Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Art by Mike Mendoza

My name is Mike Mendoza Jr. I was born in Galveston County, Texas. I consider myself a prisoner of war- war on crime. Honestly, if our criminal justice system was not corrupt..legally, factually, I should not be serving a life sentence for murder. As the great Geronimo once stated." I think I am a good man, but all the papers in the world say I am a bad man, but it is a bad thing to say about me. I NEVER do wrong without a CAUSE.

I am pro-life. I am pro-American. I love my country as one can see through my work. I once had a dream as a child, to become a U.S. Marine- to make my loving momma proud of me and to wear the dress blue.

I am  single. My wife divorced me for another man. I have one biological daughter( who was allegedly aborted.) When I entered TDCJ in 1996, for the first time, I was a 9th grade drop-out. I was supposed to be in the 11th grade, with a 5th grade reading level. I was a Special Education student. I was taking GED classes at Lee College so that I could join the U.S. Marines, only to learn that the Marines do not accept GED'S. While in prison, I have learned to read and write better. I have learned to read and write and speak Spanish. On this life sentence, I have become a writer. I have educated myself in Criminal Law. I have legally, factually obtained my 2 year diploma in Criminal Justice. I also help those that do not have the funds to afford an honest appeal attorney. If I ever make it home, I hope to find a job working for an attorney. I am educated on both sides of the law. I spend my time reading. My favorite book is Harry Potter. I am locked up 23 hours a day in a cage. The only human contact I have is a hand shake or when i am escorted. I hear a lot of Country-Tejano or classical. My day is spent hearing politics while I draw. My art work is mostly inkwhich I paint with human hair. i do some map color-mixed with water color. Drawing also supports me. The only help I receive is from my Grandmother. I try not to complain because ther is some that have nothing, and that includes their minds.

Mike Mendoza Jr. 1223739 
TDCJ Coffield Unit
2661 FM 2054
Tenn Colony, Texas 75884

Art by Shane Saunders

Growing up, we lived in different part of the country. Including the mid-west and east coast. My first drawing was an expression of anxiety for my parents leaving me to go on Vacation. It included a plane crash. After that any time inspiration came, art was an escape. My mother used to do ceramics so maybe my interest came from her. Later on experimentation with drugs sort of became my identity. Now after having some recovery time, I would like to use the craft as an establishment of my identity with the world. Since the start of my prison sentence the chance to give someone something from the heart is all I would like to do. Currently, I am an undergraduate in a Community college.

Shane Saunders1245054
Coffield Unit
2661 FM 2054
Tenn Colony 75884

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How to Go to Level 3 for Dummies – Part II (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Living Minimally)

(Admin Note: Part 1 of this series can be read HERE)

I am told by reliable sources that first impressions are important. If this adage is true, then I must say that F-Pod (sometimes referred to hereafter as simple “Level”) made a very poor initial showing for itself. After His Royal Sliminess (Lt. Tolly) deprived me of his dripping, caustic smugness, I attempted to right the foundering vessel that was F-68cell. How to sum up the cages of F-Pod in as few words as possible? Let’s start with: burnt. I mean, “I-left-the-fryer-on-during-my-nap, carbon-is-good-for-you, extra-crispy” It looked like someone had scrawled some arcane astrological sigils all over the walls with charcoal and it smelled like a burning pile of refuse. In seg, when you have a problem, your first avenue of recourse is to speak with the officers working the pod. If they can’t help you, they are supposed to kick the problem up to the sergeants. Some do, and some, of course, do not. Lighting a fire is therefore a pretty good means of simultaneously showcasing your displeasure, as well as an almost guaranteed means of making a ranking officer deal with you. I’ve seen plenty of FIRES ON OTHER PODS of course, though F-Pod is certainly more flame-scarred than anywhere else on 12-Building. More than that, these burn marked were inside the cells; every fire I had ever seen up to this point was set on the run. I must admit I fail to see how giving oneself smoke-inhalation-induced respiratory problems teaches TDC any lessons, but maybe I am just being dense. In any case, it didn’t take me long to give up on the idea of ridding my cell of the stench; I was just going to have to get used to it.

Alvin Kelly (murdered by the state of Texas on 10.14.08) once wrote this about F-Pod:

F-pod is a disciplinary pod totally Level 2 and Level 3. Level 2 is property restriction, i.e. radio, fan typewriter, all electrical, no commissary except 10 dollars postage materials (stamps, pen, legal pads, envelopes etc.) every 2 weeks.

Level 2 can also buy hygiene supplies once every 30 days, i.e. shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant. We are not allowed anything else from the unit commissary. We’re only allowed rec one hour a day Monday – Thursday, 4 days a week. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we are locked down 24/7. We were not even allowed our thermal underwear this winter even when it was down to 30 degrees outside. We are only allowed 2 regular visits a month. Level 1 is allowed 1 visit per week each month.

Level 3 is not allowed any hygiene supplies at all, only postage every 2 weeks. So the atmosphere down here is filled with animosity. The people back here are denied anything beyond the meager necessities to survive in any sort of dignity or humanity. It is an evil and vile place. The atmosphere is filled with cussing, beating and banging and floods, fires, feces and urine being chunked on people, gas being sprayed in peoples’ cells or the day room where everyone has to breathe it in. Visitation being denied some just because they live on F-pod, and it just goes on and on.

