Depression, Chronic Illness and Solitary Confinement

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I’m not a professional so I can’t say for sure I know what I’m talking about. I only have my own observations of people who suffer from depression and also the what I’ve read. Depression is very real and it can be debilitating. My intention is not to make anyone uncomfortable or make light of their situation. I am only trying to understand something I don’t experience except on rare times when life temporarily gets overwhelming.

I’ve read the blogs of many people who suffer from depression and other chronic illnesses. Reading experiences is a best way to understand what they go through rather than only reading medical articles.

We all have deep sadness sometimes, and it can go on for a long time before we get a grip on it. Something happens to us sometimes we can’t find a place in our brains to put it, so it is always right in the front part of our thinking and it can stop us from living.

I’ve had times when I was down. It happened more when I very sick but I would find a way to pull myself out of it. The teachings from my practice of Buddhism gives me hope. I’m sure people of other faiths rely on their faith as well. I could that but sometimes people can’t.

Jamie has suffered suffered from depression since he was a child. Would it have been different if he didn’t have epilepsy that resulted in seizures from birth to present day? How does it feel knowing it will never stop unless science comes up with a cure?

How does a child deal with a hopelessness?  Do people think, “He’s only a kid.  He’ll snap out of it?”  Jamie doesn’t like to talk about it. It took a long time for me to understand  what it did to the relationships in his life with family and friends. It knocked his self worth down to nothing. Writing about it brings it back. He prefers to keep it locked away. It will have to be his choice to unlock it. Maybe talking about it could help but it is not my decision to make.

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I know there are different kinds of seizures and they affect people in different ways. It must be a dreadful feeling to know one is starting and it can’t be stopped. There is nothing you can do. Is there a feeling of embarrassment, not wanting to show what you think is your personal failing to other people? Do they talk about you behind your back, laughing, if they wanted to be cruel or even feeling sorry for you like you are a broken. It has been this way for him since before he even knew what it was.

I asked him if he could explain to me what it felt like. He wouldn’t, really couldn’t tell me. To write about it in detail would be like reliving it. It was too much for him. It was then that I finally realized that epilepsy was the underlying factor for everything. If this one biological thing had been different it would have changed everything in his life, but it couldn’t be changed. He tells me when he has another seizure and he tells me if it was bad enough to be taken to a real hospital or if the guards just let him lay there because they don’t want to do the paperwork. The prison is messing with his meds and won’t give him what he knows will work so the seizures are more frequent than necessary. But he doesn’t go into detail about the seizure itself. We do what we need to do to protect ourselves.

Would talking about it begin a healing process? Not to change epilepsy itself, but would it change what it does psychologically? I don’t know, but I do think that years of stuffing it down has caused insecurity that is easily rattled and it begins another episode of depression he can’t stop. Being completely alone in a cell with no one talk to makes it worse.

When that happens if he feels it is hopeless why should he even try to go on. No one will bring his son to see him unless I go to Texas. Family, his son, and my daughter all live in Texas within a couple hours of the prison.  Has anyone else made one trip to this prison? No.  In the past ten years he’s been locked is he not worth visiting, even when they learned he also has problems with his heart? No. I don’t have enough money to go often enough.

His family ignores him. He recently tried again and wrote to them – with no response. Would that make you depressed on top of everything else? The total lack of caring makes me angry beyond words. He sold his food for stamps because he couldn’t go to the commissary. Not meaning to make it worse for him, I waited too long to answer his last letter because of everything else I’m writing and he began thinking I was gone. I left him. I was mad at him. He thought he did something wrong. He has lost the one person who has been there for him nonstop all these years. I’ve been his rock and it was like I died. It sank him into a depression where he stopped eating and used sleep to escape.

He wrote a letter and poured out all the pain he was feeling, convincing himself it was all his fault. I felt horrible. But that day, after he wrote and sent that letter, he received my ten page letter. Because of things happening in my life it took about a week to write it –  in pieces. Sometimes I think he’s stronger than he is. Is it because I want him to be stronger?

I do know, and always have known, if I had never written that first letter he would not have made it this far. My daughter would still not be taking their son to see him. He is supposed to understand how hard it is on her yet she doesn’t understand the power she has to destroy him – or to make him happy. She doesn’t want for him to be happy – because of me. She’s angry at me for being there for him. His family would also still not be in his life. No one would be paying his medical fee, so his care would be even worse than it is. Medical care is not free.  I’m on disability.  It takes me months to pay off the fee and still have enough for a few basic necessities. He still would have no one who cared if he was okay. It doesn’t matter that Jamie’s son needs his father. Not “a” father – but his own father.  If I wasn’t there his depression would have destroyed him –  completely.

jamie cummings
Father on the left and son on the right – both eight years old.

