ITFO Newsletter # 10 Can I Make it on the Outside?

bird in cage

How many years did you do? Or how many years did your loved one or friend do inside the walls of a different society almost oblivious of what is going on in the outside world. Snippets of information gets inside but unless you’ve been able to feel the hatred and the racism freely being shown in the world today, you have no idea what you will be walking into.

Maybe you have friends and family and maybe you don’t.  Maybe you have been inside so long you will be a stranger to the people you knew long ago. Maybe you aren’t the same person any more with the same beliefs about life.  How will you explain yourself to people who will look at your face and all they will see is the word felon across your forehead every time they look at you.  Maybe you have tattoos everywhere that people in job interviews will look at and judge you to be a problem to have around, even though they don’t know you.

Can you make enough money to live? Where will you live? How many of your old friends are still around and do you really even want to see them? You have been told most people don’t make it.  Most people end up back inside within a few years.  You never had a regular job because you were so young when you got here. Now you are middle aged. How do you begin life now? You look over your shoulder at every cop you see and they all seem to be staring at you, looking for a reason to lock you up again.

You know you are on your own.  You have met many guys who call prison “home” because they have been inside more than outside.  That isn’t you. How do you protect yourself from a society that doesn’t want you to be part of it. You are used to being tough on the outside to survive, but you don’t want to have to live like that anymore.

There is more to the newsletter.  Just click on this link and it will take you to it.


Serving Life – Youtube

This is a trailer to the documentary you can choose to watch.  I have read so much about Angola prison, a place where very few prisoners ever make it home again.  When they are sentenced, they go there to die.  Inmates have to learn to take care of the ones who get too old and sick

ITFO Newsletter

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Letter to Jamie 2012 – Waiting For Liver Transplant

Sonni Quick April 2017

Many of you know I am doing a rewrite of Inside The Forbidden Outside, What a journey this has been since I decided Jamie’s story needed to be written.  It is not because his story is so unusual, but because there are so many people who have lived the same story.  There are different characters but the underlying theme is the same.  People need to better understand this story because too many still say the line, “If he did the crime he needs to do the time.” How do they know if he did the crime?  How do they know the underlying reason why so many live this story? 

If someone only listened to or read mainstream propaganda, which is getting worse, why would they believe anything to the contrary? They might also believe the white race is more deserving, privileged, more intelligent and less likely to do drugs or commit crimes, especially since there are so many more people of color in the prisons than white people. No part of that statement is true. Many white people can’t stand the thought they aren’t superior to other colors.  When a race has been trampled on as much as the black race and other minorities are catching up, there is an all out effort to keep white prison corporations as rich as possible off the backs of people they don’t like to continue this false illusion.

But wanting to write a book is not as easy as knowing how to spell and where to put a period.  It has taken me a couple years of writing and studying to get this far. Working with a story editor this time has given me a much better grip on what I’m doing. Anyone can self publish an inferior product and not be able to sell their book, but this is far too important to not do the best I can.

Since no one sees every post I put out, and if you are interested in what I’m doing, please subscribe to my newsletter below.  I put out an issue about once a month on different justice issues with an update on the book.  I don’t send you several emails a day like some do.  I hate that.  I also don’t have time to do that.

I am combing through 4-500 letters Jamie and I have exchanged to pull out the most important ones to use. These letters are like a diary that hold his growth into a man and our growth in communication. His effect on my life has been tremendous.  It has also been a two-way street. We would not have made it this far without each other.


sick me
I’m sitting on pillows because of bedsores. I couldn’t walk by myself. My husband took me outside each day because it was Spring. Clogs were the only thing I could get my feet into

To explain where this letter is in time, I had moved from Key West, FL to Pa in August 2010 to get on the liver transplant list at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. My local Dr couldn’t help me anymore. My body had swelled with fluid and I looked like a beached whale.  They couldn’t tap me anymore to drain fluid because it was everywhere, even in my skin.  I already had two tumors in my liver and if I developed a third they would take me off the list and tell me to have a nice life. I won’t get into the details because it is fairly gross. When the liver became available the Drs told my husband, but not me, that I literally had days to live. I was bedridden and couldn’t type or hold a pen or feed myself,  but I had a laptop beside me and I typed letters with one finger.  I had no doubt I’d be okay.  I still had too much to do. Jamie’s letters were a major source of encouragement. The transplant took place July 2nd of this same year.



Date:   1/11/2012 12:12:59 PM
Sent To:        JAMES CUMMINGS

Dearest Jamie – life always goes up and down. Even for people who think they have everything so many of them aren’t happy, get depressed, and feel as though they have problems they will never get out of. But it is really all in the mind and how you view things will determine how you feel. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you. I can’t imagine having a family who cares so little and who will think only of themselves when you get out and how hard it was for THEM. Rise above. Develop an inner strength that will see you through the tough times. For Xmas I am going to get you a subscription to a weekly newspaper that I read. You will understand better what I am saying. It is all about having hope. You know I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist. The philosophies are very different. We don’t pray to an outside source to change things for us. We learn to change from the inside out. Every day I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is time for you to try something different to help you figure out your life. You tried going to church.  You tried Islam. Nothing gave you the answers you were looking for. Now it is time to help you find them. I promise you this will change your life. Here is how to sound it out. If you counted to six evenly over and over you would have the rhythm. One- two -three- four- five- six. In music it is called 6/8 time.

