Texas incarceration 2015, august 29

It was a great trip to Houston. Holland is a little bit of a village: on my way to the airplane I met about eight former or present employees of the prison and in the plane I was seated next to a guy who is friends with one of our heads of departement.

   

  

  

  

 After my arrival, the guy who checked my passport asked what my profession is and told me he worked at the prison in Ferguson before:”a real bad place” he said and when looking in his eyes I realized that he really ment it: I congratulated him with is present job! The Ethiopian cab-driver remembered me where Houston is about: booming! Growing very fast, building and rebuilding, with lower housing-prices then in some other parts of the US and a good climat for entrepreneurs. Club Quarters Hotel is renovating too, but still comfortable, not to expensive and in the centre of Houston.

The amount of homeless people and psychiatric patients in the streets is incredibly high. In the neighborhood where my hotel is, they are the vast majority of te walking population. It seems everybody else is driving around in cars. People approach me very twenty meters or so and I start comparing the city-centre of Houston with some very poor, third world countries where I have been…..

My Uber brings me to at BB Coffee at Montrose Boulevard where I meet David Collingworth and Doug Smith. A pretty basic place with surprisingly very nice Gumbo with chicken and herbes! Doug and David are great guys, doing fantastic work. David is working as a facility-manager in 12 gyms, all over Houston, but he spends a lot of time on advocacy for his brothers and sisters who are still incarcerated. Het is the producer of the Prison Show and the first thing you see when David approaches is his big white cowboy-hat. David knows that drinking will bring him right behind the bars again so he is sober for a long time now. Doug has been a graduated social worker but was also an addiction-problem and he has been in prison for 6 years several robberies. Doug is working for an organization which works on alternatives for mass incarceration.I will visit Texas CJC in Austin  on wednesday and meet the people there.  The link to a small  interview with Doug is at the bottom of this page,

The atmosphere in the building of the prison show is unique. It is a big villa and there are al lot of people sitting and standing in the different rooms. On of them with a large table. A lot of the volunteers and vistors have been incarcerated and some of them are familie of incarcerated people, professionals somehow connected to the juridical system or active in organisations fighting injustice. Or just socially engaged. Everybody is equal here, it is a community in which you meet and support each other, join forces to promote human dignity and solidarity.

And it was a fantastic show yesterday. We were sitting in the recording room for two hours. Talking, with eachother, listening to music and other guests. Doug told about his work and gave a lot of relevant information, Pat Atwood came with news from death row and the execution-list for the next month, there was an old advocate with a lot of legal information who started with the quote:”the most difficult thing people have to learn after law-school is to act normal again! Law is about common sense and doing the right and honest thing!”. There was a guy who joined by telephone who is out of prison for three years now, trying to “keep my nose clean” and making music. Nice music too, I heard!

I gave a present from the guys from the metal shop in my prison: a key from srab-metal which can be used as an opener. Symbolizing that a key can lock people up but can also be used to open doors and help people to recover and return to society. In the show David described the key and the intention and I added the remark that this collectors-item was part of the a christmas-packet for every staff-ember of the Dutch prison system.

The most popular part of the Prison Show is the second hour. Loved ones from incarcerated people call in and speak out a message . Very emotional and it is difficult to keep your tears back when you listen. You feel that there are real people inside: fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, sisters. You feel the love for those who are inside and how cruel it is for people at home to miss them. Over here and everywhere in the world the most important thing when you are in prison is: family and other loved ones outside.

Here are some small interviews with people from yesterday night. More to come, because I will be back in the show again next friday for the fourth time. I once was interviewed at 3 PM sitting in my bed with my mobile phone. My wife sleeping and suddenly, after I hung up, a voice came from under the blanket-pile beside me:”Next time you want to give an interview you better put your teeth in!

You have to copy/paste  these links in your browser to watch the clips,  I think!

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