Thursday, December 31, 2009

Finding a Piece of Yourself

They don't happen very often. Maybe, it's never happened to me before.

Maybe they do, and you just don't notice them.

This time, it did happen and I saw it coming.

It is bitterly cold outside, and my hands are a little numb. They don't sell us hats or gloves in the TDC, but that hasn't stopped enterprising inmates from making both. I am a study in white thermal underwear.

It is well after midnight, and I have my lamp on, shining down on my desk: an island of putrid yellow floating in a sea of blackness. Open on my desk, one of my textbooks, recently arrived for the spring semester. Next to the book, a sheaf of papers: the results of nearly two hours of absorbing Makrov Chains and the minimax principle, numbers and matrices jumbled up into a semi-chaotic mess.

I pause for a moment and stop writing. For a moment, just a moment, I feel as if I can see myself from above. A quaint literary trick, perhaps; a symptom of an overly romantic mind with very few opportunities to stretch its legs. But for that moment - just a moment - I realize that I am exactly who I want to be. In that moment, I wouldn't have been doing anything else anywhere else in the world.

I don't think that has ever happened to me before. How odd: the boy who never studied has become a man who does little else. After the moment is over I go back to work.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2010 be full of epiphanies, and become the year where we all turn into what we were meant to be.

Some end of year notes

you can read a copy of DPIC's yearly report on capital punishment in America. Not that they projected 19 executions in the State of Texas. The total ended up being 24. Why anyone continues to low-ball the numbers around here is beyond me.

An interesting piece on the broken clemency system here in Texas.

Here is an interesting report on the economic costs of the death penalty in America, and how to better spend money.

And finally, here is the a link to the blog of a new acquaintance of mine here on the Row. I like his writing, and I really respect the way Roy handles himself back here. I hope you enjoy his blog as much as I do.

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Poetry by Santonio Murff

I Shall Fight!
By Santonio D. Murff

Birth into a blizzard so freezing cold;
souls shattered, blown asunder by Storm's waft.
Is it any wonder that my heart froze;
iced over and hardened by Devil's draft?
I swear, I never meant anyone harm.
The heater was merely to keep me warm.
Bearing dark cloaks of poverty and sin,
chilled to the bone, trying to brave the wind.
Dreams drive me recklessly ahead at night.
Never say die! I may bend but wont rend;
till Victory's my captive – I shall fight!

Gut-shot by Hunger, raped by Circumstance;
wearing misery like a second skin;
dragging a sack full of the hurts of man;
heart too bitten by Frost to ever mend;
dizzy from mugs of Oppression's tart brew;
legs in shreds from snares I couldn't eschew;
back lacerated from Loyalty's lance;
Both cheeks stinging from the backhand of Chance;
damning Destiny for my blighted plight;
holding Hope my hostage for Fortune's glance;
Beaten! Bent! But never broken – I shall fight!

Though my teeth chatter, grinding on Hunger;
though my soul's in tatters from Sin's lashes,
fear not blindness shall still my feet longer.
I won't be bound by Judicial gashes.
Watch me: Run, walk, crawl, inchworm if I must;
cleanse the dirt to build destiny from dust;
plow through the pain to unearth the potential;
plant the physical to grow pro-mental;
open the third eye, give the temple light;
dispel the darkness, grasp the essential;
Till Victory's my captive – I will fight!

Till the red brick graveyards abound with hope,
and the barbed wire caskets reduced to dust;
till Will Lynch and Jim Crow forgotten ghosts,
and humanity not hue defines us;
till Justice reign supreme and Freedom rings,
and every head and knee bow to our Queens;
till every young seed sees equality,
and Love and Happiness decreases grief -
I make you this promise; a pledge on my life:
For no fee, from no fright, shall I ever flee.
Toes planted, chin up, chest out – I SHALL FIGHT!

No One's Crying
Song/poem by Santonio D Murff

It's like the sun been blacked out / I can't find no light...
It's like my heart been hacked out / I done lost my life...
How can there be a happy-ever-after / with a husband and no wife...
How can there be a house of peace / when all we do is fight...


