Wednesday, September 17, 2014

“Guards…The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
            I have been asked many times by you all about the guards, my experience with them in those 10 years in TDC. I can tell you there were some good, some bad, and some very ugly. I have had some good experiences with some of the cops/guards/screws, and some very bad. My 2 main hustles in prison were my running of gambling tickets and bringing stuff back from the chow hall, and garment factory. I have been caught many times and luckily only given a few minor cases, there were also times I was given a case for one to many socks in my cell.
            I was caught red handed with gambling tickets and let go without a case, but  on the other hand received a minor case for having a bag of coffee on my table in the day-room. The cops thinking was “why do you need a whole bag of unopened coffee in the day-room unless you are trading or gambling it”. See in TDC you “could” get a case for giving a buddy a single soup. Now most cops won’t go through the trouble of writing a case for that, but it does happen a lot, trust me.
            See what many of you may or may not know is a cop can touch us, and little if nothing will happen to him or her even with witnesses. Whereas we, an inmate strike a cop and we will get a free world case, now not all situations are the same so please take what I tell you here with a very big grain of salt. I only saw what I saw, and heard what I heard. I cannot speak for others. I was by no means a model prisoner, but compared to some others I was an angel.
            A big miscarriage of justice was the infamous “Code 20” cases. Without going into too much detail a code 20 is a masturbation case. Those are truly a non-proof needed and always guilty case, period. If a cop didn’t like you, that was a good way to stick it to you. I never got one, but knew some guys who had quite a few. Did they or did they not get caught in the actual act? I have no way of knowing that, but I did know a few female guards who loved to write those up.
            God help those who were caught simply scratching themselves by the wrong guard. I was told by other inmates that Code 20’s were brought up at parole hearings. I leave this subject with this little thought, was it really that bad of a thing? Some of these guys have been locked up a long time, and some will never go home. Kept that in mind before anyone of you pass judgment. It was just one of those rules that were broken daily on every unit.
            There were so many “dumb” cases, one for instant was an “out of place case”. Yes I agree that some of these cases were little and petty, while others caused problems on the pod or unit, let me explain. An out of place case could be as simple as standing at your buddy’s cell getting hot water or just talking. Usually the cop in the picket, which is the enclosed tower in the middle of the 3 pods in a section. The cop in the tower controlled all the doors to go in each pod as well as each cell door. Most of the time he or she would just say over the loud speaker to get away from the door.
            But there were a few that would say “You bring your ID to the picket, and they would write you an out of place case. At times a little pleading and the cop may or may not listen.        Another example of out of place is an inmate being in someone else’s cell for whatever reason with the door shut. Most of the time they were getting a tattoo. But again a rule that the cop could write up both parties and lock down the pod for a time. There were other out of place situations where inmates would go to other pods, sections, or some brave souls would venture to another building. A very chancy situation because all we inmates had color bands on our wrist to indicate which building we belonged on. One had to be very careful they didn’t do that near count time, unless another inmate from that pod, section, or building was covering for him in his cell. Believe me this happened quite a few times, and could get us if not the whole unit locked down.
            One experience I had on the Allred Unit back in 2003 was by far the worse I had seen in my 10 years of how frustrated an inmate can be and get. His name was Bull, see most inside simply went by a nickname. Bull was as his name may imply a huge individual. I would guess about 6’6” and over 300 pounds of muscle. Bull could lift any amount of weight the yard had to give with little problem. He was truly a gentle giant. I remember working the kitchen on chicken day and Bull asking me to save him some chicken. I think I put about 10 leg quarters in a large empty can of peaches for him. He was so happy and to see him smile like a kid was worth the risk.
            See Bull could all get very upset over little things, especially a much smaller guard trying to embarrass him in front of others. I think we all were like that too. To be bitched out by a much smaller person that we knew inside we could slap the crap out of in the free world. I think that is just human nature to a lot of us. Well we were being racked up for a re-count at count time, this happens a lot where the 2 cops counting us can’t seem to get the same numbers. Sometimes just our pod or section, and sometimes the whole unit.
            As was custom upon hearing “Rack it up for re-count” there were calls of “no counting mofo’s” and other more colorful similar calls were shouted out, we could tend to drag ourselves back to our cells. Well this cop who to be honest I can’t remember his name decided to rag on Bull who lived on 2 row. He called Bull a lazy son of a bitch, to which Bull replied “My mom is not a bitch”, to which this cop replied “I’ll ask her tonight”.
            This was common among some cops the way they tried to get a reaction out of you. Bull replied “Go fuck yourself punk”. And continued to go to his cell. But for some reason this cop decided he wanted to show his authority and ran up the stairs yelling at Bull. He got in Bull’s face and called him and his family every name in the book. I think the boiling point hit when he verbally attacked his mom again and how she molested him as a kid.
            Bull grabbed this CO by the neck with both hands and threw him off 2 row. The table below breaking his fall. The sickening sound of bones breaking didn’t sound so bad. I know some of you may not like that comment, but this cop was a real ugly one from day one that I got on this unit. Of course all hell broke loose and soon the Ninja Turtles would arrived. The term Ninja Turtles is what we inmates called the al dressed up cops in football type helmets and gear and batons of course.
