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.

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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WHAT IS WORSE FOR YOU? MARIJUANA OR CIGARETTES?

Today's class discussion topic:
“If we want to come to terms with addiction, we have to stop blaming drugs and start looking at ourselves to learn what makes us dependent.”  Addictions.  Ugh! I don’t think I have the energy to deal with all the druggies in this class and the comments that are sure to be flowing soon.  

My weekend went by quickly and well.  The weather here continues to be picturesque.  I visited with my dad for 2 hours on Saturday morning and filled up on all the junk food that is available from the vending machines in the visitation area.  I was wrong on my dates last week.  My dad’s high school reunion was this past weekend not the approaching weekend.  He drove a couple hours more northwest of here after our visit for the reunion.  Of course it was nice to see him.  This was the first visit I’d received since getting my parole answer.  I felt like we were both more relaxed.  I think having the definite release time has altered both of our attitudes about this whole process.  I can only hope that the attitudes of all of you that I haven’t seen in person are equally as inspired as my dad’s.

I was finally able to correctly finish the “USA Today” crossword puzzle.  Hooray for me.  Yesterday, I ran 9 miles.  For some reason we had a morning rec that lasted for about 3 hours and I think it took me about an hour and thirty-two minutes.  I don’t know if that’s good/bad or fast/slow, but it’s the farthest I’ve gone to date.  There is no doubt in my mind that I could run a half marathon right now.  I’m a little more tired today than normal, but I’m not sore.  My heels hurt a little, but I guess that’s to be expected with the awful shoes I wear while running in here.

Can someone please look this up on the internet and give me the results? What are the differences in smoking marijuana and smoking cigarettes?  What about doing marijuana in a way other than smoking?  Which is worse, etc, etc, etc?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU COME BACK AS IN YOUR NEXT LIFE IF YOU HAD TO CHOOSE?

Today's class discussion topics:
A) “He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot reason is a fool; and he who does not think is a slave”.  
B) “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise his will.”

Good morning to everyone.  My weekend is approaching and I am looking forward to it.  I’m pretty excited about watching some football. There are several good games tomorrow.  My dad is coming for a visit early tomorrow morning rather than next weekend.  It will definitely be nice to see him.  He’s planning on visiting with me and then driving on out further West to attend a high school reunion type of thing.  I think his class and maybe the classes around his all get together once a year.  I don’t think there is anything particularly special about this gathering.  It’s just an annual event now.  I also got some more pictures in the mail yesterday from my dad.  Most of them are of my dogs, so I was really happy to see them.  They’ll get added to my photo album later this evening.  Don’t forget.  Send me pictures if you can.  Anything you have will be appreciated.

I talked to my dad last night during our weekly conversation.  He told me that my “parole officer to be” had stopped by his place to verify the address and was approving my “parole plan”.  This is just a formality, but I didn’t think it would take place until a time closer to my release.  In any case, it was comforting to know that this step of the process is now complete.  FYI – the “parole plan” is nothing more than a place to parole to and the person(s) who reside there.  Parolees that do not have anyone to go live with must parole to a half-way house.

I was reading in yesterday’s newspaper about the new movie “Secretariat”.  I really want to see it.  I guess I’ll have to watch it on DVD when I’m out.  I loved the movie “Sea Biscuit”.  If I had to come back to earth as an animal, it would be Sea Biscuit.  What would you come back as?  If A.S. is reading this, I bet you are laughing aloud right now. (I am.)

I’ll be mailing off this blog entry on Monday morning.  I mail the blog postings to my mom along with the usual couple of personal letters to friends.  My mom then forwards the blog info and personal letters to the appropriate people.  (Thanks, Mom.)  I do this in order to conserve my envelopes.  Stamped envelopes here cost 48ȼ on commissary.  I can’t receive envelopes or stamps from the outside.  I try to conserve envelopes so that I can use my weekly commissary allotment to buy food and necessities.  We are limited to spending only $50.00 per week and, believe it or not, it is easy to go through that amount every seven days.  The $3 - $4 I save each week by consolidating letters to my mom is a significant amount that I use for the other stuff.  Trust me, when I say that $4 goes a great deal farther in here than it does in the real world.

