Category: About Prisons

Being in prison is something you cannot imagine until you’ve been there. Learn first-hand what it’s like and the things you need to know if you or a loved one are headed that way.

Lyme Disease: Are inmates being exposed to Lyme Disease?

I sit here today as a free man. But, I guess the irony of the Universe wasn’t done with me, because I now have Chronic Neurological Lyme disease. Yep, I am married, I have two kids, I HAD a great job as a construction foreman and I was strong, healthy, and happy. I was the one who didn’t go back, I had moved on, life was good.

They say I have had Lyme disease for many years. Nobody can say when I got it. About 50% of those infected with Lyme never remember being bit by a tick, and never develop the tell-tale bulls eye rash. Most will be sick, with aches and fever. It’s common to think it’s flu, and eventually “recover”. But, for some, the Lyme bacteria has gone into hiding, waiting for a time when then immune system is compromised either from physical or mental stress of some sort, and then it comes back with a vengeance.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Lyme disease epidemic.

Where did I catch my Lyme disease? Nobody knows. I might have got it where I grew up, on the Guadalupe River. Or – I might have gotten it while in prison. I think of this often. I remember getting really sick once while incarcerated, and it was a weird sick. Nobody else had it, and I was bad with fever and aches. Medical care in prison is a joke, I think I got some aspirin and I stayed in my bunk and rode it out. And eventually I recovered and didn’t think more of it.

Now I think of that a lot. Is Lyme disease being caught in prisons? Prisoners often work with crops and livestock. And there are rodents all over prisons. I worked in the kitchen and they are everywhere. The common mouse is the biggest carrier of ticks there is. Not most people know that.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the prevalence of germs and illness in prisons.

If you or anyone you know has done time, and has Lyme disease, share your story. Let’s get the word out. And, hope you are healing, man. This is really a bitch. Peace ~ Magnum

60 Days In on A&E: A “real” reality show about incarceration?

Today I heard about this new show coming up and it looks kinda interesting. It’s on A&E and it’s seven individuals who volunteer to actually go to a county jail for two months. This is what A&E says about it: “Sheriff Jamey Noel has devised an unprecedented program to root out crime and corruption in the Clark County Jail. His plan is to send seven civilian volunteers into jail as undercover inmates. The participants all have unique motivations for joining the program, and have been given cover stories, training on the rules of inmate culture, and instructions on how to stay safe. Now they just have to convince the inmates and the officers that they are real inmates.”

Now, I haven’t watched an episode yet so I don’t know how they cover up the fact that it’s being filmed. That is my main complaint about so-called reality shows. There is a FREAKIN CAMERA MAN and lights and all this equipment in the room with you, how can it be “reality”? I wouldn’t be acting natural under those circumstances.

So, if they really make it seem like it’s undercover, then maybe this can be a real reality show. I am gonna check out an episode or two. Might be boring. Might be OK. I like that it’s the idea of the Sheriff in charge of that jail, and that they will use the money they got from it to improve the jail. Having been in jail and in prison, I can say these folks who volunteer are choosing to do something for a couple months that is not comfortable or cool. More power to them.

Here is a link to the page about the show, and you can see episodes on there. Check it out:
http://www.aetv.com/shows/60-days-in

Ma, you did the time too

I was reflecting on some of the site regulars, and how in general they were mothers, wives and girlfriends. There are some fathers, and siblings, and a few children of those incarcerated. And there are comments from those who have done time, or worked in corrections, and folks with addiction problems. But most of who visits here are the women left behind – the mothers, wives and girlfriends.

When I got locked up I had a lot of emotions to deal with. I was angry, first and foremost. And I had some fear, naturally. I also had a lot of guilt and shame, especially at that first visit when my mother came to see me in County. I felt so shitty. Like a real turd, that is all there is to it. And I was also very damn glad to see her. A lifeline! Thrown to me in the very dark hole I was residing in.

I think I can speak for the majority of the incarcerated when I say having your mother, your wife, or your girlfriend stick by you while you do time is very appreciated. And probably not acknowledged as much as it should be. When you go down you find out pretty fast that most of your so-called friends are nowhere to be found. Even a lot of family becomes scarce. Face it, it’s not that fun to visit someone in prison, the whole experience is crappy. And writing letters to someone who basically has NO news to share with you and nothing going on is not very gratifying either. Sending funds to someone because they are a dumbass and got locked up doesn’t usually feel like a good use of money but boy is it appreciated.

I am pretty sure when I went to prison my mother was about as nervous and scared about what I was going to face there as I was. In fact, I guess she might have been more scared and nervous. Yeah, I think she was. I knew I could handle it, one way or the other, but for her it was probably agony. I was lucky that some guys told me the real rundown of what to expect and I was sure to tell her as much as I knew, so she kind of knew what was going to happen. And, I had one of my cell mates all set to call her when they picked me up so she would know I was on my way without waiting for her to find out randomly.

The main question we receive here is “my son/husband/boyfriend just transferred from County to TDC. How do I know he’s OK? How do I find him?” I hear the fear in those questions every time I read them. I know they are looking into the unknown and expecting it to be pretty bad, all the way around.

Here’s another thing that doesn’t get said much. Your parent is left on the outside to explain to family, friends, and everyone else where you are. Why you are there. They can choose to cover it up or just own it, but either way folks judge. My mother told me that right when I went away, a lot of her coworkers in her age-group had children who were graduating college and starting their careers, and how she chose to just stay quiet because bragging on your son’s newest prison tattoo just isn’t so cool.

