Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nov 20, 2010

Dear Sis~
Perhaps you've seen or read about the destitute homeless Arizona man who found an abandoned backpack containing $3,300 in cash.  It wasn't a lot of money, unless you're broke and living on the streets (or in a shelter) but this guy took the high road; he went out of his way to learn who the backpack belonged to (an Arizona State University student) and returned it to him.  A story like this makes each reader ask themselves what they would (honestly) do in that situation, keeping in mind that this guy was dead broke, a recovering alcoholic, had lost his driver's license due to multiple DUI arrests and was homeless.  It also makes you reconsider the stereotypes we carry in our minds.  How much would you wager that the ex-alcoholic, ex-convict homeless man would return the money?
Last night I watched an interesting documentary on NBC titled Harmony, produced and narrated by Prince Charles (yes, that Prince Charles of England, Prince of Wales).  I knew Charles was an environmentalist, but I didn't know how deeply and passionately he feels about it (and acts upon it).  The film was, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, about saving the planet through creative and substantial changes in our thoughts (about our place in the universe) and our behavior  (toward the earth).  He is totally committed to this, it isn't some Royal hobby, and I was impressed by his passion, and more importantly, by his actions.  This has become his life, and he is acquitting himself well. 
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we'll be getting our yearly "Thanksgiving Day Supper."  Back in the day, it used to be a real, substantial meal that was special: a tray full of real turkey meat, fresh warm dinner rolls with butter, good stuffing, pumpkin pies, fresh vegetables, hard boiled eggs, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, salad, and sweet eggnog to drink.  All of this was cooked by us in our prison kitchen, and the food was grown and raised on prison farms.  It was all entirely in-house, at minimal cost to taxpayers.  But, many years ago, the Dept of Corrections (DOC) sold off all our farms and foolishly began buying all our food from free-world vendors, at much greater costs to taxpayers.  So, our food has gotten worse and worse, and the portions have become progressively smaller.  Why, you ask, would the DOC do away with our prison farms when they were so cost effective (free inmate labor working on free state land)?  It was, and always is, all about graft anmd corruption.  All our prisons spend millions and millions of dollars buying food from vendors.  These are serious contracts and allow prison officials to receive big kickbacks, while buying rotten food.  The corruption and graft with the DOC is deep and wide.  They do it with umpunity because they know nobody cares about what goes on in the DOC; it's a backwater that nobody ever investigates, an old-boy network that is like a parrallel universe.  If any serious (and independent) investigators or inspector generals ever swooped in here and really investigated, the corruption uncovered would be staggering.  So, our Thanksgiving meal will be no different from any other meal; rotten (and I meean that literally, we get rotten potatoes every single day) potatoes, cabbage, a single, thin slice of "turkey ham" (like a slice of bologna or salami), two slices of stale bread, and maybe a cookie or piece of sweet potato pie.  It's pitiful.
Our new governor, Rick Scott, claims to be all about saving money, cutting expenses, and privatizing everything.  Well, here's a tip for him that will save millions of taxpayer dollars:  First, appoint a real, serious professional Secretary of the Dept of Corrections, instead of the typical political hack that gets the job as a "favor" for political services rendered.  The DOC's annual budget is north of 3 Billion dollars, and taxpayers deserve someone in charge who can grasp that.  Second, every prison in Florida should be (and can be) made totally self sufficient in food production within three years.  We used to have our own farms, dairies, poultry farms, butcher sops, cattle ranches and hog farms.  This can be done but will be resisted by those who are invested in the current kickback/contract system.  Third, every prison in Florida should be energy self sufficient.  Solar panels on the roofs, wind turbines on every prison ground, geothermal systems, etc.... This requires up-front investments, but the feds will help pay for it in the form of Energy Grants and the pay outs will be quick and substantial.  These things can be done, but only if you hire an aggressive, intelligent Secretary of the DOC who has vision and determination.  With 100,000+ prisoners and a huge, bloated staff bureaucracy, an innovative DOC Secretary could save hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently wasted through incompetence, graft and outright theft.  That's my two-cents worth, anyway.
Love, Bill

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nov 6, 2010 - Election Day Aftermath

