CURRENT STATUS

If you have any questions for Andy about the prison system, what it is like, what goes on there, or anything, please leave the question in a blog comment and Andy would be happy to answer it. It keeps him occupied and allow us to learn about the system.

Also, for his friends, he would LOVE to get pictures of anything, so if you have his address, please send them to him, or if you would like to email them to the blog editor, you can do that and he will print out the pics and mail them to him.

He is now attending the class he must take before his release, and he will mention the journal entry memo they discussed that day in class.

Even if you don't know Andy, feel free to comment on his blog entries, which he gets and will respond to.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MY LAST BLOG ENTRY FROM PRISON??

Is there such a term as “comedically painful”?  It would sort of be the emotional equivalent of hitting your funny bone, I guess.  If it doesn’t exist I’d like credit for coining it, because right now, my situation symbolizes it to a tee.  I don’t necessarily want to say I’m having bad luck, but jeez, are there any other scenarios in here that I could end up getting delayed or “picked last” on?

So here’s the scoop now.  It’s early Wednesday evening and of course  I’m still here.  A released date has not yet been scheduled for me.  There are a couple of other people from my class who have already gone home, and their calendar situations were identical to mine.  I should have expected this delay, as it certainly seems to be par for the course.  Five months for a parole answer, the lockdown costing at least 2 weeks, and now, having to go into my 5th and 6th weeks of waiting since finishing the class.  Funny, funny, funny!  I hope by the time you’re reading this, that I’m home, but who knows?
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  My mind has been changing gears.  I haven’t meant to neglect my friends and readers, but it’s been so difficult lately to come up with ideas to discuss.  Hopefully, this letter will get you completely up to date.


Since my class concluded, I’ve just been plodding along and passing time here as effortlessly as I know how.  I’d say that it has moved rather quickly.

For the most part, the weather has been decent, and I’ve been able to get outside 3 times a day to exercise. However, last week we were not spared from the cold and snow that swept through.  The snow and ice hit here very early last Tuesday morning.  By 4 am there was about 5 inches of snow on the ground.  I think the temperature dipped to a low in the negative single digits over the next four days.  The snow didn’t really start melting away until Saturday, but even now, some of the drifts are still here.   Again, very early this morning, the temperatures dipped and it snowed again.  I don’t know what amount it snowed this second go round, but it was enough to accumulate on the ground.  

Last week the entire unit here pretty much shut down except for the cafeteria. Today everything remained open.  The wind was blowing today at a constant gale force and being outside was absolutely miserable.  In my ongoing self-campaign of Andy vs. Prison, I have maintained my pact to never wear my jacket.  I seriously reconsidered this game today, but I ultimately prevailed.  I’m really hoping this is the last bit of North Pole weather that invades before I leave.

Super Bowl here was somewhat of a bust.  Due to the fact the weather closed down the unit for 4 days, we were unable to go to commissary.  This meant that just about no one had extra food and snacks to cook and eat during the game.  This took a lot of pleasure out of the excitement of the game day, and didn’t help my mood at all, but what can you do?  I did watch the entire game closely.  I probably watched it closer than I’ve ever watched a Super Bowl before, so it turned out to be a good day.  

I was glad Green Bay won, but it  wouldn’t have mattered much to me if it had gone the other way.  I didn’t feel as though I had a horse in the race.  One funny thing that I did see on ESPN just yesterday is that the Cowboys have the 3rd best odds of winning next year’s Super Bowl at 8 to 1.  LOL!  I’ll  book any takers on that right now with no hesitations.


I didn’t think of it until just this second, but the Super Bowl was the first big event that I have double missed because of spending over a year in here.  Valentine’s Day was the second.  I still remember my feelings last year at this time when I was still in county jail.  Needless to say, I’m in a far better position now.  Missing these two events this year is really of no consequence.  I would have much rather been at home, but I’ll be just fine here enduring it for a week or two more, if needed.

Right now, someone here in this dorm is getting the living daylights beat out of him.  It’s happening in the 3rd floor dayroom, and I’m in the 2nd floor dayroom.  I can’t see anything that’s going on, but I can hear it.  I think the very abbreviated version of this story is that some guy was caught stealing and is now getting “D’ed Up”.  “D” stands for discipline.  Stealing amongst inmates is completely not tolerated.  It’s rare that something is stolen and even harder to actually catch the thief, but the consequences are grave for the accused if it does happen.  

I’ll find out the details a little later, but most likely, the thief upstairs just got attacked by three white, black, and Spanish guys at the same time.  He was probably beat to the point of needing to go to the hospital. The reason that all races beat him was to hopefully, take all racial tensions out of the situation.  The thief in this case, is black, but that doesn’t change the racial balance of the “D’ers”.  If the thief happens to ‘survive’ his punishment, he will either be transferred off this unit by the staff, or he will have to check himself into PC (protective custody).  If he doesn’t do this, he will get beat up again.  No other inmates in here want to live with a known prison thief.  PC means that he would be locked in a cell by himself and would be isolated from the other inmates for his own safety.


On another note, my hair is too long.  I’ve been refraining from getting it cut over the last 10 days in here so that I could get a good professional haircut as soon as I got out.  Darn it, now I don’t know if I can tolerate it for another week.  It drives me absolutely mad when my hair is too long.  I’m sure everyone reading this really wanted to know this tidbit of info.  I’m sure you’ll sleep better now.  You’re welcome.

Quite some time ago, I told you about a guy in here named Mike who had become engaged to a lady he met while he was in prison.  Well, today he received word that he was denied release to mandatory supervision.  To those of you not too familiar with parole terminology, he was, in essence, denied parole and will be locked up at least one more year.  I won’t go into my thoughts on the whole situation, but I will say that the parole board’s decision does not surprise me.  However, on a personal level, I feel bad that Mike will not be released.


