Friday, March 22, 2013

Seeking the Path of Greatest Resistance

By Thomas Bartlett Whitaker

There are few activities I hate more than handwriting a letter. On a scale compromising all of the imaginable hells that can befall a man, handwriting letters ranks somewhere between having my fingernails ripped out and being forced to listen to an hour of Rush Limbaugh. I understand that sometimes people prefer the personal touch of a handwritten letter, but I can type about a bazillion times faster than I can write, and this fact is never far from the forefront of my mind on the rare occasions that I set my typewriter to the side. I was discussing this fact with a long-suffering friend of mine recently (who, alas!, in five plus years of corresponding with me has yet to receive a handwritten letter). She felt it was very odd that I feel this way, considering that when it comes to writing a paper for class or an article for the internet, I always handwrite a rough draft. I tried to explain that letters are like a conversation; they are spur-of-the-moment, instantaneous things, and when I type it is almost like talking. Writing a term paper is like having a conversation with Knowledge or History (or something equally momentous and Necessarily Capitalized), and the pace needs to be more deliberate and intentional, and less fluid. It sounded like a weak argument at the time, and I've been pondering this double standard ever since.

A few weeks ago, this same friend sent me a copy of a really interesting interview from the Paris Review, in which poet Ted Hughes discusses the uses of difficulty. Hughes's contention was that sometimes we don't realize what a complication was doing for us until it is removed, and that there may be a cost to always having one's pathway made smooth. Specifically, he discussed the theory that when you take the time to handwrite something, "you meet the terrible resistance of what happened your first year at it, when you couldn't write at all." As your brain goes through the effort of controlling the hand and the eye and the pencil and the paper, this tension creates a "more compressed, psychologically denser expression." It turns out modern neuroscience backs Hughes up: a study done by University of Washington professor Virginia Berninger has found that writing things by hand activates more of the brain than typing, especially in areas responsible for memory and logical thinking. After reading this article, I sent a letter back to my friend that said: "See? That's what I was talking about." l could practically hear her rolling her eyes at me from 1,000 miles away. And no, I'm still not handwriting my correspondence, so don‘t anybody even ask.

There is something to this, though, something every cranky old grandfather sitting on his rocking chair knows: without obstacles to our desires it`s sometimes hard to know what we want. The musician Jack White only uses trashy guitars that won't stay in tune; he also holds them in such a way that makes playing them or changing instruments less convenient. He does this because when music gets too easy, "it becomes harder to make it sing." If you are a lover of the Beatles, you owe some of your fandom to this idea, too: after finishing "Rubber Soul," McCartney considered recording their next album in Los Angeles, where studios had more advanced equipment. When the idea proved too expensive, the band had to deal with the primitive tech of Abbey Road. It was the ingenuity of working around and overcoming the problems presented by the old-fashioned gear that made songs like "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" have aural effects that completely confounded the sound engineers behind the Rolling Stones. Serenity might be good for the soul, but it also makes us lazy. When attempting to create something, it might even be fatal.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I completed my BA last year. I did really well this time around, crossing the finish line with a 3.92 GPA. I say "this time around" because when I attended Baylor University in 1998, my performance was somewhat less than stellar. Oh, I had my moments, such as when I got an A in Neuroscience or an 88 in Introductory Biochem, a pre-med class notorious for flunking out prospective doctors. But for the most part I was an unmitigated psychological disaster zone at the time, and studying was not high on my list of priorities. From my marginally less ignorant present position, I wonder if the cancer of ease had something to do with it. Because I don't really know how to explain the radically different focus I've developed this time around the educational merry-go-round. This time, l got it. I was relentless. I studied six to eight hours a day, every day. I devoured my textbooks and annoyed my professors (and my friends) with questions. I took the theory and I applied it to real life. I'm not going to pretend that I am anywhere close to feeling like I've "mastered" a single subject, but I do feel like I have enough information in a few areas of study to at least not ask completely stupid questions. In short, I felt a fire in me for knowledge this time around, something I simply do not recall possessing when I was 18. Maturity may be the main difference here, or perhaps the shortened timeline, but I'm not convinced that living in the worst penal hell in the state doesn‘t have something to do with it, too.

