March 05, 2017
Man...did the media really say, the day after Trump's State of the Union Speech that this was a "correction course" and he seemed so "presidential" ??? And then...more Russian allegations with our Attorney General and this weekend Trump gets on twitter and accuses Obama of wire tapping him and then berates Arnold Schwartzenegger ? I mean, come on people ! You think that just because he can read a speech that someone else wrote for him that he suddenly changed from the buffoon he is to "presidential" in one night ? Madness ! We've got to put up with four years of this crap...
So, as I write this it is Sunday morning and a bit cool, wet and grey. We've been on lockdown for a week now and they've only finished two pods. They've got the shakedown tables and stuff on our pod but haven't started it yet. This time around they're doing it a bit different. For the past couple of years it was done with a relative speediness. They were giving us a large red crate to pack our personal property into. If you had too much property they would confiscate anything that didn't fit into the red crate. But because I move around on a regular basis my personal property is fairly limited anyways and I'm not a pack rat so outside of anything I feel is really important, I don't keep excess items. Any books I get or comics I typically just give it away to others whom want to read it.
But this time, from what we are hearing from officers is that we are to pack everything into bags. Then, they take the inmates off of their pod and hold them outside on the rec yards of another pod. This is very strange. Then, for the next three hours or so they spend time going through every single personal item, piece of paper, books -
Some guys are getting really upset because they are also going through the legal work of inmates outside of their presence. Prison policy is that the guards cannot go through an inmate's legal work without having that inmate in front of them. And the guards, while allowed to "search" it, cannot read the actual content. We don't know that they're not doing that when we are taken to another pod and far away from our legal work. In theory, the rule is to protect client/attorney confidentiality.
The State (or the Defense) is entitled to the knowledge of anything filed or any evidence being presented. However, there is no entitlement to appeal or trial strategy or what we share with our attorneys in letters or verbally. That is protected by law. A few guys have filed grievances about this concern but the process takes a month and by then the lockdown will be over.
I'm not so much concerned about losing anything on a paper level as I am my electronics -
I'll know more tomorrow. To be continued !
March 01, 2017
I can't seem to catch any kind of break...After having a semi decent weekend of just relaxing and feeling like things were looking up a bit we woke up Monday morning to learn that we were on lockdown and this one would be a loooong one. I don't mind a short lockdown. It gives you a chance to catch up on things in relative quiet. I don't like being stuck in the cell 24/7 or having to take a bird bath out of my sink because we can't get a shower every single day, but it is tolerable...for a short period of time. The longer one is cooped up in a cell the more stir crazy you can get. You start feeling like Jack Nicholson's character on the Shining. You start seeing creepy little twins pop out of the corner of your eye...Voices start whispering to you. Next thing you know you're stripping buck naked and howling at the moon outside of your window. Okay, okay...maybe it isn't that severe, but man...it can suck !
So, here's what I know thus far about the shakedown: they're being very thorough going through every single item. The're also taking the inmates off of the pod and putting them on the outside recreation yard far away from their items being searched. Before, they would just throw us in the shower and go into our cells and search. What worries me about this current practice is you have no idea what the officer is doing with your property. You don't know what they are going to throw away or let you keep. I've always told myself that nothing that I "own" really belongs to me. The guards can take anything they want for any reason. It sucks when you have no control or real ownership over anything. But it is what it is and unfortunately part of being in prison. To be continued...
So, I was listening to the Trump State of the Union Speech last night and I'm amazed at how over enthusiastic Republicans were for a guy that constantly berates them on a daily basis or did during the primaries. I'm not a big fan of sycophants or people who kiss the ass of someone who has more power than them. I like to say to myself in a crude joke, whenever I hear it on the radio "Oh, why don't you just stick his weiner in your mouth". Not the most classy thing to blurt out, but geeze...they might as well ! What irritates me more is when Trump gives a semi-
I was asked my opinion on the Supreme Court nominee and whether or not it would affect the Death Penalty or not...Well, there's two ways you can look at it. If you feel like it wouldn't matter because all he did was replace Scalia you have to hope that there's a swing vote out there and would side with the Liberal Justices IF the right case/argument was presented before the courts. That is a lot to hang hope upon and not very realistic for now. The other way to see it is on the State's rights side of things, meaning that Trump has picked a justice who is heavily in favor of state rights...This is the more likely scenario and therefor, I believe that focus should be put on fighting at the State level -
We already know that opinions are changing in Texas and most politicians no longer have any kind of legitimate argument in support of having the death penalty. Most major counties don't even send people to death row anymore. People are beginning to wake up about the ruse that it is. What is crucial is finding a strategy that works and having the many anti death penalty activist groups, churches, etc. to all be on the same page. You can't fight strongly for one individual who you believe was treated unjustly and then let the next guy strapped to the gurney fall through the cracks unnoticed. There's a handfull of people that are at every execution in protest, but it is going to take more than a handfull. More people need to start calling and petitioning their representives. More churches need to get involved.
Another thing I think people need to do is stop trying to push the statistics on racism in the courts and other statistics. Just hear me out...average people don't want to hear the numbers or stats. People want to FEEL one way or the other about something. You start throwing out numbers and talking about racism their eyes gloss over. It is a sad but true fact. However, if you can make it personal and connect with a person on an emotional level, I believe you will be more effective in ending the death penalty and persuading people to talk to others and change their minds. In all of this noise we've forgotten to communicate. Believe me, I do my fare share of screaming in my journals, but I also know communication is the key. I don't want to have to yell at a person. Maybe we should try "Hey, can I talk to you for a second ?" Regardless of the method, if you're an abolitionist you all need to start working together and finding a common message/strategy. Putting your hopes in the courts is short sighted in this current political climate and unrealistic. The courts might rule in favor of individuals like the amazing ruling for Dwayne Buck (awesome !), but in ending it ? We've got a long way to go.
