Interview with Ray Hill

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  •  Watch Video 1, Video 3of "Interview with Mr. Ray Hill." 
 
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  •  [Tape 2 begins] RAY HILL: And since I cover them live- 
  •  CHAMMAH: Yeah. 
  •  RAY HILL: The ritual is, we make notes, what time did they get up, did they take a nap, who did they talk to. What did they have for supper. What did they want as their last meal. Did they have any bowel movements. 
  •  It shows up in the record because they watch them constantly in kind of a count down to execution. Everything is there. And that becomes a log of a ritual. And it—we don't—you know, we're ritualistic people, that's why religion is important to us. To ritualize a lot of things in our society and all that but the execution has been—each execution is the same in almost all details. 
  •  Now what the person has for a last meal is different or some other kind of thing, but the rest of it is pattern. That is ritualistic behavior and so you go up there to observe, since I'm doing this live, we know there's been no stay of execution because the family of the person to be executed in the media crossed the street and go into the execution chamber.We don't know about the family of the victim. They come in a different way so they're not there to cover it, but my reporters—the first word on the Execution Watch is: Well the media has crossed the street. And so we know the process is ongoing, and if they don't come out at exactly twenty minutes after the hour then there's something going on. There's been a stay and we have actually had a broadcast of an execution become a breaking news broadcast where we followed stays and rumors of stays and so—we just kept on broadcasting, and covering a breaking news story.So that's—it's a ritual and to think of it any differently, and as I started thinking about it that way, I said, Well what are some of the other rituals in other cultures that I could compare that to that would make it look really ridiculous?" And the Aztec ritual of sacrificing at the top of the stairway before the temple seemed a logical analogy and I really believe they are analogous.But, as the producer of the Prison Show all these years, execution is the big rock my stream just can't get around. I have to just keep on going through that, and that's a news director smiling knowingly at me because we have her studio tied up, but there's another one at the end of the hall she can use—and so I do that most—most of what I do on the prison show is try to raise the consciousness of the inmate listening. I comfort the families as best I can. The old activist rule, when your telephone rings, answer it, help those you can and comfort those you can't is kind of the axiom of the school of social work and so I wear that t-shirt and do that so we take that and go on from there into that broad culture.Prisons are a culture, and the culture is frequently ritualized like any other culture. Disciplinary processes are ritual, and they have separate roles to play and since I understand all of that, when I talk to high ranking prison officials, of all the people in the media, they'd rather talk to me. Because they don't have to translate and I don't have to translate. We know what we're talking about and speak the same language.So directors of prisons would rather deal with me than say for instance you because you don't know their culture. You're from outside. You're an outsider. I am not.And for a long time they did not like what I was doing on the prison show and they did everything from create an overriding signal on their frequency but they got caught and then they realized the F.C.C. is serious about a heart attack about not interfering with the broadcast frequencies and so we've been around—but after thirty years they've decided I am here. I am not going anywhere.And so they actually say nice things about me. And they use me. They use me to quell rumors and I will actually jawbone down a food strike or a work strike because I don't want to encourage inmates doing anything that would get them into trouble. That's not how I operate and the only people that get hurt in a work strike or a food strike are the inmates themselves, and that's not what my program can be used for.And they know that's reliable and they also know that I don't throw crazy untruths out there. I follow journalism rules. If it don't get it from two unassociated sources it doesn't make the cut to be on my show.Now, some of my volunteers cut a little closer than that, but they're volunteers and it's not in my voice. You won't get that in my voice. My voice follows standard old Lois Lane, this is where you do it rules. I can make a mistake, but if you follow those rules, you're not likely to.And when there's a crisis, there's a lockdown, the hurricane, then my web site now, and the broadcast goes into good accurate information about who is to be evacuated and all of that. And all of that information I provide to my listeners and viewers to my discussion groups and web sites. 