Attending college classes from prison is not easy. If such a thing as an "understatement detector" actually existed, trust me that it would probably be going berserk right about now. Let me put it another way: in the modern death penalty era (which began in the late 70’s), I seem to be the sole inmate in Texas Death Row history to have graduated from college. This is astonishing to me because there are some very smart men back here, guys whose intellects (and bank accounts) far outpace my own. And I've been diligent in my investigations on this subject, ever since I made this goal a priority back in the Summer of 2007. Not only had none of the old-timers not known anyone who had graduated from college, they didn't recall anyone ever having taken a single college-level course from back here. I think it was at this point that I first started to realize just how complicated was the task that I had set for myself.

Back in 2011, the Institute for Higher Education Policy released a report that showed that only roughly 6% of the 2.5 million prisoners in the United States were enrolled in vocational or post-secondary programs. 86% of those were serving time in just thirteen states. Though the data in this study were kind of fuzzy, it was clear that the lion's share of that 6% consisted of vocational classes that directly benefited the prison system itself - classes on plumbing and building maintenance and the like. Raw, liberal arts, learning-for-the-sake-of-learning courses are exceedingly rare in this penal world, and getting harder to find as the years go by.

The situation in Texas is about what you‘d expect it to be on this front. The last Tea Party-dominated Lege session slashed and burned funding for education programs in Texas prisons, along with nearly 6 billion dollars in cuts for public schools. I'm not going to rant and rail about this here, as I think my position on this sort of short-term thinking is well documented. (Although I can't resist noting that despite Nagasaki-ing the higher ed budget, the Lege still had the time and money to bless a 4-year "biblical studies degree" program installed at the Darrington Unit, which will be overseen by the radical fundamentalist zealots at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. So much for the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.) My contacts in population tell me that the waiting list for classes - even basic GED completion classes - is currently quite long, and if you don‘t have a parole date in the foreseeable future you might as well forget about it. The situation in the administrative segregation wings is far starker: in seg, there is no access to education. None. Zilch. Zip. The state is obligated to provide you with three meals a day, a mattress, a towel, and some soap. That's it. Whatever education you can get from that is on you.

It didn't take me very long to begin running into the roadblocks, and I will admit that there were many times during the early years that I very nearly threw in the towel. I learned that there are basically three major hoops that one is going to have to jump through in order to pursue a college degree in a Texas seg wing. I'm going to explain each of these here in some detail because I know that some of you who read this site are the friends and supporters of some of my neighbors, and it is my sincere hope that you might persuade some of them to pursue similar goals. I've long stated my opinion that if we want the system to treat us better than animals, we first have to act like something more advanced. Aside from righting a huge past error, that is really what this quest was all about: an attempt to rejoin the human race. That is probably something we could all concentrate on a little more often, if we are honest with ourselves.

Anyways, the first mountain one needs to summit deals with simply finding a university that still offers correspondence courses via snail-mail. This is not as simple a task as one might think. The internet has brought untold opportunities for educational advancement right to your doorstep, and that is truly an awesome development that is making our world a demonstrably better place. But for those of us without even a hint of internet access, the advent of digital education has basically eviscerated the older, printed variety. Starting in the Fall of 2007, I began sending letters out to every college and university that I could think of, inquiring about the status of their distance education programs. Over the course of about twelve months, I mailed out approximately 300 of these probes. The response was not terribly promising, but I was both surprised and very appreciative that the vast majority of these institutions actually took the time to mail me a response, even when they had nothing much to say. When building a database like this, even a rejection is something.