I went to medical last week to find that my blood pressure was still normal and my weight was 191pounds.  I’m looking forward to getting out of here in order to proceed past this fitness plateau I’ve reached.  It has become obvious that the exercise clothing I have in here limits what I can do when it’s cold outside.  It‘s also apparent that the boredom of doing body weight only exercises indoors has become overly agonizing.  I’ll feel like a new man as soon as I’m back in some decent clothing and shoes, and have some basic equipment to use.  I haven’t been able to run as much lately, but I don’t think it has affected my ‘marathonability’ too much.  I’m still very comfortable in my thought that I could run a marathon, with limited fine tuning, as soon as I’m out.  I guess now, that March will be my month for a half marathon, and then I’ll go from there.  Maybe I can do one right around Spring Break time or so.

As I thought today of what I wanted my “first meal” to be when I’m out of here….a Japanese steakhouse dinner amongst friends sounded best.  This constantly changes, though, depending on the day and my mood.  It will be different by tomorrow, but the constant is that whatever the cuisine, being with my friends and family will really make it special.


I also want to see a chiropractor for a month or so as soon as I’m out.  Sleeping on a rock hard steel bed for a year has brought about a constant dull soreness.  I now want a lifetime membership at Massage Envy. Somehow or other, I am going to try to make time in my schedule to get massages on a regular basis from now on, if at all possible.  One right this second would be ideal, but I’ll just have to daydream about it now.
Later on tonight, I think I’m going to get out my Bass Pro Shops catalogue and make my complete wish list of all the fishing gear I want.  I’ve been meaning to so that for a couple of months, but I think I’m actually going to do it now.
The movie that I am watching right now is called “Wanted”.  It’s decent, so far.  I can’t remember the last time I actually sat still long enough in here to see an entire movie.  It’s been months.  At my last commissary visit, I bought a few souvenirs to bring home.  I think all of my friends should get a pretty good kick out of them.  Then we can sell them on Ebay and apply the funds to the Memorial Weekend party!

Hopefully, this will be my last submission to the blog from behind the walls.  If all goes normally, it will be.   I just turned in my commissary order for next week, and I anticipate that I won’t be doing that again, either.

Wow, what a trip this has been!  I appreciate so much that all of you have helped me through it.  Through the year, I have learned more than I ever imagined I would, and I look forward to sharing my experiences with all of you soon.  Thanks again.  Hopefully I’ll talk to many of you in person soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

WILL I MAKE IT HOME IN TIME TO SEE THE SUPERBOWL?

(Editor's Note - This blog entry sounds as if it was written prior to the last one....I'm not sure if the mail got held up or what....but if it seems confusing, that is the reason.)

Today's Discussion Topics “History teaches us there is no substitute for the family, if we are to have a society”, “Things that matter the most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least,” “Your child’s self esteem is in your hands," “The home is the nursery school of violence, not the streets. Disagreeing or fighting is not abuse. You can be angry with one another without being abusive.”

Well, we’re back in escuela today. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing has been thrown askew, and that I’m still on track to be submitted at the end of this week.  I’m not sure exactly what’s on tap for this week back in the dorm. I know there are bowl games every day except for Wednesday.

My teacher here in class just came around the classroom and let a several guys know that she’d be submitting us at the end of the week. She confirmed to me that I would be getting submitted. Needless to say, it was very comforting to receive that news. I’m sure it will be even better once that actually has been done.

We’re watching a film in class today called “Bad Dads” and it is narrated by George Foreman. For some reason, I find that to be hilarious.

Funny thing. I found out yesterday that the riot that we had here in the newspaperr. Sweet! I’m famous now. The riot went down on the night of December 17th so check the online versions of the newspapers on the 18th and 19th to read all about it if you are interested.

I understand that Clay has already left a response on the blog site. Glad to have you Clay, but get off the silly computer and start playing our game. The stakes are high and you’re going to need all the head start you can get!

I’ve been sleeping a little more comfortably each night. I’ve perfected my pillow with some creative textiling to the point where it’s pretty much a regular pillow. This is a far cry from the ‘hard as a rock’ standard issue thing that is passed out! I’ve also managed to make my bed a lot more cushiony. It’s not a Tempur-Pedic, but we’re heading that direction. I’ve started having weird dreams. My dreams in the real world are generally random, so I guess crazy dreams in here are hitting spot on. I think I’ll record the subject of each dream in the little daily journal I keep. Wait. Don’t know, maybe not ….it’s a little creepy.

It’s getting late again, so before I say good night, here’s to…. good dreams for everyone.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

COUNTDOWN TO RELEASE

Class Discussion Topics for this week:

“Open minds are always the most tolerant and the most violent.”


“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

“Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”


I’ve finally signed the final roster here in my class, so I guess it’s official that my teacher will submit my paperwork today. What a relief! I feel like it’s merely just a countdown now to the time when I’ll get out of here.

As I write to you now, I am in the last week of school.  It is a full week, but it is a mere formality. Overall, the class has been a very positive experience and definitely helped to pass the time quickly. That being said, it feels great to know that the last step prior to just ‘waiting’, is now over. Last week began my release process, so it’s just a countdown from here on out. I have heard conflicting stories on my projected release date. Back in September, the parole board informed me that I would be released sometime during the month of January. However, as you know, the Christmas holidays interfered with my class time. I started the class 10 days earlier than expected (Sept. 20, as opposed to October 1), but I’m not sure if that will offset the holidays or not. I telling myself that I’m going home before the end of January, but that’s not much more than my usual wishful thinking. I don’t think it will be any later than February 11th though. We’ll all know soon. Anyway you look at it, I’m down to under a month. Fan…tastic!

