Texas incarceration, september 7

When I write this, I am already in the airplane. In my suitcase in the belly of this plane there are all those beautiful jewelry that Nanon made: for Nel, Simon, Linda and some of the incarcerated persons in Zuyder Bos. I will get a lot more of this: for Douwconsultancy with its own logo and for others in Holland who want promotion-products from nanon with their own words and logo on it!delay of three hours, so I( will arrive late in Amsterdam. It was a very exhausting but also very rewarding trip. When I am home there is a lot of work to do in connection to the people I met. Of course I have quite a few things to do for Nanon and Harvey, but I also want to find a way to support the innovation of the Texas Prison System, one way or the other. The conversations at the Capitol and Goodwill were promising and the passion and energy of people like Gloria, Douglas, Bryonn and all the others will get us somewhere! Prison Action and Dialogue day is the next challenge for the end of november and right after that we want to organize a follow up in the form of a tour of Bryonn and his musicians to England and Holland. He wants to perform in theaters (Paradiso) universities and prisons. We are in the business of connecting, promoting awareness and inspiring!

Next friday we will have a skype-discussion to prepare the Prison Action Day. Bryonn and me prepared some of it:

Prison Action and Dialogue day will:

connect on the theme of how to empower (former) incarcerated people.

Will use ZOOM instead of Skype.

Will ask from participants (we need one person to be responsable for each city) to prepare one A4. We are not looking for papers on the situation in a whole country with political analyzes.

What we need are the experiences, challenges and successes on grassroot-level in the practice of the people who either are/were incarcerated or deal with them directly.

Will look for Ideas about how to innovate the proces of reintegration: inside and outside the prison. And we want to know what support each of the participating cities can offer to other participants and/or what they need from others. For example: knowledge, internships and working-visits (including places to stay), information, working together etc..

