Letters From Pamela Perillo
                                                 TEXAS DEATH ROW

June 13, 1999

Sometimes it takes me getting mad before I'm really able to put my feelings into words.  Guess what ?  I'm mad.  Besides all the things that I have been holding inside these last few months.  I got a letter from my friend Kimberley today.  Inside were lots of newspaper articles.  She always shared with me the things she thinks I will want to read about.  One of the articles was about the new high tech security prison , the male death row inmates will be moved to soon.  It made me sick and very mad to read about the changes they will be going through in this new hell pit.  "They will afford the condemned prisoners less freedom, fewer priveledges, and no tv will be permitted, confined to their steel door cells 22 hours per day, be let out for solo supervised recreation.  And eat all of their meals alone in their cells"  Oh and lets not forget to take our hats off to Mr Robert Treon, Terrell's warden, with his "You'll never get out of this more secure prison boys".  This facility was specifically designed to house problem inmates. Its always been very sad for me the way these people put us all in the same category.  Mr.  Treon said some sort of work program would be instituted for death row inmates at Terrell but not extensive and certainly not comfy.  Mr. Treon expects morale among inmates to be somewhat sour.  I wonder why ?  What hit me so hard in all of this is the way we all pay for the actions of others in here, no matter what their actions are.
I've heard a lot of the men on the row are mad at us women.  Because we are speaking out right now about the things we have gone through, since the attempted escape last November.    Well, guys, why don't you speak out with us?  Why not put your anger where it is going to help.  Pick up a pen, or get on those typewriters, and write what is going on and how you feel about it.  My friend, Kimberley, said something in her letter to me that made so much sense.  She said we all are in the same boat.  We ought to pull together for the good of us all.  We need to pull together, and help each other, and stand together in this fight.  I got a card from a sweet lady in the Netherlands.  She said you ladies keep up that fighting, you're doing a good job.  I wish the men would fight like you ladies are doing.  Come on guys, get it together,what is happening to us all, is wrong.
I'll be moving around a lot in this letter.  But, I have a lot of things on my heart that I want to talk about.  Death Row inmates are seperated from general population. TDCJ-ID says, to maintain safety, security, and order amongst general population offenders and correctional personnel.   Our punishment, for our crimes we were accused of, was being sentenced to death.  We are on death row, where we will stay, until our appeals are over.  We, on death row are no different, from any other inmate in population.  But, yet we are tagged as the most dangerous inmate in the system.  There are people in population that have done crimes much worse than any of ours, and yet we are put on death row for our crimes.  And we also get punished by TDCJ-ID, for being on death row.   These people have taken everything away from us.  For no reason other than we are death row inmates.  It's time we fight to get it back.  Inmates in population are able to watch tv.  And death row inmates in other states have their tvs in their cells.  What have we done to get ours taken away?  They can't just lock us behind our doors and expect us to sit here with nothing, but walls to look at and talk to.
I read in the paper all the time, about death row inmates dropping their appeals.  It really doesn't surprise me with the way most of us are treated.  Get mad, it's good to feel anger.  But let it out in a positive way.  Use your pen as the extension of your tongue.  These people in here, love to tear us down.  Very few, if any, will build you up.
We have to demand,that we get treated with the basic human decency all humans have a right to.  Most of these people are robbed of sleep unless they are knocking someone down.  We have to stand up and fight for our rights.  And take them to court if we have to.  There are a lot of people, who care about what all of us are going through and want to help.  I got a letter from a friend, Carol, the other day.  And when I read the part of her letter that said Pam, on that new unit they are sending our guys to. They have to visit by phone with all glass between us.  At least, at the Ellis Unit they had half glass and half mesh, where we could smell each other.  And, I was thankful for that little bit of contact I had with my husband.  It was nice just to be able to smell each other through the mesh.  He said I smelled like honey,  I loved to smell him, he always smelled like baby powder.  Now, they are taking that away from us too.
They moved Brit and I away from each other.  These people can't stand for us to become friends.  Whats so sad, is that when Brit and I went to our 6 month committee review, to see if we wanted to go back on the work program, Warden Baggett sat in there, and said to both of us, "don't you want to go back over there and work and have some sort of human contact with others, don't you want to have friends, don't you miss sitting across from someone and being able to talk to them," As soon as Brit and I walked out of that review we were both put into different cells away from each other.  I just can't help but believe that was done on purpose to try to break up a friendship.  Brit is like my daughter and we share everything with each other.  We are able to still talk to one another down the hall. They sure won't take one of us off of death row to keep us apart. But, some of the officers won't even let us talk down the hall.  They are happy that we just look and talk to walls all the time.  I'm sure, they are hoping we'll go nuts and kill ourselves or give up our appeals, so we will save the State some money.
This place seems to love knocking people down, I feel that if you treat a person like a dog long enough, they will eventually start acting like a dog.  Some of these officers talk to people like they are animals.  We as inmates are  automatically categorised as liars, thieves, and manipulators.  These people will sit back and tell us how we are all losers and will never be any good.  We sit here for years getting beat down literally every time we turn around.  So when we sit here taking all of this, we can't help but fill up with anger.  When all you have is anger filling you up year after year, you walk around like a walking time bomb.  And thats how a lot of people walk out of here, back into society.  When they walk back out there and explode, and then come right back into prison. These people are here, pointing their fingers, saying see I told you so, you are no good.  Never admitting that that time bomb, was what they created to walk out of here.
I remember a tape I heard one time, calles the words we speak.  A volunteer who went into the prisons said he always saw these guys with tattoos, that said born to lose.  Curiosity got the best of him one day and he walked up to one of those guys and asked them.  Why do you have a tattoo that says born to lose ?  The guy said when I was a kid everyone told me that I was a loser and that I would never amount to anything else.  That was sad.  I believe we should never look down on a person unless we are picking them up.
Well, I guess I've let out a lot of anger in this letter.  I want to thank all of you who have written letters of encouragement and helped us all here through all of this madness.  Thank you, for standing with us in this fight.  But most of all, we want to thank Mary Robinson for all the strength she has given us.  for packing up and moving down here to Texas.  To not only fight with us, but to stand with us.  And for all of the leg work and time she has dedicated to us.  Mary, thank you, you are one of a kind, and we all love you very much.
  With Much love,
Pamela Lynn Perillo 
September 17,  1999

