Category: Reflections

When a Recovering Addict and Ex-Con Needs Medical Help

I have been sick lately. It turns out I have Chronic Neurological Lyme disease that is raising all kinds of hell with me. I have been really pretty damn sick with this, and I have been in pain and stressed out. I have made the rounds to quite a few doctors and I have made a grim discovery. When you are a person that looks a certain way, when you are a person who has a certain history, when you are a person who is open and forthright with doctors about things you have experienced in life – you are pretty much screwed when it comes to compassionate health care.

In the past two months or so I have been turned away from numerous doctors because of prior drug issues I had. I feel I cannot get a doctor to look past my tattoos and see me as a person. I am actually pretty fortunate that I got myself signed up for some health insurance this year, so at least I have been able to get in to see doctors in the first place. I am angry though that they think any mention of pain or anxiety is me “drug-seeking”… it’s not. It’s me having pain or anxiety. Where does the line get drawn between them being cautious and them being cruel and uncaring?

This really makes me think about the folks who have even less of a support system than I do. The mentally ill and addicted who have become homeless. How in the HELL do they get any level of health care if they encounter illness or injury? How about those that are still actively living addicted lifestyles, but somehow they just get sick. Like an illness that is unrelated to their addiction issues. Are they actually considered unworthy of care and compassion because they are addicted, or mentally ill, or both? I already knew the homeless had it rough. But my experience over the past couple months with doctors has really been eye opening for me. If an addict has gotten clean and then gets sick and needs help, and can’t get it anywhere, doesn’t it seem pretty likely they could relapse simply out of lack of options? Hell yah, it does. And it sucks.

I will personally be OK one way or the other. Because I need to be there for my family, and because I won’t let this shit get me down. But it has been very discouraging to see how I’ve been treated, and to realize I am pigeonholed into this role due to mistakes I made going on ten years ago. I thought one of the rules of doctoring was “do no harm”?

4 Years After Prison, I Reached a Milestone

Well, y’all, I have officially reached a milestone of sorts. I have now been OUT of trouble… that means living fine, working hard, and loving life in general… longer than I have been IN trouble, as an adult at least. I guess this is sort of a skewed way of looking at it, because I am counting the time since I got locked up, rather than since I got let free. That is because, for me, locking me up is what got me on the right path. So since that day they closed the cell door and I knew I wasn’t coming out for awhile, things turned around.

I guess that can be an encouraging thought for those folks who are just now facing incarceration, or the incarceration of a family member or loved one. As ironic as it may sound, getting locked up can set you free. It’s up to the individual of course. Some guys will use the time to do nothing more than get tattoos, work out, and perfect their scrabble game. All that is fine, too. Nothing like being able to kick some butt in a friendly game of Scrabble. And getting strong and fit are great motivators and you feel good walking out of prison in tip top shape. No doubt. But you have to invest some time on the inner self as well. Read some, think some, make some decisions about what you want from life. Find out who you are. A lot of folks did nothing with their teen and adult years but spend them getting f’d up and in trouble haven’t really thought about themselves until they get into prison.

While I was incarcerated, I read a book by Bo Lazoff named “We are all doing time” and it made the point that monks and other religious folks seek simple surroundings and lack of freedom of choice to do deep meditation and work on themselves. When you go to prison, you basically have some pretty good surroundings to do some deep thinking. Yeah, it can be noisy and dirty and of course violent so it’s not exactly an ashram, but it can serve the purpose.

So I would say to anyone facing imprisonment, if you have no choice and have to get locked up, use the time productively at least. Work on yourself somehow, some way. Learn something, study something, get better at something. You may as well, it will give you that much more of a chance when you see the light at the end of the tunnel when your time served is done. Good luck and peace to all of you. Stay cool. ~ Magnum

A Mom’s Side of the Prison Journey – by Rose, Guest Blogger

Ive always been a fixer…fix the issues that my kids came up against. But then there was an issue I could no longer fix or control. All I could do is watch from the side lines. My son, my youngest, my baby was sentenced to 2 years TDCJ and 6 months State Jail. Oh the naivety when you know nothing of TDCJ. The day that the deal was struck and our lawyer assured us that he would be out in six months, the only reason he wouldn’t be is if TDCJ suddenly built new prisons to help with overcrowding.

So here we go, counting down to six months. My son was in county for about a month and said that was cake…if prison was like county this next six months would fly by. The morning he caught chain…I cried…and cried. That night trying to go to bed I had an anxiety attack that was out of this world, I couldn’t breath…my only thought was OMG MY child is in prison…PRISON! That’s a place for horrible people. The next 45 days with no calls from him were some of the hardest of my life. I’ll admit I was a pain in the ass. I called Middleton…thankfully those ladies that answered the phone were very sympathetic, nice and very patient with this mom new to this whole new world of prison. I worried about him and for him. I lived or rather existed in this world going thru the motions with this black cloud hanging over my head, tears constantly below the surface and a never ending feeling of what a horrible failure as a parent I must be.