will, beside the papers of each participant, provide the conference a paper with general information about each country involved: incarceration-rate,, number of inhabitants, practice on solitairy confinement and long-term (life-) sentences (Frans).
A Parolee’s Day with a Dutch Prison Warden
I went to Houston last week to discuss the restoration of food-assistance benefits to people with drug felony convictions on The Prison Show, a radio program that reaches nearly 80,000 of the State’s 150,000 incarcerated individuals. The station also invited Frans Douw, a warden of three prisons in the Netherlands, to be a guest on the program. Frans, the producer of the show, and I met for dinner prior to the show, where I found a rare opportunity to learn about corrections from an entirely different perspective. After the program, I invited Frans to come to Austin for a day to continue our conversation. He joined me at the State Capitol, where we discussed criminal justice policy with legislative staff.  
The following are some reflections from my conversation with Frans.
The Netherlands is a country of 16 million people, yet, as of late-2013, there were only 13,749 people incarcerated in the entire country. Frans indicated that his country is rapidly closing prisons, and that the actual prison population is now closer to 8,000. For perspective, New York has a population of 19 million with an incarcerated population of 53,000; and New York is the leading state in terms of reductions in its prison population. I asked Frans his thoughts on why there is such a stark difference between our two countries in terms of the number of people they incarcerate. His response should be instructive.
First, the Netherlands simply does not incarcerate people for possession of a controlled substance. Conversely, Texas incarcerates more than 14,000 people in prison or state jail for possession—not trafficking or dealing—but merely for possession. The state pays more than $265 million per year to house these individuals. Imagine the improvements in quality and availability of drug treatment we could achieve with even a fraction of that amount. It is important to note that, despite the Netherland’s relaxed drug policies, the prevalence of drug abuse in that country is actually far lower than in the United States.
Second, prison is seen a last resort in the Netherlands. Frans reminded me that his country’s attitudes toward incarceration were informed by leaders who had themselves been incarcerated. Nearly 350,000 people from the Netherlands were abducted and forced into labor under Nazi rule during World War II. Frans mentioned several times during our visit that many Dutch consider incarceration to be one of the most devastating things the government can do to another human being. As a result, the country utilizes many other approaches, such as community supervision, treatment, and electronic monitoring, to avoid placing someone in prison.  
Frans emphasized that criminal behavior often mirrors the very circumstances one finds within a society. Where there are communities with high rates of abuse, violence, drug addiction, and alcoholism, criminal behavior is an inevitable consequence. Therefore, the Dutch are more diligent in supporting the resources that address those issues. During his stay in Houston, Frans was shocked by the number of homeless people walking the streets. He also noticed an astonishingly high number of armed police walking those streets. Frans questioned why Texas would spend such an inordinate amount of money on police when we could achieve even better and less costly public-safety outcomes by investing in mental health and substance abuse resources.  
These are not outlandish ideas. Seattle developed a similar approach to criminal justice. Instead of arresting people for crimes such as drug possession or prostitution, police in that city divert them to community organizations where they receive treatment. These are populations that tend to cycle in and out of jails and prisons, yet the same population in Seattle was 60% less likely to be re-arrested when diverted to community organizations compared to those who were arrested and taken to county jail.  
In terms of corrections, our countries could not be more different. In the Netherlands, nearly all incarcerated individuals are seen as “temporary residents.” In fact, there are only 35 people in the entire country serving life without parole. Further, people tend to serve fewer years in prison in the Netherlands for the same crimes committed in the U.S. The result is an emphasis on preparing incarcerated individuals for inevitable release. While incarcerated, people work in jobs that instill meaningful skills. They engage in treatment. Frans is the warden of three separate units, yet he could tell me the cognitive and intellectual deficits of each individual in his custody so that he could ensure that the programming is individualized to their needs.  
They don’t throw people away in the Netherlands. Frans told me of one exceptionally violent individual in his care. The individual had committed crimes serious enough to warrant a lengthy sentence. After years of incarceration, the man had given up hope of a life outside prison. He had receded into himself, and spent most of his days in his cell. Frans tried a different approach.
Frans had collaborated with a community dog shelter to house and train dogs that had been abused by previous owners. Rather than euthanize the animals, prison residents were invited to train the dogs to the point that they were ready for adoption. The man serving the lengthy sentence watched the classes from the window of his cell. Surprising everyone, the man volunteered to become a trainer. He had such a gentle way with the dogs that he eventually become the instructor, teaching fellow residents to become dog trainers. In response to people who don’t believe that prisoners can be rehabilitated, Frans responds with a question, “If it were your child, would you give up on rehabilitation?” 
With nearly 40 years of experience in corrections, the Netherlands gave Frans the latitude to try even more innovative approaches. With three prisons, he was able to turn one of them into a self-supporting unit. The residents grow and cook their own food. They develop products such a landscaping tools for sale on the open market, which provides a small income to prepare incarcerated individuals for release while decreasing overall prison costs by 30 percent. Frans created reintegration centers within his prisons where residents can meet employers and prepare for inevitable release.  
In Texas’ prisons, incarcerated individuals can obtain a G.E.D., and may be able to obtain vocational skills if they can afford to pay for the classes themselves. Waiting lists for vocational training in high-demand trades such as welding can be years long. Very little is done to prepare people for release other than helping them to obtain a Social Security card and providing a list of community resources upon release. There is no wonder that the overall re-arrest rate for people coming out of Texas prison is 46 percent, and above 60 percent for those released from state jails.
There are many differences between the U.S. and the Netherlands. It is unrealistic to expect our criminal justice models to mirror one another. However, Texas could create safer communities at a lower cost by simply shifting to a mindset that:

Does not criminalize addiction,

Makes incarceration a last resort,

Invests in resources to address social problems such as addiction and mental illness, and

Treats prisoners as “temporary residents” who will one day rejoin our communities.
I plan to stay in touch with Frans in the months and years to come. In my job at Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, we are advocating for sentencing reforms to lower penalties for drug possession. Much of this work will involve shifting resources to make community supervision far more effective. It gives me hope to know that other countries have achieved even lower crime rates than the U.S. without such a heavy reliance on incarceration. More than that, I’m grateful to have a friend who treats those involved with the criminal justice system with genuine compassion.   

