Me, A Racist? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

Letter date – Aug 29th, 2016

Hello mom,

From reading your letter it looks like your hands have been full. You do so much on the computer and I have never messed around on it.  Of course, it was never like it is now. Back in the 90’s we had a computer but we didn’t have internet.

time-cover

I was just reading the new issue of Time magazine you got for me. On the cover was little furry monster with horns, a big grin and a laptop on his lap.  the article speaks about all different websites, what they are used for and so on.  However, the main topic was about the hate in the internet world. It’s everywhere and it’s crazy.  I thought about what you said about me being called a racist and that is why I had no visitors.  Someone had spread rumors about me to people and maybe that is why nobody wants anything to do with me. Could this be the excuse I get now when there is still no visit? Like you, even though I know I can’t change anything with my family I can’t help but still think about it.  it seems as thought there should be a reason I could understand. Maybe I don’t agree with what is said but I don’t have any way to prove that it is not the way I am.

Being accused of being a racist when you know you have never said anything that could be taken as a racist remark makes me very angry. I have no way to defend myself. I can be accused of anything and those stories can be spread. People will believe these stories I am not this young immature man anymore. I am a man who has been through a lot these past ten years.  I have had to take responsibility for my actions and also take responsibility for things I didn’t do and was accused of doing, but I will be damned if I am going to take responsibility for being a racist.

It’s bad enough to be in here in the first place with other “charges” being added to my time.

***************

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The ITFO Newsletter #5

 

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For some reason I have been unable to get the ITFO Newsletter to automatically post to this blog. I also can’t copy and paste it, either. Soooo  if you click on this link the newsletter will pop up. At the top of the page is an archive of the earlier ones I sent out and also a way to sign up for the newsletter.  Thank you to those who have already signed up. The support I have received along with the many positive messages is what keeps me going.  Messages to Jamie I send in emails to Jpay.  He can only receive but can respond in longhand.  Cards and letters mean a lot.

Do me a favor please

If you know a subject you’d like to know about with the prisons or someone inside let me know and if there is something you would like me to help promote let’s talk.  Prisons affect not only the people inside, it affects all the family and friends on the outside

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest
If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

The Prison to Poverty Pipeline

americancivilwar-com-f-douglas
source credit: american civilwar.com

Frederick Douglass, a slave in Maryland who became an abolitionist and journalist said, “It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

“To make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken the moral and mental vision and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”

How often have you heard: Black people are stupid.  Genetically they don’t have the abilities of white people. Genetically they are predisposed to be criminals. If you hear anything enough you start regarding it as truth.  Many white people thoroughly believe they are a higher cut of human being.

In July, Bill O’Reilly making an extremely stupid remark on air at Fox News, commenting on Michele Obama’s comment that slaves built the Whitehouse said, “Those slaves werewell fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. 

women prison labor
photo credit: popularresistance.org

Most people do not realize how many of the products they purchase off the shelf and on online sites are products made by slaves in the prisons for as little as .29 an hour.  From Eddie Bauer’s jeans to Victoria Secret’s lingerie to military ammunition and supplies our police force needs to needlessly subdue anyone they choose to stop and harass. These products made by prison inmates are used against themselves. Inmates who are paid a ‘wage’, when released are presented with a bill for room and board which puts those released in high debt in a society where it is nearly impossible to rent an apartment or find a job.  It is important to keep the prisons full, and no politician shooting off his or her mouth about reducing prison populations will be able to accomplish more than a small amount to make it look as if something positive is happening.

How do they keep the prisons full? They start with the children and separate them from their family intent on ruining their chances of getting ahead.  Are their children who are uncontrollable.  Yes, but you have to go back to the beginning of their lives. How many of them have parents in prison?  How many of the men in their families have been to prison, because the odds for a black man is one in three.  The odds for Hispanics: one in six. A black man with a high school education has a 70% chance of going to prison.  So, logically, keep a black man out of school and there is a greater likelihood of filling the prisons because – no education means no job.

When Jamie gets out of prison when he is 40, and so far they have kept him at a level where he is allowed no phone, no job and no education. The property manager at the prison physically took his GED book and 18 other books from him – for no reason, when he was transferred .  I can only conclude that she didn’t want him to self-educate.  One of his greatest worries is wondering what will become of him when he gets out, because although he knows I am here, I will be pushing 70 when he gets out and my health is not the best.

Most people have heard of the ‘school to prison pipeline’, but it is more than that. It is also the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’, the ‘poverty to prison pipeline’ and the ‘prison to poverty pipeline’. Why is there a funnel that keeps a never ending supply of children being forced through it knowing it will irrevocably alter the course of their lives. Sadly, many, or perhaps most of these children won’t have a chance to build a positive life.  They can never play catch up because they are too far behind the eight ball. They will have to support themselves anyway they can find to do so. Legal or illegal because you have to eat.  The prisons bank on the revolving back doors of the prisons.  It is the least costly way of keeping the prisons full.