I’ve noticed that some of the mothers who are regulars here have gotten the prison lingo down pretty well. Catching chain, making commissary, short way – these are all terms that a mother shouldn’t need to be knowing. That’s just messed up. But it is a fact.

I’m sorry Ma, i wish I could undo that part of things. I don’t regret much in life, definitely don’t regret that I did time. It’s part of who I am. But I wish I hadn’t had to take you down with me. And I appreciate that you went through that went me. I really do. Thanks for doing the time with me. It made it a little easier to know you were there.

inside texas prison

Going back to prison…

A guy I know, who I met and came to consider a friend while I was in TDC, got out a couple months before me. He is currently sitting in jail, on quite a few charges ranging from DUI to breaking and entering a habitation with a weapon and with intent to commit a felony – that is a bad one, for those who don’t know. He has been in jail for over a year now, and he was just sentenced this week, to go back to prison. The sentence is for 25 years and he will have to do at least half of that before he is eligible for parole. I am thinking it’s going to be a long while before he has an opportunity to be free again.

What went wrong? While we were in prison he and I worked out together almost daily, we shared books and discussed them, and talked a lot in general. He is very smart, and has discipline when it comes to things like working out or keeping out of trouble in prison. He is a talented artist and can play a guitar, and has some skills like working on cars and construction work. He had plans to stay out of trouble on the outside, I know that much. Why do smart guys get out of prison and go right back in that revolving door?

Well, first of all, don’t think for a minute that I don’t know it could easily be me. The rate of recidivism is very high for anyone who has been in prison. A lot of this is because we are just dumb asses overall, but it’s also because it’s very hard to get out of prison and start over without a good support system and some good luck as well.

The job market is slim for those with a felony record. A lot of jobs plain won’t consider you if you have a record, like any job delivering stuff to the public or going into folks homes. So a lot of jobs that might be a good fit for someone with few skills just looking for a chance won’t consider you. When I got out, I was really fit, clean cut looking, and ready to work. And I knocked on quite a few doors. Here are some of the types of jobs I was not eligible for because I had a record: carpet cleaning, plumber’s helper, electrician’s helper, mover, motel maintenance, landscaper, apartment maintenance, pest control… that isn’t to say there aren’t some pest control companies or landscape jobs that might have considered me, but plenty of companies do not allow candidates that have a felony record.

There are other issues like where are you going to live? Sometimes, a person has burnt bridges with family or doesn’t even really have family. Finding a place to live that you can afford and that isn’t depressing as hell can be tricky. Most apartment complexes have a rule that you cannot live in them if you have any sort of criminal record.

Someone released from prison has to figure out how they are going to deal with that old group of friends or dysfunctional mate or family that are still right there waiting when you come home. You can feel really strong and committed to staying clean and out of trouble while you are sitting in your bunk in prison. But when you get home, things are way different. Any number of things can trigger you to think drinking, or drugging or worse are a good idea. It’s incredibly hard to walk away from those old friendships, and easy to tell yourself you can handle it. It’s also much harder than you think it will be to find your place in the world after a stint in prison. Let’s face it, having a record can make people you meet judge you.

Bottom line, I am sort of sad for this guy, and also shake my head some that he let it come to this. I can’t say I know any better what he should have done, but he had plans to get a fresh start. He knew the city he was from wasn’t smart for him to go back to. But instead, he got home and he contacted his old buddies, and his old girlfriends, and stepped right back into a life he should have avoided at all costs.

While he was in prison he wrote letters to his dad, and they communicated in a way they hadn’t for years. His dad lived in another state and he had plans to get out and go over his way, reconnect and have a fresh start. But he didn’t do that, and with a 25 year sentence on him now, it’s doubtful he will ever get to see him in person again. I guess they can start writing letters again.

It’s a damn shame, what people do to themselves. I pray I keep doing alright myself. I know my wife and son help me a lot, I feel such a strong love for them and I want so much to be here for them, it does make me think twice when stupid thoughts pop in my head. I don’t dwell on things much though, I just try to live in the moment, and enjoy this great life every minute, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Peace out y’all. Hope you are feeling free today, count your blessings.

Should you hire a lawyer or go with a public defender?

If a family member or a friend was recently arrested for something more serious than a misdemeanor, you may have found this site while looking for answers to the many questions you are now faced with. Hopefully for most of you reading this site, getting into trouble with the law is not something you are very familiar with and it can be confusing and terrifying to deal with.

Some of the questions you may have, apart from if they are going to do time, is if you should post bail for the person in jail and if you need to hire an attorney. There are quite a few angles to these questions and for most of it there isn’t a clear answer as to what is best, but more a decision that you will have to make about what is best for YOU.

The person in jail is probably going to be calling you in panic, and they will want you to bail them out. Consider this carefully before you post bail. Realize that if you have the funds and post the bail yourself, you can lose your money if they do not show up for court for whatever reason. If you use a bondsman, they will require a percentage of the bond for their fee and issue a bond. That fee will not be returned to you by the court or the bondsman. Only the person in jail can pay you back. In other words, just like when it comes to loaning money, don’t do it unless you can afford to lose that amount, because you just don’t know what might happen.

