Back At TDCJ Beto Unit & Big Surprises At TDCJ Units Revoking Visitation & Rescheduling Of Confirmed Dates…

Monday while traveling from the Tarrant County Clerks Office to Parker and Palo Pinto Jails, my husband send me a text that read “buy toilet paper we are out.”

This wasn’t an unusual request from my husband as I had left with a list of weekly items that I normally buy and stock once a week.

I do not buy toilet paper every week because there are only two of us at our home and we don’t need or warrant more than 4-6 rolls at a time. But, this simple request would become extraordinarily difficult to find for me.

Welcome to the toilet paper controversy with hilarious memes and people laughing at others buying toilet paper this past Monday.

By Friday, the people laughing weren’t laughing.

By Friday people in small town Weatherford were getting into fist fights over Charmin.

By Friday I had seen the world change before my eyes. Hoarding and flipping hand sanitizer for $100 on eBay? I’ve seen it.

Toilet paper for $20 a roll on FB Marketplace? I’ve seen it. People buying all of the cold medicine, alcohol, hand sanitizer and wipes as well as canned food items, sugar, meat and food while wiping out supplies for anyone else? I’ve seen it.

I’ve seen some of the wildest scenarios in four days that I could ever imagine. I wish I hadn’t but I have.

On Friday, Cindy and I took a break between clients to go to Walmart. Shelves were empty. Baskets over turned by angry customers left lying on their sides. Ransacked shelves empty greeted shoppers who didn’t expect this type of “mission” to buy toilet paper or anything else for that matter.

Cindy and I left Walmart and headed to Dollar Tree. No toilet paper. No hand sanitizer. No bottled water.

We then drove to Dollar General and found alcohol for the injections my husband gives me at home because going to the doctor once a week with my schedule isn’t convenient. The alcohol was 50% rather than 70% but it was better than nothing. We also found 2 packs of 4 roll toilet paper. There were only 2 packs of 4 roll TP in the store.

We then left Dollar General and went to Albertsons. Still no hand sanitizer. There was coffee and cream and bread as well as eggs. The panic that would arrive a few days later hadn’t “hit yet.”

I bought cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli and my usual staple items including coffee and cream as well as salmon and chicken breasts and a few cans of soup.

Had I known that there would be food shortages for my Sunday or Monday shopping depending on my schedule, I might have bought a few cans of soup more, some rice and even some beans or ramen noodles but, hindsight is 20/20.

Monday prior to the hysteria and hoarding going on around me, I arrived home and prepared my suv for the drive to Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony on Tuesday to meet my bride. I had loaded furs, bouquets, hats and fun items from my Texas Twins Inventory and planned a leisurely drive to Beto Unit.

Tuesday, I stopped in Corsicana to visit the Walmart and buy my new grandson the diapers and wipes since I couldn’t find at Cindy’s Walmart Monday.

I would have a few problems finding either the diapers or the water wipes my daughter in law prefers in Corsicana.

There weren’t people agitated racing down the aisles. There was bottled water. There wasn’t hand sanitizer or toilet paper, baby wipes or paper towels.

I needed a few rolls of paper towels but decided I could wing it if I had to by using my tea towels at home.

By Tuesday I still wasn’t alarmed. A few things were difficult to come by depending on where you went while others weren’t. No mass hysteria just YET.

I left Corsicana Walmart and headed to Tennessee Colony/Palestine Texas to meet my client at Beto.

While driving there, a herd of wild hogs came running across the 2 lane road with cars traveling 70-80 miles an hour. I saw the “hub bub” about half a mile ahead and slowed down thinking it was deer or elk.

On closer inspection, it was something I had never encountered on the 300,000 miles I have driven getting to Units in Texas.

Wild hogs? They were huge and could easily flip a car as their girth is low to the ground. I tip toed my way around the herd and traveled on wondering where they had come from and if a driver not paying attention wouldnt slow down until it was too late?