This was a good year for college football.  I'm thinking the Aggies should be strong next season, so I guess I’ll start to look forward to September 2011.

Can someone please look up and report back to me what laws dictate concerning American felons entering Canada to visit and/ or reside?


The weather here has been very cold over the last several days. Lows have been near 17 degrees. I think it’s supposed to begin warming up later today and get into the mid 60’s by the end of the weekend. I’ve still been able to get outside to exercise, but not for the duration I’d like. I’m hoping to change up my workout schedule starting tomorrow and hit it hard for my remaining time.


I find myself very excited about my release, but I’m trying to be patient and not get too antsy, because the next week or two could end up really dragging for me. Thanks again to everyone for continuing to follow along with me and read the blog. Can't believe it's been over a year! Can you believe it?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ITS OFFICIALLY BEEN A YEAR...HOW TIME FLIES! RESPONSES TO COMMENTS

Responses to comments

Eddie C.  My desire to tackle you right now may be at an all time high. I’d be cautious if I were you .There’s not much for me to concentrate on as far as getting out goes. All of that is beyond my control and just a matter of time ticking by on a clock at this point. It’s a struggle to remind myself on a more than once daily basis that I’m still in prison, and I need to make my own security paramount, but I think I’m still doing a good job of it. I don’t want anything to interfere in a negative way down this homestretch, but there is only so much I can do to actively think about it or control it before it becomes counterproductive to do so. I’ve decided to run a ‘homegrown half marathon’ almost immediately after getting out. I’m gonna have Dad drop Tank and me off 13 miles away from his house and we’ll run back together. (Tank is a chocolate lab.) I’ll do an official full marathon soon after I’ve been out long enough to schedule something.

If we could get that guy Kevin on the Jerry Springer show to wrestle a midget stripper, it would be awesome.



Marcs’ Queen Thanks so much for continuing to keep track of me on here. The guys here on this unit all get their shortway answers about 3-4 weeks before the projected release date. I’m not sure what sort of time frame you’re working with, but hopefully, you’ll have some good news soon. I can’t remember the specifics of your situation, but knowing that your husband is waiting for a shortway answer again, pretty much says enough. I realize it’s very stressful to wait. Obviously, “Discretionary Mandatory Supervision” is an oxymoron, when compared to how the term was used before 1996, but it’s all just semantics.

[This may be a good spot for the moderator to explain how Mandatory Supervision works. I’ll skip it for the time being.]

I agree that the effects of waiting on a shortway answer are debilitating to the average inmate, but that is just another facet of our punishment, I feel. What I think is unfortunate, is the effect it has on the families of the inmates.

In hindsight, Kevin does appear to be quite a piece of work, but if you could see him, you’d realize that there is no legitimate chance of him physically harming anyone. The dude was just too scrawny. He may have been able to bug someone to death, but that would be about the extent of it.

MamaB  I think that your son will have his answer by now. I really hope it’s good news. I understand that he was recently transferred here. Small world, huh?

It’s unfortunate he has to endure this lockdown after just getting here. However, once it’s over, and he has a couple of weeks to get used to the place, he ought to be much happier that he was at Holliday Unit. One big difference here is how disrespectful a lot of the younger inmates are. It takes a while to get used to all the mouthing to the guards, all the stealing from the cafeteria, and all the cutting in lines. Once he reconciles this in his mind, he’ll be ‘good to go’. It won’t take too long. He’ll love the fact that he will no longer be behind any locked doors!

Another friend of mine in here, also named Mike (gee, there are a lot of Mikes) has a shortway date at the beginning of March and does not agree with your analysis of FY-anything versus an unpredictable shortway answer. I asked him if he would swap his situation for an assured release in 6 months and he said, “No”. He is serving a 2 year sentence for intoxication assault on his 3rd DWI. Just food for thought. This is the pattern I can see for shortway votes. There are only two groups that are denied their shortways on 2 year sentences, so long as they have no prior TDCJ sentences in their pasts. These are DWI and burglary cases. I only know one case of a 2 year DWI guy ever being denied and he was obviously, the exception. I haven’t seen anyone denied their shortway any longer than a 2 year sentence, as long as they had no previous TDCJ record. I can’t say I’ve noticed a pattern on shortway answers here for the inmates with prior TDCJ answers. I think most of them are denied their shortways on 2 year sentences, but beyond that, all bets are off, and I think it goes on a case by case basis. There are several guys in my dorm who have long records and 5+ year sentences. They have all recently been denied their shortways.

Young guys in here on drug charges are getting a lot of FI-1 and FI-3 answers on their first parole votes when serving 2 and 3 year terms. Almost all ages are getting FI-1’s and FI-3’s on their second parole votes when serving 4 and 5 year sentences for just about any charges, as long as they don’t have a huge background.

My bad on attacking your fishing knowledge! Maybe you should start signing on as Bill Dance, rather than MamaB. I know very little about saltwater fishing and my ignorance surfaced. Thanks for setting me straight. Did you end up catching any fish?

Anonymous - Another Michael here, huh? I wonder if I know him. I wish the best for you and your family.

Mom of Texas Magnum - I guess any new advice I’d have about intake now, is a little too late. Sorry about that, but I’m very happy that you found this site and I’m even happier that it alleviated your fears, if even just a little. The prison experience is a textbook example of “fear of the unknown”. It is also a common thought of mine and my friends in here that our families on the outside are under more strain than we are, because of all the unknowns they experience. Just know that what you are imagining is worse than the reality of the situation, and that your son will be able to make informed and conscious choices on how he chooses to do his time. Great for him that he is writing a blog. It will really help to pass the time for him, and I’m looking forward to reading it when I get out or when someone mails me a copy. Best of continued luck.

