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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

If I Only Had a Brain…

June 30th 2009

The prospect of writing a real entry tonight feels something on par with Hercules’ twelve labors. My recuperation is going quite well, thank you, but I am still very tired and note feeling terribly creative since I started refusing my pain meds. My reasons for doing so are a little complicated, but the logic can basically be summed up by saying that I would rather face a painful truth, than live with a blissful illusion. In all things. Remember I said that for later. All in all, my body feels pretty good. The eternal pessimist in me is slowly accepting defeat (at least on the medical issue), though he still keeps up a nearly incessant stream of ridiculous tarradiddle, just to make his presence known.

At any rate, though I feel incapable of delving into any specific subject with even a modicum of acumen, I will leave you with a few items you might find of interest. The FIRST is the psych report I promised to post. I originally offered to do this in a fit of self-effacing fervor, thinking that this was positively an action which no self-respecting narcissist would engage in. After I started thinking about it, I realized that there were other people mentioned in the report, both in name and title, and I have no right to put them out there in this fashion. I hope you understand then why I have blacked out names and descriptors which might be used to identify someone. I have always taken care to include only people who have given me permission to mention them, with the exception being public figures. (You might devote a few seconds of thought to that statement, as it will produce some rather interesting conclusions.) I had also originally planned to explain portions of the report, and had compiled a small mountain of data from the DSM-IV and other sources. In the end, I decided to let it stand, as is. I’m tired of defending myself, and it would take away from my attempt at complete openness and vulnerability if I were to hover about making comments. It is what it is, and I never professed to be anything other than broken.

In addition, I am supplying the RESULTS of a handwriting analysis completed by one of the FBI’s most experienced experts in the field. This professional was supplied with two samples of my handwriting, and came up with an absolutely staggering amount of data, most of it pretty accurate. I always believed Heraclitus when he wrote, “The nature of things is in the habit of concealing itself,” but I am afraid H never met anyone from the FBI’s Behavioral Science teams. If you think it odd that I have access to such an expert, I will only say I have some kickass friends.

For those of you with a more intellectual bent, the next three links are for you. FIRST I have provided the results of a recent study of criminologists and their views on the issue of deterrence as it relates to the death penalty. Highly instructive.

In the same vein HERE is a report by the US Department of Justice on conditions in the Harris County (Houston) jails. Gee, it’s funny how it says the exact same thing that inmates have been saying for years …(and been called liars for!).

For the more globally minded, HERE is what the United Nations says about the state of capital punishment in America, as of May 28th, 2009.

Now, most of that is kind of heavy, so I thought I would leave you with something humorous. Behold! The lunatic fringe SPEAKETH! Posted is this lady’s third of fourth letter to me, and each of these wonderful samples possessed all the wit and charm of a fallout shelter, and prove the point that while beauty may only be skin deep, ugly goes all the way to the bone. At least this particular missive doesn’t wax pathetic for six pages, like the last few. It’s kind of cute: on the inside of the envelope flap she has drawn some red pen marks dripping down, which I can only assume is supposed to represent blood. Very… um… normal… and… uh, well-adjusted… and totally not freaking psycho in any way whatsoever. You are a credit to the militant right, madam! Well done! Perhaps I will be dead in a few years, as you so clearly wish, but your tombstone was carved out years ago. For you, I can think of hundreds of fitting epitaphs to stand in lapidary brilliance for all time, but I think I will keep it simple and with W.H. Auden:
“We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die.”


I will go ahead and save you the effort of having to enter the scary world of internet searches and provide you with mine, penned by G.K. Chesterton:
“Then when this kindly world all round the mane has been blackened out like a lie; when friends fade into ghosts, and the foundations of the world fail; then when the man, believing in nothing and in no man, is alone in his own nightmare, then the great individualistic motto shall be written over him in avenging irony. The stars will be only dots in the blackness of his brain; his mothers face will be only a sketch from his own insane pencil on the walls of his cell. But over his cell shall be written, with dreadful truth, ‘He believes in himself’”


And since such statements require a little explanation, I will allow this to be undertaken by Dostoyevsky and John of Patmos.
“Whatever you say, a complete atheist still stands on the next-to-the-top rung on the ladder of perfect faith. He may take that last step; and he may not – who knows? But the indifferent, they certainly have no faith, only an ugly fear – and only the most sensitive of them have that.”

(Father Tikhon the monk in Dostoyevsky’s “The Possessed”)

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold not hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are WRETCHED, PITIFUL, POOR BLIND AND NAKED. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eye, so you can see. THOSE WHOM I LOVE I REBUKE AND DISCIPLINE.”

Rev 3:15-19

One last note: lady, if you are pissed that I forced them to live up to the ethical guidelines decreed by statute and upon which any ethical individual would demand, you are REALLY going to hate what I have in store for the State of Texas in the coming year. Haha! On that note, I’m out.

Night!

© Copyright 2009 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Poetry by Alex Negron

Strangest Fruit
By Alex Negron

Life has biddened me
To eat what’s in front of me
This rotten tree drenches me with
It’s bloody leaves
While I spit out its bitter seeds
Rightfully so –
This is the strangest fruit.
It entered the bloodstream fresh
But each spoiled bite tastes like soot
And it seeths my wretched flesh.


When The Concrete Speaks
By Alex Negron

Shhhh, did you hear that?
Listen closely, there it does again.
That sound makes the noise of a
Thirsty beast.
And you can only hear it when
The concrete speaks.
The concrete speaks of these
Cruel and hardcore streets.
This wretched beast has no
Consciousness.
It just devours souls in rage and
Violence.
One day you will be able to unveil
The voice of these evil streets
And you will see that it is the voice
Of the Devil´s Advocacy
Play if you will
Roll the dice, but always remember
On the devil´s table
The dice always land on the
Snake´s eyes.
Many cry and beg for that
Sound to cease,
But that sound will not cease
Until the Hellish Beast is put on his
Thousand year leash.
My advice to you is to never have
A seat
Keep your hands away from that
Furnace heat.
Neither enjoy those foolish treats –
Because it just might be you in the

Next edition of The Concrete Speaks…


Blood, Sweat and Tears
By Alex Negron

Blood, sweat and tears
Constant heckling and nasty jeers.
Wrongfully convicted by a jury of
His peers.
When he gave up the ghost –
A soldier blatantly chose
To pierce his side with a spear.
That´s the same pain I felt when
The judge handed me fifty years -
Blood, sweat and tears…



Erased
By Alex Negron

R17084 –
My face has been erased
And replaced by this
Cursed number.
Millions have been marred
By this prison industry –
Blacks
Browns –
All of America’s least
We were supposed to watch
Out for the mark of the beast
But numbers keep churning
The population keeps growing – 
Getting devoured at the Criminal
Justice feast.
Can someone please pencil
In my former features?
I’ve been dismembered
Reconfigured –
To fit the criteria of an
Evil Creature
I bleed, I sing
I laugh, I cry
My pillow drowns from
The sorrows late at night.
Does anybody feel my faceless pain?
These concrete walls
These barbed-wires
Is the only divider that
Keeps us from being
The same...


