them to mentally prepare for being on death watch. It isn't like it used to be over there when those facing execution were treated with a little bit of humanity; and if you had an issue that needed to be addressed, it would be handled. Those days are gone, and people need to be prepared for that. Also, they need to be prepared for the emotional toll it takes to watch someone leave to be executed.
Conditions on death watch are at an all time low, but it's also a whole Unit thing...There's been two murders by inmates killing each other, saying they were “pushed by the conditions of this unit.” Whilst that really is backwards logic, and not a way to fix anything, one of the trustees recently told me (as he was mopping the floor),
“I'm sick of this place. They've taken everything away from me...The food is shit...The previous administration at least let us watch movies on the holidays...We had something to look forward to! Sometimes I feel like punching someone to take my frustrations out on something.”
“Don't do that – it just makes it worse!”
“Yeah, I know. I'm blowing steam, but a ton of us don't know what else to do.”
Two back-to-back murders in general population when there had been none for years, should be raising alarms...Suicides and attempted suicides across State prisons should be raising alarms...Guards quitting in droves no matter how much money the State throws at them to make them stay, should be raising alarms...And yet, everything is 'out of sight, out of mind'...
I had decided over the weekend to pull back from things and focus on my own well being. I will go to recreation when I feel like it, but no longer let it work me up or get stressed over it. If I feel things look iffy, I'll just get my day on the road and do what I want to do. I'm creating my own schedule.
Thanksgiving was an okay day, but I skipped recreation. We did have a good meal though...Our dessert tray had three pieces of cake, and pie. Lunch was a giant biscuit, beans, corn, green bean salad, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and a slice each of turkey and chicken breast. You'll hear no complaints from me on that – I was quite stuffed! For dinner we received a sack meal with two sandwiches, and an apple and orange.
The rest of the weekend I relaxed. I went outside on Friday with my neighbour, and felt bad for him. He's being ostracised for some kind of filing he made with the whistle-blower act, and he's been labelled as a 'snitch' and guys have been cutting him off. He tried to explain it to me outside and I stopped him and said,
“I don't care...Guys create these pseudo-moral standards that they don't even apply to themselves, so I could not care less what anyone has to say about you or if you did something or not. When they apply their own standards to themselves and their friends, maybe I'll start listening. But this is a bunch of grown men being childish. We're not in the fourth grade...”
Ostracising or cutting someone off like that is just plain mean and unnecessary. It's okay to talk about things reasonably with someone when you don't agree with them...It's okay to be pissed at someone for the choices they made, but nobody needs to be cruel or mean about things.
Saturday I had my usual 'date time' with my girlfriend. We listen to the same program on the radio (even though she falls asleep ha ha) because it's nice to think of one another and just 'be' in real time together.
Sunday I vegged out...
Today I went to recreation a little after 6am, and exercised. I've been waiting on a shower ever since. Meanwhile, I'm trying to keep myself busy.
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 8th, 2019
It's a grey Sunday morning and quite chilly. Whenever it's like this I'm always taken back to the fall/winter of 1994 when I was obsessed with Morrissey's album, 'Viva Hate'. I was a huge fan of the Smiths, and my friend and guitarist, Dan, told me I should really give that particular album a chance. I liked it straight away! There was something about the atmosphere of the album that fit that particular season.
So, we've been on lock down since Tuesday last...There were rumors that we could possibly go on lock down, especially with the recent murders in general population and another attempted murder of an inmate who was found stabbed in his cell. The guards got him to hospital quickly enough to save him, thank goodness.
Most people think they will wait until after Christmas to start shaking us down, but it's going to be a long and tough one, especially with the incredible staff shortages we have right now. I think they'd still allow us a Christmas meal, but I feel bad for the guys in general population because their holiday season is ruined. We're used to being trapped in our cells all the time on death row, so it doesn't change anything for us...But for them...I do feel sorry for them.
I guess what I find so mind blowing about all of this is how it's being kept under wraps and out of the media. TDCJ's propaganda and misinformation campaigns are really effective, I guess. I mean, how are several murders not a big deal? How are dangerously low staff shortages not a big deal in the media? The media has been turning a blind eye to the alarming rate of suicides, and attempted suicides – we're used to that! We're used to the fact that no one really seems to be disturbed by the growing prison mental health crisis, but you'd think that murders would shake some people awake. But then again, they're just inmates, so who cares?
“Let them all kill themselves” is what some people probably think. But what do you tell the family of the murdered inmate? Aren't they victims too? Aren't they deserving of the same sympathy that any other victims' families receive? What has happened to the world???
Speaking of the world...I've been ignoring politics for a while because I am just so sick and tired of the incessant 'Trump coverage'. During my time on death watch I was purposely avoiding all things political, but with the 2020 elections on the horizon, I was thinking,
“Well, it's time to get back on my soap box for a bit...”