Texas Incarceration september 4, 2015



https://youtu.be/sdWhNXcchVoShowshow2KaartNanon KaartNanon1Nanon1

The Prison Show was great again. Mike, David and Hank let me co-host the show and i could ask questions to a lady who does a great programm in New York giving incarcerated people the chance to do college inside the prison. And I also spoke omn air with a lady who does an inquiry on the effect of the long probation-period they use over here. Proving the Obvious: has to be done to persuade politicians and policy-makers to use their common send. Or the common sense of someone else…… I became real friends with the prison show: can drop in, also by telephone from Holland, anytime when I have important stuff to share! Above you find te link to two small interviews I made: one with producer David Collinworth and one with a sweet lady who keeps on visiting and supporting her brother for decades. He was on death row for 26 years and due to mistakes in his trail  he now has a life sentence without parole.

I meet my friend Bryonn Bain late at night!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlmbxZKjve0  He is a performer, professor and prison activist from New York, now he just moved to LA. He is an inspirational man and I am so glad he reserves time in his busy schedule to go to Nanon with me and prepare Prison Action Day. When Bryonn talks about the chafes in his live and why he had to move forward he speaks the same language as Toon and me. It is about an innovator who realises that everybody accepts him as the one who does the new stuff and gives them an accuse to lean back. Then it really is the time to change. We talk and talk on the terrace of a trendy cafe and I finally hit the sack at 2 am.

In the early morning I do not feel like jogging alt all, but at 7.30 am I find myself running along Main Streets, towards the Bayou River. At 9 o’clock we are driving towards Ramsey Unit to visit Nanon. Same procedure as alwijs: the search us and the car on a post which is at least 1 mile from prison. When we arrive at Ramsey we can only bring 20 dollars in quarters and our ID in. And we are profoundly searched again get drinks and candy from the machines and go sit in line af chairs for visitors opposite to the line of incarcerated people at the other side of the glass. It is noisy and incredibly hard to her what is said at the other side of the glass. But we are happy to meet each other, do our best and manage to have a wonderful, 4 hours conversation. Three very different man between forty and sixty, originally coming from Texas, Holland, Trinidad. Warden, incarcerated person, performer and professor, jewelry maker, writer, Black and White.  When you look at us you can hardly imagine that we are close friends, pioneers in the field of restorative justice and members of the same  tribe. Where we discuss about during these two visits of four hours? I say: everything. Some of the subjects: love, family, prison-life, art, writing, doing projects together, sports, work, how we grew up, changes and innovation, each-other and all the people we know, philosophy, psychology, books, etc…. Three guys all three developed and passionate.

Bryonn and me feel so sad that we have to leave our friend behind in Ramsey and we drive back to Houston. In the evening we take a walk and find a great Japanese restaurant where we have a fantastic dinner, including a cook who prepares our dinner, doing all kinds of tricks with knifes and, spoons and plates!

When we get back to the hotel we are really exhausted!

Texas Incarceration september 4, 2015

Dr1 Dr2 Dr3 DR4 DR5

Out of bed at 5.30 this morning. For the second time! I set my alarm last night and when the telephone ran I thougt it was time to get out of bed. After a shower, dressing up and packing my bag I found out it was 3.15 am. The phone just rang because my colleague Eric Nyman had tried to call me….:-)

I forgot to write about Dana, a friend of Cathys who joined is for dinner last night. A modern American story…. Diana is a nice lady from about my age, with four happily married daughters and a lot of children. She works at one of the 240 offices of a company which loans money to people. “when you lend 300 dollars, you will pay 150 dollar interest!”. Diana has been unemployd for two years before and could not get a job because of her age and finally got this one. But it was her last day today: all the shops close down and Diana stands on the street with a to-week salary. The organization tried to fires much people as possible in the last few weeks to avoid paying this two weeks. And Diana tries to call the people to pay their whole loan off te same day or else…..which means that they sent people in to repossess their cars, house or other stuff. They already sent people to the ones who did not pick up their phones! A social drama! On top of that Diana’s husband has a form of aggressive cancer and is sick at home. Diana was insured because of het job and within a few month she has to pay a lot more to stay insured and pay the costs of her husbands treatment. Happily his family promised to pay for that, but there Diana is: a hard working, loyal lady with no chance to get another job and a deadly sick husband at home. Long live the US!