            They usually didn’t use gas, instead they relied on old fashion beating the crap out of you. All eyes were staring at Bull as he just stood there looking down at the moaning cop. Calls over the loud speaker summoned all of us to our cells, all but Bull’s cell was opened. We knew what was coming and we had front row seats. Shouts from inmates telling Bull to just lay down echoed through the dayroom. “Don’t fight them Bull” was heard. He just stood and leaned on the railing as if awaiting his fate. Soon we saw the Ninja Turtles, I would say about 5-6 of them. They got close to the pod door and awaiting the cop in the picket to open it. I think to this day I heard one say “Shit” when he looked up at who they were about to encounter. See Bull was in a spot where really only one could approach him on both sides due to the fact that he was on a row.
            The rows were maybe 3 foot wide, not a lot of room for 5-6 guys to attack. Two or so went up one stair case while the others approached from the other stair case. Batons at the ready they moved in on my friend Bull. One of the cops who I guess knew who Bull was called to him “Bull, lay down with your hands on your back”. This of course happened over 10 years ago and I may not remember all the words exactly, but I’m close. To my amazement Bull got down and didn’t resist at all. They cuffed him and took him away. We had heard sometime later they had roughed him up pretty good in a cell, but I have no way of knowing that for sure. I never saw Bull again.
            I have seen guys argue with cops in the bowling alley, the front desk area and get gassed for no reason at all. They did not make a move toward the cop, or really indicate that they posed a threat. I have seen many a cop get gassed by their own hand too. Gas is a funny thing especially if you have it aimed at yourself instead of the inmate. Some cops get real close when gassing and end up getting gassed too. It’s not a good feeling to be gassed, your nose, eyes, and lungs scream out for air and water.
            I have heard of cops planting items in cells to write guys up. Not weed or tobacco but items that would be considered contraband, like bleach or sugar. It’s sad when an inmate can’t wash his clothes with bleach to look good for a loved one on visit day, but yes bleach can get you a case. Some cops will just take it or flush it down the toilet, but some love to put “paper in your life”. A term we used inside.
            I remember my own “Ugly” experience with “Grey” one day coming back from work at the garment factory. A real pain for us inmates was the stripping down going to, and coming from work every day. There were good cops who let you strip down to your boxes and a quick snap of the waist band was good enough for them. There were some bad cops that wanted you to strip down all the way to your boxers and socks, and then there were those ugly cops who wanted you to preform athletic moves to show them you had nothing hidden anywhere on your body.
            After this ritual was performed the call of which building first was to exit. I think they did it on purpose to change the order daily. So the call rings out for 7 building and I make a move thinking he said 4 building. It gets loud in this space of maybe 40 feet by 40 feet with over 100 inmates. My fault or not, what happened next almost got me a free world case, and to this day still eats at me.
            My band is green, being 4 building, and all those outside are blue, being 7 building. So I excuse myself and go back in the big building. See as the cop calls buildings he counts the number of guys against what went in earlier and if it doesn’t match there could be a missing inmate. So yes this could be a big problem. But today this top cop decided to scream and call me a dumb ass to which I said “No need to be disrespecting me”. He said something under his breath and told my dumb ass to go back in the building at which time I thought it was over. Well he told me to wait after all the other inmates were gone and back to their houses. The door was shut and about 4 cops come around me. I told myself “This was it and I will fight back, I had, had enough”. At this point I had maybe 2 years left on my sentence and really didn’t care anymore, but this could get me a free world case, but I had hit my boiling point.
            The free world boss who was told he could leave said no he would stay, this surprised me. I was always cool with Mr. Guzman and if any of you have had loved ones who worked the garment factory they will know of Mr. Guzman back in like 2006-2010. He would later quit after a big argument with the powers to be on the Hughes Unit, over what I never found out but he always seemed fair to us inmates.
            So going back to my story this cop laid into me about how stupid I was and all this and I just stood there listening up until he happened to “by accident” fling some spit at me. I kind of went off calling him a few choice words, until a pretty cool cop took me outside and told me to go home. As I walked away I heard Guzman call me and I thanked him for sticking around.
            What I’m trying to say today is there are some good cops and bad cops, like anywhere in the world, but it’s those ugly cops that make life hard on us inmates. It’s those cops who seem to get pleasure out of making the inmates life miserable inside. Those cops who seem to get off at making our time harder than it has to be. I always thought that most TDC guards were frustrated wanna be cops who couldn’t make the cut in the police force so they took a job in the prison system.
            Of course this doesn’t apply to all of them but I’m sure there are quite a few it does. Another theory I had was that some of these cops may have been a victim of bullies in school and wanted to take it out on bigger, badder guys in prison. Again just my own observation. A lot of guards inside were ex-military and some did still go overseas. I remember as I got close to my end date, and doing the whole sentence gave me the attitude I needed to pull off a lot of frustration that had added up over 10 years.
            I told more than a few cops to kiss my ass and go fuck off. I had a few ask “when I was going home” They knew the ones who had nothing to lose and I wasn’t stupid enough to hit one of them. My power was in my words not my sword. I had fun with a few calling them bitches in front of the other inmates and they would laugh and call me the same, they knew I was days away from leaving.
            I know most of what I wrote today won’t give most of you any comfort knowing there are some really bad and ugly cops in prison. With time and knowledge you try to avoid those and do as little as possible to piss them off. Right or wrong that is just life in prison and there are ways each inmate can try to make it better, but there are some guards that just love to mess with a stick of dynamite of one day they may encounter a Bull. I had a few guards wish me luck when I was leaving and even shock my hand.