Dear Sis~

Election day has come and gone and in the tightest Florida gubernatorial race in 18 years, the millionair businessman won the day (with the help of the $73 Million of his own personal fortune he threw into the kitty).  Statistically, self-financed candidates i.e, millionaires and billionaires seeking to buy an office,  usually lose (witness Meg Whitman and the $140 Million she just spent unsuccessfully seeking to become a senator from California) but here in Florida, the voter bought Rick Scott's spiel (cut taxes, balance the budget).  Scott's timing was excellent:  a Republican, running in a heavily Republican state in an election cycle where Democrats were being blamed for all the world's ills.  Rick Scott's mantra was "it's time to change the course of Tallahassee" which is odd, considering we've had a Republican governor and a Republican-dominated legislature for the past 12 years.  He has not explained how he's going to cut taxes (Florida has no state income tax) and balance the budget, but those details are apparently unimportant.  He vows to eliminate, entirely, the corporation tax which makes you wonder how the government will provide any services at all.  Americans love their government-provided services but hate to pay any taxes for them (hence, our inevitable deficit spending and consequent ginormous budget deficits and national debt).
Anyway, we've got our new Governor.  Who knows ... myabe he'll turn out to be a good one:  He can hardly be worse than the professional politicians who normally run everything into the ground.  Of course, my interest is a lot more narrowly focused than the average citrizen; my interest begins and ends with a single salient question:  How many death warrants will Rick Scott sign?   Stay Tuned!
Love. Bill

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Sept 20, 2010

Dear Sis~

A prisoner in the cell above me, David Johnston, died of a heart attack today.  He was 50 years old with a history of heart problems.  Needless to say, he was not getting any real medical treatment here.  As I've told you many times, if a prisoner gets really ill here, he'll just die.  I've seen many guys die in this prison from medical conditions which the so-called doctors have refused to treat, or treated incompletely.  Johnston was on the row since June 1984, over 26 years.  Actually, he had an "active death warrant".  Gov. Crist signed his death warrant about 8 or 9 months ago, but he got a last-minute stay of execution.  Ever since then, he's technically had an "active warrant", lacking only a date.  At any rate, that's one death row prisoner the executioner won't be getting a hold of.  I guess that counts for some sort of victory, from Johnston's perspective, at least not on this 3-dimensional plane...

We have an interesting gubernatorial election coming up next month.  Alex Sink, the current chief financial officer (a cabinet-level post in Florida) is the (female) Democratic nominee; Rick Scott, the multimillionaire businessman, whom nobody ever heard of until 6 months ago, is the far-right Republican nominee.  Scott was (still is) the CEO if a huge corporation which owns a chain of hospitals.  That corporation was found guilty of a $1.3 Billion Medicare fraud here in Florida.  Scott challenged Bill McCollum, the current Attorney General of Florida and the putative Republican choice, in the Republican primary, and surprisingly defeated him.  It was a very nasty campaign, lots of mud slinging by both sides.  McCollum has zero charisma or presence, he's very bland and unimaginative, and a classic career politician (he spent years in the US House of Representatives where he led the impeachment effort against President Clinton).  He thought the governorship was his by divine right simply because he was a Republican.  He was the choice of the party big wigs (they knew he's be an easily manipulated puppet, doing the bidding of big-money corporate interests). Rick Scott effectively labeled him as the career politician he is and Scott promised to be "more conservative" than McCollum, which is saying a lot.  Usually in Florida, all you need to do in order to win state-wide election is to portray yourself as more conservative than your opponent.  Anyway, I'm rooting for Alex Sink, who is very qualified and competent and will, I believe, make an excellent governor.  Florida has never had a female governor, and it's past time we had one.  I'm very pro-female when it comes to political leaders; they bring a much more common sense perspective to the arena, they are more about finding solutions to problems than most male politicians.  America is far behind the rest of the industrial west when it comes to the percentage of female political leaders, and it's our loss...

Well, Sis, that's about it from here.  I'm enjoying some rare leisure time, no legal work to do for a change, just catching up on some long-postponed reading.  Give the dogs a tummy rub for me (how I miss the company of dogs!) and give yourself a big hug!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Sept 14, 2010

Dear Sis~

Yeah, I know it's been a long time since I've written an entry.  You know I'm always occupied, always busy doing something, mostly legal work, and mostly for others, but the last month has been particularly hectic as I hammered out the draft, then the final, edited version of my soon-to-be filed postconviction motion.  This will almost certainly be my last legal effort, unless something substantial unexpectedly falls into my lap, so I've put a lot of effort into this.  It should be filed by the end of this month or very soon thereafter...

