When the Information Highway Was a Two Lane Road

White man sitting at computer

Before the internet, the information highway was a two lane road. If you didn’t have a chance to learn anything new in the last 15-20 years, where you even begin? If you went back just a few decades the world as we saw it moved at a much slower pace.

Even though Windows 95, with the first “mouse” came into some people’s lives in the 1990’s, the vast majority of homes did not have a computer. It was amazing! You could control a curser on the screen by moving this thing in your hand that was laying on the desk and click it to do things! Wow!! But there was no internet speed. You connected through phone lines. You had to “dial up” to surf the net, what little there was. The fun stuff hadn’t been created yet. Even when you could get online it was slow and you probably had a 486 computer and waited forever for a simple picture to slowly come in.

People knew NOTHING about what was going on in the next town let alone the world. We got a little bit on the evening news but young people weren’t watching it, we were hanging out at people’s houses, not hanging out in an app. Our lives were small. We called people on phones that plugged into a phone jack in the wall. The youth were clueless about politics. It wasn’t just the youth, either. People in general were clueless unless they heard about it on TV or read a newspaper. And it wasn’t that long ago. Everything changed so fast.

It took a long time before there was ONE computer in a home. Look what we have now. Too much information and no idea if what we learn is true or “Fake News” or if it comes from a person, a bot or another country that wants to do us harm. What can we believe? This technology keeps outpacing itself. Faster and faster everything changed as our computers learned to take over our lives.

Imagine for a moment that everything you learned because of using a computer – all of that knowledge – disappeared out of your brain. Vanished. Everything you learned, because you were connected to that technology was deleted. All of the people, your “friends” you’ve never actually met who “care” about you on Facebook, Instagram or other social media ceased to exist. The phrase “social media” would mean nothing. No shopping online. The thought of watching a movie on a computer would have you scratching your head. What would you be thinking RIGHT NOW if you had no chance to learn the things you have learned? Scary, right? You’d go into a panic if you couldn’t reach for your phone.

There is a reason I’m asking these questions. Jamie was locked up for 13.5 years. A couple months before he turned 22. He was locked up for 4 years before that from age 17-21. The year 2000. People weren’t spending their time with their face buried in a device. There were cell phones – to make phone calls. There were no screens on them and they weren’t connected to the internet.

So during all these changes, as a society we learned together and became connected to the world. We communicated with people all over the world. We learned how to access information through email, browsers, Google and a wide variety of apps. It’s easy for us to tap into this. We assume other people can tap into it, too.

In the past month I’ve had to stop myself when trying to explain to Jamie how to quickly find things on the internet through his phone. Simple concepts IF you know them. It’s like speaking Greek if you don’t.

“Type (such and such) in the browser.” I’d say.
“What’s a browser??” hmm

“Tap the Google app and do a search on…”
“How do you do that?”

“Did you get the links I sent to you in a message?”
“I don’t know how to find them. I saw them come up but I don’t know how to find them again.”

There many of these type questions. Can you imagine that the first computer you used is a tiny phone? You can’t learn how to use a computer on a phone. You can’t automatically know how it works. He couldn’t get links to work. I think now he wasn’t waiting long enough. How about explaining how to put phone numbers into contact information and calling people by tapping on their names instead of using their phone number? We didn’t get that far. It is hard to help him while talking to him at the same time.

I wanted him to read his blog – this one, but he said it wouldn’t come up. The same thing about hearing the music I recorded for the book. He said it wouldn’t play. That didn’t sound right. His brother gave him the wifi password. It turns out his phone is slow, or the Verizon connection using the free government phone with 200 free minutes is slow. I need to be able to connect with him online, video chat, go over things about the book. But I realized I first have to go back to the beginning. He has a lot to learn. He needs something bigger than a phone. I want to look for a used or refurbished laptop. Something that uses files so I can send him chapter files.

Jamie may be 36, but in many ways he isn’t. He doesn’t have the life experience of someone 36 and he needs to catch up with himself. There are many who have been locked up for longer than he was. There are people getting out of prison in their 60’s who have been locked up since their teens. Are they ever able to fill in the blanks?

He got through the prison years and his head is screwed on. I have to be confident he will be okay. But gaining wisdom through experience takes time and it often comes from your mistakes . Learning how to judge people and be wary of those around you – how do you teach that? It is a different America now and it tends to not be very friendly, especially in Southern States.

Jamie is in a completely different chapter of his life now – re-entry into society. The adjustment will take awhile, for both of us.

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How to Do Six things at The Same Time (and stay sane)

This is a new video made to advertise my store slowly it comes together.

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Is it possible to do that? Six things at one time? I don’t think I have ever been so busy in my life with more to do than is human possible without something (or a few things) falling through the cracks. For three months I have nearly seen up from down. I had no idea that opening an e-commerce business was going to consume my entire life. I had no idea how much I would have to learn to make it happen.