Not that anyone will listen, but I do need to vent and will do so in future journals. I bet you're all looking forward to that! (ha ha)
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 9th, 2019
I woke up and laid in bed until around 7.40am...I couldn't believe how quickly the month was moving – nine days into December already??
Well, we're still on lock down. They shook down E-Pod today (and Ad-Seg) and I expect they'll do D and C-Pods tomorrow, which means they could be here where I am by Thursday or Friday. They should be done with 12 building by Monday or Tuesday, but I still don't expect them to be finished with the unit until the week of Christmas.
We learned today that there was a death on F-Pod on Friday night/early Saturday morning. Apparently the man died of natural causes. It's another thing that should raise eyebrows as we seem to have a death on 12 building every few months because of either natural causes or suicides, and then there's the recent murders...
The thing about F-Pod is I know for a fact that many of these men are often starved by the guards, as a further means of punishment. F-Pod is commonly used as the discipline pod – or the 'dungeon' as we refer to it. The food trays are bad enough, but if you piss off a guard they often refuse to give a person any food...Over time, this can lead to malnutrition.
Because F-Pod is in the very back of the building and the 'supervisors' never go down there unless there's a use of force, the guards get away with starving and abusing tactics. So, I wouldn't be surprised if the man who died of natural causes was malnourished...Of course, this will be another death that'll go unreported and the public will never hear about it...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 11th, 2019
Another day...Day 8 on lock down, to be precise. I am making do as best I can but it sucks because we're all running out of supplies and we haven't been to commissary for some time. The lock down just pushed it away even further...I'm hungry, but not starving, thanks to my neighbour who has raisins and prunes and always offers some to me which is very kind.
I was listening to a Trump rally last night and as he was talking I couldn't help but wish I had access to a computer and some cool film editing software. I'd love to put Trump's voice over scenes from Star Wars and Darth Sidious (aka the Emperor). I think the juxtaposition would be seamless and quite funny! Maybe it's already been done, but if not, please...somebody do it. It would be hilarious!!
I didn't sleep very well last night because we had a jerk of an officer working our pod. Besides waiting until almost 11pm to pass out mail, he kept turning the lights in the cells on and off just to irritate people. He seemed to get a kick out of it. I stayed up late listening to late night talk shows...One of the best is Seth Myers. His 'A Closer Look' is one of his best segments, and whilst being humorous, he really breaks down a political issue and gets to the heart of the matter in a really informative way. His break down of the Trump impeachment was spot on and he showed how the Republican's were spinning and misrepresenting Trump's actions. I think both he and Samantha Bee are the best at getting to the meat of the issue.
I finally fell asleep and got out of bed close to 8am. The sun was out whilst still being cold, and the guards said they're shaking down on D-Pod which means that they might be here on Friday or Monday?? I hope so!
Sadly there's another execution today...I'm really trying not to think about it and I won't be listening to Execution Watch tonight...After the way I felt following Justen Hall's execution, I'm just not emotionally strong enough...I was over there with those guys and it feels too close to home...
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith.
December 22nd, 2019
It's been a strange couple of days...It all started on Friday when I woke up to the news that there was going to be a new mail policy that begins on 1st March. It's another example of TDCJ's over-reaction to a problem, instead of trying to find an actual solution so that inmates don't get caught in the middle.
So, firstly as little background history...There's a chemically engineered drug called K2 (also know as 'spice') and apparently people have been dying because of it, in prisons right across Texas and around the country. Because it can be sprayed onto literally anything, it's the number 1 choice for people to get high on. The TDCJ claims that people on the outside are spraying it on cards and letters via lipstick kisses and/or perfume, and apparently guys are shredding the cards/letters and smoking it. Because it's so potent some guys are freaking out and either having medical problems like heart failure, or hurting themselves because of the extreme hallucinogenic effect.
Fine...That is serious and should absolutely be addressed. However, what I do know is that the MAJORITY of all drugs don't come from people's loved ones and friends, but instead they come from those working for the State. With the extreme staff shortages, it's no surprise that there would be an influx of drugs/contraband, and a break down of security.
But...the reaction/response is the following, beginning in March:
People who write to inmates in Texas prisons will no longer be able to send a greetings card or post card of ANY kind...NO holiday cards, NO birthday cards, NO Valentines cards or 'Thinking of You' cards. NOTHING.
All letters sent to inmates must be on plain white paper, and the envelopes must be plain white as well.