Another thing to consider is that for some cases, sitting in jail while waiting for trial might be the very best thing. In my case it was. It gave me a chance to get off the junk and to get my head clear. If I had been bonded out I am very sure I would not have made good decisions about anything while I waited for trial. I was just too messed up at the time. Another angle to this is that every day spent sitting in jail is “time served”. For someone with a job, a family to support, or even school to attend, this loss can be devastating. In other cases, for a person in a bad spot in their life, maybe without a job and generally just messing up, sitting in jail is uncomfortable and not fun, but chances are it won’t hurt them any worse than their current lifestyle was.

For many people the first thing they think of when there is legal trouble is to get the best attorney available to get them out of the trouble they are in. Hiring a good attorney is a very smart choice at times. First take a look at the severity of the crime you are accused of, the possible sentence you could face, and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. All arrests are serious, but some cases will benefit from the legal expertise of a great lawyer. Of course, good attorneys cost good money, so be prepared for a substantial expense. Usually though, spending some money is far preferable than spending a couple years or more locked up. And, if being locked up is the probably outcome to things, of course you will want the shortest sentence length possible.

What if you don’t have money for a good lawyer? Don’t lose hope. You might fear that a public defender will not really defend your loved one very well. In fact, in many cases a public defender will give just the same amount of attention to your case as a paid attorney can. If you are arrested on first time charges that have not caused anyone else serious harm, chances are that your case will never come to trial. A deal will be struck between the DA’s office and your lawyer. A public defender will be able to negotiate this deal just as a paid attorney will. In these kinds of cases the amount of actual time a lawyer will spend on your case, whether it be a paid lawyer or a public defender, is not that much.

Bottom line: If you find yourself or your loved ones with serious legal troubles, do not panic when it comes to making the important decisions. If you do choose to hire an attorney, talk to several and do not to be intimidated. YOU are hiring them, so ask questions! A lot of lawyers are good at talking but don’t let them take over the initial meeting. They can be prone to do this. Make a few notes to refer to so you don’t lose track and forget to ask things. And good luck!

The National Registry of Exonerations

Have you heard of the National Registry of Exonerations? Founded in 2012 by the University of Michigan Law School in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The registry keeps track of every overturned conviction and exonerated person in the United States since 1989. With the ability to use DNA evidence, the list is ever growing.

It’s a fascination website full of information for anyone interested in social justice and change. There is a list of recent exonerations with some details, recent news in the progress of exonerations, interesting graphs with statistics, and more. What a worthy project this is to gather all this information in one place. The site states that to date they have over 1550 exonerations listed. Wow

Many, many people are incarcerated for crimes they did commit, including myself. Sometimes the sentence seems harsh and sometimes it seems not long enough. But they did the crime, and they are being punished as a judge or a jury of their peers deemed fit. That is our system and overall its fair and better than a lot of other places. But when a truly innocent person spends years in prison for something they did not do – I cannot even imagine! All too often the person is not of means to properly defend themselves or to understand the system fully. What is the answer to this? I don’t think there is one, really.
But the fact that today we can read of those exonerated and have hope for those that might still be in this predicament is very hopeful. Peace y’all.

Willacy County prison where recent riot was loses contract and closes

The company that runs the Federal prison facility that was recently the site of a prison riot has lost its contract. The company, Management & Training Corp. out of Utah, has stated that the reason for the contract cancellation is that the inmate population has dropped and there is not a need for that federal facility. Also, they are looking for a new client for that facility. I have no idea who they will find to contract with, but that facility has beds for around 3000 inmates so certainly that would be far too much space for a county jail or anything of that nature. I hope, whoever they end up contracting with, that some major renovations are done first. I have never seen the place personally, but considering that the riot was supposedly caused due to unsanitary conditions such as overflowing toilets and raw sewage leaking into the sleeping areas, it seems it is in bad need of a renovation.

I looked up the Management & Training Corp’s website to learn a bit more about them. They have a great website! I learned that MTC started in 1981 by running the Job Corps program, which is a program for at-risk youths to get some vocational training. My understanding is that it is many times an alternative to sending a youth to a youth offender lockup. I had a buddy who was in Job Corp and it is run in a military sort of style and is meant to teach the youth there not only a vocational skill but discipline and how to follow the rules. They do not get to just come and go as they wish, they stay right there on site, sort of like a rehab would be.

The MTC website states that they are running 24 correctional facilities. Apart from running prisons and Job Corps, they do a bunch of other stuff which all seems to be around the “corrections industry”. I haven’t thoroughly read all of it yet but they manage medical care of inmates as well as rehabilitation programs for not only inmates but “at risk” individuals which sounds to me like maybe boot camp sort of facilities. They are also doing this on an international level and are in England and multiple Middle Eastern countries.

All this sounds just great, but I stand by my opinion that the privatization of corrections is a very bad idea. What motivation would a corporation have to actually rehabilitate any group of people? If they succeeded they would essentially put themselves out of business.

Think about it this way – a youth that attends Job Corps but who does NOT straighten up can become a future inmate. Ding! Double the profit on that person. If they do not rehabilitate in prison, they will recidivate (as far too many of those incarcerated do) and come right back in that revolving door. Now that person has made the corporation money for the third time. See where I am going with this? A company running a correctional corporation makes money when folks are incarcerated. Plain and simple. So their boot camps and prisons and youth institutes don’t have to succeed in rehabilitate anyone for them to stay profitable. In fact, the opposite is true.

