Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Truth about The_Truth

December 16, 2009

“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them. They then dwell in the house next door, and at any moment a flame may dart out and set fire to his own house. Whenever we give up, leave behind, and forget too much, there is always the danger that the things we have neglected will return with added force.”

Carl Jung

What a mood I’ve been in lately. I far overshot simple “jerk” status in my last entry, and proceeded straight into the realms of “Grade-A Asshole.” I regret actually mailing that one out. Even I thought I was being arrogant (which says a hell of a lot, I think). I am sorry. Some things built up. And some things needed to be said, though I certainly didn’t say them in the right way. I think that is a major problem of mine: using the wrong tone of voice to argue a concept which is fairly logically consistent. I’ll be paying special attention to this for the near future, I promise. I suspect that Jung’s “inferno of passions” gets the best of all of us, from time to time. (If you are ever bored, his descriptions of your “shadow” are really some amazing reading.) I do think that there is a bit of a double standard for people in my position to act with a level of nobility that few could actually sustain, but thems the breaks. That is what happened when you end up on DR, and decide to publish some of your private thoughts online.

It is with that focus that I am going to response to your post, "the_truth." (You can read the full post here.) Thanks for writing. You bring up a couple of divergent points here, and I will attempt to address them in order.

First, you are correct in your assessments of the guards. I have a tendency to focus on the lowest…oh, say 25% of the workforce here, and project the image that everyone in gray (and blue…the laws wear blue cotton shirts now, something new since you were down) are bullies. I don’t think that this was intentionally done, but I can see how you might think it was. Every time that I think about writing something positive about one of them, something comes up, or it doesn’t really fit the rest of the piece. I think you will agree with me that if I were to call out a guard by name, and say something positive about him or her, that they would be instantly transferred to another portion of the unit. Given the events of the past year and the consistent problems with contraband making its way behind the walls, any glowing character portrayal of an officer would cause the OIG to investigate. (To see an example of the continued issue of contraband in state prisons, see this story about an inmate who actually managed to get a gun behind bars.) You tend to see this a lot: a guard gets a rep for being “friendly,” and they get moved. Any hint of a relationship between an inmate and a guard is terminated with extreme rapidity.

I suspect that when you were incarcerated, you were in General Population. You may or may not be aware of this, but guards are screened before being allowed to work in Ad-Sec. This is a very, very different world than what you were used to, and some comparisons between your experiences and my own are disingenuous. Death Row in an animal of a very different species than exists anywhere else in the system. One merely has to notice the electrical fence that surrounds 12 Building here at Polunsky. It is unique state-wide. So are the massive stadium lights which ring the building. The officers here actually apply to work Death Row. I suspect that there are many reasons for why someone would choose to work here, some of them good, others less noble. You might benefit from a few seconds of thought on the subject of what type of individual would actively seek to work with condemned men. Also, it might be of some interest to you that Polunsky Unit has ranked among the top 2 units state-wide for employee turnover for the past four years in a row. Some of that is on the shoulders of us men in white, certainly. Most of it, I think, is indicative of the men who form the management structure here on this Unit. This is not generally regarded as a good unit, by any means. I have friends on several other units, such as Ramsey 1 and Darrington. They would rather go to hell than to come here, and this is not a unique perspective within the walls.

I do take exception to your comment that I “challenge” officers at every opportunity. I have zero staff assaults, and I will never have one. Seeing as how you have never met me, I can’t see how you would really know what type of inmate I am, other than from the information I present here. I don’t believe that I have cast myself as an agitator. I will agree to the charge that I stand up vigorously for my rights, and the rights of the men around me, as these are guaranteed to us by both the state constitution of Texas and the federal one.

It should be an interesting (and frightening) point that within the walls, it is actually the inmates who are protecting the spirit of the Constitution. If the system decides to overstep its bounds, I view it as my duty to correct this encroachment. I suspect that when you were locked up, you knew people like me, and appreciated the things we did to make your life better. I think that your more…ah, “free” perspective has caused you to forget how bad things can get back here. Amusing that you called me an “offender,” though. That word tends to be used primarily by the officers. In fact, the sentence, “A good correctional officer has to be bright enough to see that challenge for what it is and keep control of the situation” sounds as if it could have been ripped verbatim from the Sargents Prep Course. It’s cool, though. It is amazing how a few years can change your perspective, huh? I know mine has.