  •  CHAMMAH: And where are you getting that information?RAY HILL: I get it straight from T.D.C.J. I call them and they give me accurate information. There's no reason for them not to give me accurate information. You've got a hurricane coming in, in Beaumont and you've got several units over there in Beaumont, many of which are actually at or below sea level, they're going to have to evacuate those units. It's comforting to the families to know that they have evacuated those units. And it depends on where the hurricane comes in, it's going to affect some prison units because there are units all along here and so even though the Beaumont units are generally considered outside of my broadcast range, I get information from there. I include that in my news.CHAMMAH: And you find that the people are listening all over the state even if—RAY HILL: People all over the world.CHAMMAH: All over the world.RAY HILL: Because it's live on the Internet. And then there's an archive. So I have a woman whose been calling in every week from Finland. Now it happens to be like four o'clock in the morning in Finland, so she's changed her Friday habits so that she can call in to talk to her—I'm in love with you on Death Row.You want to get into European women marrying Texas Death Row inmates, that's a whole phenomena in and of itself, and everybody else looks down on it. Number one, I don't judge the inmates and I don't judge the European women, but let me throw out something that nobody thinks about.In Texas, a body is property. And if that body does not have a free world owner, it will be buried in the inmate indigent cemetery called Peckerwood Hill in --[Tape cuts] 
  •  RAY HILL: in prison and they damn sure don't want to be buried in a prison cemetery. So they will get married to somebody so they can claim that body and bury it elsewhere. Of course, other guys like my old friend Carl Napier didn't want to be buried anywhere else. Those were where his brothers were. And so he is buried in the inmate cemetery in Huntsville and as his footstone, is his United States Marine Corp tombstone provided by the government, including the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor insignia on it.They were going to execute him but he wrote me and said, "I got these mothers beat."And I said, "What do you mean Carl? Ain't nothing going on in your case. I'm following it."He said, "Well, I got this hepatitis C and that will kill me before they stick needles in me."And that was accurate. Which means his tombstone has Carl Napier and it was back when they had three digit Death Row numbers, and he's got a three digit number, but it has no X in front of it. So he died of natural causes on Death Row.Fascinating guy. I met some fascinating people. Several of my friends have been executed. Carl died without being executed. I consider him my friend. I used to go visit him. He's an old bandito gangster out of Channelview, Texas.CHAMMAH: Would you be interested to talk a little bit more about some of the other individuals?RAY HILL: Well, Carl was fascinating.Billy Hughes was probably the closest. Billy Hughes for a while did on the Prison Show a regular series called, "Inside Man Report." And so I‘d have to send a student from Sam Houston up to Death Row on Wednesdays, which is media day, and they'd call Billy out and Billy would come and they'd hold a microphone up next to the visiting room speaker space and record Billy's five minute report on the prison show.So "The Inside Man Report" came from Billy Hughes and Billy was a very significant organizer on Death Row.With Billy's help and a young sergeant on Death Row by the name of Wayne Scott, who would later become Director of Prisons, Wayne Scott was a sergeant and Billy got close to Wayne and said, "You know these guys are dying of boredom in these cells. They're in the cells 24-7. They might go recreate and might shower, but otherwise they're in the cell and we need a work project. "So Wayne Scott was able to get them two sewing machines and a cutting table and they made the blue uniforms in which people were executed. What they wore to execution was a blue, navy blue, because that was during the Old Sparky electrocution days, so they were split here [motions to arm] so they could strap their arms onto the plates and they were grounded and the legs were split so they could do that, so they were electrocuted in special-made suits, and the inmates on Death Row made those suits to fit the person about to be executed, and they were very good at sewing, so they started making the guard uniforms.So they made guard uniforms and guards would prize the uniforms made by Death Row, because they just took more care of it. So that was called the Death Row Works Project and that continued as long as Billy was alive and was discontinued after the Gurule escape attempt. And Wayne Scott brought that in as sergeant and it lasted, Wayne Scott took it out as Director of Prisons.And see, when I say Billy Hughes and Wayne Scott, when they were about to execute Billy, I went up to visit Billy and because I said, Billy, don't ask me to witness your execution. That's more than I want to handle.He said, "Well, will you come see me, because if you're not going to witness my execution, you can come see me as media."And I said, All right, I'll do that.So I went up as media to visit him. We had a long visit about two weeks before he was executed and after that visit I went by the director's office and told Wayne Scott's secretary, I want to talk to the director.And she said, "About Billy Hughes?"Because everybody knew I'd gone to visit him. 
