HELL HOLE NEWS
October 27, 2008
I quit writing this column a few years back because we had a decent warden
who was trying to make things better for us (actually we had two (2) in a
row Biscoe and Massey) and I didnt want to be disparaging them. Things
since have taken a serious down turn for the worse, to the point that now
that I feel compelled to once again take up my pen and deal with it.
Running a prison is a difficult endeavor, I'd be the first to agree. Death
Row is even more difficult, due mainly to the attendant publicity of high
profile capital cases. The prisoners themselves are some of the easiest to
manage. However, were a laid back bunch. Kids grow up playing cops and
robbers, cowboys and Indians. Pow, Pow! with their cap pistols. It's quite
a different thing though, when the caps are live bullets, blood flies and
people die. As I've told yall 10,000 times in the past, I'm innocent of
the crime I'm here for and I have evidence to prove it — but I'm not
here this time to belabor that point. The courts seem not to care so far.
My case is currently in the 5th Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals. So
thankfully, one way or another, my time here is about to end. But for
others, some of whom are guilty, I've seen what death has done to them.
Causing death, and / or witnessing it, has a profound effect on even the
hardest of persons. It will humble you. It'll make you get your heart
right with God. It'll make you wish a million times you could turn back
the clock and 'fix' your wrongs, see the people breathing again. For me,
theyve killed 322 people since I've been here and, by the time yall read
this that number will be way higher since two (2) a week are set to die
every week through the end of November. Before I came here Id seen exactly
five (5) dead people my grandpa in a casket when I was 6 0r 7; I didnt go
to my dad's funeral in 1991. I just couldnt do it. So I didnt see him dead
and Im glad of it. I prefer to remember him alive. The only funeral I'm
going to will be my own and I'm gonna be late to that one, if I can. I saw
my girlfriend dead but have little memory of that, except that I fell on
her feet and nudged them with my foot; so I knew she was dead. I didnt see
my girlfriend's sons dead but later I was forced to look at them in photos
after they were dead and wished I hadn't. In 1991 my best friend was shot
and killed while I was standing right beside him, less than a foot away.
He was shot in the right chest with a .30-.30 Winchester rifle. It blew
pieces of him all over me as the bullet exited his back. More recently
I've lost every friend I ever had here. Texas killed them one by one. They
leave here. They never come back. I read in the paper what they said and
how they died, how many minutes it took them to die, what colors they turn
as the chemicals course through their veins, how they strangle, gurgle,
rasp, snore and die, die, die. So, trust me, I've got experience here with
death. Thirteen (13) years of it. 322 executions worth. For all the
terrible things some may have done, I've never encountered any of the
"monsters", "demons", "sociopaths", "super predators" or "deranged
killers" the D. A.'s and news media are always talking about. I've seen
only human beings some wretched, true but mostly just twisted and broken
by dismal lives and upbringings they themselves had little or no control
over. Im not seeking to lessen their responsibility, I'm just saying, it
could happen to anyone and, it has.
Acceptance and realization of the enormity of the deed of causing death
has affected so many so profoundly that we've had quite a few suicide
attempts and completions. Others drop their appeals, but that's suicide
too, in my eyes. The most recent was Michael Rodriquez of the Texas 7. The
isolation, desperation, sensory deprivation and the utter despair of
realizing the enormity of what hed done drove him to conclude that he'd
rather die than continue to live in this misery, this man made purgatory
called Texas death row. The media describes our conditions as "stark".
Ha/ha! What a malicious understatement. Look at the Walnut street prison
"experiment" mentioned in the case of in re Medley, 1890 U. S. Supreme
Court. This is a form of the "Pennsylvania System" which was instituted by
the Quakers in mid 1800's. It was known that as now, over 154 years later,
that THESE CONDITIONS DRIVE MEN MAD, as Charles Dickens stated upon his
visit to one of those SHU's:
"The dull repose and quiet that prevails is awful. In his shroud [of a
cell] is lowered an emblem of the curtain dropped between him and society,
the living world; he is led to the cell from which he never again comes
forth until his whole term of imprisonment has expired He is a man buried
alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years and in the meantime is
dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair". So, with
all that said, you know I'm qualified as a lay expert on these subjects.
