( Grab a cup of coffee. This can’t be read in 5 minutes. Don’t try to read it on your phone, it’s a book chapter. Read it like you would a book. Don’t skim it like an article. Sign up at the bottom to be on the mailing list so you don’t miss other chapters I post. I’d like your feedback. Criticism is welcome. Remember, this is only the first draft.)
A ROOF OVER MY HEAD, THREE SQUARES A DAY AND FREE MEDICAL
January, 2010. I love Morgan’s mom. She has been good to me. Morgan didn’t understand, I would never do anything to hurt her mother. I knew Sonni was sick and it wasn’t looking too good. She has been back and forth to the doctors. She didn’t want to tell at first because she didn’t want me to worry, but I knew already. I never said anything to her because I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Morgan sent me a Christmas card telling me her mom was sick. She told me not to say anything. She didn’t understand why we were writing to each other. She even asked her mom why she was spending so much time writing to me. What was the interest? I can see how she might have thought it was a little strange, we really hadn’t gotten to know each other except for that one trip to Texas when we first met. When she started writing to me I was surprised, but I was also happy because she seemed to honestly care about how I was doing. I needed that. Morgan thought maybe I was using her to get money, but I could never do that. It hurt me, her thinking I would do that to her mom. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to disrespect her mother by putting my nose where it didn’t belong. I was scared to bring up the subject because I didn’t know what to say. I was waiting for her to tell me.
Sometimes we do crazy things when we’re young because we don’t think about the bad things that could happen to us. We don’t think ahead far enough about what could happen. Sometimes the only way to learn is by making mistakes. Mistakes are a part of life. If we learn something from it then it can’t be all bad. Morgan told me her mom has Hepatitis C. She got it a long time ago, before she had kids. Most people don’t know they have it for a long time. Back then they didn’t know anything about it. They found out about it the same time they found out about AIDS but they swept it under the rug and didn’t make a big deal about it. AIDS was killing people left and right so they concentrated on that. Doctors didn’t know much about it, either, so there wasn’t much they could have done about it anyway. Gradually, over the years she started getting sick and didn’t know why. Now she has cirrhosis of the liver and has to think about getting on the liver transplant list. It’s been hard for her to keep her store open in Key West. I’m not sure what she’s going to do. I feel bad she has to go through this. Needing a liver transplant is a big thing.
I think this is why she is concerned about my seizures. She understands what it’s like being sick. She is not the only one who has been hurting. I’ve had four seizures in the past month. I don’t want her to worry about me, like she doesn’t want me to worry about her. But we worry about each other, anyway. I’m okay. I’ve been getting these seizures my entire life; ever since I was born. It hurts me to know she’s hurting and in so much pain. I will continue to pray for her. The doctor was able to drain some of the fluid out through her abdomen since her liver isn’t working right anymore. She said she put on a lot of weight from the fluid building up, and it makes her look as if she’s about to have a baby! Because I’ve been getting seizures my entire life I think my family is immune to it. It’s no big deal to them. They have kind of a ‘so what’ attitude. I do know what it’s like to be sick for a long time and it’s not going to go away.
No one else can understand what it is like to feel a seizure coming on and know there is nothing that can be done to stop it. They don’t know what it is like to wake up out of a dead sleep while having a seizure. I don’t want any pity, just understanding that it is hard. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Maybe someday doctors will find a way to stop them. Mom sent me an article about hemp oil and how there has been success with some patients who have epilepsy. They are finding all kinds of good things marijuana can do to help with different illnesses. I think that’s crazy. There are all these people in prison for smoking pot, or having it on them, and now there are all these medical things it helps cure. It’s making the government nuts because each side is determined to get their way. Why would they want to keep it from people if it helps them? That’s wrong. I wonder if it would help me. When I had surgery when I was twelve, because my brain was bleeding, the doctors were able to stop as much of it as they could. It helped. It slowed down the seizures, but it didn’t stop them. When I’m stressed they can get really bad.
With mom being sick, I wrote to her and said, “It’s going to be okay. Take one step at a time. Stay strong and don’t give up! Rest as much as you can. I wish I was home. I would be there for you. I’m glad you say you’re going to stay on top of thing and eat the right food. We both know our illnesses won’t heal on their own no matter what we do. Let’s always look at the bright side of things. Let’s think about joy instead of the pain.”
I wish she could come and visit. I’m going to put her on my visitors list, just in case. In my letter I also wrote, “I’m glad you care about me, mom. However, I have a question. Please don’t take it the wrong way. Why do you care so much about someone you only met once? If you were to ask me that question, believe it or not, it’s not because I love your daughter. It’s because I have a kind heart, too, mom. I want you to get well. You are my son’s grandmother so you will always be family to me. I’m thankful you care about me. I want you to know that. I do appreciate your love.
Jamie’s Letter to Sonni on Valentine’s Day
February , 2010
To my loving mom,
Hello mom, how are you? Fine and in the best of health, I pray. I’m sorry it took so long for me to write back. I haven’t really been feeling well. I’m sorry, before I move on in this letter I want to thank you for your love and support. I’m very thankful, mom, I promise you. You didn’t have to send me any money or order any books. I understand your situation, truly, mom. Due to the fact that things aren’t doing good at the store, I feel you are sending me money you need yourself. I don’t like that because I feel like I’m hurting you. I don’t want anyone to think I’m using you. So please mom, don’t send me anymore money. If I can’t get my family to help me out from time to time, then they don’t love me the way they say they do. It’s not about the money, it’s about what my family is doing. I’ve been writing letters and no one is writing me back. I feel as if I’m wasting stamps sometimes. It’s not like Morgan to not write back to me. It’s just not like her, and that really worries me. Mom, you’re the only person I’ve heard from. Really, I’m just hurt that I haven’t heard from her. Receiving a letter from her gives me a feeling in my heart that warms me up. I’ll just stay positive and look forward to a letter from her soon.