Venomous
By Alex Negron

My friend dreamed a snake
I saw America’s mask fall off
Its disfigured face.
His tongue hisses
The body slithers
Venomous hatred courses through
The veins of the Mississippi like
The virus from “Outbreak”.
From State-to-State
His campaign became a fuelsalage
For hate.
“Let’s build a wall!”
“They steal, pillage and rape!”
“Let’s make America great –“
Again?!
Will that wall finally satisfy your
Savage thirst?!
Grab a mirror
The globe sees you at your
Worst.
There’s claims that this land
Is free – 
But it’s a nation so advanced
In gender and racial inequality.
Oppression prevails for the
Sake of democracy.
Natives slaughtered and displaced
Africans turned into perpetual slaves
Latina/os scolded for seeking a better way –
When has America ever been great?!
Perhaps when Jim Crow thrived during
It’s hey-day.
I get threatened
My concerns are disregarded
They incarcerate and obliterate
So that the 1% can maintain
Its place and get a better
Tax break.
They can hate me and
Call me every name.
I still reject their racist national Anthem!
Never will I be consumed
By America’s poisonous venom!!!


Institutional Shakedown
By Alex Negron

“Orange Crush is in the building!”
Is the call I hear before dawn breaks.
“Awake, awake, Tactical is here to take!”
A thousand boots stomping
Hundreds of sticks rattling
While they invade the cell-house to raid.
Like the beaches of Normandy
Officers storm and continue to surge
Oh, I’m sorry – 
You didn’t know?
It’s every prisoner’s reality,
Correctional officers conduct their
Own rendition of “The Purge”.
Torture, mockery, dejection and rejection
Are their ways of degradation
Steel handcuffs becomes my own
Form of the cross.
My cell gets pillaged and my
Belongings get tossed.

I really do hate shakedowns –
They’re the worst!
Officers from the racist South
Use this day to mete out
The punishment they believe 
We deserve.
My photos are dispersed, pissed on
And desecrated.
It’s as if I was not fearfully and 
Wonderfully created in God’s image.
My Bible is torn and ripped,
I guess they hate that Salvation
For the imprisoned exists.
I pray deep from the heart within –
That this nation’s thirst for
Retribution finally ends.
There’s cheers and chants while
They egg each other on.
Tears of anger begins to flow
While I check to see what’s gone.
Underneath the pile of what resembles
To be my stuff,
I find my T.V. buried, broken
And crushed.

How can I explain this
Tragedy to my family?
All while I’m forced to
Navigate my way out
Of this carceral trade.
They have dwindled in a
Steady pace,
I’m just another number
Becoming a burden financially.
I’m trying my best to stay
Mentally afloat,
But it’s hard to breathe while
The oppressor’s boot is pressed
On my throat.
And the media’s ratings boost when
They target me as America’s Scapegoat.

SHAKEDOWN! SHAKEDOWN! SHAKEDOWN!
There’s not one facility where
This does not take place
This is how the elite
Can mask their terrorist face
And dispose of society’s waste...



Alex Negron R17084
Stateville Correctional Center
P.O. Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434

I’m not the kind who wishes for fame or money.  I can only hope that my contribution to the world of literature makes a difference in this world someday.  I’ve been through it all – I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as obesity for a good portion of my life.  My faith in God has kept me alive thus far and has allowed me the strength to address those brutal issues.  I enjoy writing because it’s an intricate part of being a human being on this planet.  It also allowed me to dig deep into the abyss of my lost emotions. I spent many years playing the role of a caged animal until writing freed my incarcerated soul.  My mission in life – whether free of imprisoned – is to help change lives and reshape today’s definition of the word community.  I look forward to networking and meeting people with that same agenda in their lives.

Alex's book, The Forgotten Tales of El Capitan, is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Major Thomas to Ground Control

Wednesday, June 10th 2009

Greetings Earthmen.

This is just a quick message from that lofty region of space that can only be reached by a couple of Tylenol-3’s. I have just returned from two weeks spent at John Sealy Hospital where I (finally) received the fix for the original surgery on my arm. I feel…well, I find it fitting that what doctors do is called a “practice”, because I feel quite “practiced” upon. As far as the damage goes, I am now the proud owner of a brand-spanking new 9-inch scar on my left calf, where they took some bone from my fibula (*Don’t worry, you don’t even need a fibula…” apparently, millions of years of biological evolution got that wrong, at least according to UTMB Docs), and a new scar on my left hip which mirrors the one I already had on my right from the last operation. To the massive river shaped behemoth which snakes its way down from my left shoulder to my elbow, I now have a few tributaries and an alluvial plain, to continue this rather codeine-enhanced metaphor. Nevertheless, a few positives must be noted: firstly, my left arm is still my left arm, and not made of wood, which cannot be over-emphasised as a good thing. Secondly, the power of a pesky prisoner carrying a big lawsuit has triumphed over the UTMB bureaucrats, and I have claimed victory. Huzzah! Too bad, really, because I have no intention of keeping quiet about my methods. Too many hurt people around here for that. More on this to come.

It’s hard to say at this point whether the job was done right this time, as the only signals that are coming from that side of my body generally go something like, “Ok, we surrender, go ahead and cut us off, for the love of God,” but the doctors seem pleased. And since I am feeling as docile as a Burmese Tree Sloth on Xanax, I suppose I must admit I feel pleased, too. Yeah, yeah, I know, codeine isn’t exactly hard-core, but it’s been awhile since I had anything good, so lay off.

At some point they are bound to deliver all of the mail which has been accumulating here at the Villa Polunsky in my absence. I shall endeavor to get back with all of you as soon as I can figure a way to sit up comfortably. Until then, I am out of here.



© Copyright 2009 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker.
All rights reserved.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Poetry by Larry Stromberg

Frozen Time
By Larry Stromberg 

It is said, "That time stands still for no one. I don't believe that anymore. 
For, there's a Sorrow beyond Sorrows where time has no significance. 
A tremendous loss that puts you into freeze mode. 
All you can do is to endure the pain. Lose your mind or die in the anguish. 
Yes, the Earth keeps rotating on it's axis. 
The clock ticks away. 
Days fly into the past wind. 
People appear and disappear. 
All written into our minds. 
You are in Frozen Time, where nothing seems to matter but the grief.


Triggers
By Larry Stromberg

Memories of long ago can set me off
Flashbacks come banging like grenades
I'm taken back to years gone past
Always trying to change the unchangeable
Reality shows it's ugly face
Can't let the triggers destroy me
For I've already drowned a million times in my sorrow
Trying to survive till my last tomorrow


Baby Sister
By Larry Stromberg

You left today, my beautiful baby Sister
Dad came and took you to the promised land
Memories of you flooded my mind- How you loved chocolate ice cream
You left me, Mom and Amber behind
How can I go on without you?
I'm stuck in this confined concrete cell
In the land of a thousand condemned strange faces
Your words of inspiration moves my spirit
Thank you for the red colored rose
You would want me to carry on till the very end
Your love shines bright in my heart
I'm proud of all you overcame
Your my hero
I thank God for you, my sweet Michelle
I love you forever and ever
I'll see you in heaven one day soon
I long for that wonderful day
My baby sister, my beautiful Michelle