            As it is in all walks of life there is good and bad, but it’s the ugly we have to look out for and stay out of their way unless we want confrontation. In prison sometimes that’s hard to do. For you all on the outside it can be very frustrating to hear the stories of what goes on behind bars. Letters and calls make it easier for those inside, try to stay positive and stay whatever the course you have chosen. At times those inside may not mean what they say or write, it is out of frustration either brought on by a guard, another inmate, or just being locked up. Stay Strong

Monday, September 15, 2014

"It's only a dream if you don't make it reality"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

            Lock-down is only an eight letter word, but of all the words that have to do with the prison system it can be one of the biggest. I see a lot of your posts daily that have to do with a lockdown on your loved ones unit. Lock-down can sound so scary, so lonely and confining, yet for most it’s a time we did look forward to believe it or not. For the most part it can be nice counting on you had enough food in your locker and books to read. Having enough writing supplies also was a big plus.
            In my 10 years I would think I went through at least 20 lock-downs, on average they last 7 days, and the longest I was involved with was about 24 days, I still remember that one. Of course there were lock-downs for a day or even hours, but we called them just “Rack it up” time. There were also lock-downs that lasted a lot longer than the 24 day one I was involved in. Along with the above mentioned items to a good lock-down, maybe the most important thing was a good cellie.
            The funny part about lock-downs was, we inmates knew when they were coming almost to the day. Now I’m talking the normal 2 lock-downs that happened every year, not the lock-downs for riots, stabbings, cell phones, etc. Oh we knew those were coming to, just not exactly when. There were other signs a lock-down was coming too. The minute they stopped serving peanut butter or bread was a pretty good sign, or eggs for breakfast in the chow hall.
            Lock-down meals, were called Johnnies. They consisted of a plain brown paper bag with 2 sandwiches and maybe a treat. The morning Johnnie would have a hard boiled egg or two, a peanut butter sandwich, a small carton of milk, and a small cereal. Ever Johnnie had at least one peanut butter sandwich, some had two. You may get a small bag with a handful of raisins at times too, or the dreaded prunes.
            Most meat sandwiches could be anything from salami to baloney, to chicken breast (?) or a fish patty. Sadly there was no condiments involved in any of these dry sandwiches. So going back to my earlier statement, having a locker full of stuff was sa-weet. A little cheese here, mayo there, jalapenos thrown in and man oh man you had yourself a pretty good meal.
            We also got at times a thing I could only describe as a pound of dough with peanut butter inside. It would feel you up, but along the way would clog you up too. For those wondering this was not a “Fruitloaf” or “Foodloaf” or however they said that. I know, I served them when I worked in the Agg Seg kitchen. They would have made a great rock.
            Deals were made within the cell. Some would trade sandwich for sandwich or hard boiled egg for that rock, or not. We also would use the meat in the sandwiches to spread with. Taking a chicken breast and cutting it up into pieces than placing it in a soup bag, and in your hot pot tasted pretty good with a few soups, cheese, peppers, Frito chips, and hot sauce.
            We would dine by night light with music playing and it wasn't really that bad a deal for a while. A pastry, also heated up in the hot pot and you would think for the briefest of moments we were not in prison. Prison was such a mind game. For the most part it was you the individual who made or break your day. Yes the other inmates and guards had a big part in it, but during             lock-down it was mostly just you and your cellie. Let’s say the lock-down officially started on a Monday, well they might not get to my building till Wednesday or later. You were on lockdown, but not shock down yet. On units with dorms, the dorms were usually shock down first, allowing those inmates with a better line class or classification then the rest of the farm to come up sooner to help make Johnnies and do SSI work. SSI is a prison term for a janitor of sorts.
            I remember one lock-down where we were shock down and come up the very same day. So during the first day we would ask the cops what building they were on and for the most part we believed we got an honest answer. They may come in our pod and announce we better smoke all our cigarettes fast cause we were next, when in fact it would be days later. Just another way they would tighten the screws, and why I and some others called them screws.
            Having a radio and a supply of books helped a lot. In those 7 days I could go through 2-3 books depending on my mood. I had known some cellies to go through a 500 page book in a day. Some of the cops were even “nice” enough to pass a book or two to another cell. Some would take the book and then throw it in the day-room. You had to pick and choose cops. During the summer lock-down it could be hell in the Texas heat. We would lay there and try not to move, we would cover up the windows to avoid sunlight, and we lived like Vampires at times. During winter we may cover those same windows, but this time to keep the cold out.
            Another little interesting tid-bit was where your cell was situated, meaning facing the sun in the morning or afternoon, the heat of the day was brutal? Fans did little good but stir up the heat in the cell, and with very little air circulation it was no wonder inmates were taken to the infirmary on an almost daily basis. Some would “fall out” for a few hours of A/C in the infirmary and who blamed them.
            I would think the worse part of lock-down was bagging up all your belongings and dragging them down to the designated shake down area, usually the gym. It was a stressful time if you had none or lost property papers or had bogus ones. Some cops were cool, and some were D…heads. I think they got a kick out of some of us losing property. Be it a few books, clothing, or appliances. There was a box some used, it was about 3 foot by 1 foot, not sure now, but all you stuff better fit in it.
            The rest could be taken away to property for a few days until they decided to give it back to you. I guess their thinking was you had too much “stuff”. Now this wouldn't include clothing and bedding, mostly just store items, food. Some of the rules and regulations was so petty that it made for a very frustrated inmate, which would lead to confrontation. Which resulted in cases, which effected parole. It could be a vicious circle.