I tried to persuade the lady of the Motel to let me leave my luggage in the motel. You cannot take anything with you into Polunski but a passport and nickel coins and I could not leave the stuff in Cathy’s car, because she would be in Polunski when I had to step into the car with Gloria. No chance: “if something happens to it you will blame me, and i am not allowed”. I said that I trust her and her colleagues and offered the lady to write a note that I consider myself responsible, with signature and passport number. No way, Jose! I said I did not blame her, but that I met this way of thinking all the time in Texas: always count on the worst case scenario, have fear for what can go wrong, do not trust anybody, do not take any responsibility and just follow rules and regulations. She did not like the conversation and she ended up not liking me very much either. I apologized when I lef, told her not to take it personal and asked her if these statements made any difference for her. She really thought about it for a moment and then decides to nod: yes. Felt like I fell through a brick wall.

Cathy has another favorite subject too: bloody cruel car-accidents. She described all kinds of them, mostly with more than two casualties. She points at the places where these events occurred. This morning she went slowly through a corner, pointing at the exact place where a guy drove his car off the road, was thrown out of it and ended up sitting with his back against a tree. Dead. They found him and his car five days later.

We have breakfast at MacDonalds: “great food, the best breakfast in the whole State”, Cathy says. She really knows her way, after 72 years of experience visiting Deathrow. I actually have a nice roll with egg and a good cup of coffee. And I look at all those people who get their breakfast here: guards from prison, other people before work and whole families! When I tell Gloria later, she says: “I do not know why people over here eat outside all the time!”

Takes a lot of time entering the prison. They have a shortage of staff, Harvey explains later. Then the warden enters the facility: a giant of a guy stepping out of a giant SUV, wearing a giant stetson, called Todd Harris. Visitors told me earlier that he is a nice guy, doing his best. And he does today, at least. He shakes hands with me, telling me that he is interested in the situation in Holland, takes a lady apart who has complains about her visit and is irritated about the delay for the visitors. He even goes to the visiting-department and Harvey later says he never saw a warden before in this part of the building. And he also notices very quickly that they closed other parts of the building to get enough start to transfer the people to the visiting-department.

My 4-hour visit with Harvey seems to go by in two seconds. Our conversation is intens and inspiring and I see him charging up, brome enthusiastic and hopeful. Which he confirms: “Our conversation gives me hope and energy, my friend. I feel like I am going to do a lot of writing and painting again!” And we make plans about exchanging letters and support each other in the writing-process. And he wants to send me pictures and writing to put on internet to make this easily available for people outside, like his family. When I make a wordpress-and gmail-account for him I think it will be do-able.

And after a wonderful drive back to Houston with Gloria I am in my hotelroom again. Getting tired, I have to admit but about to go to the Prison Show again, meeting Bryonn after that and going to visit Nanon tomorrow! Really looking forward!

It’s The Prison Show International Edition! Tune in as we hear News from Holland, New York and Texas! Guests this week are Ms. Vivian Nixon and Warden Frans Douw. We’ll hear reports about Prison Reform, Pell Grants, Tifa Events, Parole Changes, Death Penalty, and YOU!

***8:15 pm – The Prison Show Weekly Staff Meeting – 8:55 pm***
Let’s discuss fundraising

9 pm – Opening – 5 min – 9:05 pm
9:05 pm – Ms. Vivian – 15 min – 9:20 pm
9:20 pm – Tifa – 10 min – 9:30 pm
9:40 pm – Dave – 10 min – 9:40 pm
9:40 pm – Frans – 15 min – 9:55 pm
9:55 pm – Callers – 50 min – 10:45 pm
10:45 pm – No more callers placed on hold – 10 min – 10:55 pm
10:55 pm – Closing – 3 min – 10:58 pm
10:58 PM – PSAs – 2 min – 11 pm
11 pm – Radioactive/Rhonda

Texas incarceration september 3, second part.

Just crashed in a motel in Livingston, near Death Row (Polunski Unit)  typical American with a lot of drinkig blue collar workers and some people busy wandering around doing business. Probably not necessarily  legal. I came  here with Cathy, a retired major from the Salvation Army who visits Death Row for almost seventy years now. Cynthia is 91 years old and she is a copy of my sweet mother Willie Douw de Vetten, who died three years ago. Cathy does not only look like Willies twin sister, but she is also intelligent and passionate like her and somebody who also dedicates her life supporting others who need that. A wonderful lady. She invited me to diner in a typical Texan restaurant: Catfish King, with a lot of cowboys inside, giant trucks in front and a big poster of John Wayne at te wall.  Cathy tells fascinating stories about her “children” as she calls the guys on Deathrow but also talks a lot about people who do not want her to go to death row on her age and want her to stop driving her car. The lady of the drivers -license bureau said to her the last time:”Officially I am not allowed to let you have your license, but I love the work you are doing, so here it is!”.