Speaking of being positive, I’m glad you’re staying positive and taking good care of yourself. It’s hard to do that when you are sick, and you push yourself too hard. It’s always good to think and stay positive. As for my health, it’s really hard to say. I had another seizure on Saturday. I was asleep when it happened. It was around 2 AM when I came to. However I didn’t receive any medical help until about 8:30. They have a nurse on call, but the officers didn’t want to do the paperwork. These people here have a careless heart toward anyone behind these doors. This is one of the reasons I’ve been writing to my (bio) mom. I wanted to get her to call up here and talk to the warden for me. However, I think that’s out of the question.
I have another cellmate. Some are really hard to get along with. Most of the black ones I have trouble with. I’d rather have a cellmate with another race. My last cellmate was black and he was so disrespectful. It hurts me to think about it.
Oh, about our meeting on the hill. How does 8 PM sound? I go to sleep around 6. We’ll meet in our dreams. Just last night you, me and Morgan were on a picnic. We sat and talked about life and watched the sunset. It was wonderful being with my family. Next time we’re going to bring the kids, okay mom? Well, I have to go. It’s almost that time.
I love you mom, always, your son.
8 PM I’ll be waiting! Happy Valentine’s Day
November 2011, I got moved from E pod 76 cell to 49. 49 cell is in the corner. It’s not unusual to get moved around. The dude next to me has seizures, too. I don’t know if it’s from epilepsy, like me. Just yesterday morning I had another one. Later that night, after I went to sleep, I woke up to get a drink. I called to him to check on him, just to make sure he was okay. There is a hole in our wall so we can talk to each other. He never answered back, so I thought he must be asleep. However, right after I went to lay back down, I heard him fall and it sounded like he hit his head on something. I got worried about him because I know what it’s like to have a seizure when you’re sleeping and fall out of bed. He could have been hurt pretty bad.
I called for an officer but nobody came, so I yelled for others down the hall to help get the guard’s attention. We started kicking the doors as loud as we could, and started screaming to get the guards to come help. When they finally came, his mouth was all busted up. There was blood everywhere. After he was taken care of and they brought him back to his cell, he called me through the hole. He says to me, “look”. When I did, I saw he had cut himself with a razor. He did it on purpose. He wanted me to see he was bleeding. Again I got help for him by kicking the door. I don’t think he’s all there in the head. I’ve only been in this new cell for one day, and already it is stressing me out. I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep. As soon as I go to sleep I wake up and go check on him. If I’m asleep, he starts hitting the wall again. I get up again to see if he’s okay, or if I need to get him help again.
This can’t be a new thing for him. He should be in a place where he can get help, or guards should check on him regularly. It’s going to keep happening and it’s up to everyone else to make sure he’s okay, and that’s not right. There are way too many inmates here with mental problems. Just because they are locked up doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get care. Sick in the body or sick in the head, it’s all sickness and they need to do something about it.
There are things I want my son to understand. I wrote to Morgan about it. I want her to drive it into little Jamie’s head that I never meant for this to happen. I have always wanted to be there for him. I don’t want him to ever think I don’t love him. He is the most important person in my life. I don’t want him to end up here like me. I hope she tells him often. I told her it would be hard for me to get through to him by reading him my letters. Don’t get me wrong, my letters are a good thing and they won’t stop. However, I told her, when the time is right, I need to see him. I want to see him. He’s at an age where he understands. He and I need to meet face to face again. It’s been over three years now since I’ve seen him. That’s a good long stretch. He needs to see me as much as I need to see him. It breaks my heart
(Sonni’s note: Jamie didn’t know it would be a total of six years before he would see his son again)
I sent a letter to Megan, but it’s for my mom if she has her address. I don’t have an address for her. She moves around a lot. I asked her a lot of questions. I told her that no one is writing to me but you. I’m not trying to make her angry. It’s just something for her to think about. I’m trying to see if I can get some help from her. I also asked her about the family. I’m always kept in the darck. No one tells me anything that happens. I also told her I was sorry I made things hard on her in the past. I told her how I was doing right now, which was not too good.
It’s been crazy in here the past few weeks. Well, it’s crazy every day but I try not to pay attention to it. I do my best to take my days one at a time. They put me on anti-depression meds because they say something is wrong with me. I don’t take it because nothing is wrong with me. I think they want to keep me doped up. I’ve gone on a few hunger strikes, off and on. The longest I’ve stayed on one is a week and a half. I just have those kinds of days. I don’t want to do this or that. It causes trouble sometimes. Oh well, I just have that ‘I don’t care’ feeling at times.
All of us have been getting into it with the officers. We’ve been without hot water for over a month. We’re also back on lockdown for 30 days. Once again, the only thing they feed us is peanut butter. I guess treating us like this is part of the punishment, But I don’t remember being allowed to starve us was part of the sentence. No one stops them. There is no oversight. The officers do what they want and get away with it.
On top of everything, an officer slammed my finger in the tray slot on the door – on purpose. It was a really deep cut. I made them take me to medical where they took a picture of it. I had to get an x-ray a few days later because it wouldn’t close. He told the sargent he did it, but that it was an accident. He said he didn’t mean to do it because he didn’t see my fingers. That was a lie. It wasn’t the first time he had tried to do that. I told him I wanted to talk to the lieutenant. This guy is the kind of dude who doesn’t like to be overruled by anyone.