I also believe that when a state like Texas, with so many prisoners, farms out its prisons to corporations, there is not enough inspections of these facilities to make sure they are being run properly, let alone humanely. Inmates don’t have much of a voice, believe me, so if conditions are deplorable there isn’t much they can DO about it!

It’s a broken system in my opinion to have privatized corrections. I very strongly believe this. Peace out, y’all!

How Realistic is Orange is the New Black?

Having never spent time in women’s prison, I cannot say with certainty if Orange is the New Black is accurate or not. However, based on my own experiences of being an inmate in prison, I do have an opinion that it is doing pretty well, as far as prison shows go and depicting things realistically. Yes, there are clearly segregated groups, tensions, fights over stupid things, and there are lots of irrational, mean and actually nutty people in prison, and that includes inmates, guards and those in charge.

One thing they can’t portray in a Netflix TV series is smell. In prison there are lots of smells. A lot of them are pretty bad. You just can’t cram that many folks into one place without there being some odors. Also a pervasive smell of disinfectant lingers everywhere. I would say the reality in prison is it’s a bit less sanitary and not as nice as they have it depicted in Orange is the New Black. Not that they made it “nice” but it’s not as cramped and as tight and as claustrophobic as it really feels in there. And the noise – they don’t come close to portraying the noise. Maybe women are less loud, but mens’ prison is NOISY.

I guess one thing to consider is OITNB is meant to depict a federal penitentiary, and the federal facilities are known to typically be nicer than most state’s facilities, including Texas’ TDCJ system.

On a television show they can’t portray how you slip on a whole different cloak while you are in prison. This cloak has you walk the hallway without a smile on your face, and always with a 6th sense about what is behind you, what is around that next corner. You don’t let your guard down often. You keep that cloak on even while you sleep if you are smart. It’s a cloak that is hard to drop when you first get out.

The one technical aspect of the show that bugged me, and that is very common, is they mixed up the words probation and parole. Folks don’t get out of prison and go on probation. They are on PAROLE. They use this terminology wrong on OITNB.

Probation is what happens prior to prison, when they give you a chance to behave yourself for a certain period of time, to avoid every going to prison. A big portion of those incarcerated were at one time on probation, because the system is set up to make it pretty hard to succeed. You have to pay fines and do community service and keep yourself away from all sorts of trouble. Some people make it through and avoid prison, but a whole lot do not.

Now, parole is what happens when you are released from prison prior to your actual sentence being completed. You are released with the understanding you will do what you should do – work, go to AA or NA, and pay a fee to the parole office – for the duration of your sentence time. Depending on the crime you are sentenced for, the rules and regulations around this can vary. Some folks need to wear an electronic monitor or report in to their parole officer and submit to urine tests for illegal substances on a very frequent basis. Others are pretty much left to their own, as long as they don’t screw up.

But back to Orange is the New Black – it’s pretty well done and an interesting glimpse into prison life. I am looking forward to the next season and I bet a bunch of you are as well. Just do your self a favor, if you have a loved one that is incarcerated, do not take ANY of these shows, even the reality shows of “Behind Bars” and “Locked Up” too seriously or dwell on them – they are just shows made for our viewing entertainment, and I think they might make a person freak out unnecessarily.

riot-at-willacy

Prison privatization, inhumane conditions and incarceration of illegals cause of recent riot at Willacy

In February the inmates at the Willacy County State Jail rioted. Fires were set in 3 of the 10 housing units and damage was done to electrical and plumbing. The offenders at Willacy are for the most part low-level offenders and many are also here in the U.S. without proper documentation. The riot was a reaction to the conditions they are being held in and a lack of proper medical care.

There are plenty of folks who read these reports and their response is that the incarcerated don’t “deserve” decent conditions. That by committing a crime, they deserve just what they are getting.

The conditions were reported as deplorable, and I believe it. Sewage leaking into the sleeping areas. Overflowing toilets left that way for days on end. The housing units for the most part are large Kevlar tents. It’s not pleasant and it doesn’t have to be pleasant, but inmates – like any other human – should have sanitary safe conditions to live in.

The Willacy Unit is privately run. When prisons are privately run, it’s easy to imagine that profit outweighs other considerations. This is a simple fact that I believe is a huge issue. When Texas and other states choose to privatize incarceration and prisons, they open the door for abuse of the system and situations like the one at the Willacy Unit.

Now, all that aside, think about these inmates. I can relate to these guys’ frustration a lot because I was incarcerated in Raymondville with a guy who was in this same situation. A young kid, legally of age, but a kid, who came from the far south of Mexico to work in construction. His family were literally dirt poor farmers. He had never driven a car let alone been in a city the size of Dallas, and with no work and no money at home, he ended up in Dallas on a construction job. He lived in a city apartment with a bunch of other guys, and what an experience that must have been, after living on a very rural farm his whole life.

Very shortly after arriving, he went out with the guys after work and had too much too drink. Let’s face it, any one of us probably could have done the same in that situation. No experience with the language, the bars, the music, the booze, the women…whoa – poor kid. Well he drove his buddy’s truck home because his buddy was smashed. Remember, he really didn’t know how to drive. He was drunk and made a very poor decision. And he got picked up for DUI, driving without a license, and being here illegally, and was thrown in jail. Nobody to make a call to, and he didn’t understand what he was being told overall, so he sat there and waited.