You seem to have an issue about the food, as you have brought this up twice now in posts. Again, I think some points should be made here, to show that our experiences were different. First off, it is likely that you’ve been out for at least a few years. There was a time when the food in prison wasn’t all that bad. Maybe, in your day, the guards ate the same food as the inmates. They most certainly do not anymore. I know about the decline in food quality over the years from anecdotal accounts of the men who have been locked up for many decades. They also tell me that food quality greatly depends on the unit in question. For instance, at the Ellis Unit where DR resided until 2000, the food was much better than it was the moment they pulled up here. In just three years, I myself have seen the quality decline significantly. Let me be clear: I don’t really care about the crappy food. That is so far down on my list of issues to fight that I would have to use tunneling equipment and dynamite to even locate it. I have made a few sarcastic comments on the subject, as is my tendency, but you shouldn’t read too much into that. The ironic mind is often misinterpreted. I think, however, that you may be ignorant of the only truly salient point here: Ad-Seg does not get fed the same as GP. It never has. Ad-Seg is a punitive environment, and the use of food-loaf (or nutri-loaf) as both carrot and stick is well documented. We are given what the kitchen staff refers to as “punishment trays,” though I do not know if that is the technical term for them. I imagine that they have a more official sounding name when they are listed on the budget paperwork submitted to the legislature. (They were called “behavior modification and cognitive redevelopment plan meals” at Polk IAH, which is about as bureaucratic a title as you can put to food-loaf.) For instance, when you were locked up, you got fried eggs, right? How many did you get? Three, four? It used to be that many. It’s always been two since I’ve been here, and you only get this every blue moon. Recently, they pared it back to one, something that was not done in Population. When GP eats hamburgers, we get wet noodles and ground-up hamburger meat. Same with the pork-chops (Ha, if you can call them that…I’m sure you remember those, right?). When GP eats pork-chops, we tend to get noodles and pork. State regs require inmates to get dessert twice a week, which usually means a brownie or cake for GP. We tend to get Jell-O or sometimes pudding. Again, I am not complaining. That is simply how things are. You were correct in commenting that I put myself in prison. (Have I ever said differently?) I am humbly submitting to you that before you call me a liar, you investigate your claims.

You accuse me of writing falsehoods and of manipulating information to take advantage of the ignorance of my readers. And yet, is this not precisely what you have done in your posts? You demand that people suspend their disbelief towards anything you say, merely because you claim to have been incarcerated, and have given yourself the handle of “the_truth.” (Funnily enough, one of the biggest snitches here on the row is known as “True,” which is supposed to stand for “True to the game,” though we have, of course, made sure to give him another nickname.) I suspect – again, humbly – that many of these “lies” you claim me to be publishing are merely gaps in experience between us, something I mentioned earlier. At least consider that, sir, for a second.

Frankly, to return to a point I mentioned briefly earlier in this entry, I have never claimed I didn’t deserve to be locked up. Never. I took the blame for my actions on the stand, and I have done so here, multiple times. It’s not really my fault that some people can’t be troubled to go back and read some of my earlier musings. My war is not with TDCJ as an entity; it is with the manner in which they apply their power. I seek a better, smarter, more efficient prison system for all: both for the men in white, and then for the society which will eventually receive 94% of us back into its ranks one day. There are different ways to be “held accountable” for ones actions. My argument is that all of us here could better replay out debt to society through hard work and deep personal reflection than with merely forcing us into an oubliette to rot until we are killed. You commit a grievous ethical error by stating that you had “no right to complain about any challenge (you) faced” when you put yourself in prison. Your original error does NOT give another the right to commit immoral acts against you. The consequences for crime should be both rapid and deeply felt. Prison is not supposed to be the Ritz. But there are levels to the degradations which another being may force upon you. For instance: when two female guards single you out for a strip search on the yard merely to ogle you: that is wrong. When my writings or copies of case law that I have collected (quite painstakingly, I might add) are tossed into the trash during a shakedown: that is wrong. Killing me to make the point that killing is immoral: that is both hypocritical and wrong, and merely pays homage to the more brutish, pre-enlightenment human tendencies which we all need to learn to evolve past. There are better ways to handle convicts, and I am sure that when you were in white, you had plenty of suggestions.

