Ask Tod Anything: Part III

Welcome again to Muninn’s Roost. I am having a lot of fun with all these questions. Thank all of you for being so interested in my situation. Generally, people don’t understand what goes on in a place like this– or understand the justice system at all, really– until they or someone close to them becomes entangled in it. I am happy there is curiosity out there.

And, with that said, let’s get to more of these great questions.

12.) What are some of the silliest or dumbest rules and regulations that govern your day-to-day life? 

Wow, where do I start? They are mostly pretty silly and dumb. By policy, we must all have our trash can in a certain spot. (Oddly enough, it is the only spot in the tiny cage where it is out of the way, and everyone would put it there without that regulation.)

Then there is getting “strip searched” to go to the shower– about 30 feet. After you have handed them all your clothes, been searched, and put them back on, you pick up your bag that has your towel and soap in it. That bag could fit two hand grenades and a pistol, and they never ask to see it, which tells me the strip search is for the purpose of degradation and embarrassment rather than actual security reasons.

The rules they refuse to change– even though they have modified the purpose of the unit– are the ones that actually do harm, though. Where I am housed is an S.M.U. (“special management unit”) and was designed to house people who “have problems fitting into a prison environment”. (What that actually means is that it is a unit designed to punish violent convicts.) So it is a punitive unit in every sense and way. The environment is designed to make people uncomfortable to modify their behavior by making them not want to come back.

Mental health professionals have evaluated S.M.U.’s and have determined that they should not be used to house an individual for more than 6 to 8 months maximum or the mental stability of a person will begin to degrade.

Death row has been in this S.M.U. since 1997! That is nineteen years for those of you who do not want to do the math. And we are not here for punitive reasons. We are here because of the virtue of our crimes on the outside only– this is where death row is housed, and we are on death row, simple as that. So because of that, we are given smaller-portioned meals than someone out “on a yard”. (We are in fact only fed twice a day, while non-S.M.U. inmates on yards are fed three times.) I have not experienced darkness since I got here because the lights are always on. It is purposely kept hot enough in the summer that you sit in your cage and sweat doing nothing, and cold enough in winter that you have trouble staying warm. The list goes on and I could write pages on it but you get the idea. There are lawsuits finally going on concerning medical care…but even that will take years to hash out. So to answer your question, the silly rules one can put up with. It is the ones that are designed purposely to mentally degrade a person that are annoying.

13.) Tell us three things about your daily life on death row that might surprise us. 

Every day runs into the next there. It is very tedious because of its unchanging nature. So I will tell you about me. Perhaps I can surprise you a little bit:

  • This “big bad convict on death row” likes to read poetry. I am very fond of Baudelaire and Poe. But I also like Longfellow, Blake, Byron, Coleridge… I find Kipling to be quaint and amusing… I could go on with my likes but you get the idea.
  • I am a student of philosophy. (I like to think it…helps?…to keep me from falling too far into the abyss that is insanity.) I stick mainly with the metaphysicians, but I am familiar with all schools.
  • And I am an artist. (Not that unusual in prison, actually.) But people say I have flair for drawing pretty flowers. I do draw other things as well, however.

I hope this answer did not leave you feeling cheated.

14.) Not counting lawyers, how many times have you had a face-to-face visitor in the last twelve months? 

The answer is zero! After one is locked up for a while, it seems people get tired of making the trip. (It is a fair piece.) My father was very regular…but he died four years ago this coming January.

15.) How would you want to be remembered by Anna and others in your life after you are gone? 

Likely the same as you want to be remembered by those in your life.

Yes, there are some individuals in prison that thrive on this environment and could live no place else…but most are just people, ground up by a system that is broken and tossed into a cage to try and survive in a world not of their making… a world that cannot be understood by anyone who has not experienced it. Words cannot come close to doing it justice.

16.) Is your execution something you think about daily? 

No, it isn’t. When somebody says, “Haul that one out and kill it!” then it will be my turn. No point in dwelling on it. I actually think that might be a contributing factor to the ones that go truly batshit crazy in this place. In a place like this, it is important to mentally remove oneself from the situation as often as possible.

17.) Have you decided on your last meal and words? 

Anna and I actually discussed this not too long ago, and I will tell you what I told her:

My last meal? I will eat whatever is on the menu that day for the meal. I don’t want those murdering bastards to feel any better about themselves by letting them think they did me some favor or kindness. Execution is nothing more than murder by proxy.

My last words? Don’t know yet. Might be something as simple as, “Slap this horse in the ass; I’ve got things to do!” or I might wax poetic and go on until they stop me. You will have to stay tuned to find out, I guess. I am sure the mood will dictate.

18. Is it unusual for someone to have been on death row as long as you have? Are you unique in being over fifty years old and on death row or is that fairly normal?

There have been four people to die of “natural causes” (whatever that means. I think it’s pretty “natural” to die when they pump you full of caustic chemicals myself.) since I have been here– one was in his eighties! (The funniest, or most tragic depending on how you look at it, was a heart attack while sitting on the toilet!) The longest I know of was killed a couple of years ago after 28 years on the row. (He was almost 80.) No, I am not unusual. There is another in his fifties on my block.

This is why it takes millions of tax dollars to execute someone. They are in the courts for decades! (The last time I totaled it up, the actual drugs cost about $77.00 but that was years ago.)

Talk to your congressman. Ask them why your tax dollars are being wasted when “natural life” means someone never gets out of prison. They die locked up, no chance of parole.

19.) Are you worried about physical pain in your last moments?

No. Pain is something I live with on survival levels every day. (I lived a hard life in the mountains of Colorado for a long time. Been in a motorcycle wreck or two, just “used my body” pretty good. I have a bad back, bad knees, a messed up shoulder…in short, I’m old.) Inadequate medical care means nothing is done for it.  Pain and I are old friends. Besides, as I already said in one of these Q&A posts, I can put up with most anything for fifteen minutes. I am not stressing on it.

20.) To what extent do you find the prospect of life without parole to be more appealing than what you currently face?

Good question… and the short answer is: I don’t. (See the above question as for why.) This is a topic of discussion on occasion in here, and most are in agreement that prison is no place to grow old. In my personal instance, I am currently physically able to work out and I do to an extensive degree, but someday I will not be able to, due to damage to my body from a fast, hard life. When that time comes (if it comes) I imagine I will become very sedentary due to lack of mobility. All the muscle I now maintain around my injured back, knees, etc. will atrophy and I imagine my pain will skyrocket. Not a pretty picture in a place where one is lucky to get an aspirin or an ibuprofen for pain. As stated above… prison is no place to grow old.

Well, I finally got through all the questions! You get a rest, Anna! (I am truly sorry for the voluminous nature of some of these answers. Please forgive me.)

As for my readers… thank you so much, and I am happy that you took the time to interact. I have some good suggestions for future blog posts, so stay tuned! Please, all of you take care.

And please remember, without Anna, none of this would be possible. (Yes, I wrote that and not she.) Again, thank you, Anna. And thank you, everyone, for stopping by the Roost!

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