This morning Gloria Rubac picked me up from my hotel in Houston and drove me to Polunski. On our way we had a wonderful meeting with an excellent group of people in the Shape community Center. Teachers, nurses, engineers and other pioneer professions (for Black people), mostly above seventy and black. Today there is an older lady visiting, sharing her wisdom with the others. She was the first female black doctor in the US ever. What an honor and a pleasure to meet her and all this inspiring people.

It is a logistic nightmare to do these visits. I drive ith different people and cannot leave anything in cars. At Polunski I only can ge in with 25 nickel dollars in a plastic bag and my passport. So we had to bring mu stuff to the motel and i had to wander around without telephone, money and other stuff. And Cathy had to pay for dinner,because I did not have anything on me!

But the visit was great. Polunski  is a cold and depersonalizing place with outrageous and even ridicule security-measures. One example: the guard could not not look through the plastic bag where my coins were in and said: this is really dangerous. He took the coins out and put them in a transparent bag.

Harvey immediately starts explaining why he did not finish his book, as he promised last year. We have long talk about writing perfectionism, development and incentives when you are on death row for a long time. W talk about ourselves, children, life in prison, victims and perpetrators: about everything. After two hours I realize that I have to get sone food and drinks from the machines and within what feels as  two seconds later the four hours special visit are over. Harvey is a great guy, in redouble spiritual and alive after 39 years of incarceration and he is a real friend and a guy who feels like family. I am so looking forward to see him for another four hours tomorrow morning!pol1 pol2 pol3 pol4

Texas incarceration, september 3

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Austin is the the capital of Texas. And that is what Doug and me a actually did after he had picked me up from the Megabus-station: drive to the capitol where Texas has his own government and house of representatives and makes his own laws.

The building is beautiful and Doug and me have an excellent lunch in the restaurant: roasted chicken with baked beans and potatoes!

In a very nice conference-room there was a group of six people waiting for us, amongst them: legislators, the lady responsible for prison reform in the state of Texas and the assistant of the chairman of the parliament. Doug installed all my films, pictures and sheets on a computer so that they could be shown. We talked for almost three hours, very intensively and my audience was very enthusiastic and curious about all I presented on society, criminality, prisons, recovery and return. “You literally made them speechless!”, Doug said later. Treating incarcerated persons and people who are vulnerable because they are mentally handicapped or suffer from a psychiatric disease as equal fellow human beings is a difficult issue in Holland but a lot harder in a State which is tough on crime. By the way, I do not agree with the qualification “tough on crime”. I think it is being “tough on vulnerable people”. And that certainly is not a very brave competence……. The people I talk with are well-educated and civilized and they want to end mass incarceration and a more humane juridical system. When I told them that the incarcerated people from the E1 called me “Frans” in front of my boss and explained to her that I am their warden and can be strict and punish, but that I am also an equal human being, the assistant of the chairman said:”this makes all the difference in the world!”.

The most important issue today: “how can we do it in Texas with quick results to convince everybody. We talked about finding a prison governor who is very much part of the systems but also knows that things have to change and wants to move in the right direction if his boss gives him the room to start projects on grassroot-level. And empower the incarcerated people to direct their own lifes and give them te opportunity to learn, work actively and form a network to help eachother. And use the power of meeting: bring people from outside (politicians, companies, communityworkers etc.) inside to meet incarcerated people and find out that most of them are actually talented and loving people. And ask organizations from the community to come into prison to do their work there. And do something about all those poor ill and homeless people in the streets. Train the thousands of uniformed people to care for people instead of bossing, suppressing and chasing them. We exchanged cards and will continue our cooperation in the future!

