Ask Tod Anything: Part VI

Well, this should be the last installment for this go-round of questions, so I will just jump right in and get on with it…

23.) Is there a social “pecking order” on death row? What determines someone’s status and where do you personally fall within that hierarchy?

Just as there is in any social structure, there is a ranking system here. (Humans seem inclined to, one way or another, set their societies in order that way– be it your local bank, school, Lord of the Flies situation, or death row. And now that I think about it, Death Row can be kind of Lord of the Flies-ish at times…) In truth, there is no central “hierarchy” (your word, not mine) at this time here. This unit is broken up into ten cell blocks. And these blocks have someone who considers himself “the pod father” (the person who organizes and what have you). And that works or does not, mostly depending on the social makeup of the block.

What I mean by that is: death row has a great deal of administrative segregation, or protective custody cases. (These are child molesters and child killers, rapists, snitches, and those who deal with them.) How their hierarchy works, I have not a clue, and to be honest I don’t care. (But there is indeed one! There is a protective custody within protective custody!) Their world will likely change, however, with the close custody experiment pending, which I have mentioned previously.

The rest of us are in “general population” or GP. The social structure for that is a bit different.

To begin with, the Arizona Prison System divides itself by race. And this does not mean the races are at odds with each other. (Quite the contrary, actually.) It is simply that needs, desires, and wants can vary by culture and/or societal upbringing, and it makes sense for each race to centralize and make sure its personal needs are met. So within that structure you have people, or a person, that sees to it that the needs of the group are known and addressed (there is usually no “formal dictatorship” that accomplishes this, but rather, discussions that give people a voice of some sort.) I could go on describing this but you get the idea.

As to where I fall in all of this? I have always been somewhat anti-social and don’t care about all the drama that comes with interacting too deeply in the social morass. So I give respect to others and demand the same in return. The theater of the absurd that I must endure as part of my existence is something I would rather observe than become entangled in.

I hope that answers your question.

24.) Do you ever worry about prison employees reading your blog and being offended by it? Would you be in trouble if they did? What about the family of your victims, your lawyer, or your own family? Is there anyone you’re hoping won’t ever read this blog?

I don’t “worry” per se about prison employees reading this blog, nor do I worry about offending them. (There was a time when I used to make it my business to offend as many as I could on a daily basis. Over the years, I have mellowed… some.) If someone is offended by the truth, then, in my mind, work needs to be done to change the situation by which they find themselves being offended. If there is fear that the truth will be disseminated beyond the confines of a “closed” system, then I believe every effort should be made to do just that.

If your government does something in your name (such as imprisoning and systematically murdering people) then you should know all about the thing being done. In fact, some might say you have an obligation to know.

Today’s society keeps people very busy and very distracted. At the risk of sounding paranoid…I wonder if this might, on some level, be on purpose. If people are so hurried and so worried, then they may have neither the time nor the inclination to “pull back the curtain” and see why things are the way they are… why the economy is the way it is, why their government hands out foreign aid like Halloween candy while there are homeless and hungry children in this country…why kids graduate high school (if they graduate at all) with third grade reading levels… I have a unique situation in that I don’t have all the stresses there are out in society and an abundance of time to consider such things.

The truth should never be “worried” about (and it is only feared by those who lie and wish to deceive in the first place) so if I get in “trouble” in some way, I am willing to resist that. I do nothing wrong or against the law here. Yes, these people can (and have) make my existence even more difficult than it already is, but I already live in a cage under sentence of death. How much worse can it get? If someone comes across these postings and doesn’t like what they read, then they have the choice of not reading them.

I have told my family about it. My lawyer knows and does not much care for it. (Not sure why, but hey, that’s her right.) Everyone will have their own opinion and are entitled to it. I don’t worry about who may or may not read this blog.

25.) How well-traveled are you? What are some of your favorite places? What are some places you wish you could have visited?

As I have already mentioned in one of these questions, I used to “saddle tramp” a bit so I have been a lot of places (here in the US, anyway.) Just on my own? I like places that are green and kind of wild. The Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest…the Smoky Mountains…all majestic places.

But people can make a place special too… there was a pretty Cajun girl in Louisiana… another with skin white as fresh snow with auburn hair and green eyes in Massachusetts… a lot of things can make a place special.

I would have loved to go to Europe and Asia (lots of green places!) and just rode a motorcycle around and stopped where I liked.

26.) Have you ever thought about writing a book, or are you mostly just focusing on your blog right now?

It was mentioned some time ago that I should write a book, but I don’t know where I would start or what to write about, or how to bring it all together. As far as “focusing on…” I focus on anything that can give me a mental break from this black pit of misery.

27.) Do you know any gay people on death row, and if so, how does it affect how others treat them? Is the prison population more homophobic than the outside world, or is that a myth?

There is one sort of openly known gay person on the row that I know of. I personally do not associate with him, but it has nothing to do with his sexual orientation. It is because he snitches on people to the guards. I do not care for snitches of any color, race, creed, or orientation– I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy in that way.