The reason for starting the business was realizing I was barely surviving after paying the bills with only a disability check ( and my husband’s meager social security). There were things I needed and I couldn’t pay for them. (new glasses since I’m missing a left ear to hang them on most it was cut off because of cancer, and medications ruined my teeth and I need dentures) so how was I going to pay an editor to help get the book ready?

Okay, “STOP” I told myself. Reorganize. What do I need to do the most to keep it going in a forward motion. I needed to make money. For three years I have been writing and rewriting the chapters of the book, Inside The Forbidden Outside and recorded the music for it. I’ve seen ads, “Write a book in 90 days”. They must be nuts. You can’t write a good book that fast.

It took hours of every day to promote everything I’m doing – everywhere. Social media consumed time like a high powered vacuum cleaner sucking up every second. I had to promote the music. Those websites also demand time to develop a following. Comments are left that need to be answered. Thousands of people know who he is and know at least part of his story. I have to finish the book.

It has been a wonderful journey. Caring about someone else’s life gave meaning to my own life. When I got the idea to write a book about him, after we had already been writing for years, I had no idea what it would take. I only knew I needed to do it. I love to write – but writing a book takes more knowledge and dedication than writing a blog post. Thank goodness we had so many letters between us. At least 800. They are a journal and a way into his mind to understand the trauma. Piecing our letters together as we answered each other’s letters has taken time to present it out clearly.

After the first draft I realized it was missing something – a sense of following time – One chapter leading to the next. I started writing again, and rewrote again and sometimes again as I studied the art of writing. During these years Jamie was inside I went through more than one medical issues which left me with the time to work non stop on not only the book, but the blog and music even if I had to do it from bed.

I knew I had a good book that many could relate to. So many millions of people could relate to it because the United States has locked up so many people in prison for extraordinary lengths of time whether they deserved it or not. Prison corporations and investors were literally making a killing from imprisoning as many people as they could. Even though all races were vulnerable, the bulk of the inmates came from black people because they were unable to fight back by hiring attorneys. They relied on offering plea deals, forcing everyone to admit to guilt or their sentence would take up the rest of their life. What would you do.

I kept on writing and promoting. I wake in the (late) morning and work on different aspects – just as I am doing now because I’ve had less time to write blog posts and keep up my newsletter – until I quit falling out of my chair when it starts to get light.

In February of this year I realized I needed another avenue of money. I saw an ad about starting an ecommerce store and thought it was something I could do. But wanting to do a business and have it fully functioning with paying customers was a HUGE commitment of time to not only learn what to do, but applying that knowledge to make it work. I had no idea what I was doing. I can see today how far I’ve come but it has a long way to go.

I started out doing eBay. It has become much more sophisticated and professional in recent years.  This was my third time in 17 years). ebay.com/str/watchandwhirlshop That in itself is a full time job. Creating listings, and learning what to do to get noticed along the powers is mindblowing. I lost thousands of feedback numbers because I could no longer get into my old email address.

Of course you have to monitor everything, re-list and try new ideas if it doesn’t sell, communicate with people and ship things, or order from a dropshipper. At the same time I opened a store at watchandwhirl.ecwid.com which is the shipping cart, the hub for any other stores I open in different locations. I also connected it to a new Facebook store. It took days to get the business connected. On top of that I had to learn Facebook marketing. So in all I have three stores with the same storefront.

watchandwhirlShop

Everything online has a fee. Every app has a monthly fee. I have an ebay store fee, with a seller fee and a PayPal fee. There ecwid fee where all the products are, an app that integrates the product and sends it to every store location – it has a fee. Every single thing you need to operate a business has a fee. Then you need a resale license, and another service to do your expenses and taxes and that has a fee. OMG!! I’m the only one who doesn’t collect a fee from myself!

Most recently I am learning how to put a website together that is more than just an online store. A place people will want to come back to for more than just to buy something. I have a vision of what it will be, I just have to learn how to do it. It is like learning how to speak a language when you don’t know what it sounds like. You can see what I’ve done so far at watchandwhirlshop.com

I have to do all of this by myself. My husband is clueless about the things I do, but he does other things. Clean the kitchen, the shopping ( he spends less) takes packages to the post office, drives me to doctor appts, and keeps my ancient laptop running. He’ll do anything I ask as long as it doesn’t involve sex! Oh well, it is what it is.

I’m not making real profit yet, but most businesses in their first year don’t make money. They just try to stay in the game. But in the meantime, I have a book to finish, and still have no money to do that.

Now that jamie has been paroled, (my next post will catch up with what is going on with his life) – it is more important than ever to finish and get it published. I am printing out the manuscript, as it stands today, for him to read. He has read some of it, but not all. Inmates were setting fires at the prison. He had to give them all of his letters, anything paper and I’m sure that included the manuscript. My letters, too. But I have copies of mine archived at jpay.com, the email system for prisons.