He didn’t speak the language and didn’t understand the system. He was assigned a court-appointed attorney and was given a 3 year sentence. He never once communicated with any family during this period because he had no money for stamps. He had no money for commissary and couldn’t buy the basics like deodorant or toothpaste. He couldn’t buy any of the food items that help you feel like you won’t starve to death while in prison, or over the counter medicines, or writing supplies. Yes, this kid broke the law but I wouldn’t consider him a criminal. I will bet almost anyone reading this knows someone who has had a DUI and who got probation and some heavy fines. This kid was incarcerated for 3 years of his life for it.

Now imagine that kid x 100’s of others – that is the population at Willacy. That is who rebelled because they were cut off from family, unable to properly communicate, living in squalor with live sewerage in their sleeping quarters and overflowing toilets left that way for days. No medical care to speak of. No response to requests for basic care. They were probably pretty desperate and pretty much out of hope when they rebelled. And now they will receive stiff additional sentences, and do much more time, because rioting in prison is a pretty serious offense. The system is broken, people. Really broken.

For those reading this that don’t feel sympathy for these guys. Think about the cost. The State of Texas – that means you and me, the taxpayers – are paying to support the private prison industry and house these guys for several years. What do we gain by this?

When they are finally released they will be brought to the border and released to cross to Mexico. Because they are undocumented illegals, they do not receive the small sum of money that indigent inmates who are US citizens receive when they are released. They will literally be back in their country but possibly thousands of miles from home without funds for bus fare, a meal, or a phone call. They are pretty much f*cked – excuse my language – but before all this, the corporation who contracts with Texas to run privatized prisons made income off of them for a couple of years. Now you tell me how this is helping anyone, anyone at ALL, besides that corporation?

OK – I am off my soapbox now. But again, I repeat, the system is broken.

prison bus crash

Prison Bus Crash in Texas results in 10 Dead

Yesterday, there was a terrible accident out west of Odessa. A prison bus with 12 inmates and 3 correctional officers went off an overpass and fell onto train tracks. It was then hit by a train. Of the 15 people in the bus, 10 are dead and 4 are in critical condition in the hospital. 8 of the 10 dead are inmates, 2 are correctional officers.

The details of the wreck are still being investigated and much is not known, but I pray that the time from when the bus went over to when the train collided with it was very brief. I hope very much that those who died did so mostly on impact. I hope that the injured can survive and will be mostly alright.

This story is horrific to me, as someone who has ridden in a prison transport bus, because I can only imagine the terror of being on that bus. When you ride in a prison bus you are shackled to your seat mate, for safety reasons of course, but in the case of a wreck like this, it seems your chances would be greatly diminished. You also do not get a seatbelt. In a wreck you could not brace yourself easily, or manage to get out if you are still physically able to either, being shackled to the person next to you. The story horrifies me because I have had a friend in the Middleton Unit, where the bus left from. It’s a low to medium security unit as well as a transfer unit. Most of the inmates there are low level drug offenders, DWI cases, and some sex offenders as well. Most are on the younger side.

I cannot imagine being the family member or loved one of anyone who is currently incarcerated in Middleton, because what all of us who have been in prison or know someone in prison have learned, news from prison travels slowly, and callously. It is entirely likely that multiple parents and spouses and children are sleepless and scared right now, waiting to hear if their inmate was one of those on board that bus. When a person is transported from one prison unit to another in TDC, there is sometimes no warning at all. Or an inmate will know they are going to be moved, but not know where, or when. They might write to their family and let them know, and then it’s a waiting game. The family will one day just learn that their inmate has been transferred.

So, for those families and friends of anyone who was at Middleton, right now must be excruciating. Typically calling around to hospitals will not help because when you are an inmate needing hospital care, a hospital will not divulge to anyone calling if you are even AT the hospital let alone your condition. It’s not allowed. Calling the prison itself will no doubt lead to nothing but frustration. It truly blows my mind to think of you all right now, and I pray for you.

There are tools online to find an inmate in prison, including the inmate locator tool found on the home page of this site. Also many folks use services like JPay that allows a person to send funds and correspondence to inmates via their site. Using these tools, a person might see that their inmate is now no longer listed at Middleton, but that they also are not showing at any other unit yet. This doesn’t mean that they were ON that bus. They could very well be still in transfer and not registered at any unit at the moment. They could be in their new unit but still not showing up in the official system. Oddly, often JPay will find record of where an inmate is faster than TDC’s own inmate locator tool will.

At any rate, for any family or friends of a person at Middleton who is fearing the worse, I pray for you and your inmate’s safety. If you are one of those who are scared and freaking out right now, desperately looking for news, I send you peaceful, calming thoughts and prayers and urge you not to assume the worse until it is confirmed. Your inmate in all probability is just fine, don’t despair. And, for those who did lose a loved one in this terrible crash, whether it be inmate or correctional officer, I offer my deepest condolences and my prayers for your peace and healing.

An article with more about this incident is available here at CBS’s website.

Peace to all of us today, and every day. Peace.

**UPDATE** I just found this link that lists those killed in the wreck as well as those injured in the hospital. Rest in peace, all of you souls. Prayers for you.
http://www.bigcountryhomepage.com/story/d/story/abilene-officers-involved-in-fatal-bus-crash-icy-r/16156/WzOx-vw5iUS966N53cjbRA

Here are the casualties and injured list:
Correctional Officer 5 Christopher Davis is deceased. The 53-year-old had 205 months of service with the agency.