I knew with my logical brain that I was not a failure, that kids get grown, make their own choices, their own mistakes and pay their own consequences. At this point I didn’t really have anyone I could talk to that understood…family was sad and tried to be supportive, but had not been down this road so they really didn’t know what this momma was thinking and feeling. One day while surfing thru the web looking up anything I could find that would give me some sort of peace I came across this blog…I even emailed Magnum with my questions…and was probably a total pain in the ass with my questions and my getting defensive and pissy over some of the comments by others to my questions lol.

The Jpay.com forum and Magnum’s blog helped me so much…to connect with others that were on this road, that knew first hand all the emotions I was feeling, the worry and the fears. The worries and fears are legit. Prison is ugly and its not a safe haven nor is it a rehab facility. Six months rolled around and my sons parole was denied. I’ve come to notice from talking to others that a lot don’t make their first parole, I guess maybe they don’t feel like you’ve been there long enough to learn any real lessons, I don’t know…maybe it really is a money game (that’s another rant of its own lol), but regardless he was stuck until the next review. When you have a young son going in there that thought he was invincible and learns the hard way he isn’t…it’s very heartbreaking. You can do nothing…just pray and hopefully find a support group, online, in person whatever where you can cry, vent and share your story with people who know exactly what you are going thru.

I came to realize that maybe there were lessons needing learned…no matter how unfair it felt to me…lifestyle changes that had been made that needed to be cemented into place and as hard and ugly as prison is it was the cement needed to hold those changes in place. I’m not trying to be selfish or think I’m better than any of the others who love my son, but I do know that while he was in prison my life honestly felt like it was on hold, no real joy, just going thru the motions of living. Other family members still seemed to be enjoying life…trips, partying, life as normal…and it pissed me off to no end! How dare you live like all is well when my child, your son, your brother, your spouse is in hell. I’m in hell. So yea I felt very sad and even jealous that life was going on and being lived and enjoyed by those my son loved the most and couldn’t understand how they were doing it. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m different than other people…but yea I definitely was doing time too.

Just like in prison – To divide is to conquer.

With all the hate going on in the world, it can be hard to keep a good outlook and positive attitude.

In prison it was much the same way – the overall feeling of hate and disrespect and ongoing oppression could get to you if you weren’t careful. You had to stay mindful to keep your head in the right place, and not let the hate become part of who you were. You had to choose to rise above it on a daily basis.

If you ask me, this hateful attitude everyone is carrying around is turning our country into something like the divisive atmosphere of being in prison. Think about it.

There is a lot of segregation and racism in prison. Racial groups keep to their own and don’t mingle much with others in prison. Even if on the outside world you are a guy with friends from every walk of life, when you are inside, you pretty much have to stick to your own. Ask anyone who has done time, they will confirm that this is the case. You have to choose who you are going to hang with, then stick with it.

And guess what – prison authorities prefer to keep this atmosphere of segregation alive and well, because to divide is to conquer.

If all the racial groups were to get along, then the prison population as a whole becomes stronger, and more powerful, and therefore harder to control. If prison authorities allow racial tension to keep simmering and even encourage it in small ways, then those racial groups act as small communities within the prison. Small communities that don’t get along with the other small communities, and constantly vie for power and status within the prison. Constantly worrying about each other rather than the bigger picture. The end result is the authorities do not have a large, strong group of inmates to worry about controlling. Instead, they have several small, less powerful groups of inmates to manage.

I can’t help but reflect on that, with all the hate and division going on in our country. Isn’t this attitude of division making us weak? Are we still a force to be reckoned with internationally, if we can’t even all get along as a country? Aren’t we weakening the overall force of the U.S. by spending so much time and energy on hating and pointing fingers at each other? We should be focused on uniting in the things we do have in common – like keeping our freedom from terrorists and the others who wish to take our power. This bad attitude of division that seems to grow by the day and seems to be fueled by politicians and the media is weakening us and is a danger to our freedoms.

Just like the prisoners in a prison, our strength as a country is diminished by allowing hate to keep us segregated and isolated in groups. Time to grow up and take note folks, because you better believe our enemies are taking note of this situation and know just how weak we are becoming as a country when we spend so much time and energy on hurting and hating each other rather than uniting for the common good.

But hey, what do I know? I am just an ex-con and a convicted felon. By law, I can’t even buy a firearm to protect myself and my family. So I hope we keep it together as a country, I need us to, my freedom is at stake. Peace out.

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.

4th of July, 2015 – Can you find freedom while in prison?

For those of you with family and loved ones in prison on this 4th of July holiday weekend, especially those imprisoned for crimes of drug use, I will tell you this – freedom is a state of mind. A person can be more free while incarcerated than they ever were on the outside.