His mother had him in therapy as a child and other times in his young life. It didn’t begin in prison. Because there is literally no help for those in prison who need it, when an inmate is locked up alone it often causes harm that can’t be undone. There are so many articles in the media about what happens to the mentally ill in prison and no one can seem to change it. Jamie is not mentally ill, but he does need people who care about him. He does NOT need to be made worse because the people in his life think he’s not worth their time of day.

He’s a big man, 6’2″. He is physically strong. He looks like he should be strong. But no one can see inside his head to find the scotch tape piecing him together. My daughter is very angry with me because she said I’m not allowing her to “let him go,” as if I’m doing this to her. She said my relationship with Jamie is gross. She’s angry at things I don’t even understand because it makes no sense. There aren’t any sides to take even though I feel as though I am supposed to take one. What is there to choose? She is my daughter. I love her and always will, but to do this will not make her happy. 

I don’t know why she is so angry except maybe this makes her look at things she doesn’t want to see. Jamie has asked only one thing of her – one thing.  To see his son.  He loves him.  Being a father gives him purpose when he doesn’t feel he has any.  It is not a big thing he asks.  My daughter does so much for her children.  She is a good mom – except for this.  It’s too much trouble to do this one thing. Give up an afternoon and let their son spend son time with his father.  Don’t do to your son what your father did to you – ignore you.

When Jamie got my ten page and realized I hadn’t left him – I was still there – he immediately wrote another letter and apologized. I can’t take for granted he will understand if I wait too long to write. Do any of us thoroughly understand what it is like to spend years locked away from all communication – away from people? We can’t. We have never been through it, let alone for ten years. There are inmates who are locked up for three or four decades. Are they supposed to come out of that okay? Did it accomplish anything good or productive? No. It’s cruel.  I will NOT be cruel and give up on him because I know there is a reason for me being there.  I see in him what he is capable of.  And I won’t let him give up on himself.  It is not an option.

I will continue to try, to learn, and help others if I can. This isn’t about me. It is about how I can use my life in a positive way. If anyone else doesn’t understand that I can’t make them understand. Sooner or later his family and I will meet eye to eye. I can’t promise to keep my mouth shut.

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The Most Violent Prison Documentary

This is interesting.  It follows the lives of several prisoners and also the prison guards who have to keep everyone safe. I had never seen a prison like this one.  It is round with many tiers of cells.  You can look up from the inside and see layer upon inmates layer guard tower is in the middle.  These inmates seldom leave their cells. This is an unusual style of prison and totally unlike any Jamie has been in. The thought of having to live the rest of life there would be a horrible thought.

It is evident, though, listening to the inmates talk, the one thing that keeps the minds of the men in one piece,  and also keeps violence at a minimum are the visits they get from the outside.  When inmates are moved out of the range of family there is an escalation of violence and also depression.

Quite often men (I don’t know if this holds true as much for women), lose their relationships when they go to prison. More so if it is a girlfriend, not a wife. Some women can’t handle the time they will be gone. Life goes on. But sometimes a man finds a girlfriend while incarcerated that starts out as a pen pal. These relationships can be insecure. If the woman starts missing visits or goes to long without writing there is fear they’ve lost her even though nothing had been said. If they can’t call and reassure themselves it can become a major loss – until their next communication. You will see that with one man in the video who is very much in love with a woman who didn’t make a visit. There is also the fear they will be moved to a far away prison out of range to visit.

The food is often rotten.  One inmate showed the camera the food that had just been delivered to him.  There was, among other things like macaroni salad, two pieces of baloney that were turning green.  It was inedible.  Why is it that there is no oversight of the food they are served? You wouldn’t feed your dog this food.

The inmate with the tattoos all over his face is not someone who will most likely never see life outside of prison.  To mutilate yourself like that would mean you had no hope, but I don’t know his story.  But to look at him tells me that his problems started at a very young life.

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My Son Has Only One Father – Me. Boyfriends Don’t Count

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

I wish I had a newer picture to use to show you of Jamie and his son, but when we visited they weren’t taking pictures that day.  They only do it the first weekend of each month. The trade-off is that we were there for father’s day and that meant a lot to Jamie. He told me, “You live so far away yet you are the only one who cared enough to bring see my son to see me.  I’ll never forget that.”

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Dear mom,                                                                                                                               July 25, 2016    

       Here it is yet another day, after another day. Will they bring me pancakes again today?  We’ve already had pancakes four times this week. Sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes with applesauce and sometimes with shaved pineapple along with oatmeal.