  •  I said, Yeah.And she said, "He is aware of what you're gonna say."And I said, Well, let me say it anyway.I went in and I said, Wayne, you knew Billy. He's a friend of yours. You all worked together and did some worthy things. They're going to execute him. Don't you think you owe him the courtesy of a visit?And he said, "I was afraid you was gonna ask me that."I said, You know I was going to ask you that.And he said, "yeah."That night he slipped over and visited Billy. Just because somebody's about to be executed, that doesn't destroy a friendship or loyalty, or that human contact, which I think they try to cut down. And Wayne is Director of Prisons. Nobody knows that even better than he. But Wayne was the best director I ever worked worth. Best Death Row sergeant I ever worked with. He was a real professional. He was a guest on the prison show every year when he was the Director of Institutional Division and then Director of the Prison System.And I consider Wayne my friend now. And I consider Willett my friend. Willett's been a guest on the prison show. Scared to death of me. They're all a little afraid of me because I got the switches and the knobs and they know if we get in a pissing match, they can't win. You can't Rush Limbaugh on his show. He's got switches and knobs to make sure of that.I've been in radio all my life and I love radio. It's my medium, and I studied media theory under a fellow by the name of Marshall McLuhan. And Marshall McLuhan was the wizard, and the thing about radio is that if it's a live performance, there's the stage up there where those people are doing that, if it's television, there's the box over there with the lights in it. If it's print media, there's words on the page. With radio, it's your imagination. So you don't have to complete the picture. You just start them imagining, and they'll finish it for your.Radio might be twenty percent of the received message. The other eighty percent comes from the listeners experience and imagination, and I've always been fascinated by that. It's really an intimate bond between the guy with the microphone or the person with the microphone and the man or women with the headphones on.And the prison system did me a great favor. They took the speakers out of the radios because somebody's hip hop music would be drowning out somebody else's country western music or vice versa and all that and when they did that, my listeners—one of the reasons they did that is because every Friday night the convicts would gather around the person with the best radio. And listen to the prison show. So they took the speaker out. So they had to use headphones. 
  •  Well it didn't take convicts thirty minutes to figure out how to string, hook up headphones and so everything I say is basically concentrated to the convicts' ears. And it's not like ordinary radio where there's a million distractions, like you're driving or you're cooking, all the stuff you can do listening to radio, they're just sitting there listening and it gives me an inordinately tight connection with my audience.And when doing the radio show, I'm not taking to the free world people, I'm talking to the convicts. Free world people get to eavesdrop and there's something fascinating about eavesdropping on somebody else's conversation. I'm talking to convicts and they know I'm talking to them and no body else talks to them, but me. And that's something they treasure and value.CHAMMAH: And what was that transition like from—because you had said you had started talking sort of to free world people, that was your original—RAY HILL: I never did get that audience. I just—it's kind of like one of the things I do professionally is I teach people how to do time and the problem with that is nobody is willing to admit they're about to do time until it's too late. I have to do some of those classes in county jails.But doing time is a skill that you can learn. And I've met some tough cases. I was hired to go up to East Texas to Jacksonville, Texas to teach a young Iraqi guy to do a life sentence for murder. And I went up there and you would think that an Iraqi would have a hard time in Texas prisons period. Especially when they're for murder, and then I found out that the person he killed was an Iranian, so I think that convicts would say, "Iraqi, Iranian, this is other people's business."Oh dear.And the theory of the case was that this guy got up in the middle of the night in a dorm room and killed his dorm roommate. And the only explanation he had for that is that, "In my sleep he raped me."Well, that didn't happen but it may have happened in a dream during his sleep. And so this guy woke up after apparently to him was a very realistic dream, went across the dorm room and killed a sleeping dorm mate. 