I've been all over death row in my years here and talked to countless men,
some guilty, some innocent, some in the murky gray areas in between. I can
tell you that when a man lays dying on that gurney and says his is so
sorry for what he did, he really means it and, when he sheds a tear, it is
for the victims, not himself. We're scared of death, as everyone is; but
most of us who have any sense left view death as an escape from this
torment. Yes, dying is bad. But it'll be over in a few minutes and thus
it's the easy part when compared to all we've suffered and seen here.
It is profoundly disturbing to watch a sane man you'd just talked to in
the dayroom, from your cell one day, when he just "snaps" and goes stark
raving mad the next day, covers himself in feces and cuts himself to
ribbons or, hangs himself with a sheet or mattress cover strips braided
into a rope. The next day he's gone, the empty cell a 'stark' (ha/h)
reminder of what happens here. I've seen it many times.
All this brings me to Richard Tabler. He's hardly some dark dangerous thug
as portrayed in the media. First of all, this kid is mentally disturbed.
Hes in his early 20's, he's 6' 2" or 3", weighs about 145 lbs and looks
like a walking pixie stick with rickets, he's so skinny. Hes bald headed,
has big ears, no teeth and is goofy as the day is long. We call him
"Gollum", after the creature in J. R. R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". If
you saw him youd readily agree he looks straight out of Hobbitville. His
I. Q. is maybe 5 points above being profoundly mentally retarded. Go to
the TDCJ website for death row and look at a photo of him. It'll speak for
A few years ago some fool put a gun in his hands and showed him how to use
it. Supposedly he killed two teenage girls and two grown men. Apparently
he accepts his fate, since he's dropped his appeals and asked to be
executed and, he hasn't yet been on death row long enough for this place
to drive him crazier.
Tabler loves attention. He'll do anything to get it. I've seen him in the
dayroom squatted down like Chuck Berry, walking back and forth with his
thumbs under his armpits, flapping his folded arms like a bird and
hollering over and over "quack, quack, I'm a duck! quack, quack, I'm a
duck"! to settle a bet.
Well, most recently another fool gave him a phone. It was not an officer
who gave it to him and Tabler did not pay anyone $2,100.00 for it. I
certainly agree he had no business with it at all and Id repeatedly voiced
that sentiment to several, previous to these latest happenings to verify
that Tabler is a mental patient. Hes recently tried to kill himself and (I
think) he is currently on suicide watch at Jester IV nut hatch.
I've read a handful of news stories out of my own and various associates'
newspapers about this fiasco and had reported to me what others heard on
the radio about it, most notably excerpts from Senator Whitmire's special
session of his Committee on Criminal Justice on October 21st.
So I'd like to point out the following:
The news media keeps saying Tabler threatened Whitmires daughters. That is
simply NOT true. Whitmire specifically stated that Tabler never threatened
him or his family, at the hearing.
Tabler called Whitmire in a desperate plea for help. He'd dropped his
appeals, he was maybe having second thoughts and most of all he wanted
Whitmire's help to see his mother and grandmother one time before he died.
He appealed to Whitmire as a parent and mentioned he knew Whitmire had
Whitmire took the original call despite the fact that Tabler
misrepresented himself as an old friend Whitmire knew he did not have
once he verified that, all he had to do was say, "I don't know you, don't
call this number again" and hang up. Instead, he led Tabler on, discovered
his real identity, gave Tabler his personal cell phone number, told Tabler
he could call him anytime and promised to help him any way he could now
though he's crying that "no one should have to go through what hes been
through the last three weeks". Well boo hoo. He invited it all upon
himself by his own actions! He could've just hung up and walked away. But
no, he instead set out to entice and entrap Tabler. Make no mistake about
it, his actions are the quintessential definition of entrapment. Just to
make a little political hay in the media and attack TDCJ for gain on his
own little personal hate agenda. He says Tabler "frankly, scared the hell
out of" him. Tabler's locked in a box. He can't hurt anyone. He doesn't
hold any sway with anyone in the world except maybe his mama and his
sister, who allegedly helped pay his phone bill. Whitmire enticed Tabler's
mother to fly to Austin on pretext of taking her to Livingston for a last
visit with her about to be executed son. Instead he made a public
spectacle of arresting the poor old woman, 61 years old. I guess Tabler's
84 year old grandma was left to fend for herself and only because she
didn't buy her grandson a few phone minutes? What I really can't
understand is, why can't someone see Whitmire's actions for the ridiculous
stunt it is? Why?