Many of the larger state universities do still offer a smattering of courses via hard-copy format, but these are almost entirely freshmen level courses. One could feasibly cobble together one's 100 level courses by selecting a class or two from school A and a class or two from school B, etc, etc, until one had all of the necessary "basics" covered. It would be a royal pain in the derriere to do things in this manner, but it could be done. I actually believed that I was going to have to follow this path for a time, though I was fortunate enough to have most of my basics covered from my prior college experience. Mercifully, as more of my queries were returned to me, I began to come across a handful of institutions that offered complete paths to graduation. Generally, most universities will accept transfer credits for your 100 and 200 level courses, what typically correlates to your freshman and sophomore years. When it comes to your 300 and 400 level classes - or the core of your major - colleges want you to do all of these at the same institution. They desire this because each school puts a slightly different focus on how each major is taught; basics are basics but if you go to school X and graduate with a business degree, they want the world to know that your genius was a result or their program. Since the last two years of classes must all be done at the same school, it becomes impossible to patch together a degree in the same way that one could mix and match lower level courses. At the end of the day, my choices were thus reduced down to just three options.

Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey had several programs that looked very interesting, and they had a great reputation in the sometimes seedy world of "distance education." Unfortunately, their programs ended up being prohibitively expensive, and they also had a weird credit system that I was concerned wouldn't transfer easily should that ever become necessary. Ohio University has a program specifically designed for incarcerated individuals, and from what I hear they do an excellent job. I leaned away from this option because at the end of the day I didn't want anyone to be able to say: "OK, you graduated, but you only did so from a program designed for prisoners." That may sound silly to you - and maybe it is. But I'm sort of accustomed to people qualifying or even stealing outright my little victories, and I really, really didn't want that happening here. My final option was Adams State College in Colorado, now grown up a bit into Adams State University. Almost from my first letter, the people at Adams made me feel like they valued me as a student, and they really did make me feel like my status as a prisoner was not going to color their judgment of me. They made the selection process easy for me, to be perfectly honest.

While it is certainly true that beggars shouldn't be overly choosy, it was important to me that the education I worked so hard for would actually be worth something. I don't care about being a "Harvard Man" or anything like that, but there are an enormous amount of diploma mills out there, only too happy to reward you with a degree in exchange for a fistful of cash. I didn't just want a pigskin; I wanted to be slightly less stupid, and that meant a real college with real professors and real standards. I actually received a bit of an education on the status of American higher education as I researched schools. You wouldn’t believe the charlatans out there. It didn't take me long to decide that I didn't want to attend a) a "for-profit" university, b) one bankrolled by a religious organization, or c) one not accredited by one of the major accreditation bureaus. ASU fit those requirements, and the fact that they were willing to accept 62 of my transfer hours probably had something to do with cementing my decision.

One important factor that any potential convict-scholar is going to need to keep in mind is that not all degree paths are open to distance learners. Science classes with labs are entirely out of the question for obvious reasons (and if you actually do have a Bunsen burner in your cell, I sure as hell don't want to know how you managed to get it in there). Mathematics courses requiring advanced calculators are similarly eliminated. What you are generally left with are majors concentrated in the social sciences and humanities fields. For my part, I was lucky to have plenty of science credits from my time at Baylor, but all three of the universities I have listed here have degree paths available for individuals starting out with zero credits. In the end, I settled on an Interdisciplinary Studies degree, which at ASU means that you pick two majors to focus on which in some way correlate with each other. My two areas of focus were English and Sociology. These fields interpenetrate quite a bit with each other, especially when studying culture. They also correlate in being fields that offer you zero practical job opportunities in the real world besides those found in academia, but fortunately that was not a major factor in my decision process. (Copies of my final transcript and a list of my transfer credits can be found at the end of this entry.)