Correctional Officer 5 Eligio Garcia is deceased. The 45-year-old had 275 months of service with the agency.

Correctional Officer 5 Jason Self has been transferred to University Medical Center in Lubbock. He is in critical condition. The 38-year-old has 222 months of service with the agency.

34-year-old offender Bryon Wilson is deceased.

29-year-old offender Tyler Townsend is deceased.

44-year-old offender Jesus Reyna is deceased.

22-year-old offender Kaleb Wise is deceased.

32-year-old offender Adolfo Ruiz is deceased.

25-year-old offender Michael Stewart is deceased.

31-year-old offender Angel Vasquez is deceased.

35-year-old offender Jeremiah Rodriguez is deceased.

22-year-old offender Terry Johnson is at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. He is in critical condition.

34-year-old offender Remigio Pineda is at Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. He is in serious condition.

22-year-old offender Damien Rodriguez is Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. He is in critical condition.

37-year-old Hector Rivera is Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. He is in serious condition.

Texas is Closing Prisons – What’s Behind It?

In news today, the BBC reports “The US is known for its tough criminal justice system, with an incarceration rate far larger than any comparable country. So why is it that Republicans in Texas are actively seeking to close prisons”, asks Danny Kruger, a former speechwriter for David Cameron.


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-30275026

Read about this hopeful news and learn more why even conservative Republicans in Texas are realizing that today’s existing penal system is badly broken, and that low level offenders – mostly drug offenders – are spending too long in prison and not being rehabilitated. Long prison terms for relatively low level offenses results in creating a class of hardened criminals who struggle to re-enter the world after their sentences. Today, Texas is taking a new look at their methods and suggesting rehab may be the better choice for many of these offenders. This is hopeful news indeed!

GUEST ARTICLE: How Corrections Help Prisoners Reform

Today we have a guest article submission. Daphne Holmes article is about reform programs within prisons. Based on my own experience I have to be honest and say I doubt the effectiveness of many of today’s typical prison reform programs — for instance one prison I was at, rehab class consisted of us sitting in a room, without instructor or instruction, for a designated amount of time so that the prison got the credit for a rehabilitation program — but I do agree that “reform” ought to be the main objective, for drug cases. Hope you enjoy the read, send your feedback. And if you would like to be a guest writer for us, just shoot me a note. Peace ~ Magnum

In addition to protecting the public from dangerous criminals, reforming offenders is among the central functions of corrections agencies. A hotly debated topic, rehabilitation strategies at corrections facilities draw attention for their failures, but there are also successful programs operating within the country’s corrections systems.

Each state, and individual facility ultimately control what types of reform programs are made available to inmates, so specific needs are addressed in-house. These programs represent some of the alternatives being utilized to help set prisoners on the proper path to rehabilitation.

Cage Your Rage – This anger management program operates at many correctional facilities, often as an extension of a popular workbook of the same name. The multi-week course helps inmates identify specific causes of anger, subsequently offering recommendations for managing the conditions at the root of their anger issues. Nature vs. Nurture questions are explored, helping offenders recognize how past events come to bear on their present behaviors. Through reading, discussions and written exercises; inmates devise personalized approaches to overcoming anger and aggression.

Canine Programs – The effectiveness of rehabilitative work with animals is proven many times over in medical settings. Patients and elderly residents consistently find comfort and rehabilitation alongside domestic animals. Animals provide similar benefits in corrections settings. In some programs, rescued dogs and cats are paired with inmates responsible for nurturing and training them. The service assists inmates; but it also prepares animals to be placed in loving homes. Obedience training and special service instruction is conducted by offenders, who learn practical animal handling skills as well as compassion and the value of commitment.

Life Without a Crutch Program – This program uses classroom settings, written course materials and personal assignments to help offenders come face to face with their addictive behaviors. Participants learn to see the bigger picture, including how addiction impacts loved ones and others surrounding them. Formal intervention, such as 12-step programs are discussed as well as treatment and counseling alternatives available outside corrections facilities. By incorporating self-assessment into the curriculum, Life Without a Crutch embowers offenders to take control of their own situations. There is evidence of success, including one study which polled inmates who have completed the program. Across the board, offenders’ attitudes and perceptions about drug and alcohol use changed positively after completing the program.

Social Survival Skills Courses – Integrating into society after serving prison time presents unique challenges for inmates unfamiliar with some aspects of modern socialization. Practical skills courses are common features at corrections institutions, sometimes reserved for inmates destined for parole hearings or release dates. Topics like money management and employment practices are explored in ways incarcerated citizens can understand, setting the stage for their success upon release.

Inmates Helping Inmates– Unique programs, including one initiated by Percy Pitzer, a retired warden, which helps inmates help each other. Pitzer’s initiative, launched with $150,000 worth of personal funding, furnishes scholarship money for children of incarcerated parents. Aiming to break the string of poverty and offending that often plagues families with incarcerated members, Pritzer asks inmates to contribute to the fund themselves.

Corrections agencies serve vital functions, including reforming offenders. Various efforts put-forth by facilities across the country are serving inmates well; preparing them for life on the outside and creating access to skills they’ll need once there.

Author:
Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from ArrestRecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.