When I was going through real bad times with drug use I was not free. Sure, maybe I could jump in my truck and drive to a party on the 4th, drink some beer and eat some barbecue and that is so-called freedom, compared to being locked in a prison environment. But the reality is – that freedom isn’t real at all. My days and all my actions were consumed with getting drugs and maintaining my habit. I lied, I stole and I got pretty low during that time. I resorted to some things I didn’t think I would ever do. I didn’t care for the person I had become and I didn’t care that I didn’t care. It was best not to care actually.

In contrast to that, when I got sent to prison it was a time for me to get straight with myself. I am not just talking about kicking the dope. I did a lot of soul searching during that time. I read a lot of books that were deep and got me thinking in a few new ways. One of my favorites was “We Are All Doing Time” by the late Bo Lazoff. There were two major ideas in that book that helped me cope with imprisonment. One was that “everything is going to be OK”, regardless of the situation. I know that sounds too pie in the sky and kind of stupid. Sometimes things aren’t OK. Terrible situations exist, in prison and out. I won’t get into the whole idea behind it but basically it’s a way of looking at life and the situation you find yourself in, no matter how shitty, and accepting it for what it is, and finding a way to be OK with it.

The other concept I pondered a lot and still hang onto today is, you are only as free as your own mind is. When you are incarcerated and being treated like crap all the way around and living in conditions that are uncomfortable and lonely and sad – you can still choose to be free in your mind. You can have good thoughts in bad situations. You can be kind to others and to yourself even in an environment like prison, and you can grow and rise above a lot, if you choose to.

For anyone, incarcerated or not, who isn’t feeling free, I recommend this book. It’s a classic in the prison world but a good read for anyone. It is spiritual in nature but down to earth and easy to read. You can find it at The Human Kindness Foundation, a group that does prison outreach that was started by Bo and his wife Sita years ago. If you want to read a quick summary of the ideas behind Bo’s book, this write up about Bo Lozoff by Douglas Goetsch does a pretty good job. I like where it says “listen to your better angel, see the cell as a world, see the prison block as a garden, see the divine in the faces of the guards, the bullies, prosecuting attorneys, parole boards; write your daughter, apologize to your ex-, renounce your pals—they’re not your friends— forgive your father, forgive yourself.”

Peace out everyone. Hope your 4th is a time of freedom for you and your loved ones. ~ Magnum

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.

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!

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.

Christmas in prison – a time for reflection

The holidays can be some of the toughest time for prison inmates and their families and loved ones. An inmate can feel incredibly alone and sad being in prison during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and New Years. It’s a time we associate with family and the reality of being locked up can hit hard. It’s a time when mothers and fathers cry for their sons and daughters, and wives and husbands yearn for the touch of their mate.
As a former inmate, I can tell you there were bright spots to the holidays. For one, the inmates tend to have an attitude of “we are in this together” and while I was incarcerated, it was typical to plan a party where we would pool all our stashes from commissary and make the best spread we could. Sure, it could be a little random – raman noodles, peanut butter and tuna fish, for example. But we did share, and have some fun together for a couple hours at least. And, even our holiday meals were a bit above average. A little more served, maybe even something special on the plate. Hey, better than usual at least!
And, here is another thought that offers a new perspective for many of us who are dealing with incarceration during the holidays. Today I got my newsletter from the Human Kindness Foundation. For a little back history, Bo and Sita Lazoff started the Human Kindness Foundation many years ago, as an outreach to inmates. Bo wrote a book named “We’re all doing time” that is really well known amongst inmates and is a great book for anyone. I highly recommend it for those who are religious or not, it offers a lot of wisdom and comfort. I found it VERY helpful during my incarceration.
Anyway, Bo Lazoff passed away 2 years ago, a great man lost too young, but his writings and lessons live on. For this quarter’s newsletter, The Human Kindness Foundation reprinted some of Bo’s articles and letters from 1998. He made a really great point about being incarcerated during the holidays. To paraphrase Bo’s thoughts about this, think about Jesus, and the way he lived. Where do you think you would have found him on Christmas? In someone’s cheerful living room tearing gift wrap off of presents? Or would he be at the side of those with struggles, those that are a bit lost or afraid and needing to find their belief in themselves, and their ability to love their fellow man? I think it’s easy to imagine that the place Jesus would very likely to be found was in a prison.
Maybe you can find some comfort in the thought that our incarcerated loved ones are perhaps in a position to not be “Merry”, or “Happy” but perhaps thoughtful and reflective, and therefore much closer to the true spirit of Jesus’ love than many of us out in the world. And if you or your loved ones are not particularly religious or Christian, that is OK. Let’s hope that our incarcerated loved ones find some peace and comfort during this Christmas, regardless of their beliefs.
Merry Christmas everyone, and peace to y’all. ~ Magnum

Short Timer Here

I feel like I am a short timer on my parole these days. I can see that light at the end of the tunnel. Can’t wait. it will be the first time in 7 years that I am not either locked up or on paper. My choices will be mine. Nobody looking over my shoulder. Just got to mind my business for another couple of months. I can do it, that’s not a problem at all.