The staying-busy thing - reading, writing, working out, studying, etc...- has been a constant in the decades I've spent in these cages.  Keeping the mind occupied is a form of therapy, and a way to maintain a grip on my sanity;  some guys go insane in these cells, and many simply begin to slip, short of insanity, but no longer grounded in reality, after many years alone in a cell.  I'm blessed with a strong mind and spirit, so losing my mind is not a concern.  But I do guard against the almost inevitable social deterioration, and the tendency to begin indulging in illusions and fantasy.  Locked in a cell 24/7, alone with your thoughts, it becomes easy to start slipping into a fantasy world, and in fact, I've done it, sometimes for weeks or months at a stretch, when I was locked down on Q-wing, in total isolation for years, or when I was in the hole, back when I was n population here, before death row.  Laying in my bunk in darkness, day afer day, month after month, I'd mentally design and build a dream house, for instance, brick by brick, room by room.  Or I'd design and build a small airplane, or perhaps mentally disassemble an engine.  Anything to occupy or control my thoughts, to pass the time.  Sometimes the thoughts became really irrational or fantastical, you imagine yourself in some position of power (president, senator, or hell...why not king or emporer of some fantasy nation?) and think of how well you'd govern, the laws you'd pass to create a just and fair utopia.  Who hasn't thought they could solve the world's problems if they could just be king for a day?  But being in isolation for months or years gives you the time to indulge such useless fantasies (unlike people in the free world who actually have a life to live).  Well, perhaps they're not totally useless because if you're a keen observer of yuor own thoughts, such day dreaming can teach you a lot about yourself (what would you really do if you possessed full and unlimited power?  Would your better angels dominate?  We'd like to think so, right?)  Nowadays I work hard to avoid indulging in these long-term reveries as they're a waste of time, and time is the one thing I have too little of...

We have an interesting governor's race going on here, with the election less than 2 months away.  Florida (like most of the south) has never elected a femal governor and a female, Alex Sink, is now running - and running well - as the Democratic nominee.  I'll write more about it next time.  Death row prisoners in Florida have a unique and compelling interest in who the governor is since the govrnor is the one who signs, or does not sign, death warrants.  If I'm executed, it will be because some governor has picked my name off the list and decided to kill me...

Gotta get back to work.  Give the doggies a hug for me!

Love & Peace, Bill

Friday, August 20, 2010

Aug 15, 2010

Dear Sis~

I read that Kenya's highest court of appeals unanimously held that mandatory death sentences are unconstitutional, meaning hundreds of prisoners must now receive a new sentencing hearing, this time where they can present mitigating evidence.  The old law required a mandatory death sentence as the only punishment for a person convicted of murder.  (Our US Supreme Court outlawed mandatory death sentences 34 years ago).  Kenya has not executed anyone in 23 years, by the way.  The same court of appeals spoke strongly about extended incarceration on death row, stating that holding a person on death row for more than 3 years would be unconstitutional...
Closer to home, The Economist, a really interesting magazine, reported that mass incarceration in America continues at record high levels despite the incredibly high costs (financial and other).  At 748 persons per 100,000 citizens America, by far, has the highest oncarceration rate in the world, locking up five times more people per capita than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan.  We have almost 2.5 million prisoners here, and many, many more on parole or probation.  The trend isa ever upwards.  In 1970, one in 400 Americans were incarcerated, compared with today's rate of one in 100.  Including those on parole or probation, one adult American in 31 is under correctional supervision.  The far majority of these are in for noviolent crimes.  The number of drug offenders in federal and state prisons has oncreased 13-fold since 1980.  This is a direct result of concrete policies to incarcerate as many Americans as possible (i.e., a deliberate choice to use incarceration as the primary tool, as poopsed to other solutions).  In America, we are all about locking folks up and throwing away the key.  It is completely accurate to describe America as a prison nation.  The annual costs of incarceration continue to skyrocket (but prisons provide jobs!); in California, the cost is around $50,000 per prisoner per year, which is seven times what California spends per student on education.  That speaks volumes about our priorities, and that statistic demonstrates our problems in a nutshell.  I see a direct correlation between our penchant for spending scarce public resources on increasing rates of incarceration and our school kids' ever-increasing decline in academic achievement.  America now ranks far below even some third-world nations when it comes to our childrens' scholastic knowledge and abikities.  We'd rather spend our money on prisons and teachers...
All other civilized nations, from the Netherlands to Sweden to Japan to Denmark, have long ago turned away from mass incarceration and now use innovative solutions which have markedly reduced crime rates.  Even New York has demonstrated this approach can work in the US; it reduced the violent crime rate by 40% between 1997 and 2007 while cutting its incarceration rate by 15%.  But the vast majority of politicians believe in one thing: building more prisons and filling them up as fast as possible.  It's all part of our oddly persistent puritanical heritage which is obsessed with guilt and punishment.  Nations, like people, reap what they sow, and in that sense, we deserve what we've got...
Give the doggies a tummy rub for me, Sis, and give yourself a big hug.
Love, Bill

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Aug 3, 2010

Dear Sis~

The dog days of summer are upon us here in this sweltering, stifling cellblock.  Last night, like many nights before, I awoke around 3:00 am, drenched in sweat and feeling on fire.  The lack of any meaningful ventilation renders the tiny fans sold in the canteen ineffectual; all they do is push the hot, humid air around. 