I'm so glad spring is here. I've been watching the horses outside of my window and the birds are returning and the grass is green. It sucks that I'm trapped inside, but I'm grateful for the window.
I think this has been one of the most difficult periods of my life in the past 16 years. I've had some real humdingers but this definitely goes in the top five. It just seems to be one event after another and I really wanted the new year to start off with hope and promise. I joke about Trump ushering in the end of the world, but fuck if it really doesn't feel like it right now.
Where to even begin ?
It started two months ago. Since I moved into this godforsaken cell. At the time I was living on A-
When I got to C-
I took a deep breath and began cleaning which took about three hours. I was not happy. I generally tell myself that I can deal with insanity on a particular section or cell because I rarely ever spend more than two weeks there. It actually makes life a whole lot easier to live like that. A messed up cell ? I'll be okay...It's only two weeks. Irritating neighbors ? Only have to put up with it for two weeks. But as problems mounted two weeks turned into three, three turned into a month and a month into two. Ten weeks I've been in this purgatory ! I've seen two guys get stabbed right in front my cell (well, not really stabbed, but the other inmates sure were trying hard for it to be a stabbing). People yelling and screaming at each other, guards screwing people over. It is like I've had a front row seat to madness. Problems only got worse when my sink's drain began to back up. This nasty black water began to rise from the drain and I raised holy hell to get it fixed. The Sergeant at night time called down an emergency plumber to fix it. And he did, but in the process ended up busting another pipe. The exchange went like this: "Your sink drainin' now ?" "Yeah...but there's freaking water coming from under my toilet. What the hell ?" "Oh yeah, I think I broke something. I don't have the parts to fix it. We'll get back down here tomorrow. Gotta go !" "Tomorrow" turned into 3 1/2 weeks ! I battled water every day. I complained to everyone: a Major, the Warden, anyone I could and it was like "Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh...We'll look into." Look into it ? You can't see the puddle of water in my cell ? I'm starting to believe that C-
But all of that is small potatoes to the worst of it. Two weeks ago I received a letter that my best friend Dvid passed away of a heart attack. I'm pretty sure that I've written about him in the past. When I first got into this whole mess with the escape and everything else he wrote to me out of the blue. This was almost 16 years ago. It was a very simple and kind letter that basically said that "Hey, inspite of everything that is going on, you're a human being and I'm praying for you." I can't really remember what I thought at the time but I did respond and thank him for the kind words. We began to write and over the years formed almost a father/son like relationship. He encouraged me to write and was an English teacher at one time so guided me in finding my own voice. He encouraged me to write my thoughts down (another friend also encouraged and offered to start publishing them on their site which turned into the first incarnation of my website) and try to process things. In my life there hasn't been anyone who was more loyal, more encouraging and loving than him.
David was a Marine and he would use a latin saying that embodies a marine: Semper Fi. Always faithful. He closed every letter with that. I began to close my letters to him with that as well.
Over the past few years I knew he was slowing down. It was mostly due to a wound he suffered during the Vietnam war, but he had a lot of aches and pains. I'd encourage him to at least use his treadmill and keep active. What is so strange about all of this is that I think he perceived that his life was winding down. I say that because about two weeks before I received word that he died he told me in a letter: "I'm going to have a friend contact you if anything happens to me." He also made a few extravagant purchases that left me scratching my head.
He'd just bought a new television last fall, a pretty fancy one and then in that same letter telling me about having a friend contact me, he said he bought a 4K flatscreen and he knew he didn't need it, but what the heck.
When I first received the letter about his death I didn't recognize the name. It was from the same town as David but it didn't register that this was the friend. In fact, I thought "Why is David sending me a letter from someone else ?" I opened it and...I stared at the words for a few minutes. I thought, I JUST heard from him...How could he be gone ? I was confused. It took about 30 minutes for the news to hit me and when it did it was like a bag of bricks came crashing down on me. I've cried in the past. I get teary eyed over certain events or stories, but my whole entire body began to shake. My mentor, my friend, even father-
I still half expect to get a letter from him when they pass out mail. Last week I received another letter from his friend with a copy of his will and that was touching. I remember having a conversation with David years ago about being killed by the state. I've always had a fear of dying alone. I've had it since I first experienced a death with my grandfather's passing. But on death row, one of my biggest concerns was not having a proper burial. Having to be buried under some inmate number in a State prison cemetery. I NEVER want that to happen. Yeah, it is just a body and what does it matter, but the thought, the very idea of this State having possession over ME for the rest of time ? No fucking way. It was just one of many conversations we shared over the years.
When I read the will, under article II, specific gifts, the first paragraph says this: "It is my heartfelt intention that during my lifetime I shall make all necessary arrangements, including payment in advance, for a funeral service and a burial plot for my friend, Randy Halprin, an inmate currently residing in Polunsky Unit, located in Livingston, Texas 77351. If I have not yet accomplished this intention at the date of my death, the such is my first bequest.
I was really touched by the gesture. I've long decided that I would rather be cremated than buried, but still...The fact that he never forgot our conversation and my worries is enough proof alone of the kind of man he was.
Semper Fi, David.
I'm hoping to attach an older picture of me and David out at visit. It was probably from about 7-