Arriving at Beto, I find my bride in the parking lot. We walk in together. She’s thrilled. Her smile shows her joy. We clear in and wait on the chaplain.

We walk to the traditional photo wall at Beto and it’s coveted with Coronavirus signs.

Frankly, I don’t want to use the wall and have my clients photo peppered with Coronavirus signs on wedding day. I request using the tropical wall in the vending machine area instead and we are granted the privilege to do so.

Leaving the Unit, my bride follows me to an old church just outside Palestine. I begin unloading and finding my favorite areas based on lighting and background. We are laughing and having a great time together. I hand her a bottle of water from my trunk and we spend a few minutes trying different areas and have fun celebrating her marriage.

I love my job. We hug and say goodbye as I head to Dallas North Tower to meet my next client.

Cutting through Tennessee Colony, I’m leery about another encounter with those wild hogs I saw a few hours earlier. My fear is confirmed when I see a hog on the side of the road outside of Cayuga, Texas. Someone wasn’t paying attention.

Backroads in Texas give you a wide variety of surprises such as deer, elk, possums and armadillos which can jump straight off the ground four feet right into your grill. Wild hog herds though were a new one for me.

Cautiously driving towards Corsicana aware that something else could jump out on the road, I’m unaware of the widespread panic spreading across America.

I take calls from clients and Units. I check in with my husband and let my son and daughter in law know I will drop off diapers and other supplies I’ve found to them in the morning. I’m not worried about baby wipes because I assume I can find them. I will later realize I can’t.

By the time I leave North Tower in Dallas, a phone call from my niece at Point Hueneme, California regarding “people fighting over toilet paper and water.” This IS DISTURBING. Toilet paper?

Leigh Ann is frightened. People at the military base are no longer touching and running her ID. Instead, they are now simply looking at it.

People are acting differently. Leigh Ann plans to go to Ventura and try to find bottled water. I advise her to wait until her husband comes back from work since her 4 year old, Madyson is a handful.

Checking the clock on my Sahara, I don’t have time to file licenses in Tarrant County and decide to do so Wednesday morning on my way to drop off cold supplies to my son who has sinusitis and diapers for my grandson.

I decide to stop in Lake Worth to buy groceries, juice and soup. There are no paper towels, water or toilet paper at Walmart. I buy meat, pasta, bread, lunch meat and cheese as well as juice. The supplies are low but I assume the trucks are coming or running behind.

There aren’t entire empty shelves other than cleaning products, hand sanitizers and toilet paper or water. There is still fruit and vegetables. There is still soup, rice, beans and other staples.

Wednesday morning with my Jeep loaded for my sons house, I head to the clerks office. There are signs regarding the Coronavirus everywhere. The governor of California has revoked visitors to prisons. This is alarming.

I have 5 Units next week. Will TDCJ follow suit? I’m thinking no but my husband is thinking a strong maybe on my phone call to him leaving the clerk. “They are cancelling major events. NASCAR, golf, basketball. This is spiraling out of control. Update your clients and stay on top of changes. They will need to know what’s going on. Stay calm. This will pass but it may take a week or two.”

I’m worried but helpless to change what’s coming. Leigh Ann is increasingly concerned watching the news by Wednesday. Costco and Sam’s are running out of everything.

There is no hand sanitizer available anywhere. My son needs it as he is sick with a new baby. Cindy and I decide to make our own hand sanitizer.

My son is getting better but still answers the door in a mask. I begin unloading an full of items for my son and his wife and begin cooking lunch for them while checking on the baby.

Ollie is three weeks old and doing well but he’s fragile. He wears an Owlett sock to monitor his breathing, blood sugar and heart rate.

Leaving my son fully stocked other than baby wipes, I drop in on my husband down the street from my sons development. McBee Homes is just a few miles away. I invite my husband to lunch.

We choose Boo Ray about 1/2 a mile from McBee. It’s dead. There are very few people eating out. I notice it. My husband does too.

