In my initial letter to Pablo, I mentioned my old friend who had been locked up for nine years. Here is the rest of the letter from Pablo:
I’m not sure if you know but I’ve been on death row since May 21st of 1996. I don’t know much about computers but I do have a good idea about them and the internet and even know what a blog is. Things have really changed over the years. It’s crazy to tell you the truth. When I was out there, cell phones were as big as a shoe and now I see in newspapers and magazines how small they are. Even computers. I remember Apple computers from when they started putting them in schools in the early to mid 80s.
Anyways, sorry to hear about your friend but at least he got the chance to turn his life around for the better. We all make mistakes some bigger than others. Mine was choosing the crazy life and believing in a street gang and everything that came with it. I was very young. Eight years old when I started doing drugs and over the years it got worse. When my mom found out, I was thirteen years old and by that time nobody could tell me anything. I was too far into the life and I have seen the stupidity in it, some choose it for the wrong reasons. Some don’t even know of the consequences held in store for their future and by then it’s too late. Some get lucky and change their ways before they get caught up in the prison system. Those are the lucky ones. Then there segregation which is a whole different story and not every individual is built the same way. Some can deal with seg, some can deal with it for a while, and some can’t at all. You ever seen somebody you thought you knew well and the next thing he’s trying to kill himself or he’s playing in his own s***? It’s crazy but the reality about prison and seg is that this life is not meant for everyone. I’m not scared of dying but I am scared of losing my mind in this place. It’s not something I want my kids or my mom to see and neither do I wish for anybody to see their loved one or friend in that state of mind ! Anyways please feel free to put anything I write on the blog, I don’t have anything to hide. Ask me anything about my past life or present, my case, anything! I’ll let this be it for now but here are the answers to your questions take care and hope to hear from you soon.
- Have you always been an atheist? No!
- If not, how did you become an atheist? Growing up, my mom was always a religious person, a Catholic at first then after my oldest brother was killed in 80 or 81 she became a Christian. I turned 5 years old the day he was laid to rest. So my mom would drag me to church. That’s how I got to know about the stories in the Bible. In Sunday school with an easy-to-read Bible is how I learned to read more of the stories. I had to remember them as I went. Growing up, my father never liked me. Didn’t know why. He just didn’t ever really tell me that he loved me so when I saw my friends with their dads it hurt. As I got older, I told myself that when I had kids that I would never be like my father. That I would be there for mine. Little did I know that the life I chose to live would ruin that. When I was on the run from this case, seeing the reality of it all, I was already living with my girlfriend and she was expecting at the time. Boom! Out of nowhere they’re looking for me for capital murder. It surprised me but while on the run my brother-in-law asked if I wanted to go to church and I said yes. I wanted to find peace in life and yet before this I was already telling myself that I needed to change my ways for the baby. One of my friends kept telling me to let go of the life so when s*** hit the fan, it hurt. So, while sitting in church I told myself that if I needed to change it would have to be now. I tried for four years but reality after reality kept slapping me in the face, time after time! I wouldn’t get on my knees when a man had a gun in my face one time but yet here I was for a man that the Bible said died for my sins. Here I was believing in the words in a book written by another man . Again reality kept slapping me in the face and at the end of it I felt stupid. There is good and there is bad and it’s up to every individual, male and female, to choose to do either one. That’s my belief and it’s what I choose to believe. I have faith in is myself. I believe in doing good and helping people when I can, in any way that I can. And if I ever do bad it’s because I was forced to defend myself. I am not a kid anymore and it’s sad to say but it took this place for me to see the reality in life and my stupidity in life. I can accept my wrong when I’m wrong. There’s nothing wrong with apologizing to another person. It just makes you a better person.
- Have you ever been treated poorly in prison because you are an atheist? I have never been treated poorly in here for being an atheist.
