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.

4th of July – Celebration of Freedom for U.S.A.?

With the arrival of the 4th of July weekend, I find myself reflecting on the irony, for so many of us, of this celebration of freedom. Here we are, land of the free, home of the brave, proudly celebrating our freedom from tyranny and oppression – and so many of us will pass the holiday incarcerated, or dealing with the incarceration of  loved ones.

Until I had a family member facing incarceration, I was right there amongst the many, shooting off fireworks, waving sparklers in the air, munching down on hotdogs and hamburgers and celebrating our FREEDOM. Not only that, I had a generalized sentiment that prisoners had it easy overall, that we were too easy on them in fact, and that was the “problem”. Now, Texas Magnum has stated he believes that imprisonment saved his life, and I believe it as well. He also freely admits he was in the wrong, although he isn’t sure he agrees a 4 year sentence fits the crime. But that isn’t the point here.

These days I contemplate daily the huge disparities in our justice system. In learning to deal with my loved one’s incarceration I have learned so much and gained such sympathy for so many.

The truth is, many folks did break laws and by the rules of most civilized nations, the repercussion of breaking laws is punishment.
The truth is, too many of those offenders will turn right around upon their release and step once again into the arms of Johnny Law.
The truth is, a simple slap on the wrist for the more heinous crimes would feel like an insult to the victims.

But here are some other truths to ponder:
– U.S.A. leads the world in incarceration rates.
– Roughly 1 is 100 adults is incarcerated – that is 5x more than UK, 9x more than Germany and 12x more than Japan
– Over 3% of the population is either in prison, on probation, or on parole
– Drug crimes account for 2/3 of imprisonments
– African Americans represent 40% of the imprisoned population in the U.S. and only 13% of the general population in the country
– 11.7% of black men in their late 20’s are imprisoned
– in 1970 there were roughly 300,000 imprisoned. Today there are 2,300,000
– the vast majority of inmates are non-violent offenders
– In 2009  funding for K-12 and higher education fell while 33 states put more money into prisons than they had the previous year

And now, incarceration has become private business. State facilities were overcrowded, but by allowing the private sector to enter, we have created a model where the less spent on inmates the more profit to be made, AND where repeat offenders and “tough” sentencing pads the bottom line. Now that this reality exists, how do we back away from it? Just like the tobacco industry, these private corporations in the business of incarcerating our nation are actively lobbying and schmoozing to keep the profits flowing.

Much of  our overpopulation is due to the so-called “War on Drugs”, a war that has failed miserably in cutting drug use. How do we voice the need for reform to the system? In a state like Texas where more is spent on incarceration than education, it’s clear we are putting the focus on the wrong things. OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM IS BROKEN!

To top it off, prison budgets for rehabilitation, vocational training and other positives that might be realized through an incarceration are being cut across the nation. In many facilities, the majority of inmates have no job or duties to perform daily. Some may have a class that lasts a few hours a day, some are considered on “janitorial” duty, some not even that. Most overcrowded dormitory style units have a television on for most of the day, and a population of inmates spends their time watching tv, playing chess and dominoes, and doing pushups and pullups to pass the time. They are fed non-nutritional meals and given sub-standard medical care. Fights are normal, everyday occurances and everybody learns to watch their back. They will do there time in this manner and be released.

What are the chances these folks will leave the prison walls rehabilitated and ready to make it in life? We are putting them into an environment where they will come out the other side being tougher, stronger, and very likely lazier and even dumber than when they went in.

There is TONS of information out there concerning this very real epidemic of incarceration. I grabbed data from a couple sites for some quick facts and would like to cite the sources of reference. I also recommend that you give them a read, the facts are scary, to say the least.
https://www.michigandaily.com/opinion/viewpoint-prisons
http://www.prisonsucks.com/

Happy 4th of July everyone. I ask that all of us take a moment to reflect this holiday weekend, while we celebrate our freedom, what is the answer to this huge mess we have created? And, remember, if none of us speak up, nothing will change. Take action, and have a voice.
~ Editor

A Note from the Editor


My friend Debbra over at www.standbyjerry.com made this nice graphic for Texas Magnum today. Isn’t it cool?