       Well, just so you know, I did write to my uncle, the parole officer in Dallas that I stayed with a long time ago when I was teenager, the year I was in 9th grade. My mom thought I would do better out there. I started the letter off doing something I never did before. I thanked him and his wife for wanting to give me a chance at a new start in life, even though I turned down his offer to stay and went home after I did the year. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I had stayed there and not gone back to Nacogdoches. I should have stayed. But as you have said, karma is karma.  There are causes we have made in the past that have to have their effects.  I understand that more. I asked him for addresses of family and asked how everyone was doing. I gave him the info about where I was and told him to give it to my mother. Maybe she doesn’t know where I am and that is why I haven’t heard from her. I always want to give excuses because I don’t want to believe reality.

      I told him about our visit and you bringing my son to see me. I told him how much I enjoyed it. I also sent him an up to date picture of Jamie. It angers me that Jamie don’t get to see more of my family. Anyway, I almost got mad just thinking about it. Come to think about it, that’s what happens most of the time when I write Megan. I  get mad and  just go off. I would ask her why the hell I couldn’t see my son? I would just start speaking my mind to her about her not bringing him. It hasn’t been fair. He’s my son, too. She didn’t make him by herself.

       She promised me a long time ago she’d be there and bring him and she broke her promise. She wrote back and said to stop talking shit. Yes, I would talk shit. He is my son! He is not her boyfriend’s son. He is not my son’s father and never will be. I know she’s telling him to call her boyfriend dad but Jamie knows who is father is. My son loves me and he has a father who loves him but has to go through hell and back because his mother is selfish and doesn’t think of that. I have tried in the past to be positive but it just gets to me. I think I have a right to let it get to me. All I ever got were excuses why she couldn’t come.

        I’m sorry about that. I got carried away. It hurts. And it hurts because he never gets to see any of my family. But they haven’t tried to see him, either. I wish Megan and my family talked. I know she talked to my brother but I know my brother doesn’t care about me.  He made that clear.

       I only have 4 stamps. I’ve been selling my lunch trays. I’m going to write my grandmother and my cousin. Hopefully, I can go to commissary at the end of August. We’re still on lockdown, but they let some other dudes go, so maybe I can go.

       Right now I’m a level three.  I am only allowed to by hygiene and stamps, paper and pen at the commissary.  No food. If you could send me an ecomm box with bags of coffee; they are $2.15 and fruit and mint sticks that are .10 each, I can trade them for stamps.  The dudes in here sure do like their sweets.  I can get a stamp for just 2 sticks. Less than the price of a stamp in the commissary. Also soap if you can.  I can trade for things with soap.  I also need deodorant and toothpaste and some chips and soup if you can. I have to pay the inmate worker in stamps for him to get it for me.  Stamps are currency.  But it is how we get the things we need if we can’t go to commissary or if they won’t let us buy it.

      (Sonni’s note: Jamie is allowed again to get what is called an ecomm box.  Four times a year he can get a box worth $60.  It can be spread over several months if he wants. I can send food he can keep in his cell for times the unit is put on lockdown or he is unable to go to the commissary.)

       I must say you are the busiest person I know with all the things you do.  I don’t know how you do it.  Your birthday is coming up.  I hope you and Mike go out and do something nice for yourselves.  Take a walk. Enjoy the air.  Do the things I can’t do.  Say hello to your mom and tell her I am chanting for her, too. You are good to your mom, especially after her stroke.  I know it is going to add more work to your day when she comes home and you are willing to be there. That is the way kids should treat their mom, but no everyone does.  I know your told me about how your one sister treats her and she should be ashamed. You should never disrespect your mom. How you treat people comes back at you.  I knew that even before Buddhism but I didn’t know how to understand it. It is the way I would like to treat my mom, but I never see her and she doesn’t care how I’m doing.  That is really messed up. But for Jamie, when I get out I will be the best dad I can be and no one can stop me.

        I was a boy when I came in here, but I’m not a boy anymore.  I will be there for him.

       Lots of love to you, too, for being there for me when I needed you.  Anyone would be lucky to have you for a mom – Jamie

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A Prison Sentence is Like Dying

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Inside The Forbidden Outside by Sonni Quick. Copyright 2016

I’ve had many hours – years really – to try to understand how an inmate can lose an entire family who walks away from him as completely as if he had died. In the beginning, having no knowledge, I didn’t realize how many inmates lose their family when they are inside. I don’t know how different it is between men and women inmates.

I know that one man went for ten years before his mother would speak to him. He also never saw any of his family until this past year. It was hard but he accepted it. Being on death row they may have have seen it as a death so what was the point of seeing him if they could never bees a family? I am only guessing.

But my most in depth knowledge now is how prison has affected Jamie and caused his family to give up on him. He gave up long ago trying to understand if he mattered to them. What was the point? Did anyone ever follow through with anything they said? Did anyone care that their total absence was slowly killing him? There could be no trust ever again. Did it matter to them or did they think it was all his fault? Are they going to want a relationship with this stranger they no nothing for when he gets out?

