Well, that’s not my story. In fact, mine is just the opposite. As far back as I can remember and look into my family tree, it’s chock-full of outlaws, drunks, thieves, drug addicts, murderers, and rapists. There’s not one single person I can think of in my family that at least one of these titles doesn’t fit. Not even the women in my family are immune to this heritage. Two of my three sisters have done time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. There was never any doubt in my mind whether or not I’d lose my freedom someday. Really, being in my family, the only thing amazing about my story is that I was able to maintain my freedom for the first thirty years of my life.
I used to sit around and hear my uncles and brother-in-laws talk about when they first came to prison back in the early to mid-80s. Back then, the Texas prison system was truly a brutal place. Since I was following in all of their footsteps, I just came to accept that jail was going to be life a lot. Their life stories weren’t a deterrent. Hell, life in the streets is brutal, I’d think. What’s the difference?
As I got older, more and more of my homeboys started doing time. They’d always come home and “lace me up” on the grandeur of their trips. And then the day came that I finally caught a case that I wasn’t going to be able to wiggle or plea bargain my way out of. My good run was over, and I was headed to the pentitentiary.
While I am in county jail, I try to come to terms with the idea. After all, this was just a rite of passage for someone in my family. My whole prior existence had led up to this moment. Once I’d signed for my time, I came back to the cells, where I have homeboys waiting to encourage me. They tell me it’s going to be all right. Most even describe it as an exciting time that awaits me. I’ve worked hard my whole life, roofing, moving furniture, then roughnecking those East Texas oil fields. I’m still young and in really good shape. Pretty strong, too. Close to 200 pounds. And besides that, I’ve been around or directly involved in violence my whole life. I got a decent boxing game, and my body’s good. At this point, all I got to do is get my mind right.
As my homeboys continue to fill me in on all the do’s and don’t’s” of doing time, I start to put together all the stories and the inside Prison information I’ve gathered over the years, and start to formulate a game-plan of sorts. I’ve now determined the way I’m going to do time. I’ve taken into account all the stories of gang rapes, gang violence, racism, dirty correctional officers, women that will “put out,” women that will burn you up, all the convict games and hustles all the way down to day room and cell etiquette. And now, I believe I’m ready to start pulling this 20-year stretch. I start to navigate my way through the system, having what most cons would consider, by and large, a successful run. Then, nine years into my sentence, everything changes.
The one thing nobody ever warns me about or prepares me for takes place. I’m called to the Chaplain’s office. She has no details or explanation… just the blunt truth that my nephew is dead.
I know you’re thinking, even if you were a free man, your nephew would be just as dead. And you’re right. Those events would have all been the same. But if you ever lost anyone you loved while you were free, you had avenues of relief to help you- resources available to help you mourn and cope like contact with family and loved ones. Even fun¬erals are something that I took for granted. I’ve lost my dad, my brother, my uncles, and my Mamaw while in the world. But losing my nephew, while here, estranged from my family, was an unimaginable pain like I had never felt before. Nobody ever told me about this. Sure, I’d seen plenty of others in here go through it, but it was still foreign to me. I though a death is death, right? Wrong. So wrong. When the PA comes on and someone is summoned to the Chaplain’s office, out of the blue, at 2:00 on a Thursday, it’s like a sixth sense kicks in. You ever watch the old war movies, and the car pulls up outside the house and the mother or wife already knows it’s a telegram informing them that they’ll never see their husband or son again? It’s like that, exept when THEY collapse in the doorway, they have a loved one there to pick them up, comfort them. You won’thave that here. I’ve only known two people who got to go.
So, if I were able to sew “prison wisdom” into someone’s life, I’d tell you not to worry about all that crap everybody wasted my time with. You just make sure you make every visit, every letter, every telephone call, every WORD count. You make sure you express to every member of your family how much you love and cherish them, and appreciate every¬thing they’ve ever done for you, both as a free man and a prisoner. Basically, love them like there’s no tomorrow.