This is the blog of Keven James Bramwell, an inmate in a maximum security Texas prison. These are his real-life stories of life in prison, and how he got there. Behind brick walls, steel doors, and iron gates, he shares the pages of his journals with the world. (Some material is adult in nature – reader discretion advised.) Cannot be reproduced without permission. COPYRIGHT 2011

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A Real Defense For Keven James Bramwell

Hello Everyone,

This is an update on the progress in Keven’s case. Last week, an attorney was obtained for Keven.

Some of you may know this already, but about a month before Keven was arrested, he was in a near-fatal car accident. Keven sustained a traumatic brain injury and had to be taken by life-flight helicopter to have immediate surgery. This accident left Keven unconscious for days and he sustained numerous facial injuries (a lafort II fracture of the maxilla). This injury alone required extensive maxillofacial restorative surgery. The whole bone structure of his upper jaw had been knocked loose from the remaining structure of his skull.

In an affidavit from his neurologist, he stated “my own thought of his arrest and the story that accompanied it was that his behavior likely was related to the trauma he had suffered and brain injury which effected his judgment.”

Keven obtaining an attorney is the biggest thing that has happened in his case since he was sentenced 8 years ago. He never had adequate representation, he was sentenced without a jury, and the judge rendered his sentence in under 40 minutes.

I am writing this on Keven’s behalf because he needs your help, love, and support now more than ever. This will not be an easy battle or one that will resolve overnight. The following is a website we have set up to fund his legal representation:

http://www.gofundme.com/kevenjamesbramwell

Any and all support would be more than appreciated and is desperately needed. Keven’s life is literally at stake and we pray you find it in your hearts to help save him.

*Please share this link with anyone and everyone you can*

Two Thousand Thirty Five

Every day, people’s lives are shattered to pieces.  Things are taken from us unexpectedly; loved ones, good health, and peace of mind.  In the same breath, we’re given priceless rewards that compare to nothing else: the gift of a new life, falling in love, and being saved.

All around us, the world twists and turns with miracles, disasters, and amazing things that change us.  Things that challenge us, uplift us, and often times will break us.  My life has been filled with all of these things.

Before my accident and traumatic brain injury, I still held in my hands the innocent mentality of anything in this world being possible.  Even though I battled with addiction and incredible burdens buried within me, my heart was still beating like a wild, free spirit.

You can never imagine trying to understand and make sense of doing something completely out of your character.  Sitting on a stand and listening to complete strangers paint a picture of a “monster,” and knowing that your actions caused great pain in the lives of others.  Today, my heart beats with immense grief and determination.

The balance of facts and the speaking of the truth should have been my ally.  Allowing the facts to speak for themselves, truth and justice should have triumphed.  However, when massive public sentiment or the sentiments and prejudices of my public defender (who secretly corroborated with the court), facts alone were simply not enough.

If there is one crime among all others where the benefit of the doubt is seldom given, it is those crimes such as mine.  People do not respond with reason when the crime involves a child, which is entirely understandable.  Emotions play an enormous role in any legal proceeding.  The prosecutor knew this, all too well, when she adopted her dehumanizing attitude towards me.  It is a trick as old as the hills; continually referring to me as a “monster” both in court and to the media.  She entirely detached the sympathy which popular sentiment would otherwise have had.  Even when someone is accused of murder, people will often pause and consider that the crime has to be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, before it is believed.

In the case of a crime against a child, the worst is automatically assumed. I can understand the nobility of leaping to the defense of the defenseless and the innocent with so much persistence.  However, when it goes beyond defense and starts becoming the ally of injustice; it has clearly gone too far.

To put my sentence in perspective and understand its severity, I’ll mention a neighbor of mine.   Two doors down is one of Texas’ most infamous serial killers, “Henley”.  In the early 1970’s, he assisted in the gruesome murders of 30 teenage boys.  Both he and his accomplice received multiple life sentences for their roles in the crimes.  Henley will come up for parole again this year; 21 years before I will ever set foot before the parole board.

The extreme amount of time for which I was sentenced was for a non-violent assault.  There was no force, no rape, and the crime did not involve intercourse.  This is the first time I had any problem with the law, and my sentence was beyond any normal explanation.  My crime was classified as aggressive only because of age; my 99 year sentence is a seal on my fate and my freedom.  This will be true until the facts of my case are presented to a jury instead of just a judge in 45 minutes.