  •  And of course the jury was very confused and so Scrappy Hines [spelling?], the lawyer who handled the case said, "You know this is hard for me to explain a guy fantasizing about a homosexual act."And I said, The guy's not homosexual; the guy's transgendered.He said, "He can't be transgendered, he's got hair all over, growing out of the neck band of his t-shirt."I said, "Well, you miscalled that one."And so he got a new trial and they were able to get him I think twelve years. And he is now in—not in prison, in the Rusk Institution for the Criminally Insane, because he's dealing with post stress depression because of what he did and just trying to integrate.But the obvious is not always obvious, and trying to talk to an East Texas criminal defense lawyer about the difference between being gay and being transgendered is enormous. But guess who understands all that from his experience? So what I learned in the gay-lesbian-transgendered community comes in handy in the criminal justice stuff too. It's all—some kind of continuity to my life experience that I'm able to be useful in these things. And it's helpful.And oh, by the way the guy wasn't Muslim, which you would think an Iraqi might be. He was Pentecostal. His parents were Muslim, but he was Pentecostal.And I said, No they'll think you're crazy with all that religious stuff, so you'll make it pretty well.And he did, he prospered in prison. And there's no reason for gay people to be afraid of prison if you just know how to do it, how to survive prison.I don't care what your handicap is, you can figure out a way to make that work so that you—prison is full of all kinds of people and if I could just get them to think better—if I could get them to realize they had a future. 
  •  You know one of the problems we have in the criminal justice system. We have this enormously high recidivism rate. Seventy percent of people who go to prison the first time will go back for the second. Eighty percent of those who go a second time will come back for a third. If you come for the third time, you're going to be in prison until you're in your mid 50s or 60s and that idea just kind of wears out.So you look at those statistics and you say, Well, nothing can be done.A great deal can be done. Go to Minnesota. Except in one old prison, which is like one of those fortresses, those stone wall things in Minnesota, the rest of the prisons in Minnesota have less security than my cheap Montrose apartment and the people who go there have a recidivism rate of about twenty percent.Now they're putting out statistics, the Colson Prison Ministry stuff is putting out statistics that say they get an eight percent recidivism rate on people that find Jesus through their program, but that's a lie. It's just not true. As a matter of fact, you can go down to the Carol Vance Unit here in the adjacent county, in Fort Bend County and you see people back for the third time in pretty good numbers. So if that's true, why do people keep coming back for the third time after having gone through that program?It's because they say, "Well, he didn't quite get off parole before he violated and he came back in. It's the state's fault, not his fault."No, those people are going out and committing crimes again. They're not changing their pattern. They're getting drunk again and they're getting drugs again.The greatest program to reduce recidivism rates is the program to get prisons out of gangs. It's called GRAD: Gang Rejection and I forget what the D stands for—disassociation. But they—that program is highly successful and the people that go through that program and subsequently make parole, discharge their parole if they're not doing life, and they go on to lead productive lives without returning.Why? Because they have made a significant change in their perception of who they are. They had to overcome thinking that they were white members of a superior race. And when you take that identity away from them, then you've got the raw material to make a whole person. But they have to reject that. You can't take it away from them. They have to reject it. Because if you try to take it away from them, they'll defend it.And I've been fascinated—I helped structure the GRAD program and helped get into Texas prisons because what was happening is you had this increasingly large population of people that were in solitary confinement costing prisons an enormous amount of resources to incarcerate them, they were the most costly prisoners in the institution and they were people with the least chance of not coming back.But once you put in a program so they'd reject the gangs and you gave them the carrots that come with getting out of gangs, they'd go back to general population."Well you can't do it because it's Blood in and Blood out." That's just a myth.I go on the radio and I say, Yeah, I know about prison gangs. Let's see, that's weak people being manipulated by cowards, isn't it?Which is a line I wrote for a