If these men and women had a support structure in the beginning, there is a good chance it isn’t there any more. Their life experiences and what they learn living in a biased justice system that doesn’t supply them with the experiences and subsequent wisdom they need, or the courage and confidence to have a life filled with love and hope. These are broken men – and women. The odds are completely stacked against them unless they are lucky enough to find an organization that guides them into the right direction.

I have read, if a prisoner is paroled they have a step down program that counsels them on re-entering society and helping them find at least a half-way house. Prisons do not have any programs for those that do their entire time. They are simply put out the door with 30 days of medications, a bus ticket, a few bucks and they are on their own if there is no one to pick them up. There are some programs if they can find them after they are released. If they had been in solitary confinement – they go from their cell to the street.  I can’t even imagine how horrifying that is.

What we learn as children sets the stage for how we make decisions in our lives when we become adults. If a person comes from a dysfunctional or broken family who had children without knowing themselves what it means to parent children, how are they able to learn what behavior and control is needed in society. They may end up in foster care bounced from home to home until they drop out.  What do they have the time to learn if their education has been totally disrupted and no one cares one iota if they succeed or fail?

Not every child who has been suspended from school came from a family such as this. Some just had the misfortune of having a teacher with the tendency to suspend more black children than white. Teachers often have more tolerance and leniency toward white children. They suspend 4x more black children than white. Without realizing it these teachers when they were children may have learned their bias from the adults around them. They may never say it aloud, but they can’t help but believe and expect their black students to be trouble makers.

When I was a child going through middle school in the 60’s not one child was handcuffed

kids in handcuff
photo course: bordc.org

by the police and put in the back of a police car. Not one. Not a single solitary one. But then, the first black classmate I had was in 5th grade and he was the only one. Through 6th grade black students were segregated simply because they lived in the black neighborhoods.  I never went into those neighborhoods.  I was too scared. Why? Why did I feel that way? What did I hear, and when, to make me afraid to go where they lived?  I couldn’t tell you. Not one school had a cop – a trained and sometimes brutally physical cop, who sometimes slammed kids to the ground, the way they do now. There were no cops on school premises every hour the school was open. What the hell happened? Children haven’t changed. Parents and parenting changed. Adults, coming from the baby boomer age wanted to be friends with their kids, gave them more freedom, didn’t teach them to respect the generation that raised them. Parents lost control.

At school it became  easier to suspend students than to work with them. Many schools no longer have on site guidance counselors or nurses. (This article should make you cry or get very angry) There have always been mischievous kids – pranksters – kids who picked on other kids and kids who would get into physical fights. They were sent to the principal’s office and he meted out punishment. Maybe the paddle, which I admit to getting, and it was never considered abuse. I deserved it, I’m sure. Or we got detention or a meeting with parents would happen, but never was a child handcuffed and taken away – until it became profitable. Then the child would have to see a judge and often, most often, if you were black you went to juvenile detention. Why? Why is there zero tolerance for young children doing what children do? Why did it become so necessary to ruin so many young lives?

This funnel was called the “school to prison pipeline” because so many children who were forced through it could never get their lives on track. Juvenile detention changed them. Many became angry. Many were sexually abused. Until just this year juvenile facilities used solitary confinement as punishment if they ‘broke a rule’. Now children cannot be put in solitary, but it took one boy committing suicide to make the change. If adult brains can be permanently scarred, what would it do to a child? It is heartbreaking. I’m not talking about children who have committed a serious crime, I’m talking about a child who had a teacher who couldn’t, wouldn’t take the time to help  because perhaps they had too many kids in their classroom, so it was easier to call the on-site cop who feeds him into the system.

It is quite odd and very disturbing that the majority of the children fed into this pipeline are black. Teachers who were interviewed admitted they are more likely to kick a black child out of class than a white child. Hispanics are in the middle. What does it say about us as nation, supposedly a Christian nation, some people think, yet our dislike and fear of black people even extends down to children, who are also supposedly children of God, if you believe in that sort of thing. Why are black children treated as though it is in their genes to be criminals, which is impossible. The state system, quite frankly, took away their realization that they, too, have just as much to offer as white children. Many have been set on the road for failure because the new definition of slavery lives in the prisons.

It is drilled into them that they don’t fit into a white man’s privileged society. I know we have many successful people color. I am talking about the ones the juvenile justice system got hold of and created a revolving door class of uneducated children who grew up and couldn’t get on their feet and landed in prison quite often convicted erroneously.