            This whole process could only take an hour or 2 and we were herded back to our cells to unpack. I always though “all this, a whole week of lock-down boils down to 2 hours of actually shake down”. Going back to my comment earlier about most inmates don’t mind lock-down is true I truly believe. Yes there are times you run out of things and during lock-down you do not go to store unless the lock-down reaches a certain day. Now I’m not sure what that time frame is, but after 21, or 28 or maybe longer we were allowed to come up to make store.
            One good part about lock-down is you didn't have to go to work, and you caught up on sleep. There was a time on the Hughes unit when I worked the garment factory and they needed workers to finish a contract they had with some outside source. I was asked and said sure. We got a hot meal in the kitchen and were allowed to shower upon returning. Showers were allowed during lockdown, but we only showered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and fast. Since there were only 5 showers per pod, and as many as 48 inmates per pod, shower time could last for hours.
            I remember when I got out in 2011 and took my first shower without slides in 10 years lol, very strange indeed. To use the bathroom alone and with the door shut. No bed sheets needed, no flushing every few seconds. I am not expert when it comes to TDC or prison in general. I can only give you my point of view as I saw it from 2001-2011. My experiences will mirror a lot of your loved ones today, things change yet stay the same.
            I’m just a simple man who has seen the ugliness the world can give behind bars, behind walls. Some inflicted by white, some by grey. It is a hostile, unforgiving world in which there are really no winners and lots of losers. At times it is made more difficult by those who are entrusted in our care, and our security. All I tried to do was my time and respect others, but that was hard to do at times.
            I want to think I made a lot of guys laugh with some of the dumb crap I did and said, and I hope to do the same now in my writing with you all, outside those cells. I know some of you may say I am long winded and talk too much and say stuff that is irrelevant, but honestly my goal is to reach as many of you as possible with my stories of behind bars. There has been times I just wanted to give all this up and move in a different direction, to forget about my past.
            Then I would think if I can touch one person today with my boring ramblings, my thoughts and stories then maybe it is all worth it. I hear you all at times say you cried reading my posts and that makes me think, is that what I want? To make someone who is hurting already hurt more? But then I see and hear that some of you smiled and better laughed at my dumb scrambling of my mind and it makes it worthwhile.

            I’m nothing special to you all, I’m just a regular guy with a story to tell, maybe a story that needs telling for someone to understand what their loved one is going through. Hopefully I make a few of you smile and even laugh. So next time your loved one or anyone else says the word lock-down, it may not be all that bad to all those you love. Just maybe they are looking forward to it with a smile.

Friday, September 12, 2014

“Tickets…get your Tickets”
                        Today I was thinking about all the posts I have shared with you all, and how for the most part they are down beat or depressing. Yes prison is depressing and awful, evil, and ugly, violent and full of racism, but there are also “good” times if that’s even permitted to say here. But this time of year something special happens in each and every day-room. Something that allowed me and the others to forget, even for a few hours where we were. To forget the metal and steel, to forget the grey and white.
            I know even though I am not there today, this weekend will be buzzing with tickets. The start of the college football season and the NFL season signals that starting Friday night those tickets will appear in the day-room. The term tickets simply means gambling tickets. Little pieces of paper with the games point spreads, and overs and under, along with the odds. I know because I ran them the last 4 years on the Hughes Unit in Texas.
            Usually around Wednesday or Thursday I would get a newspaper and start checking out the lines for that weekends games. Some explaining may be required here. Me and the money man, which is the person usually fronting the cash or bank, meaning he had last say in the odds and lines I setup. I got a 25% cut of all money received off the top, not all money men did that, most gave you a 25% cut off the top. Less any winnings paid out. Have I confused you all yet?
            I guess what I mean is if I collected $100 dollars in commissary cause no actually cash was ever involved, I would take $25 of that right away. Others would collect $100 on bets and if there were a few winners totaling $50, then I would have only got 25% of that $50, meaning $12.50, unless my math is wrong lol. Since I ran tickets for the biggest money man on the unit and I was known as a pretty good ticket runner who did a good job collecting money I could demand 25% up front. I would think on the Hughes, with about 3000 inmates there was as many as 10 different tickets a weekend.
            Some would never make it to our side of the farm for different reasons. One would be how hard it would be to collect store and pay out the winnings. That would require hiring an SSI who traveled to those other buildings and dorms and having to pay them also, usually out of my pocket. It just wasn't worth the problems. On average I would say I collected $200 a week on bets. I could get lucky and have no hits or real bad and have a few hundred to pay out. Most times it boiled down to one game screwing me over.
            Now I’ll explain the tickets a little more in detail. First off I would think about 50% of the guys played tickets believe it or not, some would gamble $10-$20, some maybe .25 cents. My job was to set the lines based on the newspaper, give or take what I though it should or shouldn't be. I may add a point or 2 here, or take a few away. Point spreads are a plus and minus based on the favorites or underdogs in each game. Dallas +3 would mean they were getting 3 points off the top at the beginning of the game (underdog) Eagles-3 of course the opposite.
             The over and under were my favorite cause I really didn't care who won as long as the total score for each team went over or under. Example if the over was 48, and the final was 27-24, meaning the game went over based on the total score of 51, ties always went back to me or meant they lost. So this weekend some of your loved ones will be going over the college games, tomorrow the NFL tickets would come out. The tables would be filled with notes and newspapers and the sports TV would be watched by all gamblers waiting on any info about the games. Injuries were key, and predictions by so called experts were taken with a grain of salt.
            Questions were asked, and recommendations were given and the gambler would usually take the opposite. Soups and coffee, pouches and mint sticks were collected, and tickets turned in with my check mark meaning that payment in full had been received. Changes were made up to the last minutes and some deals were made also. “Money” was borrowed, and shouts of “I’ll catch you on store day” echoed throughout the day room.
