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Fri, May 4, at He stands at the end of my bunk, just out of striking distance. He brazenly assaults me with the bad news that work time is upon us.
The Juan Valdez commissary coffee tastes like floor-scrapings, but I make a double-shot and slam it down John Wayne style cold. A fun-house image mocks me from the warped, scratched plastic mirrors bolted into the bricks above a long line of basins in our dorm.
Gotta pay my debt to society. Neither can the blisters on our hands, inflamed by each mud-flung swing of a pickax.
"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" I Know Why the Caged Bird Screams (TV Episode 1994) - Quotes - IMDb
Kris and I fend off the stabbing wind by chest-boxing as we wait. Out in the cold, we watch as our ancient field boss makes his way down the walk toward us with the exaggerated swagger of a Wild West lawman, his gait impervious to the elements. As our names are checked off the roster and we file past the turnout line gate, he finally says it: We avoid eye contact. He might as well be told he has cancer. We work through the day in silence.
I watch after him as he deals with this latest news the only way a convict knows how: If nothing else, these hard rocks prove therapeutic as we consort with them, aiding their thousand-year evolution into dust with a few swift blows of the sledgehammer. The rocks are about the only things we can depend on in life that will be there tomorrow after tomorrow. At the end of the day, I lie in my rack confounded by this latest setoff. What could the Board of Pardons and Paroles possibly see in Kris that warrants this crushing blow?
When Kris signed on for his time, there was no such monster as a five-year setoff. One of them was 16 and had a car. Another had a shotgun. While buying sodas at a service station, one of the boys whistled at a pretty girl.
Her year-old brother, who had a rap sheet and a reputation for violence, was there. He approached the car with a volley of threats and curses. From the back the weapon was produced, and after a brief struggle, the attacker was shot in the stomach and left bleeding to death outside the pellet-peppered door.
Kris, not being one to shirk responsibility, turned himself in to the authorities. After being tried as a juvenile, his court-appointed attorney, without so much as a cursory investigation, convinced Kris to accept a year sentence in a plea agreement.
It was there that I met Kris several years later. At 21, I gained one of the best friends anyone could hope for. Kris has always been loyal, quiet, and respectful. But Kris has a somber side. He knows that all the laughs our lives are graced with cannot compensate for the anguish of everyone touched by the tragedy that landed him here. Kris is an anomaly. He never brags about it like so many others do.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Screams - The Texas Observer
He has, as a kid, acted more like a man than many on the inside who behave as spoiled children and cry like babies who think the world owes them something.
When I was assigned to the old Walls Unit in Huntsville, it was my job to dress out convicts bound for home. Each day I watched predators of every sort leave prison on parole.
Texas spends big money on electronic tracking gadgets, which rarely dissuade them from their nefarious ways. For the life of me, I cannot answer the question: He already has two associate degrees and is a certified welder, as well as an EPA-certified air-conditioning and refrigeration technician. Certainly he would be a valuable asset to the working community. He has taken every class offered by the state of Texas geared toward rehabilitation. In the eyes of the parole honchos, what do these accomplishments account for?
Kris will be 37 when his next review date arrives.
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By then, he will have been eligible for parole for more than 11 years. When he is 50, he will discharge his sentence day-for-day. If that occurs, after having spent 35 years behind bars, Kris will be scot-free with no leash, no monitoring fail-safes and zero help with re-entry into society. What will he do then? At times, he has lamentably asked me about things I have a working knowledge of, or at least a fading memory of. Kris has never had a girlfriend, nor ever been kissed by anyone other than his mom.
My friend Kris came to this place before he was old enough to go to a prom, and when the state finally does release him, he will resume his shattered teen years as a marked, old man. Thousands walk out of Texas prison yearly, only to return soon afterward. Why does this happen? What causes such disparity?
Recent news stories indicate that the Sunset Advisory Commission is also curious as to whether the parole system in Texas is just another money funnel.
While the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is begging for millions more dollars to build new prisons, the Board of Pardons and Paroles appears to be acting in collusion by holding secret meetings at undisclosed locations and warehousing thousands of inmates who have been eligible for parole for years.
Sometimes it seems as if the TDCJ only releases those who have a high probability for failure: Although her health has declined over the years and Kris rarely hears from his mom anymore, she is not unlike every other mother whose child or children dwells among the ,plus prisoners serving time in Texas.
Their voices are loud and gaining in volume over this tax-draining nonsense. Those who sit in judgment as part of their civic duty in jury trials were all instructed as to the semantics of parole and parole eligibility.
Who do parole board members think they are to overrule the concerned public and ignore the Legislature? It is an abuse of power to hold prisoners who are eligible for parole without just cause. They who know us for who we are, not by what we have been convicted of, are tiring of that old soapbox saw … and they want us home.
What hope should my friend Kris cling to for the next five years? The next five Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, and other holidays? What hope does he or any of us have? What message does the parole board send when it issues such a drastic setoff? Does it matter what one does after the fact when such a mistake is made in life?
Why should we not just give up? Good thing there are enough rocks to distract us and occupy our hearts for a new week of sorrows and a lifetime of tomorrows. Andrew Papke pleaded guilty to two counts of intoxication manslaughter in The summer before, driving drunk, he killed a young Austin couple-Beth Early and Daniel London-in a traffic accident.
In prison serving two consecutive year sentences, Papke has become active in Alcoholics Anonymous and a prison mediation program which brings inmates together with crime victims. Kristopher Mewes was convicted of murder with a deadly weapon in and is serving a year sentence. Published Fri, May 4, at