This blog is dedicated to Jamie Cummings who spent far more years in juvenile detention than what he was sentenced. He should not have been sentenced in the first place.  It is appalling what they did to him. No crime was committed. A cop who had harassed him earlier illegally kicked his way into his house with no probable cause and no warrant. His mother was badly hurt. Since Jamie was a minor they gave him 9 months in juvenile detention because he was the only one they could “punish”.  His brother was over eighteen and there was nothing they could charge him with.  His other brother was just a young boy and his sister was pregnant. So Jamie was it.  There needed to be some reason why the cop kicked the door in. But they didn’t let him out in nine months. He was in for more than four years, until he turned 21. By then he was seriously depressed in a juvenile facility for kids with mental issues. He did three stints in solitary confinement which they called Behavior Modification Programs or BMP. The day he got out, walking home from visiting a cousin he was arrested again for only walking and someone thought he looked suspicious. You can read this story in more detail. What do you think happened to his education?

Jamie didn’t need to be sacrificed for the Prison Industrial Complex as someone to increase the profit of their bottom line. The possibilities of his life was shattered. But would he have had a successful life coming from the poor section of small town in east Texas where job opportunities were slim? We’ll never know. He has grown up while being locked up, a total now of more than 14 1/2 years with 6 1/2 to go.

How many more children have suffered the sadness of having their lives stolen from them for profit. So many of these children end up getting in more trouble and ending up back inside. What else do they know?

***************

 

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Saturday Evening Interview 9-3-16

……. This is the second part of the interview from last week, talking about the book “Inside the Forbidden Outside” and also advice I would give first time authors based on what I found as a first time author myself. I had no idea how much I didn’t know about writing, and also the business and marketing knowledge needed to be successful. It can be overwhelming because you can only do one thing at a time. Prioritizing your time so you always have time to write can be hard, especially if you are also a blogger.

The original blog this was posted on is Life of an El Paso woman

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New issue of the ITFO Newsletter is going out on 9/4

 

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ITFO Newsletter

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Life of an El Paso Woman

wp-1472929359289.jpgPhoto from Pinterest

Hi everyone! Today I’m concluding part two of fellow blogger Sonni Quick’s interview here. Sonni is currently working on a book about letters she and inmate Jamie Cummings have exchanged for years. In case you missed part one of the interview, you can check it out here. Part 2 talks more about Sonni’s book and life. You can follow Sonni on Twitter here. You can check out/follow her blog here. 
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ME: Tell us more about your upcoming book. The first draft of the book on Jamie’s life is done, “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” There is still a lot of work to do.  I found out there was a lot I didn’t know about writing a book, too. One of those things is I need a mailing list.  Books that are listed at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and others don’t sell themselves. That is…

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Saturday Evening Interview 8-27-16

This is an interview I did on the blog http://lifeofanelpasowoman.com. This is the first half of the interview so the word count is not over 3000 words! On Saturday Sept 3rd the 2nd half will be published. The interview is about why I blog about prison reform and how my life led to writing about Jamie Cummings.

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Life of an El Paso Woman

According to the Prison Policy Initiative web site, around 2.3 million are incarcerated in the U.S. The U.S. locks up more people than any other country in the world. Blogger Sonni Quick is currently working on a book about the hundreds of letters she and Jamie Cummings have exchanged for years. Jamie is an inmate in a Texas prison. He’s also the father of one of Sonni’s grandsons. Sonni Quick’s blog, “My Name is Jamie” shares a variety of posts about their letters, the prison system, her music and more. Because of the interesting and robust information Sonni is sharing, her interview is broken up into two parts. Welcome to Life of an El Paso Woman, Sonni. ************************************************************************* 

Jamie CummingsJamie and his son  July 2013

SHARP TURN TO THE LEFT

Things happen in our lives that have the potential to change everything. We have the opportunity to make these turns or we can ignore them…

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Life in Chapters: A life in and out of prison – The Round Table

Source: Life in Chapters: A life in and out of prison – The Round Table  

 

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Author’s Note: Some of the information in this article could not be independently verified

Life has never been easy for 62-year-old Talib Akbar. Born in Mississippi (town unspecified), he was the youngest child in a family on the run from an abusive stepfather. They made their way to Arkansas, where he would spend most of his teen years. This is also where Akbar would do his first prison stint. Akbar did not specify what his crimes here were, but he did state they were non-violent crimes. He also claims to have done another stint in Iowa, also non-violent.

It was in 1986 that he first moved to Wisconsin. He and a friend moved to Green Bay to start a boxing club. His friend ended up gaining some traction and competing at a higher level, while Akbar stayed back to run the club. But for Akbar, it was in Wisconsin where his life would be permanently changed.

Nine years later, in 1995, Akbar was convicted of two counts of second-degree sexual assault, after a patient at the facility he was working at reported him. His trial was peculiar to say the least. He said he knew the moment he lost. “My attorney told me, ‘They want you,’” he said. His attorney subsequently quit.

After his attorney left him, he was forced to represent himself. Akbar said the jury would not allow him to present evidence that could have potentially exonerated him. Akbar would then be convicted of two counts of sexual assault. He was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of 10 years.