Right is right and wrong is wrong, right? Isn't that what we are always told? If so, then please tell me why the supposed right people can do so much wrong and it is okay? It is not right, though, and what these people here in the Land of the Right just did to Erica Sheppard is so very wrong.
On August 17, 1999 officers Alien and Kiser went in to Erica's cell to do one of our routine cell searches. Remember, these searches are done every day by basically the same handful of officers for several months now, so everything we are allowed to have is as familiar to them as to
ourselves. Well, these two officers came out of Erica's cell with a make-up compact that Erica purchased from the commissary located right here at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. The commissary is the only place we are allowed to purchase and obtain make-up.
Officer Alien questioned Erica as to how she had obtained the item and Erica replied she had purchased it in 1995. Well, on August 19,1999, Erica was notified that she had been written up for the compact even though she had purchased it legally four years earlier. Officer S. Hagden read her the case stating she had been written up for contraband.
The day before, August 18th, Erica had talked to Sgt. J. Hefner concerning the compact and on August 25th and 26th she spoke to Assistant Warden Thomas, actually showing the Assistant Warden an inventory slip from 1998 with the compact listed on it, proving she has had the item. Assistant Warden Thomas made a copy of the inventory list and left. That should have settled this very simple matter, but that would have been the right thing to do.
On September 5, 1999, Lt. M. Franks came over and ran the case on Erica and gave her 30 days commissary restriction along with 30 days property restriction. Now what's wrong with this picture? They sell us things here over the years that are constantly changing. We keep them because they are ours, only to receive a contraband case a few years later.
Then they took everything Erica owns away from her except some reading and writing material because they can't remember selling her a compact.  She showed them an inventory slip written out by their officers showing she's had this item all along. What more proof do they want? Oh, and don't forget, she isn't allowed to purchase anything from the commissary for 30 days, either.
What makes me so mad is these people hold our lives in their very hands and know this, yet will search and destroy our cells for as long as it takes to find something to write us up for. The punishment Erica received is more than a male inmate on another unit received for carrying a concealed weapon. This man had a knife.  Compare that to Erica's compact. For some reason I don't believe he was planning to be too friendly with it.  I guess make-up is a little more deadly around here.
I am sure you are thinking, "Oh come on now. That's going a little far, isn't it?" Believe me, I am a living example of how that works. In 1981, I was given a case in here for having two boxes of state cereal in my cell. A very little thing, but you aren't allowed to keep state food in your cell. Like I said, it was a very little thing but when my case was overturned in 1983 and I went for a new trial, the prosecuting attorneys told the jury that if I couldn't follow little rules inside state institution, how could I follow rules in society? Never was the jury told I got that case for having two boxes of cereal in my cell. They were simply told I didn't follow rules.
Another thing that upsets me is that Warden Bagget did an interview with a reporter, Liz Stevens, from the Fort Worth Star, February 15, 1997. I'd like to quote some of what she said in this interview, "Bagget explains even the mention of a relatively innocent case can cost an inmate an appeal. For instance, one of the women here received an infraction for taking extra boxes of cereal back to her cell. At her appeal, prosecution attorneys argued that the inmate had had a
disciplinary problem. Though the actual incident was not explained and they portrayed it as if she can't obey the rules of this institution, a very restrictive environment, say Bagget, then how is she going to follow the rules of society? Now I'm sure if they had shared that it was a very minor infraction and that she had been here for years and that was the only disciplinary case she had ever received, the judges decision would have been different."
The warden knows what these little cases can do to us, yet these officers are constantly trying to write the death row inmates up for something. The sad part is they 're getting away with it.
They are continually putting certain officers over here who they know are harassing us and we have talked to them about it. The officer that did Erica's cell search, Mrs. Kiser, comes in our cells and tears them up trying to find something to write us up for. She talks to us like we are dogs and goes out of her way to upset us. Shortly after Erica's property was taken she was here for another search. Laughing, she said, "That was easy, she doesn't have anything." Real funny, huh? I know for a fact four of us have talked to administration about this officer and afterwards, she only worked with us more.
A picture was missing out of my cell after she did a cell search that same officer did her cell search, but who believes an inmate? Since have gone off the work program, three of us who asked to be taken off and one for medical reason, they have been treating us like dogs. They have
taken everything away from us. We can't even get our hair cut anymore.  They strip us when we leave our cells, take a hold of our arms, hold onto us all the way to wherever we are going making all population inmates turn their backs while screaming "There ain't nothing to look at here!" They strip us at our destination again, although they've never even let go of our arms. Just another example, I guess, of what's right. So why does it all feel so wrong?

Pamela Lynn Perillo

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