My husband decides to ask about my schedule next week and any possible changes. It’s a full plate. I’m at Green Bay Unit Monday. Wallace and Middleton Units Tuesday. Allred and Roach Units Thursday. Estes Unit Friday then back to Green Bay and Parker County. I will be driving about 2300 miles.

My husband again advises me “TDCJ may follow California. Caddo Parrish is also suspending visits.” Matthew like me is following prison news.

I consider cancelled visitation at prisons before answering my husband. “Weekend visits are thousands of people at prisons. My client and I are two people. I’ve decided to add to my booster shots a phnuemonia shot just in case and after Cindy’s heart surgery, believe it wouldn’t be a bad idea for her either.”

I’m still not even entertaining the possibility that TDCJ will cancel my confirmed dates. I cannot imagine having to tell my clients who have waited months that another delay looms in the future. I worry. I fret.

I also head to Dr Stern for an adjustment. The stress of Leigh Ann in California and people hoarding along with the possibility that my clients could be rescheduled has me with a stiff neck.

Dr Stern has been my trusted chiropractic go to for twenty years. He knows when I’m stressed I hold stress in my shoulders. My left shoulder is out. He pops it back in and goes over the importance of finding time to relax. I have none. Time is something I never have.

Thursday morning, Cindy arrives at WorthamWorld. We have a list of things to buy for an upcoming wedding at Botanic Garden and head to Hobby Lobby. We both discuss the news media and coverage of this mysterious virus. We worry about Leigh Ann and Maddy in California. But, we don’t think mass hysteria is going to come to Weatherford or Fort Worth. We are both wrong.

I talk my twin into getting a phnuemonia shot with me at Walgreens. We both walk into prisons on a regular basis. Keeping our vaccines up to date is important not only for our own health but also to keep from getting ill and possibly getting our family or clients sick too.

I buy colloidal silver. I buy zinc. I listen to Cindy complain about her arm pain. I have it too but it will get worse later. So painful was my left arm and shoulder by 1AM that I woke my husband crying out in pain. I go get Aleve.

My arm feels like it weighs 100lbs. I worry I’m having a bad reaction.

At 3AM, I call Cindy. Her arm is killing her too. We are both highly concerned this pain will be permanent.

I consider buying a sling the pain is so intense. After reviewing answers from others who have had the same shot, I decide to use my arm rather than prop it.

Friday morning, I drive to Weatherford. Cindy sits for me to meet her after Parker County Clerks Office. We can’t find feminine items for Cindy’s twin granddaughters and decide to set out on a mission. The twins are picky. They are also brand loyal.

Walmart is a mad house. Empty shelves and angry shoppers abound. We leave and go to Big Lots. We then leave and go to Albertsons. We then leave and go to Brookshires then H E B. We come up empty. There are no hygiene products to be found the Twins brand or otherwise.

There’s a fist fight at Brookshires. In small town America? Willow Park of all places? Two grown men fighting over toilet paper.

Someone is honking and yelling at someone else to pull out of a parking lot space. Angry honking which is rare in Texas is everywhere. People are agitated. Angry. Scared.

Governor Abbott announced a state of emergency. He also suggested removing visits from nursing homes, prisons and large gatherings of people.

Fifteen minutes later, TDCJ suspends all visitation. But, does this affect my clients and I as we go into Units during the week. I begin calling Units for next week. The revoked visitation affects my clients. Their dates are cancelled.

Arriving home, I’m still fielding panicked clients in Texas and other states. I have no idea how long this will last.

An email from Chaplain Rentz of Bridgeport Unit that reads “I’ve just got off a conference call with all Chaplains in TDCJ and they have Cancelled all Volunteer entry into Units throughout the state until further notice.”

I’m still trying to determine if my clients are affected when I find that they are. Everyone will need to reschedule. People who have waited months for a very important date. People who will be saddened and disappointed. My people. My clients.