You may wonder where a man finds hope, courage, and resilience when all that he has ever know and all that awaits him tomorrow feels like dust in the wind.  It’s from within that place in each of us where we hold on to something treasured: our memories, our faith, our loved ones, and our dreams.  It’s only when those things we treasure most remain, that we find the strength to face tomorrow and our next chapter maybe written.

Keven James

May 2014

This entry is dedicated to my dear friend, Herman, the magnificent story teller from South Africa.

Lake Livingston, Texas

Lake Livingston, Texas

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The Search For Inner Strength

“… The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life. 
It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.
Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of, or to forego, the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not. Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and too far removed from real life. It is true that only few people are capable of reaching such high moral standards. Only few keep their inner liberty and obtain those values which their suffering afforded, but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate…”  

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In Close Succession

There are 48 inmates on a section. There are 3 sections to a pod. Each building has 3 separate pods, and I’m in building #7.

It’s early morning, and everything is beginning to stir. The factory workers are “turning out” for their 12 hour shifts and the field squad are lacing up their boots. The spotlights from each tower are being replaced by the sunlight, as the boiler rooms exhaust roars.

Entryways are tightly secured by officers in grey and heavy steel doors.  Movement is controlled on the farm in close succession.  That doesn’t mean, though, for a minute that chaos isn’t looming right around the corner.  Undoubtedly, sometime today emergency calls will shout out over the radios. Body alarms announce the officers location and severity of the incident.  Guards in full regalia hailing gas guns and battalions will surge past in the hall. Orders to “face the wall” will be followed by medical staff with stretchers escorting inmates in restraints.  In close proximity will be a video camera, a Lieutenant or Captain, and harsh disciplinary infractions.

“Yard, all the way out” is announced on my section, allowing for two hours of recreation each morning and night.  Concrete walls and surrounding sky-high fences enclose a basketball court and areas to play handball.  The weight benches will have a line ten deep, while corners are used for shadowboxing.  They say 12 laps around the rec-yard equals a mile and my guess is, I have ran from coast to coast by now.

The TV’s just came on and I swear I hear the domino’s already. This will carry on until “rack-time” tonight at 10:30 P.M. Seats on the benches are reserved early just in time for The Price is Right and The Young and The Restless. Fixtures in the penitentiary, imagine that. Sports occupy the other television and the Las Vegas section of the day room. Dice, parlay’s, bingo, and board games. Not quite, but you get the point.

Banging on the window from the picket, the guard motions for school by signaling with her hands an imaginary book opening and closing. A pull on her collar will mean time for clothing exchange, while hands in prayer means “church–all the way out.” In a few hours, she will motion with her hands like she is taking medication– “pill window.”

As always, a mad rush for what is universally known behind these walls as “happy hour.”  The handful of psychiatric medications silent angry voices and calm multiple personalities. Joe, who has it out daily with Caroline (his other personality)– the bitch who steals his beer– gets a combination of pills and an injection or two (depending on the day). He paces in short strides while simultaneously laughing, crying, and biting his arms. He always asks me if I was in a Western and if he can have a pinch of chewing tobacco. “I would, Joe, but Caroline keeps stealing my shit too.” Joe replies dishearteningly “Tell me about it.” You gotta love Joe.

Watching through my door, I see my neighbor impersonating Elvis again.  They call him “T.P.T”– Trailer Park Trash– and believe me, he lives up to the name honorably. “Days like these make you want to pull the tarp down, jump in the car, and go for a ride.” He entertains and makes everyone laugh in his own, highly medicated, sideshow kind of way.

Not amused by his “Love Me Tender” serenade, the annoyed officer in the picket raises her arm and extends her middle finger with malice. Which, incidentally, still means the same thing in both your world and mine.

Keven James

04.15.14

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TEXAS HOLD’EM

It’s 6PM and just about time for mail call.  Mr. Burns is parading around the dayroom excitedly waiting for a reply from some Prime Minister.  “When those sons of bitches find out that I know where Solomon’s gold is buried, they’ll be calling me the fuckin’ messiah!”

Day in and day out old man Burns strategizes his big plans for conquering Israel.  In his late 80s and senile, he tends to always get away with outrageous racial remarks and lewd comments.  “I heard Michelle put deep fryers in the green room at the White House! You know how long it’s gonna take to get that smell out?”