1.Nam ( the a is pronounced like ahh) It doesn’t matter if it is pronounced right or not.
2.myo ( like a cat’s meow but with and o ) It is the attempt that matters.
3.ho Try to say it a hundred times. When you get comfortable ( like rent ) with it, direct your mind to pray for what you need. ( like gay ) Jamie, I would not have been doing this for 24 years for no
6.kyo (like myo ) reason. The more you chant, the better. I have often chanted for 3 or more hours at a time. You will feel better and your head will feel better. People will notice the change.

You are such a worthwhile person. Some days it is hard. There is good and evil. Things will happen to try and make you stop. Don’t let anyone stop you. It isn’t easy doing this through the mail, but when you start getting the World Tribune and read and learn, it will make more and more sense. This is the best present I can give you.

I’m doing a little better every day. The pain is decreasing and the excess fluid is going down from the new medication. Mike said I look like a drill sargent since I don’t have much hair except for a little buzz on the top! It used to be down to my waist. Oh well . . . it grows back. I don’t want anymore chemo that is for sure. It was that procedure that I think gave me the infection I had. But at least they caught before I got any sicker. I do have good drs. Thank goodness I have medicaid. I can’t imagine what 3 days at Hershey Med costs. Probably more than I make, or used to make in a year. So, next stop – transplant here I come!!

Little Jamie will never hate you. He doesn’t really understand, but children are very forgiving. He only wants his daddy. I was lucky for Xmas because I still had quite a few toys and books left from closing the store. I knew Megan had no money so I wanted to make sure everyone had 3 or 4 presents under the tree – including Megan. I gave Jamie a 3-D puzzle of a pirate ship that Alex helped him with. I think that was the best thing for him. It wasn’t just a toy to play with and then forget about. He could be proud that he helped make it. I had puzzles for 3 yr olds that was good for Cozmo. I got clothing for Alex and Alyssa – important things in school. Can you believe that Alex will be 15 on March 2?? He has grown to be a good kid. Meg has always been a strict disciplinarian and it is paying off – even if her daughter hates her at least every other day!

Megan has not forgotten you even though it often feels that way. She gets so quiet when I talk about you. Afraid to think too far into the future.

I won’t let you give up, Jamie, that’s the way I am. You can tell me when you feel bad. I would carry your burden if I could. Lots of love, Mom

p.s. Sounds like you had a great xmas meal. It makes the little things so appreciated. I wish you could get care boxes.
Also – I am going to pay off your med fee. It doesn’t give you any money yet, but toward the end of the month I’ll put a little on your account so you can get some things you need.

ITFO Newsletter

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Do You Have an Attorney in Your Contact List? Why Not?


This post is for people who live in the US.

I have talked to many people who have had more than their fair share of run-ins with the police, and those who get out of jail or prison and have no way to level the playing field when cops continue to harass you. This is why I originally decided to show people their is a way to have better control over your life. But this is for everyone because all of us are no finding that what we believe to be our rights under the law are being taken away from us. Plus, everyone needs an attorney at some point and would call one if they had one to call, when things go wrong.

The justice system in the US, with our new Attorney General, is now more determined than ever to lock up greater numbers of people using drug usage and crimes committed by poor people that hasn’t worked the last forty years. People who can’t afford attorneys. They don’t see the inside of a courtroom except to plead guilty whether they are or not. These people accept pleas because they have no choice. Only about 3% of arrests get to plead their case with a jury of their peers.

Even people who are guilty, without an attorney at the onset, are going to do many more years, decades even, than they would if they had the ability to say 6 magic words, “I want to call my attorney.” The police are very confident you don’t have an attorney to call. If you don’t they can and do anything they want to you and get away with it.

cop in mirrorThey can say you have a broken tail light, even if you don’t. They can force an illegal search of your car. Who is going to stop them? They can do a search and seizure and take your money and anything else they want and say they think it is drug money. They can shoot you if you don’t comply. As a woman they can search your body and stick their fingers where they don’t belong. What can you do?  You don’t have an attorney you can call.  But if you did?

The list goes on – but what if you could press an app on your phone that is answered by a law office – 24/7 for an emergency. Has this ever happened  to you? The cops do these things because poor people don’t have attorneys. Again I ask, what if you did? Do you think it would level the playing field a bit? How much would you pay for that ability? Would you pay the price of a pizza?

Do you say, ” No good law office is going to take my call and do that for me unless i pay him hundreds of dollars.  And on a Saturday night?  No way!

