by Michael Sharp #740

A man was shoveling coal into hell's fiery furnace. The devil, while making his rounds, approached his tireless worker seeing that he was hot and sweaty. The devil asked the man, "Is it hot enough for you down here?" The man replied, "This ain't nothing compared to the scathing hot Texas sun."  Furious, the devil reached over and turned the heat up to its highest level. Hours later the devil returned. Rolling rivers of sweat poured off the man as he worked like a machine feeding fuel into the gaping, hungry mouth of the furnace. The devil asked the man, "Is it hot enough down here for you now?" The man replied, "This ain't nothing compared to the scathing hot Texas sun."  Filled with violent rage, the devil reached over and turned the heat completely off. Hours later the devil returned. Everything was frozen. With icicles clinging to his iceberg frame, the man was still shoveling coal to the now silent furnace. The devil asked the man, "Have you ever seen weather such as this in Texas?" Amazed, the man replied, "Texas has never been this cold, and I also have never seen a 'cold day in hell', Michael Sharp must have written an article giving the good and decent Texas Death Row prison guards a good word!"

Yes, GASP! I am guilty... Too many times we all seem to focus on the bad and overlook the good. Instead of my complaining of the small handful of cruel, heartless, deficient-minded, and spiritually disturbed Death Row guards, I am going to give hearty praise to the good, decent, patient, gentle, and hardworking guards employed by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Institutional Division.

These men and women come from all walks of life, races, and cultures. They walk into these prisons hired to do a job. For prisoners, or anyone else, to expect these guards not to do their job is lunacy. Many are married, have kids, and know what it is to struggle day to day to make ends meet. The good Death Row guards are people no different than our own family members. Because the good guards are decent people, they treat the prisoners with much the same respect as they treat their own family. All of this in spite of what they have to endure.

I am not in their shoes so I could never explain the extent of the abuse they suffer, not only from the prisoners, but from their work partners as well. The good guards catch it going both ways. The good guards suffer daily verbal assaults or worse from angry prisoners. They also have to endure working alongside the sadistic, vicious, and brutal guards who have no self control, and do their job with a hostile attitude. The good guards have to endure watching the actions of the sadistic guards when they are "at play", and also suffer repercussions from the prisoners as a result. To speak against a fellow employee for his behavior, or to speak up for a prisoner, would make them an outcast. Showing compassion to a prisoner would label them an "inmate lover". A guard can't get lower than that.

Through it all, the good guards continue to do their jobs and do so without developing a bad attitude. They have their moments and limitations, but they are only human beings working in a stressful atmosphere. They also have a quality about them, inner strength, and a humility within their spirit that many admire. There is seldom an encouraging word for them, especially from the side where I sit. I take this opportunity to thank each of you for the respect you give me, and for doing your best to make Death Row a safer and better environment for all of us. No need for names, each of you know in your heart if you are a good or a bad guard.

I pray daily for all the guards, prisoners, even the people who operate this compassionless TDCJ administration; we are all one people under God. My prayer is for God to help us all renew our hearts and minds, and to help us love and care for one another as He has first loved us. We should be building up and not tearing down. It isn't that difficult, and it is never too late to start. In fulfilling this prayer, we would not only bring joy and honor to the heart of God but to our own hearts.

All Death Row guards are invited to comment on the matters herein. Under the circumstances, all names will be held in the strictest of confidence, or you may send letters and comments anonymously. By virtue of your chosen occupation, you are a part of this.

I was asked to mention the Ellis Unit nurses. They, too, are hardworking individuals who are more often than not caught between their desire to help the prisoners, and the administration's program to cut off any and all meaningful medical care. You are appreciated. Thank you.