Leigh Ann sends me photos and videos of mass hysteria in California. I advise her that Texans are equally terrified, angry and behaving in a manner I’ve never seen before.

I’m 55 years old. I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve lived through the gas crisis in the 60’s and 70’s. I’ve never seen people fighting over food. I’ve never seen people fighting over water or toilet paper.

I’ve never seen anything like this mass hysteria occur in my lifetime. I hope I never see it again..watching people fight over gas as a child was something neither Cindy or I can or will ever forget.

We are all in this together. Please don’t hoard essential items that others need. Please don’t leave home if you are ill and please wash your hands

Hello Again Houston. Huntsville to Ramsey Unit And Meeting Elena In Person…

Leaving WorthamWorkd at 4:30AM to head to Ramsey I Unit, I had been coordinating with Elena who was landing at Hobby to arrange a meeting with her while Cindy and I were in the Houston area. Ramsey I Unit is about twenty minutes outside of Houston near Stringfellow Unit which was previously Ramsey II Unit. It’s unusual for  TDCJ Unit to have a number behind the name. 

Darrington, Terrell, Stringfellow and Ramsey I are located within close proximity of one another. In fact, Ramsey I, Terrell and Stringfellow are within 5 minutes of one another similar to Michael and Coffield within 15-20 minutes of Beto, Gurney and Powledge Units in Tennessee Colony. 

Powledge, Beto, Coffield, Gurney, and Michael work in cooperation: Feedmill and Grain Storage, Farm Shop, Cow/Calf Operation, Poultry Laying Operation, Swine Farrowing/ Nursery/Finishing Operations, Pork Processing Plant, Security Horses, Security Pack Canines, Edible and Field Crops, and Unit Garden.

There are many cities in Texas that feature clusters of Units within close proximity of one another. Gatesville as well as Huntsville, Rosharon and Tennessee Colony have numerous Units within minutes of one another. 

Last month, I had a wedding at Ellis Unit in Huntsville in the morning and another at Crain Unit in the afternoon. Huntsville to Gatesville is a haul. Two hours and forty six minutes from one another (based on traffic) makes for a very long day. Gatesville Units house predominantly females although Hughes Unit (also in Gatesville) houses men. 

Because I must “estimate the time inside each unit” as well as the distance between them when stacking unit weddings the same day, a wide berth of at least an hour “inside” is required. Factors that can cause a delay are waiting on the Chaplain or our escort as well as waiting on the inmate to be located. Because of timelines, it’s best to have your loved one request a lay in the day prior to your scheduled inmate wedding. 

My first conversation with Elena was approximately a year ago. I had been returning from Huntsville Units with Cindy when Elena called me regarding inmate marriages. This isn’t unusual as I’m frequently contacted by reporters, production companies and networks regarding my unique client bases. 

Inmate Officiant services are available in many states although Texas is my “busiest booking” state. I’m not geographically limited to one state. Neither are Cindy or my niece, Leigh Ann. We cover numerous states.

Elena is not only a journalist but also an award winning documentary filmmaker. She had called while in Houston doing research for her film project and we’ve stayed in touch over the past year. Elena was looking for Dutch women marrying death row inmates in Texas. She is passionate about this project and has found two women to date. One is living in Arizona and married to her inmate while the other is living in the Netherlands and unmarried.

It had been hoped that Elena could visit Polunsky Unit as she had heard that Wednesday’s are media days at Polunsky. But, in order to get media access, you must go through TDCJ as a journalist who travelled with me a few weeks ago to several TDCJ Units did to obtain access and clearance. 

During my two days with Ella, she had hoped to visit all of my scheduled Unit weddings but TDCJ wouldn’t give Ella access to all 4 of my Units but did give her the option of choosing one Unit to witness me officiating a marriage. Ella chose Polunsky. Getting into Polunsky requires being on the list. 

TDCJ Unit weddings are scheduled between 9AM and 4PM. TDCJ Unit weddings do not take place on weekends as the visitation area is in use by visitors. Weddings at Polunsky take place after 5PM. 

