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RIP Jan Michael Brawner Jr.

3:45 PM

When I was at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, I was housed for quite some time with the guys on death row. I don't think there was anyone I was closer to on the row than Jan Michael Brawner, Jr., whom we knew as JB. He called me his Little Bro and I called him my Big Bro. And as I'm writing this, I've heard them announce on the radio that he was pronounced dead. My Big Bro was executed by the State of Mississippi's murder machine.

What I'd like to know is...just what was accomplished by murdering JB? Was justice served? Does anyone feel a sense of closure or satisfaction now that he's dead? And if so, what kind of psychological mindset does a person have to possess to feel satisfied at the death of another person? But I'm not writing to debate these things here. I'm here to remember JB.

Through the years, I have refrained from asking people about the crimes they were sentenced for. I figure that they have already been judged for whatever it is and I don't have any need to know about it. So, instead of regurgitating what the media has forcefed you, let me tell you about the JB that I knew. Let me tell you about my Big Bro.

When I first met JB in C-building of MSP's Unit 32, he had already known of me through mutual friends. I don't associate with many people unless I've been around them for awhile, but I made an exception with JB because others were vouching for him. We shared common interests like reading, especially the science fiction and fantasy genres. The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind was his favorite, whereas the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is mine. This brought about an interesting discussion because I said that Goodkind plagiarized Jordan's ideas. JB was determined to find out the truth...and judging by copyrights and dates, I was right. That was one of the many things about JB that I respected- if he was wrong, he could admit it.

If JB borrowed something from someone, even if it was just a pack of salt, he was sure to repay it. If he could help someone, he would. JB cared and was a loyal friend, a loving son and brother, and it bothered him he couldn't do much for his mom, brother, sister. I've seen him humble himself, apologize to people and ask them to forgive him.

How many people who hate JB are professing Christians? What an ironic thing- the very ones reveling in his death are those who pay lip service to the doctrine of love. JB didn't fear death; he was at peace and knows who his Savior is. JB is a true Christian, I'm glad to have been able to encourage him in his faith, and I'm proud to call him my Big Bro. Matthew 25: 31-46 is an apt passage. Are you a sheep or goat?

JB's last words to me were a prayer for me and the ones I love... The world is worse-off for losing JB and I'll miss my Big Bro, but I look forward to seeing him again one day.

-In memory of Jan Michael Brawner, Jr. June 10, 1978 - June 12, 2012

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The Write-Brain Workbook: Day 1

6:44 AM
For years I've been told by many people, "Steven, you need to write a book." So I'm guessing that there are those who enjoy reading what I write, or just want to keep me distracted from realizing my plans of world domination. I hope that it's the former, otherwise they might be disappointed. I can multitask. The good news is that I've been at work on what will hopefully end up as a completed novel one day in the foreseeable future. 

I am the kind of person who needs to know as much about something as I possibly can before I attempt it. Since I never attended creative writing classes, don't have a MFA and didn't even pass the 9th grade in high school, I've been teaching myself what I need to know to tell stories well, in written form. You, my readers, will be the final judges of that. 

One of the tools I have to aid me in the learning process is "The Write-Brain Workbook" by Bonnie Neubauer. I like how it's about practice. All you need is a pen and ten minutes a day- you can write right in the book if you want. 366 exercises each of which gives you a starting phrase, an ending sentence, a series of challenging words to incorporate, a fill-in-the-blanks character to create and more. It's about keeping the writing as it should be: fun. 

Starting with the first exercise, I'm going to work each of them and share the results with you here on my personal blog. No editing. No refinement. Just me having fun. Day 1 gives you twelve words, out of which you choose three to use in the story. I chose: exercise, flatulence, lamb. The story is to begin with: Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel! Here we go... 