I ask any of you reading this blog to take a moment to visit www.standbyjerry.com and learn about Jerry Welch. Jerry, age 20, is facing trial and possible life imprisonment for the murder of a pedophile named William Bush, who molested him for years of his teen life. Not only that, Jerry DID try to ask for help, and his pleas were ignored. Jerry has never had any trouble or arrests in his life up until this incident.

Jerry has faced multiple challenges throughout his short life already. He had problems at birth and was diagnosed with learning disabilities and mental disabilities early in his life. He is today in county jail waiting for a trial due to begin August 1st. His story is tragic and he and his family need ALL the support they can get.

Please visit www.standbyjerry.com, learn about Jerry’s story and situation, and give any support you can.
Thanks!
~ Editor

Life’s a beach?

I feel like I am running out of things to say. Sometimes I look around me at the other people I share this place with, and I don’t even want to write anything about being here. I am sick and tired of people who want to bully others because they are weaker or because they are nicer. The people here are very disrespectful of each other. Some days it’s harder than others to just let all this bullshit flow over me and not affect me.

I have a friend in here who is paroling out any day, and then getting deported because he is in the country illegally. I don’t care about that. All I know him as is my cellie in here, and he is a good guy. His story is he comes from a small town in the far southern part of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, where he and his family were all farmers. He grew up a lot poorer than most of us can imagine. When you are poor there, it’s not like here. His life was pretty drastically different there than what it’s like here, and he came here with just an idea of what it would be like, and thinking he could make money and make it good here. “The American Dream”, right?

He got here when he was a young guy, and at that time he had never even driven a vehicle or drank alcohol. He got a labor job and lived with several other guys in an apartment, and for awhile it was pretty good because he was making money and experiencing a bunch of stuff he had never done. He was in a pretty big city and living a life that was way different than what he had grown up with. Then he went out one night with some other guys, drank some beer and got arrested driving home.

He was sentenced to a couple years in prison for a DUI and now he is going to be released and brought to the border and dropped off on the Mexican side. He has never received any commissary since being here because nobody from his family knows where he is and even if they did they wouldn’t have money to send him or know how to send it. I don’t know if illegal immigrants get the $50 when they get released like I hear we do, but if he does, that won’t buy him a bus ticket to his home state. He has told me he is scared that he won’t be able to get home, and from the reports on the news lately, he is scared he will get caught up in the mess with the narcotraficantes and be forced to work for them or killed or something. He doesn’t know what will happen once they drop him off across that bridge and it’s worrying him.

We work out together and we talk. He is hoping he can make it back home and he is looking forward to seeing his brothers again, but his parents are passed on. He hopes he can go back to making a living farming again and that looking back on it he misses that simple life. It seems like in his case the American dream turned into a terrible nightmare.

I can’t imagine being here in prison without ever receiving a letter from anyone or ever being able to buy a package of soup or tuna or a bag of chips or some shampoo or deodorant. All kinds of things might have happened with his family in this time and he has no idea. I try to share some of my commissary with him from time to time. Among all the men in here, he is truly humble and just keeps to himself for the most part. I am going to miss his friendship when he leaves, and he is a good workout partner, but I am glad he will be free and not sitting here in prison. I hope he can make it all the way back to his home town somehow.

Maybe we will meet again someday, under better circumstances. I told him when I am out and get done with my parole I want to take a trip down there and look him up. He says where he lives is really nice, tropical, and it’s not far from the beach. Well, on days like this it’s a lot better dreaming about being on a tropical beach than it is dealing with these guys in here who think they are such bad-asses but are really just asses.

Peace ~ Magnum

Getting clean the hard way

Maybe a few of you reading this blog stumbled on here when you were looking for information about heroin or addiction. Maybe you or one of your family members is struggling with some of the very same things that got me here in prison and you are looking for help.