I know it hurts him to talk about it. I hear the pain in his words. Whoever he was all those years ago – the boy – he isn’t that boy any longer. And they are no longer the people they were, either. When he gets out what will his mother do? What will she expect – anything? Will he have risen from the dead? The only person who matters to him – is his ten year old son.

Many inmates have no one, never did have anyone. Many came from foster care and never connected with anyone like family. How do they ever have a family? How do you create something you never had? The recidivism rate is very high for these people. They want a better life but don’t know how. I am teaching Jamie to have the confidence only he can. His life has value. No one had hope for them in the past so they have no hope for themselves now.

All these years I have spent being there for him – the only one who cared for him these past ten years, watching him grow from a boy to a man, seeing the person his family left for dead – a man they will later say they made a mistake and now they want a piece of him.

The ITFO Newsletter

I am dead serious about the book I’m writing. I sincerely thank those who have supported me. I especially thank Leah who has helped Jamie so much because my money is tight. She helps with food so I can buy books for him and advertising. It will also take money to edit and do book cover art.

I’m studying to do the best I can on a limited budget. This book on his life he will use to help others. As I write, the mailing list I develop is crucial as I tell people what is happening by sending out the ITFO Newsletter – the first letters of the title of the book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside” Each issue has information that touches his life. This next issue going out the end of the week has an article about epilepsy, which he has-written by a WordPress blogger. Also an article from another blogger about Black Lives Matter, New music I’ve recorded plus much more, to make it interesting and something you will want to share.

It’s important to sign up for the newsletter if you can – if you think you’d open it and share it, because stats matter. It is also how people will know when and where they can purchase the book. Sharing the newsletter on facebook and other social media is important because facebook just made it even harder for people to see posts from business pages.  

FACEBOOK’S NEWEST ALGORITHM

The new facebook algorithm that changed again and will not let you see my posts if you have no activity on it. It is no longer good enough to like a page. If there is no activity by the user they will not put my posts on your time line because they only put posts from pages you go to. This doesn’t affect what you see from friends and family. Less than 2% will see my post in their timeline – unless I pay them every day -or you at least sometimes go to the page and leave a mark you were there by liking or commenting or.or sharing. It didn’t used to be like that. But now, if you have a second page you have to pay or have attendance by people who like you. I understand. They need more billions from the  little guy. You can believe I’m going back to pages I’ve liked but haven’t been to hardly at all to put activity on their pages. We have to help each other.

So I’m asking you to help – not every day – but to help me when you can. Doing some kind of activity or sharing. It keeps my posts near the top of the timeline instead of the bottom and sharing my post here on your facebook page will be some of the best help you can give me to develop my mailing list and then sell a book that will help Jamie’s life. This won’t be the last book.

THANK YOU   THANK YOU.  THANK YOU

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Why is a Half White, Half Black Person Always Called Black?

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photo source: abagond.wordpress.com

As more years go by the races become more mixed.  Really there aren’t many people who are entirely one race anymore.  Most whites are a combination of at least several different white races.  I am English, German, Irish  and Welsh, maybe more.  But it changes when the races are mixed with dark skin.  Then any other country involved in the DNA disappears and they become just black.  Obama is half white, but people don’t refer to him as white, even though is skin is lighter because of his whiteness. He is only black.  He isn’t our first mixed race president, he is our first black president.  This way the racists have more to feel negative about.  So the white part of him is never talked about.  His daughters are 1/4 white.  Does that not count either?  Does being mixed mean nothing?

Two of my grandsons are half black and half white, with a small part of American Indian, English, Irish, German and Welsh. Doesn’t that count?  Are they only black?  One has lighter skin and one doesn’t.  Jamie has his father’s skin and hair.  I have a half white and half black teenage granddaughter.  Her black side is half African and half Island black.  Her skin is fairly light and has beautiful curly, not kinky hair.  I remember that her mother wanted so much for her to be white.  She had white dolls, not black dolls.  I have another grandson that has enough Hispanic in him that if he is with any number of races he can pass for them.  Now all of my grandchildren have the same percentage of Chactaw Indian in them, too, which is very evident in my daughter because she takes after her grandmother, who isn’t full blood Indian.  It was her grandmother.  But some races are more dominant when the genes are passed.  The black race is very strong genetically; stronger than the white race and so is American Indian.