I am Michelle
By Larry Stromberg

I was born on August 18th, 1967
My mother is a Greek goddess who sings like an angel
My father adores me and makes the best pizza in the world
My older brother is a pain in the ass who always protects me
My baby brother (Shawn) and my baby sister (Diane) went to heaven as infants
I love all my dogs and cats
Horses are my passion
Christmas is magical at my house
Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the red nosed reindeer I always watched with my brother
I can swim all day long
Dance the night away
Roller coasters are fun
The ocean is amazing
I enjoyed walking the boardwalk with my family
Me and my brother always watched "Happy Days" every Tuesday nigh
"Scooby-Doo" on Saturday mornings
"Hidalgo" is my favorite movie
I acted in films and plays with my brother
Addiction was my greatest fight
Me and my brother didn't want to be abused by the dark souls
I was married a few times
Made my mistakes
Jesus is my Lord and saviour
My daughter "Amber" is my greatest joy
The day my daddy left this earth broke my heart
I left this world on October 10th, 2019
I love you Mom, Amber, Larry and Michael
I'm in heaven with Dad, Shawn, Diane, Grandmom's and Grandpop's, 
dear family members, friends, all my animals and with Jesus!, 
It's magnificent here, I can't express it with words
I'll be waiting for you all, when you get here
We all will be together again
I miss you and love you always
I am Michelle

Chaotic Recovery
A Play by Larry Stromberg

(A mid-aged women enters the stage by stage right and stops at center stage. She then speaks to the audience.) 
Women: My father was a drunk who beat me and raped me. 

(beat) 

My mother a heroin addict who hide from life by being high. They both would abuse me beyond compression. My mother overdused with a needle in her veins. Father murdered himself with a bullet to the brain. I didn't shed a tear. I was sent in foster care. I was beaten and molested even worse that words can't describe. That's when I ran away for my life into the streets. Became a alcoholic and drug addict at 12 years old. Living in cars, sleeping around for a fix, stealing and robbing to survive. I was caught at times and sent to detention centers and juvenile facilities. Fighting for my life in those places. Never changing. 

(beat) 

When I got back on the streets, I'd repeat the cycle. (beat) Then that night came when I stole a vehicle while intoxicated and hit and ran over a man crossing the street. I didn't see him. He died instantly. His name was Frank Shaw. When the police caught me, I was thrown in the county prison till my court dates. After my conviction for vehicular homicide and other charges, Frank Shaw's family stood in front of me and spoke to me face to face. His wife, children, parents, siblings, grandparents and friends. They said to me with tears flowing frowm their eyes, "You took someone irreplaceable away from us. Someone we adored. A beautiful human being full of love and purpose. He's never coming back. You did that. We may never forgive you, Karen. 

(beat) 

But Frank would want us to forgive you. 

(beat) 

He would want something for you to do. To do something good with your life. You owe it to Frank, to us, to yourself and to God. Do something good with your life. Help others." 

(The women just stands there motionless and full of remorse) 

Women: Those words have stayed with me ever since. I think about them everyday for the rest of my life. Coming to prison with a lengthy sentence, I have some much time to reflect. I had to change. Do something with my life. That's why I attended Drug and Alcohol programs, other programs, therapy and spiritual groups. I've gotten to know about the love of God. I owe it to Mr.Shaw, his family, myself and to God. I can honestly say that I've been drug and alcohol free now for years. I'm going to keep it that way. 

(beat) 

I'm helping others in this institution. I'm a Peer Support Specialist who's helping others through their struggles. I have a sincere purpose here and out in society someday. (beat) I have joy in my heart that I've found my way. I'm just so sorry it came by the cost of another's life. (beat) Doing good for the rest of my days. No more chaotic purpose, just peace deep from within. (The women just drifts away and exits stage right. 

The end

Traumatic Existence
By Larry Stromberg

Echoing night terrors
Living on a tight rope
Twisted memories
Triggers push me over the edge
I'm in chaotic recovery
Hear my cries
Dual victimization
Someone pray for me. 
Understand the shock- I'm searching for calm waters
Soothing harmony
Hope in this dark world
Carry my soul to the promised land
Instead of my traumatic existence


Angelic
By Larry Stromberg

There are beings protecting this world
Seen and Unseen angels from above
Celestials on glorious missions ordained by Father Divine
They are everywhere guarding you and me
Open your senses to understand why


Demonic
By Larry Stromberg

There are beings destroying the world
Seen and Unseen demons from below
Evil spirits on murderous missions ordered by the father of lies
They are everywhere oppressing you and me
Open your senses to understand why


Incarcerated Death
By Larry Stromberg

Anchored in dung
Drowning in excruciating regret
Bed Ridden
Riddled with a malignant tumor to the brain
Gang Green
Decubitus ulcer spread so damn wide
Locked in a systematic box
Controlled by a massive financial key
Will the others get a chance to be free?
Sometimes goodbye is a second chance
This is the existence of the condemned


Demise
By Larry Stromberg

 Death isn't far behind
 A line we all must cross
Do you pay it any thought?
 You'd be lying if you didn't
Its alive in our conscience
I think of my Demise
An appointed occasion- How, where and when?
Leave a good legacy
Accept the fate
The angel of death is coming
There is no escape
Our final ride to the other side
Way beyond


Unseen
By Larry Stromberg

Days fly bye with lighting speed
Nights vanish into darkness
The world spins into another tomorrow
I stand in the middle of nowhere
People come and go with a heartless "Hello"
Alone in my make believe wonderland
Invisible to the naked eye
To be honest, I like it that way
Unseen
Dark before dawn
Angels fall to my side
Let the creativity flow
Use my blood to do so
Praying on my knees makes me feel free
I'm tired at looking at all these medicated zombies
Ghosts from my past haunt me
Maybe, I'm really insane
I'm acquainted with all suffering
My melodramatic theory
No awaking serendipity sightseeing
Silhouette the fire
Let me be finally seen in the flames


Crossing the Bridge
By Larry Stromberg

I have a broken mind
Mental health holds me captive
Limits horizons
Psychological quicksand pulling me under
Suffocating setbacks
I cannot banish myself
Warriors battle on
Crossing the bridge
Determined to overcome this struggle
For sometimes my pen flows swiftly
Slices through the darkness
It is the challenge I endure

I Wait
By Larry Stromberg

 Where are you?
Where did you go?
When are you coming back, my friend?
Is this the end?
 So, I wait.
Anticipating your presence.
For decades.
Years. I seek you for weeks.
I wait in the days.
Living in a haze.
Lost in a maze.
During the Chance of seasons.
Summer heat.
Falls of leaves.
The Winter chill and the Spring.
These bars I'm behind are a menace.
Condemned by a life long sentence.
I long for your presence.
Hope come back.
I don't want this to be the end. So, I just wait.


The Happy Addict
By Larry Stromberg

{From stage left appears an intoxicated man. He staggers over to stage left and speaks to the audience.} 

Man: I'm a happy man! 

(Laughs) 

Ha.ha.ha. I smoke crack every freaking day. Shoot heroin in my veins. Pop pills like candy. Smoke marijuana all night long. I love being stoned, man. I'm always drunk out of my mind as well. 

(Laughs) 

Ha.ha.ha. Jack Daniels and black berry brandy does me justified fine. I love my beer too! I'm a sex freak! I get off watching porn on the internet! I have intercourse with prostitutes every night. I'm the gambling king! I always bet the house! I thrive on the thrill! My wife left me and took the kids. I lost my house, job and my freaking dogs! My family doesn't want nothing to do with me. I don't need them anyway. They don't understand me and my pain! They never loved me. I live on the streets.