One last thing to consider once you have settled on a degree path is this: just because the front office has accepted you into the fold, this in no way implies that all of your professors are going to be in love with the idea of having a convict roaming freely inside their ivory towers. Most professors in my experience congregate at the liberal end of the political spectrum, but that doesn't mean they want you sitting in the front row. Most will be open to the possibility of being impressed, and if you bust your tail for them they will come around to supporting you. (Some will even become some of your most vocal backers, if you are lucky.) But there is always going to be some initial wariness that you will have to overcome, and you are going to have to work twice as hard as anyone else in the class just to get the same marks. And the truth of the matter is, you are probably going to run into at least one professor who doesn't want you there and is pissed off that they have no choice in the matter and they are going to take out their feeling of impotency on your work. In three years of classes, I was only given a single B. Now, maybe I earned this B. Frankly, I think I earned an A, but perhaps I am wrong. Or, perhaps it had everything to do with the fact that my professor told me flat out he didn't believe in educating prisoners and insisted on referring to me by both my full name and prison number every time he wrote to me. Hard to say. Just inure yourself to such experiences, and move on. Remember the bigger picture, and that you can't please everyone all of the time. Don't stop trying to, but have a sense of realism about everything. Sometimes you just have to take the B and limp forward.

Once an institution and a degree plan have been selected, one will come face to face with the second major impediment in one's path. For a time, I actually believed that this would be the simplest of the three to tame, but it ended up being an absolute beast. All accredited universities require that your exams be proctored by a qualified individual. In fact, this requirement is probably the easiest means one has of determining whether or not the university you selected is "for real". Were I housed in the general population, I could have had one of the officials in the education department proctor these exams, but, as I mentioned, in seg we have no access to this department. I petitioned half the TDCJ brass at this unit before I realized that I was never going to get anywhere with them. (The exact words of former Warden Hirsch: "Why the fuck would I waste my time educating a corpse?") This one had me stumped until I asked ASU if an attorney would qualify. They responded by saying that as long as they were a member of the state Bar or a registered paralegal, they would work. Thus began a long period where I reasoned with, pestered, harassed, and otherwise bedeviled every attorney who was unfortunate enough to have had their addresses find their way into my Rolodex. Four eventually agreed to proctor for me over the years, and while I am going to respect their wishes to remain anonymous, I want to express my sincere gratitude to each of you. I know that you had better things to do with your time than watch me scribble away on notepads for hours at a time, but I couldn't have done this without you.

The process for taking these examinations is pretty simple. The test is mailed to the attorney in question, and they arrange with the prison to come up here on a certain date. When I have explained this approach to my neighbors in the past, they always asked: the state allows you to do this? My response has always been: what me and my attorney discuss during our visits is none of the state's damned business. If I choose to take an exam during our time together, what is it to them? Over the course of my undergrad work, I took probably sixty exams, and I never felt it necessary to explain what I was doing to any of them even once. The exams themselves usually have a time limit of around 90 to 120 minutes, though I’ve had some English finals that were three-hour affairs. Exams at ASU are almost entirely essay based; I only took one class where a portion of each test had a multiple-choice section. (One example of these tests can be found below, and this is probably as close as you are ever going to get to seeing me harried and unedited. I think I got a 92 on that particular exam.) In general, each class has at least two exams, though I've taken several classes with as many as five. The visitation room is not exactly the most accommodating locale in which to perform the sort of mental acrobatics needed to succeed in these exams, but it really is the only option. I usually snuck out there with a pair of earplugs, and then stuffed them so far into my head that they were practically nudging against my brain. In retrospect, this may have been one of those situations where the difficulty of the context caused me to over-perform, though it was hell at the time. I recall one instance back in the early portions of 2010 where a guy got gassed several booths down from where I was taking my ENG 203 final. I wrapped my t-shirt around my face and kept writing. I didn't really think too much about this at the time, having grown accustomed to the use of chemical agents in my daily life. Unfortunately, the gas got into the weave of the paper and I ended up getting a letter a few weeks later from my professor wondering why the test smelled so odd. Apparently, it caused her to sneeze uncontrollably for about five minutes. I was mortified. And also pretty lucky that she was not the type to hold a chemical weapons attack against me, even if that attack was unintentional.