I have also seen mixed race couples have twins and one comes out white and one comes out black.  What are these kids called, because they both have the same genetics? will one girl have a harder life without the same privileges as the white sister?  How do the introduce them without getting weird looks from people? This is my white daughter and this is my black daughter? How can one daughter have racism directed at her and her blond haired twin have a privileged life – unless she met someone, for any reason who couldn’t handle that there was black blood in her – perhaps the parents of a possible spouse because there would be a pretty good likelihood that she could have a black baby.  OMG!  And there are people who would think that way.

mixed race twins
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I don’t care if my grandchildren represent multiple races, I refer to them as my grandchildren. But when I show pictures of them to people and I clarify that they are my grandchildren I can see the look they give because it is obvious they are black. but what if I chose to introduce them as my white grandchildren, because they are, after all, just as white as they are black, and Jamie, who is the darkest of the three could very well have white children, too.

To me, the entire subject of racism is absurd because as the years go by it will get harder to separate people by their race.  All of the ugly things white (privileged) people say; like black people are dumber, but it’s not their fault, it’s in their genes (or lack of decent schools and teachers) or that black people have a higher tendency to be criminals or black people do more drugs (statistically proven to be untrue) or black people want more handouts because they are lazy and all the rest of these things that are printed so white people can continue to believe they have a right to be privileged. If black people succeed I often read it is because it was given to them, bot that they earned it.  The horrible things said about Malia Obama when she was accepted at Harvard is a perfect example.

So where is it all going?  I’m in the middle of writing a letter to Jamie at prison.  He wrote to me about the limited information they get about things on the news and wanted to know what was really going on.  I told him, “When you get out, the world will not be what you remember.  You have lived on the outside so little since you were a young boy, so what you remember doesn’t apply to what is happening now.”

That uncertainty must bother him not knowing what he will have to deal with – and knowing so many people are going to be hostile.  The world is changing and not necessarily for the good.  He will have to treat life so carefully to not end up back inside. He won’t have to intend to do anything wrong for someone to take it as such.  He knows that from dealing with the institution inside the gray walls he is locked up in right now. He doesn’t have to do anything to find himself in the wrong.

Yes, I know he is very aware of being racially targeted.  That is how he ended up locked up in the first place.  And being racially targeted, even in juvenile detention,. where being called a nigger by white staff was not unusual.  Of course, a teenager is going to have a temper when he is lied to repeatedly.  Solitary confinement was used liberally to teach these niggers how to behave. No one was going to believe his side of any story.  Black teens grow up knowing they will be lied to, lied about, and will always come out on the wrong end of the stick no matter what they say or do. White people have absolutely no idea what having to live like that is like.  Maybe if they did they would learn not to judge so quickly. White people are NOT special people.  They have just fooled themselves into thinking they are.

Because racism is through the roof with cops, black people  have to worry still about getting killed. Don’t get indignant and insist it isn’t true. It is not the white people who have to fear for their lives from the cops in the same way. Do I have to worry about my grandsons?  Does Jamie have to worry about his half white son. Will my other grandson have to worry have to worry?  Will this boy’s father have to worry? My daughter isn’t worried because she is teaching them respect, but who is teaching the cops to have respect?  I don’t see that happening.  Who is teaching the judges to have respect who refuse to convict a cop when he murders yet another dark skinned person and uses the phrase, “I was afraid for my life, so I thought I’d better shoot him in the back before he turns around and tries to hurt me with the gun he isn’t carrying. Statistics about cop killing people have not been gathered in any kind of consistent manner until now.  It is being fought for now. We need to know what is happening.

WHEN JAMIE IS RELEASED FROM PRISON

When Jamie gets out of prison, what will his world look like?  How will he be treated?  This hate that has been unleashed by Donald Trump who has whipped up his supporters into a frenzy of hate has made it okay for people to take matters into their own hands and shoot people they think is okay to shoot.  When I think back to the history of Germany, did the German people just wake up one day and hate Jews?  No. They had a leader who worked them and blamed them.  He told his white Christian followers they were the privileged chosen race that God intended and he was such a devout Christian.  Religion was used to pit people against people.  This is what is happened with the Christians in this country.  They are special.  God loves them.  Trump tells them over and over that hate is good.  How do we put hate back in the bottle after the election?

Jamie wants to have a good life. Will he be allowed? He wants to help others to not have a life behind bars.  He wants to be a father to his son.  He wants to go to school.  He wants a chance. Will he have that chance? Will the United States come to it’s senses before it reaches a point where it is impossible before it ruins my family, and many other families. It took a long time for me to understand what it meant to not be white.  I didn’t know I had privileges that everyone didn’t have.  I didn’t know I was “special”.  I didn’t feel special, but the cops know I’m special.  Growing up I knew I was different, but I didn’t know it came with privileges.  That only makes me feel shame that some of my grandchildren are not privileged like me.  It should make you feel shame, too.

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Picking Up Broken Pieces Inside AdSeg

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June 3rd, 2016

Hello mom,
I received your letter today and boy, that sure was one long letter. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can. I will also give you my true thoughts. I’ve really been sitting and thinking about my future. So many things just pop into my head, even when I don’t want to think about it. Please know that I’m okay. Sometimes I just go into a shell to get away. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m fine, okay, so don’t worry.