motorcycle gang story back in the early sixties when I was going to try and write and be a journalist, my article about motorcycle gangs was not as good as somebody else's. I was writing for The Village Voice and they were writing for Rolling Stone. They got Pulitzers and I became a footnote to their story. But I realized that what motorcycle gangs were, were weak people who were manipulated by cowards who wouldn't do the dirty work they would have the weak people do and I wrote that in the article, and that kind of pissed off Sonny Barger of the Hell's Angels, but he got over it and whenever I said that about prison gangs on the radio, the Aryan Brothers would put a hit on me.And so the Houston Police Department calls and says, "Mr. Hill, the Aryan Brothers has put a contract on you."I said, Yeah, I knew that."Well somebody in south Louisiana has picked it up and they're on their way to Houston to kill you."And I said, Well thank you very much."I don't think you understood. What are going to do?"And I said, I'm not going to do anything."Well, what do you want us to do?"And I said, I don't think you can do anything."You don't understand."And I said, Yeah, this is what you told me."Well, why don't you want to do something?"And I said, Well, let me tell you want will happen to somebody in south Louisiana who picks up a contract. In the first place, they didn't get any money, they got the promise of money.In the second place, they got a beat up old rusted car with an expired inspection sticker, and they're gonna get on the road and they're going to make it through all those speed traps in south Louisiana in I-10, which is not likely, they get pulled over and they have a .357 magnum pistol laying on the seat of their car.They've got a prison number so they're going back to Angola Prison for the next twenty years because of the goddamn gun."I said, Even if they make it to the Texas border, they're going to see a sign that says Vidor, Texas. They're gonna pull off there and go to the first bar to brag about the contract. They'll get drunk and they'll never find Houston.The officer said, "Well, there's that."Well, for the next three weeks my staff lived on pins and needles around there but sure enough, nobody ever found us.So I guess that's what happened. The guy never made it past Vidor. He's probably still in there drunk, telling, "I got this contract and when I get around to it—""Have another drink!"Some people are just predictable by behavior.And I enjoy giving the Angels a hard time. And I will not countenance anybody saying anything pro-gang on my radio show. It's destructive of convicts. I protect convicts better than that.I could bore you to death with these stories for the rest of my life. And we may never run out of stories to tell. I don't know if you're interested or not in the Paul Broussard story.CHAMMAH: No, we're extremely interested in the Paul Broussard story. That's certainly one we know about but perhaps it will lead us into other things, so if you want to. 
  •  RAY HILL: There is no investigation in Paul Broussard's death with the Houston Police Department because it was never investigated. I was told the night I got there that—I came to the scene after Paul had been beaten and stabbed because Steve Little, a person I knew in the community called me and asked me to come over there and make the emergency team, the guys on the ambulance, transport him to the emergency room. He had been there an hour.And so I got a call about three o'clock, so apparently they got there pretty quickly after he had been stabbed because you figure he was stabbed at two, because Charles Armstrong closes his bar about a quarter till two, and he's cleaned out because he's not going to lose his investment on some after-hours liquor charge so everybody's got to leave and Paul Broussard and two of his friends couldn't get to the bathroom, it was too packed at last call so they got in their car and they drove around to a parking lot nearby and they got out of their car and they went into the parking lot to take a whiz.While they were back there, a car drove up. Two cars drove up. And someone in the car said, "Where's Heaven?"And Cary, who was with Paul that night said, "Oh, it's over there but there's no sense in going, it's already closed."And then there were some other words exchanged and the guys in the car piled out and started fighting with Cary and Ricky, and Paul was way back in the back of the parking lot. Instead of getting out of the car and going to the bushes up near the front of the barking lot like Ricky and Cary did, Paul went deep.So Cary and Ricky got away from them and scampered away. While they chased Ricky and chased Cary, a bunch of them chased Harry and at least one of them chased Ricky and Paul came out of the parking lot not knowing anything about it and got in a fight. And he got beat up and stabbed.Now there's a story about a board with nails and all that, that's all fiction. I got a copy