It's like our love is dying / and no one's crying /
and, I don't know what to doooo...
All I ever wanted was your trust / to take care of my boo...
But it's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you/
You think I'll desert you too...
It's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you
You think I'll desert you too...

What happen to the smile used to grace your face / as I, led, the way...
Now why you wanna pull away / oppose everything I say...
Now I go left / you go right / we just can't get it right...
Then it's the same ol' blame game every night / I no longer want that life...(I'm sorry, baby)

It's like our love is dying / and no one's crying /
and, I don't know what to dooo...
All I ever wanted was your trust / to take care of my boo...
But it's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you
You think I'll desert you too...
It's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you
You think I'll desert you too...

How can there be a you and me / when it's “I” “My” “I”, never we...
How can there be a you and me / when it's “I” “My” “I”, never we...
Guess what I thought was a blessing to me / was just more of the devil's trickery
Guess what I thought was a blessing to me / was just more of the devil's trickery

Now our love is dead / you done moved ahead
Gotta lay my bed alone...
Now you done moved ahead / I done made my bed / our love is dead
and gone...

Awww, Baby...
It's like our love is dying / and no one's crying /
and, I don't know what to doooo...
All I ever wanted was your trust / to take care of my boo...
But it's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you
You think I'll desert you too...
It's like the past done curse you / too many done hurt you
You think I'll desert you too...

When It's Time... (From Carmel to Chocolate with regret)
by Santonio D. Murff

When bright and beautiful sunsets
turn to dark and raging skies
When peace turns to grief
and love to lies,

When actions no longer match words
and compassion is neither seen nor heard
When priorities go askew
and vows no longer stand true,

When more is hated than adored
and serenity can't be restored
When obligations are dismissed
and dispositions are remiss,

When past pains block future gains
and you can't rekindle the flames
When there is no understanding, no compromise
and joy can't break through the tears in your eyes,

When your hellos become deflated--(hey)
and your goodbyes are curt
When you can't embrace the happiness
for holding on to the hurt,

When you're empty of empathy
and treat your blessing like the enemy
When you ignore The Word, lose faith in Him up high
That's when we know it's time...Time to say goodbye.

The following poem was written by Santonio Murff's mother:

His Head Game
By Ms. B.

As he share his words of knowledge, smoothly exiting his full lips,
Traveling in a rhythmic motion through my ears deep into the core of my mind
My mind opens widely to allow his knowledge to penetrate every part of my brain
My cerebral cortex is throbbing getting ready to learn new information
My reticular formation has lost the ability to control arousal from his words
My pons threw in the flag of surrender as they can’t contain the arousal of his speech
My amygdala is quivering from the educational emotional satisfaction he is giving me
Oh Yes, more, my medulla scream as his teachings make my heartbeat/breathing faster
As he brings my educational journey to a climax, he tells me those three important words
Know Your History
His head game is giving me KNOWLEDGE from his mind to my mind

Santonio D. Murff 773394
French M. Robertson Unit
12071 FM 3522
Abilene, TX 79601
Santonio D. Murff-Bey is a 7-Time PEN AWARDED political prisoner and activist whose educated and elevated himself to the elite circle of literary greats.
He’s been recognized and won awards in nearly every genre for his literary excellency: Gotta Mak ‘em Pay (fiction), Mass Incarceration: The Shame of a Nation (non-fiction) Retired from the Game (memoir), The Cobra’s Cross (screenplay), They Why of it All (stage play), Banging for a Solution (exposition) to name a few.
He cordially invites you to check out his WINNER of a LITTERARY EXCELLENCE AWARD, THE SAN-MAN: Love, Loyalty, & Vengeance by T.D. Leoverture (pseudonym) and his revolutionary Introduction to Detective Toni Williams: Babies Lives Matter by S.D. Murff NOW available at SMASHWORDS for ONLY $3.99 and  1.99 respectively! 
Santonio and his family THANK YOU for your support!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poetry by Donald Paul White