In addition to the examinations, each class at ASU is going to include at least a few essays. My sociology courses usually only had a few of these, plus a thesis or a major project. My English classes had as many as 15 to 20 essays per course. The length of these essays ranged from 4 to 5 page simple evaluations to mini-theses of 25+ pages. All told, I probably wrote between 230 and 250 essays the last three years. (I sent home most of these papers over the years, so all I have to this point are a few short essays which I kept and some early drafts of longer papers sent in for approval of concept; still, these selections I share with you will give you some idea of what I have been doing with my time during the weeks when I wasn't posting things on MB6.)

So far, so good. None of what I've written thus far probably deviates much from the college experiences had by many of you, save for the gas canister attacks during examinations, but then, some of you went to school in the 60s and you were a crazy bunch, so who knows. The final hurdle to earning a college degree while in prison is pretty much the final hurdle to earning a college degree anywhere: money, honey. I hear and read stories all of the time on the radio and in the newspaper about the crippling costs of higher education, about how college tuition has increased at twice the rate of healthcare over the past 25 years. Ballooning student loan debt does really seem to be a problem, even to the extent that many have decided that the return on a BA is now flat or falling. Perhaps. I can't say how things are at Yale. But I do know that there are still good schools out there where you can get a great education at a fair price, and I would still guess that the cost over one's lifetime of not going to school is always going to be far greater than the debt one accrues from student loans. In any case, over my three years at ASU, I experienced only minor tuition hikes.

I found it convenient to think about tuition as being comprised of 500 dollar chunks: for every 500 bucks I saved up, I got to take another course. That $500 was usually enough to cover tuition, fees, and textbooks, so long as I bought those books used at a discount vendor like Amazon. I took 63 hours at ASU, or 21 classes. The total cost for me was just a tiny bit over the $10,000 mark. That is certainly not chump-change, but neither are we talking about a sum that is likely to put a recent graduate into a state of perpetual penury as he pays off his loans. This can be done. Sacrifices have to be made, but it can be done. I have sympathy for anyone trying to balance the obligations and responsibilities of life with their dreams. But if I can do this from here, I know you can.

Unfortunately, there are few (in my experience, zero) opportunities for being awarded a scholarship as a convict-scholar. The people who write the cheques want the money to go to people whose education will have an impact on the world, so it is understandable that prisoners wouldn't rank highly on their list of priority recipients. President Clinton really knocked our feet out from underneath us when he signed a crime bill in 1994 that, among other things, rendered state and federal prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants. If you want to trace the declining trajectory of prisoner-students back to its source, this is as good a place to start as any. The long and short of this is that if you want to study, it also means that you are going to have to spend a significant amount of time begging from friends and family. This was the part of the process I hated the most, bar none. Because I get it. To most of you, I'm a curiosity, a site to check every blue moon and then forget about. Certainly not someone that you are going to give cash to. To my friends, my greatest fear is that I will become a burden to you. I know you all have your own desires and expenses to deal with, and I don't want to add to that. I took the stance early on that I was going to concentrate simply on small donations of a few bucks at a time and see what I could do with that. Somehow I managed to straggle across the finish line, and I'm still not exactly sure how. I can't thank those of you enough who helped me. You have given me an activity that has preserved my sanity, enhanced my humanity, and given me a purpose to live for. I've come to finally understand that even within the limits of nihilism it is possible to find the means to proceed beyond nihilism, a fragile but priceless lesson. I owe you all my life.