of Paul Broussard's autopsy report in my files at home, and there's no indication of any strikes with boards with nails. Cary didn't have any marks on him. Ricky didn't have any marks on him. Ricky was able to get away. Apparently he was chased by one of the assailants who would later turn out to be Gayland Randall.Gayland Randall was the son of the assistant principal at the Woodlands high school, McCullough High School in the Woodlands. And Cary was chased by several other people.By the time I got there, I called first the dispatcher and told the dispatcher that what was going on about the non-transportation and said, I'm going there. Meet me there, let's get this shit straightened out.But by the time I got there, the dispatcher wasn't there and the ambulance wasn't there and Paul was transported, I assume to Ben Taub Hospital, which is right up Montrose.It was Fourth of July morning about three o'clock, they transported him about three o'clock because I got there about 3:10. But they didn't take him to Ben Taub. They carried him to St. Joseph's Hospital downtown, which is not a class A emergency room, which did not have a doctor on duty, so Paul Brossard was attacked and stabbed and had been bleeding internally from about two o'clock. They did not take his vital signs until 4:47. There's no vital signs on the ambulance.They didn't want to touch him and the first vital signs that were written down were in the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital, not when he got there, but when the doctor got there and ordered them. So you've got two hours and 45 minutes of internal bleeding, and if you hit a major artery, guess what? You're dead. It's too late.So also participating in Paul's death is the City of Houston and to a lesser degree the emergency facility at St. Joseph's Hospital. That doesn't mean the knife wound went away. It came from somebody. Well it came from Jon Buice.How I solved the case after the police told me, "We're not going to solve it."Well I---couldn't I—asked Sam Nuchia from Better Detectives, whatever the initial detective told me they weren't going to solve it and Sam, the Chief of Police in Houston, whom I didn't always get along, gave me the best he had.He had two Greek bloodhounds, one by the name of Abadondalo [spelling?} and one by the name of Vacarus [spelling?} .Abadondalo is still there and doing the cold cases in Harris County. I mean the Houston City Police Department Homicide Division.Vacarus was there for a while and went on to elsewhere, to carry his professional recognition elsewhere.So I put them on it and Vacarus called me and said, "Mr. Hill, we're not going anywhere."I said, Look, out got two eye-witnesses. Don't hand me that crap. This is a gay-bashing killing and I want an investigation and I want you to solve this case.He said, "Well, look" he said, "The witnesses, one of them says, ‘The assailants were Black.' And the other one says, 'No they weren't Black, they were Hispanic or white.'""And the description of the car they were in, and there may have been two cars, but the car that everybody describes is shiny. It's—everybody agrees it's shiny, not white, not black, not blue, not silver, shiny." So I don't have anything to investigate.And I said, Hang on to your badges, because I'm going to solve this case.So what I did was I went to Queen Nation which is an activist in Houston at the time and I put 4000 people at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose at exactly ten o'clock the night Friday night. And I put the word out to all televisions sets—television stations, "If you're here with your truck, first, you get the first slot, second, you get the second slot." So there they were, all the network stations were lined up with their remote trucks at the corner at exactly ten o'clock after they did the, "This is the eye-witness news, local news at two" And everything else they said. They went to straight to Montrose and Westheimer covering the story. They said we were the lead story on all three network televisions because I set it up that way.My deal with the police, I was dealing with Captain, Captain Dale Brown. He said, "Well when do you want me to start directing traffic around the demonstrators?"I said, I don't want you to direct traffic around the demonstration. I want angry people cussing at us through the windows of their cars caught at that intersection.He said, "You do?"I said, It makes a better story.See, the whole idea is how to use the media. How to maximize the impact of media. Well, we moved from the back pages of the Houston Post only to the front page of the Houston Chronicle. The lead story that night, and then I worked with the media to keep it at that level for two weeks. We even had Ted Koppel down here and C.B.S. Evening news sent a news crew down here to cover it. We covered it like a wet blanket.We had a different angle every night, the whole nine yards and two weeks later a female student walked up to an openly gay professor at the University of Houston and said, "Dr. Reinhardt, I know one of the guys that killed that banker."That was Derrick Attard [spelling?]