The lieutenant told me to tell the officers to call him about moving me to another cell, because also, the cell continually leaks water from the shower. One night I fell getting up to use the rest room. I hurt my ankle and had to go to Medical about that, too. They are trying to hurt me. I know they are. This cell also leaks bad when it rains, and they know it, because an officer told me the dude who was in here before me got moved because of it. They want me to fall their trap but I won’t. I’m writing up a grievance on this officer because I feel he is a threat to me. I also feel he will try to retaliate once he finds out what I’m doing. To go through this process will take 60-120 days. They make it long to discourage anyone from filing a complaint. It goes into the guard’s file and keeps them from getting promoted. The the guard retaliates and makes life miserable. Even if the inmates feel threatened it keeps a lot of them from trying to do anything about it.
I’ve also been getting into it again with these people about my medications. They are trying to give me something and I don’t know what it is. Hell, they don’t even know what it is. Two different nurses are telling me it is two different medications. I’ve asked to speak to the doctor, but they won’t let me. The pills are the same dosage, but they are two different colors. Not only that, one has powder in the capsule and the other one is a hard pill. Something is not right about this. One of the nurses told me Huntsville uses us as lab rats to test medications from pharmaceutical companies. Since this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that, I stopped taking the ones that I’m not sure what they are. I’m not going to be a guinea pig.
They put me on a different anti-depressant. A lot of people in here are taking them. They’ve had me on so many different meds it’s crazy. I’ve been on about four or five different ones. Now they have me on Thorazine. I had to stop taking it because it made me dizzy, lightheaded. I asked once if we could have a book on medications. The doctors are quick to put us on something and not tell us anything about it, except to say, “See if this helps. If not, put in a sick call.” Then they are in such a rush to get us out of their office. These meds they put me on? if it isn’t upsetting my stomach, it gives me terrible headaches. One had me where I couldn’t use the bathroom. I’m feeling bad all the time. I recently had a bad ear infection and all they would give me was an ibuprophen. I laid on my bunk with my head and my ear hurting so bad, but they wouldn’t give me anything to help with the infection.
Mom looked up one of the medications they gave me. I asked the nurse how to spell it. It’s a little brown pill. I had already stopped taking it. Some medications are vicious. The side effects make you sicker than you already are. That’s why I don’t take just something they give me anymore. If I feel they are giving me too much of my seizure meds I won’t take them. Too much will hurt me. I don’t trust them to know what they are doing. I go by how it makes me feel.
The people who work in the medical unit don’t know what the hell they are doing. I have such a bad pain in my tooth I can’t think straight. The first doctor I saw told me I had an infection when I told her about my pain. Then I saw another doctor, and he told me I not only didn’t have an infection, he told me there was nothing was wrong with me! I asked him if he thought I was lying about my pain because the pain had to be coming from somewhere. I also told him the other doctor told me I had an infection. I asked him if that lady was lying, and he said, ” I didn’t say that.” So I told him that somebody was lying, and I knew it wasn’t me. I could tell by his face he was mad. Who gives a shit? I’m in pain. He didn’t care about that. He just wanted to send me back to my cell. He’s here to waste time and get paid.
The pain kept getting worse. I had to wait two months before they decided it was okay to take me to a dentist to maybe have my wisdom tooth pulled. Since they knew it had to be done, making me wait for two months was their way of torturing me. They wanted me to be in pain. No matter how many times I told them how bad I was hurting, they ignored me like they didn’t hear a word I was saying. Later, I was told there is a nerve that goes around the ear. I wasn’t kidding about being in pain. The dentist who tried to tell me there was nothing wrong with me had to know that, or he wasn’t he a real dentist. That wouldn’t surprise me. I think they only hire medical people who agree to not help people. I wonder if they even have a license to practice. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. Maybe this dentist couldn’t get hired anywhere else because he was so bad.
The first week of this month I left on what is called a medical chain, to go to a unit in Huntsville that has a hospital in it. It took two days to get there, even though it is only a couple hours away. It takes that long because they pick up and drop off other inmates to units along the way. Sometimes we ride on a bus they call a Blue Bird, and sometimes on a van. I’ve ridden on both. This trip was in the van. It is so damned uncomfortable. They really make the trip as hard on us as possible. We sit elbow to elbow in the van. On the bus you are cuffed to someone else. They pair everyone up. If we have to relieve ourselves there is a toilet, but if someone has to go, the other one has to go, too. So much for privacy if you have to do something other than pee.
When I finally got to the hospital, I had to wait. There was others in front of me. It took two more days of waiting until it was my turn. Now it’s been four days since we left and the pain was bad. The gave me Tylenol with codeine and it helped some, but not enough. I’ve had about all I can take. I want to just lay down and cry. Before I went in for the surgery they did x-rays. The photos showed up on the computer so I could see it. The one I was going to get pulled was growing sideways and was cutting my gums. The dentist saw the top left tooth in the back said, “Wow.” I asked what was wrong and he showed me the photo. You could see all my teeth perfect and he showed me the bad one and it was flat! The word he used, was deformed. He asked if I wanted it removed. Of course I wanted him to take it out. I couldn’t keep it the way it was! They don’t allow dentists to put us to sleep, even though this was a lot more than just pulling a tooth. He was going to have to cut it out. He was only allowed to numb it. He was digging at it for two hours! When he finally got it out, the tooth had four roots! It came out in five different sized pieces. All that pulling and pushing and drilling was bad. I held on, but I almost passed out. The bottom tooth needed work, too. He had to do a little more cutting. I felt every minute of it. We had to stop. I was in so much pain. I still am. It took four days to get back, as well. The hospital gave me more Tylenol with codeine during the surgery. Now that I’m back in my own unit, their best meds are Ibuprophen.