Arrested Development
Written by:
Slave Name: Donald P. White
Muslim Attribute: Luqmon-Abdul-Al-Rhasool

The 100 year plan took 64 years to arrest your development
From kings and queens to a dead minded negro
Akhenaton, Imhotep, Cleopatra to Samuel Adjai Crowther
Aesop, Make Da, to Piankhy once a king of Ethiopia
For over 400 years have been in a dead minded state
Raped of your original mind state by racial hate.
You were once conquerers, rulers, warriors, known to date
Gods and goddesses, but linking you to this has been suspiciously erased
Disfigured the statues by shooting the nose off their face
Destroying your history plus robbing you of your righteous place
The aboriginal asiatics by nature are instilled with dignity and grace
But your history has been stolen, hidden without a trace
Deaf, dumb, and blind of self. Yes, this is the case
Fashioned into no-thing.  Dead in thought.  Antichaste
Structured the pylons and pyramids to perfection
Embedded them with rubies and diamonds leaving a breathtaking impression
How did the black asiatics fall from this righteous direction?
Europeans showing no compunction in planning devilish acts of destruction
Stripped our leadership, kingdom, pioneering construction
Put to sleep for 400 years. Now we are in a state of dysfunction
Labeled as a lazy negro laying deep in deprivation
Genocidal homicide, systematically annihilation
The ravagings of time, depredation, exasperation
Executing the ways and life of the slave master{s nation
Caught in a web, in a physical state of devastation
In a triple state of darkness, suppressed of your imagination
So wake up Black Nation, free yourself through liberation
Love yourself and one another. Prevent self-abomination
Rise up, become a strong entity through amalgamation
Be stern in righteousness, fight off unjust temptation
Act with a sense of urgency exempt all your desperation
Work hard at breaking this cycle through keen aspiration
Adhere to this message, make it your deepest inclination
So please never give in to any type of settlement
And don´t allow the diabolical traps of America to arrest your development

I Born the Earth, Sun, Moon, and Constellations
Written by:
Slave Name: Donald P. White
Muslim Attribute: Luqmon-Abdul-Al-Rhasool

My name is GOMAR OZ Dubar my knowledge is infinite
My wisdom is everlasting, nourishing and beneficent

I place before you the earth, sun, moon and constellations
A true mystical design a physical manifestation

I am self created and from my conceptions I born the earth
I borne myself out of the celestial black womb of the universe

I traveled the universal sphere and measured it to the exact
I calculated by using supreme mathematics

238 Quintillion, 640 quadrillion miles of ether
My thoughts travel 24 billion miles per second I have no equal

I traveled 57 million, 255 thousand square miles of the earth’s land
I measured the waters in my hallow hand and melted out heaven all in one
I comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure in a hamlet
And weighed the mountains in scales and in the hills in a balance
I placed the sun 93 million miles away from the earth
I borne 9 planets and placed them in order in my universe

Mercury Venus, earth, mars, Jupiter, sat run Uranus Neptune and Pluto
There’s nowhere within these regions I cannot go

I weighed the earth at six sextillion five hundred and seventy quintillion
Short tons
And from the depth of my mind I borne the sun

From this bright star darkness gave way to light
Now my creations are all visible of the sight

I then bent down and touched the earth’s floor
And out sprouted mountains from beneath its core

I filled he earth with trees plans and animals all in one motion
Filled its cavities with sand and water I then called it the ocean

I raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see
I then borne the moon and made her subservient to me

After days of creating I continued my plan
Took my x chromosome and molded from it a wo-man

Enthralled by the anatomy of this Black Beautiful Being
I placed my seed and our child she then conceived

I called him Christ, Elijah, The Great Messiah, my truest revelation
And from my testis I borned my rawest constellation

So whenever you marvel at the firmament of all my creations
Just remember it is I the black man who borne the earth, sun moon and constellations.

Daddy's Little Girl
Written by:
Slave Name: Donald P. White
Muslim Attribute: Luqmon-Abdul-Al-Rhasool

Written for:
Nacoria Don´Shae´White
From the mind through the eyes of her father.