You probably wonder how I could get in touch with people who work at the capitol and are directly connected with the higher levels of power here. And it is a peculiar story about how things can work! There was a guy who spent 26 years in prison and got his PHD. They asked him to work in the capitol as an experienced worker on legislation. This guy took another position and asked his protege Doug (former bankrobber, almost six years incarcerated, 14 month free) to take his position. So Doug, still under some state supervision, walks around in the capitol of the most repressive state concerning their juridical system! Doug is a very nice, intelligent guy. He has a Master in Social work and suffered from depression. They overdosed him with medication for that and he got addicted. He has a good relationship with his parents and lives there (restored things during his 12-steps program) and worked very hard to help people and being a role-model during his sentence. He is a great guy and I think it is inspiring for all the former incarcerated people in Holland who read this Blog to read about Doug!

Later on we have a meetin at Goodwill with another group of very inspiring people. They have great p[rogramms in which former incarcerated people work and the money earned is invested in programs, education etcetera. There is also a guy from the institute that is the only one that is allowed to give a high school diploma to people above 25. And gets the same funding as “normal” high-schools. They direct themselves to former incarcerated people but try to force their way into prison to educate the people in there. There is also a guy who works at a half-way home with 500 people in it. He tells about the struggle to only start working after the sentence and the incredible problems to get jobs. They are all activistic people, really dedicated to change the system in a positive and effective way. We are talking strategies again: very interesting and very concrete: of of the plans is to invite te wardens office ito the projects, meet the (former incarcerated) students and try to persuade them to let tem work in prison. A great plan and a great group of people.

Doug brings me back to the busstop. But before jumping in we have a great sandwich in one of those typical Austin mobile restaurants. I take pulled pork, because Nel a told me to try that. She and Linda were here last year and the loved this food!a1 a2

ter visitin

Texas incarceration 2015, september 2

abolition1abolition2The whole country is obsessed by the newest case of copkilling near Chicago. Schools close, people have to stay inside and there is a manhunt going on with an incredibly large police-army. They do not  know which events led to this incident yet. i suppose that it is assumable that mental health issues, drugs and/or alcohol where involved and that it is an useless act of one to three people. The media react like a foreign power invaded the country. They seem to use incidents like this to create fear and unite people behind the one’s calling the shots.The fact that the Houston police killed 11 people last year (in New York 7) is carefully kept out of the media but fits perfectly in the Houston situation I observed in the last few days.abolition3abolition4

On my way inside the megabus to Austin to meet Doug Smith policy analist from the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and people he is going to introduce me to.  Doug is a former bankrobber and social worker and has been incarcerated.

Yesterdaynight I took the Uber to the Shape Community Centre (sort of “buurthuis”)  to attend the meeting of theTexas Death Penalty Abolition Movement. Gloria invited me for this monthly meeting and sent me the agenda. In front of the centre I met Mike Allen, the guy who’s 16 years old son committed suicide in prison. I emailed Mike my Dallas-speech last year and he says:”It was a very good speech!”. Mike is a very intelligent and sensitive man who is heavily traumitized by what happened with his son. Mike gives me a sharp analysis about how the system of incarceration and suspression works. The power of the lobbyists, the manipulation of the media, the huge amounts of money made on locking up people.

The meeting is attended by about twelve people of very different age, race and background. But they are all real activists giving a lot of time and energy to fight the deathpenalty and supporting the people on deathrow in all kinds of ways. Gloria is active for ages, but one of the ladies, charman of the meeting, already marched against the death pemnalty in Washington in the sixties! Soon I find out that they are not very enthousiastic about Ray Hill: “Ray is all about Ray , telling you stories about Ray, just for the benefit of making Ray important!”. I also find out that the realtions between different so called activistic groups are not that warm. Mike said earlier to me that all those groups should join forces to have any impact, but that is not the case yeat. The catholic abolition group does not want to work with my frioends here and even plan events on the same day TDPAM planned their event a year ago. It  is all about funding: the funders do not want their money being connected to a non-religious group, Gloria also says that the organisation of Doug does not make public statements against the deathpenalty order not to loose funding! I think that it is incredibly easy for powers to rule ina country where common people are so divided and fight eachother. People who have the same interest compete and fight eachother all the time: inside and outside the prison. And the powers deliberately use their (funding) money, the media and the juridical system to make that happen all the time.  During the meeting we write a big pile of birthday cards for incarcerated people. I wonder what they think when the suddenly see the words: “Frans Douw, Dutch Warden” on their card! We talk about to use kickstarter to finance a bustrip to Wachington to March there, the phisical state of an incarcerated black panther Leader who has heppathitus B and the system puting people in an endless solitary confiment because they protested against their circumstances. We talk about the execution schedule and ways to make an altar for hose people and how to find out some personal information, like theidr favorite food or sports.