(Beat) 

That's why I had to kill someone to feed my addictions. I'm in prison serving a life sentence. I steal in prison to survive. I do things I hate to get high. My liver is shot to hell. I have cancer, full blown AIDS, Hep-C and I'm diabetic. I eat sugar and salt constantly. 

(Beat) 

I've never done anything great in my life. My legacy is shit. I have nobody. I am nothing. I needed help and didn't accept anybody's assistance. I've never taken responsibility for my actions. Don't end up like me. I'm dying. My remorse and regret is endless. 

(He cries) 

I'm not a happy man. 

(Beat) 

I'm already dead. 

{The man turns away and exits stage left staggering.} 

The end

My Dream For You
By Larry Stromberg

To my younger self
What a miracle it would be
If you could hear me
Don't listen to the sound of madness
It's the pathway of regret
The abuse is not your fault
Don't let the trauma define you
Focus on the voice of peace
I know you can hear it's tone of reason
A lifetime of harmony's way
This is what I always wanted for you
You deserve it, my friend
We all do


Penitentiary Theater 
By Larry Stromberg

Plays are my Psalms sung unto, God, someone once told me
Stories staged to bless the condemned
A portrait of deliverance or chaos, freeing the hopeless for just a few hours
We are all actors behind the razor wire
Moment by moment, one scene at a time
I feel alive portraying these roles
The struggles of the confined
This is where my redemption dwells
A revealed purpose to this mass population
Dedicated legacy defined


Castaway Kitten
By Larry Stromberg

Tossed away by abusive hands
There you were shivering on that freezing December night
Standing small on the cold cement by the K-Mart front doors
Helpless, starving with no where to call home
Our eyes met, there we would become friends in an instant
No more would you be a kitten castaway
I picked you up into my arms and brought you to your new home with me for a lifetime
A safe environment for a kitten like you to roam
Mr.T would be the name given to a striped Kittie such as you
Oh, how I adored you all the days and years we would spend together
I'm so glad I found you on that cold winter night
The day you died broke my heart in two
I believe animals are in heaven- It has to be true
I didn't save you all those years ago, you saved me
My true friend forever


Broken Star
By Larry Stromberg

Dreamed of fame and fortune in my younger days- 
Chased the wind of worthlessness like a tyrant
Casting aside those that I adored like a fool
Losing everything and everyone I loved along the way of vanity
It's a hard lesson to endure
The price of living like a whore
How painful it is for the fallen?
All I can do now is to use the gift to inspire
The joy of compassion, the heartbreak of suffering, the wisdom of it all
That's all that's left
That's all I have
A wounded a soul on a mission
I am the Broken Star



Life Behind The Razor
By Larry Stromberg

{Franco slowly stands up to address the men in the Lifers group in the classroom. Franco looks at all the men in the classroom eye to eye as he speaks.} Franco: I'm a lifer just like the rest of you guys. I'm doing the wheel: and round and round we go! Every morning stand count, every afternoon, mid- afternoon and every evening. The cycle repeats itself. Round and round we go. The wheel a lifer rides. (pause) I got nobody out there. My wife and kids are gone. Parents deceased. My brothers and sisters all walked away from me. My so called friends disappeared. Some are six feet under dead. Everybody is gone. (beat) Still, I cry in my cell alone. I ain't letting nobody see a weakness in me. The wolves, the vultures are always watching. {Franco claps his hands very loud} Ready to strike! (pause) I've done the best I can over the years to better myself as a human being with education, therapy, programs and with my faith in the Lord to understand the full impact of my crime against my victims, victim's family members, society, my family, my children and against myself. (beat) I remember in the courtroom: my victim's family members telling me face to face; eye to eye; that we will never forgive you. no-matter what you say, no-matter what you do, we will never forgive you. (beat) Never. (beat) Those words have echoed in my heart, my mind and soul for decades now. With this sentence of Death by incarceration: maybe, I can help one person from making the same mistakes I made. Just one. {Franco tries to hold back his emotions. He wipes a few tears from his eyes.}

{Franco speaks on.} I come from a very abusive childhood. Raped as a boy over 100 times by three individuals. They said; if I said anything a cross would burn on my chest flaming burning red. That would be my punishment for telling. I was terrified. Frozen in fear. (beat) My sister, who also was a victim of this abuse finally told my parents about this abuse. My parents chose not to do anything. They never contacted the police or nothing. They said to us that it never happened. It was a bad dream. A nightmare. Me and my sister never got any help at all. We were told to forget about it. Put it out of our minds. But, it did happen! We couldn't forget about it. It was always there living inside our broken hearts. How could we ever trust anybody? Mental illness developed. Addictions consumed us. Trauma causes that. No wonder my sister ended-up a recovering drug addict and I have a double life sentence. We didn't see the world with the proper eyes of a child. We saw the world in a tilted point of view, black/white, not in color. That's how we saw the world. I swore nobody would ever hurt me again. (beat) Then I met a girl and in six weeks we were married. I adored her. We had children and were in love.(beat) And because I wasn't paying enough attention to her, she starting having multiple affairs. I was so obsessed to make our marriage work. We went into therapy. We made it work again. I got her pregnant again. But, she aborted the baby because she was screwing my best friend. I realized I married someone like me. Damaged and broken. I left her. She begged me to come back. She left me, I begged her to come back. She was with this guy and that guy! I couldn't take it anymore. {Franco raises his hands and looks at them with intense tearful eyes.} That's when I ended up with a double homicide. I should have walked away. {Franco lowers his hands in regret.}

{Franco wipes more tears from his eyes} I can't take it back. I can't bring them back. My kids went into Foster care. They lost their mother and father that day of madness. My remorse is deep. Deep as the deep blues seas. I don't deserve a second chance. There is no forgiveness for me. Maybe, God has forgive me. But, I can't forgive myself. (beat) The one thing I dream about most is when I was a kid with my Mom and Dad, my brother and two sisters at the beach. Then with my wife and kids, my dogs catching a Frisbee running along the beach. A place I can never get back to. A memory caught in my mind. A place I can only dream about. A place I can never get back to. (beat) There is no second chance for me. This is it. The last rodeo. Last stand. (beat) Life behind the razor wire. (pause) I don't deserve a second chance. I can't forgive myself. (beat) I am the unforgiven. {Franco sits back down in his seat. The classroom is silent. Franco just looks on in his deep pain.}


Prison Man 
By Larry Stromberg

Created by a secret society
Chosen for a violent act
Captured from his dwelling
Stripped and tortured,
misappropriated on a cold steel slab
The mirco chip planted to regulate the mission
A mind prisoned by their total control
Experiment completed
Prison Man
Now a futuristic assassin
Recruited by this powerful organization
Now robotic
Their vision of domination
A greater goal will be achieved
More prison men
Women
Children
The New World Order's mission
Prison World


Sojourner
By Larry Stromberg

Some call me friend.
Others call me their enemy.
I've loved.
Been loved.
Betrayed.
Hated by society.
Filled with remorse.
Creative.
Hidden from the world.
Abuse took my innocence away.
Encouragement has illuminated me to greater heights.
I've saved lives.
Taken others from this existence.
Dreamer.
Engulfed in hopelessness.
Great achievements.
Dreadful actions.
Risen above.
Fallen hard.
Perfect sane mind.
Mentally crazy I'll.
I've worn every mask there is.
In the end, I'm a sojourner.
All of us are.
Here for a short time.
 Then gone forever.
To a promised beyond land.