“I’ve never been a violent man my entire life,” said Akbar. “You ask anyone who knows me, I’m innocent of this crime.” While Akbar maintains his innocence, he also tries to maintain a positive attitude towards life. “That was just a chapter of my life,” he said. Akbar does not want to focus on what happened to land him in jail, so he has diverted his attention to prison reform. He says the horrors he has seen behind bars were enough to chill anyone to the bone.

Since being released, his life has focused on prison reform. He recalled a memory from part of his time done in Kettle Moraine, a town in southeastern Wisconsin, is also home to a prison facility. He remembered it was February, and another inmate was having convulsions. Having been trained in CPR, he tried to help. According to Akbar, he was then ordered back to his cell by a correctional officer, where he watched his fellow inmate die on the floor of the jail. “His name was Gilman, he was getting out in April,” explained Akbar. He claimed that once the officers arrived, it took them nearly half an hour to call the medical professionals.

While in prison, Akbar was subject to abuse himself. He claims that, while once being taken to the infirmary for an illness, the correctional officer groped him non-consensually. Akbar has also done multiple stints in solitary confinement, which has become the centerpiece of his activism. While in solitary confinement, he sketched the makeup of his cell; a group in Madison built the cell based on his sketch and has been touring around the state trying to expose the corruption within the Wisconsin correctional system, which made a stop at Beloit College in the fall of 2015. He says the corruption extends to much higher levels. He said some of the guards would often distribute the wrong medication to inmates. Whether or not the guards purposefully and maliciously distributed the wrong medication, or it was just negligence, Akbar stated that it needs to be changed.

While he was behind bars, he decided to put his time to good use. He has since become a paralegal, giving him a far better understanding of the legal system. Akbar hopes to use these skills to truly expose corruption in the system. In 1999, he tried to amend his sentence because he claimed that his sentence was extended without his knowledge. His sentence was changed from concurrent to consecutive without notifying him. His motion was denied, claiming the error did not lengthen his sentence and was a simple clerical error.

He also claims that the detective who investigated his case (name not given) had already decided his guilt, and overlooked evidence that could have potentially freed him. He had another friend who was investigated by the same detective during an appeal to be let out on parole. One of the last things his friend ever said to him was “I can’t go back to jail.” After an investigation by this detective, his friend committed suicide.

Akbar’s time in prison was, in his words, just a chapter of his life. He has many years ahead of him, during which he hopes to take time to continue to inform people about prison reform, to tell his stories and to enlighten people as to what’s really going on behind bars. “When you walk into prison, you lost control of all facets [of] life,” he says. That’s something he wants to change.

***************

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ITFO Newsletter

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

So How is The Book Writing Coming Along?

 

appreciation,

So how is the book writing coming along, “Inside The Forbidden Outside?” I have learned some very important things. as a new author. There is more that needs to be learned than I ever realized, especially about self-publishing vs publishing houses. There are pros and cons to both, and most likely getting a book contract isn’t going to happen, which you will learn after sending your manuscript to all the remaining houses. Self publishing has dug deep into the viability of regular publishing houses.  Many have closed and editors have been laid off. They don’t put the time and money into those they choose and you still have to do your own marketing in many areas.  But If you aren’t willing to learn how to market your book you are going to be begging your friends and family to buy it and give it away as gifts.

I am trying to learn the business end while I finish the writing or I will end up with a book and no one to sell it to. Just putting it up for sale on online sties like Amazon doesn’t get it sold.  Putting out a few Facebook notices and tweets isn’t enough, either. I realized that it was myself who put me on such a tight time schedule when I thought in the beginning how long it should take when I had no idea what i was talking about. So it is going to take longer than I had thought it would.

Inside The Forbidden Outside, writing new book, JamieCummings,solitary confinement, prison industrial complex, Sonni Quick
We can dream great dreams. “Inside The Forbidden Outside”

Sometimes I read something that makes me doubt myself.  Who am I to think I can do something that so few succeed at doing. Why do I think I am special? I said this to my mother the other day – a woman who against the odds is recuperating from a severe stroke. She said, “Never give up.You can never give up. That is why people fail.”  I see what she is doing.  She is my rock.  She has never given up on me.

The ITFO newsletter is being written to find the people who also believe in me.  Those that read what I write and leave me comments about what I am doing for Jamie – because this is what it all about.  I have to be successful for him because I believe in him. Help me help him. Share this newsletter and help me build my mailing list of people to tell when the book is done. When I am done it will be a good product. I have the first draft done and I’m doing my own first edit because I have learned a lot about writing since the beginning. Right now I am also reading and studying what other people have done who I have met along the way. If you have read my writings and want to help, then the best thing to do is share this – oh! I already said that!