At any rate, the whole process begins again this May when I begin the Master of Arts in the Humanities program at the Dominguez Hills campus of California State University.  I'm pretty excited about this, and more than a little intimidated. Fortunately, some of my professors from Adams have gotten behind me, and will be advising me during the program and the development of my thesis. That's not to say that I won't crash and burn under the more complicated headwinds of graduate level academia, but it does give me a bit of a cushion to fall back on. This MA is one of the more affordable graduate programs that I have come across. A student needs to complete a minimum of 30 credits to graduate, plus the completion and acceptance of a thesis. Each credit costs $233, meaning the program costs $6990 plus books and fees. I would guess that texts will run me another 3 grand, putting the grand total around $10,000 again. I currently have a little more than $4,000 saved at present, so if this is the sort of thing that you believe in, I could certainly use a few pennies from time to time.If nothing else, I think that my transcript below proves that I have the dedication to excel at my studies, and the honesty to use the money in exactly the way I claim it will be used. Awhile back, I set up a system where Paypal will deduct 8 dollars a month from your account automatically. My goal for this year is to sign ten people up for this. I currently have two. If I can reach this goal, I will not have to take money out of my school fund to cover the costs of everything MB6 related. So, if what we are doing around here has value to you, and you can afford to buy two less cups of Starbucks each month, please consider subscribing here If you don't believe in that thar new-fangled digital money, cheques for either my education fund or maintenance of this site can be mailed to the PO box listed on the right-hand margin (but please mention which you are supporting so the funds go to the right account).

Should any of you have any questions about any point detailed above, you know where to find me. If someone on the Row wants even more specific information on any of these schools, I have an entire folder worth of registration data that I will be happy to send their way. So far, I've managed to coax one other convict here on the Row into the world of higher education, but my goal is to entice so many that the Powers That Be decide to review their present admin-seg educational access policies. It's a long shot, but I'm starting to see how those are really the only activities which make a life worth living.


To see a copy of my official transcript, please click here

For a list of all of my classes, including transfer credits, click here

My diploma

To see what the exams look like at ASU, see here.

A random selection of a few essays:

'Tis But a Man Gone
On the Limits of Soft Power

Thomas Bartlett Whitaker #999522
Polunsky Unit
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351


D Ruelas said...

I am very proud of what you have made of your life, Thomas, and how you have influenced others on DR. Your intelligence never ceases to amaze me.
TO ALL THE READERS: I said this before and will say it again. $8.00dlls a month is NOTHING for any of us, and will go a long way in supporting Thomas with his studies. I invite not only 10 of you, but many more, to consider donating towards Thomas' education fund.

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed with Thomas and find him quite inspiring. I think it's remarkable how he's managed to make the best of a horrible situation, not just in his personal development, but in his concern for others as well. As his friend Charles wites in his affidavit, that place will either make you or break you, and the way it's "made Thomas" is a truly extraordinary thing to behold, if from the very limited perspective of these blog posts. His efforts to promote education amongst his fellow inmates at the prison are particularly impressive and admirable. I think his father can be proud of the man he's become..

Having said that, I have some concerns about the whole money sending thing. Frankly, I would be willing to make a significant contribution to his education fund. I consider it money well spent. However, I made a fairly substantial contribution to Thomas some time back and never received any indication that he got it (I used the Jpay thing). I never heard from him or anyone else. I'm not looking for a "think you" mind you, but I want to know that my money is going where I intend it. Is there a way one can make a direct contribution to his college? It'd be nice if someone could confirm that he'd never received the money I sent.

Of course, I have serious doubts that this will be posted, inasmuch as Tracy or Dina or whomever it is seems to have gotten the idea in their head that I am a mean Thomas basher, which is bizarre. I have been generslly very supportive of Thomas in my posts here, even the last two, which they refused to post. The only 'mean' thing I have ever written about or to Thomas was my asking why he initially blamed the killings on a back guy. I didn't ask that to be a trouble maker, I asked it because I wanted to hear his account. I was distrurbed by this fact, since it seems so out of character for a guy who claims to have always been "politically correct" and progressive politically, even back when he was "Bart". It's a tough question, sure, but not a 'mean' one. I genuinely like and admire Thomas, but that doesn't mean I'm just going to ask softball questions or utter "attaboys" and accolades towards him (though he's earned a fair share of those as well). I still find it bizarre that I have been essentially banned fom commenting here (it seems), especially when there are many posts here that are far more critical of Thomas than anything I've ever attempted to post here. All I can figure is that this blog gets a lot of Thomas bashing posts that need to be filtered out, and you guys sloppily misinterpreted my post (or posts) as being one of those. I'm confident Thomas himself would be perplexed at your reaction to my writings. It's also not doing Thomas any favors, as I am someone wonis very much wanting to support Thomas, especially as regards funding his graduate education. You have my email; I would prefer you make your reasons for banning my posts known to me. I think you'll find I've never posted anything particularly harsh towards or about Thomas, as has been suggested.

