To begin this post, I’ve been out of commission this month and had surgery to make me a bionic woman! I have a healing brand new titanium shoulder, or rather the ball on the top of the arm bone that goes into the shoulder joint, and a great deal of metal holding my elbow together. Very painful process.Thank goodness it wasn’t my dominant arm, although typing with one finger on my Nook is rather frustrating. I’ve slowly been catching up with myself and my blogs and all else with life. Yesterday I wrote the post below as I gather my recent letters from Jamie for my next post. He really is an amazing man, fighting to keep his sanity together while living in the bowels of the prison where they keep the mentally insane and the ones they have driven insane. But he is fighting to survive. I wonder if I would have made it if I had been through the abuse he’s taken. I do know he would not have made it alone. People need people. No one deserves what they have done to him and many others. Fighting the corporate profit machine will never get easy. People know it is happening but there aren’t many who try to do anything about it. I understand. At least pass on information and help educate others.
Twice a year inmates are fed better. Maybe not the dinner you’d feed your family, but it’s better. More food. I remember one year Jamie was offered a second meal if he agreed to not be taken down for his shower. He said it was the first time in a long time he felt full.The prison he is at now raises pigs so the serve a lot of pork – undercooked, pink and rubbery. He won’t eat it.
No one likes confinement or solitude. Sitting alone during holidays is probably the hardest. Not being remembered during holidays, birthdays and Father’s Day is the worst. Experiencing it endlessly for years makesyou doubt your value to your family. I understand how that feels and I can see it in the mood of his handwriting.
When we, on the outside go down and we find ourselves confined, it is usually illness or other medical conditions that put us down. It is bearable when we have someone in our lives who loves us and is willing to do our bidding we still hate to lose our precious freedom and have to ask someone to help us. We get bored and usually glad to be up and around. We usually know our confinement has a finite end. It could be days, weeks, months or possibly years depending on how fast we mend. Sometimes the situation is permanent, but if we aren’t alone we can often find a way to rework our lives so we feel we have purpose. We haven’t lost everything. We have hope. At least most of us do. I’ve been confined to bed for 1 1/2 months because my arm needs to heal right. Lately I’ve carefully gotten up with my husband’s assistance. I walked around the livingroom and sat at the piano for a few minutes and played with my good arm. I’m ready for the confinement to be over.
It is easy to tell someone else, “I understand,” even when you have absolutely no idea what you do and don’t understand about being imprisoned, no matter how much you want to. But those of us who have a heart – we try. We want to understand. We bring all the hurt inside and try to hold it for awhile to ease another’s pain.
For almost eleven years now I’ve been writing to Jamie and visiting when at all possible; not as often as I wish I could, but my money is scarce while making ends meet on a disability check. I live in fear of a car repair on my well worn, somewhat banged up fifteen year old Mitzubishi. It can be a tough road when illness takes you from making money and owning a business to being one of “them”, the lazy welfare queens the Republicans say don’t want to work and would rather suck off government benefits than make my own money, so I can buy new tires, fix the heater in my car and be able to put the driver’s side window up when it rains. It angers me sometimes to hear politicians blame people for ruining this once great country instead of putting the blame where it really should good – the profiteers. The corporations who put profit before people and don’t care one iota if they destroy them in the meantime.
Laying in my bed with a bulky sling on my left arm, trying to balance my Nook on my right thigh, I think of Jamie and the hardship he goes through every day in prison. In the state of Texas, one of the worst states to be incarcerated, it is worse than most of the other states, although none are someplace you’d choose to be. They keep him in the pit of hell; the part of the prison where they keep the completely insane they have already ruined. I write him and tell him to hold on – he can do it! Keep your mind on the future. Don’t react when they push and push trying to make you react. He’s only human. How many people could ignore what the guards do as they push every button a person has, just to make them angry so they can justify some kind of abuse. Laughably, look at Trump. He can’t handle ANY criticism of any kind and reacts with immaturity and threatens to sue people left and right, yet inmates who are beaten, starved with rotten food and given inadequate medical care are just supposed to ignore it and say, “Have a nice day.”
His cell is in a hallway of cutters and those who not only throw shit and piss around, the inmates have a game they play where they make darts with razor blades from disposable razors and shoot them at each other and one man asked if Jamie wanted to “play”. “Are you nuts?” he replied. I tell him over and over, “Hang in there. Hang in there”.
He has no where to turn. I’m all he has. He trusts me when I tell him I’m here, but still gets afraid he has said something wrong and I’m mad at him if I wait to long to answer a letter – insecure and thinking I’ve gone away. He’s scared of the life that will await him one day on the outside. He doesn’t know that world. There is no option. I can’t let him down. I told him he can count on me to be there and I don’t even know what that means. I have to heal my broken bones to finish his book. I need to keep his name out there so people will want to know his story and but his book. I was just scouting piano bars in restaurants to play gigs again, for my own survival and to make money to see him and take his son with me.
These are obstacles. Nothing good is easy to accomplish. Everyone has obstacles but this will be a middle age man with medical problems and no life experience and no job experience. Change is hard. Changing everything about your life is impossible for most. I’ve told him over and over, there is something important he is to do and he needs to discover what that is.
I just sent him his fourth GED book. The first was stolen by an inmate. The second was stolen by the property mgr at a prison. The third one he didn’t receive and it was sent back to Amazon. I’m now waiting to hear if he received this last one. I ordered the same book for myself so I can help him study. If you’ve never seen a GED book, I hadn’t, it is not easy cramming all of high school into one book. It is very comprehensive. If I study with him it would help keep him on track and even fun to make quizzes for him or maybe explain things he doesn’t understand. I hope he gets this book.
Part of Jamie’s problem is that he is a black and 6’3″, a pretty big guy. Out on the streets when cops are shooting black men after they pull them over, a normal cop’s excuse, whether they mean it or not is, “I was afraid for my life,” Even if the man never took his hands of the steering wheel. This fictionalized reality was started decades ago when the media portrayed black men as dangerous and uneducated and how they want to kill you. It was used over and over as the justification for why cops shoot first; why they verbally say, “Stop resisting arrest”, even if the man is unconscious, so they can get away with murder. These biases carry over to the prisons.
So I write and I write and I keep him from going crazy as best I can. I make sure he knows he is wanted. He has value. His son needs his father. We have come too far to give up. He still has six years to go out of 17. It is still a long time and a lot can happen during that time. If you’d like to, you could write to him. He would appreciate any communication. Don’t use stick on address levels or colored envelopes. They would be returned. Thank you for reading.
James Cummings#1368189/Allred Unit/2101 FM 369 N/ Iowa Park/Tx 76367
The focus of the next newsletter going out early in December is on the issues of female inmates and their families. If you know someone this topic is of interest to please have them sign up for the ITFO newsletter or share it with them. If someone has a story they want told leave me a msg and a way to contact you.
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