Friday, December 28, 2007

December 24, 2007

Dear Sis~
It's Christmas Eve and I'm feeling expansive, indulging in a lot of end-of-year introspection. The other night I watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time in decades which stirred up some nostalgia. I vividly recall you and me as little kids, back in the early 1960's, intently watching this movie for the first time on our family TV. I was mesmerized and delighted as only a child can be over the seemingly magical tale. It was the first musical I'd ever seen and it broadened my concept of what constituted a movie, as to how a movie could be made, as opposed to more traditional films, and I experienced a modest epiphany, sort of like when you first appreciate the difference between an impressionistic painting and one from the traditional school of realism. Now, sitting here on my bunk, some 45 years later, I was surprised at how well the movie stands the test of time. It's still a great film, a grand story with excellent production values and the colors are just as rich and bright as I recall them. Remember how watching this movie became an annual event as we grew up? And how scary those damn flying monkeys were? When the movie ended I felt a tinge of sadness though, because watching it transported me back to those childhood years of wonder and innocence, before I made so many bad choices in life. Back then, before my fall from grace, my future was still bright, brimming with unfilled potential and everything seemed possible. I'd give anything to recapture that moment, to be able to return to that time and take the right paths instead. But, wouldn't we all? If only life were that simple and we could gain the wisdom and experience without us and others suffering the consequences of our poor judgments. My consolation is the assurance that next time around on Schoolhouse Earth I won't be repeating those mistakes ...
Contemplating the meaning of Christmas, a thought just popped into my mind: in the last 2,000 years, has there ever been a Christmas without a war being waged somewhere on the planet? I don't believe so. Will we live long enough to ever witness a Christmas where the nations of Earth are at peace? Another Christmas is here and, once again, America is occupying a foreign nation, fighting a war far away. Our country is full of self-professing Christians, but many conveniently forget that one of Christ's primary titles is Prince of Peace...
Anyway, Sis, I'm going to close this up on a cheerful note. Give yourself a big hug, and give the doggies a tummy rub for me! Let's dream for the seemingly unattainable: Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Man.
Love, Bill

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dec 14, 2007 - New Jersey abolished their death penalty!

Dear Sis~
The seagulls are back. Every winter hundreds of these screeching birds invade the prison, wheeling and dive-bombing overhead, crowding onto the yard during the night, hissing, squalling and pecking at each other, fighting over every scrap of food thrown to them by prisoners. Come Spring, they will just as suddenly disappear, vanishing overnight, presumably returning to the coast from which they came. Oddly, this seasonal seagull migration occurs at all prisons (at least every prison I've been at). My guess is that the ubiquitous garbage dumps, present at all prisons, attracts them, a reliable food source when the wintry oceans become less generous. The gulls make it almost impossible for me to feed my crows and sparrows out at rec because they spot the food as soon as it hits the ground and they all swoop down to devour it. Occasionally the crows will fight with them but invariably the mobbing gulls overpower them through sheer force of numbers...
By the time you read this, New Jersey will have abolished their death penalty. Their senate and assembly already voted to do so and Governor Corzine, who is a staunch abolitionist, has stated he will sign it into law. This is the first state to abolish capital punishment in about 40 years. (If my memory is correct the last state was Kansas, but after about 20 years or so, they reinstated it). Anyway, this is a small step in the right direction and hopefully it will embolden other states to do the same. I'm not naive; it is a long and difficult road to total abolition of state-sanctioned murder, but as the old Chinese proverb says, even the longest journey begins with the first step...
It's 11:30 am and I was just gazing out onto the center of the compound, when I saw two guards sic their 2 German Shepherd attack dogs on an inmate who looked like he weighed 125 pounds. The dogs chewed his ass up while he futilely fought to protect himself. The attack-dog patrols is one of Warden Kelly's "innovations" which is a euphemism for "total waste of taxpayer's money". She has four guards who roam the compound, each with a vicious, half-insane attack dog on a leash, and their purpose(if you can call it that) is to herd the inmates wherever they go, to and from the chow hall, to and from rec, etc... The guards bring up the rear, with these snarling dogs, lunging and straining at their leashes, snapping at every inmate as they walk. The guards seem to enjoy seeing how close they can let the dogs come to the inmates (the dogs are desperately trying to break free and attack, they snarl and bark non-stop, like they are on crack or meth). A couple of times already, they've set the dogs on inmates, including what I just saw. I've never been in any prison where attack dogs roamed the prison, especially for no legitimate purpose. This joint is habitually understaffed (they often have to lock down the prison due to staff shortages), yet they waste 4 guards on this ridiculous dog-duty, because this warden wants to pretend she is running some kind of notorious, maximum security, Alcatraz-type joint (in reality, this prison is soft as cotton...this warden has never seen a real hard core joint)... Gotta go, Sis!
Love, Bill

Thursday, December 06, 2007

December 2, 2007

Dear Sis~
I'm sitting on my bunk as midnight approaches, listening to a Vivaldi concerto on my little CD player. I remember how I hated classical music as a kid, didn't understand how anyone could enjoy it, but as the decades went by, at some unknown point, I found myself inexplicably drawn to it, listening to it, appreciating its beauty, until now I don't understand how I ever disliked it. I guess it's just an age thing, a matter of maturity, that one day all kids are destined to come to enjoy "old folks' music". Anyway, I enjoyed our visit today; I'm not sure why we got 1 1/2 hours today, whether it was just luck, or because I said something to the lieutenant. Yesterday, the same crew restricted another guy's visit to one hour (his wife came from New York). And as I told you, I just got a response to my grievance about the new policy of giving us only one hour to visit and that response was "Per policy you are only allowed a one hour visit." This is factually incorrect since the Death Row rulebook specifically says "Visits may be limited to sixty minutes." The operative word is "may." It does not say "shall" or "must" or "will". The word "may" indicates the existence of discretion, indicating that while it may be limited to one hour, it does not have to be. Up until 3 weeks ago we got 1 1/2 hours, just like open population, and there was no reason for this sudden reduction. For that matter, up until a year ago we routinely got to visit for 3-5 hours per visit. Ever since Warden Kelly got here she's made it her mission to progressively restrict our visits, for no legitimate reason ...
Well, it's December again and, as I do every year, I marvel at how quickly the year has flown by. I know it's purely subjective, but the older I get the faster the years seem to go by. I think this is an experience common to all of us...
Now, with all these accelerated political primaries we'll know within 60 days who the Democratic and Republican nominees are. I'm pretty jaded to the political process but I don't think it's hyperbole to say that the upcoming election will be pivotal to deciding how this nation will define itself, whether we'll continue in the current disastrous direction, or whether we'll find some political leadership which will provide hope, purpose and common sense. This country desperately needs a sense of optimism to restore its spirit, rather than the fear mongering and hate mongering we've been fed by the greedy, war-loving elements of this administration (abetted by a cowardly congress and a gutless, paralyzed, unimaginative Democratic leadership). We have a lot to answer for to the next generation, starting with what will surely be their most imperious question: How the Hell did you let this happen?
Love, Bill