Because Polunsky schedules weddings after 5PM, I was able to schedule Coffield Unit at 9:30AM, Michael Unit at 11:30AM, Holliday Unit at 2PM and Polunsky Unit at 5:30PM on the same day. Three cities and four Units in ONE DAY is a long day. Ella was in my suv for 14 hours from Fort Worth to Tennessee Colony to Huntsville to Livingston to Fort Worth. A day in my life always involves driving, careful planning and orchestrating. I’m OCD and constantly aware of distance and time. I have to be. 

Polunsky houses death row inmates in Texas. Polunsky was named after Allan B. Polunsky, a former chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice who is now the chairman of the Public Safety Commission, the governing board of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Polunsky houses Texas’s “supermax” units and is notable for being the location of Texas’s death row for men (executions, though, are conducted at the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville).
Due to the timeline and requirements to visit Polunsky, Elena was unable to visit the Unit this trip. An inmate must also agree to an interview or media access. 

Media access inquiries must go through TDCJ. In order to obtain access, you will need the inmates name and ID number as well as consent from the inmate and TDCJ. 

Since I’m always asked about gaining access to Units, I’m attaching the following information from TDCJ Communications. 

Media Policies and Guidelines for Offender Interviews:

Reporters wishing to interview offenders incarcerated within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) should submit their request in writing, by fax or e-mail to Jeremy Desel, Director of Communications, at (936) 437-6055 or jeremy.desel@tdcj.texas.gov.
All requests must be submitted on the news organization’s letterhead, and should include the reporter’s name and contact information, including an e-mail address. The request should also include the offender’s name and other identifying information (date of birth, TDCJ number, etc.) when known.
Interviews with general population offenders may be scheduled any weekday during regular business hours with the permission of the unit warden.
Request for interviews must be submitted at least three working days prior to the date of the reporter’s desired visit. Reporters will have one hour to interview an individual offender. A reasonable amount of time will be allowed for camera crews to set up equipment. This set-up time is not considered part of the hour granted to the reporter.
Interviews with men on Death Row are conducted on Wednesdays from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m. Requests for these interviews must be submitted no later than noon on Monday prior to the desired Wednesday visit.
Reporters will have one hour to interview an individual offender on Men’s Death Row. A reasonable amount of time will be allowed for camera crews to set up equipment. This set-up time is not considered part of the hour granted to the reporter.
Interviews with women on Death Row are conducted on Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Requests for these interviews must be submitted no later than noon on the Monday prior to the desired Tuesday visit.
Reporters will have one hour to interview an individual offender on Women’s Death Row. A reasonable amount of time will be allowed for camera crews to set up equipment. This set-up time is not considered part of the hour granted to the reporter.
All interviews will take place in the unit’s regular visitation area. No other photos or video footage may be taken in or outside the unit unless specified by a Communications Officer, or the unit warden.
Crews are limited to no more than three people. Each crewmember must have a valid driver license, passport or other official form of photo identification in order to enter a unit.
Reporters are not allowed to take the following items with them into TDCJ units:

Cellular phones
Tablets

Laptops

Cash

Tobacco products or lighters

Purses or briefcases

Pocketknives, fingernail clippers, or similar items.

The following items are allowed in the reporter’s possession: recording devices, wireless microphones, notepads, writing instruments and camera equipment.
It is recommended that reporters arrive at the unit at least 30 minutes before their scheduled interview time.
Everyone entering the unit will be subjected to a pat-down security search.
Conservative dress is encouraged for all visitors. Clothing that is tight fitting, revealing, or made with see-through fabrics is not allowed. Sleeveless shirts and dresses are allowed, but must cover the shoulders. Dresses or skirts should be no shorter than three (3) inches above the middle of the knee. It is also preferred that reporters and their crew members not wear white.
Reporters are generally allowed to interview individual offenders once every 90 days. Exceptions may be made by the Director of Communications if there is a major status change in the offender’s case.
Attorneys, families, spiritual advisors, and other individuals on an offender’s personal visitation list are not permitted to be present during media interviews, nor are reporters able to accompany any of these individuals on their personal visits.
Media representatives may not be listed on an offender’s visitation list if they wish to be recognized as media by the Communications Department. Any journalist who is placed on an offender’s personal visitation list will not be allowed to visit that offender as a media representative. The organization affiliated with the reporter placed on the offender’s personal visitation list will also not be able to visit the offender.
Failure to adhere to the agency’s media policies and/or guidelines may result in removal from the unit. Such failure may also jeopardize the organization’s ability to conduct future interviews at TDCJ facilities.

