Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confronting The Moral Question.

It's probably been about 15 years since I read the book "The Giver" by Louis Lawry, which has only recently been made into a major movie (2014) and as these things often do, when I was reminded of the premise of the story a gawd zillion neurons on my admittedly burnt out brain started to fire off like fourth of July fireworks, connecting that fictional story with events in my only too real life - and it got me to thinking.
 

 
This past week I then read the editorial in the USA Today (newspaper) entitled "Eerie Ethical Questions of "The Giver" by Arina D. Grossu" (director of the Center for Human Dignity) in which Dr Grossu posed a thought provoking question of whether we as a society today, are really "that far off from the atrocities in the movie "The Giver". Dr Grossu focuses on the morality of aborting unwanted children and quotes from Atheist writer Richard Dawkins, who apparently once tweeted in regard to an as yet unborn child diagnosed with Down Syndrome, "Abort it and try again, it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice", a position Dr Grossu finds unequivocally unconscionable, as "we must value life, even the unwanted", as (and I again quote) "The voice of the human life does not derive from being perfect or even useful, but simply from being human".
Again, drawing from the words of dr Grossu's thought-provoking editorial, it goes on to say "in the most disturbing scene in the movie (The Giver), Jonas' father, whose job is "releasing" babies" (i.e post birth "abortion"), takes a needle and inserts it into the head of a sickly baby to kill him. The Washington Post reported the line from the book that was "too dark" to add to the scene, was the father Cheerfully saying "Bye, bye little guy", while placing the dead baby in a box. As Jonas puts it "they hadn't eliminated murder, they just called it by a different name"
Imagine that - a society that advocates the commission of a deliberate act of murder, but to appease the moral conscience of its apathetic citizens conveniently calls it by a different name, and once so easily relabeled and clothed in that dark veil of moral obligation, it is miraculously transformed into an act that should be cheered by all.
Doesn't that sound an awful lot like the continued use of capital punishment today? When it comes down to it, by imposing the "death penalty" under the pretense of administering "justice", aren't we really simply relabeling the intentional act of murder by inflicting a "post-birth abortion" on the unwanted? If the value of human life is truly derived from that miracle od simply being human, then by what moral measure can we justify the death penalty?
Like everyone else, my opinion is tinted by my own agenda as I am a condemned man, and my days are numbered. With pre-death warrant clemency counsel being recently assigned to my case, I expect that sometime towards the end of this year the Governor of Florida will sign his name to that black-bordered document entitled "Death Warrant", instructing the warden of Florida State Prison to put me to death within that following month.
I will then be transferred to the bottom floor of "Q-wing" into the very cell that I have previously occupied and confronted my own mortality as I counted down those last few hours until my appointed "post-birth abortion" (please read: "The Day God Died"and "Facing my own Execution"), only this time there won't be any last minute stay of execution.
With a measure of indifference comparable to Jonas' father, the faithful agents of the state of Florida will gather around me, strapping my still breathing body to a gurney as just a few feet away behind a wall of glass a panel of witnesses will watch as those agents of death insert a needle into my arm and a few short minutes later an unseen executioner will deliberately push down a series of plungers that will then force a lethal cocktail of chemicals into my body and if all goes according to plan, it will at least appear that I have peacefully drifted off into a deep sleep and they will call it "humane", as the emotional and psychological torment so deliberately inflicted not only upon me but upon all those who love and care for me will not matter.
And just as that unwanted child in the movie "The giver", my life will be extinguished and there will be those who will adamantly insist that by inflicting my death they did society a great service - and then, there will also be those who will celebrate my death as that value of all life does not apply to those we want to rid society of.
But how many will dare to confront that greater moral question? How many will have the courage and moral integrity to stand up and question the taking of yet another human life? Funny how our moral compass really works - how we can so easily (and so willingly too!) find those convenient justifications to circumvent that perception of a deliberate act of murder by simply convincing ourselves that ending that life we choose not to value because it has been irrevocably tarnished by that transgression is now the right thing to do.
* Please read "Petition for Clemency", encouraging the Governor of Florida to grant clemency in the case of Cary Michael Lambrix. Your support can now make the difference between life and death
Petition will be soon available - Please check back!
 
Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th Street
Raiford, Florida 32026-4400


 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Window to the World

For as long as anyone could remember we were only allowed a small black and white TV in our death row cells. When i first joined the ranks of the condemned back in the early spring of '84 I waited the better part of a month before one of the donated TVs became available and can still remember the frustration I felt as I struggled to get it to work. I wasn't alone as my efforts soon enough became a community project with first my immediate neighbours offered their insight and then just that quickly one after another jumped in until pretty much everyone within speaking distance became part of that effort to get that ancient idiot back to work.

Of course, they were all blind to that elusive image I so desperately tried to capture as each of us were in our solitary cells unable to see into the rejoining concrete crypts in which the condemned would remain as we awaited the uncertainty of our fate. Looking back now, most of those who were part of that particular community are now long dead, although a few of them are free as such as the arbitrary nature of this hell that we live in - many will die, and some will be exonerated and walk free, while the rest of us simply rot away in our cells until that journey we stumble along comes to its own end, whatever that end might be.

But I digress, then I was more naive than ignorant, knowing only too well that ignorance is just a short step away from stupidity and especially in my little world stupidity is contagious and from time to time, I'll catch it myself. And on that day way back then i felt that weight of oncoming stupidity dragging down upon me as my frustration grew and grew and all i really wanted to do was pick that small plastic box up off its makeshift shelf and slam it against that unyielding concrete wall that contains me. I was still quite young back then and patience was hardly a virtue I had yet developed.

It took a few hours before I was finally able to accumulate enough small pieces of thread - thin wire salvaged from old headphones to use as an antenna, running them like spider webs across the ceiling at my cell and finally there it was, a fuzzy image that could barely be made out as reception wasn't that good and back then both TV and radio stations barely came in, most often with continuous static. But when you're confined to a solitary cell being able to reach out into that real world even if only by watching what you can through that raggedy old TV makes all the difference.

For over 20 years, those of us on death row, continued to be allowed nothing more than that black and white TV.  Each TV was donated by a church group as the state wasn't about to spend money to provide electronic entertainment to those it intended to kill. At the same time, prison staff struggled to find those willing to donate as they knew that providing a TV was important in maintaining discipline and order on the death row wings.

As the world out there progressed to a digital existence those simple black and white TVs became harder and harder to find. At the same time the never-ending politically motivated budget cuts eliminated the educational programs in the prison that operated various vocational classes including a TV repair shop. Once the TV shop at Florida State Prison was shut down they tried to send the broken TVs to other institutions, but like dominoes falling, each of these had their own budget cuts until none remained.

Only then, almost 10 years ago now, did the prison system finally allow us to purchase our own TVs from the prison commissary vendor. At first we were only allowed to purchase a simple black and white TV even though a comparably sized color TV would be bought for less. That's the thing all convicts quickly learn about any prison - malice towards us will always prevail over common sense, and the only real reason we were prohibited from having a color TV is because the powers that be reluctantly conceded that it was in their own interests for us to have a TV, but that didn't mean we had to have a color TV.

But there really wasn't much of a market out there for black and white TVs and few companies continued to manufacture them. Despite their efforts it became harder and harder for them (the powers that be) to find such a TV that could sold, especially since there were only a few hundred who could purchase them even if they were available, as other than death row I doubt many wanted to buy a black and white TV.

By 2006 the Tally-To's (short for the politicians in Tallahassee, which many of us came to call the Tallahassee Totalitarians) begrudgedly conceded that if those condemned to death go nuts while awaiting their intended fate, then the State would not be allowed to kill them. Suddenly the prison system had its own interest in keeping all of us mentally sound which meant that allowing us to have that electronic babysitter (a TV) became necessary as keeping a person in prolonged solitary confinement without intellectual stimulation would undoubtedly result in a good number going mad and that inevitably (and politically inconvenient) insanity would stand in the way of killing those bastards.

Once again it was almost humorous in a diabolically twisted sort of way to see how those powers that be struggled to give us the absolute least they could, selling only a very small flat screen TV that was of such poor quality that no company dared to imprint its own name on it. But it was a color TVand everyone who could afford it quickly bought one. About the same time by federal mandate all TV stations were required to switch over from analog to broadcast to digital only and for the first time we could see what outside world in full color. Although the programs featuring bikini-clad women were popular, a close second amongst the ranks of the condemned were the nature programs shown almost daily on the local PBS station (Public broadcasting System) as we would all collectively watch these programs.

In the last few years the politics of prison evolved as it always does and more open-minded people decided that there wasn't any good reason to go out of their way to play games with what TVs would be provided, and they began selling a 13" flat screen TV of far better quality and then about a year ago we were able to start purchasing a cheap remote control to use with the TV, as the biggest problem with these TVs is that they were not designed to be used manually so the buttons used to change the channels quickly wore out.

That brings us to where we are today. As I sit here in my solitary cell, I now have a 13" flat screen that receives a remarkably clear digital picture thanks to those individuals who so generously donated the money to have a quality antenna installed on the roof of the death row wing.

Even as much as I like to watch the programs, there's one thing that means even so much more. unlike any other TV I have ever had, this flat screen TV has a feature  called "freeze" and by pressing that one button on my remote I can instantly freeze that picture on the screen, and it will stay frozen until I again press that button to release that frozen image. As I write this today, only a few feet away I have my TV frozen in place on a picture of a view of the San Francisco bay. As I often do in the morning, i watch the PBS programs and today I was watching a program called "Constitution USA" with Peter Sagal, and suddenly they were showing images of the San Francisco bay area, where I was born and raised.



As they crossed the Golden Gate bridge heading into Marin County (where I lived) I grabbed the TV remote and prepared to push that freeze button and my trigger finger stood at the ready as the camera then took that left hand turn just on the North side of the bridge that I knew only too well would wind around the Marin headlands there at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay where it opened out into the pacific ocean. And suddenly, there it was, that postcard-perfect picture looking out across the bay with the rusty reddish orange pillars of the Golden Gate bridge in the foreground and off into the distance the gentle hills of San Francisco, and I instantly pushed that "freeze" button to lock in that image....and then i sat back on my bunk and put my MP3 player on a few songs that reminded me of home ("Save me, San Francisco" by Train) and in that moment in time, although locked away in this solitary cell on death row surrounded by nothing more than steel and stone, and the smell of humanity slowly rotting away around me, I had that window to the world, able to transcend my consciousness far beyond this reality that imprisoned my body. In that momentary state of mind, as I looked out from that window to the world, I could imagine myself standing there upon that bluff overlooking the San Francisco bay from a spot that I stood myself so many times when growing up and in that moment, I am free.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Florida's Southern Slave Mentality


Around the world Florida is known as a tourist attraction, with Disney World and the seemingly endless white sandy beaches and picture perfect sunsets. Each year the state of Florida spends millions of dollars to commercially produce and distribute this wholesome image of only what they want the obviously gullible tourists to see.

But for those willing to look beyond that deliberately deceptive image of that Florida they proudly show the world, those willing to scratch beneath the surface and look beyond will see the state of Florida for what it truly is...one of the last remaining bastions of the traditional "Old South", a place where the insidious traits of good-ole-boy Southern traditions remains stead-fasted maintained and arguably funded by the ignorance of the tourists that blindly flock to this glorified sandbar.

The problem with the progressive evolution of any society is that only too often it will forget it's own dark history, and even worse, it will rewrite that history and future generations will be lulled into a false sense of ignorance and as they say, when we don't learn from history we are condemned to repeat it. And when that dark history again plays itself out, either then that chorus of voices rising up to oppose it's resurrection, too many pretend that it doesn't exist, just as that proverbial elephant in the room.

I would challenge you to take a moment to reflect on those characteristics we commonly relate to as the dark days of slavery. Let there be no mistake, Florida was unquestionably a willing participant of slavery and basked in that mentality that so completely pervaded these confederate states. Although most tourists would never see the remains of this undeniable history, it does continue to exist. Even to this day all one would have to do is get off the main highways and head into the "backwoods" and it would be like stepping back in time. That "redneck" attitude continues to prevail throughout most of Florida, only now they've twisted it around to conveniently label it "southern charm", and the tourists eat it up!

But beyond the more tangible images of slavery and the South's long history of oppression of minorities, what is it that truly defines that "slave mentality"? It's not the Southern plantations, or the sugar cane fields where masses of minorities suffered as slaves while making their rich white masters that much richer. These physical images of the human deprivation and misery were the products of that slave mentality, not the cause.

Only when we tale a moment to contemplate on that mentality that allowed these atrocities to be committed do we then realize that although federal law has forced the Southern states to presumably abolish slavery and end segregation do we've really done was push this evil beneath the surface and in an out-of-sight-out-if-mind slight of hand, it really continue to exist today.

to illustrate this truth I must first confront the myth that slavery has been abolished in the United States. Although that is what America would want the rest of the world to believe, it actually is not true at all. Those actually familiar with the constitution know that although in the late nineteenth century, after years of bloody civil war in which the Northern states (union) fought the Southern states (confederate)and the North won and the United States constitutionally abolished slavery in it's most obvious and "traditional" form.

But before you believe this myth, you should take a moment to reread just what the constitution actually says. Specifically, although slavery in its most obvious form was abolished, the constitution continues to this day to allow the "forced servitude" (i.e. "slavery") of those convicted of 'high crimes and misdemeanors'. Seriously, don't believe me - just look it up!

What this means, and our courts have consistently recognized, is that anyone who has been convicted of a criminal act can be forced into slavery. For many generations after the civil war ended and slavery was supposedly abolished, when a prisoner was convicted and committed to the Florida prison system, Florida would actually sell that inmate to private parties to be used as slave labor. It was only in 1932 under Florida governor Hardee that this practice of selling prisoners as slaves was brought to an end.

But although Florida does not openly sell prisoners anymore, they do continue this practice to this day. Although Florida ranks third in he number of prisoners incarcerated in a state prison system, numerically trailing behind only California and Texas, what must be taken into account that both California and Texas have significantly larger populations than Florida.


When you apply a common sense analysis, what you quickly discover is that Florida with slightly over 18 million citizens and a prison population now exceeding 111.000 inmates, Florida now incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other state, and if Florida was its own country, Florida's rate of incarceration would easily exceed that of china, North Korea and Iran! (do the math!)

Florida's prison system is a multi-billion dollar industry in which private companies make many millions of dollars each year of the exploitation of prisoners and anyone willing to simply conduct even superficial investigations into public records documenting political campaign contributions will find that these private companies donate millions of dollars into
the election committees and individual campaigns of these bought-and-paid-for politicians...it is all documented in public records!

But scratch just a bit more beneath that image they promote and one will discover within the Florida Department of Corrections exists its very own quasi-commercial subsidiary they laughingly call PRIDE (Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises). Anyone who exercises the incentive to go online and look it up will find that under the pretense of providing "jobs" to prisoners the state of Florida itself "employs" tens of thousands of Florida prisoners across the state in factories owned and operated by "Pride". Those inmates are paid no more than a few pennies an hour - nothing more than a token wage intended to allow the state to claim they are not technically slaves.

The many products manufactured or otherwise produced by PRIDE are then sold to other state agencies and only too often then sold to companies for profit. If an inmate is assigned to work in a state owned PRIDE factory, and refuses, he or she is subjected to harsh disciplinary action and often thrown into long term solitary confinement known as "closed management" for many years. At any time the Florida prison system continuously keeps approximately ten thousand inmates in this long term solitary confinement status, until they're mentally broken and willing to work.

The slave mentality is pervasive throughout not only the prison system, but throughout the entire state of Florida. It has often been argued that the death penalty itself is an extension of that traditional slave mentality, and it is not just a coincidence that capital punishment is overwhelmingly popular in these Southern states. Virtually every former 'confederate" state continues to fanatically embrace the death penalty and executions are only too often carried out with that same rabid hysteria one would associate with the historical image of a lynch mob.

While the rest of the country has increasingly expressed its growing opposition to the death penalty, Florida's response was and is to push even harder for both newly imposed sentences of death and a record number of executions. How many people realize that the state of Florida now sentences more people to death than even the state of Texas?

Already this year alone (from January 2014 thru April 2014) Florida has executed four inmates - two were black, one was Hispanic and one was white. When a recent "botched execution" in Oklahoma (May 2014) called for a nationwide moratorium on executions until a full review of the process could be completed. Florida's response was to sign yet another death warrant on a black man, John Henry, of course it's just a coincidence that yet another black man was lynched.

The Florida death penalty process is the most visible proof of the continuation of that "slave mentality" that the Old South was known for. Irrefutable statistical evidence is readily available to prove that racism is the deciding factor in the majority of the death sentences imposed. Quite simply, if you're convicted of killing a white person in Florida, your chance your chances of being condemned to death by an all-white jury is significantly greater than if the victim was black.

But how many people are aware of the indisputable fact that Florida is the only state that allows a sentence of death to be imposed upon nothing more than a simple majority vote by the jury? Every other state that continues to practice capital punishment requires that a sentence of death can only be imposed if all 12 jurors agree that death is the appropriate punishment. Incredibly, the courts have consistently refused to address this issue despite numerous opportunities to do so.

The indisputable fact that Florida has also wrongfully convicted and condemned more innocent men and women to death than any other state, again exhibiting that indifference to basic concepts of human dignity that define that Old South slave mentality.

Considering how inherently dependent Florida is on the multi billion tourism industry it continues to amaze me that international groups committed to opposing violations of basic human rights have not organized a campaign to boycott Florida tourism. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised as Florida has succeeded in concealing these irrefutable practices and when it comes down to it, very few care enough to look beneath this image ...just ask yourself this - do you care?



Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

And They Call Us Monsters

On Wednesday July, 23 2014, the state of Arizona attempted to carry out the execution of condemned killer Joseph Rudolph Wood. For at least the fouth time in recent months, this intended execution went horribly wrong and the witnesses reported watching Woods as he gasped for breath and grunted in pain. Subsequently medical reports documented that during the prolongued two-hour ordeal Arizona actually injected Woods 15 times, and only then finally accomplished their intent to kill.

But even as horrible as this spectacle of diabolically inhumane infliction of death may have been, it was the response to this event that was by far even more disturbing. After the newspaper ran articles about this "botched execution" almost without exception one after the other God-fearing American responded with comments of unequivocal support for inflicting painful death upon another human being. (please read: Death Penalty now Cruel and Usual" USA Today, July 29, 2014 by James Alan Fox)

Having been on Florida's death row now myself for over 30 years for a crime I am innocent of (please check out www.southerninjustice.net ) I'm certainly no stranger to "botched executions" as Florida has a long history of it's own failure to competently carry out executions.

But what separates this spectacle of gruesome death from all others that I've heard about in the past was this seemingly organized show of support for making the condemned man suffer a most horrific death. What is clearly reflected in the responses of so many is not merely an indifference to the unintentional infliction of pain, but the all but fanatical if not rabid advocacy for the infliction of suffering. For these people it's not enough that we condemn a man (or woman) for a particular crime and then carry out that sentence of death - they actually want the condemned man to physically suffer as much as possible and (as one said) "the more pain the criminal feels, the better!"


All of this got me thinking about the countless conversations I've had with the hundreds of condemned men I must live amongst, some of whom are considered by society as being the epitome of 'cold-blooded killers" and labeled as nothing less than mortal "monsters". Through the many years I've personally lived among and came to know such infamous kilelrs as Ted Bundy and others. And in the tens of thousands of conversations I've had with these "cold-blooded killers" I have never, not even once, heard a single one say that he wisehd his victims had suffered more. I have never heard even one say that he wished that he had inflicted more pain upon the victim - not even once.

Some may want to doubt my words, but I challange you to look at the recorded "last words" of the now over a thousand condemned men and women who have been put to death in this country since capital punishment was reinstated in 1974 and you will not find a single one who showed this same measure of intent to inflict pain and suffering upon their victims that those in our society today so zealously advocate inflicting upon the condemned.

Almost without exception when the condemned man is given that final opportunity to say what will be his last words, their words reflect remorse and the Christian values of pleading for forgiveness. Not even one person in the past 40 years went to his or her intended fate with that measure of hate in their hearts that these members of our so-called "civilised" society so clearly do possess.

Perhaps the real problem here is that carrying out these state sanctioned executions are too far removed from sociaty as a whole. Thet've become too sterilized and society has become too detached from the reality that under the pretense of administering justice we are taking a human life.

Through the years I've known many who actually witnessed executions and each was profoundly moved by this experience. Sitting not more than a few feet away from the condemned man (or woman) separated only by a thin sheet of glass and being able to actually look into the eyes of the condemned man as he confronted his fate, and then watch as that life slowly drains out of his body before their eyes and then the voice announcing that the sentence of death has been carried out, not one of these witnesses will ever forget that event.

Still even more traumatic (at least to those who have a conscience) would be to witness the execution of another person as it goes horribly wrong. Those who sign up to witness what they expect to be a "routine" execution are undoubtedly scarred for the rest of their lives. For that reason I think all executions should be publically broadcast on network TV, even pre-emptying regularly scheduled programming and only carried out during "prime-time" hours. Every man, owman and child in America should watch as the state takes that life, which the state is only empowered to do in the name of the people. Perhaps then there wouldn't be such widespread indifference to the fact that we are taking a human life.

Myself, many many years ago I was compelled to involuntarily to take the life of another man and to this day, even over 30 years later, not a day goes by that I am not haunted by that momory. I din't rob anyone or rape anyone. I only found myself in a situation where I was forced to respond (please check out: www.southerninjustice.net ) and even though i might justify my actions within that letter of law, it does not relieve me from the nightmares that follow when I can still see the face of that man whose life I was forced to take. And I'm sure that those who witness the execution of a condemned man, to sit and watch another human being put to death, they too will be haunted by that for the rest of their lives.

As a matter of moral conscience, the taking of any life should never be trivialized, much less reduced to a spectacle. But the truth of the matter is that there will always be that part of our society that will openly advocate and even delight in the infliction of pain and suffering of another---and then they call us "monsters"

Michael Lambrix #482053
Union Correctional Institution
7819 NW 228th street
Raiford, Florida 32026
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sometimes God really pisses me off



I have once read somewhere, a while back, that the greatest proof that there is no God is the fact that this plague we call humanity continues to infest this otherwise perfect planet. When you think about it, that actually makes sense. Although I live in a cage and have been condemned to death and kept in solitary confinement now for over 30 years. (Please check out: www.southerninjustice.net ) I do regularly watch the TV news and read the newspaper and all I see is misery and suffering around me and pretty much everywhere out there too.

I have long subscribed to that philosophical cliché that if there wasn’t a God, men would have to create one. When it comes down to it, we need “God”, and just as much as at times its that need to believe in something greater than ourselves if there’s to be any hope of finding anything redeemable in ourselves, so too do we need to sometimes take a good look around us and really get pissed at God as where is He when we need him the most?

Maybe those out there in the real world don’t struggle with this sense of complete abandonment as much as those who share my world. But I doubt it, as it seems that all those that I care most about are also suffering and it just makes no sense as those out there who are nothing less than the manifestation of pure evil are rewarded with all the things we generally equate to as living the good life. So, if there is a loving and just God who is supposed to be the greatest power in the universe, then why does he just sits back and does nothing while the good suffer and evil is so often rewarded? It makes no sense!

I’m not exactly ignorant of the only too common theological explanations for why God doesn’t do anything, and I can hold my ground with the never ending debate on “free will” ((that because God endowed us with “free will” we are responsible for the way our lives turn out because of the choices we made) and how God “loves” us so much that he gave his own son Jesus as a sacrifice for our own sins…blah blah blah

But let’s be honest for a moment…just where is this “love” they only too often speak of? I certainly haven’t felt a lot of love and I don’t know many who can say they have, either. It seems to me the only ones who want to speak of God’s love are those whose lives are already “blessed” and they only too often speak with a forked tongue as while proclaiming themselves to be “Christians” they are the very same ones who so quickly want to throw stones while gnashing their teeth and screaming for the executioner to pull the switch – all in the name of God and that antiquated Biblical law of extracting an “eye for an eye”

If today’s so-called Christians truly are created in the image of God, then that’s hardly inspiring. And you can bet your bottom dollar that there are more than a few self-proclaimed Christians reading this while already wanting to smite me in the name of their God.

Which brings me to this whole concept of “forgiveness” which is one of the most basic tenets of the Christian faith and the New Testament is pretty clear on this point – unless we forgive others of their sins, we will not be forgiven our own sins. There’s nothing ambiguous about that, but as a whole, how many so-called Christians really have the capacity to truly forgive others, much less reach out to their “enemies”…very few, I’d say!

In fact when you really think about it, God is a pretty tricky sort of guy as before establishing this new covenant through the sacrifice of the promised messiah to atone for our sins, finding salvation was pretty easy – no matter what you might have done it came down to a question of how many animals you had to kill to be forgiven and once this dastardly deed was done you were free to go on and do what you pleased again.

Blood sacrifice was pretty easy unless you were the sheep being led to slaughter, as then it kind of sucked. But I’m thinking that God might just have tricked al of us as God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that it was contrary to inherent nature of all men to forgive. When it comes down to it, we are a vengeful species and there’s something within each of us that thrives off on this need for vengeance. So, although deceptively simple – simply forgive – God now demands of all those who call themselves Christians the one thing most Christians will never have the capacity to give…forgiveness, much less “unconditional love”.

Although all of us struggle to define our own sense of spirituality, especially in recent months I have struggled as while circumstances in my own life took a turn for the worst, and yet again, just when I needed God the most instead not only did I feel completely abandoned by God, but those who proclaim His name gathered to throw these stones and now I find myself again thinking about this whole God  thing and while and while I can not deny the existence of God, I must admit that sometimes God really pisses me off. And if God today can be defined by love and forgiveness then I get to wonder where God goes just when you need him the most.

Michael Lambrix #48205
Florida State Prison

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sardines and Beans - A Religious Diet

By the end of that first week bread and water started to look pretty good. Sure, we've all heard the jokes about how bad things can get and when it got really bad then the most you could hope for would be bread and water. But not even that seemed so bad after all, not when compared to what they came up with this time.

I guess I really should back up and begin where it all really began. After many years of refusing to comply with long established federal law that requires state prisons to provide prisoners a diet that conforms with their religious beliefs, the US Department of Justice filed a formal lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). That is what it took to force the FDOC to finally provide a "religious" diet program to those who held beliefs that required eating only "clean" food. This generally included those of the Jewish faith, as well as a significant number of Muslims and even Christians who could articulate reasons why they would want to participate in a religious diet program.



Under Federal Court order, the FDOC implemented this "RDP" at Union Correctional Institution in July 2013 as a "pilot program". They didn't expect many prisoners to sign up for the RDP but considering that the regular meals served are anything but edible, it came as no surprise that a significant number of prisoners did request to participate in this new RDP and by doing so receive food that could actually be consumed. All of a sudden it seemed everyone got religious!

At first the religious diet began with a breakfast of real boiled eggs (it had been years since the FDOC fed us real eggs) with a small bowl of cornflakes, powdered soy milk and a piece of fruit. At lunch we would receive a pre-packed meal consisting of a main entry such as Salisbury steak, or chicken patty, with a generous portion of real potatoes and vegetables and another piece of fresh fruit, and a packet of powdered drink mix (like "Kool-aid") Then the evening meal would be a similar pre-packaged meal (at least once a week spaghetti and meatballs with fresh green peas and a fillet of real fish with rice and tomatoes) and it was good! Compared to what the prison served on the regular meals it was like eating in a 5 star restaurant!

But these pre-packaged meals cost the FDOC a lot of money. Depending on the source, generally the FDOC budget allocates about 2 dollars a day for each prisoner, which explains why regular meals are mostly some some form of unidentifiable meat substitute with whatever they can pass off as vegetables. But the religious diets were costing the FDOC at least 3-4 times as much and quickly taking a big chunk out of the allocated food budget.

It didn't take too long before the brainiacs at the front office began plotting ways to come up with a much cheaper "religious" diet and just that quickly the morning eggs were gone, replaced by a small portion of peanut butter - suddenly for breakfast every morning we were served peanut butter! And the lunch meal was switched from the pre-packaged meals to a small packet of sardines and six crackers for four of the days each week, and a small packet of tuna fish with potato chips on Saturdays. But it was still a lot better than what they fed us on the regular diet and most of those who signed up for the religious diet stayed on it.

But by federal court order the FDOC had to start providing this "religious" diet at other institutions within a matter of months and given the unexpectedly high percentage of prisoners who signed up for the Religious Diet Program (RDP) at Union Correctional Institution, the FDOC knew they had a problem. Under Federal court order, any prisoner who requested to participate in the RDP had to be provided the religious diet, and once rolled out to the other prisoners across the state, this would undoubtedly cost the FDOC millions of dollars each month in additional food expense.

Once again the brainiacs in the front office went to work to figure out other ways to significantly reduce the number of prisoners requesting the RDP, and it didn't take long before the menu was completely changed.

Beginning on March 24, 2014 all the ready to eat pre-packaged meals were gone, replaced by either small packets of sardines (4 sardines) and 6 crackers, or a cup (8 ounces) of cold canned beans accompanied by a small portion of raw cabbage, or carrots - or occasionally, tomatoes.

Under this revised menu, not a single hot meal would be provided. For breakfast we would receive a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as the main entree, and for both lunch and dinner it would be either a small packet of sardines or a cup of cold and generally tasteless beans. And only one piece of fruit would be provided each day - most often nothing else than a half rotten orange.

Many of us immediately filed formal grievances, which generally went unanswered. Clearly this newly revised diet was not adequate as it didn't conform to basic nutritional needs, or long established state and federal rules that required "at least" two hot meals each day. Few of us were surprised when a few weeks after many of us filed grievances, the FDOC  issued a proposed rule to eliminate the requirement of 2 hot meals a day. Of course, eliminating the prison rule itself would not miraculously relieve the FDOC of it's constitutional obligation to provide an adequate diet. But it would buy the FDOC time to effectively coerce a large number of prisoners to "voluntarily" request removal of the religious diet program, and that's what it was really all about. When it comes down to it, it's a pissing contest between the Federal court and the FDOC - The Federal court ordered the FDOC to provide a religious diet and so now the FDOC will provide a diet that although technically available, prisoners will quickly tire of and "voluntarily" refuse.

Still, that wasn't even enough and the FDOC had to come up with other ways to coerce prisoners to want to go back to the regular diet. They found their means by diabolically and with obvious extreme malice manipulating the 8-day Jewish Passover into nothing less than a religious persecution. Under the pretense of "observing the Jewish Passover" beginning on Monday April 14th, 2014 all prisoners who requested participation in this religious diet received nothing but that small packet of sardines (4 sardines) and two matzo crackers at each meal - breakfast, lunch and dinner. This continued for not only 8 days of the Passover, but actually a full 9 days! Clearly under no reasonable interpretation would this amount to an adequate diet - but then again, it wasn't meant to.

However, not even this contemptible misconduct by top prison officials compelled very many to "voluntarily" refuse further participation in the religious diet program, and as of March 28, 2014 we are all now back on the peanut butter/jelly sandwich for breakfast every day and either sardines or cold canned beans for lunch and dinner.

Most of us are resolved to now stay on this diet, as we know the people within the FDOC that are responsible for playing these games will only now force the Federal court to intervene and it's only a matter of time before the Federal court will find the FDOC in contempt of court deliberately depriving thousands of prisoners of an adequate diet and then we will once again receive meals comparable to what was first provided.