MamaB - Thanks for all the drug stats. I’m going to take them to class with me when we return after the first of the year. Sea Biscuit is awesome. Thanks for forwarding the pictures. I enjoyed them.

The rooms here are all AC’d and heated so we have blankets year round. We were issued a seasonal heavy coat a little over a month ago, but it hasn’t been cold enough to even wear it yet.

My dog, Tank, became really sick when he was a year old. I think he ended up spending about 10 days in the hospital and the cause of his illness was never diagnosed. He completely stopped eating and had to be fed through an IV. Seems to me he was only a few days away from death, but he all of a sudden rebounded, and is now one big, hard-headed, in-shape lab. I hope you dog pulls through, and has already gotten stronger. Please keep me up to date.

Walkman type radios are for sale on commissary. Night table alarm clock style radios are common here, but they are all brought in from other units. On non-transfer units, table radios and fans can be bought from commissary. Inmates bring them along to MW when they transfer here from one of these units. When these inmates leave to go home, they let their radios and fans stay behind or they may chose to sell them sooner. A radio sells for about $15 and a fan sells for about $5. Payment is made using items purchased on commissary. For your reading pleasure, let me also note that a cell phone call in here costs $1.50 and K2 and other smoking products can be purchased, but I’m not sure of the costs.

Commissary is much better here than in the transfer facilities. The items are a little more expensive, but there is a wider variety. We go to commissary on the same day each and every week, and it is very possible to keep your locker well stocked with healthy foods, sweets, or a combination of the two.

The cafeteria food here is seems to be indeed turkey based, but truthfully, I really don’t know what that means in layman’s terms. It looks to me like we eat turkey, ham, cheap hamburgers, and some other mystery items. The portions are decent and for the most part we get some sort of desert or sweet item each day. The cafeteria at the intake unit had no windows and you had a limited amount of time to eat your meal. Here, the cafeteria is open and well lit and we have a reasonably unlimited amount of time to eat. About the hot plate…it’s actually a hot pot. This is merely a pot to heat water in for Ramen noodle soups, coffee, and a few other items that are made with hot water. They can be purchased from the commissary for $25. I was on 2 different units and the commissary lists were close to identical. The one here at the CCA run unit is much different, but carries the same type of things. There is a larger variety of clothes to purchase here and it is rare when an item on our commissary list is not in stock. All of this sums up to make the commissary here far superior than a commissary.

The temperature in the dorms here is what it would probably be in yours at home. I wear shorts and a T-shirt 100% of the time when I’m inside. The most I’ve needed outside so far, has been a sweatshirt underneath the normal prison issue uniform. Cloth gloves can be purchased on commissary and I wear a pair when I run early in the morning. Toboggan style hats can be bought ‘off the street’ for $2-$3, or can be made by certain ‘sewing enabled’ inmates in here for about the same cost.

Thanks for everyone’s ongoing interest and support. I hope you all had a great holiday season. I’ll talk to you soon.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2 WEEK LOCKDOWN

Hello everyone.  I know it's been quite a while since I’ve written you and I'm sorry about that.  My motivation to write has been at a near zero level for the last couple of weeks.  I can’t explain exactly why, but, as I’ve described before, perhaps it is mainly just the feeling of being out of material to write about.
 
I hope everyone got all their Christmas shopping done......I know I always put it off until the last minute.  This may be the first and only time over the last year, that I prefer my spot over yours. LOL!  Needless to say, I do not list shopping for gifts on my top 10 list of fun activities. Best of luck to you and I hope it all turned out well.  I also hope Santa brings everyone exactly what they want.

We’ve been on this lockdown here for the past 12 days.  My dorm is completely confined to itself.  I cannot leave the front door barrier of my dorm.  The dorm consists of 3 floors with activity rooms on floors 2 and 3.  Usually, I am able to traverse the floors, spend time in the activity rooms and spend time in other inmates’ rooms if I choose.  Generally, the television in each activity room is on from 8am through 11pm.  The showers and laundry rooms are open from 8am-5pm.  All of this isn’t really too bad.  It’s definitely much better than a county jail situation.  I’ve been outside twice during the lockdown.  

My dad and cousin visited this past weekend, so I walked from my dorm to the visitation center.  Also, last Thursday, during the ‘shakedown’ portion of the lockdown, I walked from my dorm to the chapel which is probably a few hundred yards away. The ‘shakedown’ is the main purpose of the whole lockdown.  It’s meant to find and ‘shake loose’ all for the contraband that has accumulated over the months.  There are 2 of these per year.  I arrived here just after the first one was completed.

Basically, in the ‘shakedown’, everyone bags up all their belongings and carries them out of the dorm to another area.  At this area the items are searched and, in theory, all contraband is discarded.  Notice I say in theory.  Most of the ‘good’ contraband is never discarded.  However, there are a few reasons for this.  Number one, the guards conducting the searches in here are tired and overworked and simply don’t want to deal with the paperwork necessary to confiscate an inmate’s property.  Second, the system here is borderline corrupt.  Equate the governings here to the Louisiana political machine.  On the surface, it’s all good, but the shadiness is not far below the surface. That being said, most of the ‘good contraband’ gets by (radios, fans, watches, sunglasses).  
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most of the drugs and tobacco are consumed prior to the shakedown, and the cell phones are hidden.  When the inmates leave their dorms to walk to the chapel shakedown area, a team of guards enters the dorm to perform an exhaustive search for contraband.  I really think that the vastness of these buildings is too overwhelming to find anything that is truly hidden well.  That may seem like somewhat of an outlandish claim, but you must remember that inmates live in these dorms and are exposed to 24/7 concealment opportunities. It’s amazing how creative the human mind becomes when given time and motivation!
On the bright side, the shakedown purges loads and loads of trash and does make the dorm feel fresher.  That’s definitely a plus!