Whitmire says 9 other prisoners used the phone and theyre all gang
members, this 'n that. "What about the judges, prosecutors, jurors and
victims who put those people away who're in fear for their lives when
these gang members put "hits on them"? Pardon me, but as O.I.G. head John
Moriarity himself stated in another story I read, these people are calling
home to mom, sis, and wives, not putting "hits" on anyone. Out of the
2,800 phone calls Whitmire is ballyhooing, not one prosecutor, judge, cop,
juror or victim was called. TDCJ has confiscated, in a years time, 19
phones, the story said. Let's assume they all made at least 1,000 calls.
Out of 19,000 calls and probably more than that, no judge, prosecutor,
cop, juror or victim was contacted. TDCJ is installing pay phones for
prisoners. There are gang members in population just as there are on death
row. Whitmire isn't worried about who they'll call is he?
Whitmire alleges there is a rampant problem with cell phones and prison
officials are "lax" in doing anything about it. The evidence refutes these
assertions. Nineteen (19) phones in a year. Thats less than 2 per month in
10 months. The population of death row is roughly 400 people. Thats less
that of 1% of death row prisoners who could or did get a phone. Since the
lockdown began they found 3 phones. This attests to the fact that Polunsky
Unit officials have been very persistent and diligent in busting and
seizing the phones from anyone who managed to get one.
I don't like Wardens Billy Hirsch or Timothy Simmons and likely I never
will because they've done nothing but mistreat me and my loved ones since
the day they got here. Hirsch has threatened my people, Simmons has made
demonstrably false allegations against my wife and both of them had her
taken off my visitors list and put on a negative correspondents list
because she is an activist and has helped me file grievances and
complaints on them and because I've written letters to her wherein I was
critical of them. To this day they are still retaliating against me every
time I write a grievance on them. If you have any doubts about this, I'll
be more than happy to supply you with copies of the grievances and
evidence I possess; just write and ask.
That said, in this one instance, I'm forced to side with them where
Whitmire is concerned. There has been more contraband confiscated and its
routes plugged since Simmons got here than at any time in the last 13
years I've been here and I'm absolutely 100% certain that TDCJs own
records will bear that out.
Again, to put this 'rampant' cell phone 'problem' in perspective, in the
last 3 years Moriarity has logged a total of 700 cases in a prison
population of 155,000 convicts? That's miniscule! Again less than 1%
folks! By comparison, in Maryland, a state 1/20th the size of Texas, with
a prison population of only 27,000 1/6th the size of Texas, officials in
Maryland confiscated over 800 cell phones in one week. You can readily
see, with numbers like this, that Whitmires claim is bogus in extreme.
The next thing is, for the most part we have pretty decent guards here.
Theyre mostly humane to us but you couldnt pay one of them $10,000.00 to
bring something in here. No death row guard has been caught bringing
anything in here this year, that I'm aware of. While I'm not going to put
it out there, there are many ways for things to get in here that do not
involve any human carrying it. To attack these guards, subject them to
false allegations, rumors of "spy cameras in the vent" watching them,
searching them and otherwise showing distrust of them is only going to
destroy their morale and make them want to quit their pathetically low
paying jobs and walk out. Then who's going to run the show? DPS? Ha/ha.
Whitmire's suggestion to put 'law enforcement' officers in here is
ludicrous. The police here to police the police? At who's expense? At your
expense, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public taxpayer! So Whitmire would take DPS
officers off the streets where they can protect and serve you folks out
there, only so they can protect Senator Whitmire from unwanted phone calls
from in here? Hmmmm. How quaint.
