When I started writing this blog for Jamie over three years ago it was because I thought people needed to hear his story. It wasn’t because his story was exceptionally different from other people in prison. It was because his story is too damned common. A large percentage of people live their lives oblivious to the pain and suffering inflicted on many people who are locked up in all kinds of detention centers – not because they are dangerous people, although there are many in prison who are – but because they are a source of profit for prison corporations and shareholders who have stock in the growing number of prisons. It is also a source of campaign donations for politicians who then bide by what the prison corporations want – more people to profit from and little oversight about the way they are treated and cared for. We know what the problems are but we can’t make them change.
I don’t blame people for not knowing. I didn’t know anything, either, before Jamie came into my life. All I knew was what I learned in TV series like Prison Break. I didn’t know it didn’t tell the whole story. I thought people were in prison because they deserved to be there. I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether the amount of years they were sentenced was fair. I didn’t know blacks and minorities were targeted. It didn’t affect my life – I thought. Then I met Jamie.
In the pages at the top of the blog is a page that was written at the beginning of my writing the blog. “My Name is Jamie”. If you don’t know his story that is a good place to start because it tells some of the reasons why he is there and what his life was like. There have been many changes since that was written. If you read through all 300 plus blog posts for the ones that include his letters you would be able to follow his life, but that would take a lot of dedication. Instead I thought I’d give you a synopsis of where he is now and what is going on.
In addition to this blog I am also writing a book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”, which is in the second draft. It has taken me longer than I expected to write because I can only write one thing at a time. Two blogs, A newletter “ITFO News” and a book take time and I work on them in a cycle. Add to the mix all the required social media promotion to build a network. When I work on one I can’t work on another. I often work until the sun comes up.
In addition, I am an improv piano composer and I’m working on an album of music for the book. Much of the music was originally written for different blog posts you could find scattered throughout the blog. The music is sometimes painful and melancholy, relaxing and peaceful, best listened to with your eyes closed in the dark. Music promotion takes up another huge chunk of time. You can find my music at these two websites. Skunk Radio Live and ReverbNation. (the links are below the post) Share it if you like it. For anything on line – stats matter.
The reason for all of this is to create a place mentally for Jamie to go when he gets out in 2023. He needs something to work on that has meaning. A book to use to talk to people – help young people stay out of prison and give meaning to his 17 years inside. Turn a negative into a positive.
Jamie has been inside for 12 1/2 years. He has 4 1/2 years to go. He did 4 years in juvenile detention right before this on a charge he wasn’t guilty of. He took the fall for his younger brother and was told if he did the time for him he would only do nine months. There should have been no charge period. A cop illegally came into their home with no warrant and no cause for entry. His mother got hurt and his little brother hit the cop with a broom in defense. But Jamie was lied to. They didn’t let him go until he was twenty-one. This is in a chapter early in the book. With no education, no life experience, no job history and no counseling, what was he supposed to do?
I think the last 4 years of his sentence are going to be harder than the first four because he is tired. Burnt out. He will be 35 in January 2018. In the beginning he had no idea what to expect, he only knew it is going to be a long time. He hoped his family will be there to support him. He lost raising his only child, a boy, my grandson, who was born after he was arrested. He turned 11 this past July.
He waited and waited for his family to be there for him, giving them excuses of being busy and they will probably write later, which they never did. He asked for a little money to buy hygiene products and nothing was ever sent. He suffered from depression – and epilepsy. No one asked him how he was or if he needed anything. My daughter, his son’s mother went on with her life. He never blamed her for this. They hadn’t been together very long.
How would you feel if this was you and no one gave a damn how you were? The largest percentage of inmates come from the fostercare system, but he had a family and that family acted as though he didn’t exist. Letters weren’t answered. They still aren’t answered. The only person he has had through this is me – and through me, some of you who have written and encouraged him.
Jamie wasn’t guilt free but when you are black or a minority and have no money for an attorney they force you to take a plea deal with threats of a longer sentence if you don’t. If he had an attorney he would have never gotten 17 years. Only 3% of those arrested actual go to court to have their case heard. 97% only go to court to plead guilty – in and out of court in ten minutes. There are so many people arrested there is no time for anything more. this is also why there are so many, often after decades get their cases overturned. But nothing can back the years of suffering inside.
He has been moved around to eight prisons so far. He isn’t in gen pop where there is an opportunity to take classes or go to the library. Even so, gen pop is a dangerous place because there is a mix of inmates with nothing to lose. A lot of bad stuff happens, not only with the inmates with drugs and sex and fights with weapons, it also often includes participation with the guards. Jamie has been beaten, sprayed with gas and false cases have been filed against him he can do nothing about. At the last prison, in retribution for filing grievances against guards for their treatment they filed thirteen sexual harassment cases against him. He can’t fight that. It’s on his prison record.
Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. It’s the same thing out here in the “free world” when it comes to cops and taking responsibility for the people they murder for no reason.
Today he still sits in adseg – administrative segregation – another name for solitary. When he was moved from the last prison 2 1/2 years ago because he was no longer safe there, he was given one year in adseg. Once he was moved they added two more years. Why? Because they can. He has a meeting this month to see if they will let him out. He has a 50/50 chance. If not, then the next meeting is in six months. Is this serving any purpose? Or does it make the guard’s job easier?
I’m worried about him. It is too much time alone. He turns down going to the shower and does a bird bath in the sink – to stay away from guards. He turns down his hour of rec for the same reason. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of getting out of adseg. How will this affect him when he gets out? it isn’t a matter of, will it affect him? It is only a matter of how much. Reintegration will be hard.
This Fall I am making another trip to Texas for a few weeks. I went a year ago, too. I want to finish up on some details I need for the book. I can take his son to see him. I can encourage him to hang in there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the things I am trying to do to create a life for him, which also has a benefit for me with my music and gives me a reason to keep on writing. There has to be a sequel about what happens next.
It’s important to focus on the positive. See yourself being successful with whatever you want to do. If your life is full of, “I can’t . . .” or “It won’t . . .” or “I could never . . .” then you won’t do anything. All you will do is sit back and feel sorry for yourself and the bad hand of cards you were dealt. It is up to each of us to make our lives work. But if no one teaches you how to do that, what can you do?
I have spent years teaching Jamie the law of life – the law of cause and effect. Some call it “You reap what you sow,” but many don’t take it seriously. Where we end up is the result of the things we have done, so it is up to us to do things to undo what we don’t like and get our life going in a positive direction.
I want to thank all the people who have encouraged me. It has kept me going when i doubt myself. It has helped give me the strength to not give up. Who am I to think I can accomplish these things? If I lose confidence I remember why I’m doing it and what the stakes are. My actions affect other people. Everyone else abandoned Jamie. It happens to most who spend a long time inside. I promised him I would be there and he is counting on that.
Next issue coming soon. The topic this month – Incarcerating The Innocent . . . AND . . . beginning today, until ten days after the next issue is published, anyone not currently receiving the issue in their email can tap the above button and enter a sweepstakes to win a signed copy of Sharron Grodzinsky’s “Waiting on the Outside.” Ten copies will be given away. No shipping fee. Absolutely free.
If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: email@example.com
Jamie Life in Prison at Face book . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Piano Improv Music of Sonni Quick . . . New facebook page of the past and present
ReverbNation . . . Website of Indie music not on traditional radio stations. Sonni’s featured page.
SkunkRadioLive . . . Indie radio station out of London playing music composed for the book being written for Jamie. If you can, help support. It will all help Jamie in the end.
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