UNCENSORED FROM TEXAS DEATH ROW
by Paul Colella
I guess itís time to once again open the floodgates and pour forth the chaos within. These past two months havenít been very good for D/R overall. It seems all the things we complain about have only gotten worse.
The food. Ha, Ha, Ha! Pitiful. We have been getting more casseroles then ever, and trust me, the name casserole is a catchall that encompasses everything, from ground up chicken bones, to ground up rotten meat mixed with vegetables and TDC homemade glue/sauce to hold it all together. The portions have once again diminished and I feel sorry for the guys on Level II and III because we have been totally cut off from sending them food here and there. I know I have been hungry, so I can only imagine how bad it is for them.
They have decided only to let us have commissary one time every two weeks. We have always been allowed every week. So now, if a guyís money isnít on his account in time, he can go up to four weeks without access to stamps or hygienic items. This also means that our stamp quota is cut in half. Instead of us being able to buy 120 stamps a month, we can only by 60 stamps a month. Understand this is on Level I, not II or III, so effectively we are once again being put on restriction for nothing. Take, Take, Take.
They continue to take all, everything from us, and no one is doing anything at all about it. We continue to suffer with no end in sight.
The clothes situation is a joke. I havenít had a clean jumpsuit in three weeks. This is why. Whoever is in charge, is sending 24-26 jumpsuits to a pod that has 84 people. They send a few of each size and of course, ALWAYS run out. Because they always start in the same place when they pass them out, 99% of the time the same people get clean clothes while the rest suffer.
To top it all off, the officers are getting rambunctious again, and only yesterday one told Chi Town to "suck his xxxx." Chi Town took his riot gear (i.e. jumpsuit, towel, etc.) to the Day Room and was going to jack the Day Room. Well, it turns out several other officers heard the exchange and told Sgt. Poole what transpired. Iíll be damned, Sgt. Poole made the officer go apologize to Chi Town.
The reason the officers are getting rowdy is, the administration has changed their work schedules to two 12 hour shifts: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Now there are one and one half of the officers running around than there used to be. The 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift has twice as much work to do than they used to have, and they donít like it. A lot of them are whining and crying about the amount of work, and itís coming out in their attitudes. A lot of smart asses who used to be on the third shift are now here during the day, when weíre all awake and moving around.
Now we have four to five officers hiding out at any given time on our pod. Just laying around laughing and joking. Guys are having to stay in the showers 20-45 minutes at a time, sitting in the Visiting Room 40-60 minutes after their visits are over. We have all of these extra officers running around and still not running this place efficiently, which is pitiful. They already get paid too much for too little and now they do even less. The 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift now has all this extra time on their hands, so what do they do? Shakedowns. Whoopie. They just come in and go through our cells to pass their time until around 10 p.m., and then they sit around and do absolutely nothing. I wish I had a job I could get paid for doing nothing. That would be a good job, huh?
Chi Town is already to the point of going off and going to Level III because of the way things are going. We canít make commissary like we should, we canít get clean clothes like we should, weíre being treated worse than ever and itís only getting worse, not better.
I heard about the conference in Austin last month and though it went well, I cannot believe how uninformed people are about our conditions. I heard a lot of questions were asked.
So, let me lay a few things out for you.
We are in our cells 23 hours a day, seven days a week. The only time we leave our cells is for recreation (if you want to call it that), visitation and medical. Whenever we leave our cells, we are stripped and searched. We are handcuffed behind our backs and walked to and from anywhere we go with one officer holding our arm and one officer walking right behind.
Whenever we order commissary or library books, these items are delivered to our cells. We have access to the law library and regular library through the order/delivery process.
We DO NOT have access to computers or the Internet. If we have a friend or family member on the outside, they send us information about the Internet. They set up email addresses and forward emails to us.
We DO NOT have television or telephone access. We DO NOT have ANY physical contact with anyone, except the guard who walks us with his hand on our arm, or the nurse who takes our vital signs at the clinic.
We ARE NOT allowed to trade, share or pass books and magazines, but we do because many men here donít get these things. Personally, I get a lot of magazines and one of the main reasons I did was to share. I get magazines I donít even like because I heard others say theyíd like to read them. Technically, I could get into trouble for letting them read them.
I finally received a batch of questions from several people. My webmaster and best friend was extremely busy and stuff stacked up a bit, but she is back on track so now Iíll answer the ones I have.
I appreciate your short note. I cannot answer why GR never wrote, but I do know he is very dedicated to his wife and feels that he would disrespect her should he write to another female. I have this from his own mouth. Please, if you havenít heard from him maybe you could choose one of the guys I mentioned seeking pen pals. None of them have had any responses. Thank you for your prayers. Write whenever you like and ask away (smile).
I am sorry but I donít know about your question. They do not put people on Death Row because there is no room in Population. Death Row is a world of its own, except for one section where Population Transfer inmates are held. If your friend is in transit, write to him at the last address you have for him. It will eventually get to him. One thing TDC cannot do is stop mail. We can write and receive as much mail as we want. Yes, there are many Christians on Polunsky Unit. Iím sure, though, they have no fellowship because there are NO religious services. You can visit your friend if youíre on his list and can bring your children even if they arenít his. You need to first find out where he is, and if he is General Population, their visits are Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. I hope you find him and if I can help in any way, let me know.
Good idea about the I60s, but trust the administration from Gary Johnson on down, know all of the issues and there is loads of paperwork already. The ONLY way we will get anything done is through a unity, which cannot be had because too many egos are at work and too many people fear retaliation. Until we can ALL come together on a united front, we shall suffer.
