Voices from the Inside

Prisoners speak out

By: Ellis L. Wood, Jerrold Johnson-El, Rob Will

No one should receive this sentence  

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to everyone at the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. On August 29, 2008, I received a letter from the CEDP requesting that I give them my input on what it's like to have a sentence of Life Without Parole. 

I'm keepin' it real--it's the new death penalty, death sentence. I've gone from raising my children, to seeing them age in pictures, not being able to give my mother flowers for Mother's Day, or going to my grandmother's house to check on her, or take her food shopping.

The bottom line is that the courts are not playing fair. No disrespect, but the plantation never stopped. You don't have to go all the way to Africa anymore to get a few good men and women.

It's no longer a black and white thing; anybody can get it; that means you. What I'm really trying to say is that no one should receive this type of sentence. No one can predict the future, no one has the power to say, "for the rest of your natural life you will commit crimes and break the law of this land." 

I would like to say thank you to a handful of people that have been very supportive towards me from the very beginning. Mom, Stepfather, Supreme, Abdul Nur, C-Allah, and Ron B. I can't forget my brother Yameen, sons Duvon and Elijah, daughters Elisha, Fatima, and Candida, and my favorite Aunt Sara. Love without a limit! 

In Departing, Asalaam Alaikum, May Peace Be With You, 

Ellis L. Wood #02-A-6223
Green Haven Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 4000
Stromville, NY 12582-0010  

It's a pain of injustice  

Dear Editors, I consider myself fortunate to have come across your newsletter for the first time, and I felt compelled to send this correspondence. The amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery said (paraphrased) "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States except if one is duly convicted of a crime."

And this exception effectively closed private-owed plantations, only to replace them with government-owed ones, (prisons, correction centers, etc). And just as we had abolitionists of old, working from a particular spirit to free people and abolish a practice of injustice, we too need people in this era, with that same particular spirit, working towards the same goals. 

So I wanted to let you know that I respect, appreciate, and honor you..."The New Abolitionist." 

My name is Jerrold Johnson, and I've recently begun serving a sentence of life without parole. I know your newsletter is for brothers and sisters on death row--but I ask you to consider a regular column dedicated to those doing life. I ask because just as I read about those on death row and can't help but be moved, I believe that they too would be understanding and supportive of those of us with life without parole sentences. They would "feel our pain" because it's a pain of an injustice we all share as a result of being placed a the mercy of those who have little or no mercy in them. 

I could never equate my sentence with those on the "row" but I can tell you that when a person is sentenced to life without parole, many aspects of their life dies. A life sentence is often a death sentence for those fragile bonds that exist between a man and his wife, his children, parents, siblings and friends.

And often, these are the things that give meaning and purpose to a person's life. So is it really a "life" sentence? And it doesn't have to be as dramatic as those bonds being broken. Personally, it feels as if my smile is dying. And I need my smile! We all do. 

In this correspondence it is not my purpose to get reprinted in your newsletter. My purpose is just to say thanks for the inspiration. Yet should you choose to put this in your paper, or any portion of it, you have my permission. 


Jerrold Johnson-El #N67725
Stateville CCPO Box 112
Joliet, IL 60434  

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter"

Christmas Day, 4:52 am 

Years ago, I saw some illustrations of Dante's Inferno, perhaps, by Gustave Dore, but I can't exactly remember. If Dante were alive today and had intimate knowledge of the happenings here over the last two months, I'm sure he would include descriptions of Texas Death Row in his depiction of Hell. And, Dore would draw the images when he did the illustrations (or whoever did the illustrations I saw). 

And what would these images look like? How would these images be described with words?...The human animal learns through study, observation and experience. I've found it hard to properly describe this environment with only words. However, people on the outside can't actually experience this environment so, by describing my experiences I hope to allow people a window of study and observation.

I actually had a calendar with many specific events marked down but it was (quite conveniently) thrown away during a shakedown... Yes, shakedowns. Usually, we have a major lockdown/shakedown once a year. We have regular cell searches and shakedowns all the time though. The main difference between a major shakedown and a regular shakedown is that during a major shakedown the entire unit is on lockdown and we're only allowed showers three times a week and we're given Johnny Sacks instead of trays. 

Since the Tabler Incident shakedowns have been straight up out of control. They've put the entire unit on lockdown three separate times and they've searched--meaning examined thoroughly and ravaged--our property a seemingly countless number of times. Staff has been arbitrarily destroying people's property with sadistic glee and confiscating property for no warranted reason. They've been giving people unwarranted disciplinary cases which have resulting in excessive amounts of restrictions.

Hold up, cold Christmas tray time... Twice a year we get decent meals, on Christmas and Thanksgiving. First, they'll bring a cold tray--which consists of desert items, pickles, etc.--and then a hot tray with a little turkey and some stuffing, "hot" items. The cold tray they served us today was the absolute worst ever. They usually will give us some pickles, olives, celery, and onions on our Christmas cold tray. Not this time. It's really almost comical how they keep finding ways to fuck with us, all of us, in retaliation for the Tabler situation.

I can just imagine whoever was in charge of deciding what would be on the Christmas tray this year saying: "They don't deserve any goddamn pickles, celery or olives and onions this year!! They should all suffer for the stupid shit Tabler pulled!!" Later, I think I'll detail certain instances of more-than-normal oppression but for now I think I'll do some reading and wait for this hot tray to come around. I've been on a fiction spree and I think I'll continue it with Gaiman's "Stardust."

Christianity borrowed the birthday of the Persian--and later--Roman God Mithras for the birthday of Jesus, so I'll sign off by saying Happy Birthday to Jesus and Mithras! Death to Complacency, Life to Free Thought (I haven't abandoned all hope, but it seems like a lot of people here have...) 

Rob Will #999402
Polunsky Unit 3872 F.M. 350
South Livingston, TX 77351