On My Time

by Louis Varela
May 2009


I have been here, in a Texas prison, which actually borders New Mexico, for only about 8-1/2 months. I was very lucky to have gotten the job where I am now working. When I got here, I just started going all around the prison submitting cop-outs (applications) to where I would like to work.

As soon as an inmate completes what is called an “A & O”, he can get placed in a job. They put me to work in the kitchen. I stayed there only four days, and I was moved to Ground Maintenance. Now, I must tell you that I’m in the desert. This is where the prison is located here in the Texas-New Mexico area. They had this area in the recreation yard where inmates are not allowed to be. It was overtaken by these goathead sticker bushes and weeds. We happened to have more rain than usual, so about 12 to 15 guys and I were out there in the very hot sun, digging and sacking those weeds for five days.

Well, recreation was looking for somebody. They hired me for the “passive rec room” (pool tables, ping pong tables, and foosball). The other guy who was working there didn’t like to do much of anything. So, I asked him why he didn’t run any leagues. His answer was that it was too involved, so I told R. that it was time for this building to rock-n-roll. I said, “Let’s get some pool leagues and ping pong ball leagues going. I told R. that I would handle it all, and for him to just sit back. I got the fliers made, posted them in the units with sign up sheets. So, for the winter, I kept a lot of the guys involved, and now I have the softball leagues going.

I played one season of softball and the team I was on came in first, but I would rather watch. This guy, Big John, asked me if I knew how to keep the books. I said, “No.” He said, “Would you like to learn?” (By the way, this was when I was at a facility in Beaumont, Texas.) I said, “Yes, I’ll learn.” So, now I had the best seat in the compound, and to my surprise they were paying me $45.00 a month. Well, I stayed with the program. I got along with everybody on the compound. (Being in federal prison, I’ve met guys from all around the world.)

When the rec-specialist was looking for somebody to run the program, my name was brought up by many of the inmates. They called me in and asked if I was interested. I said, “Yes.” So, over at Beaumont, we had over 1700 guys (inmates) on the compound, and 700 of them played softball. I just enjoy being able to keep the guys busy so that they don’t have time for any mischief.

I had incidents where I have had to literally step between 15 angry guys and one of my umpires. I had a league with 13 rookie teams – one team of about every race. I’ve had to talk to them and tell them that if they didn’t respect the calls from the umpires, then I would have to shut down that league. I told them that I would talk to the umpire whom they were having the problem with. I believe the reason that the guys gave me much respect was because I would listen to them. There is so much to talk about, and since I’ve been down (been an inmate) for so long, I have seen so many different things. I’ll continue to write about my experiences.