So, that’s the lowdown on the lockdown.  I think we were supposed to be off of it by Christmas morning, but on the other night there was a big ol’ fight in one or more of the dorms.  I think the guards classify it as a riot, although it had nothing to do with a riot against the prison, as it was simply a bunch of Mexican gang guys fighting with a bunch of black gang guys.  When I say a bunch, I really do mean a pretty large number of people to be fighting with one another at one time.  I know that very early the next morning, about 55 guys were bussed out of this unit and back into TDCJ care because they had been involved in the fight. I think most of these guys were Mexican. 

From the information I can piece together about the whole incident, I think some black guys got the best of some Mexican guys first. Then, the Mexican guys started running throughout the Northside dorms to gather more troops.  Once the Mexican guys had regrouped and were about to whip the black guys, the guards here were able to cordon off the Mexican guys in one section outside and then get the situation under control.  I guess, all in all, there were about 75 - 80 guys involved.  I think those numbers would constitute a large fistacuffs in just about any setting other than a war.

What does all of this mean for me? The lockdown continues!  For most of the day yesterday, we were confined mostly to our rooms.  Mid afternoon yesterday brought back the ‘normal’ lockdown protocol where we could once again leave out rooms and roam the dorm.  Oh, I’ll remind you that all of the meals we are served during the lockdown are cold, brown paper bag, to-go style meals, consisting mainly of sandwiches.  I can tell you for certain that I have currently had my last 35 meals served to me in a paper sack.  It’s really kind of funny if you think about it.  I wonder what the world record for incessant sack lunches is.  But hey, it’s better than 35 meals of bread and water!

I don’t know how much longer this portion of the lockdown will last.  It could only be a couple more days, or it could last for a couple of weeks.  I’m pretty sure it won’t last long enough to interfere with my class starting back up on January 3rd, but geez, there’s no telling. I’ve been exercising inside and I can tell that I’ll have a reinvigorated approach to my outdoor workout routine as soon as we are allowed to go back outside.

The visit with my dad and my cousin was very nice, but I think there was less to talk about than in prior visits. We once again affirmed that it would be our last visit before I was released.  I remember that Dad and I had the same discussion back in August when I felt I’d be getting out much sooner.  We joked that it was nice to know, this time, that our next planned meeting at my release was a done deal.  All my dogs are still doing OK at his place, and I think it was determined that my ceremonial first round of golf would be played at a sprawling Country Club.  I did forewarn Dad that the day I am released we’d probably need to stop at a store on the way home to buy some blue jeans.
 
During the lockdown we continue to receive postal mail. Last Friday, I received the most recent round of blog comments.  I’m going to start working on those replies next.  I’m down to only 2 or 3 more envelopes, so I’m not sure when I will mail this letter out.  Commissary does not run during lockdown, so my postage supply is limited to my inventory on hand.

One last thing…. I’m actually reading an economics book right now that I’m finding very informative.  It was penned after our current recession began, and it addresses many of the current issues going on in the US and the world right now.  I can’t remember the exact long title right now, but I’ll report back when I am finished.

Now, I will end this letter to begin working on the responses to your comments, which I continue to enjoy reading and always appreciate. Have a wonderful Christmas season and a fabulous New Year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS

So here’s the scoop as I see it:  I now have completed over 140 hours of the class, and I need to complete 165 before my teacher is able to submit my paperwork to the parole board.  If you’ll recall, this submission will begin the final phase of my release.  Once this submission occurs, it will take about 4 weeks for me to be released.  Now, back to the hours.  By doing the math, I hope to get to 165 hours by the end of December. I will obtain slightly more than 3 hours per day for the remainder of the days I attend class.  

This scenario would be great.  It means that I would complete enough class time to be submitted by the time school lets out for Christmas vacation. I would have my paperwork submitted to the parole board in December and, therefore, be released to go home by the end of January.

Now, for the downside to all of this:  It is projected that this unit will undergo a total ‘lockdown’ sometime during the month of December.  A lockdown is basically a shutdown of the entire unit, everyone must stay in the dorms, and there is no school.

The coming lockdown will probably be for 10 days.  There are two things that could happen concerning the specific timing of the lockdown.  If the lockdown starts before I reach 165 hours, then it will cause a big delay in my paperwork being submitted to the board.

In summary, if the lockdown starts before I get my hours completed, there is a good chance I wouldn’t finish up until possibly mid January, and, therefore would obviously not be released until mid February.

Of course I’m really hoping that the lockdown won’t interfere with the timing of my release.  It won’t seem quite fair that I had to wait 5 months for my parole answer, and now a week and a half lockdown delay might cause me to be locked up for an entire extra month.  I’m not sure what ultimate discretion my teacher has in possibly submitting my paper work to the parole board a bit early, but I’m maintaining crossed fingers that she does.

Does all of this make sense?  It would be nice to be on the same page with all of you over these next few weeks until I come home.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

WHY DO ENERGETIC KIDS GET NAPS, BUT TIRED ADULTS WHO COULD ACTUALLY USE THEM, DON'T GET THEM?

Discussion topic from class... “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

Go Aggies! Amazing that they finished tied for first place, but don't get to play in the Big 12 Championship, despite beating the two teams who DO get to play in it (who they finished tied with.)  Gotta love the BCS, where your preseason ranking, if too low, hurts you. Shouldn't a tiebreaker for the opportunity to play in the championship consider head to head matchups and not a bunch of polls, where the majority of voters probably don't even know that A&M beat Nebraska AND Oklahoma?