I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but I can’t help but start to feel anxious for this all to be behind me. Maybe when another 7 years will go by I will have the bucks then to expunge my record also. I have a buddy who is working on that for himself, so I know it can be done. It will open up some doors for him I am sure, and if I could do it someday it might be well worth it for a lot of reasons.

Life is good these days. My beautiful wife and I are real happy. We feel like we are working towards something good together. Our son is beautiful, and healthy and happy. We’re getting better at making ends meet. I keep getting steady raises and Spring is almost here too, that means more hours. Can’t say I will miss the cold-ass weather we’ve had all winter long. I love spring and summer in the Texas Hill Country. It’s a beautiful state I live in. If some of y’all reading this are from out of state you are missing out for sure. Ha! I’m a lucky man. Feeling the love on this Sunday.

Peace to y’all. Keep the faith ~ 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

We refuse to abandon our loved ones

Passed on by a friend today:

“We are tired of being made to feel inferior or unwelcome in churches, clubs, organizations or society in general simply because we refuse to abandon our loved ones…………”

We are everywhere–

For those who forget that the incarcerated humans in this country are indeed just that – HUMAN – I would like you to think on this the next time you talk about “inmates, criminals, convicts, etc…”.
These humans have families and those who love them despite whatever they did. Look around you and wonder, because this is who we are….

We take care of your children and grandchildren in nursery schools, we give them shots in the doctor’s office. We are dental assistants, we are school teachers and Sunday school teachers, we stand behind you in the grocery store, we prepare your medicine in the drug store. We work in banks, we approve your loans, we service your insurance claims, we work for newspapers, TV stations and radio stations, we read your electric meters and water meters. We are your landlords, your neighbors, we take care of your elderly parents in nursing homes, we are nurses, lab technicians, X-ray technicians, we own beauty shops, flower shops, printing shops, we are welders, plumbers, tree trimmers. We work for the IRS, the State Dept., in the courthouse, schools, churches, drug stores and toy stores, we are legal secretaries, lawyers, school board members. We are bus drivers, we prepare meals for your kids in school, we are city council members, bank tellers, we process your checking account, your saving account, we work at your Social Security office, your insurance company, we take care of your IRA, stocks, bonds.

We sell your kids bikes, school supplies, clothes, shoes, eyeglasses, we repair your cars, we are real estate agents, car dealers, college professors, psychologists, administrative assistants, safety engineers and ranchers. We work at Ralphs, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Saks 5th Avenue. We sell Avon and Tupperware. We are not all “on welfare”, no matter what the government would like you to think.

There are two million people in prison in America and twice that many on parole and probation. Add in mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends and about sixteen million people are personally affected by the prison system in the United States.

We are tired of letting ourselves feel humiliated or embarrassed because our loved one is in prison. WE did nothing wrong, and they are paying for their crime! We are tired of fearing the loss of our jobs or evictions from our housing should anyone find out we have a loved one in prison. We are tired of being made to feel inferior or unwelcome in churches, clubs, organizations or society in general simply because we refuse to abandon our loved ones.

We are ready to unite, to come out of hiding and openly support each other and our loved ones. It’s a new day, America and we’re here to prove it! We are ready to speak out against the “they deserve what they get” attitude we hear you talk about in stores, theaters and restaurants. We number in the millions, we are everywhere, every state, county, city and town. We may even live next door to you. Sixteen million & counting. We are everywhere.

Author Unknown

Changes in my life, changes for this site

While I was locked up I spent a lot of time dreaming about being on a river in Central Texas, listening to music, playing my guitar or harmonica, singing, and just having a good ol’ time. I have done just that as often as possible this summer. I want to share a song I really enjoy, by Jason Boland, called Backslider Blues. Fantastic lyrics on this one.

Friends, I have really slacked off when it comes to writing blog posts. I had already known that once I got out, the site was going to need to change it’s direction, because reading about a guy on the outside just plain isn’t as interesting as reading about a guy in prison. And, the truth is, now that I am not locked up 24/7, it’s pretty hard to make myself sit down and write.

Sure, I can tell you about being on parole. Basically, it sucks. But it doesn’t suck as bad as being locked up. Some days I think differently, there are literally some days when the parole process is such a pain in the ass that I think I ought to just go serve out the rest of my time. But just a little rational thinking usually gets me off that train real quick.

The way parole works, as time goes on you see your parole officer less often. Right now I am still on 2 visits a month. One in her office and one at my home. It’s kind of funny, she seems to be scared of dogs, when she comes to my house she literally stays for all of 5 minutes, tops, and she is out of there. My dog isn’t mean, but there is a tip for someone who might have something to hide from their parole officer, get yourself a mean dog. Ha ha, just kidding.

