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.