Plea Bargaining: Prosecutors Leave Trail of Injustice When Playing Hardball with Defendants | Criminal Legal News

 

Plea bargains have been instrumental in filling our prisons, often forcing people to take a plea when they have been threatened with monstrous prison sentences. When you can’t afford to pay an attorney – and this is who our injustice system goes after – families end up losing a parent, son, daughter and friends.  Worst of all, the person who may have actually committed the crime gets away with it.

We all know of the racial injustice in this country and the drive to incarcerate people of color – especially the men – which then also has the effect of most of them losing the right to vote to change the system, or the ability to raise and educate their children.

Jamie was offered a 45 year plea deal the first time around. When he insisted on going to court they lowered it to 17 years, (so he would feel grateful?) and if he didn’t take it he would end up with a sentence of 50-99 years. What would you do?

He has now almost completed 13 1/2 years.  If you have followed along with any of the chapters I have posted of the book I am writing about his life inside – Inside The Forbidden Outside -you know how awful that can be, not only physically, but mentally. I received a letter three days ago about the prison he is housed in currently and I will be writing about what I learned. I promise you, if you had to live through this you would be working just as hard to try to change this system.

Source: Plea Bargaining: Prosecutors Leave Trail of Injustice When Playing Hardball with Defendants | Criminal Legal News

Circles Inside Circles – music and ITFO

Listen to Circles Inside Circles by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

The partial chapter below was posted about 6 months ago. I included it again to give context to the music. When someone is trying to figure out up from down and what makes sense to them about why their life is the way it is, it is confusing and leaves you feeling out of control. You want to change but you don’t know what the truth is – so you search. You try things. You listen. There is more than one path to happiness, but some ways make more sense than others. Blind faith with no consistent proof is the hardest – at least it is for me.

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Jamie was trying. He couldn’t try any harder. He wanted to understand how he could turn his life around and make it through these years in one piece. If he didn’t, the years would be wasted and he’d be a mess when he got out of prison. He couldn’t afford that. He had to make up for a lot of lost time.
     This is what happened when you felt you had endless time on your hands. It was hard to fill the empty spaces. Jamie sat on his bed. He stared at the wall and lost track of time. It had no meaning. He spaced out thinking about his life and what he could have done different. Sometimes he got tired of trying and wanted to melt into the wall and disappear.
    How was anyone supposed to live in conditions like this, then get out and have an okay life? How could he get over it as though it never happened and be happy? It was hard to remember what that was.
     Jamie never had a real chance to find out what he was good at. He wasn’t blaming anyone, the right circumstances were never there. No one taught him how to make something of himself. He just followed along with whatever happened at the moment. He didn’t know how to have a dream. He needed to figure out how to do that.         All he knew for sure was the values he believed in didn’t seem to have the power to get him where he wanted to go.
     Maybe he needed to deepen his faith in God. Study more. Quite a few of the inmates also went to church. There were quite a few screwed up people who found religion after they were sentenced, and some went to church because it was something to do that got you out of your cell. Jamie really wanted to make it work but how were you supposed to know if it was making a difference in his life because nothing had changed for the better.
     He had the bible studies he sent for and was trying to study on his own. He hoped it would help. He had a lot of time to think about what he read. Still, it made no difference. He wasn’t giving up, but what could he do that would actually change things into a better direction instead of going in a circle that only went round and round? He wanted to learn something that would give him hope he was doing the right thing.

End partial chapter

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When I Get Out Of Prison

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Dear mom,

How are you?  Fine, I hope and getting some rest. However, knowing you, you are work work working on everything. Do me a favor and take a break okay? Enjoy what time you have to yourself. Sit outside and enjoy the little things, like the flowers, the sky’s view, the air and everything in view.

(Sonni’s note: Jamie is thinking of me being able to enjoy all the things he is unable to see. He doesn’t even have a window in his cell or AC in this hot Tx summer, yet he worries about  me.)

I have been sitting here thinking hard about the questions you asked in your last letter but I have yet to come up with anything. You asked me what I thought I’d like to do when I get out prison. I have yet to come up with anything because I don’t know what will happen. However, I do know this. I want to be able to live my life and be able to take care of my family. What matters the most is my son. Most of my life I have lived in the system due to poor choices I made in my life. My future is my son. I don’t want his future being anything like this. It’s going to be hard, you and I both know this.