That’s a bit dramatic, perhaps, but not factually inaccurate. I believe that you don’t really see life as it is, but rather as you are. Maybe that is why my 90 days on Level were not miserable. I’ve come to understand that I pretty much stick around this place solely for the purpose of observing my personal evolutions during the inevitable disappointments of the coming years. My theory is that suffering comes not from what happens to us, but from the hidden thought train that immediately leaps into our consciousness to convince us that certain things are horrible, that we never thought such things could happen to us; indeed, that negative turns shouldn’t happen to us. The mind pulls this trick all of the time, and if you aren’t watching for it, you are really just a passenger - a back seat one – in the vehicle of your own life. Even if you didn’t buy any of that, surely we can agree that periods of turbulence are generally the times in life when we grow the most? Happiness might be preferable for some people, but if that is all you experience while on this little blue rock, you are going to be pretty one-dimensional. More, you will be boring.

Whatever the case, I never really felt punished while living on Level. I wrote the following on Facebook on April 14th:

To All of the People Totally Freaking Out About My Downgrade of Levels:

Stop. Seriously. Deep Breath....hold, release.

I love you all, but I'm fine, really. I may eventually get into the nuts and bolts of what happened last month, provided I can do so without adding any further complications to my life.

At the heart of the issue is Kevin's journal, which tells me he is doing everything right. I've never gotten them this pissed off before...I'm actually a little envious. If any of you write to Kevin, tell him not to worry about me, and to stay strong. I've got kites on the way on some additional legal avenues worth pursuing.

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when getting clubbed across the head (figuratively, I was not hit!) for helping a friend would have produced a few perfect gems of cynicism from yours truly, but I feel those days are gone.

I feel good. Great, even. Why? I'll get more into that at a later date, too, but for now I will say only that I found out I'm not completely full of shite. The things I tell myself that I believe in, well, I really believe them. More, I live them, without delay or deliberation. That is a very rewarding thing for someone who has searched all his life for stable ideological ground to dwell upon. It really is up to us to determine whether the fluctuations of fortune are "good" or "bad"; the labels are ours, and ours alone. We really do allow things to harm us. It really is all in the head. Will really is everything.

That Grand Indifference I have been flirting with for about a year? Contact. Turns out, losing all that stuff we think we own is a pretty good way to gain control over the only real possession we have: our minds.

And now, you will never, ever be able to hurt me again.

I'm out. Keep writing your letters for Kevin. Send him my love.

The Infamously Incorrigible Level 3 Denizen Thomas (wretch, gag)

"Let's go to work so that one day, perhaps, a passerby might see in the lines ripening at this moment, as I too have my net in the pond of useless days, some traces of a reassuring sky that I cannot see there."

Victor Serge
"On the Ural River"
Orenberg Camp, 1935

That is also a bit dramatic, but factually accurate. Maybe writings from F-Pod take on an added layer of emotion, given the starkness of the place? I think the major difference between level 1 and F-Pod is the doors: on Level 2 & 3, the doors are sealed up with Plexiglas shields and metal fittings. On Level 3, even the tiny gap between the floor and the bottom of the door is sealed by a heavy rubber attachment. Level 1 doors are also mostly closed off, but those tiny gaps leave open the possibility of commerce and conversation, necessities totally deprived on inmates in the draconian confines of Level. These cells are appropriately labeled as “management cells”, an apt title for more than one reason.

One of the positives about F-Pod is that it is fairly quiet. I think I value silence more than most; some of the pods I’ve lived on here sounded like a jungle scene at night, which can pretty much wreck any attempts at productivity. You do have to keep one wary eye on your own behavior, though. Humans are not made to live in total isolation, and certain systematic breakdowns are inevitable, and well-documented. Solitude and isolation are not necessarily equivalent concepts, but the former does melt into the latter very softly, and once it does, it is a devil to get out. I am not even sure that a man who has completely disconnected from the world should still be called “human” to be honest with you.

I have written several entries on SHU Syndrome already, so I will not belabor the point here, save to say that I basically manifested three different symptoms during my time on F-Pod. (Or, I should note, I noticed three symptoms; it is entirely possible that I missed some.) The first was a form of “benign” vertigo that would come and go at random intervals. Sometimes it would last for minutes, sometimes hours. It was only strong enough on a few occasions to make me vomit, but even at its weakest, it made writing impossible. These effects lasted until April 17th, two days after I made my upgrade from level 3 to Level 2 (HERE, you can see the paperwork confirming my upgrade from D3 to D2. Take note of a few additional items: in the middle of the page, you can see the stamp from the Death Row Classification Committee, noting that the work program has been “suspended”. The program has been suspended since DR was moved to Polunsky Unit more than a decade ago, but they keep it officially on the books so as to skirt the issue of the unconstitutionality of our living conditions. After all, a law is only “broken” when someone cares to notice that fact. You will also see how we are not allowed nail clippers, even though they sell “anti-shank” style clippers to GP inmates. This is just one in a long string of conditioning exercises devised by the system to control weaker minds: they pass out clippers once every two months or so, and only after a sufficient number of people beg for them. This places them in a position of power as the “caregiver”, a curious position that actually engenders positive feelings from the men, even though it was the system which withheld the original commodity. Real men simply tell them where they can stick the clippers when they are passed out, and use a razor blade to trim their nails. Finally, way down in the bottom right-hand corner of the page is a scrawled comment which reads “Mon Ext/Int” and is followed by a signature of some sort. I had never seen this on any other paperwork I had received from the DRCC in the past, so I sent it around to a few of my neighbors. The only thing we could come up with was “monitor external/internet”, which made a lot of sense, once it was suggested to me. (I just wish I could read the signature….sort of looks like “PR” maybe?)

