INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE
THE LAST FREEDOM DAY
I have had so many hours to sit and think; my life playing over and over in my head like a loop that doesn’t know how to stop. I keep trying to make sense of what happened. It’s easy to look back and think; What if I did things differently? I know I can’t go back and do that, but I hope I’ve learned I can do things different in the future. I need to remember to think things through. How do I want this to turn out? Do people do that? How often do people take responsibility for their actions or do they blame others for what happens? Do they cry, “I’m just a victim! It’s not my fault.” I only know, If I don’t learn to think before I act, then life will keep slapping me in the face. Hopefully I have learned that lesson.
I don’t think I could have kept this from happening. Maybe I could have escaped this exact thing by not going out that night, but the cause had already been made for something like this to happen and there was no escaping it. My karma would it have caught up with me one way or another. Karma is karma and it is what it is. If a cause is made there will be an effect. I didn’t know about any of this back then. It is like gravity. There is no escaping it. If I jump off a cliff, I’m going splat on the ground. This is what happened here. My life went splat and I landed in a prison cell. I have to go through this to learn what I need to learn about life.
What would have happened if I didn’t go out that night? Four years in juvenile detention should have taught me more than it did. I knew my friend was bad news. He had been in and out of trouble his whole life. Just being around him was taking a chance. I knew that; of course I did, but I never really thought about it because some things you can’t know without being taught. I had no one to teach me. I don’t know if I would have listened if someone tried. The young think they already know enough.
I didn’t know what it meant to have priorities. I didn’t know how to set goals. Who did I know who had goals? I lived my life day by day and hoped the future would work itself out. I’m a good person. What did I do to have such a screwed up life? I began to feel trapped and up against a wall. I had to make some money. Morgan kept telling me I had to find a way to bring money home. But how was I supposed to do that? I didn’t even have a high school diploma. How was I supposed to support a family with five people? It was a lot of pressure knowing I was going to be a dad and needed to do things things I didn’t have a clue how I to do.
Who was going to give me a job? I can’t even get a drivers license because I have epilepsy. I have no job resume or references. I’ve been locked up since I was in the tenth grade. I would have to tell an employer I had epilepsy. The chances of having a seizure on the job would always be a possibility. I couldn’t work at a fast food place. If I had a seizure I could really get hurt in a kitchen or cause others to get hurt. No, there would be all kinds of excuses why they wouldn’t hire me. They weren’t supposed to discriminate, but they would anyway, knowing you weren’t going to file charges against a job that was only going to minimum wage. It’s not worth the trouble. I didn’t have many options except maybe manual labor. Stress and heat bring on seizures. Besides I wanted to do more with my life.
The night this went down, I went out to party with a friend; shoot some pool and have fun. I had lost my teen years from late sixteen to twenty-one to juvy. I met Morgan a few months before, soon after I got out. I fell in love with her the first time I laid eyes on her. I didn’t have a chance to get an education so I could at make decent money. Looking back, it was easy to see we should have put more thought into having a baby until we had better plans in place. Having a baby and figure out later how to make it work was not a good plan. But it is what it is.
I knew it was stupid going out that night. This dude was bad news. He was fun to hang out with, but he had been and out of trouble since he was a kid. It was only a matter of time before he got locked up for good. I was no angel growing up. I got in some trouble as a kid. A lot of boys do. But I was no criminal. Not like what you see on TV.
If I hadn’t locked me up for four years before this in juvy, maybe things would be different. All because a cop was determined to get me. I was only supposed to be there for nine months but they lied. If he hadn’t illegally shoved his way into our house and made my mama fall and break her wrist, I would have gone on to finish high school. I had problems with this cop before. Racism in the police is a common thing in Texas. They harass the blacks a lot. I’m not stupid. I know what it feels like to have racism directed at my face. Living in the south, black is not the right color to be, and I know I’m not the first person to say this.
I hold myself up and remember there are things I can do with my life when I get out and have another chance. I want to travel and see more of the country. I’ve never traveled outside of Texas. There is a whole world out there to see. I used to want to be a long distance truck driver so I could travel around and see it. That’s probably not possible because of my epilepsy, but I think about it a lot. I also want to help other kids; teach them not to ruin their lives and use my own life as an example. I want to do good with my life and I want my son to be proud of his dad.