Tabler was calling Whitmire to inform him about the unconstitutional and
deplorable conditions extant on death row. Whitmire inexplicably failed to
mention this, except for prisoner Billy Mason who is starving himself to
death. He's currently in sad enough shape that they have to wheel him to
the infirmary in a wheelchair or on a stretcher.
Captain Bryant and his cronies are currently employing leveling
classification as their own personal tool of punishment and retaliation
without any due process whatsoever. They have various prisoners they don't
like isolated in corner cells all over 12 building, mishoused and
misclassified, while falsely calling it an "integrated" cell assignment.
Any prisoner who resists such assignment is gassed excessively, beaten and
given a case.
Personally, I had no involvement whatsoever with Tabler's escapade. Yet
the same day they ran down on him, 10-20-08, 45 minutes later Bryant used
it as his excuse and license to run down on me, too. Why? Because I've
been filing grievances on him and Hirsch and their pet property officer
Ms. Smith (same name as the Major likely his wife, sister, or both). They
took my table light, my pillow, my clothes, my bed sheets, my socks, my
underwear and even my under arm anti-perspirant purchased from the
commissary. I realize thats slim pickin's but that's all thats left
because the last few grievances I filed before, they ran down on me and
took all my books, magazines, fan, legal material, food and even my
postage stamps and envelopes trying to keep me from mailing the suit I'm
about to file on them, I guess. Or, to keep me from communicating with my
This property officer, Smith, is terrorizing death row in her own little
campaign of hate. You know, in the last 10 years theyve taken nearly every
single privilege we ever had, all in the name of "security" or some other
vague reason. Now, all we have left are books and magazines to read and
items we purchase from the commissary which is little of nothing.
The books come from vendors like Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, ordered and
paid for by our families and loved ones out there. On commissary you can
buy a typewriter; a nightlight / table lamp, soft soled boots; tennis
shoes; a hot pot ; a fan; a radio and headphones; a wrist watch; a chess
set, a few other items. Now, anytime a prisoner comes to level or they
want to retaliate against him, Smith is destroying his property receipts
and falsely claiming the "ownership is questioned" and confiscating the
prisoner's property. She doesn't even give the prisoner the opportunity to
contest it and prove ownership per policy, she just writes "refused to
sign" on the confiscation form and sometimes gives it to the prisoner,
sometimes notthen the prisoner doesn't even know she has done away with
his property until he makes level one again and doesn't get it back. When
questioned by another prisoner she loudly and proudly proclaimed that
Warden Hirsch and Major Smith told her to it that way.
Of course it hurts the prisoner to lose his stuff. But it's not the
prisoner who's ultimately losing; it's his family and loved one who paid
for the books or put money on the prisoner's commissary account to pay for
his commissary items.
Friederich Wilhem Von Nietzsche so famously said "Beware all those in whom
the urge to punish is very strong". In recent years we've been subjected
to a veritable blitzkrieg of inbred redneck yahoo idiots as ranking
officers and administrative authorities who only want to punish, isolate,
restrict, restrain, subjugate, suppress or otherwise mistreat us for
reasons that are not related to true prison security, order or discipline.
In my view, regardless of what they did or didnt do, anyone who mistreats
or abuses prisoners who are locked in a box awaiting death and otherwise
helpless to defend themselves is on the same level with pedophiles,
rapists and people who steal old folks social security checks out of their
mailboxes. Were not here to be punished and mistreated on these fools
personal whim in order to make them feel powerful or in a control or,
otherwise assuage their petty egotistical needs and personal desires. We
were sent here to die. That's our punishment and according to TX VAACP
(Code of Criminal Procedure) Art. 43.24 were not supposed to be
mistreated, tortured or abused otherwise. Perhaps Senator Whitmire could
expend a modicum of his precious time seeing to that dictate of the law
instead of death row bashing for political gain? Well, I dont knowasking
him to impassively and correctly do the job he was elected to, that might
be too much to ask, eh?