I’ve been sleeping a lot to try and get away from the pain. The bad thing, It hurts like hell to chew or drink because my tongue is swollen. I’m supposed to be on a soft diet, but the doctors here won’t give it to me. The guards only bring me solid food, which sometimes I can eat and sometimes I can’t. I try not to give these people what they want, which is to see if I get upset, so I just deal with it the best I can. If the pain becomes too much I’m gonna try the right way first, to get help. If I don’t get help, there is only one other way.
On a brighter note, I think of the beautiful the days outside. The sun, and taking a walk really sounds good. In my mind I can meet mom on the hill. We both will walk until we ache too much. Its cold down this way, as well. A jacket would be nice.
It’s hard dealing with the way things are in here. It’s 2013, but it could be any year. Nothing changes. Stress builds up inside me and it hurts. My head wants to explode into a million pieces. I had two more seizures back to back due to all the worrying. I have had so many seizures in here. Sometimes I feel like I’m being backed into a corner. I think stress brings them on. The people who work in the medical unit don’t seem like they know what they are doing. Why are they working here, instead of a real doctor’s office? They probably don’t get enough. Everyone is always in a bad mood. There is never a comforting touch or even a smile. They treat me like I’m piece of dirt.
I don’t think anyone in here would give a damn if the seizures killed me or turned me into a vegetable. If it happened to someone in their own family, they would be rushed to a hospital. But I don’t matter. I’m only a convict. But just because I’m in here doesn’t mean I deserve to be treated like this.
The scary thing is, I don’t usually have seizures close together. I saw the doctor and she took some blood and said my level of seizure medication was in the toxic range. Did the last doctor give me too much? She took my meds down to a lower dose. It didn’t help, so she put me on a different one. Right now I’m on two different meds. I’m not having the seizures quite as often, so that is good. It’s not unusual, though, to still have one or two a week.
I had another seizure today. When I went to the medical unit I was told my sugar was low, 66. It’s supposed to be between 70-100. I know I need to see the doctor a lot. There is nothing I can do about that. It’s not my fault. It is the way it is. Some inmates rarely have to go to medical. It used to cost $3 to see the doctor or a nurse, but they changed all that. Now it costs $100 a year, whether you see a doctor one time or fifty times. When mom sends me money, they take half of it until it’s paid. Next year it starts all over. But for someone who doesn’t have a chronic condition, if he need to see the doctor for any reason he probably won’t go. Sometimes they get sicker, or it spreads to everyone else.
Some people think we get medical care for free, but that’s not true. This small amount of money might not seem like much to some people, but when you don’t have money and no one sends any, it’s a lot. I also wouldn’t call what they do for us, medical care. They do as little as possible so they don’t have to pay for tests and prescriptions. Even things that are treatable they won’t treat it, and it gets worse and people die. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer. People die of these things because they are left untreated. They don’t care. The public doesn’t care. They think we deserve it. No one cares if we’re in pain. They just ignore us.
Most states pay inmates who work, even if it is only a little, like 29 cents an hour. That adds up so you can at least by hygiene products and things like a fan or a hot pot to heat water for coffee or Raman noodles, if you have the money to buy those things. If you had a good skill on the outside, like working on computers or machinery you can make up to $2 an hour in some prisons. Most people don’t know inmates make a lot of things they buy in the store, like jeans and furniture; all kinds of stuff. Inmates make everything the military needs and cops, too; ammunition, bullet proof vests and uniforms. But those states where you make money, will probably give you a bill when you get released, charging you for room and board, and that can add up to many thousands of dollars. If you don’t pay it, they give it to bill collectors.* If you still don’t pay it they can send you back to prison for a money debt. It’s hard enough to get your life together and start over, probably working a low paid job. How are we supposed to have enough money to pay the prison for the lousy room and awful food they feed us?
Texas doesn’t pay anything to people who work. We are supposed to get good time instead, that comes off your sentence. They always find a way to take the good time away, so it isn’t much of a benefit to me. I think it’s just a way to keep from having to pay people to work. If you aren’t lucky enough to have someone put money on your books; your account, then you have to find some way of getting the things you need.
There are ways to make money if you want to take the risk. Some people have really long sentences, so they think, you do what you have to do. Drugs and cellphones are big business. Gay guys sell themselves for sex. Some dudes are hooked up with the guards who bring stuff in for them, especially cell phones. There are some inmates who keep a store in their cell for those who can’t go to commissary because of restrictions. They buy things and sell it for a profit or trade. Some are good at doing tattoos, which is always in demand, or they draw good and make personalized cards to send. I’ve had some nice cards made to send to Jamie. I had a nice one made and sent to mom, too. It had a rose on it and when the card opened up it had her name in it. A prison is like a city in a city with it’s own set of rules and businesses.
6/18/2013 I have been moved to a different pod. I finally got moved from ad seg to G4. I’m waiting to be moved again to where the other G4s are. Here is the difference. In ad seg everything comes to you, like food. A guard puts it through a slot in the door. I can only come out of my cell one hour a day for rec or medical. I’m always in handcuffs everywhere I go. They cuff my wrists to my waist and they cuff my ankles together so I have to shuffle with tiny steps. Sometimes I wish I could take off running down the hall. In G4 I’m let out to watch TV and I can go to rec with everyone else. There are 84 of us. We get to walk to the chow, which is what I need, so I can stretch my legs. I’m still having a lot of trouble with my knees swelling. That’s really it, but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’m going to go to chow today. There’s this lady dishing up chow in the food line. She’s mad because I told her she needs to have a hair net on because it’s policy. To cover her ass she told the officer I threatened her. So I might not go to chow. I don’t want any problems. They can bring my food here. Fuck it, I’m tired anyway. I’m tired of starting over. I think people should do the things they are supposed to do. I don’t want to eat food that has her hair in it. When I do the right thing it always seems to get me into trouble.