At any rate, I am glad that you got out, and have stayed out. That gives me some hope, even if you hate my guts. I think that you completely misinterpret me, if you think that I am a “wanna be CONvict,” however. I’ve never subscribed to the whole “convict ideology,” and I will not. That said, I have earned the respect of people who do cling to that eidos, heart and soul. I think that if we were locked up together, you would probably like me better than you do from out there. Modesty aside, I am a pretty good friend to have in a storm. (For some small sliver of proof of this statement see the comment by Sandra at the end of this entry.)

Thanks for writing, truth. I appreciate the input. Some people criticize out of spite, others because they believe a person is not living up to their potential. I hope you do so from the latter perspective, and I genuinely have an open ear to any suggestions you have for me in the future. Again sorry for my tone of late. All sins are attempts to fill voids.

Response to Gord’s post:

Yeah, yeah: the Red Wings bloody do well suck this year. (My Yanks, however, OWNED. Take that, Eric, you bean-town short-bus rider.) If you are the Gordon that I am thinking of, so does your Canuck mail system. I will try to write you again, now that I know you are alive.

Some recipes for food that the officers might actually eat:

Please read:

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


Lisa said...

The Death Penalty simply creates more victims and perpetrates the cycle of violence. I believe there are two types of people who support the Death Penalty

1. Those who don't understand its inequities and
2. Those who believe that revenge murder is acceptable. We should not rest until people are educated about the racist, class oriented and arbitrary DP and it is abolished across the world. It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate minority keen to set bush fires in peoples mind.

One interesting debates about the whole capital punishment thing strikes at the heart of the idea of punishment itself. Just who are we punishing and what are we punishing them for? One elegant argument goes like this: The person you are yesterday is not the person you are today. It stands to reason then that the person who committed a crime may not be the person who you punish for the crime. (Which is you Thomas, you are NOT the same person) If jail was supposed to be corrective, then what do we do if jail actually works? What happens if, for whatever reason, the jail actually accomplishes its job and makes a new person out of someone? How do we deal with that? Are we going to kill people that not only will never kill again, but who are doing a lot of good. Or at least trying to?

Anonymous said...

That's a very good question Lisa. What if the department of corrections actually works a time or two? Undoubtedly the people there now are for the most part, not the same people who got there in the first place. But who can tell that with any certainty? Who would be on the board of 'trust' and let the 'reformed' child abuser live next to your young growing family? And so on. Pick your crime and ask who would be charged with releasing them to live among the weak and 'innocents' in society?
I have no doubt that TW is a changed person from years ago, but some mistakes can't be walked back unfortunately. Not saying it is right or wrong. Just saying that at times, even the people who made a mistake are human enough to face up to the penalty.

Lisa said...

valhalladad - I believe there is a visceral and instinctive need in humans for vengeance, and there are good, evolutionary reasons for this. That said, society can protect itself from such people while maintaining the moral high-ground. There are plenty of nasty surprises for men in prison and a child abuser/killer will not be a popular man. These people are usually sick or insane, and we have a responsibility as human beings not to demand from such a person the same reasoning ability as a healthy individual! It really is all about how we move forward, but most simply want to look at the past.

緊張 said...


Tracey said...

I have gotten a basic translation for the above comment.

If you're criticizing others. You will not have time to give love.....

OutsiderLookingIn said...

Prisons are filled with sociopaths. I have read TW's blog from almost the beginning and I think he demonstrates all the sign of a classic sociopath. Luckily for the society, not all sociopaths kill. This one did. If you are prepared to arrange the execution of your entire family on more than one occasion, you deserve to be locked up. Whether right or wrong, Texas is a DP state. TW had lived there most of his life and knew it, but like the typical sociopath demonstrates shock and outrage when the sentence was handed down. If his life had not been so privileged, no family support, abused etc etc etc, I may agree with you Lisa about the DP being arbitrary – but those principles do not apply here.. For the sake of his father, I hope they do not execute TW. That man has suffered enough.

terry said...

I am so conflicted about what Thomas writes.
The only thing I am sure of is is the more he tries to convince us he's not a sociopath the more sociopathic he looks.
The fact that he's fessing up to everything NOW is simply because he's out of options.

OutsiderLookingIn said...

I agree Terry. I read his blog, desperately wanting to empathize, but the more I read, the less sympathetic I feel.

D Ruelas said...