(Sonni’s note: But I do worry. No matter how strong someone may think they are, if you spend time in solitary for an extended period of time you can’t help but be affected by it. Sometimes you have a grip on your head when you’re alone and sometimes you don’t, and it gets to you. I have studied extensively the effects of solitary. Unless you have been there no one can know – including myself, what it is like to go weeks, months and years with no one but yourself to communicate with. No physical touch, no words except orders, no one to talk to about these things in your head.

I had a few rather callous conversations with people who don’t understand and are quick to place blame. “It’s his own fault. He put himself there.” Nobody blamed anyone else, so why are they so quick to make sure you know that. Strangers and family. They think, he is in prison, he shouldn’t be making any mistakes, so it’s his fault. Don’t you think he know that? Do you think he should have learned to behave 100% of the time and never give in to emotions.. The inmate must never forget they are to blame.

Jamie has had some very tough times this last ten plus years – for a variety of reasons – some are because of things he has done and some are because of retaliation from prison guards who have let their authority go to their heads and there are no repercussions for the things they do to inmates. They think, even if he is being continually mistreated, he is supposed to remain calm and don’t contradict guards when they accuse him of doing something he didn’t do. Jamie fills out grievances that are never filed. He is carried down a flight of stairs face first with the guards hooking their arms through the cuffs on his wrists and ankles after having a seizure, because the guards are too lazy to get the board he is to be carried on, strapped on his side in case he has another seizure. . . . .

But he is not to get mad? He is supposed to stay in control and be polite no matter what they do to him? But he is a human being. We all have emotions. Even with an animal, if you treat him bad often enough he is going too bite you. So here we have a human being – someone I know very well and he is expected to do something you yourself would not able to do. You might think you could, but you couldn’t.

Someone said to me, “But you would think by now, after ten years, he would have learned!” Does that mean, no matter what is done to him he is supposed to stand there and not react in any way, always staying polite. Never should he ever reach the point where he can’t take it anymore. Maybe he should crawl into his head so far that he can’t find his way to normalcy when he gets out? How is he supposed to interact with other people when it’s been driven into him that who he is, what he thinks and how he feels really has no importance.

I tell him constantly his life has value. He won’t have a clue what to do when he gets out, but no one who knows him will have much patience with that. They won’t help because they have no clue what solitary confinement is and they will expect that since he is a grown man he should know what to do. Honestly, no one gives a damn what happens to him. He is going to have to prove himself to them before they trust him enough to even be nice. Why should he have to do that?

If he had been a drug addict or a violent person who hurt someone or had a string of convictions that says this guy is trouble – stay away from him; I could understand their skepticism. Except for this, he has not one conviction on his record. Was he perfect? No, but then neither was I. I did things in my youth that could have gotten me prison time had I got caught. I know lots of things people who didn’t get caught for things they did. Have I made them prove themselves to me? I’d like to flush his family down the toilet.

When I read his letters there are times when I can tell he’s in trouble – not physically, but mentally. He tries to stay strong in his letters to me. But he will also apologize to me when he thinks something happened and he should have been in better control. It’s okay. tomorrow is another day. Start over and focus again on your future. Imagine where you’ll be and the
things you want to do. What have you learned that can help other people

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

I’ve been asked, “Why is he back in ad seg again. What did he do?” He probably reached the end of his rope one day and got angry. You aren’t allowed to get angry. Everyone single person has gotten angry and yelled at someone. What if you weren’t allowed to ever get angry and you had to push it down deep inside. Could you do it and NEVER fail? You would just quiet your mind and not react – month after month after month? No, you couldn’t, and then they would give you more time in adseg. It is a lose/lose situation
Many inmates spend years locked up alone. They never get out. How does the prison do it, because it is against the law now to punish someone with more than fifteen days of solitary? By creating more cases. It takes a long time to get out of the lower classifications of prison. Solitary, ad seg (G5) and often G4. If the guards can’t find a way to sentence you with more time, they will just make something up. Do you think they wouldn’t do that? The more people that are locked up like that, the less they have to do. If you were paid what guards were paid you wouldn’t want to do much, either. Besides, they have to endure heat, too. But they get to go home at the end of the day. Still, it’s s sucky job, so amuse yourself and go pick on some inmates. No one will care. Guards stick together just like cops.)
I got a letter from someone who reads your blog. She said her son just got 20 years. She asked me for some pointers. I told her that family support is very important. ( something his own family will never understand) I also gave her some do’s and don’ts to give to her son. She said she was thinking about getting him an attorney, one who used to be a felon. Bad move. I told her to be careful. Make sure he works for a firm so he is legit. Some are just out to get your money because you are vulnerable.