A lot of people knew me as Jamie, the boy. It’s been years since I just talked to anybody. In fact, I don’t talk to anyone about life but you. We are the only ones who conversates this way. No one else has tried to spark up a conversation about life. If it’s family, it’s just about what’s going on. I know most of the news I would get from my family is going to be bad. Maybe a little good news here and there. It’s the main reason I stopped writing. When I did write, no one wrote back. I have addresses to some people but I don’t write anymore. My mom moves so much I don’t know where she is. I don’t worry. I know how she is from a lifetime of experiences.

I have confidence in myself that when I get out of here I can take care of what I need to do. I intend to live a good life. Yes, there will be curves and hills. One step at a time. There will be lots to learn no master what. It’s for me to do my best and keep my son from this. My goal is to express my life to my son. I also need to express to my mother about how I felt as a young kid. To tell you the truth, I know it will hurt because it hurts me when I think about it. When I think about a lot of stuff that has to do with family, it hurts. There is not too much I can remember to be happy about. Just a very little. I try not to think about it. I try not to think of things from the past. But don’t worry. The truth is, everything will be okay.

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Some people can not take the pressure but I have been under pressure for ten years. Fourteen, counting juvy. I have had a few melt downs, but I have come to understand that I have to have self control. Without it I have to constantly start over and never get anywhere in life. I have learned to accept some things and move on. Yes, I still get angry, but I just speak my mind. I don’t act on things like I used to. I don’t give these people a reason to get back at me.

Give your mother my love and tell her I’m chanting for her ( she had a stroke).

With love, Jamie

p.s. Is 2:44 am – very early in the morning. I better get this ready to go.

(Sonni’s note:  Looking back over all these years of letter writing, this blog, and the book being written, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”, I see a different Jamie as he matures. At times I have been very worried, trying to break through when I thought he was giving up because the anger was so strong. But he has learned much through his study of Nichiren Buddhism about the power of the Law of Cause and Effect – or, you reap what you sow – if you are Christian – it is the same thing. For every action there is a reaction and WE determine what that is. I sense a maturity now in Jamie, and I can’t wait until he has the opportunity to  have a life he doesn’t even know how to dream about yet.)

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Unanswered Questions of Right and Wrong – What Do You Say?

black prisoners at San Quentin
photo source: http://www.nytimes.com

So many unanswered questions of right and wrong. Ten years ago, before I met Jamie, I was totally clueless about how the prison system worked and how it connects to our past history of slavery.  I didn’t know anyone in prison.  My knowledge came from the same place everyone gets their information – TV and movies – and slanted propaganda the media is paid to report, depending on which political party that particular news organization is affiliated with.

There is a need to justify to American citizens why there has been such an enormous need to lock up a high percentage of our “lesser than us” citizens – more than almost all other countries combined.  This is the mass incarceration of blacks. The people needed to fill the prisons were expendable. They were, and still are, the blacks, and then minorities, and now foreign citizens, AKA illegal aliens. It is so important to keep us afraid of them, even though we created the need to be afraid in the first place. Why?

white power, racism
photo source: wbez.org

Why has it been so important for white people to believe black people have a higher propensity to be criminals than white people?  Has it been our ego? Could we not stand the thought that black people are just as good as we are?  No, we had to keep them down – keep them in their place.  Why do black people have to be so much more afraid of police than white people? We know that is a fact.  All of us know it, yet it continues to happen.  Why do my half-black grandchildren have to be afraid that a cop will shoot them in the back?  Because that is what cops do, and get away with, because black people are so dangerous, so they tell us.

Why do so many white people think they are better than blacks?  Do they think they are good Christians?  They say they are good Christians.  Some racist people will even tell you they aren’t racist because they don’t want other people to know.  I’m not lumping all Christians into that mix, because even black people are Christians, even though they aren’t supposed to be. “Dirty niggers”, we have called them so many times.  It’s hard to even type the letters it is so disgusting.  But not printing them doesn’t make it go away. I could type half the word and put ** in the middle for the missing letters, but that doesn’t change the word, either.  Since the time black people have been slaves, we – the white people couldn’t picture black people being equal to us. The white race did a horrible things to this race of people with beautiful colored skin of many shades.  White people have tried for a hundred years to acquire their beautiful brown tones of skin.  Because of the law of cause and effect or, you reap what you sow, is strict, a price will be paid for what was done.  Even though the current generation of people were not alive while slavery was being enacted there is something drastically wrong because some kids are still being raised with the same hate their parents were probably raised.