The second manifestation of SHU that I experienced was an increased sense of weariness and a desire for sleep. I wrote about this, also, while on Level, and you can read this entry HERE, complete with a graph of the average increase in hours of sleep experienced by twenty of the men on F-Pod.

The final pathology I noted in myself is somewhat common to a certain subset of convict, namely those of us who pride ourselves on our independence. On Level, this desire for self-reliance gets very, very strong, almost insane it its demands. Since they have taken my visits, my property, my rec, even my toothbrush, you reason, I may as well be a crash dummy and test the limits. This is a bad idea, completely unethical but it whispers in your ear constantly. I found other ways to vent the pressure, such as refusing to eat the trays that I deemed to be truly heinous. I have always done this, but the tactic is not one usually employed on F-Pod, where one has no access to food from the commissary. Me and a good friend Richard “Psycho” Cobb, eventually expanded this minimalist campaign into other parts of life. When a ranking officer threatened to take away our mattresses of we didn’t come forward with some information, I made a point o rolling mine up every night for a month and placed it in the corner, where he could both see it and me sleeping on the concrete floor. Eventually I wasn’t even using the sheets anymore. I think he got the message: you can’t threaten a man who isn’t afraid to lose everything. If all of that sounds a little crazy, that is exactly my point: isolation changes you.

Another of the few positives about F-Pod is that the officers tend to be “convict bosses”, and are less likely to mess with you over the little stuff. The men on F-Pod are generally prone to misbehave, so it is usually just not worth the trouble to treat these men the way the book suggests. This almost makes the trip to F-Pod worth it, all by itself. Sometimes an officer would forget himself, and we would set him right, an activity I usually do not participate in. I can only say that my ascetic daemons were pushing me to see just how much I could lose and survive. They didn’t leave me alone until I returned to Level 1.

I guess the only other major event of note during my time on Level involved my so-called disciplinary hearing. This took place on March 24th 2010, and lasted 13 minutes, though most of that the time wasted waiting for the officer who wrote the disciplinary case to show up. You can see the paperwork from this hearing HERE. I was “represented” at this hearing by an employee of TDC. The “judge” was one of the DR Captains. Based on those facts, it is not really a mystery why no one in white ever wins a disciplinary case hearing, is it? My rep spent the majority of her time complimenting the Captain on the new paint job in his office. (Curiously enough, all of DR was painted recently, just after some DR scum published PHOTOS of that offensive blue line that used to run down the main 12-Building hallway, evoking images of a heart monitor flat-lining. You’re welcome.)

The officer who wrote the case against me was adamant that he never, ever makes errors on important issues. This testimony was particularly amusing because in 90 seconds, he made exactly three major errors. (I’m trying to get the tapes from this hearing using a FOIA request; if I have success, I will put the recording up here so you can hear him say he got the pills out of 55 cell… which was empty at the time of the shakedown.) Even Captain Price was shaking his head by the end of Officer Mann’s testimony.

When it became my turn to put on evidence, I explained what “V” had seen and heard while waiting for his insulin. Captain Price became somewhat agitated about this, and finally threw his hands up in the air, saying he was going to “stipulate” “V’s” testimony. (You can see this on the form about halfway down the page.) In case that sounds fishy to you – it is. The whole point of witness testimony is that it gives the judge a chance to gauge the credibility o the witness. Stipulating a witness’s statement basically means that he already knew what “V” was going to say – and he didn’t care. If it seems off or unjust that the system was allowed to call witnesses and I wasn’t, well, you are right again. My representative merely nodded at all of this, thus giving sufficient evidence as to whom she was truly there to represent.

Punishment was quickly assessed at 30 days commissary restriction (no commissary, which is on top of the already stringent restrictions on what Level 2 and 3 inmates are allowed to purchase: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and a very limited amount of stamps) and 15 days cell restriction (no rec privileges, which is also on top of the already curtailed rec opportunities one is allowed on Level). I was sentenced to 30 days on Level 3, to be followed by 60 days on Level 2, which is the maximum allowed by state law. I was again told that my information concerning prescription drug misuse being a Lvl 1 or 2 offense was incorrect (see HERE for official TDC paperwork which proves their lie). This hearing basically violated every facet of the concept of Due Process that exists on the books, and some still waiting to be invented. Ah well: “fall seven times, stand up eight”, or something. Pretty much Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” for the attention deficit, is it not?

Let’s say you don’t buy my story. Fair enough. I would like to point out just one final bit of information which I think rather proves that my trip to Level had nothing to do with some fabricated pills, and everything to do with Kevin’s journal (which would, you know, be illegal to punish me over, in case anyone cares). Remember how the day before I caught my case, there was a stabbing on A-Pod? That guy’s punishment was exactly the same as mine. Even if I had been busted with a ton of cocaine in my house, I would note have spent one extra minute on Level 2 or 3 than I did for those pills. They wanted me absent from the picture during Kevin’s last months, plain and simple. If anyone has a better explanation, I’d like to hear it.