The other thing Nietzsche so famously said was: "He who fights 'monsters'
must be ever vigilant to not become that very thing which he loathes".
Guess some of these Texas prison authorities and Whitmire himself have
fallen in that trap, huh.
In this place you cannot have anything, say anything, see anything, know
anything, do anything, be anything, hear anything or enjoy anything. It's
beyond being merely inhumane; locus es terribilis iste! "this place is
terrible!" Some of you might be quick to say "well, they're capital
murderers and they shouldn't have anything anyway". To you I would say,
again, not all of us are guilty but besides that, our court sanctioned
punishment is DEATH; we forfeit our very lives for the crimes we're
accused of, so we shouldnt have to forfeit more, extra-judicially, in the
meantime just because others want to make us suffer. If you believe
otherwise, then you are the very thing you accuse us of being: a
remorseless, vile, sociopathic killer. The mark of a civilized society is
supposed to be its ability to rise above the baser instincts of
animalistic terror. If you wish to visit that upon us, you are not part of
civilized society. It is that same society which condemns such actions by
sentencing people to death who commit them.. …i.e. again, you become the
'monster' you loathe.
The Texas media says this is the first "prison sweep in over a decade".
Ha! What a joke. Theres a state-wide lockdown in the system annually and
another shorter one in the summer, semi-annually for a major shakedown (i.
e. unit wide total search and destroy) every year since the escape, so
that assertion by the media is just totally false.
Secondly, Senator Whitmire complains that "contraband" issues are the #1
case TDCJ officers write and something needs to be done to
alleviate/eradicate the "contraband problem". I agree but only to this
extent: Whitmire obviously does not even understand how TDCJ defines
contraband. In short, contraband is anything, some officer or rank doesn't
want you to possess any longer. If an officer doesnt like your attitude
or, is irate with you for his own personal reasons, he'll just go search
your cell and find a reason to take your stuff. Your t-shirt got a pinhole
in it? Loose seam? Contraband, confiscate it. Your night light got a crack
in the shade? Contraband, take it. You fan got a small chink missing out
of the grill? Contrabandkiss it goodbye! Anything changed from its
original shape? altered it's contraband! TDCJ teaches its officers to
retaliate against prisoners and the ubiquitous, all- encompassing
"contraband" is used as a tool of punishment in this fashion. Until
something is done to change this practice contraband will always be the #1
case written, simply due to the way it is misused. Something which is
"altered" is not supposed to be considered as contraband and confiscated
unless it presents a treat to the safety and security of the institution,
staff and or other offenders" i.e. a frayed cord on a hot pot or radio
could short out and presents an electrical fire hazard. But the way TDCJ
employs the rule, if you use a bar of soap you just bought, its 'altered'
and they can take it from you.
Lastly, if you were a parent with a child of yours on death row and he
were about to be executed, wouldnt you want to talk to him and come see
him once before he was murdered by the state? Regardless of what he may
have done, he's still your son, right? Sure he is. TDCJ hold its
prisoners, especially death row, in virtual isolation. Theyre interdicting
and otherwise obstructing and censoring our mail for reasons not related
to prisoner needs or security but trying to use it as a tool of
manipulation against us, while delaying its delivery for days or even
weeks. Last week I had a delivery of briefs and grievance copies robbed
from me, where the mail room illegally confiscated the copies and still
refuses to give them to me. These are briefs filed in my case, upon which
my very life depends. Its circumstances like this which are driving other
prisoners to seek alternative means of communication. TDCJ's own draconian
practices which by the way are illegal and unconstitutional .. are what's
causing these problems. Why should the prisoners be made to suffer for it?
The enticement, entrapment and arrest of Mrs. Tabler is a shameful and
sadistic act which rests on Whitmire's shoulders. Whitmire has
intentionally lied and misled the media about much of this matter; he
should be called upon to answer for it, rather than encouraged by the
media to continue his political grandstanding.
Best regards to one and all,
999143 Polunsky Unit
H W Hank Skinner
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston TX 77351-8580