My parole officer seems OK, I don’t feel like she is out to get me, but then again, I don’t feel like she is necessarily real enthused about me either. I am sure I am just another parolee to her. I think that probation and parole officers are underpaid and overworked, generally speaking. I imagine they go into the job thinking they will make a difference and get burned out pretty fast. And, unfortunately, I am sure they see a lot of us just go right through that revolving door, straight back to prison.

What about me, you might ask. How have I been doing? Well, I won’t say it hasn’t been challenging not to fall back into old ways. I have felt good about most of my choices, and overall I am doing good. I ended up getting a new job, it’s in the welding business. I have a girlfriend, which of course I am glad about. I have had some money problems, my vehicle needs a new engine, and my living situation has been sort of up and down. I am trying to just concentrate on keeping one foot in front of the other. Living simple, keeping it real. See? I told you, not near as interesting as reading about someone locked up, fighting to survive every day.

So, what to do about this site? I want to keep it up, it has some good traffic, and people have been so supportive. After some thought and research, I have made some decisions. I found a few guest editors to start posting news we come across about Texas Prisons, the inmates, conditions, jail, probation, parole… the whole correctional institution business. (Because it IS a business, of that there is no doubt.) Some of them are ex-cons, some are family, and some are just some cool folks with something to say.

I am also going to start offering some more resources for the many folks who have family members and loved ones currently incarcerated. Links to other useful sites and information, and links to books and other materials that can be helpful. I am thinking about trying to offer prison stationary items too, but I know that is a whole process to get approved by TDC to be a vendor. I still might try to do it though. So stay tuned, over the next couple of weeks you will see some changes on here. If you like what you see, let me know. And, if you have ideas for the site, it would be great to hear from you.

Thanks, y’all, for all of your support. I apologize for the big gaps in posting. But things are going to get better now. Stay tuned. And stay cool… your friend, Texas Magnum

I have served my time and I am going home!

This is the post I have been waiting for all along. By the time it is received in the regular mail and posted on here, it will just about be real.

I AM GOING HOME!
I AM GOING HOME!
I – AM – GOING – HOME!!!

I am so ready, I can’t wait. Time is crawling now but it’s OK, it’s almost here. Just 10 days to go.

I can’t wait to look up at the sunshine, to breath in the fresh air. I can’t wait for a pizza! I am damn excited and happy to go home and see my family, hug everyone, and my dog too! I CAN’T WAIT!

My mom is coming to pick me up, it’s about a 3 hour drive. She is bringing my good boots and some jeans and my hat. She is bringing a couple of my favorite CD’s, the one I can’t wait to hear is Legend, the best of Bob Marley.

So how does it feel? I am anxious and excited, maybe a little nervous. I am feeling very positive though. I can do this. I have changed, and it’s a real change. I am not the person who got locked up in 2009. I know that what I make of my freedom and my life will be up to me. I am going to stay positive and enjoy every minute of it all. It’s what I have learned more than anything. Live for the moment, be in the moment. That is really all there is. I have some goals, and plans, and dreams, but I am not going to get all caught up in them and forget to enjoy right where I am at.

I don’t know what will happen with this blog. Maybe I will post a little when I get home, but the truth is I know people are more interested about reading about the actual prison experience. Nobody cares about the guy who USED to be in prison. (That might turn out to be true in more ways than one. But like I said, I am staying positive.) I am trying to think of how to turn it into something good now, something that will help those that are still incarcerated and their families. If you have any ideas, send them my way.

What an awesome time of year to get free in Texas. Spring is almost here. I love summer! I love the sun!! I am going to enjoy this summer more than any I have ever had, that I know. I plan to be grilling, tubing, swimming, camping, playing music, hearing music, and SMILING and LAUGHING A LOT, of that you can be sure. Hope you all do the same, wherever you are.

I will be in touch, people. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
Peace out ~ Magnum

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Shantaram by Gregory David RobertsHello all. I recently read an awesome book that I would like to tell you about in today’s post. A guy in here recommended it, and loaned it to me. It is long, close to 1000 pages, and it is intense. It is written based on truth, about the author’s own life, and it is an amazing story. Considering that I don’t really have any news of interest to tell you about, let alone an amazing story about myself, I think it will make an excellent subject to change things up a little.

The story is about a heroin addict who ends up in prison due to his addiction.  Maybe this is part of the reason I can relate to the story, but this guys story is a lot more hard core and intense than my own. The book is named Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.

(Editors note: Here is a link to a website by the author, about himself and the book. www.shantaram.com Also, here is a link to the book on amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/Shantaram-Novel-Gregory-David-Roberts/dp/0312330537/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322934163&sr=8-1)

Lin, the main character, is convicted of armed robbery that he commits to feed his heroin habit. He got on heroin after his marriage broke up and he lost his wife and daughter. He can’t tolerate the harsh treatment at the prison he is in, a high security prison in Australia. He manages to escape, and makes his way to India. But he is now a wanted man. He knows when he escapes that he is leaving everyone and everything behind, and that he will never see his daughter or mother again.