Who all has been to a tailgate for at least one game this season?  Who all has plans to go soon?

The film we are watching in class today is a taping of one of Oprah’s “abuse” broadcasts.  It’s actually pretty interesting, so I think I’ll stop writing for now and pay attention to Oprah.  I’ll talk to you again soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

RESPONSES TO BLOG COMMENTS FROM READERS

Todays' class discussion topic  “You have succeeded in life when all you really want is all you really need.”

It’s Thursday morning and everything is still great here with me.  I think after today, I’m going to stop making that statement and you can simply assume that everything is OK with me unless I explain otherwise.I think I’ve just about reached the point where I genuinely am comfortable with enduring the remainder of my time here.  I think, up until recently, I’ve been tricking my mind into thinking positively, but now the thoughts are real.  I don’t know that there is anything that they can do here to deflate my spirits at this point.  Sure, some days may seem a little longer than others, but overall, I’m good to go until January.

Now to address some reader comments. We had some mail delays for a while but I think things are running more smoothly now so I should respond to your comments in a more timely fashion. Please keep any comments or questions coming!
Jeff B. – Thanks again.  Did you get all your boat issues resolved?  I’ll see you soon.

Christy – I was wondering where you wandered off to.  I’m glad to know you’re still around.  We’re under 3 months now, so just hang in there a little longer and try to have dreams of Water Moccasins.

Maria - The end is indeed very close.  I sent you a letter and I’m very excited to hear about your entire family coming to the U.S.A. next summer.   That’s awesome!  I’ll talk to you soon.

Marc’s Queen -  Thanks for keeping me in mind.  I still can’t believe it took 5 months for my answer.  I think I would have gotten my FI-3 if I would have been voted on back at the start of the summer and that would put me at home by now.  Oh, well.  It will all be finished soon.  Do you have a parole date soon for your family?   I will definitely continue the blog during my transition period once I’m released.

Shane -  I’m keeping up with football just fine.  Actually, I think I pay more attention to it in here than I did in the real world.  A&M is awful. The A&M/Texas game will end up being close this year.  There will be nothing at stake other than bragging rights.  I disagree with your take on the Texas/OU game.  OU controlled from start to finish.  The penalties would not have affected the outcome.  Also, I think it is an outright fabrication about your child being a running back.  It is genetically impossible for this to have occurred naturally.  There must have been some sort of mutation way back when.  Or maybe you’re paying the coach…


No, seriously, it sounds like your hands are completely full, and that both football players are doing well. That’s great to hear!  It does not surprise me at all to learn that you drank too much at the tailgate.  You are still a lightweight, but at least, you’re not giving up!  I think I know who just started working with you, but I thought she already worked there.  Did she just move to your department, or do they both work there now?  It’s a good thing we are in a family friendly environment, or I would have some very funny comments to share.  We’ll discuss it all later.  I’ll talk to you soon and we’ll do the mid-spring fishing trip as usual.

Frankie – Instead of wearing letters when I get out I have a better idea.  I will hire a tattoo artist and all of my friends can line up for identical Greek gang tats.  It will be great.  We’ll all put them in spots completely visible to the public and our employers.  I don’t think I own any more clothing with my fraternity letters.  The T-shirts finally wore completely out.   Wait, I just remembered some sweatshirts.  I do still have a couple.  How funny!

Eddie C – I suggest you increase the intensity of your workouts immediately, if you want to stand a chance in our battle.  Roses are red. Polar bears are white.  You should be ready…..to lose the fight.  I’ve had several people tell me that they had no knowledge of these gold coins.  I’m clueless, but I guess it’s obviously not that big of a deal.