A couple days later – I went to the UCC today, prison court, and talked to the warden. He asked what happened and I told him. He said he was going to give me another chance, as if I was the one who did something wrong. Inmates are always wrong in every case. There is no justice in prison. I thanked him and walked out. There was no use saying anything else. It’s okay, as of right now I’m not in any trouble. I’ll do my best to stay away from it. But as you know, I’m around a lot of other people (gangs). From what I was told, the officers trip about any small things; shoes not tied right or any little thing like that, so I better be careful.
I went to the medical unit today because of my left leg and knee. It swells up big. The doctor says it’s arthritis in my joints. Would arthritis make my leg swell like this, or is it an excuse because they don’t want to treat it? It hurts bad, but he says there is nothing they can about it. Can’t or won’t? I think there is something else wrong, but I guess it’s just something I have to deal with on my own. They sure aren’t going to help me.
I heard of a doctor who won’t get within five feet of an inmate because he is scared of “catching” something. How can a doctor treat someone without getting close enough to touch him? Corizon is the medical corporation that takes care of the inmates at this prison. They cover a lot of prisons. They got contracts because they convinced the prisons they could save them money. Sure they can, they don’t do what they need to do. They have a lot of lawsuits against them for not treating the illnesses of inmates the way they should. I suppose paying the lawsuits costs less than what the care would be. It’s a problem in all the prisons. It’s the same thing with the corporations who supply the food we eat, or programs for education. The bad thing is all the people on the outside who think we don’t deserve to get medical care. After all, we committed a crime. They think we deserve everything bad that happens in here.
I have a new cellie. I’m glad my old one got moved because all he did was cry and whine. That got a little hard to take after a while. But my new cellie; he’s gay. I don’t have any problem with him being my cellie, but I let him know – don’t play no crazy games with me! I told him I didn’t have any problem with him, and what he chooses to do is his business. Bad thing is, he got into a fight and got his head split open. That’s bad for me because I can get in trouble for it. I can get blamed. They will say I have been beating on him and extorting him for his things. That happens a lot in here. I told him he needed to tell on the dude who beat on him, in case the officers ask how his head got split open. I don’t even want my name brought up where I have to defend myself. I sure don’t need to get blamed for something I didn’t do, and it would be easy for that to happen.
The road I’ve lived on has been hard; only because I chose to make it that way most of the time. My life has had sharp turns in it. However, I’m trying to turn that story around. More things will likely happen in here. Life doesn’t stop for anyone. There are good days and bad days. I have a lot of bad days because of what I did to myself.
I read the Buddhist magazine that comes to me every month. There is a reason why I have to go through this in my life. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. If this is the effect of causes I made in my life, then I need to learn how to make better causes so I can get past this and be happy. I read that it’s possible to find happiness anywhere, even in here. I read experiences of people who were in bad places in their lives and they turned it around. I want to believe that, but I don’t know how to do it in here. I try to chant these words, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The words are about the law of cause and effect. It’s about looking inside yourself to understand who you are, and find the wisdom to change it. It isn’t easy trying to learn this by myself. I like reading the magazine and the newspaper. It’s all about positive things, and it’s encouraging. I know that when I prayed to God it did nothing for me and it didn’t make me happy. I did it because it was the only thing I knew how to do. It’s seems like it is all about being happy when you die. I trust mom. She’s been practicing Buddhism for a long time. She says chanting can raise your life condition up from being angry so when things happen you react from a better place. I can’t say I’ve been very good at that yet, but I think I have to try harder to chant more. It’s hard to do that when people can hear me. They’ll think I’m crazy. But I have to do something. I have a lot to change and it’s not going to change by itself. Being unhappy is my setback. It’s so hard to not be unhappy. How can anyone find happiness in a place like this? I wish I could say I’ve been better at fixing that. So I will keep reading and studying because these things that happen make me unhappy? It just hurts my mind to think about it.
January 2014. I’m not doing too good right now. I’ve been going through hell with these people. They’re not giving me my medication like they’re supposed to. No one is trying to help me. No one will listen. Things have been going kinda downhill for me. I’ve been having more seizures than I usually do. The last one I had to stay in the ER for hours with an IV in my arm. I have not been feeling very well. I don’t know what’s wrong. It’s not usually this bad. They can’t get my blood levels steady. They’re either too high or too low. The seizure medication really messes with me. I think they’re switching my medication around to test different things on me. They give me meds and then two weeks later they give me different ones of another color, but they say they’re the same thing. How can they be the same thing? They don’t tell me what it is. They know I can’t look it up. I’m just supposed to trust them. I can’t stop taking them because if I do, they will take me off them, meaning all medication, so I have no choice.
This isn’t my only problem. I found out my real mom was in a car wreck. She broke her collar bone and had to have surgery. I was mad, hurt, and really upset with everyone. I was hurt because no one thought to write and tell me what happened. I had to wait weeks to find out. My cousin finally wrote and told me. To tell the truth, I’ve had some crazy stuff on my mind lately. I have no way to let off this steam. I have lots of stress built up in me right now and it’s hurting me bad. I’m losing it and I know it’s gonna hurt me sooner or later. I don’t know how to get it together. I need some help somehow. I wish I could see mom or Morgan right now. I wish we could have spent more time together as a family. I keep coming back to that because I don’t have anywhere else for my mind to go. It’s been four years since I’ve seen Morgan and the kids and it hurts bad. I get angry at because I did this to myself and I’m really feeling the pain for what I’ve done.