In India, he chooses to make the best of the situation and he gets to know the local people, learns to speak a couple languages, and has many experiences. For some time, he lives in a slum and sets up a medical clinic. He had some basic first aid training but that is it, but he is able to get black market drugs and medications and help the people a lot. He spends several months in a tiny, remote village with a friend from the slum, and he learns so much there, and enjoys the simple life. But, he goes back to Bombay and he ends up getting the wrong people mad at him, and he is arrested and spends several months in a prison in Bombay in the worse of conditions, where he almost dies from the abuse and beatings. As all this is going on, he also meets and gets involved with one of the big mafia bosses in India. He eventually becomes very close to the mafia boss and considers him a father and  a mentor. The mafia boss is very intelligent and spiritual, and they have many deep discussions, but he is also a criminal. Lin learns counterfeiting and money laundering and rises up in the mafia. During all of this, he falls in love with a mysterious and beautiful girl, and that is a big part of the story as well, throughout the book. He eventually goes to Afghanistan to smuggle in arms and to fight along with his mentor, the mafia boss. I won’t give away more than that, but there is much, much more to the story than just that. The book is broken down into 4 parts, and each one is a story on it’s own.

Lin, the main character, is a tough guy and is used to fights and violence but the times he feels the best about himself and gets closest to forgiving himself for some of the mistakes he made in life is when he is with the simple, kind and honest people of the slum and of the little village he stays at. He feels redemption in his work at the clinic and probably would have stayed there if he had not been arrested and put in prison.

The author has a very descriptive style and he makes you feel like you can picture the various characters and places he describes. He gets into details and you can imagine everything down to the smells.

This book is an epic story of adventure, but it is really a struggle of good versus evil, in Lin’s own character and in the world of Bombay. For every good there is a evil counterpart, internally in Lin and in the world and characters surrounding Lin. The book ends in such a way that you are not sure which side has won the battle, the good or the evil, but this is on purpose and leaves you to think.

It is a fantastic story and I highly recommend it to anyone. I think it would make a good movie as well. I think Jason Statham from The Mechanic would be good in this role. Whoever plays this part needs to be a tough guy who isn’t very nice acting or good looking, but who can have a deeper side to him.

A story like this is maybe a little strange to read while I am sitting here in prison, because it is all about violence and drug use and crime. But it is also about the constant struggle in all of us to look for the good inside of us, and fight against the bad inside of us. It is not a simple story and it is not really about the drugs or the violence. I got a lot out of this book and I consider it one of the top books I have read.

Well, on another note, Thanksgiving is behind me, and it was good. I worked 12 hours straight in the kitchen and was tired but we did it up good with turkey, chicken, biscuits, and cake for dessert. I hope you all enjoyed a good Thanksgiving day with your family and the people you love. I am looking forward to the same for myself next year. I couldn’t always say this, but here lately I believe that most days, the good in me and my world is winning the battle. Hope the same is feeling true for you all.

Peace to you all ~ Magnum

Is that light at the end of the tunnel?

I am tired.

Tired of being here, tired of the classes I am in, tired of the work I do and mostly REALLY tired of this dorm I live in. I am tired of the loud mouths and the bad attitudes. I am tired of the CO’s and tired of the other inmates. I am tired of writing letters to family because there really isn’t any news to talk about with them anymore. I am tired of drinking coffee that tastes like rusty nails. I am tired of having to strip down for every little thing and I am tired of noise and lack of privacy and pretty much just everything about this place. And, sorry, I am tired of writing this blog right now too. That is why I haven’t posted anything in awhile. It feels as if there is nothing left to say.

And that is GREAT news. Because if I wasn’t, something would be seriously wrong with me. No sane man or woman should ever get too used to this. When I get out I don’t want to be one of those who forgets just how crappy it is to be locked up away from everyone and everything you care about and make a stupid mistake and end up back here again. I plan to remember this forever and to use it to make sure I never come back.

Here’s the one awesome thing I am focused on: I am on track to finish up my classes sometime in February. That means that as early as March, I could be released on parole. Now I can start to look forward to the end of this, and start imagining the future and freedom. I can now say that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Before I get out of here, there are still a few things to get past. I need to keep out of trouble for the remainder of the time here. I don’t think that is going to be a problem but then again around here you really don’t know what’s going to go down at any time. All I can do about that is wake up every day and do my best to avoid trouble.

I am going to spend another Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years here too. That sucks. It is a little depressing to think about. There’s not anything to look forward to about that and really my best bet is to just pretend it’s not a holiday and look forward to much better times next year.

I will spend another birthday here as well. That sucks too because I can’t help but notice that I have wasted some of my life here in a very real way. Celebrating a couple birthdays in prison really will make you stop and think about what you have done with your life.