Tracey said...

Hi Joe

When you send Thomas funds via his JPay that goes to his commissary account. I am not sure if he is advised who deposits to that fund or not. I am advised directly of all donations made via Paypl which is his education fund and I personally advise him of every donation received.

Comments you have made that have not been posted have been forwarded to Thomas however, as the comments section is rather anonymous, he has no way of responding to you directly or of course, the other option is you could write to him directy as well.

We do appreciate you taking the time to read the entries and make comments.

Tracey said...

Also, if he is given a name with the JPay thing, and only a name, again he has no way to thank the person directly either.

LE said...

I made a donation last year to Thomas's legal fund, a got a very warm thanks from Tracy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tracy,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. The info you provided is very helpful; I'll use PayPal to send him funds (there is a link here somewhere for that, but if you don't mind posting it in the reply here, I'd appreciate it.)

Tracey said...

HERE is the link to donate via PayPal

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

Again, I'm really not looking for a thank you here so much as confirmation my gift has been received by its intended recipient (Thomas).

I am curious however as to why you say:

" if he is given a name with the JPay thing, and only a name, again he has no way to thank the person directly either"

Do you need to include a snail mail address somewhere if you want a write back? Email address?

I'm not being a wiseass here; I am genuinely confused.

[Maybe I'm just getting stupid, lol...]

Tracey said...

What I mean is that much of the time, Thomas does not like to name people publicly, and many other people don't want to be named publicly. So without an email address or a snail mail address, he really has no other way to thank someone directly.

Bonnie said...

In response to Joe G.
Joe, I can understand why you are so confused. Most people do not realize the limited access Thomas and others like him on death row have. Let's see if I can clear this up for you because I've seen you express your confusion quite often.
If you write to Thomas at the snail mail address located on the main entry page (right hand side), and you give him your real return of address, chances are he will write you back. If you tell him in your letter that you put money into one of his accounts, he will thank you for your donation. If you don't tell him you donated, he most likely will not say thank you because he honestly doesn't know you donated.

If you send him money via JPay, he is only notified once a month the balance of his account. Not who placed money into it.

If you donate money via PayPal, Tracey receives notification of this and let's Thomas know that money has been deposited. Again, she probably only knows a first name (maybe a last), but no contact information.

Also, if you send him a book through Amazon or another reputable book seller, he also does not know who sent the book unless you include a gift message and then again he will only have your name not your contact information.

If you are looking for a thank you via email, it would come from Tracey or Dina. Thomas has NO access to the internet at all. If you are looking for a phone call, he has no access to phones.

Other then written correspondence with people who have contacted him and have given legitimate contact information to him (mailing address) and those people who are on his visitors list, he has no way to communicate anything personally such as a thank you. He is isolated 23 hrs. a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Perhaps you are thinking that Thomas could or should make a declaration of gratitude here on MB6. I will tell you that that will not happen. Thomas respects peoples privacy too much. He would never "call" someone out on the site. You will see where he may reference a friend in one of his entries, but he never divulges their name. Though he will generalize a thank you to everyone as a group without mentioning names.LOT

I can personally tell you that he very much appreciates all the support he is given. Whether it is financial or verbal. I hope this helps you understand better.

Ilaria said...

I subscribed to the 8 $ monthly donation. I believe in him and I'm sure that if we give him the chance he can reach important goals in life.
His efforts must be supported, 8 $ is not much for any of us I think. I am not a millionaire, I recently graduated and doing an internship. So if I can afford this, anyone of you can, I guess. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Bonnie. A very nice, confuse, useful brain dump for myself and, doubtless, others here concerned about Thomas.