Poems from the Picket

from one who knows what it's like to spend a shift in a 8'x8' box 20 ft in the airwatching a bunch of inmates on the Rec Yard.

All poems on this page are copyrighted
and should not used without the author's permission.

The Picket

I got a fear of heights and closed-in places
Loud noises and guns
So how can I sit out in the picket
And shoot anyone that runs

In a tiny building 8 by 8 feet
And twenty feet off of the ground
With nothing to do but watch the inmates
Walking around and around and around . . .

Unload the guns and count the bullets
Make sure they're all here
Then load them back up make sure they're ready
For anyone who comes too near

I'd be so scared to live in a place
With cells and gates and bars
With a 12-foot fence all around my house
And bars on the windows of my cars

And a tiny building right next door
That's loaded up with guns
And someone sitting up there
Waiting to shoot me if I run

There's no way that I could live
Locked up in a place like that
With a fear of the dark and closed in places
And roaches, ants and rats

And inmates living all around me
I don't know what they've done
Are they here cause they were smoking pot
Or maybe cause they killed someone

On second thought I like the picket
I feel a lot safer away up here
Where no inmates can argue with me
Tell me lies, or get too near

I've got three buddies I can talk to
If I get too lonely or bored
And after I get done talking to them
There's always time to talk to the Lord

And tell Him thank you one more time
For the life He's given me to live
Compared to some of the lives I've seen here
Mine was the best He could have given

So I'll sit up in this tiny building
Twenty feet off of the ground
Of all the places I could work
It's the nearest to Heaven that I've found

Written October 27, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

False Advertising

I'm working is such a colorful place
Where everyone's dressed in white and gray
And we are all so happy we get to stay here
Whether it's for eight hours or ninety-nine years

We all have a different story to tell
Some live in dorms, some live in cells
And some go home at the end of the day
But then they come back - the ones in gray

Everyone envies the ones in white
Cause they get to stay here overnight
With free room and board and no bills to pay
A much better life than the ones in gray

But the ones in gray, since the day they were hired
Must work real hard so they won't get fired
Such an important job they were trained to do
Day after day till their shift is through

Standing guard over the ones in white
So they won't escape or they don't start a fight
We must keep them in prison for whatever time
The judge gave them to pay for their crime

The ones in white like it so much more
Than the ones in gray, (if we're keeping score)
There's too many in white, not enough in gray
But the white keeps increasing day after day

If there's anyone out there who needs a job
Guarding inmates and upholding the law
It's a great place to spend eight hours a day
Surrounded by white, while you're wearing gray

Everyone dressed in white will treat you so kind
The nicest friends you ever could find
It's hard to believe that the cops hauled them in
And the courts found them guilty of such terrible things

Written October 17, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Fifteen Years

I've been in prison fifteen years with inmates behind bars
The only difference, I was not arrested, I was hired
I agreed to work for Texas guarding felons sent to jail
When the jury found them guilty and the judge's gavel fell

These years I've spent in prison with the ones who broke the law
My life was placed in danger by the thing I heard and saw
If an inmate touched an officer, he's guilty of assault
But they all say they are victims, what they did was not their fault

I've been in prison fifteen years locked in with gray and white
Two colors that we recognize, different as day and night
There are too many dressed in white and not enough in gray
It costs more to feed the bad ones so the good ones get less pay

The criminals are dressed in white - the officers in gray
But we all spend time in prison, every night and every day
It's a job or it's a life style, either way no one has fun
Those in white are locked in prison for a crime that they have done

The ones in gray must do a job that Texas hired them for
Even though we don't get paid enough - everyone else gets paid more
I've been in prison fifteen years, I've got five more to go
Until I can retire with these great benefits I've known

When I get sick the state of Texas pays my doctor bills
And helps me pay for everything like surgery and pills
We get a hundred dollar raise every year or two or three
And George wants us to vote for him and move him to DC

