Tim’s Crossing #1 | Edgefield: Inside and Out

Tims Crossing v1.1

By Tim Eby

Disclaimer: Blogs published on NIA’s Website and social media venues will often reflect the writer’s unbridled frustration of humans with respect to the continuing failure rate of current corrections/justice systems, and NIA greatly appreciates that. While the words and phrases used in these pieces may not always match those NIA uses, we believe it is important to allow those writers to reflect using their own language.

Preface:

Several weeks ago, the NIA asked if I would consider composing bi-weekly columns for their thought-provoking website/blog. The interest was mutual. After mulling over the pros and cons of the proposal, their gracious offer was accepted.

The general range of my writing will present unapologetic depictions related to daily life within the shark infested waters of prison. The legitimacy of my work rests upon having discharged (day x day) a 20-year sentence within the Orwellian confines of the immense Texas prison system (TDCJ). My thoughts, my words, are often politically incorrect, yet strive to convey the bleak nature affixed to a world seldom seen, much less understood by everyday citizens within our so-called progressive “woke society.” The realities of living on the other side of flesh-shredding razor wire does not subscribe itself to contemporary ideology. Therefore, in order to render accurate accounts, the reader should not expect endless streams of emasculated language, nor sanitized characters. Prison is not a sugar-coated bastion for either… never was, never shall be. Please allow this simple truth to resonate within your heart.

Tim's Crossing #1 | Edgefield: Inside and Out

As previously noted, I am not one whose sole credentials were obtained via the relative safety of academia. While academic pursuits are quite useful for exposing the ills of mass incarceration, I experienced, firsthand, soul-crushing effects decades of incarceration has upon the human heart. That truth, by itself, qualifies my voice to speak on matters related to incarceration.

In the weeks ahead, contents within this column will fluctuate between non-fiction, creative non-fiction reflections, and perhaps most of all, numerous faux memoir nuggets authored by an imaginary ex-con narrating encounters from the cell block and/or his struggles with reentry. The memoirs originate from the womb of “Edgefield,” a fictitious Texas prison. Although Edgefield does not exist, inspiration for the narratives within it arise from events, convicts, correctional officers, prison politics, despair, inner growth, and myriad events I knew, heard about, or personally witnessed. In other words, Edgefield is real, real in the sense of capturing the essence of serving time, serving decades within an often less than hospitable environment. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce Edgefield.

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10:55 PM. Correctional Officer Richard “Dick” Head bellowed “RACK-UP, LIGHTS OUT!” Seconds later he rolled the antiquated cell-block doors as the primeval roar of the steam whistle faded, signifying second shift was being relieved by the 11-6 crew; each of the 74 iron-barred barriers slammed shut with a deafening thud, emitting the sense of a foreboding finality akin to an iron door crypt being closed for eternity. Dick Head had secured our 8’x10’ Draconian cocoons composed of decaying concrete, creeping mold, layers of peeling lead-based paint, and scurrying cockroaches. Nothing was outside of the ordinary within the netherworld of the Edgefield prison on that foggy late October evening. Somewhere outside a Great Horned Owl was harkening as day 6,598 of my incarceration concluded; only 717 days remained on the 20-year sentence. My time was short, comparatively speaking.

Edgefield. The sprawling E.R. Edgefield Correctional Farm is situated upon 20,000 acres of prime East Texas agricultural land; it is the largest of the 107 facilities within Texas and its gargantuan prison system. On any given day Edgefield houses 5,100 of the 145,000 souls exiled to the less than sociable, and far too often, brutal confines of TDCJ. While peaceful herds of robust Texas Longhorn cattle graze upon the ever-present lush clover within mere yards of death-dealing gun towers and a lethal double row perimeter fence, intrigue, politics, deception, emotional barbarousness, and gallows humor are found in abundance within its imposing red brick walls. The macabre dance of life and death permeate Edgefield to the level of rendering the nihilistic Shakespearean masterpiece Hamlet impotent. Hamlet is child’s play by comparison.

The Texas prison system has never disavowed the reality of, on average, over 100 prisoners attempting suicide each month, nor has it rejected the title of being the “Prison Rape Capital” of the United States where inmate upon inmate sexual assault abounds, while sexual harassment of female guards and inmates by “good ole boy” staff members is not an uncommon occurrence. Besides these barbaric attributes, the same Texas prison system is the industry leader in executing over 555 prisoners since 1982 with an assembly line efficiency; its “death house” is snuggled within a proud Christian community boasting 30+ churches. Politicians, Texas correctional officials, and numerous Christian groups paint a picture of TDCJ being a progressive prison system where the well-being and rehabilitation of inmates is pursued with vigor.

Behind the spurious facade spewed forth by greasy politicians, misinformed Evangelicals, and shameless TDJC’s “spin doctors,” a plantation mentality flourishes within the older “red brick” farms such as Edgefield, Beto, Eastham, Darrington, and others; after all, prisons in Texas are direct descendants of slave-holding plantations where the life of a slave held no significance. Times have not changed on the Edgefield plantation; the lives of convicts, not unlike slaves of long ago, hold no significance where the Great Horn Owl harkens.

To be continued …

Tim Eby

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

At age 55, Tim discharged a 20-year prison sentence. Soon afterwards he enrolled in college and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Southern New Hampshire University earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree  in English - Creative Writing with a minor in Legal Studies. Tim has been accepted into the Fort Hays State University Literary Arts Master’s degree program.

His fictional work often explores the plight of social pariahs within our self-absorbed society. The stories tend to be Urban Gothic in nature, with an expanding interest in "flash fiction."

Tim’s interests include cheap bourbon, billiards, tattooed Femme-Fatales, and the musical genres known as “Fusion” & “Chicago Blues.” Various writers have had a profound impact upon his worldview and overall love of literature, primarily Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Joyce Carol Oates, Paramahansa Yogananda, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Tim resides near Atlanta with Charlie, his loyal dog. Charlie was born on the very day Tim walked out of prison; they are inseparable.