My mom came up for a visit on Saturday morning.  It was the first time I’d seen her since last February, and it was definitely a very positive experience for me.  I’m pretty sure my mom enjoyed it, also.  We didn’t talk much about the whole prison aspect of my current life.   We mainly discussed what was going to be happening in my life when I’m out.  We sort of skipped the part about what I’d do immediately after I leave here.  I think we’ve realized that part will, pretty much, fall into place as needed, regardless of any planning.  I guess our focus was more on what my outlook is for the few months after I go home.  We were far from solving the problems that possibly lie ahead, but I think we both walked away with a much clearer appreciation of one another’s expectations.

Visiting with my mom will definitely help to make the remainder of my time here less difficult.  I’m expecting to see my dad one more time later on this month. That will be the final time visit in here.  I still find it comforting to set specific dates to look forward to.  Taking this whole thing in smaller intervals has helped me out tremendously.  And...my time...is getting ...shorter.

I was thinking yesterday evening as I was running about, just how to best cope with my remaining time here.  I’ve already come to the conclusion that once I get out of here, I will reflect back on this time and wish I would have made better use of my opportunities in here.  I’m afraid that I am so excited and ready to go home, that I’m going to overlook accomplishing things in here that I need to get done.  As an example of what I’m referring to, let me offer naps in kindergarten.   

Back when we were all mandated to take naps in kindergarten, naptime always seemed to unnecessary, and I really had no clue of the reasoning behind the forced rests.  Now…. oh, how I would love to gain those daily naps back!   Are you with me here?  How nice would it be to take a siesta during the middle of each workday? The point here, is that during kindergarten, I did not optimize naptime.  At this time in my life, it would now be great to have it back on a daily basis.

I don’t want to have the same kinds of thoughts about my last month and a half here in this prison.  This time in here is probably the most stress free living I will have for the rest of my entire life.  I’m so ready to be home that I fear I will miss out on this wonderful ‘lack of stress’ hand that I have been dealt.

You’re probably thinking at this point that I’ve lost my mind (which is a valid thought, but a topic for another time).   Bear with me. I’m only trying to control something that I have input into. I’m here until January.  That’s a done deal.  What’s up in the air is how I will use the time I have left in here to better myself. It will also be important for me to be able to reflect back on this time and know that it was not wasted. 

That may be more important than anything else.  I need to be able to be out of this place and look back on the entire experience that I undertook, knowing that it was invaluable in teaching me new lessons.  If  I am able to do this, then I will honestly be able to look at myself in the mirror  and know that I haven’t wasted a year of my life and that I learned valuable lessons that many people won’t ever realize until much later in their lives (if ever at all).

So, there you have it.  Those are my philosophical thoughts for the day. Now, I refuse to let the next 6-8 weeks pass meaninglessly by. With that being said, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  It’s naptime.

Monday, November 22, 2010

RESPONSES TO BLOG COMMENTS FROM READERS

Responses to some comments...
Hopelessly Hopeful - I see what you mean.  #25 which basically says it’s not alright to physically assault anyone, should be subjective.  Pretty much, it should pertain to everyone else other than myself.  LOL!

Shane  - Mo-peds have feelings too, and I saved your tail from going to jail that night.  (Even though, I did goad you into your ‘crime’ in the first place.)  I’ll never forget that episode…ever.  Save the mopeds!

MamaB  - You have to give Shane a little leeway sometimes….thanks!   You’re correct in your assessment of the physical assault entry #25.  It’s definitely only going to work if both parties agree.  If one person doesn’t subscribe to that adage, then they are going to have a little advantage over someone who just stands there as a punching bag. #25 may be too idealistic.
     Does this mean that the official verdict is still out on Knight Rider?
     I plan on videoing my first nunchuck deer kill and posting it on this blog and on You-tube.  It will go viral and then I’ll be assailed by a mess of animal rights activists.  I hope they adhere to Journal #25.
     Thanks for all the Zodiac Killer, Speck, and Van der Sloot info.  I’ll bring it up in my class next week.
      BTW -  I saw a recipe and pictures of pumpkin pancakes in my Men’s Health magazine earlier today.  Sooo...delicious looking!

Eddie C  - From the context you were given, I understand your thoughts about a bunch of inmates talking about ‘Dancing with the Stars’.  Let me clarify by saying that our female teacher always recaps the previous night’s show for about 5 minutes before we start our actual lessons.  So cut us some slack.  We are sort of a captive audience for her.  I plan on making you eat dirt again the next time I see you.  You will like it!
      Did you spend the entire 69 days in the mine with the other Chileans?  I sort of had a feeling when we were growing up that you would someday become a Chilean miner.

MamaB  - Once I get out I will give everyone a full report on hunting, muzzleloaders, firearms, etc.  I have promised several guys in here that I’d pass along the information to them, too.  My class is still enjoyable.   What does your son say about his Changes class?  Like you mentioned, it will, at a minimum, help him pass the time.

Shane  -  Stop being so politically correct and trying to CYA with your post entry disclaimers. I feel you are scared.  I also think that you truly did intend to insult Eddie and probably wanted to make him cry.  Poor Eddie.  Also, I must take issue with you calling out Jeff about your lack of lake invites.  You’ve had a blanket invitation for probably the last 5 years and you have come once…I think.  Poor showing. The Summer of 2011 needs to be the Summer of Shane!

Jeff B  - Memorial Weekend 2011 is approaching.  Be prepared!