Now it is 2016. I’ve been locked up in prison for more than ten years and my son is almost ten. These are years I can’t get back, so I have to believe I can change my life for the better so it isn’t wasted time. I am going to have a good life. I know I will do things better when I get out. Most dudes say that, but they get sucked back in. They don’t know how to do things any different. Not me; life is going to get better for me. I can feel it. I have to keep the big picture in my head. I have a son to take care of, and he is not going to end up in this place, even though the odds are against him and the cops are still racist when they see the color black. Has that changed since he was arrested? No, but I will make sure my son will not become part of the system.
It is not any of the guard’s fault I am in here. It was my own actions that put me here. But even though it is my fault, it doesn’t mean we have to live the way they make us live. There are things that need to change. Too many people are getting physically and mentally hurt because no one cares what happens to us. They think we deserve being treated like animals. The law wouldn’t like people treat animals the way they treat us. We are human beings. Our sentences do not include abuse. These guards, who treat us badly, will have consequences in their own lives for what they do to us. They think they are getting away with it, but they aren’t.
If I only ever learned one thing from my study of Buddhism, it is this: What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. The law of cause end effect. You get back what you dish out. It is all the same thing. No one gets away with anything. I’m paying for what I did and they will pay for what they do, too. I am learning how to change the negative things in my life to positive things. It’s hard, but I’m learning. The positive side of this lesson is it applies to all the good things you do, too. So the more positive things I do, the better my life will be.
I want to go back to that night, the one that set this all in motion. On January 26, 2006, around 9:30-10:00 at night, a friend came over and suggested we go out and party at a club in a nearby town. That night was not supposed to turn into anything illegal in any way, except that gaming halls themselves are illegal because gambling was still illegal in Texas. I don’t know if it still is. We were only going to do a little gambling and that’s it. We were smoking a little weed and jammin’ to the music. He made a statement about robbing the place but I didn’t take it seriously. He was always saying crazy things like that. Well, he ended up doing it. It shocked me. He had a gun in his backpack. I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t do it. He was my friend. Friends don’t leave each other.
It didn’t work out for him. He didn’t rob the place but he did take out the gun. That is when I knew I needed to get out of there. He ran after me and jumped in the car as I tried to leave. As we left the place it was really crazy. It was dark and we were on a back road. I was driving like a bat out of hell to get away. As I passed a road he yelled at me to turn around because I missed a turn. I didn’t care about no turn. I was trying to get as far away as I could. He kept yelling so I turned around.
As I made it back to the turn, POW! The Sheriff was stopped at the stop sign. I looked in the rear view mirror and sure enough, he was doing a U-turn. He followed us as I drove. The next thing I knew there were cop cars everywhere.
So I told my “then” friend, “I’m fixing to pull over.” He was pissed, telling me not to.
I told him, “Fuck that, I’m not going to have a wreck.” The Sheriff was behind us. I pulled over. We sat there for about two long minutes.
The Sheriff called out to me. “Stick both hands out the window.” They all had their guns pointed at the car. I did what I was told.
“Take your left hand and turn off the car.” I did.
“Take your right hand and open the door.” After I opened the door he said, “Hold both hands out and keep them out in the air.” I did everything he said to do exactly as he said it.
“Stretch out in the road and if you move I will shoot you.” He was serious. I believed every word he said. We were on a back road. He could have done anything he wanted and no one would know anything different.
They did the same thing to my friend. We were searched and taken to the county. When we got to the jail they asked us why we did it.
I said, “Man, I was just gambling.” He asked me again. I gave him the same answer.
“All I was doing was gambling. Nothing else.” I was placed in a holding cell and I could see out the window. The next morning I saw Morgan. Another time I saw my mama. I was told nothing. Then they placed me in another cell for a few days and fed me TV dinners. Then they sent me to Newton, Tx to a holdover jail. When I got there it was a lot different from where I was before. They had tanks instead of cells. A tank is a big area with a lot of bunks. The biggest tanks hold almost sixty people. The one I was in had twenty-five to thirty people. There were a few tables, a TV, two shower stalls and two toilets. They kept a broom and mops in the tank for us to clean with. My bunk was all the way in the back by the toilets.