To OutsiderLookingIn and Terry:
I can assure you that Thomas IS NOT a sociopath!! I have been writing him for two years and have personally met him, and am honored to be his friend. He is a highly intelligent young man that is VERY concerned with the inhumane situation on Death Row, not for himself, but for all of his fellow inmates there. He is the voice for all of them.He is not shocked and outraged by the sentence that was handed down to him. He has taken full responsibility for what he did. He knows he has to pay. But, I agree with him, and others (including his father),execution is not the answer. Closing them up the way they do on DR is not the answer. It is so easy to judge and psychoanalize someone that you only "know" by what you read in his entries(which, by the way, are VERY good!). But let me ask you: "How do you think you would adjust to being on death row? What would you do if you were in Thomas's place? How would you like for others to treat you? How would you respond to not only being on death row, but having to keep strong in the face of so many that find pleasure in sending him ugly and negative messages? A good number of inmates have lost their mind, a lot are sitting, just waiting for the day. Thomas is helping his fellow inmates as much as he can, he is studying, he is brave enough to stand up for what is not right and talk out.
His dad forgave him, loves him and has not abandoned him, a true example of what God does in each of our lives. God has also forgiven Thomas. WHO ARE WE to throw judgement on him? It is so easy to criticize, throw rocks and step all over people. It is so much more difficult (and yet not so much if you have it in your heart to do so)to find the best in someone (even if they have fallen)and help them get up. Are you going to build him and others up, or tear them down? That is your decision. I choose to build up and encourage. I choose to see the good in Thomas. There is a lot of good in him. He has a big and caring heart. That is the Thomas that I know.

Andrew said...

Outsider & Terry, I agree with you ! In response to D Ruelas:
I agree with most of what you have said, however, when it comes to Thomas' taking FULL responsibility, here a quote from him that casts some doubt on that notion (I have also included a response directly to him):

A word pertaining to your latest journal entry. You said the following:

“This sociopath thing bugs the hell out of me. Would a sociopath admit feely of his wrongs, seeking to take the lions share of the blame, even though we all know that the real murderer, the person who actually killed two people, sits safely off of DR? I rarely comment on this, but I have to ask: Why is nobody astonished by this point? Everybody tells me: be honest, tell the truth. And I do, and suddenly these same people, these people who claim we were a nation of second chances, run screaming for their pitchforks. Fine, the truth: for all the times I’ve been called a murderer, for all the hype, I’ve never killed anyone. Dec. 10th was a sick game for me, the product of some very delusional kids, but it was never supposed to happen. Only one person involved in this is a murderer, and this is not me.”

Thomas, I don't want to get into a debate about whether you are or aren't a sociopath, but I do want to tell you that the only thing you have got going for yourself in this situation is the amount of credibility you have slowly regained through genuine, self-critical reflection. By implying that Chris Brashear is “the real and only murderer” you are running a serious risk of damaging that credibility ! Both adjectives in that statement are wrongly used and therefore you're wrong on two counts. First adjective “real”: on the stand you admitted to a sustained campaign of no less than three homicide attempts on your family over a long period of time; it is therefore blatantly obvious that you were what in German is called “der Vater des Gedankens” (translation: the father of the thought, i.e. the originator, instigator). Any attempt on your part now to interpret your responsibility as lessened compared to the actual shooter's is bound to undermine you. Second adjective “only”: not only is there not only one murderer in this whole affair, but the list of murderers responsible does not end with the mere inclusion of Chris Brashear and Steven Champagne; Adam, Justin and any other previous failed and unindicted co-conspirators belong on it as well, spiritually speaking, i.e. before God (which is the actual !). This logic is inescapable Thomas. I can understand that you are growing weary of expressing your culpability to the world over and over again, but don't hurt your credibility by trying to minimise your role as the architect. Whether you should or should not have received the DP in principle is an entirely different question and a perfectly legitimate point to raise, though.

Silent Observer said...

Andrew, I must say that when it comes down to facts, Thomas is not a murderer because he, in the factual truth of the matter, did not murder anyone, so in that respect he is correct in what he is saying. What you are saying is whether he is responsible.

Responsibility, Fact and the Law are not all the same thing.

What I have always found interesting is this: Thomas in his mind had a reason to see his family dead. I am not justifying that reason, but in his mind there was a reason. Chris Brashear killed for no reason. I find that more horrifying that a person could kill people just like that. It has been said he did it for money which seems to me to be even worse! And as Thomas points out, the facts are that Chris Brashear is the one that did the actual, physical killing and he is not on death row.

