Tag: incarceration

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

It’s been awhile – Now I am married and a father!

Hello all, I have been very lax in keeping up with the blog. A whole lot of real life got in the way. Just let me take a minute to brag. I am married to the most awesome woman in the world. We got married on 9/11. A funny date for a marriage but that was the same day I had parole, and I had to consolidate everything so I didn’t miss much work, lol. The way I look at it, that is a good and happy thing that occurred on a day remembered for something unhappy and bad. Maybe over time, when enough babies are born on that day, and people get married on that day, and other happy events, we won’t only remember it as bad. So I did my part.

And, guess what — we just had a baby! Yep, I am a father to a big healthy son. He is so cool. Lays there and sleeps a lot now, but he’s GOING to do great things in this world. And if I have anything to do with it, going to TDC won’t be on his list. Nope, none of that for my son. I hope I can be a good father and good husband. I am trying my best. I will admit, it’s harder some days than others. And having a family changes everything. Before if I screwed up I was screwing up myself. Now a lot of other people are going to get affected by it. I got to keep it together.
I am working hard pretty much every day. Construction so bad weather means no work. And I am broke most of the time, lol. But hey, I have a little place of our own, and we get by.

Hope you all are hanging in there. If you are reading this because you have a loved on incarcerated somewhere, don’t ever give up on them. Everybody deserves hope. Some of us have pushed things too far over and over and maybe you feel things will never change. I am proof that things do change. I am not saying I have it all figured out, I don’t for sure. And believe me, I know I got a ways to go. But look how far I have come. Less than two years ago I was locked up for the 4th year in a row during the holidays, between rehabs and prison. Now I am a married man and a father, holding a full time job, and stressing about paying the light bill rather than stressing about where my next high was coming from.

Oh and by the way, for anyone looking for some kinship and advise regarding the incarcerated, I strongly suggest www.prisontalk.com. It’s a very strong forum with lots of good information. For anyone wanting to help or learn more about helping the incarcerated, a great organization is The Human Kindness Foundation. It was founded by Bo and Sita Lozoff. Bo wrote “We’re all Doing Time”, probably one of the most widely read books by inmates ever, and one that brought me great hope and a better understanding of myself and the world. Check it out, you don’t need to be in prison to get a lot out of it. You can buy it on the Human Kindness site at http://humankindness.bigcartel.com/product/we-re-all-doing-time. They send this book for free to inmates all over the world. If you buy a book on their site, it helps their efforts.

I am hoping for all of you out there that you pass the holidays safe and sound with your family and friends. If you have someone incarcerated, keep the faith. Keep the candle burning. Peace out y’all. I will try to be more regular on here, but I do love you all.

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