Let me carry this thought a little farther. You are walking down the street. Cops follow and harass you. “Why are you following me?” You ask politely. “I don’t like your punk ass,” the cop mouths off at you with a cocky sneer, because he is wearing a uniform and he’s just itching for a reason to put you face down on the ground. Maybe he didn’t like the way you crossed the street.  You tell him you have called your attorney. Your phone should already be in your hand, app pressed, ssaying, “I’m being illegally detained by a cop,” and show the cop your phone and who it dialed. Tell him, “My attorney would like to talk to you.” They won’t want to mess with you with an attorney listening.  If he really is just harassing you, looking for a punching bag, he will probably tell you, “Have a nice day,” and leave.

I can write many different scenarios about things that can happen about why a cop stops you. It might even be just for speeding or changing lanes without signaling.  The things we call ourselves names over for being stupid because we know better. But it could be other situations, some as ordinary as being screwed by a landlord, overcharged on a bill or for every single thing you sign your name to.

Every person needs an attorney hiding in their phone waiting to be called, except, oops,fox2news you didn’t think you would need it.  You thought you weren’t interested. You are a good driver.  You haven’t been stopped in a long time. You never sign your name to anything without reading every bit of fine print, right?  We all read everything their company used an attorney to write for you to sign that protects them, not you.

If you are familiar with my writing, one of my biggest concerns is what does a prison inmate do when they are released back into society? He’s watched. Is he on parole or maybe probation? That means he is still tied to the justice system. At the snap of a finger, for any reason that parole can be taken from him. It is the fastest and easiest way to keep a prison full through the back door and there is nothing you can do about it. When he is off parole he has a bulls eye on his back and absolutely no protection from anyone who implies he did anything.  It’s open season.

What is the cost per month for this privilege? About a fifth of your cable bill? The price of a run thru at fast food place? A half a tank of gas? Less then the price of an oil change? A couple boxes of Jimmy Deans breakfast sandwiches? Would that be worth paying to have an attorney in your pocket the next time a cop stops you and makes you subservient because he thinks you have no legal recourse?

There is a lot more I could tell you – after you think about this. There is one more thing, though, to consider. You, or one of your children gets pulled into a police station and is relentlessly grilled hour after hour until someone admits they did something – without a parent present. Or maybe they played good cop bad cop. “Just say this . . . and you’ll get to go home.” They don’t. They end up up getting 20 years, when they could have said instead. “I want to call my lawyer.” How much would it be worth to you to be able to say those words and possibly change the outcome of what you or your child could be facing?

Tip the scale. Look at the website. Don’t make a decision until we talk so you know everything. My grandchildren have had 2 fathers in prison. Four out of my seven grandchildren are half black or Hispanic. I’ll be damned if I will lose any of them to some racist cop who thinks it’s okay to beat up, taser or take them to jail and abuse them because of the color of their skin. Poverty level poor people, and those who just can’t afford to keep an attorney on retainer, which is all of us, need a way to protect themselves from people who think they have the right to harass us.

If you want to hear more – no commitment.  Just leave a message and say “Interested” or send me a private message or email at  It never hurts to talk. It can hurt a lot more if you don’t.


ITFO Newsletter

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

How One Inmate Changed The Prison System From The Inside : Code Switch : NPR


NPR story.jpg
Martin Sostre

An article from NPR that is an interesting read.  A little bit of history, realizing that the issues people face today have been going on for quite a long time.

Source: How One Inmate Changed The Prison System From The Inside : Code Switch : NPR


ITFO Newsletter

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

ITFO Book – In The Beginning

Jamie's letters

First there was a prologue added to the new beginning.  Now there is a prologue to the prologue. As I was sorting Jamie’s letters by the different prisons he had been moved around to during these years, with the next step putting them in order, I found a letter I didn’t remember receiving. It was dated quite some time before our back and forth letters began. Before he was sentenced. Before his son was born. The pain he was in made me want to cry.

The editor I’m working with, after I gave her this letter to read, told me, “This is the beginning of your book.  Everything else comes after it. This is why you started writing to him that led to writing this book.”  It also gave me a chance to tell where I was when it started, because after all, I am the one who is writing it.

The post before this – the prologue – is ten years after this. so the title of that chapter is changed to Ten Years Later . . . The next chapter will jump back to his beginning 34 years earlier and then go linear. What do you think? Give me some input. Whether you know me and have followed along or reading about it for the first time.  Would you keep reading? Since I don’t have experience writing books, and I’m self publishing this, I am trying to learn to write the best book I can, anything helpful would be appreciated.  If you sign up for the newsletter below and follow along you’ll have a chance to download the finished product for free when it is done.

I added my newest piece of music to this post because it blew me away when I was done. It about knocked me down draining my emotions. A piece doesn’t often affect me that intensely. I usually wait 2 days to listen back so I can hear it clean, but I couldn’t wait this time to hear what I played. I hope you enjoy.  If you do, leave a comment at soundcloud. To a musician, those stats are important, too.

In The Beginning

Dear mom, how are you?

     Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Morgan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting,me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m realy sorry about the phone calls to. I’m realy sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again.