I have said before though, I am not going to let this define me. I believe I have it in me to get a fresh start and to do things different this time. I have been thinking of a few things I can do when I get home to keep on track. I know I will be required to go to AA meetings as part of my parole. When I was on probation before all this happened, I didn’t always appreciate being told I HAD to go to AA. But I have decided that when I get home, one of the things I am going to do is hit a meeting. I am going to walk in there and tell them right off, “I just got out of prison and I don’t want to use or go back to prison, so here I am.”

I am going to volunteer my time if they need help with anything, that way I can stay busy. And, I feel it IS true that if I hang with people trying to do the same thing, I’m more likely to succeed. So, even if I don’t like everything about AA, it will be good to do. I have a lot of other plans too. I am going to try some new things and enjoy some stuff I never had money for when I was spending my pay on drugs and alcohol.

Light at the end of the tunnel. There is something hopeful out there. I can leave this place behind in the rear view mirror and move on down the road in just a few more months.

Sending peace your way ~ Magnum

400 days and counting in prison

I realized the other day that the last day of August marked 400 days of incarceration for Texas Magnum. 400 days out of a maximum of 1460 that could be spent as a prisoner in Texas.

Magnum is hopeful he will be released well before the maximum sentence date, and at this point, it is likely that he will be. He has committed to himself to make the most of his time of incarceration and has been actively working on improving himself mentally, spiritually and physically. He feels good, is full of positive energy, and is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Lately his days are very long. Up early with prayer, meditation, or yoga as a start to his day. Then 5 hours of rehabilitation classes, followed by 8 hours of work in the prison kitchen as a cook. After work there is some time in the rec yard for exercise and fitness. Writing for this blog has been curtailed and letters to family and friends are in short supply. But we recognize this as a good thing, keeping his mind and body busy is making the days go by much faster now for Magnum, and we all are starting to look forward to the day he will walk out of the doors in Huntsville.

400 days locked up  is a lot of days, but it’s good to keep in mind that some people have a much longer sentence, and will count 1000’s of days in prison, or even a lifetime. It’s hard to fathom. Some folks are locked up and innocent, even harder to imagine!

And, because of laws like the Felony Murder Rule in California, some folks are locked up for Life Without Parole for Murder, in cases where they absolutely did not commit the crime of murder that they are charged and found guilty of. If you want to know more about this law and it’s repercussions, take a look at this 60 Minutes’ report. 60 Minutes report on the Felony Murder Rule in California

This is how the law works: If 2 or more persons are involved in a felony, say robbery, and one of them commits a murder while in the act of that felony, then all the parties involved are guilty of murder, regardless if the others took part, were aware, or in any way involved with the murder. This makes sense on the surface, because it’s easy to rationalize that if a group of folks plan a robbery for instance, they should be fully aware that things can go wrong, and an innocent person could be killed. Therefore, they should be held culpable if that does indeed happen.

The law was designed to be a harsh warning to gang members and a deterrent to crime, but in certain cases justice fails and young lives are ruined because of it. Under the Felony Murder Rule, a reasonable defense is almost impossible, even when there MAY BE very legitimate defenses and unusual mitigating circumstances. The judge is bound to apply a sentence of Life Without Parole.

Because of this rule, many times in California, when a felony occurs that results in a death, those accused of taking part of the felony, but not the actual murder, end up facing Life in prison without parole, at the young age of 17, 18, or 19 years old, basically for a mistake in judgement and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. An example would be a typical fight that gets out of hand. Things escalate and someone of the group, unbeknown to the rest, is carrying a knife. He uses it, and someone is killed. ALL the participants in that fight are facing Life Without Parole if found guilty, under the Felony Murder Rule.

Should young adult men get in fights? No, of course not. Do young adult men get in fights? Yes, of course they do. Fights happen every day, for stupid reasons and for perceived real reasons. Fights happen in bars and in parking lots, and fights happen in school yards and in backyards. Fights happen when alcohol is involved, when sports are involved, when petty crimes and jealousies are involved… the list if why fights happen is a mile long. Fights have happened since the beginnings of civilization and will continue to happen.

As a civilized society, we council the young not to fight. And, as has always happened, it usually takes a little maturing to realize the foolishness of resorting to physical violence. And certainly there needs to be a punishment when a fight ends in death. But is it rational that all the people present should spend the rest of their days in prison? Are they criminals that cannot be rehabilitated and contribute to society? Does the simple fact that they were THERE make them culpable to such a degree that they will pay for that with their entire life spent behind bars?

This is just one example of how the Felony Murder Rule could be applied. There are numerous cases on the books, and many have had questionable end results on the lives of those involved. Unfortunately for many, life and what happens in it is not usually simply black and white, there can be circumstances, situations, reasons, motivations, causes, excuses – in short, defenses – yet none of these matter or count under this rule.