I am the blind King
By Larry Stromberg

Born without sight.
Natural to me.
I know no light.
Whispering voices and the braille teach me my path.
Blind victory is sweet to my senses.
I've arrived to rule the world.
You will see me.
Bow at my feet.

Fear my blind fury.


Blind's Eye
By Larry Stromberg

Have you ever chose to deny a truth, while looking at it right in the eye?
Believing an illusion.
Agreeing with delusion.
Living with a lie.
Overwhelmed by fear?
 That's a Blind's eye.
Like stealing from a friend.
 Not stopping the molestation.
 Laughing with an abusive husband.
Hiding the addiction.
Agreeing with a corrupt system.
Mocking the homeless.
Heartless to the fatherless.
Killing God's creation.
Let the starving enter their graves.
Loving a wife who's adulterous ways wants to drive you completely insane.
It's all atrocious.
Maybe, in the end it's all a spiritual issue to overcome.
That may open our eyes wide to face the truth, for what it really is.
It did for me.


Touched 
By Larry Stromberg

Born into a world of chaos
Experiencing death and abuse at every turn- No fault of mine own
I became touched- This darkness followed me all of my life
Doing some things I forever regret
Living with destruction and decay
I long to see a grandeur day
Though, I struggle to continue on
I realize there may be something greater beyond the oblivion
Let the curse become the gift
May the gift help others overcome the curse
This is why I am touched


The One From End
By Larry Stromberg

 Once I had a friend from the planet known as End.
A traveler from a galaxy millions of light years away. A strange foreign creature at first glance. Earthlings only saw a deranged looking foe.
Fear overwhelmed the human race with hate and indifference glancing at the one from End.
My alien companion was sent from the ruler of End to teach true love for all on Earth to know.
My friend preached on the importance of acceptance and against all racism,
standing there bold and proud being a citizen from the place of End.
The bitter mob mocked at the my friend and screamed out, "Death to the freak from End!"
They attacked, tortured and murdered the great from End.
Ripping the sent one from limb to limb.
A gruesome sight to see. I mourned without end.
Then: from the lifeless corpse came bright powerful lights of glory.
The mob screamed in terror.
The awesome one from End rose from the dead!
A enlightened purple light of royalty illuminated the whole Earth with a loving glow.
All fell to their knees with shame.
If one disobeyed the Great One's command to love: His wrath they would know.
Then: in a flash he zoomed away, back to the home of End.
Our planet changed for the better for some time, the hate on Earth returned once again.
 I await my Great friend's return.
To finally bring all hate to it's final end.


Frozen
By Larry Stromberg

My mind is not the same with continual rambling, rumbling and running of empty thoughts.
No rational reason impending, it feels like I'm going totally insane.
Living a life with lost directions, this world has changed.
I've changed.
What the hell is happening to me?
Thoughts frosted with no meaning.
Faces with no names.
Bent and distorted laughter filled with madness roaring in my head.
Sorry if I don't remember you.
I don't even know my own identity.
Stay the hell away from me!
Please don't hurt me!
Fear has touched my ravished soul.
Where's my Mother?
 If only I could remember her face, her loving touch, hear her voice on the phone.
Will that help me make it back home?
Somebody please help me!
The ages of endless voids has brutalized my mental being.
Slowly fading away.
A traumatized dream or an exquisite nightmare?
This is the reality of one living with Alzheimer's disease.
I'm even forgetting that I'm dying.
Maybe, that's a good thing.


Holy Time
By Larry Stromberg

 I met God in the deepness of the night.
No, I didn't die and come back to life.
What a conversation we had.
I've been totally sworn not to disclose the dialogue between me and the Lord.
I can say that the King loves driving a Ford.
Making Holy judgement swinging a mighty sword.
Another thing the Great I Am explained to me is to trust in thee.
Then we both had a cup of Holy Water tea.
Man, I had to pee!
 The Infinite One took of laughing, saying to me,
"Fall in love with Mercy, for Mercy first loved you."
What a Holy time. I fell asleep.


Silenced
By Larry Stromberg

Nobody told me.
A dark secret.
My love didn't tell me.
Broke my heart.
Revealed after you were terminated through a tube and thrown away like a piece of human waste. They murdered you!
 If known, my stand for your life would have been taken.
You were never given a chance. Neither was I.
So many damn lies.
Our voices silenced.
What a joy it would have been to be your loving father.
Cherishing and adoring you.
Raising you, teaching and protecting you from every storm life brings.
Cheering you on through kindergarten, high school blaze
and those crazy college days with arms wide open.
Envisioning walking you down the church aisle hand in hand on your wedding day.
Beautiful birth of your children, the Grandfather I could have been.
Proud of the person you are. Taken away. I'm sorry for it all.
Why am I in so much torment about this all these decades ago?
I believe you would want me to go on. Honor you with my life.
Are you watching me from another dimension? Is your soul mature?
Will we hold each other in that different world someday?
Embracing soul to soul. I dream about that moment.
Dream deep. At least I still have that. A dream.


Reflections
By Larry Stromburg

Reflections on the cold steel, my image is revealed.
Complexity, diversity, adversity, hoping for mercy.
They say, " The eyes are the window to the soul."
I finally see myself for who I am.
Not what others may think of me.
Nor, what may think of myself.
For what I am.
Someone who is forever remorseful for what he's done.
Someone who can't the past. Even though I try to do so in my mind over and over again.
Someone who wants to help others from making the same horrible mistakes.
Someone who now wants to leave a good legacy when his time is over here on earth.
I'm sincerely okay with that.
The reflection is known.



Don't Tell
By Larry Stromburg

Don't Tell- Don't whisper a word. Let it never be heard, as the rain was pouring down heavy. The thunder booming. Lighting flashing. The wind blowing strong with fury.
Don't Tell- They said,
if you tell a cross will burn on your chest and you'll end up in the depths of hell.
Don't Tell- I was full of fear, don't you hear? They did things to me over and over again.
Don't Tell- I feared it would happen again. The night terrors haunted me with relentless force.
Like a never ending flaming torch.
Don't tell.
Don't whisper a word.
Let it never be heard.
"My truth broke the silence"
I had to Tell- Right is right. Harm is harm. The creator wants me to be free, so I could live on.
I had to Tell- I don't have to live again in this hell. I'm not living in fear, do you hear?
I had to Tell- I found the peace and freedom in my soul.There is a way to be truly whole. The truth.
I had to Tell- Cloked in the light, to make the rest of my life truly shine bright..
I had to tell.
I had to tell.

I had to tell.