Questions about TDCJ’s media policies may be directed to the Communications Department at (936) 437-6052.
At the time Elena initially contacted me, I didn’t know of anyone from the Netherlands and had no one from Europe on my client roster. But, I posted on my FB and Instagram pages in search of ladies for Elena’s project just the same in the event that there were ladies who would reach out to Elena. 

Several months ago, while en route to TDCJ Wynn Unit, a call from a Germany number came through. It was a daughter who wanted assistance getting her mother married to an inmate at Wynn. 

Since I was driving there, I found this to be ironic. Calling about Wynn Unit while headed to Wynn Unit that is. The more I listened though, the flags started flying. The problem? The mother didn’t speak English and the inmate didn’t speak German. 

Heads up for anyone wondering why this would be a problem… marriages of convenience are strictly forbidden in the United States and constitute marriage fraud. 

Marriage fraud is a felony. If you cannot communicate with your partner, I can assure you that neither I or anyone else on my staff will conduct a marriage ceremony. 

I’m marrying a deaf inmate to a deaf client in a few weeks at Estelle Unit but they can communicate and understand each other. They can also understand my marriage ceremony. 

The daughter wanting help marrying her mother to an inmate DID speak English. But, she didn’t want to help her mother because she is already married to an inmate at another Unit and “busy with her own life.” I found this statement odd and alarming. The daughter could have traveled to Walker County or assisted her mother with the process but chose not to. Why? She was too busy? She wanted someone to help her mother get a marriage license I.E. me and also to marry her to an inmate at Wynn Unit but the fact that her mother couldn’t communicate with the inmate was a huge red flag. This problem would be a hurdle. 

I spoke to this young lady of my concerns and drove at the same time explaining why and how the communication aspect would be difficult. After all, I don’t speak German. The daughter speaks English. The daughter didn’t want to get involved. Hmm. I am more than a little familiar with marriage law. I advise people on a regular basis of why marriages of convenience are not in their best interest AND a crime.

The daughter wanted to drop her mother in my lap but this situation needed an immigration attorney first and foremost. I am blunt. This hot potato situation needed a hot minute. How was her mother going to file for a marriage license when they are only available in English and Spanish? I had a wide array of questions pertaining to the problems and the daughter “not wanting to get involved” really bothered me. It’s her mother. Why wouldn’t she want to get involved or help her? After going over all of the reasons this request wasn’t simple, I never heard from the daughter again.

Marriage Fraud is a crime… ICE Marriage Fraud Brochure. Whether the inmate is unaware of the penalties associated with marrying an illegal Alien who is trying to obtain citizenship or not, if you call me with suspicious reasons or intentions, I’m going to advise you of what a marriage of convenience is and suggest you seek an attorney.

The inmate is not my client. The person in the free world is. But if I cannot communicate with you, you are not a client. I will not conduct a marriage ceremony via electronic device. 

Both parties marrying at a prison with me officiating (whether one is behind glass or not) can both hear and understand me AND are standing within 3-5 feet in front of me. 

I do not perform proxy marriages and personally feel such marriage ceremonies are as far removed from “traditional” as you could possibly get. 