Sometimes I feel just like a gerbil, running around and around on his wheel! Going nowhere, fast. Listen up, 'cause I've something I want to get off my chest. Know why you don't hear about demonic possession anymore? I'm one of the reasons why. That and the fact these modern day quacks stick the possessed into institutions, diagnose them as mentally ill and treat them with drugs. If I were to tell them I'm an exorcist and could help with their "patients", they'd have me right in there doing the Thorazine-shuffle with the rest of the crazies faster than you can say psychopathologicaldisassociaton. And yes, I know I've got to be crazy to stay in a line of work where projectile vomit and deadly flatulence are serious occupational hazards, and aren't due to the breakroom food from the vending machines. Gives a whole new meaning to "silent but deadly." These demons are getting more and more savvy, too. The cases of sociopathy have increased exponentially within our society and you don't wonder why? It ain't the water, people. The demon-possessed are amongst us, and I'd like to think they're keeping a low profile to prevent me from catching up with them. That's not the whole story though. Something big is brewing. Something in bold letters, written in something that resembles red paint, dripping down a piece of cardboard held by someone you consider crazy, and it reads something like "THE END IS NIGH!" So no, I don't really want to be in this line of work but I don't see people lining up to volunteer for the Lamb of God's army. Try to write me off as just another nutcase. But part of you knows what I'm saying is the truth. I've disrupted your little world of self-imposed ignorance, and that makes you mad. The way you look at things will never be the same. What you do now is entirely up to you. And by the way. . . good luck with the elections. You're gonna need it.  

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Summer/ Holiday Packages

1:54 PM

I remember the first time I was told I would be able to receive a package, I was still in Unit 32 and had just signed on the "High Risk Incentive Program." Years of experience in dealing with prison administrators has taught me to take what they say, not with a grain of salt, but with an entire bag of the stuff. Which is probably what they say about us prisoners, too. But they told us we'd be allowed to receive a package; that we were already approved. Weeks later after our families attempted to order a package for us, we found out we had not been approved. 

That was the first time. The second time went more smoothly, thankfully. And in case you are ordering for your loved one, below you'll find info that will hopefully make it easier. If they can order from the regular commissary menu, then there are items on the package menu that you might want to avoid because they are also on the regular menu. 

Items on commissary menu that you want to avoid on the package menu:
  • 1 Malt-O-Meal Frosted Flakes 
  • 12 Malt-O-Meal Tootie Fruities 
  • 14 Zippy Cakes Blueberry Cheese Danish 
  • 15 Zippy Cakes Mega Buneez 
  • 17 Zippy Cakes Strawberry Cheese Danish 
  • 79 Bridgford Beef Summer Sausage 
  • 81 Bridgford Sliced Pepperoni 
  • 90 Van Holden's Mild Dill Pickle 
  • 93 Brushy Creek 11.25 oz. Lasagna with Beef 
  • 101 Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese 
  • 105 Velveeta Cheesy, Refried Beans 
  • 106 Velveeta Spicy, Cheesy Refried Beans 
  • 107 Sevilla Refried Beans 
  • 109 Velveeta 2 oz. Cheesy Rice 
  • 110 Velveeta 2 oz. Spicy, Cheesy Rice 
  • 111 Cactus Annie's 8 oz. 6 pk. Flour Tortillas 

Good deals on the package menu:
  • 19 Keefe Kitchen's 
  • 11 oz. Strawberry Toaster Pastries 6 pk. 
  • 20 Toast'em Pop-Ups 11 oz. Blueberry Pastries 6 pk. 
  • 51 M&M Peanut 5.3 oz. 
  • 52 Moon Lodge Stuffed Jalapeno Potato Chips 
  • 53 Moon Lodge 6 oz. "Whole Shabang" Chips 
  • 54 Moon Lodge 6 oz. Sour Cream and Onion Chips 
  • 55 Cactus Annie's 13 oz. Corn Chips 
  • 89 Bumble Bee 5 oz. Tuna in pouch 
Items I recommend:
  • 2 Tang 12 oz. Instant Orange Drink Mix 
  • 7 Keefe 10 oz. Hot Cocoa Mix 
  • 8 Keefe 3 oz. 100% Colombian Coffee 
  • 30 Bud's Best Candy N Cookies - Butterfinger 6 oz. Mini Cookies 
  • 31 Bud's Best Orange Dreamsicle Cookies 6 oz. 
  • 45 Hershey's Miniatures 5.3 oz. 
  • 65 Kar's 7 oz. Nut & Yogurt Trail Mix Unsalted