Love you Mom

P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always Jamie


My very pregnant daughter Morgan arrived at my home by bus a couple months ago, with her two other children. No doctor in Key West would accept her as a patient this late in her pregnancy. She was already in the latter part of the second trimester. No doctor wanted to be responsible for her care and delivery, especially a doctor accepting Medicaid for insurance.

     It didn’t help her second pregnancy had problems they needed to know about when we called. After days of phone calls, we found a doctor in Miami. Every exhausting eight hour roundtrip drive, the bigger the baby grew, I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made on that narrow road through the Keys.

     The closer she got to her delivery date the more frequent her appointments. It was worth the drive. While in labor she did have a problem delivery and if she had gone to the Lower Keys Hospital they would have life-flighted her to the mainland. She might not have made it on time because the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times. She would not have had this doctor who saved the baby, and I would not have been there for the birth. When baby Jamie was delivered by c-section I would have still been driving crazy, over the speed limit, up that same narrow road through the keys.

     The day of this doctor appointment was a normal, hot humid summer day in Key West. Coming home, after driving around the block a few times trying to park close to the house, I dropped her off in front and parked two blocks down the street. Parking spaces were always a premium. It was easier to get around town on a bicycle or moped. Everything was so close on this tiny island. I was lucky I found a parking place that close.

     Walking down Whitehead Street toward my house I passed the Hemingway House, home of the late writer Ernest Hemmingway, which still had a line of people waiting outside for the last tour of the day. As I glanced in through the gate, six toed cats were walking lazily around the property as usual. Feral cats were a problem on Key West. I had at least twenty living under the house. They ate the eggs of all the chickens that lived in the hedges. Roosters crowed all day and all night.

     The front gate to my house made a metallic grind when it opened. I grabbed the mail as I walked down the two foot wide walkway between houses to get to my entrance in the back. It was a typical Key West house nestled in the charm of Old Town, built close together because of hurricanes. Morgan was already laying down on her daybed in the guest house. I plopped down on my bed with a loud sigh of exhaustion and began sorting the mail.

     There was a letter addressed to me from Jamie. That was odd. He had never written to me. I briefly talked to him on the phone a few times to ask how he was, but I never tried to use up his minutes and would quickly go get Morgan. Those minutes were precious to both of them.

     James Cummings is the father of Morgan’s baby. A little over 6’1”, and a little overweight, he had a pleasant face and perfect manners. He was nice. I liked him and they seemed happy.

     Unfortunately, Jamie was arrested one night a few months before when he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and was arrested with him. He was still waiting at the jail for an attorney to talk to. He didn’t know yet what was going to happen to him. He knew all he had was a public defender. They are not known for being on the side of the defendant. At least not in Texas. They do the bidding of the District Attorney. He heard about that from other men at the jail, so he’s worried. Having a pregnant girlfriend made it worse.

     Nerve racking isn’t a good enough word to explain how he felt. He and Morgan were both anxious. All I could do is give her emotional support when she needed it and help with the kids when I could.

     Being black is only the first strike against him. Being poor was the second. Money buys justice and when you don’t have any, luck doesn’t fall on your side. He has no police record but Texas doesn’t much like poor black people. It didn’t look good for him because if there is no money for an attorney, would a public defender make the effort to help him the way he needed? Probably not.

     Morgan scraped money together from the paychecks she earned working for me at my store, Touched By The Sun, at the Westin Hotel. It was a busy little store right where cruise ships dock. She sent the money to Jamie’s brother, who knew somebody, who knew an attorney, who would take a down payment and pay the rest over time. He would start working to get him out.

     I don’t know what happened, but it all went up in smoke and the money disappeared with it. Jamie was stuck with the public defender who had no interest in the truth about that night. He was royally screwed, as most people are when they can’t afford to pay an attorney. There can be no justice when there is no truth. The justice system is often not interested in the truth, it is interested in filling prison beds.

     I first met Jamie last Thanksgiving, before his arrest. I had flown to Texas to visit my daughter and grandchildren. I met him the first night and he joined us for breakfast the next morning. It gave me a little time to talk with him. He was a polite young man who answered every question with, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am.” He had a wonderful smile. It was more than obvious he loved Morgan and the kids. They hadn’t known each other very long. That’s probably why they didn’t tell me she was pregnant. I think they were worried I would be upset. It would be easier to tell me during a phone call.

     She was right. I was upset. Where was her brain? Jamie didn’t have a job. He was looking for one but availability in their area wasn’t good when you have no education. How would he support the family by himself when she became too pregnant to work? They had plans, but right now they were pipe dreams. Love doesn’t fix all, and pipe dreams don’t buy food.

     She struggled to take care of the children she already had. Her marriage fell apart and she received no child support. She knew I would worry because her last pregnancy had problems which could easily occur again.

     After Jamie was arrested, visiting him at the jail, they talked about calling me to see if she could come stay with me. Morgan knew she couldn’t do it alone. I put her on a bus and arranged the little guest house behind us for her and the kids. At least she was safe and he didn’t have to worry about her.

     During this time Morgan and Jamie needed to talk. There were promises of waiting til he got out and loving each other forever. There was such deep pain on both sides of the phone line. Their time together was cut short before it even had a chance to begin. Both were afraid about what would happen to their future together.