Yesterday morning, someone stopped me at the Parker County Jail to advise me of their belief that “people only marry inmates to obtain conjugal visits.” Ignorance speaks without forethought. Texas does not allow conjugal visits. The states with conjugal visits are California, Connecticut, New York and Washington.

I’m well aware there are are other states and even other countries that allow such visits but can assure you that none of my clients are marrying an inmate solely to benefit from a conjugal visit. For those unaware of what a conjugal visit is, here’s the Wikipedia link… Wikipedia Conjugal Visits.

I follow the letter of the law pertaining to marriage ceremonies and am well versed on family law and marriage law. There are those who aren’t but I’m not one of them. People going online to officiate marriages that have no idea of the burden their role carries need to educate themselves. 

Proxy Marriage is no longer an option within TDCJ. Both parties must be present and coherent. There must be a valid marriage license. No someone cannot get a marriage license for you. You must do that yourself. There cannot be two absent parties. An absentee affidavit is only available for one party. The absent party AKA the inmate who is unable to appear in person. 

Other states require the inmate to incur the expense of being transported to the clerks office while Texas eases the financial burden by allowing Absentee Affidavits in place of the person appearing at the clerks office. 

Communication is vital to marriage. If you cannot communicate with your partner and you happen to be here on a Visa, your marriage will be closely scrutinized. Why would you want marry someone you cannot communicate with? 

For the past year, I’ve not found any European women marrying death row inmates other than the one call from the daughter wanting someone to help marry her mother to an inmate at Wynn. I don’t speak German which is obviously a problem as well. TDCJ does have hearing impaired translators.

Marrying a death row inmate or “lifer” is a heavy burden. They will never come home. They will never see parole. There is no happy ending or Vow Renewal long after lock up. Only a very driven person could take on such a complicated relationship. I’ve met several. They accept what they cannot change. Their relationship is based on letters, phone calls and visits. They will never hold hands or touch. They will forever be separated by bullet proof glass. 

Since Cindy and I were on site at Ramsey meeting Shenequil, I sent an email to Elena letting her know our timeline. Shenequil and I waited in the lobby at Ramsey for our escort to the visitation area while Cindy waited in my suv fielding phone calls and emails. 

This wedding was a reschedule and I was excited to finally meet my bride and client in person. We sat and waited on her groom and his escort together. 

As he walked into the room, I decided to use a painted wall for the backdrop and moved tables and chairs to clear an area for the ceremony. 

Shenequil told me that she hoped to have her husband home for Christmas. He’s hopeful too. As we drove out from the Unit, searching for an area for photos our drive brought us to city hall. 

Cindy and I began unloading our inventory for some colorful and fun photos while visiting with my new bride. I love learning more about my amazing clients. 

Shenequil had a long drive back to Henderson and Cindy and I were headed to finally meet Elena. I chose Taste Of Texas which was about 20 minutes from Hobby and 38 minutes from our location in Angleton.

We had never been to this restaurant but liked the name. Festively decorated for the holidays, Cindy, Elena and I all enjoyed a meal at Taste Of Texas and a great visit together. 

Elena told us about the book, Death Row Dollies and her interest in women choosing to marry Death Row inmates. She had travelled to Arizona prior to Texas to meet a model who had married an inmate and was running a successful business from home. We also discussed another lady from the Netherlands who has had a seven year relationship with an inmate at Polunsky Unit. I offered to officiate the wedding. 

Elena told us about her family and asked about our own. We are very close and very open. Elena’s mother suffered with mental illness. Our mother struggled with addiction and bad choices. Elena’s mom jumped off a building our mom sold us for $50 each on our 6th birthday. All of us became the mothers we had never known. 

Hardships can define you or empower you to be stronger, more driven, more determined and more resilient. Hardship teaches compassion and wisdom. 

Elena’s project will put the unique and often misunderstood stigma of prison love stories into perspective. Shining a positive light on those who love an inmate is a challenge mainly because widestream media chooses to muddy the water rather than portray these men and women who love an inmate as the warriors they truly are. They do it all and they do it alone on the outside. The live on one income. The raise their children alone. They run to answer expensive phone calls from inmates. They make their love last through extreme circumstances. Their passion and commitment are remarkable.