If you have and questions or want to share your experiences with us, feel free to leave comments here on the post. We hope this info is of aid to you. For more info on how to order a package for your loved one, click here

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Adventures with Big Bill

1:39 AM
Over the years, I've met some rather...interesting characters. And because I'm such a caring and sharing soul, I'm going to regale you with tales of them. No, no, don't thank me. It's quite alright. This is for your reading enjoyment.

During my time at Unit 32, I was housed around the guys on death row quite frequently. That's where I met Bill. If you were to see Bill, your first impression would be of a guy who looked like he'd been a part of the Hell's Angels. About 5'11", 320 lbs., dark brown hair cut in a mohawk, and a full beard. Undermining this first impression is the one-piece button-up jumpsuit that he's wearing. I got the feeling he had received it when he first came to the row, that it was about 5 times too large and he kinda grew into it, like a goldfish into its bowl. The jumpsuit was once red, but now it just looks pink. And then Bill opens his mouth and says something like "Hi!" sounding for all the world like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons.

I used to get moved on a weekly basis, and I remember the first time I had to spend a week across from Bill. A memorable week it was. The first thing I noticed is that Bill is lazy. He came shuffling up to his door, stuck his arms between the bars, waved and said "Hi!" in an eerily cheerful voice. I saw movement near his feet- in his shuffle to the door he'd disturbed the dust bunnies in his cell, which were the size of small tumbleweeds. As I said, Bill is lazy.

One time I saw him "washing" his laundry. He had put a shirt in his sink, jammed the button so the water kept running, and then shuffled back to his bed. Every 30 minutes or so he'd come shuffling back over to the sink and -with just his index finger- poke at the shirt he had in there. After about the fourth time he did this, I asked him what he was up to. He replied that washing machines have an "agitate" cycle, so he figured he'd do the same. I told him he'd probably have to agitate a bit more vigorously if he expected his shirt to get clean. He said, "If I did this to you, wouldn't you get agitated?" I had to admit that I most likely would. As an aside, when he finally took his shirt out of the sink, it was green. The water at Parchman isn't the best.

I imagine that in prison you're likely to hear a variety of tales moreso than in other places. I've heard my share, certainly. Bill's spiritual beliefs were a hodgepodge accumulation, and one of the tales he shared with me was from when he was attempting to become a monk. Via correspondence. I guess it's possible, but I'd never heard of anyone doing it that way. According to Bill, at some point he disagreed with some essential doctrine or questioned some practices within the Church. He wrote to the Vatican and received a response from Cardinal Ratzinger, the Dean of the College of Cardinals at the time (and current Pope), saying he was anathema, from thenceforth excommunicated from the Church, and that he was, "Damned, damned, damned to hell, hell, hell." Thrice damned. Sounds like some conversations I've had with my exes.

In the following years, Bill went through some changes. His best friend on the row was executed and that deeply affected him. He lost weight, became more subdued. His death sentence was commuted to life without parole and he was released to general prison population. I don't know where he is now, but if you're out there,'s your pancreas? =)

-in memory of "Bart"
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About Me

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Steven Farris is a prisoner who has been incarcerated since a month after his 16th birthday in 1998. Currently serving a life sentence without the possibility for parole, he is seeking to educate the public about the true nature of prison and the widespread and negative effects of the prison industrial complex. Steven has worked with both the National Prison Project of the ACLU, as well as the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in furthering this effort.

You can contact him directly at:
Steven Farris #R5580
P.O. Box 1889
Woodville, MS 39669-1889

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