Now, with everything going on today in the world with terrorism in the middle east, that we created, children are now being taught to hate Muslims, as if Christianity was such a loving religion. So much blood has been shed in the name of Christianity.  The degree of hate I hear from those who say they are Christians is sickening. Any child now who is racist learned it from the adults in his life – and that is inexcusable.   Again I say, not all Christians fall into this group, but it is enough of them that it stands out.

There is something massively wrong with America, starting with the people who govern it.   What we were never told, as the prisons swelled with people, was the real reason why we had to lock up so many people.  Sure, there was the war of drugs, but that wasn’t the real reason.  That was just the easiest reason for the public to swallow.  Our government knew all along  this was never going to get rid of drugs or crime.  What it did was allow certain corporations to make a heck of a lot of money, and those corporations gave politicians a lot of campaign money.  now they have to support what these corporations want.   The people in power had to prey on the minds of people who were susceptible to believing black people were dangerous.  They needed a reason to destroy black families.  It was the only way to legally continue to enslave them. Take away the fathers, and make sure they were kept poor. Lock up their kids in juvenile detention for poor or nonexistent excuses. Treat black kids differently than white kids.  Make sure they have a hard time getting an education.  Show society that black people are beneath white people.  If you are ignorant and think being white makes you smarter, or you deserve more, then there is no hope for you.  Because, no matter what you believe, it doesn’t make it true.

Cops have killed too many people with the stupid excuse they were afraid for their lives as they shot the person as he was walking away from them.  That excuse won’t work any more.  People are angry.

While locking up so many people, no one put enough thought into how much it was going to cost to keep them locked up. They also didn’t think about how much money it would take to care for them medically.  And what about the elderly? Who pays for them? Everyone – we all pay – it comes out of every taxpayer’s pocket. But who cares?  Not the corporations with the contracts.

cca. prison corporations, prison industrial complex
photo source:
correctionsproject.com

So much money is being made by the prison industrial complex – fine upstanding American corporations who want their products to be made by incarcerated slaves for free or close to it. Do you boycott these companies?  No – you don’t – because you have no idea which companies I’m talking about.  Have you even thought to find out who these corporations are?  No, and they count on that.

You get angry when animals are hurt.  You get angry over the vets who are mistreated.  You get upset about the homeless, but you think the inmates in prison deserve what they get.  In the prisons there are corporations who bid on the commissary products they sell, and corporations who are supposed to supply the food, and corporations who are supposed to take care of medical needs, and corporations who are supposed to supply educational needs.   But they can only make the big bucks by denying these things to the inmates as often as possible. Do you think they are going to give up their profit when they have more money than anyone to fight it?

In prison, Jamie is being denied medications for his heart.  Just this week I have called 4 days in a row trying to reach someone in the medical unit to ask why.  I can never reach the right person, or they are out of the office and they won’t return my calls.  Is there an attorney reading this who can help me?   The prison doesn’t care if they kill him. Would you stand for that if it was YOUR family?  Is anyone angry for the inmates who aren’t receiving care, or do you fall for the propaganda that they deserve it? Do you believe they get three squares a day and free medical?  Are you the kind of person who believes what you read and doesn’t look at the other side of the story?

These things make me angry.  I know there are really bad people in prison, but every single one of them is a human being.  The percentage of the really bad is small compared to the rest of the prison population who got a sentence that did not fit the crime, or is innocent.  Add to that the ones who are mentally ill and have no way to get the help they need.  I’m not trying to say that everyone imprisoned should be let go.  I’m talking about the ones imprisoned who are there to fill a bed so more profit can be made. These are the ones given extraordinarily long sentences that serve no purpose beyond financial gain.  The parole board won’t parole them even though they have numerous letters of recommendation that they be given their life back.  These are the people inside who help fill the percentage dictated in the contracts the corporations have with the prisons.  These contracts say  the prisons have to be kept full or the government has to pay them for empty beds.  Do you know about this? It doesn’t matter that these are real people whose lives have been destroyed to fill a quota.

Our injustice system is sick.  It is the same system that will arrest a young girl for using the camera on her phone to document a cop abusing his role and hurt a student and then arrested the girl who took pictures of the abuse.  We protect the criminals with a badge and instead lock of the citizens who are whistleblowing the cops.  How long can this country function with these corrupt standards?  How many people have to have their lives destroyed for the sake of the profit for someone else?  Why is this allowed? I know there are people and organizations who are trying to stop it. Why isn’t it working?  Who is pulling the strings?  Not one of us is safe.