            For those wondering or asking, I did let guys “slide”, meaning letting them play without paying until they could. I was a nice bookie haha. Of course I took a big chance collecting all this store and tickets. We tried to be as “undercover” as we could with turning in tickets. I hated it when someone would approach my cell or table with 10 soups, 4 pouches, and 10 mint sticks. If the cops saw that they may think something illegal was going on, joking of course.
            When someone won big, and there were a few, and by big a mean $100 or more, it was a big problem packing it up and giving it to that person. If he was in the same pod it would be no trouble and I could give it out a little at a time on in’s and out’s or maybe all in a commissary bag at once. Another pod was a headache, but not like another building. See I had sub-bookie’s working for me on other buildings with their little stash too, but if they were hit hard, they needed my bigger stash, and hopefully not money man’s stash too.
            Going back to paying off another pod in my section, the key was the opening under the doors that separated pod from pod. If I was in the middle pond it was great. That way I could pay out either pod to my left or right by passing the winnings under the doors on any floor, 1 through 3. Hopefully the opening was enough to do so. Pouches were easy as were bags of coffee, soups could be a headache. Many a time the sound of smashing soups against the ground could be hear so as to pass it under the door easier.
            What these tickets did for the most part was made us forget about where we were. For a few hours a day, they was no color or drama. Sure there always was even during the games, but it was minimized. Most eyes in the day-room were on the sports TV’s and a half dozen guys could be standing under that TV to get a better view. Of course the guards would come over the loud speaker and announce “No standing in the day-room”, to which a few would reply “Shut up bitch”.
            I know most of you think, and with reason most cops are butt heads and evil, and a lot are, but there are some pretty good ones that let a lot go by. I remember once a few cops taking me out in the sally port. That’s a door way going outside to chow hall or out of the building kind of thing. It has 2 doors that are never supposed to be opened at the same time, almost like an airlock. So in I go with a regular CO, a Sarge, and a Major. I know I’m screwed and all the other guys are watching knowing I’m screwed too. I was never known as a snitch and never did.
            So in I go with about 50 years combined TDC Bullcrap and await my crucifixion. In the back ground I see dozens of pairs of eyes on me, some I’m sure worried I’ll snitch about my involvement in the tickets, hell I am the friggin tickets. I’ll back up a bit, see if the cops decide to shake a guy’s locker down and want to be real you know what heads, they will ask for your receipt for all your commissary. Well if my locker had $400 worth of store and my receipt, said $75 they could/would take $325 and write me a case.
            So the first thing out of the majors mouth is “Smith don’t lie or I’ll f with me” He didn’t just say f if you get my drift. I had learned a long time ago that most cops just want the truth and no BS. So I said ok. “We know you run tickets, right” to which I simply said “Yes sir”. Then the surprise came or at least a few of them. “You know that is illegal and I could give you a major case and throw your ass in jail”. Jail was a term we used for the hole, solitary, Agg Seg. Of course I said yes again and waiting for the bomb to drop.
            “All I want, not ask is you respect my men by not putting it all over the place, are we clear”, again, a yes sir. He went on to tell me he didn't want to see any of that shit on tables or taped to the wall, no passing of store under the doors, because if he did it would all come back on me and he would turn the TV’s off Sunday. I was thinking this was a dream or test. I stood there and just kept saying yes.
            He went on to say gambling was a big part of prison and actually was a good think for the inmates. It kept their minds off other bullshit. To be honest I always thought the same. On any given weekend all the guys were different, some wouldn't even go to chow and instead watch the game. There were smiles and jokes made, there were yells and shouts of joy and anger over a last second touchdown or a missed field goal.
            He then said “How many points are you giving the Texans”, to which I replied “As many as you need”. I was let go and I returned to the pod to a bunch of stares and questions. I kind of relayed what he said and told the guys lets be cool about this stuff and not get in a wreck over it. The term wreck in prison simply meant trouble. Gambling is and I’m sure still is a huge part of prison life. It was fun and at times exciting, it was a time we all forgot where we were and concentrated on our tickets and on the scores displayed at the bottom of the TV as we watched the live game.
            You had to pick at least 4 winners on your ticket, that was the minimum. The most you could pick was 8, and again you had to get all 8 right to win unless you played a parlay ticket, those I didn't run, and to be honest had no time to run them. An example is if you picked 4 on a ticket and bet $1 you would win about $6 to $8 depending on what me and the money man decided that week.

            There isn't a weekend go by that I don’t miss doing the ticket thing again. To be honest I actually liked the guys to hit on their tickets, it was good for business and made for a happy day-room too. I used to always tell the guys that every game has a winner, it’s that easy, and all you have to do is pick 4 of them to win. So right now I know you all are sad and miss your loved one, but think he, if playing the tickets, may have a smile on his face as he goes over them and figures things out. For a brief moment he is free again.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

“Denied vs Approved”

            Something that I see on a daily basis, and hits home more than anything else is the posts from those of you on the outside awaiting answers from the Parole Board, which effects your loved ones on the inside. It can be the best of times or the worse. It can give so much hope or deflate your hope like a balloon that has burst. I believe you on the outside are more effected than we were on the inside. Let me try to explain.