In one of my first posts on here, I said I was genuinely glad I got arrested because it probably saved my life. Getting locked up is what it took for me to get the needle out of my arm. That is the good news.

Now the bad news. Here is the truth, if any of you reading this are thinking of quitting an addiction or maybe thinking if you don’t quit you might end up in prison, I suggest that you find a way to quit on your own. Ask for help, go to rehab or the hospital, have someone lock you in a room if you have to. Before you start, do it right and stock up on advil, immodium (if you are addicted to opiates) to ease the discomfort, and anthing else that you think can help too. Read up on your addiction and what to expect in withdrawal, don’t use your addict friends as your source of information either. Have some gatorade and sprite in the house, get some soup and crackers and then just tough it out. And once you get through that week or couple of weeks of hell, don’t go out and use again and be right back where you started.

Because looking back, I can say with all honesty detoxing in county jail is a very bad experience. In fact, it’s probably one of the worse ways to go about it. You will pray for death more than once during that experience but chances are, you won’t die, you will just wish you could.

For starters, it’s freezing cold in county jail. They keep the cells very cold, maybe 65 or so, at all times, the AC blasting, because it helps sober up the drunks and it keeps belligerent fools from fighting and acting aggressive. When I got arrested I had on shorts, a tank top, and sandals. No socks, no underwear. And they don’t issue those to you in county jail.

You get a jumpsuit and shower shoes. You have a thin, hard mattress, and a thinner blanket. If you want to purchase your own t-shirts and underwear and socks, you can, if somebody deposits money on your commissary account. But this takes time as you only get to go to the store on one day a week, and weekends is closed. So let’s say like me, you are arrested on Tuesday, and on Wednesday you call family, and they mail a money order the next day and it gets there on Saturday. My day for store was Friday, so that means I had to wait another week, so in total I was there 11 days with no underwear, sock, t-shirts, no toothpaste or toothbrush, no deodorant.

That was 11 days of going through withdrawing in the worse possible conditions, cold, uncomfortable, stinking, dirty, sweating and chills non-stop, with the craps and sick to my stomach and nobody there really could have cared less. The beverages in county jail was milk at meals and water from the tap. That’s it. Not cold water, not koolaid. Not even bad coffee was available.  You get woken up for breakfast at 4:00 AM, even though you probably just finally really fell asleep 2 hours before. It’s loud and noisy all the time, too, not to mention having to deal with a bunch of f’d up folks in there on a day to day basis who want to fight over any little thing, and freaking out because in the midst of the misery is the realization that the next stop is prison and that fact keeps smacking you right in the face.

So, if any of you are thinking of quitting (like I was pretty much every day of my addiction) do yourself a favor and accomplish it now, on the outside. Don’t wait for the Jail Rehab plan that I chose.

In closing, here’s a little bit of addict trivia for you – they supposedly call it “going cold-turkey” because of the goosebumps a heroin addict gets when in withdrawal. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, it’s really shitty, first you are sweating and then your flesh is all goosepimpled up, like a cold turkey carcass on ice, so turkeybumps really.

Peace ~ Texas Magnum

Prison is a funny place.

Prison is a funny place. You sit in here, day after day, imagining what it will feel like when you are released. We all make a list of things to do, when we are “free”. Most mens’ list are a little like this:

1) Get laid
2) Eat a huge steak
3) Sleep in a comfortable bed

Everyone’s list is somewhat different but most men have a list similar to my example. (Ask them, if you don’t believe me.)

Of course, I myself know that I look forward to MANY things. From women, to work, to spending time with my family.

What I wonder today is, what about when we get out and accomplish all these things on our list? We reach the top of the shrine we have created named “freedom”. We, in here, idolize this shrine. We spend a good amount of time thinking, dreaming, and imagining it becoming a reality for us. FREEDOM becomes our goal.

