Video 3of "Interview with Mr. Ray Hill."
Table of Contents
Views on capital punishment
The Prison Radio Show
[Tape 2 begins] RAY HILL: And since I cover them live-
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
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
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.
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
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 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.
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Ray HillRole: Narrator
Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
Maurice ChammahRole: Interviewer
Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Videographer
Nancy Semin LingoRole: Transcriber
Maurice ChammahRole: Proofreader
Type of Resource:
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