Last week, out on the rec yard, I watched a crew of prisoners enter and scrub down the execution chamber and witness room on the bottom floor of Q-Wing.  Later that day our wing sargeant told us that they had conducted a "mock execution" drill.  I'm guessing that Governor Crist is on the verge of signing one or more death warrants.  With an election around the corner, an execution is a time-tested method of gaining favorable publicity, shoring up the "tough on crime" cred of any southern politician.  It's a cheap. feel-good solution for whatever ails a politician's shaky poll numbers, as exemplified by President Clinton's infamous 1992 pre-election move when he flew back to Arkansas from the campaign trail to execute a profoundly retarded and brain-damaged convict, despite the personal pleas from the Pope (and many other world leaders) to spare his life.  Clinton, who was being labeled by Republicans as "soft on crime" knew it was good politics to kill that guy.  Arguably, that move helped propel Clinton into the White House (and it was a tip off, to those paying attention, to slick Willie's true character and moral ambiguities)...

Just read a very insightful and informative aritcle in the Aug 2nd New Yorker magazine titled Letting Go by  Atul Gawande, a physician.  The article deals with that very sensitive subject - death - and, in particular, when and under what circumstances does a terminally ill person (or his loved ones) decide to forgo furher, futile medical procedures and allow events to take their natural course.  There have been many articles and studies on the subject and I won't attempt to describe this particular one, other than to say it's well worth reading by anyone and everyone, even if they don't currently know anyone who is terminally ill.  The time to begin weighing these issues is before you have to... The article can be found on

It's increasingly depressing and disappointing to read about the epidemic of obesity in this country (and which is inexorably spreading around the rest of the world).  I didn't pay much attention to it for years, thinking it was mostly hyperbole, but the statistics are now overwhelming and alarming.  The health of our kids and  future generations is absolutely at risk; we're becoming a nation of diabetics, right before our eyes.  Mostly, this has to do with our processed foods, much of which isn't even true food, just artificial vehicles for delivering fat and calories.  Because I'm blessed with an excellent metabolism and am, more or less, naturally trim, I failed to appreciate the scope of this problem, but it cannopt be ignored any longer.  I'll offer up my own humble solution: besides eating right, avoiding most processed junk foods, as you know, 10 years ago I began fasting every other day.  Initially, it was just to quickly lose 6 or 7 pounds, but after 2 weeks, I felt so good I never stopped.  I intuitively felt it was good for me and the last decade has proven me correct.  I still work out as hard as ever (on my eating days) and my weight has been constant the entire time.  I figure this must be my "natural weight", the point where I neither gain or lose weight.  The fasting is not hard; you quickly acclimate and it becomes normal to you (and you really appreciate those meals on your eating days!) Anyone can do this and they'll feel great and healthy, too.  (My blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, etc, is excellent).  Anyway, it works for me...

That's it from the state pen, Sis.  Keep your chin up and a smile on your face!
Love, Bill

Thursday, July 01, 2010

June 27, 2010

Dear Sis~

I'm finishing up a compelling historical military account written by a young Winston Churchill, first published in 1899, titledThe River War, accurately subtitled An Account of the Conquest of the Sudan.  Over the last 35 years (mostly in the 70's) I've read all of Churchill's major publications (he was a prolific writer) including his famous five or six volume history of World War II (sort of a combination autobiography and history text).  I'd forgotten what a fine writer Churchill was (notwithstanding the somewhat archaic linguistic nuances typical of that time period) and I'm even more impressed by how well he wrote at such an early age.  This book picks up after the disasterous military campaign of General Charles Gordon in the Sudan (then a land violently annexed and cruelly administered by Egypt) and details the English Empire's "reconquest" of the Sudan by Lord Kitchener.  This occurred from 1896 to 1899, and was of course during the zenith of the European imperialism and colonialism era.  Churchill was an ardent believer in colonialism, he was a product of his time, and the book was written from that perspective.  There was a time when I was young and naive, that I would have read this book with a high degree of admiration for Chruchill (who participated in the final battles)  and the English Empire's  aspirations.  That was before I began to think for myself and learned to view history through a different lens, from the perspective of the oppressed nations.  Anyway, what's interesting about this book is how it chronicles the history of the Sudan, including the Darfur region, tracing the contrasts and conflicts between Arabs and Africans, Muslims and Christians, north and south, rich and poor.  This region was dominated by slave trading (Arab slave traders from the north capturing indigenous black Africans from the south) and characterized by terrible suffering and cruelty.  The British stuck their noses into this desolate, stone-age land thinking (or at least proclaiming) they could better the natives' living conditions by violently removing the Egyptian and Arab yokes.  Sort of like how America is always invading some hapless country "for it's own good".  It's interesting to read about all the cultural/racial/religious/financial aspects of 1890's Sudan and see how these same things are in play right now in today's headlines about the Sudan and the Darfur region.  If you want to understand what's going on in the Sudan today, reading this book would be a good place to start...
That's it for now, Sis!
Love. Bill