I have read monstrously stupid comments that people leave on the internet when they have been sucked into the propaganda and lies.  You would think by now they’d be tired of being sheep, led around by their noses. Even so, many of those who do know the truth do nothing.  They read – they sing to the choir – but when it comes right down to helping any of the people who have been destroyed by this system it is too much for them. How can people not want to help?  If each person reached out to even one person, what a difference it would make. So many people are fanatical about saving unborn children but they do NOTHING to help a living human being who needs to know that he matters. No, that is too much to ask.  What has anyone done for one of these babies, born into an abusive home who ends up in a foster home and then over 70% of them end up in prison because of that abuse?  What have you done for these people?  The people who want to control other people’s pregnancies are a bunch of hypocrites.  You climb onto a cause and shoot off your mouth but really have no concern for people. If you did, you’d do something for someone already living.

This election cycle there is a lot of talk for the first time about changing our prison system but there has been no talk about the contracts the prison corporations have.  So, to me, it sounds like a farce.  Tell the people what they want to hear, knowing it will just be another thing that will never happen, just like all the promises were got in the past that never happened.  But people will vote based on the promises that mean nothing. Then, when it is too late to do anything, they will get angry when the promises aren’t fulfilled.  Then they will call their elected leaders names.  Big deal, what will that accomplish? People need to do something now, not when it is too late.

Are you beginning to understand?

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Guards Are Always Right. Inmates Are Always Wrong

black hands on cell door, prison guard brutality
source credit: pittsburgurbanmedia.com

Today I started reading through old letters I sent Jamie. This one is six months old and it was written at the time after he had just lost his new privileges of being able to make phone calls and have contact visits – for three weeks. It was devastating to be sent back to lock up again after it took him another two years to reach a level where it was allowed. It happened because of lies by guards and no one would listen to you. The guards are always right and the inmates are always wrong – every time. If a guard does not back up whatever another guard says he, himself, will be retaliated against. When that happens it is hard to keep your anger from making you lash out.

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Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion, there what illness can be an obstacle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention daimoku which is a Nichiren Buddhist chant – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  Like meditation it allows you to have better control of your mind, your thoughts. Practicing Buddhism has been very good for Jamie.  It has been part of my life for a very long time.  I started teaching Jamie Buddhist concepts and how to apply them at least 6 years ago.  Being in prison is more difficult than you can imagine, knowing the years you lose, you will never get back, and the abuse you will have to take will be humiliating, because it is wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.

Chanting, with the deep breathing you have to do, lowers your stress level.  High stress also makes his epileptic seizures  more frequent. This allows the person inside to shine. We have to understand the right thing to do, instead of responding emotionally.  But chanting doesn’t mean you will always do the right thing.  We are human.  We learn from our mistakes. Changing our habits and our reactions is a life long battle with ourselves. But I believe – asking someone or something outside ourselves to fix our problems that cause us unhappiness.  Change must come from within.  Chanting gives you time to think about your life and take responsibility for your actions.  It is about gaining the wisdom to make the right decisions to change your life – to see things in a different perspective.

Living in a prison is about as close to the concept as hell as you can get. Buddhism does not look at hell as a place you go to when you die, but rather a life condition you live in here on earth. What better describes that life condition than a maximum security prison.

This letter was sent using jpay.com, a system set up for most state prisons, not federal. I can type an email letter, or send money through them.  To send a letter costs one “stamp” per page.  To send a picture is one stamp.  Two pictures is two stamps.  The advantage is they get it faster, and my typing is easier to read than my handwriting!  I do write, though, because I know it is a more personal connection.

 
Date: 5/11/2015  5:18:10 PM
Sent To: JAMES CUMMINGS
Attachments:

Hello son,

Just a quick letter today. I wanted you to know that I did talk to Ms Johnson in classification. She said you had to go to the UCC (prison court) on May 12 for a case. She said she didn’t have anymore information. She said after that you would be released, but she didn’t say released to where. Jamie, you can’t fight them. I know this is so hard. You worked so hard and waited so long for your privileges but they always find a way to knock you down even if they have to lie to do it. I know they didn’t do you right. You need to keep the bigger picture in mind and put all the rest of the garbage out where it belongs – in the trash. I know it’s hard.