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest
If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

What is There To Do in a Solitary Cell?

white guy stack of bksThink.  What else is there to do but think? What would you do if there was nothing to do, day after day after day? Time wouldn’t matter.  Would you care if breakfast was served at 3:30 in the morning in a room where the lights were on 24/7 and you were unfortunate enough to be in a room that had no window or if there was, there was nothing to see or it was to dirty to see anything. If there was no window would you even know what time it was?

Have you ever been sick and stuck in bed for a few days or a few weeks until you felt nuts if you couldn’t get out of there?  If you were stuck in a cell by yourself for a few years what would you do to keep yourself sane?  What would be the high points of your day?  Could it be that you hoped the guard wouldn’t be too lazy to take you for a shower, by yourself, handcuffed and shackled?

How would you feel if the day went by and you hoped and hoped for a letter that didn’t come? You sent out a few letters hoping the person on the other end would be compassionate enough to realize that you needed to have them write back and you waited and waited and tried to make yourself think maybe they moved or didn’t get the letter.  Maybe they didn’t have time to read it yet.white buy pulling paper

So you read a lot of books – if you can.  Where are these books supposed to come from? Not everyone is able to go to the library. Being in adseg doesn’t allow it. Some can get out of their cells every day and some can’t.  Is that their fault?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Being so alone really plays tricks with the mind.  It makes you angry.  It makes you sad.  It makes you cry.  It makes you want to give up – but you can’t.  All you can do hopefully cross one more day off your sentence so freedom is one day closer.

Unfortunately this is what usually happens to people stuck away in a prison for years.  People eventually go away. It happens to people who are sick, too.  Friends that used to call or come by once in awhile to see how you are gradually stop coming by.  They don’t know what to do.  They don’t know what to say.  They are uncomfortable.  They are uncomfortable.  They feel weird.  They go on with their lives and pretend you died.  It’s not their fault you are sick. Prison is the same.  They don’t want to be reminded of where you are.  It’s not their fault you are there and they tell you that.

What will happen with these people when you get out.  Will they want to give you a hug as though you have just returned home after taking a very long trip to another country?  Will they pretend everything is okay? Will they say,  “It isn’t important now, so let’s not talk about it?” Will they think you will be so glad to see them, and so grateful they took time out of their busy day to see you only when it is over that you will forget the years of silence and the begging to see them? Are you supposed to forgive them for never bringing your son to see his father? Is that possible?

Will they say, “Welcome back to the family.  Lets have a big family party,”and want to prepare your favorite foods to eat? What if you said you wanted pancakes and peanut butter because it was the only food you could think of, and they wouldn’t understand the irony of why you asked for those particular foods? He could never trust their intentions.

How would they feel if you said, “Who are you? I don’t know you. Go away.” Would it hurt their feelings? He hoped so. They never minded if they hurt his.  How does he treat his mother?  Can he forgive her?  She is his mother.  Not so fast.  He kept telling himself she did her best when he was a kid. But he hasn’t been a kid in a long time.  Has she been a mother to him when he has needed her as an adult, or are adult kids not supposed to ever need their mother?  He will always be there for his son? She needs to understand how it feels to be hurt by someone you thought loved you. He wants her to say she is sorry for being so thoughtless, and sorry for the lies.  He doesn’t think he will get it, though.  It hurts when you think your mother doesn’t love you  enough to even pretend.  Even if she says she loves him, she doesn’t love him enough to understand how he feels.  She doesn’t love him enough to help him.  Ten years is a long time.  He doesn’t know how he will handle this later. They have no right to be upset if he isn’t glad to see them.  He doesn’t know if he could be glad.  Oh well, he still has a long time to wait, but soon he will have only 1/3 of his time to go.

The last ten years and eight months have been a very long time. Absentee family in prison. Why? Even if his mother couldn’t physically make it in to see him it takes very little effort to write “I love you son” on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and put it in a mail. It might have brightened a very lonely day when he was feeling lonely.  So little could have done so much. She doesn’t even have to sell her food like he does to get a stamp  because he had to use the little bit of money he had left to buy deodorant so he wouldn’t stink in these very hot and sweaty cells with no air conditioning. Did she or anyone care about that?  Anyone but Sonni?

He hated to always have to ask her for money because he knows her disability check doesn’t leave her with much but she is the only one he can count on.  She always finds a way. She sends boxes of books so he can pass the time. A friend of hers has helped some, too, and she has also written some letters, but he hasn’t heard from her in awhile and doesn’t know why.

white guy red bkSo he reads, and in his fantasies he can be somewhere else for awhile.  He has routines he follows to get through the day. Some days he craves a hug.  To feel his arms around another human being.  The warmth. The rise and fall of breathing, feeling the heartbeat of another person. To give his son a hug for the very first time.  This is what keeps him going.

