Tag: inmates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re All Doing Time

Update from Inside: Life here continues to be busy for me, work is trucking along, and so is the rehab program. The days are going by fast overall. Over all I am in very good spirits. I got a book called “We’re All Doing Time” by Bo Lozoff. It’s a spiritual book, not a religious book, but it pulls from all the major world religions. It quotes the Bible, Buddhist teachings, Hindu, Native American, and more. It talks about Christ and Mother Theresa and Gandhi.

It is REALLY, REALLY good. The author Bo Lozoff puts in words just what my personal beliefs about spirituality and religion have been for awhile now. It has a lot of lessons in spiritual practice to try, including prayer, meditation, and yoga. I have started working on some of these practices and I feel good about everything and I am in high spirits. I feel positive about the future.

For awhile now I have had this feeling that I can be as free in my mind in here as I can outside, it’s all about me and the way I feel inside. And the book I am reading says that being incarcerated may be more of a gift than we realize and that the richest man or woman on the outside may be more of a prisoner than those of us inside, depending on how they feel spiritually and how we feel. This is exactly how I feel too. I know I am more free now than I ever was when I was shooting dope and living the life of addiction.

The author says that being locked up in such harsh conditions without the comforts most people take for granted is a lot like what a monk chooses as a way to grow spiritually. He says us inmates can choose to spend the time with the mind of an incarerated inmate, or with the mind of a monk seeking spiritual growth. That we can come out of prison better for the experience or worse, but it’s totally up to the individual, not the programs we are enrolled in or the people who choose to go up against us. The positive and the negative we find here is all what we choose to do with it.

I find myself laying in my bed at night dreaming about life and what it may have in store for me. Life is full of possibilities and I can’t help but wonder where I am going. I try not to get too wrapped up in it, ’cause I know this very moment is what counts, but I can’t help dreaming. We all have dreams, right?

Another thing that is going on with me right now is I have decided to start to speak in our Group. It is optional, and up until now I have not chosen to. But I figure if I’m going to be here I might was well express who I was and where I am going. That way I am working on being open and honest to myself.

I am now in Phase 2 of the program and that includes some marching which probably sounds a little cooler than it is. We get out there at 6:00 am and march around the perimeter of the unit, once around,  twice a week. We yell out some stuff, go one time around, and that’s about it. We don’t do it enough to get really good at it. A lot of the guys hate it, but I don’t mind it, things could be a lot worse.

I just recently got letters about a couple things. My sister got hurt, broke a couple ribs. It was an accident that could have ended a lot worse, so she is lucky. Also, she is pregnant and the baby is OK, so she is double-lucky. And my old dog back home is getting really bad off. He probably won’t make it a lot longer. It really caused me to reflect and it also made me think of my grandfather who passed away several months ago and about death in general. It makes me realize that there are so many things we have no control over. We are all the same in so many ways, in spite of our outward differences, and we all come into the world and go out of it in the same way.

We all drive different vehicles through the streets of life, but we all have to figure out how to drive those streets, one way or another. Life will always keep on going, no matter your situation, so all we can do is go with it and do our best to find happiness and inner peace. I hope today that those reading this blog find themselves on a street going in the right direction. For anyone who might be seeking spiritual guidance, or who knows an inmate that could use some spiritual help, I highly recommend the book I am reading.

Peace to everyone ~ Magnum

Editors Note ~ I received an email this morning from Bo Lozoff’s Foundation for Prison Ashram. They let me know that if I changed the link to their Human Kindness store rather than Amazon, the proceeds are used to send free books to inmates all over. So, of course, I made those changes. I urge any of you who might be considering the book to purchase from this very worth organization.

Change is good – catching chain is not good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace everyone, stay cool. ~ Magnum

What do I have to be thankful for?

I am sitting here thinking about Thanksgiving which is this coming week and how much that was always a day that I have always enjoyed being with family. I will be missing all of it this year, but the past couple of years it seems that half of the time when it was a holiday or something I was in rehab somewhere anyway.

I am mailing this tomorrow, but no matter what day it gets there, if it gets there before, I want it to get posted the night before Thanksgiving, because I know that is the time when I will probably be thinking a lot about what I am missing on Thanksgiving, and maybe some of you will be too. So this is for all of us.

I see that a lot of mothers of inmates have been the ones that send me comments. A couple have told me I make them think of their own sons and daughters. When I think of my own mother I hope she is going to have a really good day tomorrow. I hope she cooks up a big turkey and all the sides and that she knows I would give anything to be there, heaping up my plateful. I hope after the meal there is nothing but huesos left (that is bones for those of you who don’t speak Spanish.). And I hope somebody helps do the dishes. I hope all of you do the same, and don’t spend too much time feeling sorry for us, your kids that are in prison. We are all OK.

Here in county nobody has said much but I am pretty sure we will get some kind of Thanksgiving meal tomorrow. And I also figure it more than likely isn’t going to be anything like the meals we are all missing at home. But it’s alright.

I for one don’t want to think about what got me here or what I am missing out on but more about what is going to get me back to the other side. I am going to be thankful I am given this opportunity to set new goals for myself and to spend some time getting right. I am thankful that by the time I get out of here I am going to be an uncle, and that my sister is feeling and doing good. I am thankful that I have at least a few people that have remembered I still exist and who care about me. I am thankful I have everything I need already, and now I have a chance to learn what to do with it.

I hope you all have something in mind to be thankful for too.

Happy Thanksgiving and Peace ~ Magnum