You probably won’t get this letter in time – but chant daimoku (Nichiren Buddhism) before you go to court.  Center your mind. Stay calm. You have grown so much and learned so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes sometimes. The harder we try to change, life throws curve balls at us to keep us down. But if you remember there is something to learn from everything, you will be okay. This will  be over one day. It will be behind you and you will have a chance to live again. Have faith in that. You will have a life and it will be a life you will be proud of. All of this  you are going through is making you the person you are. A person with compassion. A person who will always know what it is like when the chips are down. You are learning things through all of this. I will be chanting for you tomorrow to be strong. Have no doubt, Jamie. Keep your dreams in the front of your head.

You might find this a bit funny. You REALLY upset Bill (my egotistic brother-in-law who uses his knowledge of the Bible as a way to feel important, but doesn’t apply any teachings inside the covers to his own life) with that plastic Christian remark you called him. If the shoe fits, wear it. My sister and family had a field day ripping you and me to shreds because of how much he “helped” you, and you had the nerve to expect him to follow through with the things he said he could do for you,.  I should have known better. You bruised his inflated ego. If it weren’t true it wouldn’t have bothered him so much. He knows what he did – he just didn’t want anyone else to find out about it. He said were ungrateful. It must have made him feel good to rip apart our relationship. Well, I hope he enjoyed himself. After all he is such a sincere Christian. You are a much better man than he is. The law of cause and effect applies to him as well. Hearing those words, “Cause and effect” makes him go berserk with rage.  But isn’t it the same as, “You reap what you sow”?

reap what you sow

My mom wants to have a happy family. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon. I wouldn’t go to any family affairs if they invited me, which I doubt they will – because I don’t like to be around plastic people either. I have other people in my life who know who I am and care about me. After almost 5 years of trying to have a family since I moved here – I give up. I just can’t live life they way they do. I can’t pretend.  But remember – the best revenge against people like that is to have a good, happy life. Live with the principles you know to be true. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

On that note – write me asap and let me know what’s up. What a mess this all is. I love you. Never forget that.

Your mom

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On Death Row Having Hope Can Destroy you

Armando macias
There is another inmate I have been writing to for about one and a half years who is on death row in San Quentin. Sometimes being in that situation ends up destroying them, and sometimes it gives them the time and space to understand who they are, what they did, and how it brought them to this place. It doesn’t negate what they did. They are paying the price for what happened. But many men – and women – in this place were pushed along a timeline outside of their control from the day they were born into families filled with violence and beatings, or they were throwaway kids tossed about different state group homes, detention centers, and countless, often neglectful and violent foster homes filled with physical abuse along with alcohol and drug addiction. If they ran away the only neighborhoods outside their door were filled with street gangs with guns, death and drugs.

These young people found the “family” of love they were craving inside a street gang. These at risk children instinctively know that as children they should have someone to love and care for them so they go to the only people who open their arms and wrap them around these young bodies. But there is a very big price to pay for this love. They must do as they are told to do – without question. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill for the honor of their gang. They would also have to bring in money to survive through theft and selling drugs, and they have to kill those who disrespect them or try to kill them first. Sometimes that disrespect is only because someone in another gang looked then in the eye. As the years go by many of their homies died. The ages of the men and boys in each barrio was not very old. They didn’t live very long. They expected they would be killed any moment. They couldn’t get out. They were in for life. They knew no other way of life. They wouldn’t know where to go if they did get out. This was the only life they knew.

In Los Angeles, in the decades around the ’90’s, crime escalated. There were hundreds of gangs each trying to control a few blocks. Drive-bys from other gangs was expected and later retaliated against. There were many reasons that brought these minors into juvenile court, an over crowded, inefficient system that couldn’t handle the sheer number of broken children no one wanted. A single probation officer was expected to supervise hundreds of juvenile delinquents at one time. There isn’t even time to see if they are attending school let alone help them in any constructive way.

When they are brought into court there is nothing done for them. They slap their wrist. They let them go. If they do have parents no parental guidance is given. The crimes escalate. The court lowers the age children can be tried as adults – 22 states consider that age to be 7.

One of these juveniles is the man I write to, along he is long past being a juvenile. He is now in his 30’s. I don’t know all the crimes he has committed. I know he has been in and out of prison, once was for murder, and murder once again landed him on death row. This is where he began his search to find answers to make sense of his life.