Questions of how to properly dole out justice are very difficult to answer. The victim’s families may feel that everyone involved SHOULD lose their freedoms forever, just as their loved one has lost their life. That is an understandable feeling. But is it the right answer? As the family member of an incarcerated loved one, my view of our current justice system has changed. I have learned so much throughout this journey that what I once believed was fair is not necessarily the case any more. I am sure if I was the family member of a murdered victim or anyone else impacted by violent crime, my view would change because of that as well.

What are your thoughts on the Felony Murder Rule? Does it’s value outweigh it’s flaws? Is it an effective or fair law? Remember, step up, speak out, make a difference.

~ The Editor

Missing out on life

After being incarcerated for the last seven months, I have learned the truth about what being locked up and the loss of freedom means to a man.

Before all this happened, losing my freedom meant something completely different to me than what it does now. I thought losing my freedom meant not being able to come and go as I wanted, not being able to sleep in when I wanted, stay out late when I wanted and to do what I wanted. I thought it meant not having a corrections officer telling me where to go or not go, and I thought it meant being able to jump in my truck and go float the river or hang out with friends or play music whenever I wanted to.

Well it does mean all of that. And of course I miss those things. But a person gets used to whatever their circumstances are, and they find a way to make a little life out of it. I have my people I hang with here, and I have my routine. I find things to laugh about and things to think about. I watch TV, work out, play dominoes, read and write. I skip breakfast if I want and I buy snacks or other foods in the commissary if I don’t like the meals. So in short, although I am incarcerated I am not stripped of all free will. I still have a voice, and some options.

Here is what I don’t have – being a part of my family and their lives. Here is a short list of what I have missed out on during the past seven months of incarceration:
– My mother’s birthday
– Thanksgiving
– Christmas
– New Year’s
– My birthday
– The death of my grandfather
– The birth of my first niece

The holidays and birthdays are days I hate to have missed but I can deal with those. But, the death of my grandfather and the birth of my niece have caused me to feel deeply how cut off I am from those I love and who love me. The most severe punishment of not being “free” is missing these milestones in life. In not being there to support my grandmother and father when my grandfather passed, I feel I have let them down greatly. I feel my selfishness, which got me here in the first place, is once again to blame for a failure to be the person I should be in life. In not being able to celebrate the birth of my sister’s beautiful new daughter, I feel I have let her and her husband down.

My family has always tried to love me and be there for me, when I needed them, yet I am not there for them now. I pray that when I am released I can make up some of this to the people I love. This is what the REAL punishment of incarceration is. Not being behind a locked gate, not living with a bunch of other incarcerated men in a cage like an animal, but the loss of my freedom to BE THERE.

Freedom isn’t about walking through a door or jumping in a car, it’s about picking up a phone to call your grandmother and talk about fond memories of your grandfather. It’s about sending your sister a bouquet of flowers and sending your niece a stuffed teddy bear. It’s about taking your mother out to eat on her birthday or handing your brother-in-law a Christmas gift.

If you are reading this today while free, take a minute to call the people you love and tell them so. Use your freedom to reach out to someone you care about.

Resolutions for the new year

As the new year comes, so do new beginnings. For many people goals are made, and promises sworn to be kept to a spouse or to one’s self. “This year it will be different. I will lose that weight”, or “I’ll cut down on the booze” or “I’ll never cheat on my wife again.” All these dreams and desires to renew and improve ourselves rush through our dreams and our hearts each year.

This is the type of thing that amazes me about humans, we have the capacity to want something with our entire heart and soul, until it hurts our very bones. Yet, we might pursue our goal to an extent, practice our new choices or newly found principals for a few weeks, maybe even months. And yes, some of us do stay on a forward path and complete what we say we will do. But many others, myself included, find ourselves let down once again, our dreams blown away by the reality of life trampled on by our own lack of self will.

Time and time again I have proven to myself that my own will isn’t sufficient enough to follow through with my well laid plans and best intentions for the future. At times, when the law is on my ass, and I have no choice but to change, I will… but as soon as the heat is off, I have returned to my own selfish ways. This is the phenomenom that amazes me. Members of AA and other 12-step groups believe that one must put his will in the hands of a higher power to overcome old habits and addictive behaviors. Not until then, will things begin to change.

I have never been able to fully give myself to the thought that I have so little power in my life. Although, like I said, I have let myself down, time and time again. With that being said, I do question my honesty when I have decided to change certain aspects of my life.

So, this year, I myself have a resolution for the new year. This year my resolution is honesty. To be honest with myself in my intentions to change. To say to myself, “I will change my ways completely” would be a lie. Instead, I will try to live up to one small, attainable goal at a time. I will become self sufficient. I will put my duties and responsibilities before my pleasures. I will make sure the refrigerator is stocked with food. Or, I will just tell myself “I love you” when looking in the mirror, and mean it.

So, to all of you who have embarked on the new year with new resolutions, goals, or desires to change – my conclusion in reflecting on this and my message to you is to be aware is to be prepared. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, choose a goal and set a plan in place that is within reach. And, stick with it.

Peace ~ Magnum