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

biz card
Beware this picture is 30 years old!

So you want to play gigs again. Really! that sounds cool. I think you still have what it takes. I’m sure you are asking yourself, how could I say that? I’ve never heard you play. Passion. It’s because you have a lot of passion and I know that must be in your music. I know you can do it. Go ahead and start gigs again and do something for me while you do it. Enjoy yourself. That’s all for now. I’ll be waiting on you.

(Listen to this piece – really listen to it. Close your eyes.  Put your head back . Tell me what it means to you. Can you tell me what I’m saying?.

I had quit writing music about twelve years ago. I had no more reason to write. I had convinced myself my years of playing professionally were over. I was still teaching, but i played with headphones on so no one would accidentally hear me. I was told my playing might bother people.  I had also been sick for a long time and couldn’t sit up for long. I had nothing to write about. As I began this blog I wanted to play music again. As I healed I started playing my piano more and more. Something had changed, though.  My entire thought process for writing had become something else.  I stopped writing songs and crawled into the music. I started out writing music for Jamie. Music is emotional. Going through these years of keeping him going brought something into my music that wasn’t there before. Now, probably only one day a week, I want to find a nice piano bar or restaurant that would like beautiful music in the background. My days of fronting a band are long over. Now, as you see posts that have music on them you will understand a little more why I insert them.)

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Defining Black Lives Matter – Part 1

I have been trying to find the right words to explain “Black Lives Matter” to people who have missed the point completely – often deliberately because they don’t want to appear to anyone that they do understand. You can’t keep up the hateful offensive rhetoric if you understand. Please go to the original blog post and read why this was important enough to reblog her post.

I think some white people want to stay openly hostile to impress their friends that they can say racist things as well. White people don’t want to appear sympathetic to blacks. I am appalled by people I know, even family members, who deliberatelly misunderstand the meaning of Black Lives Matter.

Even those who know the years I have put into researching and understanding the racial divide, have a mocking tone to their voice when they say I support Black Lives Matter like it’s some kind of a joke, the way people used to call people “nigger lovers”, and no, I won’t be politically correct and put in asterics instead of the letter I. It’s a hateful word but this is a hateful subject we shouldn’t have to have.

White people feel and think it’s necessary to constantly put down black people and call them derogatory names because they think they somehow have to keep themselved on the top rung of quality people. I have 2 half black grandsons. I’ve been told not to worry, they will be okay. They are being taught to respect authority. But how are they safe when no one is teaching the cops to respect them back? There are so many statistics proving the racism of many cops. Please note I did not say ALL cops. The ones who shoot using the excuse they are afraid as a reason to shoot someone in the back, shouldn’t be a cop. A cop that tells a man named Sterling to get of his ID out but uses that as an excuse to kill him, a man who works with kids.  What does it teach those kids?

My grandsons aren’t any safer than any other black man who has been killed by a bad cop. I don’t want to hear any more but..but..but and bring anything else into this discussion. Fire bad cops who have proven they are unstable. Arrest and prosecute those who kill unjustly, no matter what race they are. Fire the cops who protect and lie for bad cops. Stop defending cops who kill. Stop implying that the man simply walking down the street is suspicious and deserves being taken down and kicked in head. There has been too much of this. It is not justified by anything other than certain white people who are afraid of losing their top dog status. If anything happens to my grandchildren I will be one very angry grandmother.

If you are someone who insists on not understanding the issues and encourages more harm to black people and also wants to let the cops off the hook when they kill without just cause then I feel bad for you because of the divide you continue to encourage. The writer of this post is right. We need to talk. We need to find a way for this to stop.

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We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

Introduction

“We shouldn’t get too caught up in this notion that somehow people who are asking for fair treatment are somehow, automatically, anti-police, are trying to only look out for black lives as opposed to others. I think we have to be careful about playing that game.” Statement of President Obama

As a Pacifist, I believe that every life matters.  For the last two weeks or so, I’ve watched town hall meetings with people speaking about the Black Lives Matter Movement.  I listened.  I learned.

After watching a town hall meeting on CNN called Black, White and Blue, I asked myself why are people who have had no experience whatsoever being discriminated against in America because of the color of their skin, arguing over the meaning of Black Lives Matter?

Each generation sits around the dining table and shares stories of their lives.  They talk about the challenges and…

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The Day We Decided Black Lives Don’t Matter

This is a bit different from what I usually post and has nothing to do with our prisons, but it has everything to do with people – the people who looked at this country as a better place to live and life would be better if they could just move here – and they do. Now this is such an angry country blaming everyone else for all the ills of the world but never looking at themselves or this country think, “What did we do to cause so much hate to people who only want a safe place to raise their families.” I have lately been so ashamed of my fellow Americans who feel justified with their hate and feel no responsibility to make it better.