     The phone bill was escalating at an alarming rate. Calls from jail are expensive. Twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. I had to tell Jamie to cut back how often he called. Sometimes he called more than once day. I hated to do that but it was going to break me financially, and there were other added expenses getting her to and from Miami to the doctors.

     I understood, he was on the outside, worried and scared. His girlfriend was carrying his child and he couldn’t be with her. I felt bad for both of them. I didn’t want to make him feel even even more separated than he was.

     That separation was nothing compared to what was coming. It was a good thing he didn’t know.

ITFO Newsletter

Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Fixing a Broken Prison System

Florida prisons have the worst reps for many reasons. I can’t even begin to list why. Texas is bad without a doubt, but I sure would hate to be locked up in a Florida prison. The man who writes this is writing from a Florida prison so he knows what he is talking about.

Malcolm Ivey

An inside perspectivea0008-000053

Part 7 – No discussion on fixing the broken prison system would be complete without addressing the problem of gunning. Problem is actually an understatement. Epidemic is closer to reality. But before I get started, a quick disclaimer: If you are easily offended, you may want to skip this one.

Remember the movie Silence of the Lambs? You know the part where Clarice goes to visit Hannibal for the first time in that institution for the criminally insane? Remember the disgusting dude in the adjacent cell as she was leaving? Yeah… gunning.

In short, gunning is public masturbation and it is rampant in Florida prisons. Any time any female works any dorm in the state, you can bank on at least a few inmates – sometimes as many as 15 – peeking around corners while playing with themselves, whacking off at the sinks, some even boldly exposing…

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ITFO Book – Prologue – 2016 Year Ten

Jamie's letters

caught-1013600__340 (1)

Inside The Forbidden Outside. Over the past many months I have been writing this book. What a learning process it has been. Writing a book is not like writing a blog post. I had a lot to learn. My first draft of 90,000 was an accomplishment in itself.  You can do a search on the title and bring up chapters I posted during this time that are not going to be used, although some pieces of it might. I’ve talked to authors and editors and read and read and read to learn the craft of writing. No writing is ever wasted I was told because it takes time to find your “voice”. I also had to find the focus of the book/the story I was writing. My first manuscript was missing the continuity of the story and who was speaking it?  Many people want to write a book.  Some start but aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to learn how to write something of quality. It would be like saying you are going to paint a great picture. You can buy the paints, canvas and brushes but that doesn’t mean you can paint something that looks like what you what it to be. With books, crappy ebooks on Amazon are a dime a dozen and about a dime’s profit is all they will ever make.  But they can say they are a published author for whatever that is worth to their ego.

I’ve been working with a developmental editor to help me with options on finding what it is I want to accomplish with this book or no one except people who love me will read it to the end. I’d really like some feed back on this.  Either in comments or email or facebook messages. This is just the prologue, that has gone through 5 rewrites, begins with now, 11 years into a 17 year prison sentence. After this – Chapter one flips back to the day Jamie Cummings was born.


2016 – Year Ten

     Sleep?  On a night like this? Ungodly heat sucked every square inch of breathable air out of his cell. Jamie, frustrated because sleep wasn’t possible, pulled himself up to sit.  Soaked with sweat, the sheet stuck to his skin. He could smell his own stink. Prisons, during the hottest months in Texas were unbearable. 

     How any prison could make the decision men could survive in this heat, because air-conditioning cost too much, should spend a day in here with them. What other choice existed for these sorry souls? What did it matter if they suffered? Only the medical unit had air conditioning and only an epileptic seizure let him through those doors.

     Hunched over with his face cupped in his hands he took long deep breaths of hot humid air.  Searing pain creeping up the back of his neck created a rhythmic pounding in his head. Pain forced his lips to press together, as he tried to stop himself from crying. Other dudes down the hall cried from their pain. He listened to them every day but he wanted to be stronger than that.  He didn’t want to be weak and let them hear his sobs. He choked the sounds down his throat until he got himself under control.

     Jamie stood and began pacing the floor. With his fists clenched by his sides he screamed at the gray walls, “I can’t take this no more. No man should have to suffer like this.” It was more than just the heat. It was everything they did to make him feel like he was worth nothing. He turned around and smashed his tightly clenched fist into the wall. He stood there and watched silently as bright red blood from his torn knuckles dripped down his fingers.

     “At least I’m not dead. Dead men don’t bleed.”

     Year after year he lived with epilepsy that haunted him from birth. Seizures were a brutal fact of his life. He never knew when one would crash through his brain. It wasn’t unusual to have one in his sleep.  He wouldn’t know until it jerked him off his bed onto the floor, breaking a tooth or gashing a piece of him somewhere on something sharp. He would lay there, unable to move because he could feel his brain bouncing inside his head. His body was so tired it felt like it weighed many hundreds of pounds

     He knew the warning signs when one was beginning. As a child he would run and jump on a grown up.  Not understanding, they would push him off and he’d crumple to the floor.  He was born with his own personal boogieman who attacked him whenever it wanted. Being hot and stressed, seizures were more frequent. He couldn’t control what happened. It was embarrassing because sometimes he peed himself. He might lay there so long it dried, but he could smell it. It often took hours to call for help.

