The Principle

By Jay Goodman

As I sit back and take notice of the thinking habits of my fellow prisoners and realize why they are so easily manipulated. Most of the inmates that are in here serving time have it in their minds that they have to believe or act in a certain way. Unfortunately, this persona has carried on from the years past into the 21st century. The people controlling the Texas prison system applaud this kind of behavior one-hundred percent. Just because we are in prison doesn't necessarily mean that we have to act like it. Over and over for the last fourteen years, I have heard people liberally use the word principle. "Jay, it was the principle, I know it was stupid but I had to do it." When I hear this type of reasoning from an inmate, I can not help but see the Puppetmasters laughing at them.

I knew a guy once who was serving a five-year sentence for drugs. He had a great wife who waited faithfully all of those years for him. They had a son and daughter together, and they would come to visit him almost every weekend. He did well while he was in prison. He attended college, worked out hard, and genuinely seemed to be on his way to putting prison behind him. His last week of incarceration had arrived finally, and his wife and children were in great spirits. He told me every day about how he was going to make it up to his family for causing them to suffer while he has been gone. We had gone to the gym and worked out together one day and once we had returned to our cell block he noticed that a cup of soup was missing. When he inquired about it, he learned that a young man who had recently moved to our block had taken it from his locker. This young guy had never been to prison before and when he had moved into our call blook my friend and I had shown him kindness and treated him well. So, my friend was utterly infuriated over this kind of behavior. He then tells me he is going to teach this kid a lesson for stealing from him. At first, I did not say anything, I just allowed him to vent his anger and frustrations hoping it would pass.

My friend kept telling me how he was going to make this kid pay day after day. I prayed that because he was leaving and on his way to be with his family, that reality would kick in, but it didn't. Monday morning was his big day to go home, and when Friday arrived, as we were working out, he told me his plan. "Jay, my wife and kids are at a hotel down the street. They are going to visit me Saturday and Sunday, and Sunday night I am going to knock this kid's ass out. That way if I get caught I'll only have to stay in isolation for one night." Then I decided to try my damndest to talk him out of this foolish situation. Over the years in my experience I have learned that when someone is upset, in good reason, it is sometimes best to let these individuals rant a little maybe to let the steam blow itself out and let the situation pass. But, other times there are some people who will dwell on their misgivings until it drives them insane.

I told my friend to step back and listen for a minute, really listen to yourself and what you plan on doing. I said, "You've been incarcerated all of these years and lost all of that time being away from your wife and kids, do you really think that this all worth getting into any more trouble over?" To this very day I am disgusted by the words I heard, "Jay, it's the principle of it." I knew without a doubt that this man was thinking with his emotions. It seemed like the more I tried to reason with him, the more he kept trying to justify the principle of it all. Finally, Sunday evening came, and this man had just spent two days with his family in the visiting room. They would be there the next morning to pick him up, but the only thing that was on his mind was that one word, principle. He walked into the day room where the kid was watching t.v., stepped back and with all of his might, punches him in the jaw. This guy's head hit a steel beam and out he went.

I just looked at my friend and thought how very stupid you are. I know he has seen it in my eyes, because he walked away without saying a word. Another man and I picked this kid up and put him in a chair. Five, ten and then fifteen minutes go by and this dude still won't wake up. A guard comes by, see's him and called for medical. When they arrived they took one look at him and called for an ambulance. After they came and took him to the hospital, he was pronounced dead. The next morning when my friend left, he didn't leave with his wife and kids. Instead, the police were there and arrested him for murder. Later it was reduced to manslaughter, and he received another ten years in prison. For a word that is used so freely in the Texas penitentiaries, PRINCIPLE, a wife and two kids would go back home devastated, a man would lose his life, and my friend would spend another ten years in prison, all over a fifty cent soup.

I know the Puppetmasters had to be doubled over in laughter over this one. They must have been thinking how great their plan was working by keeping us all institutionalized. Another good friend of mine likes to watch the news, well, he had been arguing with another inmate who hated to watch the news. Even though I understand the logic in watching the news for an hour or so each day is not a big deal, he did let the situation get the best of him. The nutcase is known for always wanting to take control of what is being viewed on the television. This guy really doesn't care if the program is any good or not, his only concern is if there are any women to look at on the show. A lot of the time he puts the t.v. on something then will move around to go play chess or something, not even paying attention to it. Well, the battle inside their minds began.

My friend has spent twenty years behind bars. I have spent countless hours with him talking about what the Texas prison system does to its inmates and why they do it. He already understands a substantial amount of the information I have shared with him. Anyway, it came down to the news or a movie this other nut wanted to watch. They both exchanged words, and the control freak called my friend a lot of four-letter words. My friend naturally felt like this man had really disrespected him, now it's not a matter of the television, it's the principle. My friend goes back to his cell and puts his fan motor inside a bag to use as a weapon. I tried to plead with him, but it was too late. The "PRINCIPLE" thinking had kicked in. Even though he has done twenty years in the system, he has been in numerous riots, seen people die and knows that if he hits this guy with the fan motor he will probably receive another twenty years. Once the principle thinking takes over, no one and nothing else matters.

He then goes to the day room where he and the other guy have some words, threaten each other, so the nutcase grabs a broom handle and they square off with more threats. The CO in the picket saw what is going on and sends the other officer into the cell block. My friend then steps back into his cell and another inmate had enough sense to close the door and lock him inside. I waited a little while and then went to his cell door to talk with him. I said, "Man you lost total control, what were you thinking?" There is, of course, no possible way to explain your actions when you allow your emotions to control you. Thank God that in this case no one got hurt. So many times this "It's the principle thinking" has caused so much heartache for prisoners. When will the inmates in the Texas prison system realize that there is no certain image or no certain way that people have to act or carry themselves because we are in prison? We do not live on a movie set, and there is no role to play. Weare human beings with families, mothers and fathers, wives and children, and even brothers and sisters. Hell, some of us are even grandfathers. We also have to start thinking reasonably instead of reacting. Nothing pertaining to prison life is more important than our family, nothing in this place is worth more than our own lives. After being incarcerated five, ten, and even twenty or more years, one of the most precious things you come to realize you've lost is your freedom.

I would like all of my fellow prisoners to ask themselves this question. Is there anything inside the Texas penitentiary worth staying here for? The time that we are here, we should be spending it bettering ourselves in every way possible. We do have an amazing opportunity to work on ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually and to advance in our lives. There is NOTHING inside these walls of the Texas prison system that is worth sacrificing our freedom for. There is a reason that Texas DOES NOT have a better rehabilitation program. The people controlling the system look at us with one agenda in mind, and that's enslaving us for the rest of our lives. Take the time and read over my chapter called Super Seg II, there you will see how Rick Raemisch, the Director of the Colorado prison system, changed the whole system in a matter of a few years. He reduced the rate of recidivism by 40%.

There are many other states that have done great things by reforming their prison systems. Here, we have Texas, they love to say that they can't afford to do this or that, but there are well over one-hundred prisons operating across the state and have been since the early 1990's. They are not interested in doing any kind of reform, only to line their pockets by the blood and sweat of its many slaves. I don't have to sell this to anyone inside these fences, you all should know this very clearly. Texas wants to have their abundance of industries up and running full force. They want us to fight each other, to hate each other and to kill each other. They want to hear those magic words come out of our mouths, "IT'S THE PRINCIPLE."

The Texas prison system is designed to keep us incarcerated forever. It breeds life long slaves, to ensure job security, and to bow to their every need. So, the next time you feel you have to do something because it's the principle, realize right then that you've just signed on for a lifetime career with the Puppetmasters.

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