Can't Breathe
By Larry Stromburg

CAN'T BREATHE
IT'S A HELL OF A THING WHEN YOU CAN'T BREATHE ANYMORE.
THIS IS HOW GRANDFATHER MUST HAVE FELT ON THE DAY HE WENT UNDER
THE DELAWARE RIVER.
I NEVER MET THE MAN. HE DIED BEFORE I WAS BORN. MOTHER TOLD ME
HIS STORY. IT FEELS LIKE I'VE KNOWN THIS MAN ALL OF MY LIFE.
HIS VESSEL CAPSIZED AND DEADLY CURRENTS DRAGGED HIM DOWN. WHEN
THEY PULLED HIS BLOATED CORSPE WITH ONLY HIS BOXERS ON THREE DAYS
LATER, IT WAS EVIDENT, GRANDPOP FOUGHT FOR EVERY BREATHE.
TRAINING METHODS FROM THE U.S. NAVY, USING CLOTHING AS LIFE
SAVING FLOTATION DEVICES.
TO NO AVAIL, THE CURRENTS WE'RE TO POWERFUL.
HE DIDN'T BREATHE ANYMORE.
MAYBE, BEING INCARCERATED WITH A LIFE SENTENCE IS ALMOST THE
SAME THING.
TRYING TO SURVIVE. HOPING TO STAY ALIVE.
DREAMING OF A SECOND CHANCE.
FIGHTING FOR EVERY BREATHE.
ANXIETY
PANIC
CONFUSION
DROWNING, BUT STILL CONSCIOUS.
RIDING THE CURRENTS, TILL YOU CAN'T breathe anymore...


My Siblings’ Death
By Larry Stromberg

I remember their smiles from the crib.
Shawn and Diane.
They smiled at me.
Laughed at me.
Looked at me with wonder.
The big brother I was.
But, still a child myself.

I comforted them during tears.
Reliving their fears.
A joy to me.

Then they were gone.
Vanished.
Never seen again.
How could it be comprehended?
Where did they go?
Where was my brother and sister?

Confusion to a child like myself.
Flying blind with nowhere to hide.
Seeking. Searching. This wasn’t hide and seek.
To no avail. Only questions.

Who can measure the depths of sadness?
The grief of sudden loss.
Death and sickness took them away.
Two bright shinny balloons in the wind.
Disappearing into the sun.
Never to return.

An empty crib.
The laughter was gone.
Silence remained.
I miss their smiles.
Baby faces and big brown eyes.

Why did they have to go away?
It doesn’t seem fair.
There was no answers for me.
Just tears with all of my fears.

Time has passed.
I’ve grown into a man.
Wondering who Shawn and Diane would have been.
An empty hole in my soul.
I miss them.  I’ll never forget them. I love them.

Now, they live in my dreams.
That’s where I see them.
Smiling. Laughing.
The wonder of it all.

They live in my heart.
In memory. In photos.

They live inside.


Collision 
By Larry Stromberg 

We met in an instant. There was no warning. I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t looking for it. It just happened. We fell in love and were married in a flash. We were husband and wife. The start of a wonderful life.

Then, over time: our abusive and addictive behaviors surfaced, and we were headed for a collision. 

Your betrayal became evident. Adultery thrived with lustful madness. Lies whispered in the wine. The twisted anxiety, rage and obsession took over my mind. Abuse emerged like a tidal wave. We were in a hurricane. Tragedy became a reality by my guilty hands of insanity. 

Reality now: Life without the chance of parole.

Regret, remorse and sorrow linger with every thought I think. With every move I make. The grief and loss overwhelm my broken heart. I’m frozen with shame.

We did collide. Now, there’s nowhere to hide. I’d rather die. We did collide.

Now, I sit here all alone day after day; as the tears flow from my eyes. I wish I could enter a time machine and change the past. Ride the illumination and make things right. I try to hold onto the sweet memories of our love. Our first kiss. When we made love. It was magic to me. These beautiful memories help me to go on. To be a sojourner in this life.

I long to see you again in the great beyond; to tell you face to face – soul to soul – that I’m truly sorry and I wish I would have done things so differently. To tell you that you are and always will be the love of my life.

Or, am I just believing a lie? Something to soothe the pain still in my broken heart. Maybe the collision is still raging on inside of me.

Maybe I need to let you finally go? Let it all go and live with the ruins from the collision.



I’m Free Within
By Larry Stromberg 

When I stage plays and get lost in music, I’m free.
I’m free from my past.
Free from my mistakes.
Free from my regrets.
Free from the guilt.
Free from the shame.
I’m free from the loss and the pain.
I’m free within.
Free to be me.
Free in my creativity.
Free to encourage others.
Free to go on.
Free to live.
Free to forgive.
Free to forgive myself.
Free to cry.
Free to smile again.
Free to love myself.
Free to fly and soar.
Free to dream.
If I’m blessed to do what I love, then I’m free.
I’m free within.
Truly free inside.
I’m free.



Endure [A Short Play]
By Larry Stromberg

[An older man enters the stage – from stage left – and slowly walks over to center stage. He stops and looks at the audience with weary eyes. He slowly begins to speak.]

Older Man:
This is a true story. (Pause) It was Christmas, 1973. (Beat) I met Joey when I was seven years old, during a difficult time in my childhood. I was being sexually abused over and over again by three individuals. It was finally over. But the pain was still there. I guess, in some way, it will always be there. The pain. (Pause) Joey was seven years old himself and was diagnosed with leukemia. He only had weeks to live. (Pause) Well, we played for hours like children do; and an angel was going to fly him to heaven very soon. He was gonna be with Jesus. (Pause) When it was time for me to go, he thanked me for being his friend and gave me his best and favorite toy he got for Christmas that year. It was a G.I. Joe action figure. I still have that G.I. Joe action figure at home to this very day. (Pause) Joey’s last words to me were: “To endure, my friend.” (Beat) “Endure.”

[The older man begins to sing softly.]

Older man (singing):
Endure. Endure. Endure. You can make it through.
Endure. Endure. Endure. The sun will shine for you.
Endure. Endure. Endure. Love will bring you through.
Endure. Endure. Endure. Your angel will guide you through.
Endure. Endure. Endure. (Beat) Endure. Endure. Endure.
You can make it through. You can make it through. You-can-make-it-through…

[The older man stops singing.]

Older man:
Joey died a few weeks later. It’s amazing how you can meet an individual just once and that encounter will change you for a lifetime. (Pause) Joey’s last words to “endure” have been a stronghold of strength and faith with each trial and tribulation that I have faced in my life. I’ve endured being incarcerated with deep sincere remorse. Incarcerated for decades now. I’ve endured. I guess we all have endured in some way. We’ve endured. We can endure through it all. (Pause) So, I’ll leave you with Joey’s last words to me on that Christmas of 1973: “Endure, my friends.” (Beat) “Endure.”

[The older man backs away and exits stage left.]

The end.


Smart Communications/PA DOC
Larry Stromberg DG6379
SCI Phoenix
P.O. Box 33028
St. Petersburg, FL 33733
My name is Larry Stromberg, and I am a resident at S.C.I. Phoenix in Pennsylvania.  I’ve written and staged over 60 plays since being incarcerated, and look forward to sharing my work with Minutes Before Six readers.  

Poetry by Edwin Turner



A Slave for Life – The Life of a Slave
By Edwin Turner aka Tāriq Zaynu-l-Ábidiyn

[This is a spoken word poem about the perspective of an African slave, 
historically and in modern times.] 

My historical presence within this country was a gloomy atmosphere of chaotic situations and,
although I never had the intentions of coming here,
Fate has led me into shackles of a foreign people.

Wading through the tracks of Nigerian mud,
chains producing scars of blood, ripping through the humanity of my ankles is all I remember!