Brad J -  What’s going on, Brad?  How terrific to hear from you!  I promise I’m not making this up.  Less than 2 weeks ago, I told a friend of mine in here the story about your “rubbing shoulder blades” during our freshman year at Travis.  Shane might want to chime in at this time because I know he is ROFL.  Now that we have this wonderful blog as a forum to discuss your condition in detail, it would be great if you could explain the biomechanics of just how in the heck your blades managed to rub.  Sorry……
     It is nice to hear from you and I appreciate your input and concern.  I, too, am very ready to get out of this place.  I wasn’t aware that genetics influenced abs, but I guess it makes sense.  Getting plenty of water in here is easy and I drink a lot every single day.  It is impossible for me to get a lemon or lemon juice in here.  My salt intake in here is so high that I think it is probably useless to try and do anything to expunge the excess sodium.  I am looking forward to trying what you suggest as soon as I’m out.  I know I’ll be able to drastically reduce my sodium levels almost instantly.  I don’t intake a lot of sugar in here, but the cafeteria inundates all of our meals with starch and it’s nearly impossible to avoid it.  That’s another thing that I’ll be able to change just as soon as I’m out.   I do eat a lot of peanut butter, but overall, I’m not able to intake as much protein as I need.
      So I guess in conclusion, based on what you have said, I am coming pretty close to maximizing my workout potential based on the conditions that are present in here.  I’ve found that I have so much time to exercise, that it’s tough to combat the monotony and boredom.  I think I have about 8 more weeks here, and I’m just mentally struggling to trod through the first 4 of the 8.  Once I’m only a month away from leaving, it will be easier for me to stay focused and motivated.  The moral of this story is that I’m pretty determined to walk out of here perfectly primed to extend and tweak my workouts for the optimum benefits.  The 6 pack will be there by the end of January, or not.  Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you soon.  Please slap Shane on the back for me….hard.


Marc’s Queen - Thanks for helping me with my questions.  It really is crazy how much I miss internet access.  I can’t wait to be back to normal.  It takes a full month in here to accomplish what might take merely 5 ‘normal’ minutes in the free world.
     Here’s what I know to be fact about firearms and hunting.  There is nothing illegal about hunting.  As Jeff suggested, I could go after a deer with nunchucks, and it would be all good.  As you alluded to in your transcription of the “Felons and Firearms” law, it is unlawful for me to possess a firearm.  This is very clear.  However, the confusion begins as other laws define “firearm”.  A seemingly simple word creates much ambiguity, and this is what I will need to research in greater detail.  Thank you again.




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

OUR CLASS WILL NOW RESPOND TO BLOG COMMENTS

Class discussion topic for today...“The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.” 
 
Today the teacher of my course let me know that she had taken a look at our site, so let me welcome her to our discussions.  Together we tried to briefly explain to our class the purpose and content of the last ten months of this blog, and suggested that I might want to share blog comments with the class and possibly obtain questions from the class to ask all you readers. I think this is a great idea that may help us refocus our agenda here and make the blog more interesting and sustainable.  (I’m not sure about you, but I have definitely found it much harder to be creative in my writing recently. ) Please offer your suggestions and/or questions.

Maybe knowing the topics will help you think of some questions.  The study topics that remain during my expected stay are: 1) Re-entry into Society, 2) Personal Development,
3) Interpersonal Relationships, 4) Civil/Legal Responsibilities.   

For background information, there are about 25 members of this class ranging in age from 19 to probably 50 years old.  All of us expect to be released within 4 months.  Some of us will go home at the beginning of December; others, who just started the class, might have a full 4 months until they get out.  There will be other people that will enter the class between now and the time I leave who are currently still awaiting their specific parole answers.

I received another round of your comments in the mail last night.  My mom had sent them out at the beginning of the week.  Thanks again for all the input here that you’ve kept up.  I still really appreciate it.  I took some time last night organizing all of the blog paperwork I’ve collected over the last 8 months.  Does that sound kind of funny to hear?  The “paperwork” part, I mean.  I’m guessing that I’m the only person who doesn’t view the blog via a computer screen.  As a side note....you have no idea how inconvenient the lack of a computer is!  I brought all my paperwork to class today and I’ll try to order it in a sensible fashion where I can share it with the class and receive some feedback.

A question that arose in class today is something we would like to pose to the readers here.  It concerns probation.  There are a lot of guys in here that have been placed on probation in the past.  It seems to us that probation is not a good solution to our criminal dilemmas.  There is a general feeling in here that probation is a recipe for failure.  Let me ask the questions directly:
1)  How many of you have been on probation in the past?
2)  Did you successfully complete your probation?
3)  Does probation make revenue for counties or does it cost counties money?
4)  Do you think probation is a viable rehabilitation tool?

Here are some things about probation that guys in here find fault with:
1)  It is too expensive for the offender.
2)  The impositions it directs onto the offenders are so limiting, on a time constraint level,   
that the offender often has a difficult time trying to maintain and hold down any normal job.
3)  Probation offers next to zero rehabilitation opportunities.
4)  When someone is placed on probation they usually make the decision to go on probation under duress.  The ramifications of not completing probation are almost never explained to an offender beforehand.

With regard to the financial aspect of this: Does it cost the state/county more to carry an offender on probation, or more to send them to jail?  In a nutshell, the experiences of many prisoners with probation is negative.  What percentage of offenders complete their probations?  Is there a better alternative to the way the current probation system is set up?

We will all be looking forward to your comments. Thank you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I RAN 20 MILES!

Todays class discussion topic “You can alter your life by altering your attitudes.”   Today we begin a new lesson titled “Release”.  I suppose it’s meant to teach about the upcoming transition to be undertaken; from being totally removed from the real world to functioning as a normal productive citizen.  This is probably a lesson that could have great psychological value if it were taught at a high level.  However, I have a feeling that it will only be a considerable amount of common sense indoctrination.  I’ll guess that there is a large emphasis placed on planning, goals, and making positive long term decisions.  Maybe I’m wrong, and I really won’t be in for 2 weeks or so of mere lip service.