It’s 2015 and I’ve been at the Wynne Unit in Huntsville for over a year now. Things have been really crazy the last two and a half months. I’m on a special cell punishment, which was supposed to be a 30 day lockup. I argued with a guard and he filed a case on me. That’s a rule. We aren’t allowed to argue with them, even if we are right. Guards can do anything they want and there is nothing we can do about it. They can file a case against someone just because he has a grudge against him. In this case, though, the guard just plain lied. When it got to court, the guard who filed the case couldn’t be found. They called him for three days. After that, they had another guard stand in for him, who didn’t even witness what happened. I wasn’t allowed to attend, so it was just a sham. Of course, they found me guilty, and as punishment they took away the privileges I worked for years to get.
This was the first time I ever had phone privileges, and now they were gone. Mom was the only person who registered her phone, so for three weeks we were able to talk. It felt so good to be able to go to the phone and call her. We could only talk for fifteen minutes, but to have a connection with someone on the outside was great. I was able to call her one last time to tell her it would the last call. In just a few minutes, the years I spent getting my level raised was over. It was all for nothing, at least that was how I saw it. I never had a chance to talk to my son. Morgan knew I finally got phone privileges but but I guess she thought she had more time to register her phone and didn’t know it would be taken away from me. It would have been different if I had deserved having it taken away, but I didn’t.
My 30 days started on February 3rd. I was supposed to get off on March 3rd. They told me they didn’t have any open bunks so they kept me in lockup. I was told I might get shipped to another unit, on the other side of Texas. I didn’t want to do that. If I got shipped to West Texas there was no chance of ever getting a visit from anybody. My family wasn’t visiting me now, but maybe they would some day. I talked to everybody from the warden to the Major and no one would give an answer about what they were going to do with me.
As the third term of this one month punishment comes to an end, and I watch more people come and go, it is starting to really get to me. For three months I haven’t even seen out a window. I’m on lockdown 24 hours a day. I only come out of my cell for showers 3 times a week, if they decide to take me at all. I get no rec time. I get jacked for it every week. I was supposed to do this one 30 day term in lock up and go back to G4. If they did that I could go to chow and rec every day, and be able to go to commissary. But now they say they don’t have room for me. They have me waiting in this no man’s land where I don’t have any classification at all. The guards just blow me off. They know they are supposed to take me to shower, but they don’t care and no one is going to make them do it. It is the only time I get to leave my cell and I should be able to get clean.
The guards treat me this way to get me mad, and it works. I give them hell. They are treating me wrong, so I treat them wrong. They hate when I do something that makes them do paperwork, but to hell with them. I yell all day, beat and kick the door, and still, I’m here. I had a bad seizure from the stress and spent 9 hours in the hospital. When this month ends, if I’m not out of here, I’m going to do it all over. I will make them send me to G5, so at least I can go to rec and get some fresh air. G5 is the same as ad seg, which is no better than solitary. If they want to get rid of me all they have to do is classify me G5. I didn’t want that before, but I’m beginning think that might be the only way to stop this. But where they have me now, I’m not even allowed to go outside. They put me in a cage inside the unit, and I walk around in it. I lost it, I know I did. I couldn’t stop myself. I can’t hurt them, but they can hurt me. This is what happens if you cage a living being and treat him like a dog. He’s going to try to bite back, and that is what I did. But I don’t want mom to get mad at me or be disappointed because I lost control. What if she stopped writing to me? She’s been trying so hard to teach me a better way of doing things. In here, It’s easy to reach the point where you can’t think anymore. This is why dudes go crazy in here. I think they look at us like we’re some kind of perverted entertainment.
They put the same officer in here with me that was here before. He is doing everything he can to work my nerves. He’s doing crazy shit just to take away my rec, because he can. He took away all of my things. I could keep my deodorant, soap and paper, but they took away all my books. Books are the only thing any of us have in here to pass the time.
After four months they classified me G5 and I got my property back. Everything is so bad with the guards, though, that I see this only going from bad to worse. They aren’t going to stop trying to do everything they can to make my life miserable. I know it was my fault, too. I got angry at what they were doing. Was I just supposed to let them? I know I have a very quick anger button, but they did everything they could to push me until I couldn’t take it any more.
I got a bad cut on my foot in July and it wouldn’t stop bleeding. If I tried to walk and put pressure on it, it started to bleed more. A nurse stitched it up, but it busted open, and these folks here in the medical unit won’t stitch it back up again. They left it open. The 31st is the last day they’ll clean it. Then they’ll leave it be. I think they should clean it as long as it’s open. There are roaches all over the place. How I am I supposed to walk on the floor? It’s really dirty so there has to be germs everywhere. I can’t put my shoes on. They said they don’t want to mess with it anymore because it’s in a difficult place. It’s between two toes on my right foot. I’m in pain, and I have to deal with it the way it is because medical closes at 6:00. I’ve had two cases written up against me trying to get them to treat me. Why should that be so hard? Because of that they put me on seven days of food loaf again, three times a day. So now they are starving me. It’s not possible to eat this shit, and that is exactly what it is. Not even a dog would eat it. These people don’t care about anyone. Just because I am locked up in a prison doesn’t mean I’m not human. If this happened to someone they knew on the outside they wouldn’t treat them this way. If they did their job, I wouldn’t have had to keep yelling to take me to medical because there was blood all over the floor. Now they want to punish me for that? Did I do something unreasonable?