I´m Daddy´s little girl, so precious is my essence
The one he considers a heavenly blessing
If you were me, you´d see
I´m perfectly unique.
Dipped in heavenly waters
Dried in ebony silk
Just look at my skin
I am Black Nubian
From my cornrows to my braids
Or when I let my crown lay
Express I am a princess
A divine color from his testis
God touched my face
And left moles in place
My immaculate structure is priceless
One of my many attributes is ISIS
I am self-worth
My first nature is Mother Earth
I am the incubator of life
An ethereal device
Call me moon
For I am Grace
I control all the oceans and hold gravity in place
From lightening to thunder
I asunder
Oh how you wonder
Who I am to this world
But to me
All I am is, Daddy´s Little Girl.

Daddy Why?
Written by:
Slave Name: Donald P. White
Muslim Attribute: Luqmon-Abdul-Al-Rhasool

Daddy why is the question I often ask
Not understanding how you could just up and leave me like I was trash

Choosing a life of crime over me has me so very mad
Now for 18 years I have been fatherless and often sad

Daddy I see other children with their fathers and they seemed so glad
Wishing to myself I could experience that so very bad

Daddy why didn't you have my best interest at heart
Knowing that your affection is what I sought

Now it seems to me you didn't love me enough like I thought
To be man enough to fight your lower vices off

Daddy why didn't you choose me
Instead you just left and confused me
Now you often stressing that you love me
That's hard to believe in my reality

Daddy why wasn't my birth enough for you
To change you into a better man and to be true
But it seems as though you didn't have a clue
To just live righteously through and through

Daddy why and I know I speak for other fatherless kids as well
That you had to leave me to struggle and in a mental state of hell
Knowing without your guidance I am likely to fail
And I sometimes feel you wasn't man enough so you bailed

Daddy why aren't you here to teach me about the birds and the bees
Instead you left me in this cold world only to be teased
Not realizing the pain I've suffered so I plead
For you to stop this hurt in which I bleed

Daddy why but sometimes I wish I didn't bother
And often times I wish you weren't my father
Though sometimes I try harder and harder
To express myself to you but my efforts seem to falter

Daddy why you couldn't be here to witness my accomplishments
To watch me flourish in all of my developments
Towards me, how you could be so dispassionate
And you wonder why I feel you are an embarrassment

Daddy why you leave me, I am so hurt
All I ever wanted was for you to see my worth
Instead my worth to you was no more than dirt
Because I can't fathom why you left me fatherless on this Earth

Daddy why didn't you want to witness my progression
Or just watch me grow into the Queen that you keep on stressing
But I can't seem to hide my displeasure by way of suppression
And my anger continues to put me in a state of aggression

Daddy why you just couldn't do what daddy's supposed to do
Like be there for me in times of need to teach me to tie my shoe
Or just holding both of my hands so I could be slued
Though wanting this I wonder would I be a fool

Daddy why did you choose him over me
That's how I see it in my reality
How could you not act with a sense of morality
Or think with a sense of maturity
Because doing his prison time has left me in a state of obscurity
Leaving me unprotected without any security

Daddy why that night you just didn't stay home
Yet instead you went out in the streets just to do wrong
Out late at night as through you were grown
You know they say you reap what you have sown

Daddy why, is the question I no longer ask myself
Realizing without you I've gained my self wealth
Though I was hurt by your departure I've maintained my health
Because I now know the truth, it's no longer a stealth

So Daddy why do I continue to cry
And why is this pain so excruciating that I just wanna die
But I convey to myself to be strong plus continue to try
To just move on with my life and say goodbye
Though I often find myself asking you,
“Daddy Why?”