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June 18, 2010

Dear Sis~

Last night Utah executed Ronnie Lee Gardner by firing squad (his choice over the lethal injection alternative).  Five volunteer executioners using Winchester .30-30 rifles stood behind a cinder block wall some 20 feet away from the prisoner, strapped to an oversized chair, surrounded by sandbags (this is done indoors), and fired through slits in the wall, aiming at a picture of a heart pinned to the guy's chest.  Only four executioners fired live rounds;  the fifth executioner, selected at random, fires a blank shell, which is supposed to assuage any latent guilt over killing someone since, theoretically, nobody really "knows" if they fird a blank or a live round.  In reality, it's easy to distinguish the recoil from a live round compared to a blank.  More relevant, all of these executioners volunteered, so they obviously wanted to kill the guy, thus no guilt to free them from. The old blank-cartridge days came from the day when firing squads were drafted from the ranks and a soldier had no opt-out provision.  Anyway, you can imagine what four .30-30 rounds (designed to kill deer, hogs and black bears) does to a man's chest; they probably blew a gaping hole right out through his back.  All this is done before a room of witnesses; it's ll a macabre, riutalistic spectacle, appropriate for a country which claims to be the most advanced and civilized nation on earth, with the moral authority to preach to other countries about "human rights".  Most of our citizens are too indoctrinated (and unreflective) to see the irony in this position.  And, oh, by the way, the State of Utah bestows upon each executioner a "commemorative coin" to celebrate each shooter's actions.  Isn't that a neat token to pass down to your children?  To demonstrate what a faithful piece of the mcahine their Daddy was?  I'm sure it will make them proud of their pops!
Love, Bill

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

June 1, 2010

Dear Sis~

Summer is only 3 weeks away, although I can't tell from these sweltering cells.  By July it will feel like a sauna in this massive cellblock, which absorbs the fierce heat all day, then radiates it all night.  Our only saving grace is these little electric fans we can buy from the canteen.  We had to file a fderal lawsuit some years ago to win the right to purchase fans.  Prior to that it was not uncommon, on many a hot day, for prisoners here (including me) to throw about an inch of water on the cell floor, then lay naked in the puddle, staring up at the ceiling, making "snow angels", panting like a dog.  Now, it's only marginally better, providing you have a fan (not everyone can afford one)...

I'm finally beginning to read War and Peace, one of those classics I've been intending to read for decades, but somehow never got around to.  Actually, I'm working on my own case, my Rule 3.850 motion, but during my breaks I'm relaxing by reading.  I've got a stack of classics I'm slowly working my way throuigh, enjoying the beauty of great literature.  Maybe I'll get motivated agan to resume my own writing journey...

For the last few weeks, each time I've gone out to the rec yard, I've engaged an animated mockingbird.  I'll whistle for him and he'll soon fly over and perch on a fence post where we trade whistles and chirps and various calls.  As I pace around the rectangular yard, he follows me, flitting from pole to pole, exchanging calls and whistles.  That's my only encounter with nature in this otherwise sterile and desolate dump...

I was going to write about the big oil spill but, damn, it's just too depressing.  There's nothing I can do to add to that sad, tragic tale which is a commentary on our own foolishness...

Keep your chin up and keep smiling!

Light & Love,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 15, 2010

Dear Sis~

I forgot to mention that last month I reeived an unsolicited, rather large envelope from an Eastern Orthodox Church Fellowship in St Augustine containing three hand-drawn Easter cards (crayons on colored construction paper) made by little children, each of whom signed their card with a looping, childish signature. The cards had pictures of angels, of Christ, and other Biblical references and expressed love for mankind in general and me in particular.  It was easy to picture these kids at a table, their little faces screwed up in concentration as they earnestly drew and clored in each card.  These cards were very sweet and really touched my heart; the evident sincerity and genuine affection typical of a young kid's heart inexplicably filled me with joy.  I guess it's a function of being in a cell for so many years with no exposure to the gentler things in life (like the innocence of the little ones), to suddenly experience some unexpected kindness takes on an oversized importance.  Anyway, it was very sweet and I'm very grateful for what turned out to be a true gift.  I wrote the fellowship a warm thank you note letting them know how much it meant to me...
 From what I'm learning about Elena Kagan I think she'll make a fine Supreme Court Justice.  Nobody can replace Stevens; he's a lion and a giant among the small-minded, pinched-perspective ultra conservative Republicans dominating the court (Scalia, alito, Roberts, and the Uncle Tom yes-man, lap dog Thomas) but, as the saying goes, nobody n the world is irreplaceable.  Stevens' time has come and gone, unfortunately, and someone must now fill his shoes.  Kagan is cut from excellent cloth and my expectations are high.  At 50, Kagan is relatively young and should be making her mark on the court for the next 25 years...
I've finally finished my last big legal project - about 8 weeks of hard work, followed by great relief in completing the task - and now I'm taking a well-deserved break.  Lots of recreational reading and relaxing ahead, at least until the next job.
Light & Love,