When someone asked the governor for a more substantial raise
'You should be glad you have a job' was all that he would say
He has no idea what it's like eight hours every day
To work with those who hate you just because you're dressed in gray

I've been in prison fifteen years and that's a long, long time
For one to spend locked up without commiting any crime
When I get out I'll have a lot of stories I can tell
How I spent fifteen years locked in a place as dark as hell

Written October 15, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Sarcasm 101

It's a beautiful place for people to be
Locked up in a prison called TDC
Everyone loves the people they meet
The clothes they wear and the food they eat

It's a great place to come and spend a few years
A vacation from life full of heartache and tears
You can move in for free and it won't cost a dime
We won't take nothing from you - nothing but time

We'll give you a place all your own to stay
And plenty to do to help you pass the days
And someone to watch you continually
If you do one thing wrong, we'll be sure to see

It's a wonderful place behind fences and bars
You don't need to pay rent, buy food, or buy cars
Everything's free (you have no bills to pay)
Except for your freedom - you gave that away

Stop in for a visit for five or ten years
Maybe even longer, you'll be glad you were here
It's something to share with your family and friends
Some like it so much that they come back again

Your whole life will change when you start your vacation
When the judge and the jury give you your invitation
And they take you away in a beautiful car
To your new home in prison surrounded by bars

We don't want anybody to feel left out
So stop by and see what it's all about
All you have to do is commit a crime
Then start your vacation by doing your time

So what are you doing, where have you been
Your new home's all ready for you to move in
We'll lock the doors for you and we'll keep the keys
You can't ask for more than a vacation that's free . . .

Written September 22, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

What If Game

What if you lived in Texas in the good ole Lone Star State
And you had to work for TDC taking care of bad inmates
With a pay raise every other year of a whole one hundred bucks
Only half the money that you need cause every year your bills go up

What if you lived in Texas and you worked for TDC
With no AC in the summer and 110 degrees
With a governor who doesn't care how Texas plays her hand
He's quit the game with Texas to play with the whole land

What if everybody quit and just walked out the gate
Or found a better, safer job and they just couldn't wait
To leave this place called TDC with fences all around
Where it's not even safe to walk the dorm or walk the ground

What if an inmate pulled a knife and tried to kill someone
Or climbed over the fence before the picket aimed his gun
Or tried to bribe an officer to bring them what they need
Like candy, drugs or cigarettes, these inmates have such greed

What if an inmate starts something, an arguement or fight
And you can't make them listen to the rules of wrong and right
They'll tell you what you say is wrong or how it isn't fair
If you show them the rule book, they'll tell you they don't care

What if you lived in Texas where the prisons are too full
Of children who live on the streets cause they dropped out of school
Or joined a gang, got hooked on drugs, or maybe killed someone
And now they're doing 20 years for what they thought was fun

What if you were the parents of somebody doing time
How would you feel if the police told you your child had done a crime
Perhaps you should have been more firm or listened when he cried
And done the job God gave to you instead of asking why

What if being locked up twenty years did not do any good
Or when they finally got paroled and did the time they should
They went back to the same life they lived before the crime
And the state of Texas wasted all their money and their time

What if the state of Texas had less people locked in jail
And a system that succeeded more often than it failed
It would make life so much easier for everyone involved
And everybody's problems a lot easier to solve

Written September 17, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Dear God

Dear God, I am so thankful I don't have to live in here
I would miss my friends and family and the freedom I hold dear
If I had to live in prison five or ten or fifty years
While someone else holds my babies and wipes away their tears

If all I had to do was sit and think about my crime
And the lessons I should learn while I'm in prison doing time
I know I'd be so lonely I would surely lose my mind
So Dear God, I am so thankful for the freedom that is mine

If I only saw my children on visitation day
And I held them two short hours hours before they're taken away
Dear God I don't know how I would wipe all my tears away
Or how I could stop crying long enough to kneel and pray

If I had to live in prison behind bars and in a cell
And the door was locked behind me, it would be so much like hell
So Dear God I want to thank you for the life I love so well
And my family, friends and freedom that mean more that I can tell

Dear God I want to thank you for each and every day
Cause I've met so many people who have thrown their lives away
Now they have to live in prison - for a crime they have to pay
So my freedom means much more to me than words can ever say

Written September 11, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Gray and White

We're locked in with the inmates
Behind the prison bars each day
The only difference between the two
They wear white and we wear gray.

