Rise Above the Wretchedness
Quite a number of extremely intelligent individuals have said that this environment, Texas Death Row, is the absolute most oppressive environment in the entire United States and even in the entire modern Western World. There is no doubt that by far Texas D.R. has the worst conditions out of all prisons that house D.R. inmates in the U.S. The general conditions and the fact that everyone here is under the threat of death makes for a toxic combination that wages a ceaseless, unrelenting war of aggression upon one’s psyche.
Rarely have I written about this from a general and personal perspective, for several reasons. For one, it seems the vast majority of people simply do not want to hear about sad things, oppressive things. This is something I’ve never understood—oppression inspires me. When I hear about injustice something deep within me stirs. I feel motivated to act, to move, to fight to correct the injustice.
Anyway, I think it is important that people on the outside understand all aspects of the nature of this environment. Sometimes, I’ll think that J. Edgar Hoover and Augusto Pinochet were sitting around reading Orwell, Kafka and torture manuals years back and came up with a devious little plan to create a twisted, psychologically torturous environment just for fun.
My dear Augusto, this racist, murderous thing I’ve been on is really quite boring and tedious. I feel I might not have much longer to live. I know you have plans to do the South American dictator thing a few years from now, but come on mi amigo, let’s come up with something a bit more fun! With more pizzazz!
Are you suggesting something of a legacy? I must tell you John Edgar, I plan on being a brutal dictator for a few decades at least.
Very well, and I wish you well and I’m certain you’ll enjoy the backing of our government. However, let’s spend a few weeks delving into these torture manuals and reading some Orwell and Kafka and how about we create a blueprint for a really, really oppressive environment!
Ay dios mio, Johnny Edgar, I get all warm when you talk to me like that! Where shall this scrumptious place be and when shall it come into existence?
We’ll shoot for sometime after the year 2000 and oh, let’s say we’ll have this lovely place come to be in Texas!
Yes, yes! How grand!
Indeed!—Let’s get to work!
A bit ridiculous, I know, but I think of such things often. Especially with all that has been going on around here lately. Yesterday, I found out that a guy who was “disappeared” a few weeks ago is alive and back on D.R. No one knew if he was alive or dead or what. The medical staff here is truly Josef Mengele-esque vile sadists. The guy had to raise hell to get a blood sample taken. When they finally did blood work on him he was told he was rapidly dying and he was rushed off to the hospital to receive an emergency blood transfusion.
My neighbor just caught scabies. I mean Je-sus, scabies? Parasitical mites?No one knows where the guy who tried to hang himself some weeks ago is. Is he dead? On the psych unit? I wrote and update about him but it was “disappeared.” The guy was housed three cells over from me. Here’s here under the Law of Parties, he’s never killed anyone, and the state fully acknowledges this. Plus, he’s mentally challenged and psychologically unstable. A C.O. was doing count, found him hanging and gassed him. Then he left to the psych unit I assume and hasn’t been seen since.
Right now, as I’m writing this my downstairs neighbor who is extremely schizophrenic is yelling and screaming half-incoherently, ranting and ranting and ranting mind-numbingly loudly. Last Thursday we were hit with an outrageously oppressive shakedown. The most wretched Ms. Smith—who I’ve written about quite a number of times—went on an absolute maniacal rampage. A newer Sergeant and Lieutenant were on the pod so she obviously felt that she could get away with stealing and pillaging about with unmitigated glee.
This crazy woman literally defied her ranking officers orders and engaged in a little devious and sneaky maneuver in order to shake me down. That horrible, pitiful, sad, and hateful woman stole all of my books, all of my art supplies, and all of my envelopes. In all of the years I’ve been here NOTHING like this has happened to me. I’m really rather shocked. It was a big ordeal and I’m having to go through all sorts of stuff to get my property back.
Ms. Smith also stole property from another guy and engaged in her customary lying filth. The dude ended up being hit with the gas repeatedly and run in one by the Riot Team. This vile woman even went so far as to steal all of the stamps possessed by the guy whose execution date was set for this week.
On Saturday, a guy was stabbed in the head by another inmate, and the shank went four inches into his head. He was Life-flighted off the unit and no one knows if he is alive or dead. Just last week we came off a really bad lockdown and everyone is still feeling the effects of three weeks of wretched Johnny Sacks. Yesterday there was an emergency situation on another pod—the sergeant ran off this pod to go down there because “someone was cutting on themselves!”
I just found out that a guy I know received an execution date; even though his co-defendant has said repeatedly that he himself committed the murder they’re still set to execute the other guy. Another person, someone I’ve been real cool with for like 8 years just had his last appeal denied so he should be getting an execution date soon. Next week, a guy who is very obviously mentally retarded is scheduled to be executed. And yet, another very twisted thing: Another guy is scheduled to be executed in about a month and a half yet he’s not on Death Watch or even on this unit. He’s extremely schizophrenic and he’s housed on the Jester 4 psychiatric unit.
Non-stop screaming mania. People being hit with riot gas while hanging. Other gassings. Riot Teams running in the cells. Weird parasitical diseases. Emergency blood transfusions for unknown and untold reasons. Executions, maniacally sadistic officers stealing the things that are closest to a person’s Heart. People slicing on themselves with razors. Utter insanity—and these things go on day in and day out. Without delving into a bunch of neuro-psychological babble, let me just say that the things that go on here severely disturb a person’s normal cognitive functioning, even pushing some people into a permanent state of schizophrenia.
Sleep deprivation itself causes a decline in logical reasoning capabilities and disturbances in normal biological processes. The short term and long term memory is affected. Paranoid thinking is rampant. One of the reasons I felt the need to write about this is because I understand the psychodynamics of the situation and can expand upon it. Also because I know others won’t write about these things.
It’s as loud as a rock concert right now, perhaps louder due to the fact that we’re packed into this small space like sardines. I’m literally having to fight to concentrate enough to write coherently. It’s somewhat hard to describe this process, the process of mentally battling to focus enough to write words on paper. Sometimes, I absolutely cannot do it at all, no matter how hard I try. Right now, I especially feel the affects of this environment because of all that has been going on.
There’s a heaviness around my eyes. Even though I work out and experience Yoga daily and I’m in extremely good physical shape I feel very lethargic right now. Periodically, I’ll notice my shoulders slouching and I’ll catch myself and straighten my posture. My eyesight will become blurry off and on and I’ll notice tension in my jaw and do a bit of pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) to dissipate the tension.
Right before I started writing this I thought I noticed an itch on my arm, which I scratched. This was an unconscious process and I sort of “caught” myself scratching my arm and then I rushed to my sink and started frantically washing my arm. I thought, “Whoa, am I going crazy?” But worrying about weird diseases isn’t irrational when people around here are actually contracting weird diseases.
It truly is hard, very hard, to engage in positive and productive activity in this terribly oppressive environment. Well, my court-appointed attorney is essentially doing nothing more than attempting to have me executed so I have a lot of work to do.
We desperately need to raise funds like right now for legal and organizing expenses. I need to work on my next Sociology lesson and my very small number of dedicated supporters need to find a way to get others involved with our organizing. When. And when.
But one who possesses the Spirit and Soul of a warrior must constantly renew his or her battle fervor and rise above the wretchedness with the wings of an Eagle.
I’m thriving in this Hell—What are you doing out in the “free-world” where the possibilities of living a fulfilling life are endless?
INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.