       Jamie reached over the toilet and turned on the water to rinse the blood from his hand. The water in the pipes sputtered out brown liquid. He wadded up a small piece of toilet paper to stop the bleeding and held it in front of the fan to dry. It would add a new scar to the others already there. He had to be careful using the toilet paper. He was only given one roll a month. God forbid he got the runs.

     He did the only thing he knew to do. Sonni wrote over and over in her letters it would help him. He stared at the wall, cleared his brain and began saying, “Nam myoho renge kyo, nam myoho renge kyo, nam myoho renge kyo,” breathing deep and relaxing his body, praying for calm and strength to make it through another day.

     It would be hours til dawn and that would bring no relief. Daytime heat would climb to well over 100 degrees, maybe 110. Heat waves lasting weeks were normal.  It wasn’t unusual to hear some dude  passed out or died from heat stroke. Every year summer started earlier and lasted longer.  The cheap plastic fan, bought at the commissary, did nothing more than stir hot air and dust.

     He didn’t know how long he sat there and chanted those words.  All he knew is the words had something to do with cause and effect. If he caused this to happen to himself he sure wanted it to change. He would do anything to change this if he could. Strange, it did make him feel better.

     He went to the sink and turned the faucet back on.  He was thirsty. He frowned at the water. They were supposed to drink this yet the reddish-brown color made him wonder if it was safe. A lot of dudes complained. Why did it have a rust color?  Prison officials sent a paper around saying they tested the water and it was safe to drink. He doubted they tested it. He wasn’t going to believe anything they told him. They won’t put money into something they can get away with not fixing. They sent the paper around because the warden couldn’t afford the chance of a riot.

     If money was in his account he could buy bottled water, if they let him go to the commissary.  They only took him once a month, maybe, cuffed and shackled. Would prison staff drink the water? No, they had filtered water. The prison still used the original pipes put in a building built a long time ago. They’d let men die before they authorized any improvements that drained money out of their bank accounts. Besides, empty beds would be filled by other unfortunate inmates in no time.

     He soaked his towel under the faucet and loosely rung out the water. He laid the dripping towel over the fan. For a short while slightly cooler air came through the material and soothed his face. He couldn’t keep the towel wet at night. It dried in minutes. Some nights, if the roaches left him alone, he lay naked on the floor. Cool cement helped more than laying on his bed.

     He craved the feeling of a cool breeze. It would feel so good. He closed his eyes and with a little imagination heard air rustling through leaves of a tree. In his mind, beneath that tree, he sat still and listened to the birds chirping away, answering each other’s call. Memories of childhood surfaced; the sound of a lawnmower in early mornings and smelling wet cut grass. He breathed it in and filled his lungs. He let his breath out slowly. He ignored the smell of rancid bodies sweating in other cells, all in need of a shower.

     Pretending he was with a woman put a smile on his face. He imagined the sensation of running his hands over her skin, her legs wrapped around him. He imagined her body pressed close to his and he felt the beating of her heart. He closed his hand over his throat and pretended the beating of his heart was hers. Losing his twenties and now his thirties, when hormones were raging wasn’t fair. These years were lost forever. The biggest loss, though, was needing and wanting to be loved. The lack of love and craving for comfort was the worst kind of torture he lived through.

     It was hard to be here for years and have no one to talk to but himself. Conversations taking place only in your head can make you crazy after awhile. 

“Can anybody hear me? Is anyone there?” He yelled out loud to no one so he could hear the sound of a voice. “Shut the hell up. I’m trying to sleep.” someone answered back. Sometimes different dudes yelled back and forth from the cells. They got to know each other a little that way, but it’s not the same as talking face to face.

     Aside from his son, the most important person in his life these last ten years has been Sonni. He wished they could talk. They talked a few times about three years ago when he had phone privileges for a few weeks. She came to the prison three times and brought his son to see him. She would have come more but she was sick for a long time and had a liver transplant. They had an odd relationship, but she was the only one he knew he could count on to be there for him.

     He asked her once in a letter, “Why do you write to me?  Why do you care?” She wrote back, “You made me laugh. Why do I do this? Because you are family.” A now sixty-two year old white woman and a thirty-four year old black man, with a grandson/son connecting them. Yes, what an odd family unit they made.

     Sonni’s letters kept him together. He knew he wasn’t alone. There was someone on the outside who knew he was here. He wasn’t completely forgotten. She was his lifeline. They met once, a few weeks before he was arrested, when she went to Texas to visit her daughter, Morgan, and her two kids. After spending the last four years in juvenile detention Jamie felt like he had a family. Morgan just found out she was pregnant. He had never been so happy. Since he was just being introduced to her mom they decided maybe telling her they were pregnant might be a little too much to take in all at once.