In August I had a bad seizure that put me back in the hospital for four days. It was worse than most of the seizures I have. I never know when I’m going to have one, but stress brings them on more. I feel like a guinea pig. Mom sent me an article that said prisoners have been used for decades to experiment different drugs. Laws were passed saying it was okay, because we owed a debt to society. That is creepy.
This time they took me to H.M.H., Huntsville Memorial Hospital. I received some news I wasn’t expecting. I was told by 3 different doctors that I might have inflammation around my heart. There is a thin pocket around the heart that holds it in place, and the pocket I have is swollen. This damn doctor here on this unit is telling me that I’m fine, I don’t need any medical care, like he knows more than the doctors at the hospital. See, the doctors at the hospital don’t have an agenda other than doing what it takes to keep people alive. That is different than the doctor here at the prison. She could care less if people get the treatment they need. I can feel the pressure on my heart. Sometimes the chest pains are pretty bad. Maybe the doctor here thinks I’m making it up? The doctors at the hospital wanted a MRI done, but I would have to go to the hospital in Galveston because they don’t have one here. This fool doctor here tells me I don’t need one. At the hospital they did CT scans and 2 EKGs every four hours and put me on a heart monitor. The bottom line, the doctor here said they wouldn’t pay for an MRI. It didn’t matter if the doctors said I needed one to see how bad the inflammation was. I knew they weren’t going to treat it, and I was right.
The doctors at Huntsville Hospital referred me to a cardiology doctor. They needed the MRI done because I’m allergic to iodine, and they needed to use iodine for contrast when they do the CT scans, to get the proper test information they needed. Since they couldn’t use iodine, they need the results of an MRI instead. This fool ass Doctor here at the prison on the unit is only worried about how to pay for it. This is what happened when the medical corporations to over. Their profit margin is more important than people’s lives. After all I’m felon, right? I don’t deserve to have a life anymore.
I didn’t have time to pack up my cell before I went to the hospital. But then, I didn’t think they’d move somebody else in that fast with my stuff their and no one to protect it. I’m sure he went through everything; read my letters and took what he wanted. I asked the dude who’s in there about my dictionary set, because it’s missing. He said it wasn’t in the cell. I pretty sure he has it, but there is no way I can prove it. He gave did give me back a puzzle book I had. I talked to the guards about my missing stuff and they just say, write it up. They don’t like me. I don’t have time for their shit and lies. Stuff like this is why I get angry. I’m gone for four days in the hospital and my stuff comes up missing. All my letters are everywhere, all mixed up and crammed in a bag.
Soon after, I had to go to the hospital again because of chest pains. All major medical cases, that can’t be cured by drinking water, have to be taken there. It’s a long drive from Huntsville to Galveston. They wouldn’t pay the expense for that unless they were up against the wall. The prison will do whatever they can to deny medical care because they don’t want to pay medical costs, and I’m an inmate who is costing them..
The cardiologist told them the same thing he told them last time: I needed medication for Pericarditis. Once again, the medical unit did nothing. I was told, again, I would be given the medication, but I have yet to receive any. I asked about it, but was told they were backed up in the medical unit. Backed up? With what? Every day they give out the medication people are on. Are they too busy to put another pill in a cup? They give me the medication for my epilepsy, so why are they too backed up to give me the medication for my heart? The only thing I can think of; it is expensive and they don’t want to pay for it. They couldn’t care less if not having it kills me. They can say I died of natural causes.
Mom looked up it up for me, and it is scary stuff. The sac around the heart gets inflamed and begins to harden and can’t expand and pump blood the way it should. When the body doesn’t get the blood it needs, that carries oxygen it causes shortness of breath and chest pains. It’s easily treated, but left untreated, the sac continues to harden and it can kill you. It’s the “easily treated” part that gets to me. Why they not want to treat an easily treatable condition? That is why I say it is a money issue. Mom called the medical unit and they told her it isn’t even in my chart about the cardiologist saying I needed a certain medication. They wiped it out as though he never said it. But he did, and I was there.
One evening I was having bad chest pains and was taken to the medical unit. Half the time there is no one there, so you sit in front of a computer screen and do a chat session with a nurse. She looked at me and, “You don’t look you are in pain. Drink more water.” What? I don’t look like I’m in pain? She is such a good nurse that she can see if I am having chest pains through a computer screen? She should take her unusual talent into the real world. She gave me the answer they are trained to give every one, no matter what their medical condition is: Drink water. Once again, the magic cure all. All doctors should just tell their patients to drink water, but then there would be no need for people to go see their doctor. It must be part of the training program for all medical units because every prison I’ve been in it’s always the same answer. Water. Prison water has magic curing properties to it. The bottom line here is money. It’s always about money. They don’t pay for anything they can get away with. A lot of dudes in here suffer because they can’t get the help they need. People on the outside think we have this wonderful free medical, that people outside prison need but don’t have, but that is not true. No one in the free world would want the medical care we have. They let sick people get sicker and if they die, so what?
Believe it or not, two inmates died of heart attacks in the last two months. Medical is not here around the clock. They go home at 5:30 pm and don’t come back until 2:30 -3:00 am. There are too many sick people here to not have medical care available. If something bad happens, or if an inmate gets really sick, he has to be sent to another unit or the hospital depending on how bad he off he is. If I have chest pains after 5:30, I know they will take me to a room with a computer and I would talk to a nurse in another unit at least 30 minutes away. It’s just the way they do it. There are also a lot of people with mental illness and they can go off the rails at any minute. What good is only being able to talk to a nurse on a computer screen? There are a lot of sick people here. Not a day goes by where you don’t hear someone screaming.