. He was living with his grandmother in Manhattan at the time. All that news media, he could afford to get out of town until it cooled off and he was in Manhattan. We found him. We arrested him and I made Vacarus go get him. He didn't want to. He told me he didn't have a budget.I said, Don't worry. The mayor will sign the check. You just go get him.That's where I want the names of who was with him that night. So the plane lands and there are nine other names. The Woodlands Ten. Got the image? Rich, spoiled kids coming down bashing gays, Fourth of July weekend.It's all imagery. But we had ten people arrested, ten people charged. I set the rules, except for my informant, everybody that touched Paul Broussard goes to prison. My informant and everybody that was along for the ride gets probation. So five went to prison, five got probation. Two including my informant violated probation, so wound up seven going to prison and three surviving their probation years.So I thought, Well, if these guys were gay bashers and this is prejudice-motivated, somebody needs to work on their prejudice.Well what's going on in Texas prison to do that? Nothing. Texas prisons—I mean very racist, sexist, homophobic place. I know, I've been there. And so I decided that was my job.So I go on the radio and I talk into the microphone, and I say, "I want this guy Jon Buice to write me."And so friends of mine who listen to me on the unit went to Jon and said, "A friend of ours wants you to write him.""Who's that?""Well, that's Ray Hill.""Well that son-of-a-bitch sent me to prison. Why the hell would I want to write him?""No, no, you got Ray wrong. When you went down messing with the gay community he had to protect his community, but now that you're a convict, you're in his group. He's on our side. Nobody else is."So fianlly I got a letter from Jon. I didn't write him until I got a letter from him. He said, "What do you want?"And I said, Well, in the first place, you're eighteen years old now. You're looking down a long-range barrel at a forty-five-year sentence and I thought you might want some helpful hints, somebody that understands how to do time, how to make the best of it. You'll get out some day. And I thought I'd do that.And so we corresponded for a while until he got over his fears and he put me on his visiting list—I visited him a couple of times as media. But after a while I got on his visiting list and become part of like his family. I met his family.I told him how to do time. I told him how to get to college and encouraged him to do that. We became friends. We're friends to this day.And if you want to see that story as depicted by Logo Television Network, just go to their website, Logo and Google my name, it will pop right up. But—Jon—or you can go to my website, I've got it stored somewhere on my website. But Jon and I are friends and I will be with him when he gets out of prison. He's going to take my place on the radio show. That's ultimately going to happen, but what did I learn from all of that?In the first place, I learned that four of the assailants that night were gay. Not closeted gay but known by the rest of them to be gay. And the party that they started in the Woodlands was called to cheer up Chance Dillon, who had just broken up in a relationship with an older gay man in Dallas and an ugly separation and he had the blues. And so they threw a party to cheer him up.Unfortunately somebody brought an awful lot of drugs, and somebody brought an awful lot of alcohol, and they were kids without the maturity to handle all that, and that's what happened.It wasn't a gay-straight thing. It was a drug and alcohol and youth stupidity thing. But in a period of time that could not have exceeded a minute and a half, one person lost their life, two people continued living with the horror memory of that night and post traumatic depression, and ten others destroyed their lives. We as a society cannot afford many such minutes.We as a society need to teach principles of understanding, acceptance, maturity, the evils of chemistry, better lives through chemistry is not a reality, it's not even a good myth and we need to know what those things do to kids those age. All of this wouldn't have happened if anybody had said, "Wait a minute. This is wrong."One person in the whole scenario said, "Wait a minute. This is not a good idea." But nobody said that.Do you have any idea how many thousands of people—when I started doing the prison show there was about 21 or 22,000 inmates total in Texas. There are 150,000 now. This is the most incarcerating nation in the history of the world and I could justify it if it were working. But it doesn't work. I mean, when do you reach the point where somebody says, Wait a minute. Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. This doesn't work.We need to come up with another plan. We need to come up with another plan. And the plan doesn't start with: What do we do with this person that's violated the law?The plan starts before the violation in the first place. And I think a lot of that is economic. I think a lot of that comes out of the tension between the races. I think a lot of alienation comes about because some people don't feel that they are welcome as a part of the overall society, so they're basically outsiders, so they have a license to misbehave.I know what that feels like. I'm queer, you know. So there was a time when I didn't belong. Of course all of that changes when your puppy is elected mayor and all of that changes when another politician out of your stable is the high sheriff. I feel like I belong a lot. And I notice people are listening to what I have to say when there was a time when I could just say forever and nobody heard a word or paid any attention to it.I know I keep convicts from stewing in the guilt they feel on what I call the cusp of awakening. In the morning when it's time to go to breakfast, convicts are going to wake up in prisons all over this state. There are 108 prisons in this state that belong to the State of Texas and others that belong to the federal government. We've actually got more Hawaiian prisoners in Texas than they have in Hawaii. It's a lot more expensive in Hawaii.But they're going to wake up and before they have control of their mind, it's going to go back to what guilty S.O.B.'s they are or what they did to their victims, what they're doing to their families and this mess that they are in, which is their responsibility.They live in that guilt. They stew in that guilt. That guilt is part of the very marrow of their bones. And until we can figure out how to get them to change the subject, think differently about who they are, realize that the clock only goes one direction and we can't go back and undo the damn-fool things that you have done.But most of those people are in there for bad decision they made when they had seconds to decide. Seconds. And we need to slow down time so they can make better decisions in those immediate situations and who they are will have a bigger effect than that. We need to give inmates an opportunity to serve a larger purpose than themselves.And it's really easy to sit in those cells and say, "Oh, poor me. Look how everybody's mistreating you."They're not victims at all, but they don't know that because they don't have any opportunity to be anything else.Nobody is going to remember me at all for what I did for myself. They're only going to remember for what I might have done for somebody else. That's the way the world works. But you don't hear that in everyday discourse.If you are to survive, life is service. A little fellow by the name of Mahatma Gandhi taught me that when I was a child. My mother gave me a biography that was written while he was still alive and that was before he became sanctified. Terrible things happen when you die. They make saints out of you and you're untouchable and unreachable. But something written while he was alive is a little more human. And the man had some good ideas.I am the one queer ex-convict you will meet in your lifetime who grew up to be who his mother wanted him to be. And I'm proud of that. 
 
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Title:Interview with Ray Hill
Abstract:Ray Hill is a prison activist and queer activist as well as the founder of The Prison Show, a radio program that has aired weekly on Houston's Pacifica radio station KPFT 90.1 FM since March 1980. In Video 1, Hill shares the inspiration for his early activism; his experiences during his incarceration in the Texas prison system; and his work as a community organizer. Hill describes how he helped to organize the Houston Gay Caucus, now known as the Houston Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Political Caucus, as well as his role in founding The Kaposi's Sarcoma Committee, which later became The KS/AIDS Foundation and is now The AIDS Foundation Houston. At the end of Video 1 and the beginning of Video 2, Hill discusses the origins of The Prison Show; his activism in prison reform, including his role in the creation of the program Gang Rejection and Disassociation (GRAD); and his perceptions of the criminal justice system. This interview took place on October 5th, 2010 at the offices of KPFT FM in Houston, Harris County, Texas.
Sequence:2 of 3
Contributors:
  • Maurice ChammahRole: Interviewer
  • Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Videographer
  • Nancy Semin LingoRole: Transcriber
  • Maurice ChammahRole: Proofreader
Date Created:2010/10/05
Languages:eng
Type of Resource:Moving image
Genre:Interview
Identifier:tav00028
Rights:
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

 

 

Continues with Video 3 of the TAVP Interview with Mr. Ray Hill

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