What can you do to help? Sign every petition you can. Write and email your state senators, governor, representatives, and let them know you are upset at the state of affairs and inhumane conditions in our prisons. It doesnít matter what your sexual preferences are, what matters is that you are a caring human being. If you want to help individually, pick someone and send lots of letters of support and encouragement. This is a dismal place and EVERY letter brings warmth and light. If you want to drop me a line, Iíd be glad to write back. The important thing is, do something, anything. Please donít just sit back and say it disturbs you. Take action, Eric, and stand on your principles as a human being.
Yes, you can help. Contact Karen Sebung at the Lamp of Hope website (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ask her about inmates with medical problems. Iím sure she has a list of them.
NO, no computer rooms. We have people on the outside who research things for us, forward and send emails, etc. Luxuries. NO, thatís definitely not the right word. What little we are allowed is decided by our behavior. Level I being the best, Level III the worst. I have outlined the level system in previous "Uncensoreds."
The intake procedure for D/R prisoners is pretty basic. "Here, read this," put them in a cell and say "Make it." Thatís about it, we go through medical, but all they do is ask medical history, take vitals and thatís about it. Prison rape is probably common in General Population, though I donít know this for a fact. Itís nonexistent on D/R because of our Isolation. When we were on Ellis Unit, I had only heard of it occurring one time and even that incident was questionable. Rapists and child molesters are treated a bit differently. Not so much with rapists, but a child molester is in danger at any given time in Population. WE ALL as human beings are protective of our young and predators beware. Itís always been that way and I think, always will be. Christmas behind bars sucks. The loneliness and deprivation of family contact can be overwhelming. This is about the worst time of year for any prisoner. We do get a special meal. I didnít even eat mine last year. NO VISITATION ON HOLIDAYS.
I met Paula through this column. (smile)
Combating the isolation is my biggest problem. It drains me at times and Iíll lay on my bed in the dark, playing back old memories over and over. I always tend to turn inward if it becomes too much and then I let it out all at once. Illinois Governor Ryanís commutation of all those prisoners will have absolutely no affect whatsoever on Texas. Governor Rick Perry is as bad as Bush. My dreams (literal) are filled with brighter days. Though, if I lay in bed late at night, I have heard nightmares overtake people. Iíve heard weeping and outright sobbing. This place is a nightmare in itself. What books or essays I might recommend about D/R? Wow, there are so many. One that stands out is called PRISON MADNESS by Dr. Terry Kupers. It isnít so much D/R but overall it conveys how places like 12bldg on Polunsky Unit steals mensí sanities. Ask Sabine or Karen about book recommendations.
Carrie, Juanís Lady! (smile)
Yes, in Population, there is segregation. D/R is segregation. The heat is on. A person can request pen pals at anytime if he is willing. Many people have to adjust to the situation before they are even comfortable to even ask. Anyone can send or receive mail. What is the best thing you can do for your friend or your loved one? Write as much as you possibly can, send money (via the inmate trust fund), books, magazines (via an approved supplier) when you can, and visit at every available opportunity. Photos are also great. Visits and letters are so, so important. I cannot stress that enough. Honestly, you should worry about your friend or family member on D/R. This place is a living hell, where loneliness and despair can overwhelm even the strongest man. The joy I feel at Mail Call beats everything else. To see a letter from a friend, a loved one, my mom, makes me so happy. But when they call my name and tell me I have a visit, you canít even know that heartfelt joy. So, thatís what you can do, Carrie.
We can, in fact, converse with the 14 people on our section through yelling and writing. We can also yell to the other sections. They can hear us, but with all the steel and concrete, the acoustics are tremendous. I know when others want penpals, by asking them, or they ask me. No, I did not understand nor realize anything about the death penalty. I honestly donít believe very many people on D/R did realize or understand what they faced. The D/P is like anything else, if it doesnít directly affect us, we donít know or worry about it. I gave you my personal thoughts in the letter I wrote.
My next Uncensored will feature an interview with different prisoners and hopefully some family members and friends. Anyone interested, please write. Send me an email address or street address I can send questions to. Please, please, please keep the questions coming. This is your column as well as mine. Ask anything and everything.
I donít even want to talk about this. I honestly think they will try to break the record this year. In the year 2000, on December 7th, Claude Jones was Texasís 40th prisoner executed, setting a record for that year. Claude Jones, known as BJ to most of us, was one of my best friends and he joked about setting that record. It was a hell of a thing to joke about, but that was BJ until the end. If Texas takes that away from him, it will piss me off.
This year will be a bad one. Already, Samuel Gallamore, John Baltazar, Robert Lookingbill, Alva Curry, Richard Dinkins, Granville Riddle, John Elliott and Henry Dunn have perished at the hands of this bloodthirsty state.
I was in the Visiting Room as they came to take Henry Dunn out on February 6th. I watched as his family was led away in tears, knowing they would probably never see him alive again. This Iíve witnessed over and over throughout the years. Though my heart has hardened to it, it gets no easier to deal with. "HD," as we knew him, was a quiet spoken man who loved sports and liked to laugh. He spoke highly of his girlfriend, of whom I saw several times while at visits. I was on the work program with Alva Curry, John Elliott, and Robert Lookingbill for a few years. I knew Granville Riddle pretty well. He was a bit eccentric, but arenít we all in one way or another? The others I didnít know well but weíll miss them all. Our hearts and prayers go out to their families and friends.
No personal news this time.
No requests this time, though the guys I mentioned before still havenít heard anything.
Thatís it for this time. Everyone stand tall.
Paul Colella http://www.deathrow.at/paul