VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: Living With Life and Death on Death Row

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by Glen Cornwell

Life on the row has several different flavors and circumstances; death being the bottom line. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing by the river of time, watching everyone I know and love float by into the abyss of time. The yards here are broken up into several different exercise areas about two-thirds the size of a basketball court. Two fences with razor wire on top separate each yard. On several occasions, I’ve had guys call me to the fence and talk to me for between 30 minutes to an hour about nothing. Every conversation left me feeling like I had missed something. At some point, they’d thank me and in a roundabout way say goodbye. It never failed. That evening the alarm would go off in the building. The guy I’d just kicked it with had either hung himself or shot up heroin or fentanyl, and was gone!

My good friend Chuck told me he’d shot heroin since age twelve, probably because I don’t judge. Since so many people had overdosed I was really concerned. One day we were in the enhanced outpatient (EOP) exercise cages talking up a storm. Seeing I had an in, I asked him if he’d be careful shooting “H” mixed with Fentanyl. I didn’t think shooting something 50 to 100 times stronger than what other guys had been using was sane. I suggested he “break it down ten times smaller than his normal dose.” He said it sounded like a good idea. At the same time, he was barely standing. That night he overdosed. I can’t remember why, but I walked into one of the cages on the first tier the next morning. My boy “Rockhead” gets staged right next to me and said, “Did you hear, “Sponkeo (Chuck) overdosed last night?” “Nawh I didn’t,” I replied. “Yeah G, that fentanyl is hella good, I’ve gotta get me some of that!”

Feeling like I was about to throw up, I sat down on the crate in my cage and said “Be careful.” A day or two later, Rockhead was also dead, from fentanyl! His appeal lawyer was my habeas lawyer so I called as soon as possible. Here, in “East Block”, I can’t help but feel that death and prison are twin brothers. Since I’ve been incarcerated I went from being the baby sibling in a family of five to a daddy, grandfather, then great-grandfather. Everyone from my grandparents to my siblings has passed on, floating down the river of time.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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