Sorry, I’m not trying to start out the day in a negative manner.  I’m just thinking that there are many other places right now that I’d rather be other than here.   Imagine that!

 I can’t remember what time I woke up yesterday, but I think it was around 7am.  I then proceeded to stay in bed for the next 3 hours reading and relaxing.  It was marvelous, and I actually felt like I was on vacation from this place for a short time.  That was the first time I’ve stayed in bed that long since I’ve been in here.  I don’t want to make a habit of it, but it really was a pleasant change of pace.  There weren’t any huge football games on that I cared much about watching, so I just sort of casually watched the random games that were on television.

I ran just over 20 miles yesterday which was more than I thought was capable of.  I really wasn’t even too tired after all the running.  The pounding and wear on my knees and hips was the only problem.  I’m a little sore this morning, but it feels about the same as it did the day after I ran the 6 miles and then the 9 miles for the first time.  I’m thinking that the next time I run 20 miles it won’t be nearly as big of a deal and I won’t even get sore at all.  I’m also thinking that my goal of being able to complete the marathon by February 1st will be readily attainable.

I hear a cold front is coming into our area today, so this may be my first experience with some extended cooler weather here.  I’m not looking forward to it at all because, as you know from my many comments, the weather here, up to the current point, has been simply perfect.  We were talking about the weather yesterday, and pointed out that it would have been a textbook day for quail hunting.  It was cool enough to walk for an extended period without sweating, and there was just enough breeze and humidity to carry scent for the dogs, but not too much to make the dogs’ work sloppy.  It made me miss my dogs, and really made me want to be able to play with them.  Soon enough……I guess.

I wrote my teacher a brief letter today explaining this blog and giving her the URL.  I suggested she take a look at it and try to interactively incorporate it into our discussions during class.  I don’t know if there is a feasible way for everyone to mutually benefit from any interaction, but it certainly couldn’t hurt anything.  At a minimum, I think my teacher will take a look at what we’ve been doing this year and put some thought into how it could be used here in class.  I’ll let you know what she says about it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

Today's class topic: “There are two kinds of discontent in the world: the discontent that works and the discontent that wrings its hand. The first gets what it wants, and the second loses what it has.”

I spent some time yesterday doing some organizing and planning for the next couple of months.  I haven’t written down all my plans, but I did get a lot of bullet points down on my calendar.  Hopefully, this will steer me to the right spots from now until the time I go home.  

So, some of the goals, dates and deadlines I have for myself:
1) exercise and running goals  
2) dates that I’m expecting visits   
3) a few different dates for varying business planning time stamps  
4) the date that I need to have all of my customized text messages thought up.  I plan on sending individualized texts to most of you just as soon as I get my hands on my cell phone.  Humor will be my intention.

How interested was everyone in the World Series?  It was a pretty big deal around here.  I was hoping the series would go a full 7 games simply so there will be more entertainment for me in here.  Wouldn’t that be a great story if the Rangers were able to win after just being purchased by Nolan Ryan and his group of investors?  You couldn’t write a much better script. But oh well.

We just had a break for lunch and now we are back in class.  My clothes are a mess.  You’d think I was raised in a barn with the amount of food I accidentally spilled on myself.  Don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but there are no napkins here ever unless we sneak a bit of paper towel into the dining hall.  The single utensil we have to eat with is a disposable spork.  That’s one of those spoon things with the 3 fork barbs included.  The size and construction are like the cheap white plastic utensils we have all seen.  What a bummer!  That’s the only thing I’ve used to aid in eating for the last year.  When I finally get my hands on a steak knife, I may faint.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CON MAN RELEASED AND TRIES TO CON HIS ANOTHER INMATE'S FIANCE

Today's class journal entry topic...“The biggest mistake in the world is to think you are working for someone else.”

My creative talents have left me over the last few days.  I’m doing just fine, but I haven’t been too inspired to do much writing.  However, I did run a little over 13 miles yesterday so I guess I’m I half marathon range.  I have reset my running goal to be able to accomplish a marathon as soon as I get out of here.  That’s pretty much 3 months from now.  I don’t think I’ll have enough time at any one rec period in here to run 26 straight miles, but I’ll be ready as soon as I’m out.

I do have a funny story for you.  Remember Pin?  Turns out Pin is/was a con man.  He left and went home last Friday.  What I’m about to share with you now is 3rd hand information, but I have no reason not to trust it.  Bear with me while I set the stage.  

Pin was good friends with Mike, who is still here.  They had countless discussions concerning topics such as religion, parole, personal relationships, etc. Mike is the inmate with the fiancé who he met while in prison (that I told you about.)  Mike is very concerned about his pending parole decision this spring, and he had solicited advice from Pin.  

Yesterday,, Mike told me that Pin had already contacted Mike’s fiancé, trying to get $700 out of her that he told her he was going to use to retain a parole attorney for Mike.  Pin apparently blew the fiancé’s phone up for 2 days trying to expedite this deal.  Pin wanted the fiancé to conceal this info from Mike, so it would be a ‘surprise’ for him.  Also, Pin couldn’t allow the fiancé to speak with the supposed attorney in advance, because this $700 deal was only applicable if it was facilitated through Pin.  Pin even got confrontational and agitated with the fiancé when she raised red flags and became hesitant.  

The fiancé became bothered enough about her physical safety that she brought it up with a concerned nature to Mike last night.  I also found out through Mike and his fiancé, that Pin’s formerly pregnant (so he said) wife who had all but disappeared, was actually living in some sort of a shelter.  If you’ll recall, Pin’s wife was told to me to have a well paying job as a public school principal.   Pin’s real name is Kevin. So, Kevin, if you read this, I invite you to respond and please defend yourself or let all of us know what the true story is.  All of your explanations just don’t add up.