(Sonni’s note: In the past few years entire prisons have gone on hunger strikes, the most notable in California during the summer of 2013. 33 of California’s prisons joined in with thousands of inmates from all over the country in protest of the way they were being treated. Families stood in protest outside the prisons as well. A few inmates died as the result of a hunger strike that lasted 50 days, because they wouldn’t give in. Realizing that the inmates were willing to die for their cause,I am sure, had a lot to do with them relenting. Why was it so impossible for the prison officials to see these people as people – as living breathing people, with some of them there unjustly as the evidence now shows. Eventually they were granted a few small concessions but it was too little and they didn’t apply to the people who were the most confined – those on death row – Those in the SHU Secure Housing Unit. Jamie spent a total of 4 years locked up in solitary.
I wasn’t going to print this yet, because I’m waiting for a letter. He was able to get his privileges back and could call me for two weeks. He was able to have ONE contact visit with his natural mother on his 32nd birthday. They found a way to throw him back in solitary last week. I knew it was going to happen. I just knew it. Their rules to stay out of solitary are hard to play by. You can not argue with an officer even if you are right. If they say the snow is black and you say it is white you are insubordinate. He got to make one last phone call, and then was stripped him of all of his privileges and is once again getting his food through a slot in the door.
Those on death row. Why would someone scheduled to be murdered by the state be interested in a class of education? I’m sure that’s what the must have thought. Why would any of these concessions be of any importance to them, even though many of them had been locked up for decades and large portion of them were mentally or insane because of the deprivations? But there are many others that want to be able use the rest of their life, if they are still to killed, in a way that at least allows them to give some value to their own lives. Maybe they did something horrible. Maybe they are falsely accused. Maybe they are a victim of circumstance. It doesn’t matter. The are still human. They are living out the worst things anyone can go through to pay for their transgressions – they are waiting to die. That is their sentence. That is their punishment. So why the need to keep punishing by not allowing them some comfort while they wait. Justice was served. What is wrong with supplying them some art supplies so they can draw? They were promised that. This next excerpt is credited to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/25/pelican-bay-prison-hunger-strike where you can read the entire article.
Largely unrestrained by courts, legislatures or public opinion, solitary confinement has become routine – a punishment of first resort for all sorts of prison infractions. Today, a prisoner can be placed in solitary not only for violence, but for any form of “insubordination” towards prison officials, or for possession of contraband (which includes not only drugs but cell phones, cash or too many postage stamps). Some inmates are sent to solitary confinement for exhibiting the symptoms of untreated mental illness. Others, including juveniles in adult prisons, end up in isolation for their own “protection” because they are targets of prison rape. Many of the men in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit are there because they’ve been “validated” as gang members, based on their tattoos or on the say-so of other inmates, who are rewarded for “snitching”
(So this is the setting for this blog post. Hunger strikes are a common thing when inmates are treated badly. It is their only method of defense and a way to make a statement. This isn’t the only time he stopped eating and he at one time stopped taking his meds because he thought he was being used as a lab rat – which is something the prisons do. Who better to experiment a new drug on than a worthless inmate. He was a pretty big guy when I first met him. He was a real skinny guy when I saw him in Oct of 2013. His clothing was falling off him – literally. The Beeville prisons raises hogs. That is why everything they fed them was some kind of pork often made into loafs that were unrecognizable as anything he could identify. The prisons do not like to pay medical bills, though they do everything in their power to cause ill health. Why is this not being stopped? Why are they allowed to commit crimes on those that are still human beings? Isn’t this in itself also a crime? If someone murders someone on the outside and it is a homicide and they get life in prison, should the person committing the same crime inside a prison get the same punishment? Why are there two sets of standards?)
This is a letter Jamie wrote on 8/28/12 when he was at the McConnell Unit in Beeville,Tx
Hi Mom, How is everything. I know you are home from your surgery. I hope everything is okay. I have to take a lot of pills. Some are my seizure meds for epilepsy and also fluxotine for depression. I’ve taken off some pounds lately. I stopped eating because I’m on a hunger strike. They feed us pork every day and I’m tired of it. Sometimes they sub it with peanut butter or two slices of cheese.
This unit is getting really bad. They just had a riot in the chow hall and a dude got stabbed four times and died. Another one was stabbed 23 times but he lived. He was lucky. I’m losing it in here.
I’ve written lots of letters but nobody writes me back but you. I don’t understand why I keep writing but I do. Maybe I think it will change. I think this is one of the reasons why I get depressed. I can’t make sense of it. People don’t understand how important it is. I still have a year and a half before I come up for parole, in 2014, so there isn’t anything else I can do except sit here. It hurts because we are all suffering badly. There’s nothing I can do about these things. I want to just give up on everything. I’m trying. I really am. Everyone is so quick to judge me. It’s nothing new to me. I can be doing good but I’ll still be judged because of my past. I don’t know where things will end up. Again, I’m losing it. I had some crazy thoughts. The nurse asks me what’s wrong and I just look at them crazy. I know they can’t understand. I guess this is my life. Tomorrow I’m going on strike with my medication. Life is so painful. Why not add more. I have nothing. My fan broke and its August in Texas. It is so hot. And these people took my hot pot that I can cook in because of a loose wire. I can’t take this no more. So what I’m saying is that I’m giving up. Why not? It seems like everyone else has. I read because there’s nothing else I can do, sitting in this cell all day and night. This is where everyone wants me and it’s starting to feel as though this is where I belong. I love you, as well as everybody else, but I can’t take it. Please try to understand. I have fallen and have no reason to get up. I have a year left in ad seg, (solitary confinement – administrative segregation) maybe less. I’m trying, but it seems that nobody cares.
(note from Sonni – Jamie scared me with this letter. I could see how terribly depressed he was. I begged him to eat and take his meds but by then a couple more weeks had passed. Depression is something that runs rampant in the prisons. No one can live with that kind of solitude. What does it prove? What’s the purpose? He never did get out of ad seg. No human being can live through that. He is doing better psychologically. But it has been a challenge.)
( another note: this one written today. He never did get out of solitary until this past November. Then he was moved to G4 and then G2. G5 is actually the same as ad seg or solitary. Then in December he made it to G2. Finally. Then in the middle of January he could make phone calls. I was the only one who hooked up my phone so he could call. No member of his family did. Now it’s all taken away – again. I don’t know for how long,)