     Morgan couldn’t wait for him and went on with her life. A seventeen year sentence is a long time. About a year later, Sonni wrote to see if he was okay. He wrote back, until there were five hundred letters between them. She kept him from falling into a pit. For ten years now he had someone who sent books, magazine subscriptions and deposited money in his account for stamps and other necessities. Otherwise he would have been one of many people inside who had no one helping them. No one in his family helped him or answered his letters. She saved his life in more ways than one.

     Sonni is the one who wanted to write this book using his words from many letters, so she insisted they were writing it together. Jamie never thought he had a life worth putting into words for people to read. Maybe it wouldn’t have been a life worth reading  had she not opened his eyes and made him understand he didn’t need to follow the path laid out for him.  Most dudes can’t make it on the outside because they’re set up to fail.

     Jamie gave the system too many years already. He won’t give them anymore after he leaves. He’s done. He wants a life. Sonni said his story was important and it needed to be written. This book would hopefully change the course of his life.

     He thought people had the right to understand what happened that caused so many people to be locked up. Why does the US have the most prisoners in the entire world? Are Americans worse than other people, or is there another reason?  Are they locking up people they shouldn’t and keeping them locked up longer than what was right? Why would they do that? Would his life story help other people? Could he make something positive from all this misery?

     Through their letters, they learned more about each other than most people do who see each other every day. At first she was Mom and he was her Son. Over the years it became Jamie and Sonni. In prison, age doesn’t matter. Skin color doesn’t matter. Looks don’t matter. Nothing matters except the thoughts communicated through the power of the written word.

     Jamie laughed. The prison system probably kept the Post Office in business. People don’t write letters any more except for the ones in prison. Everything else was  junk mail and bills. Sonni types emails and sends them on the internet, but he had to answer by writing with a pen, hand drawing the lines to write on.

     He started digging around in his head for memories he wanted to forget. It wasn’t easy. Not being a writer or even having a GED, learning to explain how he felt has been hard. How do you find the right words when you don’t know them?  His English and spelling wasn’t great but it got better after writing so many letters. Because writing about some things were painful, pulling them out of his head hurts. He stuffed the unpleasant things so far down he didn’t know if he wanted to bring them to the surface.

     Sonni was right, though. How could he live his life a better way if he didn’t understand why he ended up in here? Why him? He wanted to know who he was. He never thought about the question, why? Think about the consequences of things he did? Nobody ever told him to do that.

     He learned about about cause and effect.  Did he think he could leave here and be happy just because he wanted it? He never planned for his future because he wasn’t quite seventeen when he landed in juvenile detention for a few months, but didn’t get out for over four years. There wasn’t even a crime committed to deserve doing that time. There were so many things he never had the chance to learn.  So many things not done. He’ll have the wisdom of a kid when he gets out. How could he not screw up if he were on his own? She made him think about these things. If he didn’t, life would slap him around any way it wanted.

     Jamie wants to change.  He has to. He doesn’t want his son to go through what he has. That thought scared him.  When he leaves the prison for good he wanted to use this life he lost, because of mistakes he made, as an example of what not to do. If good comes from that, this time in here wouldn’t be a total waste.

     To tell his story so it makes sense, he needed to go back to the beginning, to January 10, 1983 . . .

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African Politics and the World Situation | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

Source: African Politics and the World Situation | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

I’m not going to kid you, this is a long article.  But if you are looking for truth in the situation surrounding primarily Detroit which has been intentionally targeted and politicized to shape the area in the way white politicians see as the best way for them, not the people, and rid the city of all those pesky black people, then this article will give you those facts and not hide behind hyperbole and cloud the situation with opinion.

This article goes beyond that one city and shows you how other politics in other parts of the world tie into it. We all should have learned by now that “the news” is not the news.  It is an interpretation about how someone “feels” about things that are happening depending on what side you are on.  I no longer read any article that says something might happen or could happen at any point in the future.  I am only interested in those things that have happened or are happening.

Even though most people at least partially understand the plight off the black race, not enough time has been spent by most people to understand the real reason why. Exactly who and what is to prosper from it’s decimation – and why? Is there anything, with the protests and anger surfacing in greater numbers every day, going to be enough to change something as huge as this when there is no one entity that can be made to understand it must stop?  And does that mean we should go meekly into our respective corners and stick our heads in the sand? Absolutely not.

Spend a little time and educate yourself.  Tell me what you think.  I am no authority on this and am learning the same as you.  I want to know what you think.  I know I have readers in Africa who can tell me, from their points of view, if they agree with this and how it has affected their lives.

African refugies
photo credit: Global research -African Politics and the World Situation


From Foster Care to Foster Care

all races of prisoners

What happens to kids when they are raised without love? Craving to have someone who thinks they matter and rarely finding what they seek. Some were babies separated from parents at birth. Parents might have died. Some were raised in the hell of abuse and drug addicted parents and never felt safe loving arms rocking them asleep at night. What did they learn about raising a child?

