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R.I.P. 50-50

June 6, 2006

Appx. 6 p.m., Tuesday

I’m feeling rather strange right now. I can’t quite describe the emotion –anger, sadness, frustration or regret? Perhaps, it’s a combination of all those emotions. I think it would be most appropriate to say I’m feeling a sense of loss.

20 years ago today, my dad was murdered. And, right now, a friend of mine, Timothy Titsworth (A.K.A “50-50”) is being led to his own murder by state sponsored execution. They usually strap a person down to the gurney around 6 pm. 50-50 will be murdered soon…

I don’t “glorify” those on death row, nor do I ever attempt to persuade people that everyone here is a loving and caring individual. There are some unrepentant methodical killers here who would undoubtedly kill again if they were released. But, for the most part people on death row (who are guilty) committed impulsive murders in which there was no planning or aforethought. Their crimes were “crimes of passion”. Many, if not most of these murders, were committed by individuals who were under the influence of mind-altering drugs…

50-50 was the first person I met when I arrived on death row. I was put in a cell next to him, after arriving on this unit from Harris County jail. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived here. Harris County jail is worse than most prisons as far as fighting and staff oppression is concerned. It’s easier to murder a person on a prison unit though, but some of the things I’ve seen done to people in Harris County make death seem like more attractive option. In the jail, the more unfriendly, cold and violent you are, the easier your time will be. Power and violence rule the environment. I assumed that this would be even truer for death row. Needless to say, when I arrived here I wasn’t very talkative or “neighborly”.

“Slam!!” When the officers slammed the door to my cell behind me I just stood there for a minute. I was now Officially on death row. There are a thousand prison games that are played and most of them revolve around the struggle for power and dominance. One of the oldest power games consist of “testing” new prisoners. For example, a person will tell a new guy, “Hey man, here are some things you might need. I know you’re new so you haven’t been to commissary yet. Here some soap, shampoo, some food and other stuff. I always try to look out for my neighbors. If you don’t accept this stuff then that will be highly disrespecting me.”

So, if the new guy doesn’t accept the stuff he will probably end up in a fight right away because he “disrespected” his new neighbor. If he does accept the stuff the he may have set himself up: “Hey man, remember the stuff I gave you last week? Yeah, I’m glad you took it from me and didn’t disrespect me. But, the prison rule is that you have to pay me back double today”.

Being a white boy in prison who doesn’t take any shit from anyone is basically the equivalent of being a “Black” man walking through Jim Crow-era South Alabama with a “Black Pride” t-shirt on. The majority of the population in prison is disproportionately “Black” and “Latino” due, of course, to the racist and classist nature of the Criminal Justice System. White guys are viciously preyed upon in prison. Even White prisoners who are not racist are still the unwilling stimuli that triggers the deeply ingrained subconscious hatred of this System by its most predominate victims –those whose skin color is any shade darker than “white”. And, that hatred is taken out on white prisoners.I’ve seen truly horrible things done to white guys in prison simply because they were white and they fell for prison games. The first time I came to jail I was 17. I quickly learned that, as a white guy, in order to survive and be respected in jail, one has to quickly identify “game” and make the individuals attempting to run game on you deeply regret that he did so. This usually involves committing a psychopathic violent act of aggression; even though I really am a peaceful person by Nature, I’ve had to do just that many times in order to survive. As much as I hate it, that’s how prison is.

 

“Knock-knock!” I had only been in my cell for a few minutes when I heard a knock on the wall. “Look out! Go to that hole in the middle of your wall!” I leaned towards a small clack in the thick concrete. “This is your neighbor in 54 cell. I go by “50-50”. In a few minutes I’ll toss my line over there to shoot you some stuff. It’ll take a few days for you to get whatever property they let you bring from county and it’ll take at least 2 weeks for you to get your commissary card. I’m gonna shoot you a little food, some coffee and some hygiene stuff. I also have some books if you…”

I quickly replied, “Naw, I’m cool, I don’t need anything”, cutting 50-50 off in mid-sentence and abruptly ending our conversation. I thought with a sigh, “I haven’t been here 10 minutes and people are already trying to “check” me; right on they’ll learn soon enough.” One of the other guys down the run hollered at 50-50: “Say 50, what’s up with the new dude?” “Oh Hell! –that’s one of those crazy-ass youngsters outta’ Houston…” and 50-50 went on a 20 minute satirical tirade about how all the youngsters from Houston are crazy and how I didn’t need any coffee anyway because “that just makes those youngsters worse”, etc., etc., etc.!

Of course I didn’t want anyone to hear me, but I was just about cracking up laughing in my cell. Around that time I got a “kite” from a guy on another section who knew some of my friends from Houston; they had sent him a letter about me before I got here. He told me that my neighbor (50-50) was cool and he let me know that he had sent 50 some stuff to give me. So he wasn’t trying to play prison games, 50 was just being a good neighbor and a good person…

That’s how he was. No matter what type of mood a person was in, 50 could always make you laugh. Like when we would be on lockdown and everyone would be aggravated, 50-50 would come to his door and tell some crazy joke that would lift everyone’s spirits. I just heard on the news that 50-50 was indeed murdered a little while ago.

They said that he repeatedly apologized for killing his girlfriend while in a crack-cocaine induced jealous rage. We talked about his case before and 50-50 told me everything that happened. When he talked about his girlfriend, the woman he murdered, I could see the deep regret in his eyes and it seemed like he almost wanted to cry. I’ve never smoked crack but I grew up around drugs. I’ve seen what crack cocaine does to people; it can turn any person crazy. 50-50’s crime was indeed a “crime of passion”. I feel very deeply for the family of the woman he killed but how is 50-50’s murder going to change anything? He’s dead now, murdered by the State of Texas.

Is his murder going to stop men from being jealous?

Is his murder going to take crack off the streets or stop other murders?

No! Of course, not.

I won’t get into a discussion on the socio-political causes of crime or the effect execution have on society as a whole, but let me close this update off by saying that 50-50’s execution was pointless. As I said, I don’t glorify death row, I’m a Realist. But, 50-50 was indeed a good natured person and his state sanctioned murder only contributes to the culture of violence that we live in.

Through his humor and vibrant personality 50-50 always brought light to those around him no matter how dark the atmosphere was. That light will shine on though those who new and loved him. R. I. P. Timothy Titsworth, A. K. A. 50-50!

One Love, One Struggle,

Rob Will

 

 

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