On June 15th, I made my Level 1 again. Some of my property was “missing” (mostly hygiene items, which were stolen by the guards who bagged up my property in March). It was good to be able to start studying for my classes again, though I am still not sure why hardback books are not allowed on F-Pod. (I made an “A” on my ENG 203 course, in case anyone is keeping score. More on that later.) All in all, I am thankful for my time on Level. I learned quite a bit about myself, which is never a bad thing. If I am supposed to get cowed or intimidated, I’m afraid I’m just a bit too hardheaded for that. I would come up with some way to let them know this, but, hey, they are already reading, Right “PR”?

To see how they run a disciplinary case in California, HERE is a copy of a case that a friend of mine on California’s Death Row caught in March. He apparently tried to give some food to an inmate on commissary restriction, which was deemed a “violation that jeopardizes the safety and security of the institution.” I guess Texas doesn’t have a monopoly on cruelty, after all. Interesting logic, though, is it not? “You have no empathy, so you must die; try to display some feelings for others, and we will punish you for it.” Makes sense to me!

“Deterrent effect? We don’t need no stinkin’ DETERRENT effect!”

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Brief Note on Missing Correspondence

Over the past few weeks I have mailed five additional “Letters to a Future DR Inmate” to Tracey. These were written by some of the men on Level 2, as I thought it might be interesting to see how other men here considered giving advice to an imaginary new arrival. Obviously, none of these made it past the mail room (at the time of this writing, anyway). I have also been informed that a greater percentage of my correspondence has been vanishing than is the norm, so I want to set some ground rules for everyone who writes me, as I am really bloody sick of losing people over misplaced mail. If you are in the U.S. and you send me a letter or an email and have not heard back from me in four weeks, assume I never received your communiqué. Just reprint and re-mail it. Add two weeks for anyone outside of the U.S. There. Simple. No more confusion, right? One can hope. (One can also hope that this gets out, too…)

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Chuck Rienhardt (AZ) Art and Poetry

(from the book: Dead Behind The Eyes...The Awakening)
By Chuck Rienhardt

If you have ever known the worlds in my mind, 
my sympathy goes out to you, - for your troubles.
Madness is a demon that lives in a world of helpless need,
a thousand desires unanswered,  - a world without resolution.

Beyond the realms of death, 
I try to escape into me.
Torn fragments float through my mind, 
as I hold tight to my own sanity.

I feel like I'm lost within, 
as if I've drifted too far away.
What began in shadows and a dark distance, 
has drawn ever so close.

I thought this was a final nightmare before the end, 
my last vision of life before the abyss.
But I'm remembering memories that aren't my own, 
I'm drowning within my soul.

You can take away these broken memories, 
but the visions never die.
There's a simple path that I can see, 
and emptiness...Takes hold of me.

The Child of a Deadseed
The Child Of A Deadseed
(from the book: Dead Behind The Eyes...The Awakening)
By Chuck Rienhardt

In the cage of your imagination blissfully immune to all this is really
dominating your deepest sleep...My nightmares you will feel.
I'm the echoes creeping through your dreams
Washed away by blood soaked screams

Down through the ages I've been called many things, 
but my true identity is something you could never comprehend.
Born into darkness by the silent suffering of unwanted souls, 
I am the child of a deadseed...And mankind is my prey.

I have fed on the defiled sacraments left upon blackened alters, 
and bathed in the rancid corps blood of Kings.
It is the sickly sweet stench of life that fills me with the need to hunt, 
and your humanity that draws me to you like flies upon rotting flesh.

When you're alone in the liquid stillness of the night, 
I am the unseasonable chill that bleeds from the shadows.
The distorted visions behind your infected, bloodshot eyes, 
and like warts that grow upon leperous flesh I will feed upon your very soul.

Leaving you with ruins of insane dreams casting shadows of life you'll never find,
Chaining you to a moment...Where nothing...Ceases to exist.
For it is far beyond the realms of death that lies a world of everlasting pain, 
and in your dreams I will take you there...For that is where I reign. 

The Slaughtering of My Soul
The Slaughtering of My Soul  
(from the book “Dead Behind the Eyes…The Awakening”)
By Chuck Reinhardt

We have surely scratched the surface of our mental and spiritual capabilities,
In an effort to comprehend and convey the human meaning of struggle and suffering.
I cannot see the future…And I cannot rewrite the past,
I´m lost within this struggle and it´s fading all too fast.

Hope is an illusion masking the reality of despair
This sacred truth I carry like a stone.
A secret, hidden from the eyes of man,
Like a stream of consciousness flowing into a river of blood.

Nightmares bring me face to face with versions of myself,
Some grotesque and distorted…others pure beings of light.
They speak in tongues not my own with companions unseen,
While sitting on a throne of clammy flesh…cast only by shadows.

“Find the gate and nudge it open”, they say, “What leaks out is yours to shape,
Open yourself to the entity that finds you and draw forth its power.
Consume of it as much as your body and soul are capable of containing,
But remember…when they body fails…the gate closes.”

But what seeps forth from this gate are many things, cold, hard, and unholy,
That hide in the deepest recesses of my mind…and watch.
No contemplation, no judgement, just icy, clinical observation,
Waiting for the precise moment…to slaughter…and feed upon my soul.

A Slipping Mask of Sanity
A Slipping Mask of Sanity 
(from the book “Dead Behind the Eyes…The Awakening”)
By Chuck Reinhardt

Looking in the mirror,
At a stranger´s sullen face
I see a mask of sanity,
That´s slipping out of place.

I can see around the edges,
At all the twisted thoughts and dreams.
And hear the ringing in my ears,
Of softly spoken screams.

The softly spoken screams I hear,
Are only in my mind.
This I know…But still I turn,
And take a look behind.