Children of all ages get pushed from foster home to foster home. Many miss their parents, even the bad ones, the drinkers and the addicts, because no matter what, they have a bond and love them, unless of course they beat them. They want their parents to be okay and come take them home, wherever that is because without love a little bit of who they could have become dies every day. Callouses grow over their feelings, because to care means painful messages are sent to their minds every day telling them they are no good. They are unlovable. There isn’t a soul in the world that genuinely cares about their lives.

Are they hungry?  Do they need help with homework? Would they like to have something to wear that doesn’t look like it came from a sale rack at the back of a thrift store no one else wanted? Do many foster parents see them as free money for themselves so they never provide the child with decent necessities? They look like a child no one wanted. They could cram all they owned into a beat up back pack. I cry for these children. Do you?

Source: Michael Korchia on Flickr

If they wanted to learn who would encourage them? Who would notice if they did a good job at anything? Who would ask them what they wanted to be when they grew up or do they only hear words that remind them they are no one and completely unloved.

They are often sexually abused as children and many teens are raped by their “parents” at will. Why not, it’s not incest and a young nubile body in the next room is a powerful aphrodisiac to a lazy drunk in a recliner cashing a check for “raising” a child no one wants. They know when their caseworker is coming to inspect their home so they make it presentable and fool them once again, of course they love being foster parents. The kids are great. The workers know that all is not as it seems, but if they remove the child, or children, they have to find them another home  probably just as bad. They were so jammed. So many children and not enough case workers or homes to put them in. It would take more hours out of a day when they had no more time to give. So they say, “Have a nice,” and hope for the best. The child sneaks out his window with his backpack of clothes and money he stole from his guardian. After all, the money was supposed to be spent on his care. Does this describe all foster care parents?  No, but it describes enough of them that it creates a huge problem for the lives of these children.

From home to home these kids had been pushed.  There was no “parenting.” The children became uncontrollable because they were tired of being abused and trusted no one. Because cops are being used in schools with no counsellors so they are pulled in to juvenile court. “Are you going to behave?” Too many kids and not enough resources to help them means they are put back into the hands of unworthy foster parents or back to the streets until something bad enough happens to send them away juvenile prison. Don’t kid yourself. Prison is prison no matter how old you are.

Most of these children are ruined for life. Is this what the right to lifers had in mind when they said every fetus or clump of cells had a right to life? Or did they honestly think these unwanted babies would grow up happy, go to college, get married and prosper? Really? Get a life.

I ask you, how was this child supposed to survive? Work a job? How, he was never in a school long enough to get an education so the drop out rate from school is high. He’s surly and cocky, His barrier to protect the part of him that wants to cry begins to crumble. He can’t do that, he has to stay tough. He’s angry at the world for dealing him this deck of cards. Where are all the people who demanded his drug addict mother HAD to give him the right to life. She didn’t care. He was born addicted and never had a day like the ones he saw on TV commercials when parents lovingly cared for their fake children. What a joke.

“I was born!” he screamed.”Now what am I supposed to do? Where are you now? Is this what you were thinking when you protested I had the right to life!” Okay, he’s alive but the path he’s on isn’t a choice he made. He had to eat. He had to steal. He needed to survive the only way he could. He hung with other kids like him. Getting high was his only relief from this ugly world.

He aged out of the juvy system. He tried to get a job. Only one place hired him because he had no GED. But he didn’t understand how to push himself to make it to work on time to do something he hated. He was fired. He met a girl who had lived a life like his and they clung to each other in a life raft built for one. She became pregnant and for a short while he felt happiness, not thinking, how will I care for someone when I don’t know how to take care of myself? does love conquer all?  Not in the real world.

To provide for his family, buy diapers and food, a minimum wage job would not have paid the rent. He didn’t understand why his life became what it did so he can’t get off the path created for him. You can’t know what you’ve never been taught. His life of small crimes of theft and dealing drugs eventually pulled him into adult court. Mandatory minimum sentencing gave him a sentence that took him into middle age. CPA took away his child because they determined the mother couldn’t raise him. Love was not enough and they gave her no help. Within 6 months they forced her to permanently give up her parental rights to the child she gave birth to and under no circumstances could she get him back. Nor could she ever see him or know where he was. It was like he died. She grieved. She had done the best she could.

What are we doing wrong? Who will take responsibility for the lives of these children? I understand the rational of both sides of abortion. But one law is not in the best welfare of every case. If you fought for the birth of a group of fertilized cells and you knew ahead of time the person would have a horrible life and end up in prison because as a child he want loved the way you imagined he would be, would you fight just as hard for that life? If he grew angry enough to hurt lives would you yell, “The death sentence!” just as vehemently as you protested against abortion? “He could have made other choices!”  Could he? You can’t have it both ways. If you fight for him to be born then fight for him to have a life. Don’t look the other way when he is kicked to the curb over and over.  If you demand there be no abortions then DO SOMETHING actively to help these unaborted babies have a life worth living.

80% of all adult prison inmates were “raised” in foster care



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Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. It would be a tremendous help as I build my mailing list for the book I’m editing, Inside The Forbidden Outside. Those who receive the newsletter will have the opportunity to download it for free when it is ready to publish. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post