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 22, 2010 Earth Day

Dear Sis~

Just watched a thought-provoking (and depressing) documentary on PBS titled Worse than War; the subject matter was genocide - why and how it happens - and the film investigated a number of well-known instances, from the Holocaust to Rwanda, to Cambodia, to the Balkans, etc...  It was a vivid reminder of what a brutal species we can be, and how thin the veneer of civilization really is.  When the right mix of politics, religion, ethnic hatreds and economic factors converge, the gloves come off and man's darkest impulses rise to the top like curdled cream...

A different PBS program, which put a smile on my face was Through a Dog's Eyes, a heart-warming tale of how service dogs are raised and trained to help those with special needs.  A number of excellent small companies or organizations, invariably non-profits, are dedicated to breeding and raising these special dogs, then matching them up with their new owners, many of who are kids, usually suffering from multiple sclerosis or some other form of paralysis, or seizures (some of these dogs are capable of detecting the onset of seizures, 10 - 20 minutes before they occur, and alerting the person about what's about to happen.  Nobody knows how the dogs can do this; it's an inate capability that comes naturally).  It was neat to watch the kids meet and bond with the big, friendly dogs (mostly labs) over the 4 or 5 days set aside for the process.  Most of these kis are terribly lonely, with no friends, and the dogs, besides being helpers, fill a big void.  The kids' faces light up with excitement when they get their dogs! 

Well, I've got a baldie again... The wing sergeant decided my hair was "too long" (it must have been a whole 2 inches long) and he ordered me to get it cut off.  As you know, there's only one style offered here:  a mandatory buzz cut with a numer one or number two blade.  That's why everyone here looks like a prototypical convict.  This is something of a fetish with the guards here at FSP...they want us to look like that.  It's  a violation of tyhe DOC standrds, which allows us to have hair considerably longer ( as long s it does not cover the ears or collar).  In the old days prisoners could be written up for cutting their hair off; the administration felt it was a gang symbol of some sort.  Now, it;'s the guards forcing us to look like the 1930's convicts.  This seems to amuse them. Anyway, I could care less;  I have a lot more substantial things to concern myself with than my hair ...

Alright, Sis, I've gotta get back to work on this legal project.  Give the dogs a tummy rub for me!

Love & Peace


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Death Row Diary: Capital Defense Weekly link

Death Row Diary: Capital Defense Weekly link

Capital Defense Weekly link

This group provides information on cases and litigation of death penalty cases and current news of executions, stays, ect.  Bill has begun using their servies and he's found a lot of useful information for his case.

Monday, April 12, 2010

March 28, 2010

Dear Sis~

California voters gathered sufficient signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot to legalize marijuana; if it passes, you'll be able to possess up to one ounce and grow a "small number" of plants in your home (I later heard the number of plants is 20, not very small at one to two pounds per plant).  My guess is that the inititative will pass.The folks who organized the ballot measure were smart enough to title it "Tax on Cannabis Act", thereby emphasizing the revenue gathering aspect, which will help Californians dig their way out of the enormous deficit crater they've driven their state into.  There will be real tension between the new state law and the federal statutes making weed illegal, but as long as the feds (read: DEA) decline to pursue and prosecute it will all be good.  Repubicans, and law enforcement are naturally opposed to the measure.  Republicans claim to be all about "states rights" and "the voice of the people", until the state or the people decide they want something the Republicans are against (e.g., assisted suicid, decriminalization of drugs), then all the states' rights talk goes out the window.  And, law enforcement is simply a cog of the great prison industrial complex, which has a vested interest in keeping jails and prisons full (that translates into a lot of jobs for prosecutors, cops, prison guards and all jobs related thereto).  If it passes, the initiative will dissolve all marijuana smuggling overnight (at least as far as California goes; nation-wide legalization would, of course, eliminate all marijuana smuggling nation-wide) and put them all out of business.  That would be a good thing by social standards, right?  But of course the law enforcement cabal is dead set against it.  If it passes, this will be the vanguard of eventual legalization across the land.  It will take time, but it will happen.  And it's long past due.  The idea of keeping hundreds of thousands of citizens in prisons for yearsand years, ruining their lives forever after (try getting a job as an ex-convict if you don't think your life gets ruined) for the "crime" of smoking weed is immoral, outrageous and counterproductive, as anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows.  It's way past time for America to grow up, get a life, and leave people alone (why aren't the Republican/Tea Party folks behind this?  They claim to be all about "personal freedoms" and "getting the government out of our lives").  And don't even get me started about the Biblical injunction, the book of Genesis which declares that God put all plants, seeds and herbs on the earth for mankind to cultivate and use for man's benefit.  Where are all those fundamental preachers when you need them?!!!...

