You Can Make Changes

By Jay Goodman

I have wondered many times why so many people in life don’t want to make a positive change in themselves. I look at all the people around me in prison and sometimes I am in awe at the complete disregard to authority a lot of prisoners have. I have sat and watched the inmates act like fools with their family, the staff and with one another. I see so many of my fellow prisoners do things without even the slightest thought of how this will affect the other people around them. Most of them don’t even think far enough ahead about how their actions will affect themselves. The average age at this prison I am assigned to is 30 and up. There are some younger men here, but they are at an age to where they should know how to act responsibly. Sometimes I have wondered are the things I see people do in here a result of their upbringing, being a product of their environment. In some cases I do believe yes, but in most cases, no.

In my book The Puppet Masters I have explained a lot about the abuses of the Texas prison system. I have described the statewide corruption of the prisons. I will take a minute and discuss something else that has hurt the Texas prisoners terribly, themselves. It has always upset me to see how the Puppet Masters have taken advantage of the men and women that are incarcerated, but it saddens me to see the total disregard of respect so many inmates have for themselves and for others around them. It seems as though nothing matters to these inmates, not their mothers and fathers, their wives and children or even their own future. It is on account of these types of individuals why the Puppet Masters are so easily able to get away with the malfeasance they procure.

The Texas prisoners have a fascination with the word respect. You will hear this word being used almost daily. The problem is though not many people truly understand the meaning of the word. The honor of respect is not taken by force it is something that is earned. Anyone who believes that force necessitates apprehension has utterly confused the word respect with the word fear. When someone has fear of another person they will never have any type of viable respect for that person. When true respect is earned that man will be esteemed and admired by everyone. You can not use the word respect in your speech and then do something harmful or inadequate to someone else in your actions and expect to receive it. You can not expect to gain respect from others if you are running around in here involved in things that disrespect your own dignity. At first, people are judged by their appearance, after you are around someone for a substantial amount of time, you will eventually judge them by the respect that person has for himself and for others.

When I see an inmate throw trash on the floor or out of their windows having only to walk a few feet to the trash can, it is not possible for me to possess any reasonable respect for this man. It seems to me that a lot of prisoners these days think only of themselves not about how they might hurt their fellow. It’s called individualism. When inmates are faced with a decision the question that seems to dominate their thoughts is, “What’s in it for me?” This question is the creed of individualism, which is based on the all-consuming concern for self. No community, whether as small as a family or as large as a country, can grow strong with this attitude. Individualism always weakens the community and causes the whole to suffer. Another thing that holds prisoners hack is minimalism. The minimalist is always asking, “What is the least I can do?” A minimalist is always seeking to exert the minimum effort and expecting to receive the maximum reward. Minimalism is the enemy of excellence and the father of mediocrity.

I know better than anyone about the raw talent that resides inside these Texas prisons and I have met so many people who have taught themselves so many great things. Though sadly, they are held back by their thinking. Many prisoners are involved in situations intent on happiness, only to discover they have lead themselves to misery. This is a constant occurrence because they confuse pleasure with happiness. Sometimes long-term misery comes disguised as short-term pleasure. A Lot of people in prison seek the happiness they desire through pleasure, possessions, power and the path of least resistance. Of course, some of these things may offer moments of gratification, but it will end all too soon, and they are left once again looking for lasting happiness. These moments of happiness may seem real, but only as real as the shadows. Too many of them spend a large portion of their lives chasing shadows. I see discipline as another big problem with the young men that are in prison today. The younger generation has rejected discipline and seem to believe that they can get by just fine without it.

Contrary to popular opinion, discipline is something each of us must learn if we hope to achieve anything great in our lives. Discipline is the faithful friend who will introduce you to your true self. Discipline is the worthy protector who will defend you from your lesser self. Discipline is the extraordinary mentor who will challenge you to become the best version of yourself. Once discipline is learned it can be applied to any area of your life. Those you develop this discipline go off in search of excellence and live richer more abundant lives. Those who do not find this grounding in discipline may do many things but none with abundant greatness. In the absence of discipline we must content ourselves with superficialities and mediocrity. This is the spell that has been cast on prisoners in Texas. Not all, but this does apply to most of them. Remember my fellow prisoner, without discipline, you are confined to soulless living and must content yourself with work, food, momentary pleasures and anything that distracts you from purposeless living and misery. Without discipline, the soul dies, slowly perhaps, but assuredly.

I remember over thirteen years ago when I first came to prison here in Texas I was in complete disbelief over how the prisoners were treated in this prison system. I had not been incarcerated very long before I began thinking about what I could do to help change a system that would inevitably abuse me mentally and physically. Which I found out later at the Estelle Unit where I was taken inside a cell and had a noose put around my neck by four guards, they could also kill me. I decided then to start writing. At first I began keeping notes, as time went by and I was moved from prison to prison and I saw how terrible prisoners were being treated in every way possible. I eventually came up with the idea of my book The Puppet Masters.

There have been times throughout the years that have not been easy, writing hundreds of pages has taken a lot of time and discipline. I have continuously asked myself over the years what was I going to be doing that was more important. Each day I had to decide if watching T.V. or listening to my radio was more important than writing down this story. Did I want to sit around reading or sleeping? I could have fallen in with prison life very easily and do like most everyone else does which is nothing. I see people everyday set up and run straight to the dayroom and the first things they are worrying about is a spot on the bench or a table. For most of these inmates that’s where they will sit all day, watching the same movies over and over again. I don’t believe that watching T.V. is a bad thing, but in the same breath, if it is all that you do it now becomes a terrible thing. It is the same situation sitting around playing games all day.

I want everyone to remember this, doing nothing positive with yourself is all that the Puppet Masters want prisoners to do. They understand that these prisoners after years or decades have inevitably learned nothing and have become institutionalized. Therefore you will have a greater chance of coming back. Your brain is a muscle just like your arm or leg muscles. What happens if you stop using them? They become weaker. Well, the brain is no different, either you use it or you lose it. Please don’t fall into the trap of prison life and waste years of your life doing nothing. We have almost 24 hours a day to work on ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. No man or woman should ever leave prison dumber than when they came in. Imagine if only half of the 160,000 prisoners wrote books about how the Texas prison systems is abusing its prisoners. That would be 90,000 books out there for people to read. Now if we get our families to start going online, imagine the millions of people they could reach willing to help us. There are some good organizations out there now like T.I.F.A, Concerned Christians for Inmates, Prison Justice League and if we use this time in here wisely, we can not only make great changes in ourselves, but we can make great changes in this corrupt prison system. Over the years I have heard time and time again the grievance system is worthless, which is true. Though we have to use the system anyway because this is needed to put them in court. Of course, there are people who say civil suits are not worth my time. Well, you best read over my book The Puppetmaster's carefully about how prison was in the past and how it is today.

The David Ruiz lawsuit lasted for over 20 years and it changed everything about how T.D.C.J. was being operated. Look at the more recent lawsuit that was filed a few years back at the Pack Unit. The prisoners were able to show the court how they were being abused at respite, now that unit has A/C. Never allow yourself to believe you can’t make changes. There is nothing impossible for the man who knows he can.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez