Letter From Karnes County

The following account of a day in the life of a Colorado inmate housed at the Karnes County Correctional Center in Texas was written by Garry Izor, who is serving a life sentence for murder.

"A day in the life of a pod begins at 6 a.m., when the overhead banks of fluorescent lights come on. There are twenty of us in this pod right now, often as many as 24; never fewer than nineteen. We sleep in metal bunk beds less than an arm's reach from each other. The pod is a cement box with a shower and metal toilets at one end, and metal picnic tables in the middle.

"The first thing after the lights to come on is the Great God Television, that mesmerizing Cyclops that traps so many of the younger ones. Between five and eight of the men have been up all night. They sleep all day and rise blinking when the lights go out at night. They turn the TV to cartoons until I get up and change it to the morning news. We call the nightriders 'bugs.'

"Sometime between 6 and 8 a.m. we'll go to breakfast. We dress in our orange pumpkin suits and are escorted to the chow hall. We are told where to sit. We come back and are counted at 7:30. At count times we must stand by our bunks. At 8 a.m., classes are called. We only have one man who goes to GED class. Never mind that he is a mining engineer and 67 years old--when it was learned that he didn't have a GED, they signed him up for classes.

"At 8:30, unless it has rained within the last two days or some other arbitrary reason, we can go to yard. The yard is a fenced-in dirt and cement place with one basketball court. They took the weights out after our mini-riot. Yard can last until 10:30. Our mining engineer comes back from GED class (where he has spent a good part of the morning instructing the teacher) about 10:30 as well. All the people in the pod go back to sleep except me.

"Between 11:15 and 12:45, we are again marched as a group to the chow hall for lunch and marched back. Count is at 1 p.m. Since no one works in our pod, the afternoons are spent in riotous noise, card-playing, soap operas and talk shows featuring one-legged transvestites who have beefs with their mothers.

"Evening chow is between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Count is at 7 p.m. Lights go out at 10:30 each evening, and the bugs get up. Guards come around at 11 p.m. with hot water (since we have only tepid water in the pod and no electrical hot pots or coffee pots). Most [of the prisoners in the pod] are up and noisy until 1 or 1:30 a.m.; the bugs stay up all night. The television stays on until 3 or 4 each morning. The basic routine is the same seven days a week.

"A few words about the people in the pods. Some men bathe regularly and some don't. The oldest is 67, the youngest wasn't born yet when I first came to prison. The constant, droning conversations are often animated and concern only three main topics: cars, crimes or bitches. All women are bitches in these conversations; all cars are fast; all crimes were great, and they wouldn't have gotten caught if somebody--usually a 'bitch'--hadn't set them up or ratted on them.

"The time in here is hard, slow, redundant, unfulfilling. There is almost no privacy. Ever. Conflicts flare and die down quickly."Mostly we are defeated.

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