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Saturday, 26 May 2012

Can't stand the heat?

Last year, a guy that my husband knew at his unit died of heat-related complications. The guy had been at the psychiatric unit for a couple of years and had just returned to general population; he was sent straight out to work in the fields in 100 degree heat and died after a few days of working. He was in his 50s.

Texas had a particularly long hot summer last year, and rumours were rife of other heat-related deaths occuring, although TDCJ never publically confirmed any of these. There are plenty of things that can be put as cause of death without implicating a system that puts inmates outside to work in such heat or keeps them in glass and/or metal boxes with little ventilation. This year, it would seem that TDCJ is practicing something quite rare - forward thinking.

My husband has a bottom bunk restriction because of a hernia he had a couple of years ago, and since March he has been on the bottom tier in his wing. I noticed he had been moved last weekend when I sent him a Jpay email (inmates cannot reply by email,  but they can receive printed copies of the text and it's a lot faster than traditional letters through the post when you have something important to say) and I now know why. They needed his bunk for a heat-restriction inmate. Those with that classification are housed whenever possible on the lower 2 tiers (there are 4 tiers to each wing where my husband is), to minimise the amount of stair climbing they have to do. It also helps to keep similar inmates together in one place, and it appears that quite a few guys are being moved around to achieve this.

So now he is back on a third tier, but this time almost as far from the dayroom as he could be. This is good for someone who likes relative peace and quiet when he is reading and writing! His new cellie appears to be a good match as well; another older guy who has been at the unit for the majority of his time. Unfortunately with every move or change, my husband enters a period of self-reflection and self-loathing that can mean he stops writing while he works his way through it.

As we don't have a visit firmly planned for anytime soon, I just have to hope my own well of self-reliance and determination doesn't run dry this summer.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

What a difference a few hours can make

This morning I was happy and posting about the new dolls I'm making.

Now, just a few hours later, I am in tears because one of my penpals has died.

My friend, Jon, took his own life 3 weeks ago. He was in his 70s and would never have walked out of prison alive. He had the last word, true to form.

Regardless of what Jon did 46 years ago, in the 5 years I had been corresponding with him he had been a spirited, alert, intelligent and stimulating friend. We shared our hip ailments, and our criticisms of the political systems we both lived under. He wrote 2 letters to every one of mine, and loved to learn about British words and phrases and their meanings.

I will miss him, and my sympathies are with his family.

New project: Pixie girls

I like making knitted dolls, and I'm a member of a group on Ravely that is currently doing a knit-along. Our inspiration is "Ren Fairy" but as I don;t want to fuss around with wings, I have decided to make pixies instead. These will then be on their way to Australia, as gifts for 2 little sisters.

These pixies will be bigger than the dolls I've previously made. This is because I want to work more detail into their clothes, and that's tricky when the clothes are so small. They already have names: Ariel and Tinder, and their outfits will match their personalities. So, to start, here is Ariel's body, legs and head with ears. I'm doing Tinder's legs today and then on to the arms.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


As I've mentioned before, I have several penpals who are in prison in various states on the US. My pals and I have a steady and uncomplicated arrangement with our writing. We don't talk on the phone, as many people seem to want with their penpals. Even if I did want to, it would not be right for me while I cannot talk to my husband in that way. I also don't visit my penpals; the guys would definitely be off-limits while my husband is in prison, and while the girls would probably welcome a visit, I can only stretch myself so far when I'm over there. So we just write, once every 4-6 weeks or so, and talk about wtuff I do and stuff that they are all interested in.

Recently I have been discussing the pros and cons of some of the US states as places to live in with my older guy in Pennsylvania. I had mentioned that Idaho looked as if it had a lot of the things I was looking for, and he said that he enjoyed the fishing there.

A few days ago I received a surprise package in the mail from my PA pal. It was a book, a National Geographic photo book about the natural history of Idaho. It cost him over $10 to send and I was totally humbled that he had sent it. He gets paid a tiny amount for the work he does in prison, and is a very proud guy who will not allow me to send stationary or money to cover any. And yet he wanted to give me something that would cost him more than 2 or 3 weeks to pay for.

I write to inmates because I am interested in people and I like getting mail. I don't really have any other altruistic motives, or a desire to "save" anyone. I've never received anything like this from a penpal before and I am both humbled and also really happy for Jon that he could do something that made him feel good too.