O, ha! I remember being led through an assembly line of slaves to a boat called the Mayflower where,
we were shoved inside of a small dark room, exposed to the dreadful smell of urination and feces and,
all I could think about was that it would be contrary to the historical strength of African people for me to allow this circumstance to defeat me!

See, I was the victim of colonizers motivated by greed for material possessions,
forced to work in cotton fields to produce capital for American capitalists, while,
at the same time, questioning the meaning behind my existence as an African.

I was told that my position as a slave would be temporary and the Christianity in our oppressors would force them to emancipate us!
Ironically, the emancipation proclamation was alleged to have freed us but
the Jim Crow era showed us to what extent the US Government had deceived us!

A perpetual status of inferiority, the 13th Amendment could attest to this reality,
the stratification of society with Africans as its lowest class thus,
industrialized slavery was born! 

The case of a man named Freeway Rick illuminates to what extent the local police departments, in cahoots with the CIA, had conspired to introduce drugs into LA thus,
creating a social structure conducive to the hijacking of Africans with the goal of assimilating them back into the slave plantation (prison)!

Edwin Turner AI4237
Pelican Bay State Prison
Unit A2 Cell 211
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95532-7000



My name is Edwin Turner. As I became conscious of my political and spiritual surroundings, I took on the name Tāriq Zaynu-l-Ábidiyn. My birthday is August 21, 1991. I am 26 years old.

I was born in Lynwood, California, and raised throughout the inner-city ghettos of Los Angeles County. I was born to a single parent – my mother. Growing up in the inner-city with a relatively poor parent who had five kids, struggling to acquire the necessities of life became a normal experience.

Gang activity was prevalent within the local schools and surrounding neighborhoods. Association with members of gangs was normal and aspiring to inculcate gang behavior was seen as producing an opportunity for economic progress and power. I joined a gang when I was 15 years old.

In 2011, I was found guilty of attempting to murder two unknown individuals – John Doe’s 1 and 2 – even though no witnesses ever accused me of doing so. Experiencing this clear injustice inspired me to fight my own case through the appellate courts.

As I arrived to the slave plantation (prison), I began to observe the tyranny of the CDCR – aka the Californian Department of Corruption and Repression. At the same time, I was denied my appeal on my criminal case, which was clearly an insult to justice, I started to study politics, unbiased US history, African culture, etc.… Slowly, I became politically aware of the extent to which those who claim to represent us American citizens have conspired to deprive us of our human rights.

I have developed a spiritual ideology rooted in the reality that humanity is one brotherhood/sisterhood and was produced by one Essence. I am anti-oppression, anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism. I believe that all human beings have the right to live in peace and strive to reach spiritual, economic and political stability. I believe that all human beings have a moral obligation to assist all sectors of the human family in areas that they lack in. I firmly believe that women and children are the pillars of society and, therefore, they should be given the means to acquire spiritual, intellectual and moral elevation.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Minutes Before Six Contributors

This page lists information about the artists and writers that currently contribute 
regularly to or have made a lasting impression on Minutes Before Six

Steve Bartholomew


I have been factually absent from the world for nearly 15 years, time spent remaking myself into an artist, writer and musician songwriter.  My greatest sense of accomplishment comes from being a worthwhile dad to my two sons, my overarching goal to be in four years the citizen I never was before this.  They say happiness is what you volunteer, as adage proving itself in my life.  In writing for Minutes Before Six I’ve become part of the ongoing conversation rather than simply its subject.  For that, I thank you.

To watch a video clip of a stunningly beautiful reading of an excerpt from Steve’s essay by Katherine Hervey, a multimedia producer, college instructor and restorative justice facilitator for incarcerated populations, click here

Art and Writing by Steve Bartholomew

Steve Bartholomew 978300
WSRU
P.O. Boxx 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777


Michael Belt

Michael Belt is a simple man, a lover, a fighter and a full time dreamer – with a realistic sense.  He is truthful and loyal to a fault.  To quote Henry Thoreau’s Walden, “In an unjust society, the only place for a just man is in prison." And in his own words, “Never let hope die!”

Writing and Poetry by Michael Belt

Michael Belt KU8088
SCI Houtzdale
P.O. Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000



Christi Buchanan

Christi Buchanan was released from prison in June 2016

Writing and poetry by Christi Buchanan




Burl N. Corbett

Born 6/9/47 in Reading, PA.  Raised on a 123-acre sheep farm only three crow miles from John Updike´s famous sandstone farmhouse of “Pigeon Feathers,” The Centaur, and Of the Farm.  Graduated from Daniel Boone High School in 1965.  Ran away to Greenwich Village to become a beatnik in 1966 with only a Martin guitar and the clothes on my back.  Lived among the counterculture for 3 years, returning disillusioned to PA for good in 1968.  Worked on a mink farm; poured steel in a foundry; chased the sun as a cross-country pipeliner; drove the big rigs, baby!; picked tomatoes with migrant workers; tended bar on the old skid row Bowery; worked as a reporter, columnist, and photographer for two Southeastern Pennsylvania newspapers; drove beer truck (hic!); was a “HEY, CULLIGAN MAN!”; learned how to plaster, stucco, and lay stone; published both fiction and nonfiction in several nationally distributed magazines and literary quarterlies; got married and raised four children; got divorced and fell into the bottle; and came to prison at the age of 60 with no previous criminal offenses other than a 25 year-old DUI. The “crime”? Self-defense in my own house without financial means to hire a decent lawyer.  Since becoming the “guest” of the state in 2007, I have won five PEN Prison Writing Awards (two first and three honorable mentions); the first and only prize of $500 in the 2013 Eaton Literary Agency short fiction contest; written a children/young adult book, Coon Tales, soon to be published by Xlibris; a novel of the 1967 “Summer of Love,” Dreaming of Oxen; a magic realism novel, A Redneck Ragnorak, and many short stories and memoirs.  My first novel, A Haven from Violence, is available at Xlibris.com or Amazon.com.


Burl N. Corbett HZ6518
SCI Albion
10745 Route 18
Albion, PA 16475-0002




Chris Dankovich

I am a tutor/teacher, a writer, an artist, and I have been incarcerated since I was 15. I am proud to say that I’ve helped over 100 young men earn their GED diplomas, and that I’ve been published in the Harvard Educational Review, The Periphery Magazine, The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing Volumes 3, 4, 5, and 6; won second place for essay in the 2014 PEN prison writing contest, and have been accepted to be published in FENCE magazine and placed third in non-fiction in Vidahlia Press’s 2014 prison writing contest.

Art & Poetry and writing by Chris Dankovich

Chris Dankovich 595904
Thumb Correctional Facility
3225 John Conley Drive
Lapeer, MI 48446


Anthony Engles

My name is Anthony Scott Engles, born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1965.  After a brief stint in the Navy, I pretty much roamed around the country, waiting tables and bartending.  I settled in Spokane in 1994, then got pretty heavy into survivalism and related activities.  I got in a shoot out with Stevens County Deputies in 2003 and wounded one of them.  I’m serving a 30-year sentence in Washington State, where I have done the majority of my writing.  I have one short story published and several unpublished short stories and poems.

Read Tony's writing here

Anthony Engles 832039
Coyote Ridge Corrections Center
P.O. Box 769
Connell, WA 99326


Willie Johnson

Willie Johnson has been imprisoned on Death Row in San Quentin State Prison in California for more than 30 years.

