What Would I Do?

By Jay Goodman

Sitting in the background watching the people in prison through the years has been quite entertaining, as well as frustrating. Prisoners have a very unique sense of humor that sets them apart from people in the free world. Most inmates are very emotional people who unfortunately allow their emotions to consistently get them into the worst of trouble. Some of them have learned to channel their emotions into different areas of their life that allows them to grow mentally, physically and spiritually. Most of the others can never seem to learn how to do this. As with the guards and ranking officers, I wrote about previously, letting their emotions control their thinking, just imagine the intense discord between them and these inmates. Believe me, the funniest reality show you could ever imagine should be filmed right here behind the walls of the Texas prison system.

The men in prison have one thing in common as a whole, that is working out. In years past the inmates felt the need to stay physically fit to survive. Then as the gangs came along, the heads of each group made it mandatory that each member show up on the rec yards and work out together. This was, of course, to ensure that every man was in top physical condition. If something ever happened between two of the gangs physical strength is necessary to deal with these situations. In time prisoners just realized that they enjoyed how they felt and looked, so exercise has stayed a main priority among the prisoners lifestyle. A lot of the men in incarceration are driven by different things, most of the time these things direct the course of how these prisoners do their sentence. Some inmates do their time by working out, others find God and study the biblical religious word with all of their might. Some people come to prison illiterate and choose to get their G.E.D, and sometimes will follow up with college courses that they or their families can pay for some have charges pending so they are able to go to the law library and study. This opens up the opportunity to review prison policies, grievance procedures, while others who have been wronged legally can file their lawsuits. In some cases, these individuals realize they have an affinity for the law and take the two-year paralegal course. Some inmates teach themselves how to be artists, and there are truly some great artists in prison of course, there are those prisoners that bring their free-world street life way of thinking with them to the penitentiary.

These people spend every waking moment they have gambling, doing drugs or selling them, or just simply hustling any way they can. Some of these individuals I do feel sorry for because they don’t have anyone on the outside to help them financially. Texas, naturally does not pay its inmates for their hard work, so some people are forced to hustle for the things they need.

There are others that are just lost in the street life and have absolutely no ambition to change. For most of these men, they have no realization of the life that is ahead of them. They will spend the rest of that life in and out of prison or they inevitably be killed in the streets much like my friend was.

I have wondered in the past what would happen if everyone was given a second chance? A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine named Bowleg, and I said, “I wonder what would happen if our President was to pardon every person serving time in the state of Texas?” Not just let them out but wipe away everything they have done wrong, clean slate. No more criminal record. This means a completely fresh start at life. You could go to college and become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or even join the military, there would be no end to what you could do or become. The whole prison system would be open to enjoy life as it is truly meant to be lived. FREE. No more prison, no more “yes sir, Boss Man”, no more Puppet Masters. My question to everyone in the Texas prison system is, “What would you do?”

I’m sure any prisoner that is able to read this has a thousand possibilities running through their minds. Bowleg and I talked about this for quite a while. Would you be a better man? Would you study more, maybe read more? Would you be a better son to your Mom and Dad? Maybe a better brother or just a better friend? Could you become a better husband and father? Ask yourselves, What would I do? Would you take advantage of this gift to give more, pray more and expect more out of yourself? Would you truly understand that everything you did in your past that brought you to prison was wrong? Could you do the right thing no matter how difficult life circumstances became? I want everyone to really think about this. Please allow yourselves to think positively for a moment, and not like a criminal. In my own life experiences, I’ve come to understand justice from injustice. I imagine everyone reading this does also. We may not always act-justly, but we know the just path even though we do not choose it. The challenge is not in the knowing, because our hearts will direct us if we CHOOSE to listen. Maybe the challenge is letting go of our old self and only really thinking of what we want. How hard is it to truly walk humbly and do the right thing? Surely it’s easier than to live the life we did before. Either spending the rest of our days in prison or dead in the streets. I’m sure most of us do not want that to be the apex of our lives.

Most people might be thinking that this whole pardon thing sounds good, but it will never happen. One thing is for sure that about 90% of all prisoners will find freedom. So, my question still stands, What would you do? A lot of people do make up excuses that they will not be able to do this, or they can’t do that. Most will find a reason they can’t be President of the United States, but in all honesty, none of us ever wanted to be anyway. We still have an opportunity to do pretty much whatever we want. We can be artists, poets, musicians,-actors or even businessmen, writers, better sons, better fathers and husbands, nothing can hold us back except our own thinking. We can achieve all of our dreams, and truthfully it will mean more to us than the average person. Why? Because of everything we’ve gone through to get us into our current position. To give a few examples let’s look at some great people who have gone through the same ordeals as we have.

I’m sure most people know who Danny Trejo is. Let’s take a look at where this man came from, a maximum security prison in California, to a Hollywood set making motion pictures with some of the greatest actors of our time. I can remember this man starting out with small roles, then going to the theatres with my wife to see the movie Heat. Two of the most classic actors of our era, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino came out with their second movie together. I remember sitting there watching the movie and when I saw Danny Trejo, I thought to myself, WOW this man has come a long way from his days in prison. Even though I have never met Mr. Trejo, I must admit I felt proud of him because he showed the world that a man can leave prison and do great things.

Now let’s take a look at another man most of us know, Robert Downey Jr. This man was different than Danny Trejo, he was an A list actor in Hollywood, who worked his way up to the top doing movies with Mel Gibson. I remember how his arrest for drugs hit the news and all of the entertainment shows. We all watched his life spiral out of control, it never seemed to get any better, until finally he lost his freedom. Robert Downey Jr. went to prison for many years, it could have been the end of his career as it has been for many others in Hollywood. He did eventually leave prison and I’m sure while he was there he took the time to think about what he had going for himself,what he had lost and of all the people he let down. I am sure on most nights he laid in his bunk and thought about his freedom and his second chance to do things right. He must have put a lot of thought into when he does finally get out, what would I do? Robert Downey Jr’s day did come and once again he is an A list actor. He is once again back on top of the big screens with leading roles in Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes and married a beautiful woman and they have several children together.

Let me assure everyone that Danny Trejo and Robert Downey Jr., came into the place that we live now and have gone through the same ordeals that we are now facing. Somewhere though they realized that their dreams were still attainable. They also realized they could achieve and have all of their hearts desires, without the worry of ever having to return to prison. They focused on their dreams, they let nothing stop them from accomplishing what they set out to do, and now look at the outcome of their aspirations. There is no difference between Danny Trejo and Robert Downey Jr., than any other man sitting in prison today. You just have to refocus your desires from negative to positive. When you do that put your entire heart into it just like when you were out being a gangbanger or a criminal. Change your thinking and change your habits. Stop selling ourselves short, and do not give your lives to the Puppet Masters. Plowing their fields, picking their cotton, cooking and serving them their meals. Take a long and serious look at yourselves and think about what you would like to accomplish with your life, and come to realize those dreams are absolutely possible.

The Japanese are aware of three powers. The power of the Sword, the Jewel, and the Mirror. The Sword symbolizes the power of weapons, the Jewel symbolizes the power of money, and the Mirror symbolizes the power of self-knowledge. This self-knowledge, according to Japanese legend was the most treasured of the three. Let go of the old ways and start dreaming of your new beginning. Look at Mr. Trejo and Downey Jr., where they were and where they are today. If you want your future to be different from your past, there is only one way, change your thinking and change your habits. Your lives change when your thinking and habits change. What sets us apart from all of the great people in humanities history? Their habits, they helped them grow and become everything their hearts desired.

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