I think homophobia can be found most anyplace you go. Perhaps more so in the conservative “bible belt” and less so in the more open-minded progressive cities. But there is crossover both ways. There seems to be a fair amount of homophobia here for whatever reason.

So I will speak for myself only. I am heterosexual and confident and comfortable in that knowledge. As far as my feelings go… a person’s sexual orientation is their own business and does not affect me in the least or dictate how I interact with or feel about them one way or another. If everyone were the same, this world would be a mind-numbingly boring place, now wouldn’t it?

I only recently found out the story behind why Anna and I were assigned as pen pals for one another. Evidently, after she submitted her application to become a pen pal, she contacted the person in charge at DRSP and requested that every effort be made to assign her a pen pal who would not reject contact with her based on the fact that she is gay. She was matched with me because the person in charge (correctly) believed I wasn’t the sort who would mind. And I don’t mind, not in the least.

28.) Are you religious?

I would refer to myself as “spiritual” rather than religious per se.

A lot of horrific things have been perpetuated on millions if not billions of people in the name of religion down through the history of humankind.

I am a firm believer in the idea that people should walk whatever path they choose, and how they see fit.

29. Did you personally know the guy whose botched execution in Arizona made national news a few years ago?

I think you mean Joe Woods? In a word, no. I did not. Never even met him.

30.) When was the last time you hugged anyone? Will you get another hug in your lifetime?

The last person I hugged was my son before all this happened and I ended up here. (He was a world-class hugger at age four, too!)

Recently they started up a program in which two people go out into a large recreation pen together under heavy guard. (I will explain this program in greater detail in a future post.) I have gone out there with someone I have known for a long time, and we did shake hands (first time since my trial that I’ve gotten to do that.) I don’t see hugs becoming a part of that program. It has been so long for any physical contact that even shaking hands felt odd.

31.) Why do you hate lawyers so much?

Okay, “hate” is a strong word. But I have been dealing with lawyers in packs for so long. Half want to kill me and the other half want to “win” their side, which just happens to be keeping me alive to die of old age with shitty medical care in prison.

And it is all just a big game to them. They take the human factor out of it and you’re just a case number on a page.

We have very bad living conditions on this unit and that is not the lawyers’ concern… their job is to keep you alive to experience it for as long as possible… who cares what you go through? I have actually had lawyers tell me that they don’t believe in the death penalty but when I point out that if they (and all the lawyers who supposedly feel the same way) would go into court and say “we are not going to work on death penalty cases because it goes against our… ethical beliefs? moral turpitude? something!… and that would eliminate it” they say, “Oh, no, we can’t possibly do that!” People’s lives just seem to be a game to them. Nope, don’t care all that much for lawyers…. do you know any who can fake actual human compassion? Because I only know ones that try and fail miserably.

I know an ex-lawyer who is actually pretty cool– she was educated at Harvard. (She worked my case for a little while.) A brilliant woman, and she came to see me one day (she would come down just to talk about anything every so often) and told me: “I can’t take it anymore! I come up with good stuff that should make a difference, and the judges ignore it!” (Judges who, in my humble opinion, are far less intelligent than she.) “I am quitting,” she said. “I don’t know whether I will ever practice law again!”

And as far as I know (we are still in contact on occasion) she has not. I can’t blame her. She seems happier now.

32.) What are some common misconceptions about people on death row that you think are unfair or untrue?

One thing I hear across the board on death penalty cases is “these people are the worst of the worst… we have to sentence them to die.” And that is just not true.

As I said in at least one previous post, I believe in the death penalty. But for the most part, a lot of these people could go to a regular prison unit and die of old age without ever having caused any trouble. (There are people here who have never broken a prison rule in over 20 years!)

And it would be a lot cheaper for you taxpayers if that were the case. Death penalty cases cost millions and millions and millions of dollars to see through to the end. On mine alone you could house probably twenty people in prison with natural life sentences, and have money left over!

The idea that we are all uncontrollable animals and are a danger to the public is also a lie. You have read my posts. I had a life, a home, child, did the same things pretty much everyone else does. Took joy in the same things everyone else does. Sure, there are junkies here and street-gang members with no regard for others… but that is not everyone, not by a long shot. Many of us are just people that the system ground out and spit into a cage for any number of reasons. (There are lots of reasons.) People don’t realize how corrupt the system is until either they or someone close to them gets caught up in it… and then… well, it’s too late at that point. I like a definition that Ambrose Bierce put into his Devil’s Dictionary. It reads “litigation: something one goes into as a pig and comes out of as a sausage.” I think people have an obligation to know and understand what is done in their name– learn the truth of the judicial system.

Well, that is all of the questions that I have in this time around. I really enjoy answering them for you. Looking forward to more in the future.

Take care and please remember that Anna is the keystone in this bridge between you and me. Without her, you wouldn’t even know I existed. So thank her, please.

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One thought on “Ask Tod Anything: Part VI

  1. Pingback: Targeted? | Muninn's Roost

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