I'm Bad
Written by:
Slave name: Donald Paul White
Muslim attribute: Luqman-Abdul-Al-Rhasool

My rebuttal to Nikki Giovanni's “EGO Tripping”

Through the Sahara Desert I will soar
As I look down upon the birth place of civilization hear me roar

I travelled the ethereal sphere and designed tha constellation for navigation

That led to creational decipher, tha risin' of the Sun
My name is Amun

Raw is the knowledge of my light, I see wit 3 eyes
Clairvoyant insight

Into the depths of the U-N-I-Verse
In the assembly of tha zodiac lord of tha Perfect Black
Call me Osiris, A Masta Crafta of the celestial attic
Measured the galaxy wit supreme mathematics

Came up with the root of civilization in 8 minutes and 20 seconds
I walked 93 million miles to make love to Isis

Borned a child named him Christ
Spoke the language of Kemet Supreme Alphabet

Ciphered with tha GODS
Molded the sphinx from black sand

And placed tha secret of man
Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head

I am Gomar Oz Dubar, my existence is infinite to comprehend the essence
Know thyself Spirit-n-Matter, take heed to tha hidden message

Intertwine Supreme Mind Diversities
A divine culture
Free from destruction
A righteous construction

A conscious God, call me Elijah
Built to destroy the Devil's uncivilized conception
Squared off the circumference of deception
To make my assertion

I walked 57 million, 255 thousand square miles barefoot
And from my pondering thoughts the universe shook

I had a brain storm and cause an ice age
Brain waves travelling the speed of Haley's comet that left a tail like fiery blaze

That melted all the ice that procreated oceans,
Lakes, rivers, ponds, all in order

From my conceptions that I borned in one day from my orders
Through the rays of my gaze I give light to the universe
Plus from my sneeze through one nostril constellations dispersed

I looked in the face of the Moon and saw perfection
From its obscured shine on the three-fourths of water on the Earth I saw my reflection

Through all in all I am the foundation block of it all in existence
That through the entity atom I borned life into existence

From my head ache I caused a sonic boom
That sparked atoms into life inside Earth's black womb

I then rode the back of a stubborn ass and spent the night in the belly of a whale

I am David for it was me who defeated Goliath
Threw the Devil from his throne from whom I took Hell

I'm the Omnipotent, the Omnipresent, the Omniscient
I am a macro phenomena like the Sun, which is one of my many essence

I metamorphosed into Moses, delivered my Black People from Egypt
Passing into the shadow of my father which caused an eclipse

With my mighty staff I parted the Red Sea
Delivering my people to the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey
I did it gracefully

With a megalith I carved my laws on monuments to ensure Utopia 
That will be executed through my second seed Piankhy whom will become King of Ethiopia

By all means necessary was my theme
And while still in the depth of my loins Martin Luther King had his dream

Call me the truth
The proof lies in my actions
A perfect practice abstraction
Or a far fetched reality

Call me science, a captured slave casualty
I was still defiant to this hideous morality

The event of the rupture
300 million through the water of the Nile structure

Beaten, maimed and raped
All forms of hate

All the rest failed
I prevailed

I'm bad

Donald Paul White 00658417
French M. Robertson Unit
12071 FM 3522
Abilene, TX 79601
Greetings Reader,

My slave name is Donald Paul White Jr. My muslim attribute is Luqman-Abdul-Al-Rhasool. I was born into life August 28, 1973 in Houston, Texas. I'm 5'9” in height. I weight 190lbs. I rock a bald head and I am a dark asiatic black man. I am currently serving a life sentence for a murder that I didn't commit because of my naivety and ignorance of the law, and life in general, as well as giving an oath to a street code that ultimately cost me 25 years of my life. Surely with Allah's graces there's hope and soon he'll purge me from the belly of this whale. But until then please enjoy the treasures of my mind through my craft that Allah has blessed me with.

The Messenger

Friday, December 18, 2009

Poetry by Ramon Rogers

Journey to Nowhere
By Ramon Rogers

I pace back and forth in a straight line,
Thinking of nothing, trying to burn Time.
The soles of my shoes grow thinner each day,
Black hairs on my head are turning to gray.
My sight starts to blur, my eyes are quite sore,
Pacing repeatedly across this hard floor.
A thousand miles have already been paved,
But there's no destination this side of the grave.