            See when I was serving my 10 years for aggravated robbery in the state of Texas for the most part I was hopefully, but realistic. We on the inside knew the score because we saw it on a daily basis by the way the parole board voted on the other inmates. Now please be aware my case may be different from all others, yes in ways the same, but all cases should be taken different. I saw parole 3 times and was given 2, 2 year setoff’s and then granted parole with 1 year left.
            Now my story takes an ugly turn, but I must go back in the past a minute. I was guilty of my crime and signed a plea bargain for those 10 years, I had no priors at all. At first the District Attorney in Harris County came at me with 30 years, I said no. Then about a month later they came at me with 20 years, again I decline their generous offer. I finally settled in on the 10 which to this day I still think was better than going to court.
            I stayed in Harris County a little over 10 months and then was shipped off to TDC, we on the inside never called it TDCJ. My first real ID unit was Allred up in Iowa Park, Texas. Hell Hole #1 in the journey of many more Hell Holes. Allred was not bad as units go except for a lot of youngsters who seem to cause the majority of problems. Of course there were gangs as there are on every unit. I mostly sat with of bunch of “Old Schools” and tried to learn the ways of becoming a good, respectful inmate.
            For the most part that lasted about 4 hours. I took a shower on 3 row, (3rd floor) and was attacked by 3 individuals, I was stabbed in my chest and had a few cuts all over. The stab wound to my chest was not deep or really that bad, but I still touch the 2 inch scar today. A kind of reminder of how lucky I was. See what the attackers didn't know was 3 against 1 in a very small shower stall kind of makes it really 1 on 1. I was lucky enough to hit the “Stabber” in the face breaking his nose and causing a hell of a lot of blood.
            Seeing this the other 2 guys, I guess decided I wasn't worth the trouble and ran down the stairs. Now during this time I remember hearing footsteps running up the metal stairs. This I really thing is what scared the other 2 off. Lesson on #1, on some units, some people should not take showers on the 3rd row. Well of course the cops/guards/screws came running in about 15 minutes later and took me and the guy with the busted nose, who was yelling “That mother f….attacked me” to the infirmary, after being placed in handcuffs.
            To those who have never been stabbed or cut in the chest let me tell you, you bleed a lot. Worse than the actual wound. So in typical TDC fashion I was given a major case and shipped off the unit to Hell Hole #2 Darrington. I have never saw rats as big as the ones I saw in the pipe chase behind the walls in my cells. Of course I was put on restriction and put in solitary for about 7 days if I remember right.
            I stayed on that unit only about a month and was shipped to Dominquez which is a transit unit. While in Hell Hole #3 I caught an escape case, boy listen to this story, and it’s all true. I went to store one day with a buddy who had a cane. So after we made store I said I would carry one of his bags so he could use the cane. We got to the pod door and I waited for the cop/guard/screw to buzz us in. While waiting I noticed a sign on the perimeter fence that read “No hostages beyond this point, offenders will be shot.”
            So jokingly I said “Screw that sign, let’s jump the fence with all this store and go live in the woods for a while.” I regret that sentence to this day. The cop heard every word over the speaker box and they took me seriously. I got 30 days in the hole, the watermelon and cantaloupe was the best thing about that time, over 300 good days taken from me which really don’t mean anything to someone with an aggravated crime, and for the rest of my time in TDC I would be sent to Maximum Security units only.
            So in saying all this, my situation I’m sure is why I got 2, 2 year set offs. Because they brought up the stabbing and the “escape case” every time. Right or wrong, and that is the only cases I got besides minor BS, the rest of the way. So my 3rd parole hearing came and gone and I was informed about a month or so later that I had been granted parole. Here is where it really gets ugly, not so much for me but for my family.
            After telling all my loved ones that I would be coming home soon they took my parole away for an old robbery case in 1999. It was during all the other robberies. They said it was in Chambers County which to this day I know I never committed a crime there let alone a robbery. I filed and tired everything trust me. I asked why they were not aware of that already and just now found out about it during this parole hearing. Deaf ears is all I found.
            So I went back and forth a few times to the law library and filed for a quick and speedy trail and for them to come bench warrant me to Chambers County so I could take care of it ASAP. I knew I had less than a year left on my 10 year sentence and the last thing I needed was for them to try to get more time out of me. I also filed a “Statue of Limitations” on that charge.
            So off I went to Chambers County and sat for about 2 months, awaiting a hearing with the judge. I took about 60 seconds and actually got to hear “This court is sorry Mr. Smith”. Statute of Limitations is a wonderful thing. The case was thrown out and I was returned to my unit, Hughes unit. I wrote the parole board as did a few family members and to no avail the decision to revoke my parole although the case was thrown out stood.
            But I was very lucky due to the fact I was going home in a matter of months regardless. There was a time when I was told I was granted parole with less than a year left I wanted to tell them so bad to shove that piece of paper somewhere and I would suck up the tax payers money some more, after all as a tax payer myself for over 25 years in the state of Texas I thought I could use the free ride too lol. But then thought what if something happened to a loved one on the outside and I could have been there. Every day in the Freeworld is worth it no matter what.
            Going back to what I was saying about how you on the outside and we on the inside view parole. See on the inside I think we are around it all the time, the talk, the parole talk with other inmates, what happened to them and their cases. So we see things with a more cynical view and not much hope. Yes we have hope too, but not like you all outside. For the most part, and I say most part, aggravated inmates do not, do not make their first parole. Yes there are those who do, but I’m speaking on average and what I saw in those 10 years. I had seen guys with no cases miss parole while those with cases make it. Another thing and please listen to what I am saying, and this comes from wisdom and experience of the inside. You the loved ones may not always be told the truth about what your love you is doing inside.