And in the long run, these petty games they play will only cost the FDOC substantially more.
But I must admit that after a full week of being fed nothing but a small packet of 4 sardines and two matzo crackers for every meal, it got to the point where I was thinking about how good bread and water would be...and like the rest of us, I can only hope that the Federal court overseeing this religious diet program will soon order the FDOC to provide an adequate diet that actually does provide the required two hot meals a day.



Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison


Monday, January 13, 2014

Has it really been that long?



As I sit here writing this, today marks the day exactly 25 years ago when the state of Florida did all they could to kill me. It was on this day that I awoke in that solitary cell only a few steps away from that cold gray solid steel door that led into the execution chamber where Florida’s infamous electric chair awaited. Has it really been that long ago? It doesn’t seem that so many years have already passed. As I’ve always heard it, time passes quickly when you’re having fun, but I damned sure haven’t had a lot of fun over these many years.

When I look around me, not much has really changed. I still awake each day in a solitary cell not all that different from the one in which I waited to die, and I’m still awaiting the uncertainty of my faith, knowing only too well that on any day now the governor could get a wild hair up his spineless ass and sign a new death warrant on me and so many others, especially since our names are on the recently submitted “death warrant eligible” list.


But perhaps the one thing that has changed is that I don’t really care whether they do or not. Somewhere along this never ending journey that I’ve been on, any “fear” of them coming to kill me has long ago faded away. As the years passed, I’ve even awoken more than too many days all but praying to whatever God it was that long ago abandoned me and the countless other lost souls warehoused around me, and “prayed” that the nightmare would end, even if that meant ending it by my death.

You have to love that paradox – them that so zealously imposed death upon me, all but foaming at their mouths like rabid dogs, truly believed that I was supposed to be somehow afraid to die, maybe even drop down to my knees and beg for mercy knowing all too well that them, consumed by vengeance  are incapable of mercy. But in all thee years, not even once have I ever begged, and f they came to take me away tomorrow, I know I still wouldn’t beg and that the joke would be on them as I have long ago came to accept that if I cannot win my physical freedom through the politically corrupted courts (see www.southerninjustice.net ), then spiritual freedom from this hell that only man could create through physical death, would still be freedom.

Today I take a few minutes to look back on that long day and endless night when at 28 years old, I confronted my fate (you can read about my brush with death in my essays “The Day God Died” and also "Facing my own Execution" ) and thought was lucky to survive, only to learn that there truly are fates far worse than physical death – and that the quarter of a century that would follow that date with death would teach me only too well that had I known what I know today – that I would slowly rot away one day at a time and grow old and gray in a cold crypt of steel and stone, separated from and inevitably abandoned by all who once cared for me, I know without any doubt or a momentarily reservation that I would had made those cold blooded bastards kill me that day and spared myself the next 25 years.

But then again, even if I say those words, there’s that bigger part of me that, despite the circumstances, remains forever hopeful that the day will come when the corrupt courts will finally do the right thing and rule in my favor and after the long 30 years, I will find myself back out there in the real world, and allowed to live what’s left of my life as a free man.

Who knows what tomorrow might bring? But it’s the hope and dreams that keep all of us going. Sure, objectively speaking, anyone would agree that my life sucks. But no matter how bad it might get, there are countless others that are far worse. Although the negativity of my situation does drag me down at times, especially when I’m foolish enough to contemplate the circumstances. I also must remind myself that I am far more blessed than most of them I live among. Too many here in my world truly have been completely abandoned by all and as the years pass they retreat further and further into that dark shadow of their own minds, until one day all that remains is the flesh, as the mind and soul have slowly eroded away.

So, as I “celebrate” my 25th anniversary of a continued life despite their never-ending attempts to end it, I realize that I do have a measure of freedom far greater than that many in the real world out there don’t have – I am free to choose how I want to deal with my fate. No matter what evil the cold blooded society might inflict on me, I alone am the gatekeeper, deciding for myself whether I will allow this solitary journey to eat away at who I am until all that remains is anger and hopelessness – or I can choose to laugh in the face of death and embrace this unique growth experience as it comes. And today, in this moment I do laugh and if they come to kill me tomorrow, I will laugh again. And as long as I can still laugh in the face of death, I know that I alone remain the master of my own life and nothing they can do will break me, as if the past 25 years has taught me anything, it is the measure of strength within myself, and I am stronger than they can ever hope to be, knowing that what does not kill me can only make me stronger and that at the end of the day the only absolute reality is death and nobody gets out alive.

Michael Lambrix

Innocent and Executed - please read