I went to court and they start talking about giving me forty-five years. forty-five years? Keep me looked up until I was sixty seven years for this? I don’t even have a record. I’ve never been arrested for a crime and they want to take away my life? Because I’m black and I don’t have a real attorney? I got angry. I turned them down. I didn’t do anything. I’m guilty of running because I was scared of what my friend did, but I never pulled a gun on anyone. I didn’t try to rob anyone of money. I’m only guilty of having a poor judgment of friends. I am NOT going to agree to forty-five years for that!
A few days pass by and they take me back to court. For the very first time I met the public defender who was supposed to be defending me, not railroading me. But he wasn’t interested in hearing what happened. His only job is to scare me into taking a plea. he didn’t care if I was guilty or not. This attorney, whose name I can’t remember told the district attorney they had enhanced my case from 5 to 99 years, to 15 to 99.
“Who? I asked him. “Who enhanced it? Are they charging me with things that didn’t happen?” All these thoughts are running around in my brain.
So I asked him, “What are you talking about?”
He looked at me with a bored expression on his face like I was taking up too much of his precious time. “It’s because of your juvenile record.”
I got confused. What did my juvenile record have to do with anything? Looking back, I know now that had to be a lie. A juvenile record is closed There is a reason for that and it’s so they can’t use something against someone for whatever happened while they were a kid. They can’t just go and look at it without a court order. They would be told it was inadmissible. Besides, I wasn’t there because I committed a crime. I hit a cop with a broom because he hurt my mother. No judge would let them use that and give me forty seven or ninety nine years. But I didn’t know then it was just a scare tactic.
Then he said, “The DA is offering 17 years and would go no lower.” They said if I didn’t take it they would take me to trial. It was a scare tactic. They were never going to let me go to trial, and they knew it. But I had no one to talk to about this. By now I was ready to give up. I couldn’t deal with it anymore and i didn’t know what to do.
Believe it or not, I even told the PD I wanted to go to court, but he backtracked real quick and said the DA wouldn’t talk to me. The DA probably didn’t even know who I was, and they were just trying to make me believe he had said all this stuff. I wasn’t important enough for him to want to spend any time with. But what was I supposed to do when I didn’t have anyone on my side? My life was a game to them. I think of these things later, but it’s too late. They didn’t give me time to think. They knew what they were doing. It wasn’t until much later when I learned about the corporations, and how they have a deal with the government to keep the prisons full, that this all started to make sense.
Since I didn’t have a real attorney, I knew I didn’t have anyone who would go to bat for me. I was screwed. Public defenders get paid by the hour so all they want is for you to get scared and agree to everything. That way they can get on to their next client they need to screw for a paycheck. Most of these dudes couldn’t make it as a real attorney so $75 an hour sounds pretty good to them. How many people can they screw in one day?
So I said to myself, “Fuck it. Let me get this over with.” I signed for the seventeen years and went back to the county jail in Newton.
I called Morgan for the first time. How was i supposed to tell her this? I explained the situation as best I could. I told her I understood she will want to get on with her life. I asked her to make sure our baby knows me and my family. That is all I asked of her. She went crazy on the phone and said she’s not going anywhere, and so on. We talked, but after our call I was still in a real fucked up mood. I went to my bunk, sat down, and just went into space not thinking about anything. I zoned out.
As I was sitting on my bunk, a white dude in his thirties came over to take a shit on the toilet beside my bunk. He didn’t flush. I asked him to flush. He didn’t say anything. When he comes from behind the stall, he goes to get the push broom, takes the stick out and threatens me – over flushing the damn toilet! I’m tired. It’s 1 am. I need sleep. I am in no mood for this. He threatens me that he’ll have me eating through a straw. Long story short, I lost it and took everything out on him. From the back of the tank to the front. He was no match for me at my age. The dude fell over a trash can, then shoved himself into it. Next thing I know he was ratting on me and ended up going to the hospital. It didn’t matter that he caused it and threatened me; I beat him up. I ended up in lock up for two weeks. Then I was transferred to tdcj – Texas Department of Criminal Justice – to the Holiday Unit. Now I was officially in my first prison unit instead of jail. Anger is going to be one of my biggest challenges to overcome.
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