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  • Rob Will

Free Will?

One of my friends suggested that I write more. She said that I should just write about “whatever” and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be about socio-politics or anti death penalty stuff. So, I figured I’d just drop a few lines—a little “free association” writing I suppose…

Well, we’re on lockdown over here. For those of you who don’t know what lockdown is, that’s when the Administration (Warden or above) orders all regular daily movement stopped on the unit and all areas of the prison are thoroughly searched. For us on 12 Building Death Row, that means no recreation and showers only 3 times a week. The officers come and search all of our property and living areas. I have some serious issues with “shakedowns”. I don’t support the death penalty, therefore I see this system as invalid, so, of course, I see the rules of this system as invalid. Y’all feel me?

When people tell me that I should just “follow the rules and be good”, I feel like I’m trapped in some damned Orwellian alternate universe. It’s crazy to me that most guys here on DR feel that way also. I understand the power of psychological conditioning, but damn! I’ll give you an example: awhile back, they came up with a ridiculous rule that we could only have our clotheslines up from like 9pm to 6am. Sometimes it’s so humid that it takes an entire day for clothes to dry.

Quite a few people were complaining about the new rule but 95% of people obeyed it. What did myself and a handful of others do? We put extra clotheslines all across our cells! I give no validity to the policies and regulations of a deplorable system. I feel the same way when it comes to lockdowns/shakedowns. My cell is a pyramid where I seek knowledge and wisdom, a sanctuary where I study, a temple where I meditate and a base of operations when it comes to my activism. I don’t like for my cell to be messed with. Shakedowns are an inevitable occurrence in prison and I really don’t have too much of an issue when officers come through, do their shakedown in a decent manner and go about their business. What I do have a major issue with though, is when officers go out of their way to mess with me and/or others during shakedowns. I’ve had to commit some major direct actions in the past due to excessive shakedowns. I heard tonight that the officers are already on C pod so they’ll be down here to shakedown within the next week. We’ll see what happens…

Tonight, I got all the print-outs of the birthday messages everyone sent to my MySpace. I really appreciate each and every one of them!! Things like that really do make my time better. Have you ever heard of the term “Deindividuation”?

This building, 12 Building Death Row, is what’s called a SHU (Security Housing Unit), CUP (Control Unit Prison) or SMU (Security Management Unit). These types of units were designed by psychologists, designed to break the minds of the inmates. Really, it seems that much more is done besides just altering the human psyche; without getting into a debate about the existence and/or definition of the “soul” or “spirit”, it’s as if this place actually destroys many people’s spirits and souls. It’s as if this system becomes their omnipotent master:

“You are not an individual. I own you. You are a part of Me and there is no escape. I will allow you to have certain privileges to numb the pain if, and only if, you obey Me. I will allow you certain coping mechanisms as long as you do not resist Me. I am in control of your life and I may very well be in control of your death. And if that time comes, you will submit your life to Me and utter not a single complaint! I am your Overlord. I am your Master. Your Essence is My property. I own you. You completely belong to Me! I AM YOUR GOD!”

I suppose that I’m one hell of a blasphemer then! Even though I understand all of the tactics utilized by our captors I can’t completely escape the effects of this environment. Sensory deprivation essentially assaults the subconscious. We get no fresh air and very rarely see the sun. All the walls are painted dull white, no color anywhere. We all wear solid white jumpsuits. We’re housed in identical cells. Many times staff members refer to us by our cell numbers. Uniformity—forced conformity. Deindividuation. Letters, pictures, and especially visits are like battle axes to the throat of sensory deprivation, a guillotine to the neck of deindividuation. “Off with their heads! Off with their heads!”

Contact from the outside is what keeps me inspired, moving, thriving, and fighting. Y’all check this out: me and one of my comrades were talking about writing more and we both said that people out in the free world would trip out if they heard some of the conversations we have in here. Then, we were both talking about what all we had discussed that day. I think we had originally started talking about a book that we had recently read by Philip K. Dick titled The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (It’s a seriously good book by the way, one of the best novels I’ve ever read, right up there with Hermann Hesse’s Demian). We were talking about the various philosophical arguments presented in the book and how he weaved them together in a fast-paced and interesting story. We went from the ontological argument for the existence of God on to the debate of Free Will.

He argued that man has Free Will. I disagreed and told him to give me an example. So he kept trying and I tore the examples all apart. All actions and behaviors can be traced back to psychological conditioning or genetics. It seems crazy to me that most people believe in Free Will. Ah, but I’m sure many people think I’m crazy for thinking otherwise. Perhaps I’m trapped in my own little subjective reality. Ha!

Well, after holding dialectic on the question of Free Will we somehow got on the subject of rap/hip hop (conversations on rap are very popular in prison). Who’s the best in the rap game today? Why do a large percentage of songs played on the radio contain extreme amounts of misogyny? What the hell happened to lyrical content? Things like that. Strictly speaking on lyrical content, Lil’ Wayne really makes just about everyone else look like amateurs. Despite all of his lyrics which seem to be either rampantly narcissistic outbursts or odes to a culture of violence, dude’s rhymes and style are excellent. BTW, what happened to country music? There have only been like, what…two or three good country songs made in the last 20 damn years? Too bad there aren’t any other white folks on this section to talk about country music with. Y’all know, because, well, that’s what white folks do down in Texas. Anyway, I ordered some specific TDCJ policies out of the Law Library a few days ago because we’ve been working on…well, I can’t expose all that! (Note to all of the TDCJ staff members that seem to really enjoy all of my writings: if y’all would follow your own policies, then y’all wouldn’t have near as many problems as you have).

Once again, I appreciate all of the birthday messages. Solidarity is lovely. Before I sign off, I want everyone to do something for me. My comrade Kenneth Foster has an execution date set for August 30th. For anyone who doesn’t know him, Kenneth is a long time prisoner rights and anti death penalty activist. Y’all please go to his website,, and help in any way that you can. Go to his section on the DRIVE site and y’all can read his updates. Send him a card or something and let him know you support his activism. I guarantee he won’t participate in his own murder and walk to his own execution if he doesn’t receive a stay. Believe that.

From the Trenches

With Strength and Love:


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