By Gerald Marshall
Texas Death Row… Nothing goes smoothly around here. When shake down comes they either take something or break something. And this time they took my favorite shirt!
Furious! I hollered at the old con on one row.
“Whats up, youngsta?” he answered in the typical way that older cons do when addressing some one considerably younger.
“Man they took my shit Shell, I’m pissed off.”
“Calm Down youngsta, it’s over now just calm down.”
“That don’t remove the fact they took my shit.”
“What did they take from you youngsta?” Shell asked in an effort to calm me down.
“Shell, I loved my damn shirt! I Loved that shirt Shell.” I said, “they took my shirt Shell.”
“You loved that shirt youngsta?” Shell said laughing at me now.
“Man, Shell, I loved it! That shirt was my family!” I said garnering laughs from the entire section.
“Youngsta, I now that shirt was important to you, but think about this, the shake down is over for us.
We just need to get off lock down, and you gone get a new shirt.” Shell said reasoning with me.
“Chilli red!” I said to a prisoner down the run.
“Yeah” He responds.
“Don’t you love your stuff?” I asked.
“Man, Yeah! I love ALL my stuff, and I want ALL my stuff.” Chilli red said with conviction.
“I love my stuff too.” A hispanic who barely spoke English said eliciting laughs from the entire section.
“Shell, man I think you the only one who don't love your stuff.” I said laughing, “You might as well send me your stuff.”
“Naw youngsta, I just been doing time, a long time, and I know these clothes, this commissary, and these books come and go. Just keep in mind your real goal. Losing that shirt don’t mean you lost your life.” Shell said reasoning with me.”
Yeah, you right. I’m going to keep that in mind.” I said walking away from my door laughing at the Hispanic who very seldom talks. Knowing that I’d eventually have to find a new shirt to love.
It took me a while to really appreciate the fact that I was in prison subjected to punishment because of another prisoner’s actions. No matter how much you abide by the rules, if a prisoner messes up bad enough you will be punished with him. I noticed, as I reflect, how I have changed from when I first came to death row til now. I was 22 years old, still emotionally immature. It was easily for me to become attached to a shirt because of my immaturity, coupled with the effects of being isolated. That year in 2009, it was the second shake down we went through in as many days. The guards were looking for contraband like illegal cell phones or weapons, yet they ended up taking my only shirt.