But then… we get out… and we look for all these things we miss so much – women and food, comfort and pleasure – and all of a sudden, after these short lived goals are realized, there is nowhere to go, but down. And depression can then set in. And we still face the stark realities of finding jobs, complying with parole, and a whole lot more.

After talking with several fellow inmates who have been down this road a time or two already, I can only conclude one thing. Freedom is a state of mind. Many inmates have told me that once they do everything they had been holding onto, on that list of theirs, they found themselves once again unsatisfied with their lives and looking for something more. The question arises “what is next?” 

I feel that’s where learning to become happy with the small things comes in handy. The honest to God’s fact is, I am “moderately” happy right here and now. I appreciate any little thing I get in here.

It’s taking that attitude of appreciation for things back out into the world that might give me a foot up, once I am out in the world again.  It might turn out to be the lesson in all of this, for me. It’s all about taking that appreciation for things into back into the world.

Maybe not taking life for granted is what can get us ALL to the place we want to be, once we are once out into the free world again.

So, today I think I will sit back and just enjoy the small things. Like, the company of my celly. Or the taste of my crappy coffee  I am sipping on. Or even my crappy, thin, hard mattress that I will lay my head down on tonight.

Because it’s not all that bad, and it’s what I got, and I never know what day will be my last.

Peace ~ Magnum

Life in prison – settling into the everyday routine

So this is the real part of being in prison. It’s not the being scared of the unknown or the fear of losing freedom. It’s the knowing that you aren’t going anywhere, day after day after day. It’s being bored and stuck and trying to make the best of  the bad result of your own bad decisions.

After getting through intake, I was put into General Population and I thought I might be staying there, but I was moved again to another facility. The new place is much farther from home too, so I won’t be getting many visits. That is a disappointment. At the new unit, I was first put into “Ag Seg”. This is short for Aggravated Segregation and they put everyone new there at first while they figure out where they should be placed. At first I thought to myself, “so this is solitary…”

The first day in Ag Seg wasn’t so bad, after all, I hadn’t had any privacy in awhile. But then I realized just how quickly I could lose track of time and run out of things to think and do. I had one book to read that I was rationing. I was scared if I finished it I would be with nothing to do at all. The guards in that area played their radios, and I could hear it. It was nice to hear music but sometimes the songs made me really sad. My room was small, I had a bed and a toilet, basically. Not much else. The light was a little dim so reading and writing were tough on my eyes after a while. I thought I might be there a day or two, and I prepared myself to wait it out, but in total I ended up being there for over a week.

Finally, I was moved to General Population. My dorm area is smaller here than it was in my last unit, so it feels a little more crowded, but there is work out equipment in the rec yard here, so that is an improvement. There are 2 televisions, but they are controlled by a group in here so we watch what they want to watch. Also, the tables are controlled too, so I have to write sitting on my bunk, which isn’t as easy. Other than that, I haven’t had many issues. It is a little more intense than at my last place, and people are more segregated by race here. I hate that part but it’s just the way it is here. It’s not really a choice.

I have been assigned a job doing yard work cutting grass but there isn’t any right now, so I have a lot of time to myself. I exercise every day, doing 1000 pushups, 500 situps and running and other routines daily. I play dominoes and watch tv, read and write. I am waiting to get into some classes.

It’s so strange finding myself living this life and more strange that it is starting to feel… normal, in a way, to have this same routine every day. I get a few letters and look forward to mail time, it’s definitely a highlight to get mail. What I see ahead of me is a lot of boredom and time to pass. I can see how it would be easy to fall into what others have said, and just let this time go by without doing work on myself while I am here. I have to find a way to focus on keeping my mind set on improving myself and getting my discipline in place for when this is behind me.

Now that the unknown of intake and getting to my unit is behind me, it feels like a waiting game. I have my people I hang out with and I have my routine down. I could give a bunch of details about the days here but most of it isn’t really that great and it would feel more like complaining. I feel I am sitting back for a minute and seeing what is next, and how I choose to make the most of this place I am locked up in. Anyways, if anyone has some comments or suggestions as to how to stay on the up side, I will be happy to hear them.