No letter may contain ANY stickers, perfume, lipstick kisses, or even any kind of drawing by crayon, coloured pencils, or paint. (I know some people get drawings from their kids or nephews/nieces). So, when you write beginning in March, be aware of this because if you send a letter via a card or post card, or on colored paper and envelopes, the letter will be denied and destroyed...If it happens more than a couple of times from the same person, they will be banned from writing to inmates.
If you mail photographs, you are only allowed to send 10 photos per envelope, at a time.
Now, this part is really important! Sometimes Amazon.com will use personal carriers to deliver books etc. TDCJ will no longer accept ANY packages/books that do not come directly from UPS/Federal Express or the United States Postal Service...If you order books for someone, it's very important that you specify delivery via one of those services, and not by an individual carrier.
And now for those who visit inmates...Please be aware that TDCJ is saying that visitors are going to be subject to drug dogs sniffing them. If they smell ANY drug (including marijuana) then that visitor, and ALL visitors in their party, will be turned away from visiting that individual. If it happens a second time, the visitor will be banned from EVER seeing the inmate again. Now, I know some people smoke weed at home, or in the car...Please keep in mind that the smell sticks to your clothing! So, even if you don't have anything on you or in your car at the time you visit, that scent is on you and the drug dogs will sniff it out, and you will be turned away – regardless of whether it's on your person or not. Think smart, people! It might be legal in some States now, but it's still not legal in Texas.
Sigh...I'm really upset at the card thing because I enjoy sending cards to my girlfriend, and to my friends. I really enjoy receiving cards from my girlfriend who is an amazing crafter, designer, and artist, and recently she's been making some amazingly beautiful handmade cards, and it sucks to now have to lose that...
Anyways, when I know more about these rules, and if by chance they're amended in any way, I will talk about it again. I personally hope they get push back on the cards because a lot of organizations and churches send inmates cards on their birthdays and the holidays – it really helps to lift our spirits up.
Well, the weirdness continued when my radio had just stopped working...I was sick to my stomach!! I fiddled with it all Friday afternoon, giving up around 10pm. I told myself I'd mess with it again on Saturday after some sleep – I did not want to miss my girlfriend's shout out to me on Christmas night! I didn't expect us to have recreation because I had heard we wouldn't be off lock down until Monday...I went to sleep feeling sad and sick.
When I woke up the following day, they were setting up rec. I told myself I'd go to rec and then after a shower I would start trying to fix my radio again. Well, rec and showers were soon cancelled due to staff shortages...again! I got to work on my radio and it came back to life and I was relieved. I settled into a Star Wars marathon on the radio, and then listened to a music program called, 'Live From Here' that comes on NPR every Saturday night...This is date time with my girlfriend, and it's a special thing we've been doing for over two years now.
After the show was over I went back to Star Wars, then I heard a review of the new movie! I was excited because the critics (not that I listen to them anyways, but still...) say it's good. I can't wait to read the book and all the material along with it, which my girlfriend is sending to me!
This morning I was still fast asleep at 6.45 when an officer asked if I was going to rec. I said, “When?” and she said, “Right now.” I asked her to give me some time to get up as I hadn't expected recreation on a Sunday because it's typically an 'off' day for the building. It was nice to get up and get out and I caught up with my friend, Blaine, who had recently received some really good appeal news. I'm so happy for him and hope it turns into something really positive!
I am looking forward to the coming week, and Chanukah begins tonight! Happy Chanukah to all of my Jewish brothers and sisters...My girlfriend made a beautiful cardboard Menorah for me so that I could color in the flames and candles each night, but the mail has let us down and it hasn't arrived yet...[A picture is attached below]. The black and white picture I saw attached to a Jpay was enough to show me how lovely it is and to imagine 'lighting' it in my mind.
And of course, there'll be some decent holiday food on Christmas Day, for everyone. I'm going to make some food for my friends on one of these Chanukah days. I've not picked a day out yet, but more than likely Friday or Saturday. (I know it will be Shabbos, but still....ha ha).
Anyways, happy holidays to everyone, and as always:
Courage. Strength. Hope and Faith!
December 30th, 2019
I think I'm coming down with a cold...I had a pretty good run this year without being sick, but I went to recreation yesterday and a couple of guys on A-Section were sick, so...Just my luck! I hope it doesn't last for long, and it's not too bad right now, but I can definitely feel it in my sinuses.
I can't begin to explain how chaotic these past weeks have been. I've been wanting to write a journal and wanted to do something for the Christmas holiday, but I couldn't get my mind to focus. I decided to skip recreation today and just rest and get away from the madness. When you start dreading something you used to really enjoy, you know it's time to take a break. When you leave your cell and are miserable for the two or more hours you're in the day room, it's time to take a break. And apart from going outside and getting fresh air, I've not had any kind of joy in going to recreation lately, but I'll get to that in a bit. Right now, I want to give a little recap of the past week or so.