            What I mean in regards to cases and what really happened. He or she may want to hide you from the truth to not hurt your feelings. I know as bad as it sounds I hide a lot from my loved ones while in prison. Most guys inside just want to do their time and hopefully go home soon, others later, and some never. Some guys are just bad and every day is a game and drama, a hustle here and there. Some, although the rules are childish and dumb to many of us are the rules and when broken you get busted.
            Smoking, drinking, getting Tattoos, we all knew that was a big no no, but some did it anyway. Hell I ran the gambling tickets on most units, but was lucky enough to never get a case. I would say all the cops knew we did these things and for the most part let it go on. The cops just didn’t like it flaunted in their faces and at times we were bad about that. Fresh tattoos have a very red mark, so cover it up, a lot didn't and walked down the bowling alley showing off their new work. Homemade hooch smelled big time in the day room, especially when burping it, but they did it anyway. Cigarettes would be smelled the minute a cop entered the day-room, but again they did it anyway.
            I was no angel inside, I broke the rules many a time. I would buy stuff out of the kitchen or mule it back myself. Mule is a term we used to smuggle stuff back. I sold jackets out of the garment factory when I worked there or real good socks. Like I said most of these rules were small and petty, but now the less they are the rules that could get you in trouble and effect your parole.
            With all this being said it is you the loved ones on the outside that I think are hit the hardest when a “Denied Parole” comes down. I am not saying don’t hope and pray, please continue that for yourself, your loved ones, and the person on the inside. For the most part the guy/girl inside is stronger than you think. It is you he or she is worried about most, trust me, I have been there and went through it all.
            It hurts me honestly each time I read a post about someone not making parole, I can feel it and see it in your posts, because they mirror the letters I got from loved ones each time I informed them I didn’t make it. I was lucky compared to a lot of guys in that I only had a 10 year sentence, but in prison anytime away from family and friends and locked up is a lot. I hate to be brutally honest but some of you in your hearts know it will be a long time before he or she comes home.
            Stay strong and stay your course whatever that may be. Listen to others, but read between the lines also. Stay positive, but be honest with yourself. Stay hopeful especially with your children who want daddy or mommy home soon. As we speak today some of you have received good or bad news lately. It is a double edged sword seeing those posts, hell it’s worse than that. I have never met really any of you, but can say I have never “met” so many strong people. Wife’s and mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmas, and of course husbands and fathers, brothers, sons and papa’s. Take everything you hear from everyone with a grain of salt. Nothing is how it appears, there is always another side to the story or missing pieces to the story. Don’t ever sell yourself short, and stay true to your feelings. Most of you have that gut feeling that tells you when something just doesn't sound right.
            I myself have at times questioned some of your stories, some of the things I have read, and truthfully some doesn’t add up. I hope in no way did I seem mean or uncaring. That was not my intent. My intentions are to at times “Wake” some of you up if that sounds right. Me saying that maybe to some, sound harsh, but I just want some of you to understand fully the situation you may be in. I know some of you are saying right now “I do understand dummy and you don’t”.
            I’ll leave you all be for now and want to say if any you want to visit my Blog which contains all my writings on prison and life in general as well as a few fiction stories I was working on in prison just message me and I’ll give you the link. I am not expert in any field. I talk on my 10 years in prison and as honestly as I can. If any of you have further questions or comments you can message me also.
            When I left prison on August 26, 2011 a piece of me stayed there, I also took a piece of prison home with me. At times I put it in my back pocket, while other times I hold it in my hand and think. It is never really too far away from me. As we speak the parole boards are reviewing someone’s file, in some cases I believe that really do care and look at the file, the inmate’s history, but in others I think they could care less. I had a few parole members come talk to me during my time and each time they sounded so hopeful.
            They all asked the same type questions “Are you sorry for what you did”, “Do you have loved ones who will help and support you”, “Why should the state of Texas let you go”. I remember talking with a man by the name of Hightower twice one time twice on the same hearing about 2 weeks apart, and once 2 years before on another hearing. So friendly and nice, even shock my hand. But the whole time I got this feeling that this was a waste of time.

            But for some it isn't a waste of time and for some of you reading this your loved one will be coming home this year or at least get an “approved” decision this year, sadly for some a “Denied”. Again stay strong if not only for yourself. Stay busy, keep a journal/dairy to read to yourself about what you are going through. Your thoughts and feelings, your hopes and dreams. When mad and angry, when frustrated write yourself about it and read it later, trust me it helps, it helped me. Till the next time. Your mind is strong, keep it that way. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Chance Encounter"

            I find myself most days sitting in a café somewhere in Old Montreal. You see this place inspires me to write. It can be intoxicating to just sit here among the tourists, the artists, the entertainers, and those who like me just come to breath in the atmosphere. I am surrounded by buildings that were built many many years ago, some as far back as the 1600’s. From the café the scent of the Ste. Lawrence River fills your nostrils, but it’s a scent of home. Not a bad smell at all, but one of comfort and familiarity.
            I have traveled the globe and sat in café’s all over, from France to Italy, from England to Amsterdam, The Czech Republic to Hungry, yet by far this simple little place is home. I feel laid back and sure sitting here. I feel I could fall asleep as if on my couch at home. The food and drink, mixed with the occasional violin or guitar only makes this dream come true. The sights and sounds, morning to night, never let up. Each person only gives to the scene as they seem to melt into the back ground.
