The journal of Paul Jew

Dec. 4, 2008

My cell door opens and a guard sticks his head in and asks, "Education?" I pick up my school card and head out for my C.I.P. (Cognitive Intervention Program) class. It's 4:30 in the morning, but instead of being sleepy-eyed I'm wide awake with a couple of cups of java flowing through my system. It's been that way for the last eighteen years, my day beginning at 2;30 am. Well, almost eighteen years. I'm a couple of months shy of that. Still it's been a long time. Walking outside through the walkway to the education building I see several people I know. I sigh, grimace and shake my head. Four of those people have come back to prison at least three times since I've known them and they've been granted parole again. All I want is the chance, just one chance, to prove to the parole board what I've been telling them for the last four years. One chance, not three. Walking in to class Mr. Watson (our instructor) is taking roll call. "Good morning, Mr. Jew." He says. I respond letting him know that I'm present saying, "Good morning, Mr. Watson." I heard a lot of bad things from other inmates about this class, but I caught something also that noone was saying, Mr. Watson is brutally honest with us about our thinking patterns. When I'm finally granted parole, I plan on utilizing all the things that I've learned, all the tools I've been taught to work with, to stay out of prison. After having to watch my children grow up in pictures, missing the most important years of their lives that I should've been there for, losing my mother to cancer and my brother in a car accident, this has become my primary objective.

Dec. 5, 2008

Walking home from class I notice that the rec yard is empty. Looking at the handball courts I remember the days when I first started playing and how frustrating it used to be for me because I didn't have very good hand eye coordination. It doesn't frustrate me anymore, not after sixteen years. Now it's become a very effective way for me to release pent up aggression. A chuckle escapes me as I think of how much my thinking has changed between then and now. The frustration stemmed from wanting to always win. Whenever I play now, it's for fun and exercise. It sounds like the words of a scrub, but I'm actually rather good. It's kind of cold this morning, that's probably why there isn't any rec. There aren't but about four of us hardcore handball players that come out in weather like this, so noone really says anything. Oh well, I guess I'll just go back and do some reading.

Dec. 6, 2008

My cellmate came down with a cold. A major problem with this environment is that anything contagious usually runs rampant. I remember when we were having major problems with the norovirus. A representative of T.D.C.J. told the papers that the virus started because an inmate kitchen worker probably hadn't washed his hands after using the restroom and so had spread the norovirus to inmates in administrative segregation. What was really funny about the whole thing was that a day or so before all those cases broke out an officer that worked in administrative segregation had to be sent home because she had the same symptoms that those inmates who contracted the norovirus had. This officer was in charge of the seq kitchen. Imagine that.

Dec. 7, 2008

Football season. You would think a lot of these guys were getting a share of the money. There are a couple of guys who know football stats better than their own names, but can't read or write. Amazing, isn't it? It's really sad. If they really applied themselves they would be a force to be reckoned with.

Dec. 8, 2008

I work on the shower crew for the building I live on. It's not a bad job; graveyard shift, on 4 days off 4 days, and as soon as we're done I get to go back home (my cell). Of course that's usually at around 1:45 am so I only get to take a little nap before having to get up and get ready for breakfast. Throughout the course of the day that's usually all I get are naps, and not too often do they even last two hours. I try to keep myself occupied at all times in here. I read a lot, normally things that are either educational or informative. This semester I plan on taking a sociology class dealing with marriage and relationships. At 40 years old I've had my share of relationships. That is, back in my, uh... younger days. I made a lot of mistakes back then, but I've also learned a lot since then and I don't pass up an opportunity to learn more. When I was growing up, my father was big on knowledge. I wish I would've listened to him. Things probably would've turned out much differently for me.

Dec. 9, 2008

This morning the topic of discussion in our CIP class was love. We were to write our definition of love and read it to the class. Love: caring, sharing of yourself, being there for someone no matter what, being intimate (not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well). This was my definition. I found it rather surprising how many students were uncomfortable with the topic. A few refused to speak on it at all. If there's an area in my life that I see needs work, I do all I can to correct it. I'm a private person and I used to keep things inside, but I've learned that a major part of communication is being able to tell someone how you feel. That was difficult for me at first Before I could move on, I had to come to the realization that this would prevent me from effectively communicating with other people. That was no small feat, but it was something I felt I needed to overcome to better myself.

Dec. 10, 2008

Since TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) refuses to pay inmates for the work we are forced to do, many who have no income have resorted to doing odd jobs for those who do have some sort of income. Some wash clothes, some make cards for other inmates to send out, some do tattoo work and some even clean other inmates' cells for them (all of which is against the rules and punishable by disciplinary action which could result in a loss of various privileges). Bu t probably the most surprising to me of all is a friend of mine who fixes radios, something that he learned on his own by tinkering with his own radio. The guy is practically a genius. We'll call this guy Jeff. Jeff is rather secretive about how he goes about fixing radios because that's how he makes his money, but once he realized that my intentions were not to take business away from him, he freely explained to me all that he does. He came to prison with one skill, selling dope. Not a big market for that in here, so he had to find some kind of way to make money. He taught himself to do what people in the world go to school and pay good money to learn from others and isn't just mediocre, he does an exceptionally good job. I've stood at his cell door and watched him work on radios. He doesn't know the technical terms or names for the parts of the radio. He refers to the parts by the numbers that are on them. Still, he knows exactly what they do. I have watched the man build a solder gun for someone. I've watched him build speakers. If there is a project he comes across he doesn't know how to do, he'll figure it out. Jeff's problem? He has a temper and likes fast money. If he applied himself in the world the way he does in here, he would be unstoppable.