Once again…there´s nothing there,
At least nothing I can see.
But this does not mean that they´re not real,
Screaming silently at me.

So I look back at the mirror,
And see a desperate, frightened face,
The slipping mask of Sanity,
Is gone…without a trace.

Svenja Berzon - A Mouthful of Poison
A Feeding Frenzy
By Chuck Reinhardt

Dead behind the eyes…Deep into darkness I have awakened,
silently waiting for the rings of hell to be unsealed. 
Only then will the seeds of nothing begin to break through the soil,
as images that exist outside of time uprise as the demons of earth and air.

For out of the ground we were taken from the dust we are,
and to the ground we shall return as the dust we have become.
Blessed be this cursed ground that I walk upon,
for I walk on soil that nightmares are made of.

Imprisoned in a world of darkness,
just a shadow of the past cast forward in time, I move through me.
All these illusions are but reflections brought to life before my eyes,
of a corroding, chemical, wretched spawn of a beast that I see.

For centuries, I´ve traveled through the nine levels of damnation,
searching for flesh to taste upon my tongue.
For it is eternal the kiss I breathe as I siphon your blood to me,
I smell of death…I reek of hate…I warp reality.

Shrouded in sensation…bleeding from my eyes,
deception is my gift, to the cinobitz standing at my side.
Enticing it closer, from hunted to hunter I will rise,
for I am a demon…behind an angel´s disguise.

From the book  “Dead Behind the Eyes…the Awakening”
By Arizona Death Row Inmate Chuck Reinhardt

Those Whom the Gods Detest

A Requiem of Death

Poetry of the Condemned
By Chuck Reinhardt

I could never begin to explain the complexities
Of the dimensions in which I live in.
But I attempt to separate substance from illusion, and in doing so,
I begin to feel at home in the echoing corridors of my mind.

I once glimpsed the man who occupied this fortress before his fall from sanity,
Stretched around his face was a mask of clever disguise.
Bitter things appeared and fled, dreams perhaps, or fragments from the past,
While a drool of bloody darkness spilled from his eyes.

So pure, so absolute, the hope of salvation in its depths,
More fragile than in any darkness I have ever seen.
His facial features began to run together like the slow melting of a wax max,
And the features of a hundred faces rose and fell like suppurating sores.

I watched, entranced by the way they grew and multiplied,
The world of his thoughts appearing and flickering before my eyes.
And just as suddenly, gone, were they all…only darkness,
As relentless as ever pressed upon me from all sides.

The sense I felt was as if I was trespassing here,
In a world hovering beyond or behind the façade of reality.
A stream of consciousness that one could never begin to understand,
Because no world could ever hope to compare with such sublime darkness.

I am the Shade
I am the Shade
By Chuck Reinhardt

At a time both brutal and bleak lingering between realms of reality,
I stood before an unopened door that reeked of sickness.
A presence seeped forth from the stench that lurked at the very fringes of perception,
Devoid of shape, starving for sustenance…I was no longer alone.

Chaotic memories filtered through my mind suspended on threads of mist,
Of an elaborately structured realm populated by entities known as “Shades”.
Bodiless souls consumed by hatred of heaven and hell,
A sickness breeding sickness…trapped between life and death.

Here all hesitation must be left behind…seek and ye shall find.
For I am the guardian of the gate…I am the eyes of death.
I am the stench feeding upon itself simmering beneath festering scabs, I don´t belong to this world…this world belongs to me.

Do you not understand what is coming? Nor what I do for you?
I am the Shade…set free to bring wrath upon all mankind.
I am your resurrection, your abomination, your path to salvation,
You, who have been forsaken by destiny…I will remove your skin.

O, willful ignoranto, do you see the future?
Do you not grasp the splendor of my creation? The necessity?

Judge NOT…lest you be judged yourself!

From the book – “Dead Behind the eyes…The Awakening”
By Arizona Death Row Inmate: Chuck Rienhardt.

A Corridor From Hell

A Corridor From Hell
By Chuck Reinhardt

I wake and hear something crawl under the door.
I watch – as if dreaming – as it crosses the floor.
The coldness it brings chills me clear to the bone,
What´s left of my soul…has finally come home.

With its hideous face and sulfurous smell,
The thing slithers back from its trip down to hell.
It screams to me things I cannot understand,
I scream at it back, “I´m only a man!”

I look in the mirror and all that I see,
Is a thing with no skin staring straight back at me.
Confusion and fear are at war in my mind,
As I look over my shoulder and see nothing´s behind.

Now my constant companion wherever I go,
This thing with no skin will not leave me alone.
In every reflection it´s all that I see,
A skinless perversion of what was once me.

It´s alive – but not living – in a bottomless well,
And I´m dead – but not dying – in this desolate cell.
This isn´t the end, only the start,
Together forever…*till death do us part.

Cetera Desunt

Shadows In My Blood
Shadows in my Blood
By Chuck Reinhardt

Someone opened a door in my mind,
To a place where time itself dissolves into confusion.
Even in my desperation…I walked as cold as a ghost,
Doomed to repeat a lifetime´s path of failures.

When I came across a man standing before me,
He wore violence like a fur cloak riding his shoulders.
His cult was written in spilled blood,
Disfigurement and the virtue of destruction.

His black pitted eyeholes haunted me,
While speaking to me in eloquent silence.
“I am death” they said “I am your fate,
And the fate of all living things…I am what is left behind.