We look forward to seeing Elena again in the Spring as she begins filming Unconditional Love.

No One Likes Surprises. But, The CLM Issue Is And Continues To Be A Sticky Surprise…

I’m a good listener. In fact I do a lot of listening from one day to the next. My role is to listen first and give advice after understanding the issue. Yesterday I was calling Wayne Scott Unit for a scheduled time on 11-07 when a call from my Goree Unit Client came in. Buckle up buddies because it’s going to yet another bumpy ride… 

My Goree client was buying a wedding ring and I advised her of the Administrative Directive that specifically forbids ring exchanges with inmates as a “heads up.” Luckily, she was buying the ring for herself. I had been playing phone tag with a Goree Unit trying to get her on the schedule. The Chaplain didn’t have the paperwork and my client couldn’t find her ring in the right size so she was asking me about the two week turnaround to get it sent out and returned and wondering if we would be scheduled prior to the ring being ready.

I advised her that I can “bump a date” from a Unit and if we came up on the schedule earlier than the ring coming in, I would move the date to coincide with her having the ring. 

About an hour later while on hold with Ramsey Unit confirming 11-13-2019 for another client on my birthday, my Goree Unit client called me back. The inmate was listed as being Common Law Married to someone other than my client. This consistent problem is an effective “sucker punch.” Why inmates don’t disclose signing a CLM Affidavit or going into the system and proclaiming to be CLM I have no idea BUT this issue continues to pop up over and over and over again. So much so that I’ve created a Dissolution Agreement to overcome CLM issues. 

For the record… inmates ALMOST ALWAYS say that they forgot about a CLM status. They didn’t. In fact, the reason they signed or claimed to be CLM was solely to obtain a contact visit. 

TDCJ doesn’t conveniently change an inmates status to clear the way for their inmate marriage either. 

In fact, TDCJ suggests a divorce but how do you file a divorce for a marriage that didn’t follow state guidelines to make the marriage legal when the CLM Affidavit was never filed at the clerks office and was instead within TDCJ? Short answer? You don’t. You cannot file a divorce for a marriage that didn’t happen. 

Let’s review the Texas Informal Marriage filing requirements… both parties must be present. Both parties must fill out the application. Both parties must pay the fee for an Informal Marriage License. Both parties must swear out an oath. There are no shortcuts to an Informal Marriage filing. There are no Absentee Affidavits. There are no absent parties. TDCJ does not file this document with the clerks office on behalf of the inmate and they can’t. Why? Because ONLY BOTH PARTIES CAN FILE AN INFORMAL MARRIAGE LICENSE in person. 

Over the years, this CLM issue has come up so many times that I now expect it. Creating a notary required form to dissolve this union traditionally works but certain Units also require a marriage verification letter or divorce verification letter. What is it and how can you find it? Here’s the link- Texas Vital Records Marriage Or Divorce Verification Letter.

Why would you need both? Because TDCJ Units especially Private Units make their own rules. 

Now, overcoming a CLM issue is time consuming, frustrating and emotional for ANYONE that didn’t expect such a surprise. Stay calm. This hurdle can be overcome and it has for my clients. In fact, my Coffield Unit client who was scheduled to marry last Tuesday but couldn’t because the inmate caught a chain is one of many who has overcome a CLM issue with my help. EXPERIENCE MATTERS. 

My Wallace Unit client overcame a CLM issue (with the help of the Courts) because the inmate was 17 when he claimed CLM status and effectively underage. TDCJ changed the status back to Single but only after the Courts interacted on my clients behalf. I.E. the inmates status wasn’t changed without interaction and assistance. 

Next week at Allred Unit I’m marrying 3 clients one of which was a transfer from Coffield who overcame the “sticky CLM issue.” 

Stay calm and we will work through the process…