These men in here who have no one to love and no one to love them back.  At least he has that.  Now he has lived through another day. He waits for another letter.  Maybe he will be lucky today.

This is the first post I put on this blog in 2014. It will help you get to know Jamie a little better.

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

NPR -Investigations Into Prisons – Part 2

This is the second part of an interview on August 25 on the real conditions of Federal prisons for profit that most people are unaware exist. It’s time to bring this out in the open.

The way it was reported, like the way the release of 6000 Federal inmates released last year was reported, it gave you the feeling that it directly affected our own citizens, but really that percentage was very small.  CCA and GEO and others are prevalent through the state prisons as well as the Federal, but most of the inmates by far are in state prisons.  Everyone who has a friend or loved one in a prison knows exactly what these corporations do and have been fighting them for a long time. Lousy food, inadequate education if they give it at all, medical care that kills people and on and on. 

So these corporations have no had their wrists slapped. Stock temporarily took a hit, but they didn’t get hit where it hurts.  They need to be ousted from all of the prisons.  But which politicians are in bed with them?  that is what we need to know. Make the government do their job.  They can give lip service and say things like they know how bad it is but as long as they have contracts with these companies they can’t put their money where their mouth is. If they continue to renew contracts with them after this, they are letting themselves in for trouble from many people because then it becomes yet another line of bullshit about wanting to change the prison system and take care of the vast amount of people who have been given outrageous sentences or shouldn’t be in there in the first place – yet not actually do anything about it.

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DAVIES: Our guest today, Seth Freed Wessler is an investigative reporter who spent much of the past four years looking into conditions at the 13 privately operated prisons in the federal corrections system.

fair care for all
Enter a caption

Let’s talk about how this whole financial arrangement works and how it might connect to some of these issues. You know, a lot of the services that government provides aren’t provided by public employees. They’re done in private contracts.

You know, building roads – I mean, typically, private construction companies competitively bid for work. They complete it. It’s inspected. And they’re paid. Let’s talk about how it works for prisons. How does a contract typically work for a private prison?

It must be a big, expensive thing to build a prison. How long are the contracts? What are the provisions? What are the standards and the methods for making sure that the contractors live up to them?

WESSLER: So the Bureau of Prisons puts out calls for proposals when they want to open a new private prison. And a group of companies – at this point, really, only three companies – Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and a company called Management and Training Corporation bid for these contracts.

cca. prison corporations, prison industrial complex
photo source: correctionsproject.com

The contracts usually last about 10 years. And during that period of time, there are points when the Bureau of Prisons can decide whether to extend the contract further. One of the main reasons that the federal government decided to contract in the first place is that it believed that contractors could save money.

And there are real questions about whether that’s actually happened. But even if the prisons cost about the same, which is what research suggests, what’s different about private prisons from prisons run by governments is that – let’s say you’re spending – the government spends a hundred dollars per prisoner.

In a public prison, a prison run by the government, all of that money is going to the management of the facility. But in the context of private prisons, some of that money is profit for these companies. And so there is an incentive to cut down on costs.

And one of the most expensive parts of federal prisons – of prisons in general – is the operation of medical care. What I found in my reporting – interviewing people who worked inside these prisons – is that there was this sort of constant pressure to cut costs, a culture of austerity inside of these facilities.

I talked to an older doctor in his mid-80s, a man named John Farquhar, who worked for several years as the prison doctor in Big Spring Prison, a private facility in West Texas run by the GEO Group.

Just days after he arrived, took the job as the medical director of Big Spring, his corporate bosses arrived to tell him that they felt that they needed to cut down on the number of 911 calls made out of the prison because those calls cost too much money.

DAVIES: Those are cases where they need an ambulance to get someone to a higher level of care?

WESSLER: That’s right. You know, I came across this doctor because through Freedom of Information Act request, I obtained thousands of pages of medical records of men who had died in these facilities – 103 men who died inside of these facilities.

And in some of those records, I found notes from nurses or physician’s assistants and, in this case, from the physician. And in those notes, it was remarkable because not only was he appearing to provide sort of more care and a higher level of care than most of the other doctors in the facilities that I looked at were providing – that is, in facilities that had doctors at all.

But he left these sort of indignant notes behind about how upset he was about the quality of care that he was able to provide. He said in one note, this prisoner will almost certainly die.

This was in the context of a case where he had been trying to transfer somebody out to get care outside of the prison. And he was told by his corporate bosses that he wouldn’t be allowed to do that. In another note, he wrote, I feel badly for the shabby care.

Medical Treatment behind bars
photo source: prison.uk.blogspot.com

You know, this is a guy who clearly wanted to be providing higher-quality medical care. He’d been a doctor for decades. He’d been a military doctor. He’s now a doctor for the Veterans Administration in Texas. And he felt that these pressures to cut costs made that very difficult to do.