We also discuss the issue of worldwide suppression of poor and black people. The history of slavery which continues untill today. Big companies use incarcerated people as slaves and make them work without payment and without any basic human right, whatsoever. People just have to obey without asking or saying anything. They have no right to speak.Ramsey was a plantage and the owner just put his former slaves, now in prison, to wortk again!

It was an inspiring meeting with idealists and warriors for justice. Gloria brought me back to the hotel and we talked about how to get to Polunsky and back. Gloria cannot go to Polunski on friday, so I booked one night in the Super 8 hotel in Livingston. An old lady, officer from the salvation army, will pick me up there on friday to make it possible to visit Harvey again. After the visit, Gloria will bring me back to Houston.

Texas incarceration, september 1

I took my rental bike this morning, very early and went to bayou river to do some jogging. For the first time since I came here: it is terribly hot here, above 30 degrees, and I did not exercise so regulary in the last two month. I ran about 7 km and itHoustob1sept2 houston1sept1 houston1sept3 houston1sept4Ray1 Ray2 Ray3 Ray4t was nice to sweat and see Houston from a total different perspective. But I met also a lot of these poor and homeless psychiatric patients who just woke up after sleeping on benches and under little bridges…..This horrible situation really gets under my skin: very sad…..

Ray Hill picks me up from my Hotel and we are going to eat gumbo in a Louisiana Church. They used to cook food for the poor here, but they made their dishes so tasty that business-people and others came to eat to. Today they earn a lot of money with it and use that to help homeless people! And I have to say: the gumbo was delicious and the ambiance in the church was great.

It is not easy to describe Ray and what he does and has done in a few words: he did so many things and as an independent thinker and activist he connects worlds in so many ways. He is the founder of the prison-show, the father of the gay community in Houston, the chairman of the board of a television and radiostation, he brought numerous vey famous cases to the High Court and changed laws, the present mayor of Houston is a protege of Ray and he is friends with the chief of police, numerous wardens, many (ex-) incarcerated persons and he initiated programs within prisons on “12 steps to stop being a gang member and get out of solitary confinement”, “train te trainer for incarcerated people who give information on aids and HIV”. “a very intensive three days training about to learn how to do time in a Texas Prison” etc. etc.

Ray called me an activist and concluded we are talking the same language. I could say a lot about this inspiring congenial but lets invite you to past and copy the links below in your browser and see the clips there. And I summarize one of the stories Ray told me about his time in prison.

“I was a burglar, steeling antique and jewelry. Antique is very heavy stuff, so I hired people to carry that for me. I was not afraid to go into the prison but very scared to get out of there, because I thought I would never get the chance to use my talents outside as an ex-con. The gave me 120 years sentence and I did a little bit more than four years. I had a great time in prison. I was openly gay but i was also administrator of the housekeeping and could deliver services for inmates, staff and warden. I was “the man” in there, because when somebody had a problem they called Ray Hill.  I could move freely through the building and built up relationships and networks. When there was a hurricane approaching I told the warden that we would loose electricity for at least three weeks  and as a consequence the capacity to pump up water. It was certain that we would be the last ones the community would care helping getting our electricity back. “So why are you telling me this?” the warden asked, and I told I knew how to use oil to pump water into the tower and gain enough pressure to make water available in the whole building.  It worked out fine and then the director of the prisonsystem came and asked the warden: “In every prison in the state people stood in the shit up to their neck for weeks and you did not have any trouble. How come?” So they asks me to instruct selected inmates of all other prisons how to do that. I sayd: but then I have to get out and go through the whole state. I have  120 years sentence! But they really wanted me to do that. I realy laughed inside about this: a hurricane of this kind only occurs ones in 30 years. The inmates I instructed would be released, long before the next one came!”

http://youtu.be/glNOFoiJ33s : is the link to the interview that I had with Ray. Copy and paste it in your browser: it is worth doing!

https://vimeo.com/5503542 is the link to a beautiful documentary on Ray and the death penalty!