Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Letter to a Future Death Row Inmate, Part 21

by William “Big Will” Speer

Part 20 can be seen here

(Admin note: The author of this piece chose to write it in narrative form, rather than an actual letter. Here's to diversity!)

Voices overheard in dayrooms:

"Hey, who was that they just brought in?"

"I don’t know. He looked new."

"What cell did they put him in?"

"I don’t know what cell number it is but it’s the one that guy who just got executed used to live in."

"Oh, that's next to Big Will."

I hear the gate pop so I go to the door and look out. I see two officers bringing in some new guy. He's still wearing his county slides on his feet. It makes me think back to when I first came to DR, but at least I had property coming from population; this guy doesn’t look like he has anything.

He walks up to in front of my cell, looking at his empty cell. The officer is pushing the button to get the picket to roll the door, but the picket officer is looking the other way.

He looks up at me ... I see the uncertainty in his face. So I ask him his name, and he tells me. I say I'm Big Will. I ask him if he has any property. He says no, they took it all back in the county and wouldn’t let him bring it. I say, well, I don’t know what you lost but I can help you get what you need.

He looks at me and says, Oh no man, I aint gettin mixed up with none of that shit. I smile and laugh. No, man, its cool. Some of us know what its like to not have anything and know you need stuff. It aint no game you got to pay anything back.

Now, Speer, the officer chimes in, you can’t even wait for us to leave before you try to corrupt this guy. I smile as he says that trafficking and trading is against the rules. Now the door rolls and the officers go to put him in the cell and I tell him I’ll talk to him after they go. He says ok and steps into the cell. They remove the handcuffs and walk off. I say, ya'll make sure he gets his necessities. Don’t forget.

A few minutes go by and I hear the toilet flush and the sink water run, then a sigh. So, he says, this is it, huh? I say yeah, pretty much ... they'll bring you a mattress and necessities here shortly. He says, I hope so, cuz I had to sleep on steel in the county for over two weeks and that was some rough sleepin.

Well, they do that here, too, but that’s usually only when they want to punish you for whatever. Then they got every excuse in the book as to why they can’t find a mattress but they'll give you a. blanket to sleep on. He's quiet for awhile.

Well, how long have you been here? I tell him and he is quiet again, He then asks how long he's got. I say, honestly about 6 or 7 years but things could change for you. He asks how, and I say that laws sometimes change and I don’t know about your case but maybe you will get some action.

He said, yeah, I hope I do, cuz I don’t want to die here! I tell him that I know the feeling, and then he asks if this is where he'll stay until the end. I tell him that no, they move us once every six months to a year. Oh, cuz I heard that guy out there say I was going to the cell they just killed someone in. Its kind of creepy living in a cell they killed someone in.

I say, well they didn’t actually kill him in that cell but he did live there for a good year before they gave him his date and moved him to Death Watch on A-Pod.

He says it’s still creepy. I say, well, get used to it cuz every cell you go to will have had someone who lived in it and then got killed. He’s quiet again before saying, man, that’s depressing.

Yeah it is.

So, what do we get here? I say that I will show him my commissary list but I hope you got your eye-full of TV inside the county cuz there aint none here. And you don’t get to use a phone either. Not like in the county. You might get to make one 5 minute call every six months on a speaker phone with a ton of officers all round, but don’t count on it.

Man, that's all?

Yeah, and believe me they make it such a hassle so you don’t even try. I sure don’t, but then I don’t have anyone asking for a call either.

Yeah, I ran up some pretty high phone bills in the county so I know my people wont be asking for a while.

I say, speaking of your people, here let me give you some writing stuff and hygiene. I'll holler and see what else we can get you. Some guys have already got stuff together and are sending it to you. I’ll pick it up and get it over to you.

He says I sure do appreciate your help.

It's all good. I just ask to keep it real with me cuz all that what you did, who you were, don’t mean shit anymore. You are in a new world now and your word and respect is all you got.

I hear you man, he says. I did over a year in the county so I understand.

No, I say, in the county people are still trying to hold on to who they were. All that's dead now. Its brand new here: you can turn into a piece of shit or be cool and have your respect.

He shouts, hey, I’ll fight for my respect aint nobody going to disrespect me!

Well, you wont be doing any fighting with inmates cuz you'll never be around one to fight, "Cell Warrior" shit is about all there is and that don’t get no respect, not really.

Yeah, he says, that is not me, I was around a lot of that stuff in the county.

I send him my fishing line, Here, I say, get this. I slide him the bag with his stuff in it.

Thanks man. He says what’s your name again? Will?


Thanks, Will. I had a nickname I used to go by in the freeworld, but the guy who gave it to me snitch on me and then lied on me to help send me to death row. So I don’t go by that anymore.

Yeah, I say, nicknames can tell a lot about a person's character. I tell him that it’s real friendly here like an old folks home, really. For the most part you mind your own business, don’t look in people's cells, respect your neighbors and try not to yell or bang at night. The officers come around every 30 minutes sometimes. Sometimes its every hour or two, it sort of depends on what’s going on. You can ask them for whatever you need but if they are busy they will forget so you'll have to remind them ... a lot. Some of the officers got a real smart mouth, too. So watch yourself or you'll end up in a wreck. Try to keep things in perspective. Sometimes they just follow orders and don’t realize what they are saying or how it’s being taken. Like sit on your bunk; they only tell you that at chow time, but most will let you just stand back away from the door and then open the slot to feed you.

Oh, he says, so that’s how they feed us.

Yeah, I say, and the food is off and on one meal bad the next ok. But it's better than it was. Do you like to get out of your cell?

Yeah, but how he asks.

I tell him that you get to rec two hours a day, 5 days a week. The major is supposed to be looking at 6 days a week, but no word yet. They will come around each morning and ask you if you are going to rec and shower. You say yes, and they tell you the projected time. But know that shit changes around here so much don’t count on anything they tell you. Cuz some people verbally refuse or some other officer does not like the way the other officer set up the rec sheet and then they change it. Who knows; just know that it all can change. You'll strip out everywhere you go, going and coming. Get used to them seeing you cuz it’s your new way of life.

That sucks.

You get visits on a phone in a booth with glass between ya'll. No contact for DR. If you don’t know ask me and I will help you out. If you want to know about someone ask me and III tell you cuz there are some real pieces of trash around here. You'll see for the most part its best to be cautious and don’t take no cooked food from anyone until you get to know them if you care about what they might put in it. Again you got some real weirdos here. This place is nasty, too. Always wash your hands especially out in the dayroom and if you pick something up off the run. Sometimes you can catch the SSI wiping the table with the same rag he just wiped the toilet and sink with. Try to keep your shower slides on especially in the shower to prolong you from getting foot fungus. But you'll get it somehow anyway, be it through the socks or sheets. Once you do get it you'll have to put in a sick call form and well, good luck with all that is all I'll say. It takes awhile to get to get a sick-call answered around here.

If you like to read, your people can order you books and magazines from stores and companies out there. But most everything is bought off the commissary. It is a little deeper than the country for some stuff and a lot for others. They serve food around 3-5 AM for breakfast, 10:30-12:30 for lunch, and 5-7 for dinner.

How long will it take for me to get my ID card, he asks.

I tell him, oh, about 30 days or so.

Man, he whistles, now I can see why ya'll hooked me up.

I look down the run and see the guards coming our way. Well, I say, here they come with your stuff. I'll let you go make your bed, kick back and I'll holler at you later.

Yeah, he sighs. I’m tired. Thanks man.


(Admin note: You can find more writings by Big Will at

© Copyright 2011 by William Speer and Thomas Bartlett Whitaker. All rights reserved

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