Saw a good movie on TV today, Life as a House; sad, uplifting, poignant, a tear-jerker, well worth watching...

Tomorrow is canteen day;  in the joint canteen day is the centerpiece of the week, the day everyone looks forward to (this is for maximum security, lockdown joints.  Guys in open population go to the canteen window every day).  Tomorrow we get our little goodies, from cookies to honey buns, from potato chips to coffee, from pens and paper and flip flops to slim jims, tuna fish and the old standby, instant soup in a cup.  Of course, that's only for guys with money.  Most guys on the row have very little money, or none at all.  Some guys never get canteen at all, ever.  Guys in a bare cell, with no TV, no radio, no visits and no letters at mail call - a very lonely existence for 15 or 20 years, until they drag them to Q wing and kill them...

That's it for now, Sis

Love, Bill

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 11, 2010

Dear Sis~
This prison has just completed a three-day inspection (an "audit", technically) by the A.C.A. (American Correctional Institute).  For the week leading up to the audit the prison staff was in a near panic as they had prisoners racing around, attempting to spruce the joint up, repairing plumbing here, painting there, etc...  This prison is decrepit and their attempts to make it look presentable are not very successful, other than on a superficial basis.  They sent a paint squad onto our wing to paint the walls and bars, which are encrusted with decades of filth and grime, and a good bit of black mold which doggedly persists no matter how much you try to scrub it away.  (I can only use toothpaste or shampoo along with a toothbrush to scrub the black mold, since the DOC long ago quit issuing any kind of liquid soaps or disinfectant for cleaning purposes, as a money-saving tactic).  As soon as the humidity reaches a hgh level for 2-3 days, you wake up to find the supposedly dead black mold spreading along the cell bars and walls, fuzzy as a chia pet.  Anyway, the paint squad simply painted over the filth and black mold, no attempt to clean anything first.  As Jesus observed, like whitewashing a sepulcher.  They even painted the entire insides of the showers, bright-white, slapping a cheap water-based paint over the moldy ceramic tiles.  It's already peeling off and clogging up the shower drains.  The only good thing about an ACA audit is that our food improves a little for 3 days.  It's all a charade, anyway.  The ACA mused to actually be a useful organization about 25 years ago.  It was a non-profit organization of independent professionals who inspected and objectively graded and evaluated each prison, using a point system/grade scale to determine if the joint would pass or fail.  They judged each prison in various areas, such as health care (regular, mental & dental), classification, safety, food, recreation, programs, etc.  If a prison got a high enough total of points, they were "accredited" by the ACA, and that used to mean something.  Prisons and prison systems wanted to be accredited so they actually tried to improve their prisons.  The ACA's standards were good ones, well thought out, and invariably improved the quality of life inside.  However, about 20 years ago, the ACA was "taken over" by a raft of ex-Dept of Corrections employees from around the country (ex-wardens, ex-directors of various state Departments of Correction) and it morphed into a money-making organization which was made up of the same crew who were being audited.  It became a good-ole-boy club - they lowered their standards and made it easier and easier to get accredited.  It was a classic case of the inmates running the asylum.  Sort of how the FDA get s staffed by ex-drug company executives who then go on to "oversee" the drug companies, or how the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department get staffed by ex-Goldman Sachs executives who then purport to "regulate" their buddies in the banking industry and on Wall Street.  So, nowadays, every prison gets accredited, no matter how lousy they are.  It's a joke now, a lame whitewash, just as "Wall Street regulatory reforms" are a joke.  Nobody really cares, anyway.  The public cares nothing about how corrupt and dysfunctional their prison systems are, they are not even on their radar.  The public only pays attention to prisoners when one of them gets out and commits some sensational crime, and then, all you see is a knee-jerk reaction, demanding that prisons be made more harsh and punitive (as if they aren't already ahrsh and punitive, with a total lack of any pretense of rehabilitation).  Anyway, the ACA is gone now and our "food" has reverted back to its normal garbage status...
David Johnston, who was scheduled for execution in 2 weeks, got a surprising stay of execution 2 days ago.  I say surprising becasue 90 days ago he was close to execution when the Florida Supreme Court has just given him another stay (I don't know what his legal issue was, though).  This is one lucky guy, I know that.  (He's been on death row about 20 years so he's already exhausted all his legal issues, already picked the low-hanging fruit).  Whether he's still alive in 6 months remains to be seen.
Love, Bill