Today I am this man, tomorrow I am another
See the truth of me…not one is tethered.
I am bound to no single self,
But unleashed to a multitude of selves.”

Only then did I recognize this man standing before me,
For it was me that I refused to see,
Standing so self-possessed and content,
Inside my own inner world´s visions.

From the Book: “Dead Behind the Eyes…the Awakening”

DeathMask Divine
Death Mask Divine
By Chuck Reinhardt

The past is not simply the past,
But a prism through which the subject
Filters his own changing self-image.
Hiding the purity that flows from the roots in which we rose.

We long for the possibilities of the impossible existence,
To create the fabric and destiny of all mankind.
But what we are left with is a corrupt system feeding off itself,
Reality is distorted when your force fed your mind.

I am dying, but self-righteous to the end,
A lynchpin…war within…a means to my end.
To be reborn of a demon sky, purgatory unleashed,
And angel of genocide with stitches sewn in my eyes.

Like an exotic beast of human nature,
This god that you worship…the demon I breathe.
Together we are a cult of chaos…flesh adorned with thorns,
Bleeding tears of hatred and pain.

Can´t you see that we are one…
You can´t tear us apart. NO, you can´t tear us apart!

From the Book: “Dead Behind the Eyes…the Awakening

Chuck Rienhardt 084033
Arizona State Prison Complex - Eyman
SMU #2 Browning Wing 3-G-16
P.O. Box 3400
Florence, AZ 85132

Hi. My name is Chuck Reinhardt and I am an Arizona Death Row inmate.  All the artwork and poetry you have seen and read come from the book “Dead Behind the Eyes…the Awakening”.   This is an unpublished book that I have written and illustrated including the cover in which you see.  Hopefully you are a publisher and want to help me give this kickass book to the world. I´m sitting here in this cage waiting to hear from all of you. Have a good one today.

Respect Always,


Saturday, July 3, 2010

How to Go to Level 3 for Dummies – Part 1

For months now, I have been deflecting questions about my unfortunate trip down to the dungeon that is Level 3. I guess I have been playing tug-of-war with myself, about whether I really wanted to go poking at the developmentally challenged sleeping giant that is the TDC again. I made my “upgrade” to Level 1 status in mid June, and I must admit, it felt nice being welcomed back into the good graces of the machine. I enjoy having a radio, hot-pot, books and food in my house again (though not my typewriter, which is now broken; due to a lack of contract with a vendor, I may not even be able to purchase one for months, lamentably). In short, I enjoyed being comfortable again. It was my conscious viewing of this subconscious desire for ease, which ultimately swayed the balance towards full disclosure: I simply refuse to allow the things I own to own me. You have to learn how to use things without requiring them. If nothing else, my time on Level 3 showed me that I need far, far less than my brain tells me, and one simply cannot toss out an excellent lesson like that once the going gets smooth again.

Still, when I sat down to write this out, I debated as to what details to include. In the end, I thought about what some unknown visitor might think, were he/she to come across Minutes ten years from now, long after I am gone. This perspective puts any temporal risk/reward calculus in an entirely new light, and makes one focus on the principle of the thing; so, honesty and full details it is then, and stop being such a bloody coward, Whitaker. If there are repercussions for this, well, I’ve been punished for worse than being honest. For someone who hasn’t always been a representative for the forces of truthfulness (to the world or to himself), there might even be a touch of pleasure to be found in such a punishment. Whatever: it is what it is. Believe all or part or none of the following; my main hope is not to prove my innocence (such would be impossible, doe to how events went down), but rather to show the errors in the system. In that respect, this narrative is a microcosm of this entire site, and one could easily pick a worse legacy than lighting a lantern in an exceedingly dark room.

Anyways, allons, allons: la vie est la farce á mener par tous. This story begins on the morning of Sunday, March 14th. I was then living on A-Pod; 12-AD-53 cell, to be exact. On Sundays, there is no recreation on DR, so the guards have only one real duty, which is to take the men to the showers. They usually do this at some point after 7:00am. As it happened, tensions between two inmates boiled over that morning, which resulted in a very nasty stabbing. All of the action took place about eight feet from my door. The details of this event are not important, and in any case it would not be appropriate for me to discuss them in this forum, save to say that one individual had a piece of steel stuck so far into his side that it punctured and subsequently collapsed his lung. He was immediately taken to the hospital (read: an hour later he was finally taken to the hospital), and the guilty party was taken down to Level 3. The pint of blood that this person shed, however, stayed in a congealed puddle on the floor for two days. I mention all of this only because it frames what happened next, of course.

The timing of this act was unfortunate, for two main reasons: first and foremost, Kevin had been given a date the month before, and there was much traffic between is. Deathwatch is also located on A-Pod, so it was a relatively simple procedure for us to send messages to each other, and I was pleased that I could at least be somewhat present for my friend during that horrible time. I was worried that this stabbing would give TDC a valid reason to move me away from Kevin, as his first 29 journals had just appeared on Minutes. I was correct in my thinking, only I misjudged the ire with which I am held by certain people here in the system. (I must admit, this fact pleases me, in an odd way.)