            I sit at my favorite table and look up at the Hotel Nelson, a grand place that I have frequented many a times I thought with a smile. I ordered an espresso and closed my eyes as I lifted the top of my laptop. Deadlines, God I hate you but it is a necessary evil in the writing world. If anything it hopefully signals the end of a project. I was told one time by a fellow author that the completion of your book is like the death of a loved one. So true I though with this book I was working on.
            I loved this story, I fell in love with it from the get go and felt sad as I neared its end. I would miss this one, I miss the characters I had already killed off, even the hated ones. They were my creation, my babies, how dare I eliminate them. Thoughts of a sequel assaulted my mind with a smile. Resurrections from the dead, was that possible in this story, not likely, after all this wasn't a soap opera. I looked at where I had left off the night before and re-read the chapter. Why is it I am never happy with what I write, although others love it? Are all authors like me? Are we our worse critics?
            Just when as was about to get down and pound the key board motion to the right caught my eye. Now before I continue let me say that Old Montreal is frequented by many in the arts and show business world. Meaning a mass of pretty and beautiful people. They come in all shapes and sizes and dress in styles that are often seen on runways around the world. I have seen some of the most beautiful women from around the globe just tables away.
            But now before me, strolled a woman who I had no words for. To the casual looker she would seem casual if not regular. Nothing new or spectacular in her clothing or appearance at first glance. She had dark hair and wore no sun glasses like all the other women today. She wore simple jeans of no name brand I could see. She had a plain t-shirt on that I swear may have a few paint stains on it. Her shoes were unusual for the rest of her attire. See these were older and worn, yet high dollar Italy jobs that was like an exclamation point on her looks.
            Her hair, as I mentioned was dark and hung down straight to a little over her shoulders. I noticed not a piece of jewelry either nor purse or hand bag. For some reason I cannot explain I was drawn to her and all attempts at writing ceased. Now I’m not stalker or weirdo but I had a hard time keeping my eyes off her. She intrigued me like no other woman I had seen. It was if she did it on purpose to appear not attractive, but it was doing the exact opposite with me.
            From what I could see she had dark eyes, a color I could not make out from where I sat. For a reason I cannot explain I wanted to take her picture but the thought of a huge husband or boyfriend smashing his fist through my face was not alluring. After all I have an image and was quite famous myself. I always had gotten nods and requests for autographs but for some reason I was becoming a big fan of this woman before me. “Come on and calm down” I thought to myself, she is just one of many beautiful women you have encountered in your travels. I stole a glance here and there and wondered if she too was famous in some way. She ordered what appeared to be a plain coffee and stared out towards the river. At times she would check her cell found and respond to a text or message of some kind, and I felt myself smile.
            I wondered what her name was and where she was born, she appear to have tanned skin, but I thought it was more her heritage than the sun. Latino was a very good possibility, maybe even the Middle East? Hell I thought she could be from the Arctic for all I cared. She rubbed her chin in a way that might say she was in thought, then placed her cell to her ear. She seemed to be talking to someone who made her smile and I become jealous thinking of a lover. “God, man get a hold of yourself” I thought and laughed.
            At that moment I fell in love with her smile, it was a smile I thought to start a war over. She twisted her hair as she spoke and I melted like a teenage boy with a crush. I tried to appear calm and normal in my surroundings, after all I was a big time author who others were supposed to lust after. She closed her cell and placed it on the table, and took a drink from her coffee. At that moment our eyes met and she smiled at me. I must have looked like a bumbling idiot because she kind of laughed, I think.
            I took a deep breath and thought if the Ste. Lawrence would be cold this time of year when I jumped in. I took a look at my laptop and noticed not a damn thing written since she showed up. She would be bad for my career I thought. Oh god she was getting up and walking right towards me. My heart fluttered like a kid at Christmas as she moved in for the kill.
            “Excuse me but I couldn't help noticing that you are Jake Rutland right, the author?” she said. I said “blahhh blahhhh blah” I think because she laughed, I think. I wanted to call 911. I finally mustered enough English to say “Yes”. She went on to explain she was a huge fan of my Mack Delaney (plug) series and could hardly wait for the next one to be released. Well I couldn't break it to her that the last one, was the last one and I had killed off most of the characters.
            So with all the wit I could gather I announced “Soon.” Wow I should write for a living I thought then said “I do” a little too loud and she said “excuse me.” “Oh nothing I was thinking too loud.” And we both laughed as I felt like a 44 year old moron. I asked if she wanted to join me and she said she wished she could but she was waiting on her ex-husband to bring back their child. We chatted a bit more and I found out she owned a sports bar of all things up the road from where we sat now.
            She told me to come by one day and watch a hockey game. My mind raced to “No I’ll watch you if that’s OK” but instead my answer was “OK.” Boy my wit must have been showing because she twisted her hair a bit and gave me a card to her bar. “The Bad Apple” I thought what the hell does that have to do with sports and who cares. We said our goodbyes as she walked over to a car and a small boy got out and hugged what had to be his mom, my angel. They walked away hand in hand and I watched hoping she might turn just once. Just when I was about to look down at my blank laptop, she glanced back and waved. Followed by her little guy’s look back and I’m sure of “Who’s that Mommy”

            I took a deep breath and positioned my hands over the keyboard and smiled. Then took one more look at where they were walking, but by now she disappeared. I then thought to myself “What was her name?” I shook my head and started to type as a small hand tapped my shoulder. I turned around and this little boy said “My mommy asked if you would give her your autograph.” “And what is your mommy’s name?” To which his innocent little mind said “Just Mommy I guess.”