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

February 16, 2010

Dear Sis~

The execution of Martin "Eddie" Grossman (known by his friends as Eddie Spaghetti) occurred two hours ago.  I habitually meditateduring the hour straddling the appointed time of death (6pm in Florida; 9pm when I resided in Virginia) and did so again tonight.  Some of these meditations are less successful than others.  Tonight I was distracted by the low hum of surrounding conversations, the typical talk and banter of men caged together, talking about this and that - the latest soap opera episode on TV, how their favorite sports teams are doing - anything and everything but the salient fact that just 150 feet away a fellow prisoner was being killed.  It was disconcerting, though not atypical, that these guys were ignoring what was transpiring in their midst. Anyway, the deed is done and now my thoughts have turned, as they always do, to whose death warrant might be signed next.  There are about 40 guys (my rough estimate - I could be off by 10 or more guys) eligible to have their death warrants signed, with me being squarely in that group (at least for now), and the governor's selection process is totally arbitrary and capricious.  Gov. Crist can pick and choose whoever he wants, at any time, for any reason, or, he can pick nobody at all.  Right now, Crist is in a precarious political position.  He voluntarily chose, a year ago, not to run for a second term, although at the time, he was fairly popular and seemed a shoo-in for reelection.  Instead, he announced his intention to run for US Senate, to fill the vacant seat of a retiring Republican Senator, Mel Martinez (a mediocre, dull politician even by today's low standards).  At the time, it probably seemed like a brilliant move, part of Crist's imagined inevitable climb to the Presidency, a post he very much aspires to.  But in the past eyar, the political winds have turned, with the far-right Republicans and their fellow travellers, the "Tea Baggers", becoming ascendant.  Now, Crist faces a vigorous fight in the Republican primary from a young-and upcoming Miami politician named Mario Rubio, a guy short on experience and brainpower, but arriving in a very slick GQ-type package, and a Cuban-American to boot, which in Miami, where he's from, is 80% of the battle.  With the rise of the extreme right of the party of NO, guys like Rubio (echoing Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh) have taken control.  Whether this is a long-term phenomena or a temporary flash in the pan remains unknown.  But right now, it looks like Rubio (who claims Crist is "too liberal") is going to get the nod in the primary, which will leave Crist out in the cold, a civilian again, stripped of any office.  What does this all have to do with me, you ask?  Well, as Crist tries to belatedly tack to the right in an attempt to recapture some of the disaffected masses, I suspect he'll indulge in the time-honored practice of executing more men.  Killing people is a great way to reaffirm your conservative cred!  Election years are traditionally bad for guys on the row as politicians pander to their perceived audience and prove how tough they are by signing more death warrants.  Crist could surprise me by deciding the battle is lost and so choose not to participate in the killing experience any longer, to exit the scene with no more blood on his hands.  But I won't be holding my breath.  Like everyone else here, all I can do is wake up each morning wondering if today is the day the governor picks my name out of the hat and makes me a reservation for a date on the gurney.  Welcome to another American election year!
Love & Peace,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Feb 2, 2010

February 2, 2010
Dear Sis~

We have an execution scheduled for February 16th, just two weeks away, so the state can carve another notch in its collective pistol grip (in the best traditonof our macho, authoritatrian self-righteous ethos).  Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago I'm watching Pat Robertson on TV (he's a blowhard TV preacher who purports to speak for God) as he pontificates on the tragedy of the Haitian earthquake.  With a straight face, Robertson claims that God brought the earthquake upon Haiti because, he claims, Haitians supposedly made a "pact with Satan" 200 years ago to free their nation from the French.  Apparently, this is Robertson's idea of a just and loving God!  Robertson conveniently overlooks that it was the "Christian" Europeans who brought the slaves to Haiti to begin with.  Slaves were not faring so well under the so-called civilized societies of the Christian European nations!  I guess in Robertson's world view, the slaves should have stuck it out with their masters rather than seek their freedom.  The Haitian slaves overthrew their masters through a series of revolts and battles; they did not need any help from "Satan".  Perhaps Robertson cannot bring himself to believe that "savage, ignorant slaves" could defeat a modern European nation on the battlefield, ergo they must have had supernatural assistance from Satan.  Robertson is the same clown who publicly claimed that both the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina were punishments wrought by God upon Americans due to our wickedness.  It would be laughable were it not for the fact that millions of Americans are devoted to Robertson and view him as God's mouthpiece, notwithstanding his lame pronouncements.  I once watched him on his TV program, "The 700 Club", just before the last presidential election as he claimed God "told him in a vision" that Obama would suffer an overwhelming defeat at the polls and McCain would be elected "in a landslide".  Robertson is always begging for money on TV, yet several years ago Forbes estimated  his personal fortune at over $700 million.  This is the kind of idiot millions of Americans view as a leader and a "man of God" worthy of patterning their lives after.  No wonder America appears to be in eclipse...
Gotta get back to more legal work so I'll close this up and post it.  I hope you're dug out from under all the snow!
Love, Bill