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,