- Do you feel free to tell your fellow inmates that you are an atheist? Yes, I do feel free about telling people that I am atheist and they respect it because a lot of us have known each other for a while. Here and there one will want to preach and be a little stubborn.
- What is your overall opinion of religion? Why are there so many religions? Why believe in something when one can believe in themselves and live right.
- What is your day-to-day life like in prison? My day-to-day life in this place goes from exercising everyday to reading a good book to writing and answering a letter to passing the time with a friend in here talking about our lives and loved ones. Doing the best I can just to make it through one day and hope for another.
- What’s the hardest thing about being in prison? Trying not to let the day-to-day issues that do happen in here, either from other inmates or officers, get to me and not being able to hug my mom, my kids and my grandkids.
- Do you know any other atheists in prison? Yes, I do know other atheists in here.
- Do you like to read atheist books and if so, are there any you have wanted to read? I didn’t know there were books about atheism! Wow!
- If you have struggled with addiction, have you found an alternative to AA that does not rely on a higher power? Or have you chosen to do the AA program in spite of it? There are no AA or any other kind of programs here on Texas death row. I don’t believe in a higher power, I believe in myself and I believe in people encouraging one another to do the right thing, either with words in a letter or in person. You know, showing that you care for one’s well-being.
- Are there any services atheist inmates lack in prison that are offered to religious inmates by nonprofits and charities aligned with a faith? I have never heard of atheist services in this place of any kind. I only see a Catholic and Christian preacher walk around but not much.
- Do you perceive the religious inmates around you as “happier” than you? I’ll say this, there is respect here on death row. We all just about get along very well and the ones that don’t it’s very easy to see that they are not happy so they are left alone to their own personal war. I do my best to stay away from negative people. I don’t need more than what I already have on my plate. Yet, I understand we all have our days. Religious or not, I can help with advice. I will and if asked it’s even given more. I try to always have a good day.
- Does the idea of accepting God and Jesus into your life get pushed on you in prison? I know about the Bible. I have forgotten a lot of it but when somebody tries to push the issue I cut them off respectfully. Again, there’s respect for one another here on death row for the ones that know how to do time whether they are religious or not. I know who is taking their religion seriously and when they do bless me I accept it as good wishes. But when someone that is false and an imposter or whatever you want to call it, when they try to bless me I always come back at them with something about Satan. Some have even asked and I tell them why I come at them like that. I don’t like false people and if that’s what they want to be, cool but I don’t want to be around them in any way. I don’t need your blessing or anything else. The respect is there, give me mine. That’s all I ask. Nothing more or less.
- What are your coping methods that get you through the day? I try to stay positive everyday, no matter what I find. I write when there’s mail to answer. Radio is on every day. I talk to a friend when I do have one around. A sense of humor goes a long way in this place and as the saying goes a good laugh cleans the soul. I just can’t beat that. I read and draw sometimes. I just do the best I can every day to keep myself busy every single day.
Okay that’s that for now Courtney and again thank you for this opportunity. As you can see, I have a lot to say and I hope that’s okay. A big yes, I would like to write to other atheists. Well, this will be all for now and hopefully I’ll hear from you soon on all of this.
‘the Mexican’ Pablo Jr.
For a man who learned to read in adulthood, Pablo’s communication impressed me. I was also shocked to learn that he had no idea there were atheist books. If you want to send him some atheist books, you have to send them directly from Amazon. Make sure they are not books sold by a third party on Amazon but instead sold by Amazon itself. You must order the books to be shipped directly from Amazon to Polunsky Unit. You cannot send them in yourself. Let me know by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, which titles you’ve sent him so I can advise if anyone is sending duplicates. Send them to:
Pablo Melendez #00999192
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351 USA
You can use the same address to send Pablo a letter if you were so inclined.
I hope to hear more from Pablo in the coming months. If you have questions for him, please leave them in the comments and I will pass them on. Be sure to subscribe via email in the right sidebar at the top so you can be notified when more of this series is posted.