The second reason behind my statement of poor timing deals with the fact that the Shakedown Crew had just hit our section and row the week before, on March 11th. This squad was formed in the fallout from the Tabler Incident, and is a completely volunteer unit. Its purpose can be rather obviously deduced from its name, I should think: they search cells, and try to hit a certain number of them per day, according to some unknown logic. As you can imagine, they are universally disliked – hated even. It takes a certain “special” type of psychology to enjoy being hated by everyone, you know. They have custom “Death Row – Shakedown Team” hats and belt buckles made, and actually brag about how many times they have been stabbed or hit or had feces / urine tossed on them. In short, people like the SD crew ran the concentration camps in Germany, and they truly believe that it is acceptable to ignore even basic components of a moral code by claiming that they were “just following orders.” Fatwas' and edicts and pogroms, oh my. (Kids, the word of the day is: “antinomian”; go on, look it up. It’s a great word.)

So, when this team (which only works Monday – Friday) arrived at work on Monday morning, they were met with the news that a man had nearly been killed with a weapon on a section that they had just hit. An officer I am comfortable with confirmed to me a few weeks later that the team had been verbally berated about this fact, an experience which they no doubt found unpleasant. That said, I actually feel that with people of this character, it was the assault on their pride which made them the angriest: they had been beaten by convict scum, and no way were they going to let that shit pass without getting some vengeance.

Now, as you can imagine, such an event was much talked about on our section that Sunday afternoon. It didn’t take long for a consensus to form that were going to get some unwanted attention come Monday morning. I am not the smartest of men, but surely you must grant me sufficient intellect to connect “tomorrow, all of my property will be searched” with “I have contraband in said property”, and then realize that some action must be taken. Like nearly everyone else on my section, I got rid of my contraband on Sunday afternoon.

And come they did. The team spent all day in the 14 cells of D-Section, a veritable saturnalia of prying, invading destruction: a plague out of Egypt with customized hats and poor dental habits. They hit my cell at around 2:00pm. The other four convicts on 2-Row were also removed from their cells at this time, which is a little unusual, though not unprecedented. I was placed in the shower, where I remained for the 75 minutes that they spent in my house. Eventually, they came to fetch me, and I was returned to my cell. As always, all of my property was stacked into a massive pile on the floor. No mention was made to me at the time about any illicit materials having been found in my house, nor was there any discussion of cases being presented.

This is important; I have had many items confiscated by the SD team over the past 18 months: broken headphones that I have taped together, radios I have modified to pick up TV audio, speakers I have manufactured for something to eat, the paints I make from liquefied colored pencils, etc, etc. They always present me with paperwork immediately, which I have to sign. There is never any deviation from this procedure, ever. In the case of contraband deemed serious enough to warrant disciplinary action (like my paints), the inmate is informed if this action immediately, and a heating is set, which will determine the facts and them mete out punishment. There is a set of forms for this, which also must be signed immediately. On this day, no one word was said me about any of this. I went to cleaning my cell, considering the unpleasantness over.

Not quite finished, as it turned out. Later that evening, three convicts on 2-Row were told to pack up. I was one of them. I fired off a kite to Kevin explaining everything, and then proceeded to bag my property. I was a bit vexed, for they had no reason to move me. The other guys were each friends of the two men involved in the assault, so I understood the reasoning behind separating them. But I had no real connection to either of them: the victim was African American, the attacker Mexican; lumping the whites into this volatile racial stew was unneeded and uncalled for, Frankly, they are usually a little more aware of this sort of thing. (As a result of my move, rumors would spring up from bored and suspicious minds that I had somehow been involved in the argument which precipitated the stabbing. You have never seen such a rumor-mill like that of a prison rumor-mill, trust me.) Already, a suspicion was being formed in my mind that something off was taking place.

I was moved to B-Pod 12-BF-75 cell. I unpacked, and went about my life. Two days later, on Wednesday, March 17th, at 4:30pm (one hour before shift change), Sgt Farris presented me with a major case, for “stockpiling psych drugs.” (Which, I should state, I do not take. She also refused to explain to me why the case had not been presented to me on Monday.) She showed me a photograph of some pills, which were hidden inside two boxes of Ibuprofen and Alamag, an antacid sold at the commissary. I was somewhat stunned, but I did not stay that was for long. I quickly asked if she had possession of these boxes, and she confirmed that she did. I then produced my box of Ibuprofen, and as they only allow you to own one, this produced some confusion in Sgt Farris. I also noted, and then showed, that I have a prescription for a pharmaceutical grade acid-reflux drug, so I would have no need to purchase a box of cheap, knock-off Alamag.

It immediately got better: from two cells down, a convict named “V” had been listening. He immediately called the Sgt. Down to his cell and explained that he was insulin-dependant, and had been in the nurse’s office that afternoon getting his shot, when two members of the SD squad had arrived. They were there to identify a set of pills, which the nurse attempted to do. While she compared them to known samples, “V” heard them arguing about the paperwork: it seems that no one had bothered to fill out chain-of-custody forms on this “evidence”, and they no longer knew which cell the pills had come out of. Keep in mind, this conversation between “V” and Sgt Farris happened during the presentation of the case paperwork. This was the first time I became aware of the existence of a case or allegation made against me, so it is not possible for “V” and I to have concocted this story beforehand. In any case, it is not common practice for Mexicans to go about fabricating stories for whites in prison, Hollywood nonsense to the side. Sgt. Farris left the pod thoroughly convinced that an error had taken place.

And why not? All the cells look exactly the same in 12-Buiulding. When you have all the cons removed, and the property piled up all over the place, with personnel moving from cell to cell every few minutes, it is very easy to get confused. And when you don’t bother to do paperwork until two days after the fact, accidents aren’t just possible they are guaranteed. Yes, in my naïveté, I still viewed the whole incident as en error, at this point.