Andrew said...

Silent Observer, I respectfully disagree. Here's why: The meaning of 'murderer' cannot be narrowly defined as to only include the one who actually physically causes the death of another. If that were so, Hitler and his cohorts, for example, would not be murderers either. What MAKES the murderer is his WILLING the death of another in connection with FURTHERANCE ! Your argumentation only stands up if we were talking about the 'shooter' as such; then your line of reasoning would unquestionably be correct, but a murderer Thomas most certainly is, as well as the instigator, which is why the law deems him to be even more culpable than the (hired) shooter.

Silent, you also said a few things about motive, apparently content that Thomas had some unspecified motive and the shooter had no motive at all. Does that really suffice ? It is highly improbable, and based on the given circumstances of the case, the family situation and the multiple previous would-be co-conspirators (there were quite a number) such an assumption is nebulous and somewhat naive (no offense or disrespect intended !). It is clear as day what the motive here was, a motive that drove Thomas to put together THREE elaborate plans to have his family murdered over an EXTENDED PERIOD of TIME. To this end, he tried to secure the co-operation from several people he knew and discussed plans and scenarios with them at length. Now, Silent, taking a look at human nature, on the whole, of those people who at least initially are interested in such a scheme, what is THE common denominator powerful enough to secure their 'services' ? What could have been the ONLY motive that would have been sufficiently enticing for them to contemplate their participation ? I know from interviews he gave (and his online journal) that Thomas consistently tries to either avoid the subject of motive or offers some other diffuse and implausible remarks that are invariably vague and brief in nature. By somehow distancing himself from the lowest motive there is (basic greed), it is obvious that he is trying to portray himself as 'not totally depraved' ! A while back he posted some psychological report from some psychologist who had apparently also arrived at a convoluted conclusion that Thomas' motive may have been something other than greed, though without specifying what. Such a conclusion is, however, not supported by what transpired. Thomas did not have some hard-to-define psychological motive (which could possibly engender more understanding or empathy); he wanted the inheritance, right there, right then. That was the motive, all else is diversion ! Do you think he went to all the other would-be co-conspirators and said: "Hey guys, I have some hard-to-define, difficult-to-put-into-words and deeply psychological aversion against ... not only my mother, but my father and my brother ... please help me to dispose of them" ??? In fact, Thomas is also quoted as commenting on the Menendez case (California, two brothers killed their parents), stating how amateurish they went about it.

Victoria said...

Osama Bin Laden, planned 9/11, the bombings in the London and many more. Do you think he is a killer? Or are only the suicide bombers killers? If Thomas is not a killer than Osama Bin Laden isn't either!

Andrew said...

Silent, you also presume that Chris Brashear "killed for no reason" at all. Well, what I said above applies here as well; Brashear was in it for the dosh, it's as simple as that ! The Menendez brothers had at least a somewhat believeable case when they tried to explain a part of their motive: their father was a reputed despot and tyrant, a characteristic corroborated by others. Thomas, however, cannot point to anything remotely similar in his family, his little brother looked up to and loved him, so did his mother and father. There was NOTHING he can put forward that could provide even the slightest basis for some grudge ! And see how his father is treating him now even after he has committed the dark deed ! And because of this simple truth - that there was absolutely nothing in his family-members' character or treatment of him that could have caused homicidal intentions - Thomas has not been able to voice or even manufacture a plausible motive that could distance him from ... greed !

Silent, I totally agree with you your statement that killing your own for money is "horrifying". I have been pondering this case for quite a while ... the degree of deliberation and cunning is breathtaking. I correspond with a few of Thomas' fellow inmates. One of them killed five people including his ex-girlfriend who had invited him to her house-party, making him think that they would reconcile, only then to sleep with one man after another while he was present. Maximum humiliation was her aim and he overreacted by going to his truck and retrieving the gun. When I think about this guy and Thomas, I must say that there is hardly a comparison in terms of depravity. Thomas' REPEATED premeditation over a loooong period (in which he could have reconsidered the amoral dimension of his intentions) and sole greed motive coupled with the fact that he was arranging the destruction of close LOVED-ONES ... puts him at the lowest end of killers. Deep down Thomas knows this and that is the reason why he avoids the subject of motive !