July 26, 2011, around 3 something in the afternoon, I arived to planet Polunsky. It was one of the hottest years yet. I couldn’t even remember what was going through my mind. The first few hours, I spent going through all the motions off the Death Row intake process. I know I had been strip search more in that time, than the last 2 years of being in jail. See, everytime you leave a area, you are strip searched, cuffed up and escorted by two officers. During that whole dehumination, I didn’t realize how much of my being was collapsing. This routine shit was sometime, acceptable, some expose cowardly aggression, monstrous and, more ever careless. Someone told me, this is how everyday of the rest of your life will be….
My first reply to this process was a refusal to bend over and spread my ass cheeks. I simply said, “nah, I ain’t doing that gay ass shit”. After a few glass house attemps to scare me with use of force for a cavity check on my first day. I still didn’t reply. The female officer decided to be reasonable and tell the male officer, don’t worry about it. I was then escorted to the assigned cell. C-pod-53 cell. When I enterd the pod, the image was nothing new, but, the feeling touched me so deep internally. When I got to the cell, got the cuffs off, I though, “that’s what’s up. I made it with my gold grill.” All I had to do was grow my hair back out, wave up and, win me a female officer. That’s how I did time, non-stop searching my next win. I though damn, there is a window, mesh on the door, side view, on and off button to controll the lights, im winning. The first call to me came from a older guy name Short Dawg, from Tyler. May he Rest In Peace. He introduced himself and laced me up on a few of the motions. I asked, how come nobody goes to rec? He told me, “we all go to rec, but, only one @ a time. I thought, what… Then he told me the whole due process of life on Death Row. During the duration of the day, guys sent me everything I needed. I mean, that was new to me, all the free stuff from whatever I named, needed and wanted, I got it. As the day ended, another shift started and came with all the looks and questions, all kosher, some more admired and some passive. Then the reality crept into me, stepping hard.
I watched staff pass out all the mail and then life started to slow down for me. I was gaining a little clarity in light at a quick rate, after years of being clouded & confused. I had spent a few hours reading the Death Row packet & filling out all of the paper work required to complete my visit list. Eventually, I had tired myself out and wanted to sleep. I just wanted to be in the dark. I thought, when do the lights go out…This was before I noticed the button was for the light not a way to call the officer in the picket. I turn’d the lights out, laid down and went to sleep. Right after saying the same prayer I said for the last two years for as long as I could remember. Sometime I be so numb I guess but, tears would just pore down my face. They do it when im happy, sad, even active in casual activity. My first night, they flow’d free. I thought, damn, this shit is crazy as the days of my trial began to replay. I thought I heard things im not really sure was said. It felt like my sadness was catering to me feeling down. I remember my momma yelling in court, “please don’t kill my baby, i’m sorry for what he did”...My grandmother said, “Teddrick is my favorite grandchild. I help’d bring him into this word, please have mercy on my grandbaby”.... I thought about how the victim came from the same life as me. I don’t even know if I slept. I do recall people around me talking about a date. I thought, date, what’s a date and who’s got the date, i’m confused.
Nothing really snapped and I was storing shit in my mind for the night to help me process. On my second day on Death Row. I was wrote two more minor cases that were inhanced to one major case. My third day, I was being ship’d to the seg. pod for death row, as a level 2 offender. Soon as I got into the door, it felt different and oddly I embraced it better. People asked who I was and how long I’d been here. When they heard 2 ½ days, it seem I had record time in getting into trouble. If I would have known, for the next 5 years, I would spend 90% of that time in Death Row- ad.seg. My first 5 years, I couldn’t seem to keep my level one for no more than 45-60 days. I spent my time getting case after case without a care in in life. I’d had my heart broken, lost friends, fully aware of the killing machine that was the systematic intention of my life. I shook hands with brothers set to die within hours. I recieved mail from dead brothas family & friends, expressing love and hope for me. I’ve protested & been punnished for brothas to be killed. I’ve watched them @ last visits, their family & friends, seen them pass out, throw up, yell, cry & beg, aginst the system. I have lost friends simply because they’re not or don’t think they could handle loosing me, “their words”, so they back away and run away. I’ve watched the health decline of our mothers, witnessed guys fold or too strong, both traits ending in killing themself. I saw him slit his throat, hang himself, take dozens of pills or even decline medical help for major illness. I even seen them kill themself over a pen-pal turned better half, it’s called a broken heart.