Till next time ~ Peace, Love and Noodles

Light up the darkness

Arriving here to TDCJ was as I expected. It involved a lot of nudity and yelling, being told where to stand, where to look, go, speak, dress… but overall I could think of a lot worse. My first week was spent in the “Chicken Coops” which resemble something out of the movie Silent Hill. Rusted metal, and dirty everything, complete with rats climbing on the rafters above.

While in the intake process, you to go to sociology and medical examinations, and orientation, as well as an IQ test. Once you are finished with those, you are moved to be housed in General Population. By that time, you don’t care what or who awaits you in General Population, just as long as you’re out of the Chicken Coops.

Once housed in GP, it was relieving to find that it’s pretty much like a much bigger county jail as far as the atmosphere. Observing, you can see the cliques of guys and who runs with who. Nobody disturbs you though. Over all, I am glad I have finally arrived and that I can now get started on finishing my time.

Christmas and New Years were both alright. We made a spread out of all of our food, and we said a prayer and then gave peace to the man beside you. It brought me joy to see all the men, although lost, still find their way to a merry Christmas, along with myself.

Overall, I feel I have arrived into the belly of the beast. Now it’s up to me to spread the good news that the darkness in our lives can be lit from within. Maybe it will be done in the smallest of ways, by making one of my brothers smile or giving him something to laugh about that day, maybe my words and actions can even cause him to think about his life and reflect on things. Justice, truth and peace are in my hands to share, and now is my chance to stand and act in what I believe in – to light up the darkness.

Texas Magnum “catches chain”

From the Editor: Texas Magnum  “caught chain” today.

For those who don’t know jail lingo, “catching chain” means that he was picked up for TDC prison transfer to the intake facility in Huntsville, in the wee hours this morning. In thr Texas prison system, every inmate starts out in Huntsville for processing and class designation. Physical, psychological, educational and vocational testing is done to determine what class an inmate starts out as and which unit he will be assigned to. They will be assigned their TDC Number, which will be their identity for the length of time they are incarcerated.

My understanding is that the inmate’s class is an indicator of the threat level they pose, for instance, was their crime violent or non-violent, do they have any gang affiliations, etc. I have heard that an attempt is made to house similar sorts and levels of crimes together. For instance, inmates with substance abuse issues, DUI’s, and other such convictions may be housed together and armed robbery, assualt cases, and other such aggravated crimes may be housed together. Having said that, crowded conditions also comes into play, and sometimes an inmate is sent where there is space rather than where they would best fit in.

It will be several weeks until he is through with intake and sent to his designated unit. I have a few bits of writing from him, etc. that I will push out there to keep things active until we hear from him again. Meanwhile, he asked that I let you all know he was working on some replies to many of your comments and is sorry he didn’t get them mailed for posting to the site before he left. He also wants you to know that he is grateful to each and every one of you for all the support and kindness you have shown him. It has really meant a lot to him.

Keep checking back, hopefully it won’t be long until we have some updates. And please keep Texas Magnum in your thoughts and prayers as he goes through this part of his journey.

Sitting in prison, daydreaming helps

It’s a beautiful day at the lake. My dog is with me today, he is happy, like always. Experiencing every smell like it could be the last thing he ever smells and the best smell ever. The grill is lit, and the smell of oak and mesquite is in the air. The day is more perfect than I could ever ask for. It’s a scorching hot day, one of those Texas July heats, but there is a slight breeze in the air. When that breeze hits my face I breath it in and feel the entire world inside of me. I feel the sway of the trees and know that I am a free man and nothing could ever keep me from knowing that freedom.