It’s crazy here and there is nothing I can do about. When was moved to this unit I had hoped it would be a good move. I was closer to Morgan and my son, but she moved and is farther away now. I haven’t seen my son in two years. The last time was in 2013 when mom came for a visit. Sometimes it’s hard to not give up.
This unit has been one bad experience after another. All prisons are bad, but I think it is worse when you are in a high security prison. I’m tired of getting the bad end of the stick. How can I not lash and get angry when I get treated the way I do. If you keep poking a mistreated dog in a cage they are going to try to jump through the bars and grab you by the throat. I feel like that animal. How am I supposed to stay calm or be respectful when the cage keeper gets away with abusing the life in the cage?
I filed three grievances against officers who have it out for me. Mom said maybe it would be good to have a record of what they are doing. There is a form inmates can fill out if they have a problem with the guards, or staff who unreasonably harass them, or don’t do their job, like take us to shower, give us our meds or physically hurt us. It is our right to be able to file those grievances. We have a right to report them. But this process isn’t in our favor. They make it hard to report them so most inmates don’t bother trying. Our complaints are always turned down. It takes forty days to get the first denial back. Then you can file an appeal, and that takes another month to get that back, and it is almost always denied, too. There is a limit of days you have to file again, so they try to make sure it goes past that date. That is the next reason why they can’t do anything; it has been too long. They are stalling for time, hoping you’ll give up. Officers and guards don’t like having grievances filed against them, so they retaliate. They make your life more miserable than it was, if that were possible. Should the inmates file more grievances after that? The system is set up so the prisoners lose. They get away with doing anything they want to us, and think no one will find out. But even when people on the outside find out what is happening, there is nothing they can do about it. Guards won’t get into trouble because the underlying code is; guards are always right and inmates are always wrong.
Mom said I needed to try. It would help to have a paper trail of what they do. However, I can’t have a paper trail if the grievances I file are being thrown in the trash. I wrote up three different officers, and I have yet to get the forms back from any of them. Mom called the warden. She said he sounded so concerned. “I can’t have my guards not following procedure. I’ll look into it” Not likely. Nothing came of it. The warden is no better than the guards. You think he doesn’t already know what his guards are doing? Of course he does. I’m sure this is a familiar story to him. That is probably his standard reply to any family who calls, concerned about their family member who locked up. What else can the warden say?
I’m also tired of being moved from cell to cell, and from prison to another. Because of all this crap with the guards, and because they are always right and I am always wrong, I’ve been placed back in ad seg for another year and I’m being sent to another prison. I’ll be in lockdown twenty-three hours a day, with one hour of rec in a cage a little bigger than my closet size cell, or instead, a shower, but not both. I’m used to it. But if I were back in gen pop, there is a different set of problems. Then I have to have eyes on the back of my head looking for the inmates who have nothing to lose by jumping another inmate. I can take of myself, but anytime there is a fight, no matter who starts it, you get thrown back in lock up.
I can still make parole in ad seg, but I have to get my line class back, and that will take a year. Line class starts at three and moves up to one. If a guard files a major case on me it sends me back to the bottom and I have to start over again. Since guards can file cases on you whether you do something or not, there is always a guard who wants to screw you up. They own you and if you don’t do what they say they’ll get back at you or have another inmate get you that owes them a favor. No, gen pop is not always the best place to be. There is more freedom to move around but it comes with a high price to pay.
Inmates who go to ad seg may be stuck in a cell, but when I get done with it there should be more help with programs and even school. I’m okay by myself. I get depressed sometimes, but as long as I have books to read, and someone I know who cares about me, I can make it. Not having an education is going to hurt me the most when I get out. Who will hire me with even a GED? So that is what I need to focus on. I feel this move to another prison will be a new start and I will get a lot out of it, as long as I can keep things in a good place. It is up to me to do that. I have mom and her letters and I know she loves me. I’ll be okay. Maybe the guards won’t be as bad where I’m going.
I’ve been sitting here and reading mom’s last letter, over and over, about how to keep my mouth shut. It’s not that easy. I do know I’ll keep trying. I won’t give up. I will beat this. I’m going to get myself in control. I’m tired of being angry all the time. It’s hard not to be angry when I see the things the guards do to people, especially the new ones. They don’t know the rules. Someone has to tell them what they can or can’t do. I can’t stand by and not do anything. This is what gets me in trouble the most.
One of the officers broke my ID, so I can’t go to the commissary and it will take three weeks to get another one. I know he did it on purpose. I’m only allowed to go to commissary one time a month, so if I miss it I have to wait another month. Now I can’t go. One of the dudes in here got some stuff for me that I needed. I’ll be able to get it back to him when I get my new ID if I don’t get moved first.
I won’t give up. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes when something looks like a bad thing, there is something to learn. I know I get angry fast and if I don’t learn the reason why it happens and how to control it, it will get me into trouble when I get out. I want to have a good life when I get out, so I have to work on these things now instead of later. I can’t blame anybody but myself for the problems I have in here. They happen to me, so it is up to me to change it. To be happy, I need to understand the meaning of the law of cause and effect. I need to do things a better way so I can have a better life when I get out of here. It’s important that I stop looking it this as if “lost” these years of my life and instead look at what I’ve gained. This is sending my life in a direction that otherwise wouldn’t be there. There is a Buddhist phrase called, “turning poison into medicine” I think that is what it means by using taking something negative in my life and turning it into something positive.
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