DAVIES: You know, I’m sure it’s not easy to get highly trained medical personnel to work in a prison system. It’s not the kind of environment most medical professionals would imagine working in. They’re often in remote places.

So there is going to be a difficulty, I think, in getting good-quality people to do that. And they’re probably going to have to pay more. Is that addressed at all when this arrangement was set up?

It’s simply going to – you’re going to have to spend some money – aren’t you? – to take care of literally thousands of people who can have health issues.

WESSLER: That’s right. You know, the Bureau of Prisons across the board has struggled to fully staff its medical units. And that’s especially a problem in rural areas where it’s hard to find doctors to come and work.

But there were facilities in my investigation that for months – nearly a year in some cases – had no medical doctor at all or who significantly understaffed their nursing departments for months and months at a time.

In fact, the Office of Inspector General from the Department of Justice found in a previous investigation that a prison called Reeves in West Texas, another GEO Group-run facility, was systematically understaffing its medical unit.

And only after the investigation did that begin to change. But the fact that it did change after the investigation suggests that it’s a problem that could be fixed and that the contractors weren’t fixing.

DAVIES: You know, you said that in these private prisons, which are for noncitizens – I mean, typically, illegal immigrants who were caught trying to re-enter the country – they’re designed to have fewer services – rehabilitative services, educational program, addiction counseling, mental health services.

But they are supposed to provide some standard of medical care and decent living conditions. And as with all government contracts, there’s a monitoring system, right?

Somebody’s supposed to come in regularly, examine the conditions, review records and see whether the public is getting what it’s paying for to these private companies. You looked at a lot of these monitoring reports. What did they show?

WESSLER: Well – so after the Bureau of Prisons set up this system of private facilities, it also set up what is really a pretty robust system of contract monitoring. So it hires a couple of people for each facility to actually be on-site and watch over what the facilities are doing.

And then every year or every six months, a group of monitors trained very specifically in subject areas go into these facilities to check to see if the prisons are following the terms of the contract. I obtained nearly   decade of these monitoring reports. And the reports show that for years, monitors documented deep and systemic problems in these facilities.

And the monitors would send these reports back to Washington. And what I found is that despite these ongoing problems, officials in Washington – contracting officials in Washington – didn’t impose the full fines or use their full enforcement muscle available to them to force changes inside of these facilities.

In fact, the Office of Inspector General report from the Department of Justice that came out recently found that when prisoners died inside of these facilities, and those deaths were connected to medical negligence – that the Bureau of Prisons didn’t have an effective way to force the companies to correct those problems. And so prisoners would die. And the problems would go on.

DAVIES: Now the contracts provided for specific monetary penalties, right? I mean, this is the way you build a contract. I mean, if you don’t deliver the service, you are penalized. And presumably for-profit providers would pay a lot of attention. As you looked at these records in cases where monitors said things are not working here, people are being endangered, do you have a sense of why financial penalties weren’t imposed? What led to those sets of decisions?

WESSLER: I interviewed a number of former Bureau of Prison monitors who were tasked with overseeing the operations and contracts of these facilities. And what I found was that on-the-ground monitors were proposing quite significant fines when things went wrong. So when a facility failed to provide prisoners with infectious disease care or a prisoner died as a result of not receiving the kind of medical care that they needed that the onsite monitors would ask the Bureau of Prisons in Washington to impose significant fines.

DAVIES:  Let’s talk about how this whole financial arrangement works and how it might connect to some of these issues. You know, a lot of the services that government provides aren’t provided by public employees. They’re done in private contracts.

You know, building roads – I mean, typically, private construction companies competitively bid for work. They complete it. It’s inspected. And they’re paid. Let’s talk about how it works for prisons. How does a contract typically work for a private prison?

It must be a big, expensive thing to build a prison. How long are the contracts? What are the provisions? What are the standards and the methods for making sure that the contractors live up to them?

WESSLER: So the Bureau of Prisons puts out calls for proposals when they want to open a new private prison. And a group of companies – at this point, really, only three companies – Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group and a company called Management and Training Corporation bid for these contracts.

The contracts usually last about 10 years. And during that period of time, there are points when the Bureau of Prisons can decide whether to extend the contract further. One of the main reasons that the federal government decided to contract in the first place is that it believed that contractors could save money.

And there are real questions about whether that’s actually happened. But even if the prisons cost about the same, which is what research suggests, what’s different about private prisons from prisons run by governments is that – let’s say you’re spending – the government spends a hundred dollars per prisoner.

In a public prison, a prison run by the government, all of that money is going to the management of the facility. But in the context of private prisons, some of that money is profit for these companies. And so there is an incentive to cut down on costs.

And one of the most expensive parts of federal prisons – of prisons in general – is the operation of medical care. What I found in my reporting – interviewing people who worked inside these prisons – is that there was this sort of constant pressure to cut costs, a culture of austerity inside of these facilities.