How to Find Someone in Prison in Texas and Elsewhere

I have found that over the past couple of years, the page on this blog that gets the most traffic, comments and questions is the Inmate Locator page. It is a nerve wracking time for family and friends when a person is incarcerated, and a lot of the time there isn’t very clear information about how to find out where they are, what prison they are at, and how you can communicate with them. I am going to write today’s post with some explanations of all of this, hopefully it will help y’all find your people who might be incarcerated in prison.

First of all, one big source of confusion is who has them locked up? Just because you know someone is incarcerated in Texas doesn’t mean they are at a TDC prison. A person who is an inmate in Texas can be in city jail, county jail, Texas state jail, Texas Department of Corrections prison, or Federal Penitentiary. All of these are different. Both Texas State Jail and TDC prisons fall under the Texas Department of Corrections. These are for felony crimes committed at the state level. You can use the Texas Inmate Locator on here to look for them. Go to Texas Inmate Locator and enter their first and last name and any other details you have. You need at least a first initial. Remember, some names are pretty common and will bring up a lot of results, so knowing their date of birth, race and gender is helpful to narrow down who you are looking for.

When someone is arrested, the typical way it goes is first they are held in a city jail or in county jail. Some people serve sentences that can last many months at the county level, and stay their term in county jail. Texas is a huge state and all counties do not have automated systems to look up inmates at the county level but if you suspect a person is held in county jail you can call and ask if someone is there, by name, or you can search for the county website, find the area for the county jail or sheriff’s department, and sometimes find a search feature.

If someone is arrested for a federal crime then they can be held in a federal penitentiary anywhere in the country, depending on their charges. Things like weapons and arms violations, certain frauds cases, kidnapping, and many other crimes fall under this umbrella. It makes a difference if a crime was committed across multiple states. At any rate, federal pens have the rap of being very different than state prisons. There are federal pens in Texas, including 22 in the state of Texas. I have gone ahead and made a new page here that has the Federal Inmate Search tool for those folks that are looking for somebody at the federal penitentiary level. You can access it here: Federal Penitentiary Inmate Locator. If you want to learn anything else about the Federal Bureau of Prisons you can get information at www.bop.gov.

By the way, if you are looking at someones history in the TDC Inmate search tool, you will see their TDC criminal history but not their federal or county records. Just something to keep in mind.

So, hope this information is helpful to y’all, and if you have questions or need help or have a comment, give me a holler. Peace ~ Magnum

Felons – Reality vs. Fiction

Hey everyone. Sometimes I catch something on television or see something online about prison or prisoners, and I have to laugh at the stereotypes that persist about us felons.

Today I saw a thing on the internet news about a recently released prisoner coming to the rescue of a little girl that had fallen into a septic tank and was drowning. Now that is cool whether the guy is an ex-con or not. But what is troubling is that this was reported under “Odd News”. Like, it’s ODD that a man who has a record would help someone. Here is the article: Man, two weeks out of prison, helps rescue 2-year-old girl

If you take a minute to read that article you will find that first of all, just like me, the guy was incarcerated for a drug felony. He’s been out two weeks and he is trying to keep it together. I understand and I wish him well. But they make it sound like he gained these morals in prison that led him to save the little girl.

I am pretty sure he would have jumped in and saved her before he went to prison too, really. People who screw up and go to prison, for non-victim crimes like drug use, or even for things where there was a victim of some sort are not necessarily evil, immoral people. Let me tell you, there are a bunch of bad people in prison, no doubt. But there are a bunch of inmates who are not bad people at all, right along side the bad ones. A whole lot of them love their families, treat people right, go to work regularly, pay their bills, and so on. They screwed up. Plain and simple. Maybe they got angry and got in an altercation that resulted in someone seriously hurt. Maybe they got desperate and stole something. Maybe they got hammered and drove a car and wrecked. None of those are acceptable things in our society, and the result if you get caught is you are punished with prison. And now they are pitched into a seriously crappy environment and invited to reflect on their screw ups for a year or two or five or ten.

The point is, this is a good article about a little girl getting saved. And, it’s great the guy is out of prison and had a chance to do a good deed. I bet he feels GREAT he was there at the right time and place, even if he did get a mouth full of sewer water. I know I would have been so glad to save that little girl too. When you are in prison you think about those things, about doing the right thing, and making a difference somehow once you get out. You want to redeem the screwed up period of your life when you are sitting in prison like a dumb-ass. And he was able to do that in a big way, that is cool. But the point of him being a recently released felon is really irrelevant to the story in my opinion.

Did you know in the U.S.A. we incarcerate more people than anyplace else on the planet? I don’t often get on a soapbox on this blog. It is what it is, and I accept my time in prison was due to my screw up, plain and simple. But being a felon is becoming a little too common if you ask me. Maybe it’s time for a change in the way we approach things like drug abuse and in the way we treat those who have spent time in prison and are now rebuilding their lives. Just saying. What do you all think? Peace out, till next time ~ Magnum

Correctional Officers Join Lawsuit Over Texas Prison Deaths Due to Extreme Heat

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/02/texas-prison-guards-union-to-reportedly-join-inmate-litigation-over-hot-state/

I’ve not been paying attention. Looks like getting the correctional officers behind the push to provide some cooling for Texas prisons might be the final straw to make it happen. Anybody have more updates on this news?