I hear my name called, and just as I turn my head to see who could be calling, all that beauty of the universe that was in me is suddenly gone, vanished just like that. Instead, I am looking into the pale face of my celly, his eyes with dark puffy bags under them from the lack of sun. A cold shiver runs down my spine due to the constantly blasting air conditioning as well as my stark reality. Everything here is white, not the glittering white that Jesus might have had around him, but a dull white that brings no excitement, or interest. I think they make it totally bland and boring on purpose to numb us.

This is the daily reality check that hits me while I sit here, waiting, letting the minutes and hours and days tick by and dreaming of that moment in time that my heart so longs for and my mind so easily recreates. Ever since I was a young kid, I have been a day dreamer. I know I was in trouble for it enough during my school days. Here, I find myself sometimes escaping my current reality with images of another place and time. Maybe picturing myself playing my guitar. Maybe on a stage in front of a crowd or maybe just around a campfire with a few good friends.

Sometimes the more down to earth dreams are the best ones, they feel so real. Me, with a wife and kids, and so happy to be with them and loving my life with them. Some people say that they try not to imagine the world or think of it’s possibilities while they are here because it is painful to them. They just stay in the reality of incarceration. It is true that I may miss home all the more when I have such imaginings, but my dreams drive me to be out again, and they help me push to reach my goals.

Sometimes I motivate myself to exercise by picturing myself being healthy, looking and feeling great, like a movie star! Hey, it’s possible, right? So why not get up and try to at least get as close to my dreams as possible.

So, today I say, I am going to keep on daydreaming. I am sitting by that lake with my good old dog, waiting to see my family. Maybe I will be sitting there for a year or a little more, maybe it will be four full years, but soon enough, I will be in that cool, clear water again with the sun shining down on me, and a whole lot of living to do.

Peace ~ Magnum

I am convicted and going to Texas Prison – a very real feeling sets in

Today is Nov 8th, I just got through washing clothes. For those who do not know, when you are in jail, you can either send your whites off to be washed by the jail laundry or wash your things by hand. I prefer to wash by hand. I never thought I would be washing my underwear by hand, but it’s actually pretty relaxing to just get lost in daydreams while scrubbing away, thinking of every thing I miss so much. Some-time, I even sing one of my favorite tunes to myself while I scrub.

To wash my clothes, I crush up one of the bars of soap that the jail supplies. I add a small tube of toothpaste that is also supplied by the jail, and a little shampoo so it will suds nicely. The toothpaste is the secret to getting the clothes extra white. I add all these items together and whip them up until the soap is dissolved. It’s amazing how white my washing comes out this way, without using any bleach!

Anyway, this last Friday I received my papers telling me I am ready to go to TDCJ. When I received the document stating my readiness a very real feeling set in. The feeling that I AM GOING TO PRISON.
The truth is, I am scared. Not for my well being but for the unknown. This is a new, unknown experience for me, and new experiences have always made me anxious. I just really want to get there and get the initial introduction to prison life over with and behind me.

I won’t be able to write anyone for a coupe of weeks while I am going through the intake process, but I want you to know I will be thinking of you all.  I would like to say I love every one of you that has taken the time to read my blog and support me. Don’t worry about me, I will be OK. I can hold my own.

I want to add a special hello to Kasey, I miss you every single day. You are beautiful, in every way, shape and form, inside and out. Also, hello to my mom and to my sister, I love y’all. And, thanks to those that help me with this blog, it means a lot to me and is helping me feel connected to all the people I care about.

Peace ~ Magnum

The Prison Museum in Huntsville, Texas

From the Editor:
No new post from Texas Magnum today, but I ran across this site:
www.txprisonmuseum.org

Isn’t that something, a Museum devoted to Texas Prisons, in Huntsville. You can even purchase an engraved paving stone and become a patron. The museum has a bookstore that has quite a variety of prison related reads, including “Meals To Die For“, a book about Death Row inmates’ last meal requests and the recipes.

I don’t know about you, but when and if I am in East Texas,  the Prison Museum will not be on my list of things to see. I have a feeling that hearing about it first hand from Texas Magnum is going to be more than enough prison lore to last me a lifetime.