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definitelylorna

There was a point in time when nearly every Kenyan desperately wanted an opportunity to settle in the US.

We had seen the movies.

They all did a good job in portraying the very green pastures that awaited us when we finally relocated. Perhaps we had living testimonies of relatives, who had gotten the opportunity to relocate and we could clearly see, how much their lives had transformed since the move. We yearned to be like them.

To go to a place where tribalism did not exist. Where many diseases had long been put in check. Bye, bye malaria! Where an employee’s efforts were duly rewarded with money that actually seemed to cater fully for one’s needs. Where there was gender equality and a man respected a woman’s opinions and allowed her to spread her wings and fly as far as she wanted.

Where civilization had happened eons ago therefore…

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Special Visit For Inmates

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Dear mom, and hello beautiful.

First I want to say thank you.  Thank you for everything. and most of all thank you for going out of your way to bring my son to see me.  First visit in three years, and a special visit at that! Two days. Two days to see my son. No one would bring him but you. To know you cared that much to do this means so much to me. I had a chance to learn a lot more about him as well as being able to enjoy time with him.  I noticed he is very open to people.  He loves to make friends. I was the same way, only the people I chose to be friends with were not friends.  So I will talk to him about that.  I told him he could talk to me about anything. I want us to be able to have a real father son – bond.  I want him to know he can come to me as he grows, and that he can trust me and talk. I feel that we bonded more than at the last visit, but then he is older, turning 10 on July 12.

No, it does not make up for all the time I have missed, but no one thought it was important enough for him or for me to bring him to see me. No one cared about my family, my son – at all. What was most important is we opened up to each other and that is what matters.

We even share smiles. I didn’t show him, but I can do the same tummy rolls he showed me, but I can’t wiggle my ears like he does! Lol.  Everyone has a special talent.  Maybe that is his. We just have to take the time to find out what they are.  I play that visit over and over in my mind as much as I can.

Now I want you to know I enjoyed your visit as well.  Your company really means a lot to me.  Being able to spend two days talking was more than I had hoped for.  I didn’t want to hope too much in case it fell through for some reason.  I loved looking at you ( since we don’t ever get to see a woman that isn’t in a guard uniform and trust me they aren’t much to look at.)  I guess what I’m saying is that I was really watching you.  That is why I wasn’t doing so much talking.  I was just taking it all in and trying to remember everything.  I appreciate everything you have done for me.  Many men in here don’t have someone who has stood by them for ten years  the way you have, no matter what, being there for me when I needed someone.  You trust me when I say I am trying hard to do things right and that I want to have a good life when I get out.

Only you know who I am right now.  However that is fixing to change because I am going to write a few of my family members.  I know they won’t write back.  I just want them to see who I am now. But to tell you the truth they probably won’t pick up on it. All they have to do is read my letter carefully and they will see the different person I am. I want them to know me as a man. I’m not a kid anymore. I want them to know me as an older person.  I never write to them anymore because I feel like I’m just wasting stamps because no one writes back. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’m getting sleepy so I’ll write more later. . .

 

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

(Sonni’s note:  We don’t appreciate life until we almost lose it. It would be hard to imagine losing ten years of my life to a prison, but in some ways we did the time together.  Not literally, of course.  I have had ten hard years with some pretty hefty mountains to climb and he has been there encouraging me when I needed it most.  When I think about it, he has been there through some  major things, just like I have been there through his. I believe he’s been honest with me about things that have happened and I helped him as much as I could. We’ve become very good friends who impacted each others life.

Does the time go by fast or slow? Do the years just blend together? If he never makes parole, which is a toss up, he still has six and a half years to go.  He is right.  He went in a boy and will come out a 40 year old man and I will be 69. His son will be nearly 17. My husband will be 76.  Life keeps marching on.  Aging in prison is not where you want to age. There has been so much he has had to learn about himself and the biggest thing has been controlling his emotions.  But many people have that problem.  I see it every day.  But if he can learn something that will benefit him later then he can take one good thing from this experience.

There is no way of knowing what kind of life he would have had if this didn’t happen, but I doubt he and my daughter would be together as a family.  I have worked with him teaching him things about life he needed to know, but had no one to teach him. Most of all he needed to know he had someone who believed in him; someone who believed he had special talents, too, who wouldn’t judge him by what he did, but by the potential he possessed. This was a new thought for him,  that there was someone who would help him open the door and reach for better things.  But if you don’t even know what those better things could be, how could you reach for them?  I’m going to be on the better side of old when he gets out.  Life will be completely different than when he went in.  Right now he is inside the forbidden outside.  Later he will be outside and life will be challenging.  I believe he will have a better life than he would have had he not gone in.  There is a positive inside every negative.  He will have to find out what that is.)

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