When his letter doesn’t arrive, he goes on an hour long rampage with the guards.  “HEY! Rent-a-cop! I got a federal offense with your name on it!”

Many times there are fights that break out; it’s usually over something as simple as taking someone’s “claimed” seat or what basketball game they are going to watch.  Guys will call each other out to fight somewhere out of the officer’s sight, this is called “getting their paper,” “catching a square,” or “getting in the paint.”  You would not believe the amount of people who walk around without front teeth because they were knocked out in a fight.  Since the dental department does not provide any sort of dentures or false teeth, they must live out the duration of their sentence without being able to chew their food.  What’s worse than prison food? Puréed prison food!

Today was commissary day.  The dealers, the hustlers, the queens and the pimps, are all running ramped on the block. This is the day when debt is collected and dues are paid.  The hustlers hit the sidewalks for the dealers, the queens are on the “hoe stroll,” and it’s every man for himself behind bars in the Texas underworld.

Never Fold Your Wings

Today, Charlie and I had the privilege of attending a Native American heritage ceremony.  There were several different tribal nations who traveled from Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and throughout Texas.

The volunteers were accompanied by a motorcycle club called “The Zealots,” and the mother-daughter singing team, Sayania.  The organizers and hosts worked closely with our unit’s Major, and did an impressive job of bringing it all together.

It was a celebration recognizing that we are all children of one Creator.  This ceremony was the first of its kind in the history of Texas prisons and was monumental.  We all gathered together and listened to the testimonies from members of these different tribes including a Chief who delivered a profound message about forgiveness and freedom.

The most memorable part of the ceremony was the enchanting music; a hauntingly, transfixing, flute.  This flute was played by Grandmother White Eagle and was interwoven with the beat of an enormous drum (the heartbeat of mother earth) played by 4 women. Their flowing shawls and headdresses of lace and feathers blew wildly in the brisk Texas wind.

Above us circled dozens of soaring birds, their wings unbound and free like the ceremonies spirit. The celebration closed with the smoking of a sacred pipe and interlocked hands in prayer.

This ceremony unified men of all different colors, beliefs, and cultures.  It was meaningful for me to share this experience with Charlie, who taught me the harmony and humbleness within the Native American heritage and for this, I am very grateful.

AHO!!

Keven James

04.07.14

Close your eyes and listen to this…

 

 

I Remember

My dear mother, Jami Marie

I Remember…

Your big brown eyes, when we went on my first plane ride. Your favorite perfume, Siera… When you made snow babies and ceramics, and how you loved butterflies.

I remember the house decorated each holiday and how often you arranged the furniture. How petite you were, and how beautiful. How we’d laugh for hours because we were the only ones who got it. When you taught me how to drive a standard, when you bought me my first CD’s.

I remember calling you late at night so you wouldn’t worry, and you checking on me in the morning always. How you encouraged me to write and start a school newspaper. Your proud smile at my graduation. Applesauce cake and delicious meals. When you made everyone blankets, and you me and Larry Easter egg hunting. How nice you were to my friends, and all your little necklaces and rings that you cherished. How girly and precious you were, how adorable.

I remember when you worked to pay for my silver teeth, when I needed braces, and when you bought me my class ring. When you joined that new church and made sure we were all baptized. How you painted and made special wreaths and homemade gifts for everyone.

And when I took you back to Nan and Pop’s after 15 long years away… When our plane was delayed in PA and we made snow angels. When you told me we were just alike and that I was your one true friend. When I confided in you things that I had never told anyone… And when you told me to forgive myself and that it was not my fault.

And when a familiar voice told me over the phone that you had passed away… And how for days I saw your soft face surrounded by tiny baby-breath flowers…and how it eventually began to fade, and how at times I even forgot my own name.

I remember when I found strength, somehow, deep inside, and when love pulled me out of a dark place and saved my life. I remember when I realized that true freedom is something within and that God has much bigger plans for me than anyone could have imagined.

And more than anything else Momma, I remember when you said you would never leave me alone in this place… And from the bottom of my heart, 8 long years later I know my angel, I know…

 

Love,

Kev

 

Jami Marie Rakes August 31st 1961—April 4th 2006

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SiylvmFI_8

 

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Mama and #1 Son

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