As I mention every year, Christmas Eve is always difficult because of everything that happened and went wrong that night in 2000...I try to use that time to reflect, pray a little, and ask for forgiveness. Then, I listen to the yearly broadcast of 'It's a Wonderful Life' which has become a tradition of mine for the last 16 years. My girlfriend adopted the tradition with me in 2017, and we enjoy that time together every year. Of course, since I received the Stay in October, the movie has taken on even more significance and I'm so grateful to be here and to have so much love and support...To have people believe in my value and believe in me...To have friends who love me. My gratitude for these things cannot be underrated. I'm alive, and I try to live in the moment, but it's also nice to be able to dream of a possible future and to want to be a force for change and other good things. I'm grateful!
On Christmas Day they cancelled recreation to give the officers a 'break', so we were stuck in our cells that day. I think that's only the second time that has happened in 16 years. The food came around 11am and it was a lot! We had a dessert tray that also had cold potato salad, some black olives, and pickles piled high. The main course was brisket, onions, green breans, bread, and a few other things. Later that evening I waited for my girlfriend to call into the Christmas Special shout outs on the Prison Show...She made it in and told me about her Christmas Day and that the 'gifts' I had sent for her friends went over really well. She's had the same support and friends her entire life, and I just wanted to thank them for that. I wrote a special poem for her best friend's son – the cutest and happiest little dude I have ever seen – and I had someone back here do a painting for a couple who practically raised her in her teens when her mother died. I just wanted to show my appreciation to those people who helped shape the wonderful person she is. It felt good to hear that everyone liked the gifts.
After Christmas, things became chaotic back here...Trying to get to rec was a nightmare, and very frustrating. On Saturday I was trying to go to A-Section to talk to my friend, Irving. I was scheduled 4th round, but they didn't put 1st round in the dayroom until almost 10am. Then later, I was told I was being bumped up from 4th to 3rd, but when I got ready things just ground to a halt and recreation was cancelled for the rest of the day.
I figured they would do 'stuck out' recreation on Sunday, and I debated with myself about whether I would bother. I didn't want to be stuck in the cell, but Saturday nights I like to stay up late and listen to a music program, 'Sound Awake'. I decided to listen to the first hour then go to sleep so I could get up early on Sunday morning to go to rec, and be back in my cell in time for the Star Wars marathon that day.
I woke at 5.30am and got ready for the guards to come around...but no one came. Around 7am a guard passed by and I asked,
“Are you doing stuck out recreation from yesterday?”
He looked at me and said,
“If we didn't already talk to you, then you don't have stuck out rec.
“What do you mean?” I asked him. “I didn't get recreation yesterday and I was scheduled for 3rd round. In fact, it was YOU who told me I was going 3rd round.”
“No...you verbally refused.” He said.
“I did not. I told you I was ready to go, and had my clothes folded and ready. Then, it was cancelled and YOU said it would be made up on Sunday.”
We went back and forth for a few minutes, and the things he was saying were getting more and more ridiculous. I finally said,
“Look...I'm a prisoner and I've done a dumb thing in my life, but it doesn't mean I'm an idiot. Please don't treat me like one.”
He walked off and then around 10am he came back and said,
“You still going to recreation?”
To be honest, I was a bit surprised, but I quickly grabbed my things and went out to rec. I didn't get back to my cell until 4pm which was frustrating, and whilst I was at rec, one of the trustees from the clean up crew spilled his mop bucket and water rushed into the day room...Sigh...The guard wouldn't take me out so it could be mopped up, so I spent the hours walking around in dirty mop water. I was so mad I kept telling myself,
“Serenity now! Serenity now! (ha ha).
At that point I told myself,
“You know what? If I feel the day is going to be a mess, I'm going to try and avoid the stress, get up, get a shower, and just stay in my cell and listen to the radio and get things accomplished.”
I don't like the stress and chaos and things have broken down so badly back here that there's little order anymore. I may have a neurotic mind, and worry and fuss over some things, but I don't have a chaotic mind. My girlfriend and I are both very introverted people and becoming overwhelmed in certain situations happens very easily, and can be very difficult. Things are a mess back here and it's frustrating that it appears nobody is trying to fix the situation.
Now we have a growing rumor about getting personal televisions to try and address the recreation problem. Because of the shortage of staff issues, the logic seems to be that if guys had TVs they wouldn't want to be out at rec very often, and that's actually true. I've talked to many guys here who say,
“Shoot, give me a TV and you'll never hear from me again.”
But that rumor cycles through every few years, so I'll believe it when I see it.
Today hasn't been too chaotic, but again, I stayed in my cell and made myself oblivious to anything on the other side of my door...
Well, here's to hoping that things will get better going into the New Year!