Texas Prison TDCJ News: Court of Appeals Rules Against Prisons

U.S. FIFTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS RULES AGAINST PRISONS IN EXTREME TEMPERATURES CASE
Appellate court finds extreme temperature conditions can violate 8th Amendment

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a Corpus Christi federal judge’s ruling dismissing a prisoners’ lawsuit claiming extreme temperatures violated his Eighth Amendment Rights. Lawyers for the Texas Civil Rights Project and DLA Piper represented Eugene Blackmon, a sixty-four-year-old prisoner suffering from hypertension and other medical conditions.

Temperatures inside the prison, which was not air conditioned, reached a heat index of 130 degrees. Expert testimony established the temperature during the summer of 2008 temperatures reached “extreme caution,” “danger,” or “extreme danger” levels identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 51 days. The court held “Allowing a prisoner to be exposed to extreme temperatures can constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment.” “A reasonable jury find that the conditions of confinement … result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities,” the court said.

“This is a huge victory for all Texas prisoners,” said Scott Medlock, Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project’s Prisoners’ Rights Program, who represented Mr. Blackmon. “Hopefully this decision will force TDCJ to reconsider housing prisoners in such dangerous conditions.” When informed of the decision, Mr. Blackmon said “that takes my breath away. I’m so happy to get my day in court after all these years.”

The court emphasized “with respect to a prisoner such as Blackmon, a jury could reasonably conclude that the remedial measures adopted by prison officials were inadequate to combat the extreme conditions in the C-8 dorm and to address the salient health risks.”

Change is good – catching chain is not good

Well I now can say what is my least-favorite part of prison life. Catching chain for transport to another unit – God, seriously, it sucks. I left my old unit on Friday night and got here on Wednesday. In that time I stopped over at three different units. One is well known for being one of the oldest and worse units in the state of Texas. As you can imagine, that is a bold statement considering the size of Texas and the conditions of many of the TDCJ prison units. But, from my short stay there, I would say it is a true fact. It was insanely HOT. It was also VERY old, VERY dirty, VERY loud, and smells VERY bad. Rusty, creaky, disgusting – right out of a movie. It was gross. It is the old-school style of prison with three tiers and small 6’x8′ 2-man cells. Racial tensions ran high and everybody YELLS for everything. Just crazy feeling being in there.

It was not a good place to be at all and it makes me appreciate the small, boring yet better conditions unit that I have spent the last 7 months in and complaining about. I can see how trouble between inmates would run much higher in these sorts of units, because the conditions would just make you feel like a caged animal, and an animal that is being treated inhumanely too. When you are treated like an animal, chances are you are going to be more likely to act like an animal.

Having said that, I am really not going to miss my old unit a bit. I was done with that place and the people there too. When you are in such close quarters with a bunch of men, their bad points start to really glare after awhile.

But anyway, my two other stops were also in places I am glad I have not been assigned. A lot of the transfer units are pretty large operations, and the more inmates and CO’s you have crammed into a space, well, the worse things get. It’s just natural, I am sure. Also, I should mention being chained to the person next to you and going on god-awful long bus rides in old, crappy buses in the middle of July in Texas in the middle of a heat wave and a drought is not an advisable thing to do. In my last unit, they had me in some classes but about a week before I was transferred the classes were stopped for awhile for “summer break”. That made me laugh at the time because it wasn’t like I was going to the beach to look at the girls or anything. But if that was summer break then I guess this bus tour was my summer road trip. What a bad one it was!

I really want those of you who think prison is NOT THAT BAD to consider how uncomfortable you get when you are forced into a position for maybe just one hour. Think about that for many, many hours, and being hot, and feeling like you are going to puke as well. Not being able to stretch out your legs or bend them in a new position or stretch out your arms and shoulders. I have always been prone to get car sick and this was not a good ride for me. The heat was pretty bad, and we are all kind of nervous about where we are going, whether anybody admits it or not. So, sweat was happening. Lots of sweat. Yeah, this was a challenging couple of days. First the bus ride and at the end of the day you THINK you are so glad to be at your destination, but once you get in your destination it’s SO BAD and SO HOT you start to think, OK, maybe the bus was better, so you make it through the night and are told to get on another bus and find yourself thinking, thank god I am out of that hell hole, and feeling you are lucky to be on the bus, but then the long, horrible bus ride starts up again and you start to feel like you need to take a piss or throw up but you can’t do either, so you start to hope and pray you will get to your new destination soon, and yep, sure enough, you finally do and get off the bus so thankful just to find you are being thrown into an even more hellish hole than the last place… and so it goes on…

I am here now though, and the new unit does seem OK. And the funny thing is, that bad part is fading already. I just don’t advise it to anyone who has a choice in the matter, but as crappy as it seems at the time, it won’t kill you.

I think I will like my new unit. It’s a good change of pace. Right away they gave me a full time job in the kitchen, washing pots and pans. I like it a lot because the hours fly by. Time goes so much faster when you are busy. I lost a lot of my things in transport, including my good work boots because I couldn’t produce a receipt for them. They threw a lot of my things away for no apparent reason, just cause they can, I guess. I am hoping that since I am working in the kitchen they will issue me a new pair without me needing to buy them.

Well – here’s hoping that anyone reading this blog is having way better summer vacations and way cooler road trips than me. When I was 19 I went on an awesome road trip, camping along the way, up to the Smoky Mountains. I have such good memories of that trip, the mountains were awesome and Asheville, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee were both bad-ass cities I stayed in over night. That part of the country isn’t Texas, and Texas is where my heart is at, but it’s some fine country too.

Peace everyone, stay cool. ~ Magnum