Lungs fill with stagnant, polluted, burnt air,
The smell of Death is everywhere.
The heart beats weak with question and fear,
Maintaining a life that is going nowhere.
A stomach twisted in a thousand knots,
Lives are discarded and usually forgot.
The blood can boil just under the skin,
When things go wrong 'cuz you never can win.

There is this spinning inside my head,
Without my freedom my life feels dead.
The darkness cloaks the brightest of days,
The chill in the bones is here to stay.
The laughter, the love, the pleasures and pain,
Everything is numb and all feelings retrained.
The hours are endless as Time rushes in,
Left in this wasteland without any friends.

My paces slow with each passing day.
My strides grow short and willpower frays.
The distance traveled is less than before,
Will God ever help to open this door?
The battles aren't over even when won,
'Cuz when least expected, another has begun.
A stoic existence, I will wish for tomorrow,
But after a while there'll be no Time to borrow.

I pace back and forth in a straight line,
Thinking of nothing, trying to burn Time...

March 2001

Ramon Rogers K67902
San Quentin State Prison
San Quentin, CA 94974

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Art by David Bomber

David Bomber 1130793
Nottoway Correctional Center
P.O. Box 488
Burkeville, VA 23922

David Bomber is a native of Detroit, Michigan, but for the most part he's lived lived in Roanoke, Virginia. He previously attended Virginia Western Community College where he first pursued a degree in Information Systems Technology and later in Electrical Engineering before becoming interested in the study of law. Although his goal to obtain his degree was put on hold, he nonetheless is a huge proponent for criminal justice reform and advocacy. He is also the proud father of two children, Damian and Aaron, who are the source of his inspiration. In addition to snail mail, David can be reached via

Please show your support by digitally signing his online petition for executive clemency:

To learn more about my case and read my legal pleadings:

Connect on Facebook:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Truth about The_Truth

December 16, 2009

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

Carl Jung

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response to Gord’s post:

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

Some recipes for food that the officers might actually eat:

Please read:

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Wheelchair Has Left the Building

December 13th, 2009

It is currently 4.30am. I am feeling raw and grumpy and terribly unhinged, and these are precisely the times when I make sure not to write anything, but here I am. I also happen to be way, way past caring, which may or may not explain all of this. I wrote in an entry many months ago about how my insomnia had “grown fangs” (or something to that effect), and this has never really gone away. I am as used to this as a person can get who is constantly exhausted. Or, at least I have accepted that this is life as defined by TBW, circa the latter days of 2009, and have become resigned to the task of carrying this cross. Lack of sleep is what happens when outrspecies of hairless apes try to cram far too much into their mushy, gray, three-pound thinking devices, which everyone seems to think are just the best thing to come about since sliced bread. The alternative to having too much on your mind is currently being tested out by a certain former governor from the Federal Park that is Alaska, and early results show that this might actually be far more damaging to a human being (and the country he or she calls home) than having an overfull noggin. More results to follow in time, unfortunately.

Anyways. Some problems in life can be repaired. Some cannot. Some you accept: some you fight. Wisdom, they tell me, is in deciding which battles to engage in, an which to let pass. I’ve spoken of what war, downy blanket that is noble indifference before, and wont waste anyone’s time repeating myself. It may be a mirage, anyways, for my complete inability to get close to it.

Problems, troubles, worries, lamentations; I am awash in my fair share. Most are my own bloody fault. Some are not. Forgive me for how crude and blunt I am about to get, but I am actually going to use this blog in the manner popular culture has deemed to be most acceptable: to bitch and moan. I’m out of options on this issue, though. Some of my battles have no place in the public eye, in my opinion. Most, probably, do not. I think this one does, mainly because I’m buggered if I know how else to deal with it.

Penpals. Penpals, penpals, f-ing penpals. The practice of writing to so many people has long been a bittersweet activity for me. It’s nice to have some friends, especially when most of the world hates your guts. Even pseudo-friends help pass time, even as you know they won’t last long. That is what you sign up for: to be a friend. In life, sometimes that ends up meaning you get converted into a crutch. That is cool, because that is part of the deal, a piece of the “friend contract.” There is no feeling quite like helping to pick someone off the dirty floor. You know what isn’t in the contract, though? Being converted from a crutch into a f-ing wheelchair.