We're here for different reasons
But we're still behind the bars
With the ones who kill and steal and rob
For money, drugs and cars.

But let's stop and think a minute
What these colors represent
And what each went through to get from
Where they start to where they end.

Before we came to prison
The ones now dressed in white
Were all found guilty of a deed
They did that wasn't right.

And now they live in prison
For whatever length of time
That the judge and jury gave them
As the payment for their crime.

The officers in gray must spend
Eight hours every day
In the same place as the inmates
And with insufficient pay.

There's no job that pays enough
For lives laid on the line
But the gray lives with the white
We're all in prison - doing time.

Written July 12, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Behind The Gun

When I sit out in the picket
Count the shells and guard the guns
It's my job to watch the inmates
And to shoot them if they run

But one thought comes to my mind
If I had to shoot someone
Could I still live with my conscience
And the deed that I had done

Could I sit up in the picket
Watch the inmates dressed in white
Would I have to find a new job
And could I still sleep at night

If I held a loaded weapon
And I point it at someone
If I had to pull the trigger
Just because they start to run

Would it make me any different
Then the ones behind the bars
With a felony to live with
Because they broke the law.

Written July 9, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIV

Behind The Bars

Did you ever work in a place
Where your life was on the line
Surrounded by convicted felons
All guilty of a crime.

Where the gates are closed behind you
And you're locked in with them
And anything they decide to do
Is a game nobody wins.

Where there's not enough officers
To do what must be done
Everything from feeding inmates
To pickets holding guns.

Most of the things we have to do
Seem like a waste of time
Just babysitting inmates all
Found guilty of a crime.

We wake them up each morning
Make them do what they must do
Then tuck them in, turn out the lights
When every day is through.

Not enough babysitters for
All these unruly kids
But we have to make them pay
For whatever they did.

It's a job that doesn't pay enough
For all the things we do
But we have to wait for eight long hours
Until each day is through.

Everybody wants to quit
Cause they just can't get through it
As the saying goes, it's a nasty job
But someone's gotta do it

Written June 19, 2000, by Donna S. Gilley, COIII

Living Among Inmates

Assigned to the dorm with the inmates all day
We keep them happy so they won't run away
Trying to keep up with the games that they play
And watch what they do and hear what they say

They've always got something to complain about
Like all of the luxuries they must live without
But they must love it here - I have no doubt
Cause they come right back in when they finally get out

They count down the years or the months or the days
When they're close to parole they're afraid of a case
If they get in more trouble they might have to stay
A little bit longer - but they still can't obey

We live with the inmates and hear their sad tales
A million reasons why they should not be in jail
They want to get out - they have tried and they've failed
They're denied probation, parole, even bail

So they're sent to prison to do their time
In exchange for whatever they did that's a crime
Their home and their family are all left behind
They start living a life of a different kind

They all have a number instead of a name
There's nothing they do that is still the same
If they ever go back to the place where they came
There's no guarantee we won't see them again

Living in prison - what good does it do
Do we waste time and money just getting them through
There's chow time, and rec time and count time, too
These are just part of the things that we do

And when their time comes and they get out of here
The first thing they want is a smoke and a beer
All the lessons they've learned slowly disappear
They'll probably be back in six months to a year ...

Written Nov 23, 1997, by Donna S. Gilley, COIII

Introduction Statistics: 2000 Statistics: 1999
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Inside The Wire Letter to the Public To The Texas Legislature
Salary: Texas vs. Nation Poetry From
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Poems From
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