Dec. 11, 2008

Breaking News: Remains of small child found in wooded area near Anthony home. You know, I'll never be able to understand why anyone would ever hurt a child or someone old. In my eyes there is no reason to harm either. If being a parent isn't your thing, there are many, many couples who would be more than happy to adopt a young child. I have two children of my own. When I got locked up my son was almost five and my daughter was almost two. Even in their worst moments, they were the most precious things in my life, to this day still. Maybe I'm just a little old fashioned, but I feel that old people should be looked to for guidance. After all, a lot of times the things that we're going through are basically the same things they've overcome in their lives. There is wisdom in their years.

Dec. 12, 2008

I had a discussion with someone much younger than myself about things that were going on in his life and he kept asking me, "What do you keep laughing at?" I remember when I was young(er) and I thought as he does. Everything had to be done yesterday. I'm not sure what it was that caused the change in my thinking, but I've learned to take my time. In my youth when I had so many years ahead of me, everything in my life had to be done in a hurried fashion. And now... well, now that my life has been shortened by decades I seem to have gained the philosophy that everything takes time and whatever It is that you choose to do in your life from the most miniscule to the things of greatest importance should be well thought out, savored, treasured and never hurried. I've found that the things I have rushed into were littered with mistakes that I could have prevented. LOL. I sound like an old man, but in reality I'm only 40 years old. I'll be 41 next month on the 24th. I'm very fortunate for my age in here to be in fair shape and good health.

Dec. 13, 2008

I've met some of the world's worst scum in prison, but I've also met a few people that I'm proud to call friends, people that made a mistake, but are trying to get their life back on track. I respect that. No. I admire that. It's why I choose to devote so much time associating with them. I feel they are a positive influence in my life and if there was ever a time and a place that I needed that, it is definitely now and here.

Dec. 14, 2008

I was looking through some store ads that someone had left lying on the table today. I think I've been locked up too long. When I was arrested cell phones looked like those big walkie-talkies that were used in WWII. Nowadays, they're the size of a credit card. Plasma TV's. it's astounding how far the world has come with its technology. The Nintendo Wii system. In his letters and during our visits, my father tries to prepare me for the world so that I won't have too difficult a time with culture shock. Bless his heart. My father is a good man. All these years and he's never stopped believing in me. I only hope that he lives long enough for me to get out and show him that it hasn't all been in vain.

Dec. 15, 2008

Tonight I received a placement test for the math correspondence course that I had signed up for. Algebra has always given me problems, so I figured I'd take the course not only to help me to learn algebra, but also to refresh my memory on the things I've forgotten about math in general. I've already finished the test, so in the morning I'll put it in the mailbox. I'm a firm believer in the fact that all other things in this world can be stripped from you, but knowledge is something you'll have for the rest of your life.

Dec. 16, 2008

Tonight I'll be able to sleep like a normal person, at least for the next four nights. Provided I don't get carried away with reading, that is. I have a tendency to lose track of time and since I'm used to staying up all night long, I don't start getting sleepy until it's almost time to get up. I really try not to let that happen, but it seems to occur more often than not. Usually my first night off isn't too much of a problem because I'm normally exhausted from only being able to take naps. Tonight is no exception to the rule. In fact, I doubt I'll do any reading. I only slept for about an hour-and-a-half today because I had my CIP class, then rec and afterwards I had an infirmary appointment. Seeing a doctor in here is no different than seeing one out there. It still takes hours.

Dec. 17, 2008

Today's CIP class was pretty interesting, more so than usual. One of the first things we're asked our first day in class is if the person can take constructive criticism. Well, we have a sleeper in class who seems to believe that in spite of his sleeping (which he tried to deny until everyone assured him that's what he was doing) he is definitely participating in class. He accused our instructor of picking on him, so Mr. Watson opened the floor to the class, sat back and said nothing. After a couple of minutes our sleeper was wishing Mr. Watson would take back over the class. By sleeping, he's telling us that the things we are sharing with the class are neither important nor interesting. By the end of the class, he still didn't seem to understand our perspective on the issue. Either that or he simply didn't care to understand. I thought that that was really a shame.

Dec. 18, 2008

Today in class we watched a video called "Bad Dads". There are a lot of us that fit into that category. Several opened up and gave experiences they had with their fathers. A couple cried. Some stories were very touching and it was a wonder they were mentioned at all. I didn't share my story. I can't quite say why. Embarrassment maybe. I still feel the group is too large for people to be very open about their feelings. I have a very difficult time doing so to begin with and with twenty-four other people in the room makes it that many more times difficult. I commend those that do and wish that I could too, but for now I'm not capable of it.

Dec. 19, 2008

Mr. Watson will be going to the hospital today for some tests that need to be run and some sort of surgery that involves using a balloon to open up his arteries. It's always been my theory that counselors became what they are and get so involved looking at other people's lives and figuring out ways to correct them that they often forget about their own. Healthwise, Mr. Watson is in bad shape. When I was told I had high blood pressure, I started on some medication, cut down on the excess amount of food I was eating and made sure to exercise regularly. I don't even take my medication anymore and my blood pressure is normal. Other areas in my life need work, but at least that's one issue I've resolved.