This is how it starts: a small issue comes up in a letter, and you offer what you believe to be a reasonable solution. You don’t claim to be right (at least, you don’t if you aren’t an egotistical bastard). You are simply listening to a friend and offering a solution based on your own life experiences. And it works out. You helped solve a problem, or, at the minimum, you were at least there to listen. And that is exactly as it should be. Here is the problem, and it has cost me much to learn this: some people do not want to have their problems fixed. Before you know it your correspondence has converted into one long, misery-drenched proof io the shittiness of human existence, and you are instantly sucked into the black hole of their morbid self-absorption. You don’t know how the hell you got there, but you do know you never intended for that to happen. You still want to help. And so you keep offering advice, as much as from a desire to see a ship righted as to get the hell out of there in one piece. Only, now that the problems have gotten worse, more raw, the other person no longer wants to listen to your solutions. As I mentioned, some people cannot live without their sadness, their loneliness, their complaining. It has become part of their mode of existence. It’s who they are, down to the core. And since misery loves company, you are welcomed to the seven-course dinner of their concentrated wretchedness. Fine. I think that is a terrible way to go through life, but that is your call.

Here is the thing, though: I am not your psychologist. I am not even remotely qualified to hear about your suicide attempts or your daddy issues or how that bitch Wendy keeps sleeping with your boyfriend and your uncle, sometimes simultaneously. I will help where I can, but look at where I am. Good judgment is maybe not my strong suit. And in any case, I just might have a few teensy-weensy issues of my own to deal with. Problems are relative, and I am not minimizing anyone else’s. I am not saying mine are worse. I am saying that I am at my limit, and I cant handle anymore. I have four people now who are depending on my stupid, slow, brutally deficient, unqualified brain to save their lives, now that their attorneys have gone and buried them. I cannot even begin to explain how insane that type of responsibility makes you feel, especially when you never asked for it. But in lieu of someone good, they only get me. On top of that, I have a few of my own demons to deal with during this time of the year. Please, please, please: solve your own problems for a while. If I were the type to have a nervous breakdown, I would be having it right about now. I can not save you! No one can! You have to figure out how to save yourself. That is life.

This pen-pal thing has gotten out of hand, once again. It deteriorated in similar downward spirals a little more than a year ago, and it looks like I didn’t learn my lesson well enough. Facebook and Myspace are likely soon to take the path of the dodo. I was never all that comfortable with having them in the first place, but when you are desperate, you will try anything. I mentioned that I thought it was pretty much just a world of tweenage girls hormoning and “OMG”-ing about the guys on the latest mind-numbingly stupid program on the CW, but I was told that real, serious business gets conducted there. Really? Could have fooled me. I’m sorry Tracey. You did an awesome job creating those sites, building a place for real, substantive conversation. I’m sorry that people converted them into a gossip board. I don’t know why you put up with me, or the hassle, sometimes.

From the printouts I’ve seen lately, it has become a place for people to ask how to buy illicit drugs, or for nut jobs that I have never met to claim that they are in love with me. That last would be somewhat amusing, if it wasn’t so sad. Or sick. I was never popular with the ladies in the world. Not like this. And here if the thing: I am not now, either. These people don’t like me; they don’t even know me. I am just a stand in for something else, an image reflected from their own lives to take a form that is easier to deal with. That is horrible, and I can sympathize, but that is not my problem to solve. Stop playing with my name! I’ve worked really, really, really f-ing hard to be better than I ever was in my old life. To get over the years of self-hatred and the thousands of ccs of poison I pumped into my veins. When you post that wacky nonsense about being “my girl,” you trash all my attempts at reviction. Good, true people whom I genuinely know and like have a hard time trusting me because of your insane ramblings. Go. Away. I don’t know you, and I don’t care to. Find someone else to stand in for the bad-boy who rode a motorcycle and who never paid attention to you in High School.