Read Willie's writing here

Willie Johnson C35635 
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974


Michael Wayne Hunter

Michael Wayne Hunter spent 18 years on Death Row at San Quentin State Prison before his sentence was commuted to Life Without Parole in 2002. He is the recipient of awards from PEN America Center for fiction and non-fiction, and the William James award for prose.

Read Michael's writing here

Michael Hunter C83600
Sierra Conservation Center
5150 O'Byrnes Ferry Road 3C-149L
Jamestown, CA 95327


Michael Lambrix

Mike spent 34 years on Death Row before being executed by the State of Florida on October 5, 2017. To Live And Die On Death Row by C. Michael Lambrix is available as a free download here.

Read Mike's essays here

Michael Lambrix was executed
by the State of Florida on October 5, 2017





Mwandishi Mitchell

Mwandishi Mitchell is an innocent man serving time at the State Correctional Institution of Graterford. After serving ten years of his wrongful conviction, Mwandishi realized he had a talent in creative writing. Besides pursuing his writing career, he continues to fight in court reverently in pursuit of overturning his wrongful conviction. A published author, Mwandishi has two books, The Prodigal Son and The Prodigal Son 2, which can be downloaded and read for free at www.prisonsfoundations.org

Mwandishi’s writing can be found here and his poetry here.

Mwandishi Mitchell GB6474
SCI Houtzdale
P.O.Box 1000
Houtzdale, PA 16698-1000


Santonio Murff

At the age of 20, Santonio was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. “I am only guilty of investing love and loyalty in the wrong individuals,” he says. During his years of incarceration, he has educated and elevated himself and others. He founded The Righteous Movement to bury the self-destructive mentality of ride or die (kill or be killed), and to resurrect in its stead a new righteous battle cry of SURVIVE AND SUCCEED (live long and prosper)!Santonio is the winner of numerous PEN awards for essays, short stories and screenplays. His work has appears in numerous publications, including Sister-2Sister magazine.

Read San's writing here and poetry here

Santonio Murff #773394
French M. Robertson Unit
12071 FM 3522
Abilene, Texas 79601



Timothy Pauley

Incarcerated since 1980, Tim has actively pursued educational opportunities. His first book, Life in Prison; Digging in and Getting Stated, was published in 2003. Tim writes in a variety of areas including fiction, op-ed, self help, non-fiction prison commentary. Currently he is actively involved in sentencing reform and the fight against the prisonization of America. He is always seeking intelligent dialogue that will expand his consciousness beyond the prison walls.

Read Tim's essays here

Timothy Pauley #273053 
Washington State Reformatory Unit
P.O. Box 777 
Monroe, WA. 98272-0777


Louis Perez

Greetings to you all:

Thank you so much for taking the time to view my work and reading this. My name is Louis Castro Perez…I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I have 4 wonderful children…3 boys, 1 girl – ages 32 to 23. I have 5 grandchildren as well. All beautiful…Just like their Grandpa HA!

I have never really considered myself an “artist”. I was a carpenter for many years and I loved it and was very good at my craft.

I had never tried to put pencil to paper until I was put here on Death Row 15 years ago. I started out only doing Cartoon characters, but through the years, I’ve been blessed to have been around some true artists…MP…AP…Beto Perez…Big 50…Carlos Treviño…Big Foot…and so many more…They were and still are very inspirational to me! A lot of the art I’ve seen is called Jail House Art…and it is awesome, but once I learned how to do portraits…it was all over…it’s pretty much all I do now. We all have a lot of time on our hands back here…22 hours a day in our cells. So a lot of us have come up with ways to better our art. Supplies here are not worth getting excited about, but we’ve learned to make do with what we have. There’s something about the process that makes it really satisfying to me. Like I said, we have a lot of time on our hands, and when you’re not doing anything, al there is to do is think. Well…speaking for myself…During the process of getting things ready to draw or paint something…I always think of all the good things in my life: God and family. Sometimes I’m so lost in thought, it amazes me that I don’t mess up a drawing because I don’t stop the work…I just keep going.

And even while staring at my work…I sometimes don’t even see it…I see my thoughts…I don’t know if that makes any sense?? HA! HA!! I sure hope so.

I know one thing…I could start drawing at 8:00 a.m….look up and it will be dark outside. I love it!!

I’m sure it’s different for many of the men back here with me, but my art and the process of doing my work allows me to reflect about what’s good in my life, instead of thinking about being executed!

GOD IS GOOD!! GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!

Peace,
Big Lou

View Louis's writing and art 

Louis Perez 999328
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351


Arnold Prieto Jr.

Arnold Prieto was executed by the State of Texas on January 21, 2015

Arnold's art is here and his writing is here




Eduardo Ramirez

How does your seven line bio read?

I am a dream deferred
I am hope on hold
I am soon to come
I am in progress
I am an arrow pointing true
I am human
I am you, man

Eddie's poetry is here and is writing is here
Edward Ramirez DN6284
SCI Graterford
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426

Rosendo Rodriguez

Rosendo was executed by the state of Texas in March 2018.

His writing can be found here.




John Ruzas

The writing of John “Jackie” Ruzas has been widely published and he’s won numerous writing awards, most recently, an Honorable Mention in PEN’s 2012-2013 Prison Writing Contest for his essay titled, “Tragedy 2 Trial and Beyond.” He was released from prison in December 2017.

View Jackie's writing and poetry


John Ruzas was released from prison in December 2017


Tommy Lynn Sells

Tommy Lynn Sells was executed by the State of Texas on April 3, 2014

View Tommy's poetry and art here


J. Michael Stanfield Jr.

I've been in prison serving a life sentence since 1993.  I worked for The Only Voice, the prison newspaper of Turney Center Prison from 1995-2015.  During that time I was a reporter, writer and editor. I currently train service dogs to assist the disabled.

J. Michaels writing and poerty links.

J. Michael Stanfield Jr. 209006 (with Jake)
2/B TCIX
1499 R. W. Moore Memorial Highway
Only, TN 37140-4050


Isaac Sweet

Read Isaac's writing here

Isaac Sweet 752399
WSRU D-2-27
P.O. Box 777
Monroe, WA 98272-0777


William Van Poyck

William Van Poyck was executed by the State of Florida on June 12, 2013

View Bill's writing here





Kevin Varga

Kevin was executed by the State of Texas on May 12, 2010

View Kevin's Death Watch Journals here





Christian Weaver

My name is Christian Weaver. I am currently serving a life sentence. I had been writing on and off since my youth; since prison, however, I have taken it very seriously. My first love is poetry, but, I’ve also written aphorisms, essays, opinion pieces and plays. My areas of interest are philosophy, history, anthropology, sociology, religion, literature and politics.

View Christian's poetry and writing.


Christian Weaver 271262
BCCX Site 2
14-11B
1045 Horsehead Road
Pikeville, TN 37367



Thomas Bartlett Whitaker

Thomas Bartlett Whitaker started MB6 in 2007. Since then he has earned a few awards and a BA, graduating summa cum laude in 2012. He is currently working his way through a Master’s program in the Humanities. Whether all of this erudition has made him even marginally less stupid is an open question.

View Thomas's art and poetry here and his writing here 

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Donate to Thomas's education fund