I never knew how to fight systematic pressure, so I crashed alot. Then I hit my breaking point. I didn’t have shit. Several years later, a brotha of mine fell out with an officer. This fall out resulted in a dead wrong condoning of this officers actions. They jumped on my brotha while he was cuff’d up. Upon seeing him bloodied, few of us set out to get pay back, blood for blood. This set off a string of assaults on offenders & staff, resulting in a 3 ½ cell search for us, everyday. They did it all, keeping the lights on, dropping the temp, not feeding us and sleep depriving us. This went on until the administration changed. During this time, I’ve grown stronger, deeper, and more meaningful. But, I somehow still felt hurt and fought in thoughtless ways. My total breaking point came soon after. I was once again placed in position of a use of force, gas’d and strip’d naked, then put into a freezing cold, level 3 cell. In the cell, I sat on the sink and ran cold water down the crack of my ass & over my nuts. I was gas’d from head to toe. Once I cought insight of myself…… I thought, “fuck” I can’t let these people keep getting this suffering out of me for their ego boost or joy. That night I lay on the dirty steel bunk, waiting on the sun to rise. I started to deal with I know now was anxiety. I just laid on the floor on my back, breathen, thinking, please don’t take me out like this, come on Teddrick, shake it off and get up, bro….when I came out of that shit, it was one of the most dangerious moments of my life. I sat on the bunk, hopen for no more of that shit and being bored. I worked out, looked out the window, did my best to look out the cell door, to no use. The level 3 cells are sealed all up, the sides, bottom, top & the glass on the steel mesh is caked up with spit, gas, mold, even dust from being on fire.
Over the years, I had been embraced by some very strong reading material, eating habits and self-discipline. I knew I was enduring change within me. I’d seen alot of people with strong views turn out to be unsteady mentally dangerious, then victims. This seg. shit has made people surrender their identity. Alot of us become a threat with the awareness developed, while the ones that collapse, silently and anonumously, tend to gain. Alot of thing seg. has taken from me were, either helpful, hurtful & needed but, never free. I’ve seen self-esteem leave men, like balding hair. There’s a level of vulnerability that makes you loved & hated. Sometimes, I talk to my conscious. Im not ignoring my peace, it’s just alot of pieces to it and some of them are hard to grab ahold of.
This game will never change. After all the blood, sweat and pain, these people have changed the name. They call it Life Row. It almost seem like a joke and clearly a colonized mind. Here I am now, locked up @ 21 and on death row @ 23. Today, im 12 days shy of turning 35. Alot has changed & been let go of. I’ve grew so much and still internalize acceptance. Most times im able to control my unbalance. Sometimes I still hear my momma and the pain get darker than 100 nights. I still give alot of thought to shit I would never put action to. I think all that come with the heartbreak, violent and, painfully predictable advances. My wings have grown too big and beautiful for this cell. Off the tree, I fell, tumbled & tucked to avoid the hug from hell, forever I’ll grow. I am a seed, feeding the earth when I bleed. In this cell, i’ve faced some of the most unforgivable shit, but I will keep growing, healing and bettering self. I’ve sacrificed.. pride and faith dont share the same space, no matter the wealth. In the end, you gotta know, you’ll take alot of losses when you’re optionless. It can feel forced to hold back, because it don’t seem real. Health is wealth, so stay health, because seg. will make you pay forever. It will touch you, just try not to move & fall…
Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
11 years in solitary / ad seg
December 21, 2022
Words by TEDDRICK BATISTE
Photography by TEXAS LETTERS