It’s easy to think that everyone has choices and to an extent we do. But we have to know about those choices and the effects those choices make. You can not know something you have never been exposed to. These young people followed the path their life was headed just like we all have. Different sets of privileges, understandings and guidances urge our lives along a path that has been set by different causes and effects.

After being given the sentence death and entering prison this last time years ago this man searched through every religion to find something that helped him make sense of his life. He tried everything, even satanism. Nothing made sense because each one told him there was something else out there that had control of his life and could decide at any time to punish him or save him. And this entity did all of this because it loved him. All he had to do was love and trust this thing.

No one could see or talk to it but people claimed that God talked to them personally because they needed so badly to believe it was true. It was all about getting to heaven when you die. No thank you. He wanted to understand life, not death. All of this belief these people had never changed their lives or the kind of person they were.

If there had been a God and it just stood by and let his life happen this way from birth, he wanted no part of it. This was NOT the answer. He was not going to just blindly trust that NOW he was on death row, God was going to love him. No, this religion about an almighty God was for people who were unable to take responsibility for lives and needed it to be God’s plan for the reason why their lives were so fucked up.

He found Buddhism. He found the answers to his questions. He had the time to study and mediate. He learned what karma was. He could not change the past but he could affect the future.

The staff in San Quentin made his existence as miserable as they could. Because he is Hispanic it was even worse. In California the use of solitary confinement was used far beyond what most states did, keeping men locked up for decades for no reason. They were unable to call family. Visits were severely restricted. Inmates could only have three books. A cherished book would have to be given up if you wanted a new one. He was allowed no programs.

During this time I saw his profile on an online site of inmates looking for people to write to – a connection to the outside world. Our letter writing began. I initially chose to write to him because he said he was Buddhist and I was curious how that came to be.

After many letters it was easy to see that this man had rehabilitated himself in spite of the prison’s efforts to destroy him. He wants to create a life inside that he was never able have on the outside. Chances of ever getting out is not anything he contemplates. But he would like art supplies because he is quite a good artist and he would like to learn things. Why continue to treat him inhumanely? What purpose does it fill? He has been removed from society. There is no purpose in continued degradation.

Not everyone agrees with me. A devout Christian woman recently told me she was angry that I was writing to him because after what he did he deserved no forgivesness. Murder can not be forgiven. Hmm… I thought. This is the way a Christian thinks? Only certain offenses can be forgiven? He wasn’t asking for forgiveness and I never offered it. I, too, am Buddhist. I offered understanding and a chance for communication on a human level. I have learned much from our letters.

In 2016 California will decided on either abolishing the death sentence or carrying out that sentence in a shorter time and not letting inmates languish for decades waiting. The problem with the death sentence is that the verdict is wrong often enough that innocent people are put to death.

Recently California has made changes that has been long awaited prison reform. It has done away with indefinite solitary confinement which has affected many people who have been in complete lockdown often for decades who haven’t deserved that punishment. It will affect this man I write to. My next post will be his last letter to me describing his feelings about this change. When I read of this change in the media my first thought was of him, hoping it would allow him more life when he thought there was no hope. On death row, having hope can destroy you.

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Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

“Jamie” by Sonni Quick copyright 2014
Sept 9,2013

Incarcerated since late 2005

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you it is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions. It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in it but they all say they are bright and everyone else is wrong. The Chaplain in here doesn’t like you if you aren’t a Christian.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

Mom,I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of the magazine, Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about what happens next.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me? I’ve wasted more than seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one. Ill try chanting “nam myoho renge kyo”. Maybe it well help change things. I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU.  Please give me some time to think.
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(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

It is hard for him to remember there is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father. What he is learning because of this will change his direction. It is painful He can’t see it now but he will later. Nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens is the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is.

During the first year after this letter was written he began studying the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism. His attitude about his life improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and a determination to succeed; a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. He wanted to understand what propelled him the direction that led to prison. Buddhism puts responsibility for your life squarely on your own shoulders. No plan laid out for you by an entity who loves and punishes you. Only the effects of the causes you made yourself are what You are in the driver’s seat.

It does not mean life is smooth sailing and everything is a bed of roses. Try to change, and the obstacles increase andbtest your determination. But Jamie now is getting a better understanding of why things happen to him, and he is learning to make better decisions in his life. He is seeing how his emotions govern how he feels about his life, especially anger. Regardless, if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy. But it is always two steps forward and one step back.)

