202 Chapters
Medium 9781574414325

Chapter 8 – Recreation

Jorge Antonio Renaud The University of North Texas Press ePub



TDCJ considers anything an inmate does out of his cell to be recreation, unless it is chow or part of his officially assigned duties. The official terms for recreation are either “programmatic activities,” which includes all officially sanctioned group meetings, and “non-programmatic activities,” which is essentially everything else.

Inmates spend most of their time at work, in their cells or socializing in the dayrooms or on the yard. Dayrooms are communal living areas. On most units, they open at 8 A.M. and close at 10:30 P.M. on weekdays and at 1 A.M. on weekends and holidays. They are open all day and are usually noisy and full of inmates. Most dayrooms have from four to ten tables, which seat four; from one bench to four, which seat from five to ten inmates; and have one or two televisions. Depending on the warden’s preferences, programs offered on television will range from the basic four networks to ESPN, USA, and various movie channels.

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Medium 9781574414325

Chapter 3 – Food

Jorge Antonio Renaud The University of North Texas Press ePub



Inmates in Texas prison eat in the chow halls because they have to, not because they want. Any chef will tell you that the quality of a meal drops with the amount of people you have to feed. In TDCJ, minimally trained cooks prepare from 1,000 to 3,000 meals three times a day, under minimal quality standards, and with only the pride they and an occasional professional wearing TDCJ gray bring to their jobs. The courts have ruled, and rightly so, that good taste cannot be dictated. The standard applied to institutional meals is that they be hot and nutritious. In turn, state dieticians and various medical experts set out the nutritional standards TDCJ follows. Inmates get three meals a day, and if an inmate eats all that he is offered, he will be assured of the minimal daily requirements of vitamins and minerals that medical experts say he needs to survive.

Meals consist of: three four-ounce servings of three different vegetables; a four-ounce serving of beans; a scoop of potatoes or rice; a piece of meat (except at breakfast); two pieces of bread, or two biscuits, or a three inch square of cornbread; and dessert at lunch (which can be cake, pie, gelatin, or pudding). That’s it. If you complain, or ask for more, chances are good that the staff will take your tray and order you from the chow hall.

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Medium 9781574413175

Chapter 10: “Making ’em Believe in Ghosts”

Bill Neal University of North Texas Press PDF



“Making ’em Believe in Ghosts”

The Beech Epting Murder Trial

A MONTH AND THREE DAYS AFTER the Fort Worth jury cleared John Beal Sneed for the killing of Colonel Albert Boyce, he was involved in another murder trial. But he was not the defendant in this one. His cohort, Beech Epting, was on trial for his role in the killing of Al Boyce, Jr.

Al Boyce was killed on September 14, 1912, in Amarillo, and a

Potter County grand jury had promptly indicted Beal Sneed and

Beech Epting, jointly, for murder.1 “Wild Bill” McLean once again was captain of the defense team, and he wasted no time in winning three major tactical victories during pretrial proceedings.

First, McLean argued for a change of venue to transfer the trial out of Potter County. With considerable water under his paddle, he argued that on account of the sensational nature of the killing as well as the massive publicity that followed, it would be impossible to get an “unpolluted” jury in Amarillo. There was another factor of which McLean was mindful: although a hung jury was a victory for the defense in the first Fort Worth murder trial, nevertheless, he and Beal Sneed were determined to win this trial—12 to 0 for the defense. In Amarillo, sentiment was bitter and split down the middle between Boyce partisans and Sneed partisans. Hence, it seemed most unlikely that any twelve Amarillo jurors could be found who would agree, unanimously, on any verdict.

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Medium 9781626562080

Chapter 8 From Capital to Commons

Capra, Fritjof Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Because of the tremendous might of the mechanistic trap, an irresistible evolution toward disorder and destruction, as predicted by the second law of thermodynamics, seems unavoidable in human affairs. This grim picture of the world as a machine running down because of immutable mechanical human laws can produce disempowerment and despair unless we realize that, like the laws of nature, human laws are not necessarily cast in the mechanistic vision that currently dominates the common understanding. Moving beyond the current common understanding thus requires a long-term strategy to make the systemic paradigm shift politically relevant. In this chapter, we discuss three strategic objectives to pursue: disconnecting law from power and violence; making community sovereign; and making ownership generative.

The most important structural solution to the rush toward final disorder is to restore some harmony between human laws and the laws of nature by giving law back to networks of communities. If the people were to understand the nature of law as an evolving common, reflecting local conditions and fundamental needs, they would care about it. People would understand that the law is too important to remain in the hands of organized corporate interests.1 We are the makers and users of the law. If we are alone in front of the law, we are inevitably afraid. However, together we are the law! We must understand that the only real power we have as individuals and communities is to choose how to look at the law in the community. Do we recognize it as fair and legitimate in the broader goal to save civilization? Do we decide to abide by it or not? How much are we willing to put ourselves at stake to avoid what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil?2 We do not need to be heroes—we only need to develop an ecological perception of society. We need a vision that defeats economic-induced individualism by locating the law at the level of social networks and ecological communities. We need, as a society, to pierce the ideological veil of a legal system that is abstract and mechanical, “owned” by the state, and kept distant from individual people by the professionalized culture of corporate lawyers.

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Medium 9781626562691

3 On the Homefront

Schenwar, Maya Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I remember Judge McBryde saying “life,” and Mom screaming over and over, “You can’t do that! You’re not God! You can’t take someone’s life.”

               —Billy Jackson, son of federal prisoner Joe Jackson

In the classic game Monopoly, the square called “Jail” sits ominously in a corner of the board. It’s a hole into which an unsuspecting player might fall after an unlucky roll of the die, or the drawing of a bad card, or simply stumbling upon a space marked “GO TO JAIL” while ambling along the path to riches or ruin. Once you’ve been “sentenced,” you’ve got just three possible routes out of your lonesome confinement: luck (rolling doubles), privilege (a Get Out of Jail Free card), or money.

But once in a while, players stuck inside the jail square have company. A pale green space clings to its outward-facing perimeter: a kind of dry, liminal moat between Jail and the edge of the board, inscribed with the words, “Just Visiting.” A player who happens upon Jail without being mandated there isn’t punished, but must merely spend a brief turn in the square, then get along on her way to other squares and other ventures, as if it had never happened.

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