I have a few years left in this world, and call me selfish, but I am not spending this time putting out brush-fires in the lives of a hundred different people. I spend hours a day on this, everyday. Have some self-respect. Solve your own life, or stop complaining. Fix the problem decisively, as I am doing here. And have some respect for me, as well, by not making me hear about it incessantly, when you never intended to take my advice in the first place. I've got real things to do with my time, and I am tired of always running out of hours for the things I want or need to do for myself. Grow up. Life sucks sometimes. Get. Over. It.

Or don’t. Your call. Not mine.

The really damning thing is this: only a few times on this site have I ever asked for anyone’s help. Three, that I can think of. The first, was when I attempted to get some of my readers to write to a certain state rep here in Texas, in an attempt to institute a program where Texas prison inmates could legally donate kidneys. Four people wrote emails. Four people believed in me, and tried to help me save some lives.

The second, was when I asked for people to write a letter of support for Kevin Varga. Seven people answered the call, according to the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The last, was when I shamed myself and asked for a little help paying for my next semester of university classes. Five of you stood by my side, and I will never, never, never forget you. Don’t think I am asking for money. I'm not. It’s not about money. It was about how many of the people who come here were willing to do more than post a comment or two. To see who was willing to stand by me and believe in my goals and in me. And I got my answer. I write more than 100 people. Or, to be more precise: I did.

Maybe this is a nervous breakdown. Whatever it is, things are going to be different around here from now on. I fully intend to address this issue with the people it applies to. Don’t automatically assume that I am talking about you, because I may very well not be. But I felt this needed to be broadcast in general anesthetic form, before I get the scalpel out and do the actual surgery.

I am not saying that I don’t care, or don’t want to help people. I am saying that I am only human, and emotionally not equipped to deal with some of the information being forced onto me. A perfect, recent example: a few months back I helped a lady-friend make a very tough decision to do the right thing for her recently divorced ex-husband. It dealt with a lot of money, basically, and she needed to do the legal thing. I was able to give her a nudge in the right direction. I got to hear way more details about how she still simultaneously loves and hates her ex. For 15 letters, I heard about this. When she finally did the noble thing, I was pleased. Exhausted, but pleased. Then, she actually asked me if there was anything that I needed, and I admitted that I could use a lousy two bucks for a new typewriter ribbon. Her last (and believe me, final) letter scolded (actually scolded!) me for being too materialistic. Can you imagine!

I am sorry if this seems cold-blooded and selfish. I feel however, that I have the right to determine how I spend the last couple of years on this rock, and I cannot tell you how many personally important projects I have had to shelve or abandon because I spend six hours a day playing armchair shrink. A friend will carry the weight of another, until the person learns to walk again. A person who takes advantage of the free ride beyond the point where they can move on their own, all the while knowing the other already has a large load tied to their back, isn’t worthy of the title or the effort in the first place.

“Life, being how it is, isn’t necessarily how it is. It is just simply how you choose to see it.”

16 year old Heshu Yones,
before being murdered by her father, Abdullah Yones, in an “honor” killing.

On a lighter note:

#4 on the Top 5 List Of Shit Not To Put On Your Head

This shampoo falls right behind: ionized gaseous plasma from the center of a star, liquid magma, hydrochloric acid, and followed by Highly Enriched Uranium. Texas Correctional Industries, in case you were wondering, is the “company” that produces virtually every product manufactured by inmate “workers.” Since no one is paid for work in Texas prisons, “slaves” might actually be the correct terminology here, even if it is a somewhat loaded word. This product costs two dollars on the commissary. Mmm, more ethylene glycol monostearate, please! (In case your chemistry is a little rusty, allow me to show off the superiority of my DorkNess: ethylene glycol is a colorless, viscous hygroscopic liquid used, as it happens, as an antifreeze. Also, this chemical is used when making polyesters and in the preservation of waterlogged timbers. No wonder I am going bald. Federal oversight, anyone? Please?)

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