MamaB – Hang in there for all the stories and gossip.  You gotta be quick and on your toes here.  A fear of frogs?  I can see that.  Personally, I have no problem with frogs, but I can see how the sliminess might make one queasy.  Out of the 8 people in my room, 4 have radios.  The radios are only supposed to operate through a set of headphones, but one guy has his rigged up to play aloud.  It’s on some R&B station that the blacks here seem to really like.  It is on literally 24/7 and is very annoying.  I would love to smash it; and there is a slim chance that I will.   All of the games that we usually care to watch are on television, so there isn’t any need for people to congregate at a radio.  I listen to satellite radio almost 100% of the time in the real world.  I didn’t realize just how inundated the waves are with the Spanish stations.  My radio doesn’t get good reception, so I ordered a ‘Walkman type’ radio from the commissary a couple of weeks ago.  It’s supposed to be here this week.  I am very ready to try it out and see if I can get some decent music while listening outside.
I have no idea if the parole board regularly convenes on Fridays.  I have a feeling they work a fairly normal schedule and therefore, work most Fridays.  I agree that fall is a great season.  The weather here is MW is just terrific.  I’m not used to these perfect days lasting for so long.  Houston doesn’t have a fall season anywhere near like this.  Do you by any chance have your ‘fall fishing run’ confused with the ‘spring spawn’?  It really doesn’t matter; it’s only semantics.  If you’re catching them, it’s all good!  The gold coin thing…I really think that the gold coins are accepted by the CO’s here in exchange for handy items like keys, hacksaws, and ropes.  However, right now I’d much prefer the coin with the chocolate inside to a hacksaw.  This Life Skills class really isn’t bad.  I’ve started bringing in newspaper articles and we are discussing those every few days along with our normal talks.
When are you expecting a parole answer?  A guy in my dorm that had been down 3 previous times went home about 10 days ago on an FI-1.  He had served about 22 months on a five year drug sentence and his was his second chance at parole.  Nearly all of the ‘rule following inmates’ here are making their 2nd parole, if they have a 4 or 5 year sentence.
  Does your son have a short way date or was his sentence aggravated?  I bet you get some good news pretty soon.  Thanks for your continued support and I really look forward to an update on your specific situation.  My two cents on whether or not to speak to a parole member on behalf of your son is 100% ‘yes’.  Definitely do it.  Through my unlimited time in here to mull over the decisions of the parole board and talk to countless inmates, I have drawn many of my own conclusions.  One thing that I am certain of, is that the parole board operates on a bell curve basis in determining who is paroled.  Let me try to explain.  Through studies, the board has arrived at specific ratios that are ideal with reference to parole rates.  These rates vary by offense severity and other factors.  Try to be open- minded when considering my next statement.  

It doesn’t matter how ‘perfect’ of a candidate an inmate is for parole.  The parole board, on a long term basis, must adhere to pseudo quotas.  A candidate for parole doesn’t have to be a model prisoner.  He only has to best the other candidates that are being reviewed by the board at or near the same time.  For example, let’s say the board paroles 50% of all inmates. That suggests that a successful parole decision only means that an inmate has to be a better candidate than ½ of the other inmates up for parole.  If it so happens that there is a bunch of scum that is parole eligible at the same time as your son, then he would  have a greater chance at making parole than if, at the same time he was being voted on, the board was also reviewing 350 S2 model prisoners with parole attorneys.   

My ultimate point is that I feel a prisoner needs to do anything possible in order to ‘stand out’ to the parole board.  You would be amazed at the number of prisoners that submit nothing  to the board before their review (no parole packet, so support letters, etc.).  The parole attorney, your support letters, and your personal talk with a board member are all things that possibly will ‘jump out of the page’ at the board member.  If I could do mine over again, I think I’d put glitter at the top of each page of my packet and staple something very exciting to the cover.  Anything  to be noticed.  Of course, I realize that no one inmate is in direct competition with another.  However, the board is composed of humans.  They are aware of the required ratios and can’t help but to somewhat judge their decisions accordingly.  I hope this helps.