Taking Back What They Took Away

taking it back, sonni quick piano music
creit source:
armansheffey.com

WHEN YOU TRY   By Sonni Quick   2015

There are times you feel that all is lost
you don’t know how to find
the hope that slipped right through your hands
somehow you left it all behind
on that day, your causes made demands
you searched through all your thoughts
to bring you back inside yourself
remember how to laugh
remember how it sounds
how it feels upon your face?
make the corners of your mouth
become a smile for hope someday.
how to feel that hope again
it seems so far away
you close your eyes and hold yourself
in your lonely love’s embrace
and you cry, the tears inside
you wonder how you lost your way
you want it back to start again
take back the hope they took away that day
and broke it into tiny pieces
let go the pain that time releases
you are human, too
no one should ever live a life
that no one ever could forgive
disappear from everyone
memory of you fades to none
It’s up to you and no one else
to find the gem that lets you see
you want the life inside your head
trust the words it’s your destiny
think of hope, be truly free
someday you’ll look at what you earned
by understanding life today
lessons given, lessons learned
take back the life they took away.

To hear 14 other improvised piano music pieces by Sonni Quick  go to this music link

“Getting Religion” in Prison

nichiren buddhism, lotus flower, cause and effect
Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18, 2014.

Hi mom, I hope all is well with you,

For the last couple years you has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because. Some do and some don’t. There is support for Christianity in here and also for Muslims. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. I wanted to make sense of my life. Why did I do the things I did? In here many men want to do better when they get out. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I really tried to do the things they said, but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. You’ve been studying Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. You didn’t say anything about it for a long time but then a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, you started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. You talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes. I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect. This is what it says. Trying to make it work isn’t so easy when things come flying at you, but if I don’t do something different then how can anything be different when I get out. I guess being in here is as good as anywhere to try to make it work. It’s not easy. You said there was a reason why we met. I guess this is it, or maybe part of it. I really do want to have a better life and do the right things. I want to be a good father to my son and teach him the right things when I get out

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would right away defend myself, and I still need to. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy mom. Sometimes you have no choice. I can hold my own in a fight. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. It’s hard. I fight with myself sometimes. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it just like you asked her to. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. This thing called gongyo. That’s impossible. You’ll have to teach me later. That’s in a whole new language. You sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. It is really strange.

I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”

This thing that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”

There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. I need a way to make that better. I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my own I an here in prison, in ad seg. I really wish i was done with this, but I have to be ready when I get out. I have to be strong, and sure of myself. I will still have a lot of life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out. I know their are parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later. It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what or who gets in the way.

Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.

(Sonni’s note: Change comes from within. Pray for the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things. They both teach you to be a good human being if you apply the teachings to your life. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. In Buddhism, God is not “out there” or deciding to fix things in your life. We believe the God nature – Buddhahood – is inside everyone. As we practice, chant, we are polishing the mirror of our life so we can see ourselves clearly. There is more than one way to find happiness and it starts with respecting each other’s faith, if that person is honestly trying to learn. In the few years of teaching Jamie I have seen a change – hope. Are there still good days and bad days? yes, we are human and we struggle through our lives to learn. Do a search on the http://sgi-usa.org, even if you are just curious. We should never stop wanting to learn if you are interested in finding out more.)

There is Much We Take For Granted, Being Free

Sonni’s note: So often when I reread his letters it is like I’m reading them for the first time. Never in my life have exchanged hundreds of letters with one person continually over a span of years. Reading about his sorrows and the things that would make him happy. Knowing when he is depressed. Reading about his hopes and dreams, being afraid to think about life out here, being free, too much. He doesn’t have much to compare it too. He doesn’t know what he will do, except that he has a yearning to be free.  But what happens after he is free, when he has no idea what to do? How does one walk down the sidewalk, free to go where they want after so many years of having to ask to do anything, and always there is someone waiting to do him harm.  Always having to be on guard.  I imagine it would be frightening. In this letter he talks about his heart. It is his heart I saw long ago. You would think someone would automatically know the right things to do, but it doesn’t always work that way. There is much we take for granted, being free. If you had been as extremely ill as he was from the moment he came out of the womb, experiencing back to back brain seizures from his first breath, never being allowed to go out and play being protected by his mother, all he wanted was the feeling of belonging. Of being accepted by people. I understand that. It’s easy to be swayed by people you think are your friends and all you know is that they accept you, so you want to be like them. Finding yourself in that school to prison pipeline with the cops hell bent on finding a way to put you there and not let you go.