When I didn’t hear anything the next day (Thursday), I began to assume that the case had been dropped. I tried to get Sgt Farris to come see me again, but she sent word that she was busy, and that I “shouldn’t worry about anything.” I took this to mean that the whole mess had been cleaned up.

I went to a visit that Friday afternoon, felling pretty good about things. I had not been back from visitation for ninety seconds before Lt. Tolly and nine officers entered the pod and quickly moved to my cell. I was ordered to strip, or I would be “subjected to the use of chemical agents.” A few seconds later, this was repeated as I removed the jalapeno cheeseburger from my pants that I had smuggled back from the visitation room. I mean, if you are going to the hole, you might as well go with a full belly, right? I eventually came out, after eating my sandwich, and began the long walk towards F-Pod.

Stop for a moment and think about the sequence here. Even if you feel I am a lying piece of sludge, and that I had an entire pharmacy and meth kitchen in my cell, what does it say about the system that it sends you to prison (Level 2 & 3) before you even go to court (the disciplinary hearing)? Here in TDC, you are presumed guilty, and this tends to conjure images of Lubyenka, does it not? Hold that thought: if you pay attention, you will find additional evidence of our old friends, wink and nod.

The true state of affairs began to take shape rather quickly. While the C.O.’s (regular officers) began packing my property for storage, Lt. Tolly escorted me himself towards F-Pod. This is generally not accepted practice, and we deviated from the norm even more by stopping at his office on the way. The only witness to this stop was Sgt McGee (Tolly’s lap-dog), who posted up in the hallway while Tolly took his seat behind his desk. (It should also be noted that Sgt McGee is Farris' counterpart; it is not a coincidence that they waited until Sgt Farris was off-duty to spring this on me.

“So, pills, eh, Whitaker? Never saw you as a pill-head, but I guess life is full of surprises, huh?” He was smiling in the most condescending manner imaginable, so it didn’t even cross my mind to try to object to anything at this point in the process; you really have to choose your battlegrounds carefully when dealing with people like Tolly, who will most likely be a major some day. I think it was at this point that I simply asked when my hearing was, but that might have been a little later on. What I mostly remember from our conversation is two items: the first was the smugness he exuded during our little chat. Tolly has been circling around me for three years now, since he was a Sgt. Back in 07, a person I knew in the freeworld called the Fort Bend District Attorney’s office, and asked one of the prosecutors who sentenced me to death if people on DR could make phone calls. Somehow this query got “mixed up” (yeah right), and when my prosecutor called up here, it was reported that I have been making calls. Even after I cleared the whole matter up with some affidavits, Tolly remained convinced that I had a cell phone. His suspicions were further fueled by a tactic the American Taliban used against me in 08/09, where they called up here to the Unit and gave anonymous “Secret Indictments” about me having called them. To Lt. Tolly this amounted to his moment of revenge, for the roughly 40 cell searches that had turned up precisely zero cell phones.

When he speaks, he likes to use a lot of very strong adjectives, like dangerous criminal behavior, vicious disregard for the rules. Have you ever noticed how people who are half-evil are soothed by this type of thing? It’s like their subconscious is saying: ok, I’m a sorry, cruel bastard, but at least I’m not as bad as this guy. It’s a moral salve. Of course, reveling in other peoples sins – imagined or real – doesn’t make you a saint; though, for heavens sake, don’t ever tell an evangelical that: you will just confuse them.

The second thing I remember was that he very quickly asked about why “he was getting all these calls about (my) fucking blog.” The only thing that surprised me about his comment was that he came out with it so clearly: this was, without a doubt, the reason for everything. He went on for a while, letting me know that “they” (still not sure who all was included under the umbrella of that particular pronoun) knew everything: about my writings, the nearly constant contact between Kevin and I (which is, technically, a activity worthy of a major case), and the efforts to save Kevin’s life. It all felt very Kafkaesque. At one point I screwed up and interjected that it really wasn’t any of his business what I wrote online, and he yelled that “anything that went on in (his) house was (his) business.” I shut up from that point forward, because…. well, there really isn’t any arguing with people like Tolly, especially when he is in a mood. He tired soon afterwards, and he wasn’t the only one feeling that way: all in all, the experience left me feeling soiled, as if I had undergone the conversational equivalent of a water-boarding.

Tolly led me personally to my new home, 12-FE-70, the last cell in Level 2. This is also important: at this point, they still had no idea what exactly I was guilty of, and whether or not to stick me on Level 2 or 3. Another piece of bad timing made up their minds: within three days, four more of Kevin’s journals went live, and that night I was moved to Level 3. When I protested that “misuse of prescription drugs” was only a Level 1 offense (changed to Level 2 on May 21st, 2010), I was told that I “didn’t know what the fuck (I) was talking about.” Oh, guess I wasn’t supposed to get my hands on THIS eh? Whoops.

Of all my property, I was allowed only my legal work, five bars of soap, and my TDCJ necessities (towel, jumpsuit, socks, boxers). I wasn’t sure how long I was going to be down there, but I knew that this was definitely going to be a learning experience.

To be continued…

“Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.”

~ Voltaire.

© Copyright 2010 by Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mailroom Monster strikes again?

It appears that the last few entries that Thomas has sent to me seem to have mysteriously vanished somewhere between his cell and my letterbox. Please be patient as we are trying to resolve the problem.