I talked to an older doctor in his mid-80s, a man named John Farquhar, who worked for several years as the prison doctor in Big Spring Prison, a private facility in West Texas run by the GEO Group.

Just days after he arrived, took the job as the medical director of Big Spring, his corporate bosses arrived to tell him that they felt that they needed to cut down on the number of 911 calls made out of the prison because those calls cost too much money.

DAVIES: Those are cases where they need an ambulance to get someone to a higher level of care?

WESSLER: That’s right. You know, I came across this doctor because through Freedom of Information Act request, I obtained thousands of pages of medical records of men who had died in these facilities – 103 men who died inside of these facilities.

And in some of those records, I found notes from nurses or physician’s assistants and, in this case, from the physician. And in those notes, it was remarkable because not only was he appearing to provide sort of more care and a higher level of care than most of the other doctors in the facilities that I looked at were providing – that is, in facilities that had doctors at all.

But he left these sort of indignant notes behind about how upset he was about the quality of care that he was able to provide. He said in one note, this prisoner will almost certainly die.

This was in the context of a case where he had been trying to transfer somebody out to get care outside of the prison. And he was told by his corporate bosses that he wouldn’t be allowed to do that. In another note, he wrote, I feel badly for the shabby care.

You know, this is a guy who clearly wanted to be providing higher-quality medical care. He’d been a doctor for decades. He’d been a military doctor. He’s now a doctor for the Veterans Administration in Texas. And he felt that these pressures to cut costs made that very difficult to do.

DAVIES: You know, I’m sure it’s not easy to get highly trained medical personnel to work in a prison system. It’s not the kind of environment most medical professionals would imagine working in. They’re often in remote places.

So there is going to be a difficulty, I think, in getting good quality people to do that. And they’re probably going to have to pay more. Is that addressed at all when this arrangement was set up?

It’s simply going to – you’re going to have to spend some money – aren’t you? – to take care of literally thousands of people who have health issues.

WESSLER: That’s right. You know, the Bureau of Prisons across the board has struggled to fully staff its medical units. And that’s especially a problem in rural areas where it’s hard to find doctors to come and work.

But there were facilities in my investigation that for months – nearly a year in some cases – had no medical doctor at all or who significantly understaffed their nursing departments for months and months at a time.

In fact, the Office of Inspector General from the Department of Justice found in a previous investigation that a prison called Reeves in West Texas, another GEO Group-run facility, was systematically under-staffing its medical unit.

And only after the investigation did that begin to change. But the fact that it did change after the investigation suggests that it’s a problem that could be fixed and that the contractors weren’t fixing.

DAVIES: You know, you said that in these private prisons, which are for non-citizens. I mean, typically, illegal immigrants who were caught trying to re-enter the country – they’re designed to have fewer services – rehabilitative services, educational program, addiction counseling, mental health services.

But they are supposed to provide some standard of medical care and decent living conditions. And as with all government contracts, there’s a monitoring system, right?

Somebody is supposed to come in regularly, examine the conditions, review records and see whether the public is getting what it’s paying for to these private companies. You looked at a lot of these monitoring reports. What did they show?

WESSLER: Well – so after the Bureau of Prisons set up this system of private facilities, it also set up what is really a pretty robust system of contract monitoring. So it hires a couple of people for each facility to actually be on-site and watch over what the facilities are doing.

And then every year or every six months, a group of monitors trained very specifically in subject areas go into these facilities to check to see if the prisons are following the terms of the contract. I obtained nearly a decade of these monitoring reports. And the reports show that for years, monitors documented deep and systemic problems in these facilities.

And the monitors would send these reports back to Washington. And what I found is that despite these ongoing problems, officials in Washington – contracting officials in Washington – didn’t impose the full fines or use their full enforcement muscle available to them to force changes inside of these facilities.

In fact, the Office of Inspector General report from the Department of Justice that came out recently found that when prisoners died inside of these facilities, and those deaths were connected to medical negligence – that the Bureau of Prisons didn’t have an effective way to force the companies to correct those problems. And so prisoners would die. And the problems would go on.

DAVIES: Now the contracts provided for specific monetary penalties, right? I mean, this is the way you build a contract. I mean, if you don’t deliver the service, you are penalized. And presumably for-profit providers would pay a lot of attention. As you looked at these records in cases where monitors said things are not working here, people are being endangered, do you have a sense of why financial penalties weren’t imposed? What led to those sets of decisions?

WESSLER: I interviewed a number of former Bureau of Prison monitors who were tasked with overseeing the operations and contracts of these facilities. And what I found was that on-the-ground monitors were proposing quite significant fines when things went wrong. So when a facility failed to provide prisoners with infectious disease care or a prisoner died as a result of not receiving the kind of medical care that they needed that the onsite monitors would ask the Bureau of Prisons in Washington to impose significant fines.

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