A Typical Day On Texas Death Row
Updated: Apr 18
8:20 AM Someone suggested that I chronicle a typical day for me on Texas death row so I figured I’d go ahead and do that today. Perhaps, through detailing the events of an entire day, I can give people a better insight into this environment….
I woke up about 2.5 hours ago, around 6 AM, to Officer Fischer beating on my door to do morning count. He woke me up from having a very interesting astral-plane, Philip K. Dickian dream. Some of my dreams are extremely lucid, like mini-movies with the most advanced special effects available. After being woken up, I laid on my bunk, my consciousness floating in an uncomfortable state of numbness, trying to go back to sleep (with no luck) until about…
7:30 AM when another knock at my door got me up out of my bunk. A mailroom officer was at my door: “You have some packages, Will!” The Polunsky Unit mailroom, the dreaded abyss of death row mail processing, has to be inhabited by the ghosts of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. Mailroom staff seem to delight in engaging in treachery when handling our mail. Whenever I see a mail officer approaching my cell, it’s like a pendulum appears hovering in the space between my cell door and her, swinging back and forth rapidly, alternately touching the words “disappointment” and then “happiness”…”disappointment”, swing, “happiness”…Will it be a denial form for something sent to me or an approved book or something? Luckily, today the pendulum stopped on “happiness”…Hold up, I’m about to eat the little mini-bowl of cereal I saved from breakfast…
10:08 AM: After I ate my cereal, I listened to “Democracy Now!” from 9:00-10:00 and I did some yoga/stretching. I also put my towel and my homemade pillow case in my sink to soak for awhile before I wash them. Lunch trays were just served. Something edible for lunch today—spaghetti, beans, and carrots. Not really good, but edible. The only thing completely inedible was the mixed vegetables. OK, back to the pendulum stopping on happiness: “You have some packages, Will!” I got up and went to the door to see what she had (All mail officers are female. I suppose TDCJ thinks that only women should work in the mailroom because, you know, that’s “a woman’s job”. Or, perhaps, there are no men in Livingston, TX, who want to do “women’s work”).
Here is a list of the books I got in today:
A Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick,
Letters of Thomas Mann 1889-1955,
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse,
and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence.
I love reading and I get just about ecstatic when I get new books in. The mail officer broke the binding on Thomas Mann book trying to shove it through the side of my door. They’re supposed to bring the bar for opening the slot on our doors, but she didn’t, and by the time I realized the book was way too big to fit through the side, she had already broken the binding and ripped some of the pages. Speaking of books, a little while ago I sent a guy in another section a book along with 5 political pamphlets. He wanted to check out this big Gnostic Bible I have, but I had to include some type of political lit with it! I can’t remember exactly what pamphlets I sent him, but I know I sent one talking about control unit prisons (Super Max) like the building we’re housed in. I constantly try to help raise the consciousness of those around me and at the same time I push myself to learn more and more.
Earlier, I went to the shower; I decided not to go to rec. today because I have a lot to do. Yesterday, a comrade of mine sent me a kite [note] telling me about an upcoming meeting of various anti-death penalty groups where they’ll be discussing specific issues to push. He said he wants to raise awareness about those executed who had DNA issues involving the shoddy work of the Houston Crime Lab. He asked me if I have any ideas so I’m about to write him a kite…
11:34 AM: OK, I’m done with that. Now, I need to write a kite out to another dude. The day before yesterday, a guy I don’t know hollered at me when I was at rec. He said that he had talked to my comrade Gabriel out at visitation and Gabriel told him to get with me about helping him “get on the internet”. The guy hasn’t been here very long and he wants to know how to publicize his case and reach out to people on the outside. So I’m about to write him a kite telling him about some good websites and other things.
11:58 AM: That’s done. Now, I’m about to wash, rinse, and hang up the stuff I have soaking in the sink while I listen to the “Back to the Old School” mix on 97.9; that starts at noon.
1:32 PM: I’m done washing. It takes a long time to wash clothes because this sink is so small and the water faucet runs very slow. I’m about to do some cleaning and then talk to the guy who just got into the dayroom, the same guy I sent a kite to earlier about the meeting of the anti-death penalty groups.
3:42 PM: We’re done holding council. There are only a handful of people around here who I can really vibe with on a political level, so I do so whenever the opportunity arises. I’m about to finish a letter to a comrade of mine on the outside…
4:15 PM: They just served dinner chow. I scooped the edible chili-substance into a jar; I’ll heat it up to eat later. I left the inedible stuff on the tray. Back to my letter!
4:21 PM: Someone is beating on the door and screaming in the next section.
5:38 PM: I’m alone with my letter and I’m about to do some yoga/stretching while listening to the news and heating up the food.
6:31 PM: I figured I’d drop a few quick thoughts on some of the news stories I heard today while this food finishes heating up: *The Bush administration rejects climate change proposals and blocks a call for a UN report on the insane amount of climate change the Earth has experienced over the last few decades. I suppose since Mother Earth doesn’t have a ruthlessly effective team of corporate lobbyists, then the Bushites feel comfortable treating Her like rappers treat “video hoes”. Actually, it’s more like the corporate henchmen and the politicians who support them are straight up raping the Earth.
6:47 PM: Food’s done!
7:00 PM: I’m done eating and I’m about to wash dishes and listen to the “Arab Voices” show on KPFT. This show is always interesting; it’s hosted by a guy from the Middle East and he covers various geopolitical topics—especially Middle Eastern issues—from what I guess one could call an “Arab perspective”. Regardless if you agree with his views or not, you’re never going to hear stuff like this on mainstream media sources. You can find info on the show by going to www.kpft.org.
8:00 PM: I just finished listening to the show and the officers came around to pass out towels, boxers, and socks. I wash all of my own clothes because the stuff they hand out is always filthy, so I didn’t get anything. A few more quick thoughts on some of today’s news: there were terrorist bombings in Iraq, Beirut, and Algeria (the one in Algeria was the worst since 1962). When will people learn that simply trying to murder or lock up all of the “terrorists” in order to stop terrorism isn’t a very logical plan. All of the “counter-terrorism” activities like locking innocent people up in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and saturating places like Iraq and Afghanistan with bombs that cause civilian deaths and destroy the civilian infrastructure—including basics like electric and water utilities—creates hatred toward the US. The root causes of terrorist activity should be examined and then addressed. OK, enough of that.
As I was listening to the news I was just thinking how the “if we don’t like you we’ll try to destroy you” mentality is really plain and simply stupid. Same thing with the death penalty: Guy commits murder. Guy is executed for murder. OK, what about examining all of the factors that led up to this person committing the murder and then trying to prevent further murders in the future? (Switch to the classical station) It was just mail-call!
8:32 PM: All I got was a “Seasons Greetings” card from the Oakland Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Much love to all the CEDP comrades out there!
I’ve been up since about 6:00 AM and it’s past 8:30 PM now. I’m about to do a little studying, the do some yoga/stretching/meditation and then try to get some sleep. Right now, I’m reading a book about various peace activist groups in the 1960s and 70s. It’s really interesting because the focus of the book is “lessons learned”.
Alright, I’ll sign off by sending everyone a warm embrace of Strength and Solidarity!
Rob Will from Texas Death Row