It was his heart that got to me. Jamie isn’t cut out to be a criminal, but he has been forced to learn how to protect himself, and when backed into a corner he will come out swinging. You cannot let people in prison see you as being weak or they will run over you. Everyone of us has parts of our nature we wish we could change. This time inside has been a time of learning for him – about who he is and about what he wants. Because there is NO ONE who is there for him the way it’s needed is why I am there. i get something out of this, too.  it isn’t a one way street.  I’m glad our paths crossed.  It is why I am here, telling his story . . .
June 3, 2013

Hello Mom,

So far all is well thanks.  I’ve been trying to stay focused.  I have ten days till I get my G4, hopefully. ( Sonni’s note:  one step out of ad seg, which means he will be able to go to chow instead of getting it served through the slot in the prison cell door, and he will have some time in the rec to watch TV) You know there’s always a few that want to hold you back when you are improving.  They want you to stay a step behind them.  Yes, I will be my goal and accomplish more.  That will make me feel better as well as my family.  I’ve been proud of myself because of getting out of ad seg, but I sometimes let my emotions  get the best of me.  I then start to lose guidance and down myself.  however, I’m okay.  I’m focusing on trying my best.  It’s all I can do.  I already have plans on what I’m going to do. When I get my G2. I’m gonna go to school – get a job as well. You know, they don’t pay us to work like they do in other states. Oh well, I’ll take the education and run with it. They have college and trade also.

( Sonni’s note: It was another year and a half before he made it to G2, was able to make phone calls for a few weeks and had a job for a few weeks until they found a way to knock him back to the beginning.  No school, no trades, no nothing but to start all over again.  How will that look when he goes up for parole again Oct 2016 if he hasn’t been able to show he has done anything to improve himself – because they made sure he couldn’t . ) 

You know, mom, you’re right, the heart is most important, just like the brain. It’s just like I told my cellie yesterday. I know who I am and what kind of heart I have. All I want is to be happy. I want to be loved. But things in life are just a part of life for some people. Me, I want a family. What I mean by family is to be together. Not father here and mother there. But life doesn’t work that way for everyone. It’s what I want in order to be happy. It’s what would make me happy. Spending together there for each other. Please chant for me.

I asked the mail room lady how much mail I could get. She says there’s no limit as long as it fits in my trunk. The 12 pack is fine, and you can send me envelops, too. (Sonni’s note: I sent the 12 pack and he was moved soon after to another prison.  The guards stole it.  Now the rules are changed and now they won’t let anyone send paper or envelops. An outside company contracted to supply it to the commissary, so they jacked up the prices and inmates can only buy it at the commissary now.) But it’s okay mom, if you’re not able to do it, I understand. You don’t have to explain it to me.  I know your situation. We go to the commissary on the 10th, but please, if you have things to take care of, don’t worry about it okay?

Sadness  by Sonni Quick   copyright 2015

sonni quick piano music
Sonni’s piano and the last of summers flowers.

I might want to take piano lessons when I get home. I want to be as good as you. lol. Classical music is the best for piano. Every instrument is made for a different kind of music. I would love to just sit and listen to you play the piano. I know it would relax me and help me think. I like music that was made in the 70’s – late 70’s, and the 80’s. That’s all good music. I like older music. It’s a good mind relaxer. I also like rap but I listened to is different from the rap now. A lot different. Today’s rap is bad for all ears. The lyrics are hard on women and everything is about drugs, money and cars. Everyone uses each others lyrics. I like smooth R&B and if I find some blues I’ll listen to it.

Sonni Quick piano music
Sonni Quick 1980
Hyatt Regency Houston,Tx

I would love to see those photos, if you don’t mind. I can see it now. You on stage, with the piano, a bottle of water and a mic. What are some songs you would sing? I’m sorry you hurt your vocal cords. Don’t worry, I’ll sing to you, okay? I’m not that good, but good enough to make you smile. {{smile}}

Mom, I sent in the visitors list. They sent it back. I had to take off someone.  I did, but they wrote some numbers by the name. I think Megan’s current boyfriend has been in prison before because they asked if he was an ex-offender. I checked ‘no’ but somethings not right. I have to know, because if they check and he is, I can get in trouble, so please find out. Then I’ll  send in the list again.

Well, it’s late. I’m tired. Until next time
Love always, Son W/B/S write back soon,  Love you