Gofundme Campaign

I recently started a fundraising campaign at gofundme. A friend told me I should. He said there are people that would understand what I’m trying to do. I know a lot of people can’t, but if you could share that keeps it circulating the universe. This week I have been putting it everywhere I can, but still thinking, why would someone send me money? I wasn’t catestrophically ill (although I am fighting cancer – again. I was at the hospital three days ago for a biopsy and CT scan for a swollen lymph node on my neck. I find out in 3 days). Nothing bad happened. But still I was trying. Two people this week sent their hard earned money to me. $70. It’s Amazing how many people are barely surviving. All the hype about making America great again isn’t meant for those struggling. Oh well, enough about that today 😢

It takes a lot of time to do this, too, letting people now. I’m fortunate to have places like this I can put this on. I was humbled that these people sent money.  I can’t let them down. They will both be getting free books when it is done. It is a way I can pay them back for believing in me.

So I will continue to fight to finish this book. I believe it is the most important think I’ve done that would not have been possible without everything I have learned in my 65 years of living. There is a reason for everything. Who we are is no accident. We are the product of every decision we ever made. Good decisions and bad decisions all count. We can fight or we can give up. We can take responsibility or we can blame others. Those are our choices.

Thanks for reading.

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The company that made this video for the store, and other print ads and had one of their associates guide me along way is Business Ventures Online. I recommend using them if you have a business you’d like to get off the ground. Just tell them Sonni sent you !

Sitting Alone In His Prison Cell . . .Thinking

Dear mom,

You wanted me to write more to you about how it was growing up. I don’t think I was happy but I didn’t realize it then because I didn’t know what it felt like to be happy. I don’t think I had any birthday parties with friends and family. We just didn’t do it. I don’t think being unhappy is unusual. I don’t think I was unhappy, I just wasn’t happy, either. I don’t have many happy memories. Most of the dudes I’ve talked to in here weren’t happy as kids, either. Maybe that’s part of the reason why we’re in here. I think if we aren’t happy as kids and don’t have a family who is there for us, how can we expect them to be there for us now sitting in a prison? My family doesn’t care about me in here. But I have you and you care about me. Otherwise I’d have no one.

jamie cummings

How did I learn things about life? I guess I learned from everywhere. School and home and street friends. I was taught things by my mom, rules of what to do when she was working. But when she wasn’t around I usually did the opposite of what she wanted me to do. We had an aunt who lived down the street if we needed anything but we were mostly left up to ourselves to be good.

Once, I was placed in a children’s hospital because of my always leaving home. I had a problem with depression even as a child. My mom didn’t know what to do with me. I didn’t like life having epilepsy. I wanted to be normal. It scared me and I didn’t really have anyone who could help me understand it. I always felt there was something wrong with me because I was different from the other kids. Sometimes my older brother and sister made fun of my seizures. I had so many seizures until I had brain surgery at age 12. It didn’t stop them but it helped.

I stayed in that children’s hospital for a few weeks but one day I begged my mom to come get me. She did but she never told me during the whole trip home that my cousin, who I was very close to had died. I got to my house and there were a lot of people there. It wasn’t until I walked into the the back room and saw him laid out did I know he died. I cried and cried. No one prepared me for the shock. I took that news real hard. He was my best friend. We were the only two sick kids in the family. Me, with epilepsy and him with sickle cell anemia. It didn’t matter he was older than me. I still think about him to this day.

It’s hard for me to write about myself. I know you want to know because of the book you started writing about me. I’ll do my best but so much of this I have stuffed deep inside and it makes me feel bad to remember it. Maybe it will get easier over time.

I’m still waiting for the books you sent. Hope they get here soon. The book on grammar will help me a lot. You asked if we could trade books we don’t want anymore. If an officer finds another inmate’s book in your cell they will take it and write up a case on you. It’s how they keep us down.

There are so many ordinary things that get you in trouble for no reason. So many dudes have no one to buy them books  and time goes by so slow. What is the harm in sharing books? There is none, but if they can write up a case they can keep you locked up by yourself for longer time. Sometimes they let it go, but you never know if they will. So it would be taking a big chance to do it. They call it trafficking and trading, and it’s a major case – all for a book.

Time to go and get some sleep

Love to you, Son

********************

(Sonni’s note: This letter was from some time ago. More than 2 1/2 years. I decided to reprint it to give newer readers a little more history on his life. I believe his story overall has a very powerful message. It is not an unusual story. There are many parallels with many of the stories in prison. So many inmates are not bad people. They are people who made a mistake and some are innocent and forced into plea deals. many of their mistakes were being born black in a society who still looks as whites being a superior race and blacks are meant to be used. The fact that so many parents today still pass down racism to their kids is truly sad. Of course that isn’t everyone, but looking at the percentages of white to black in our penal system tells the true story in this country who people say is a Christian nation but too many don’t live the Golden Rule. Will that change? Only when enough of us stand up for what is right and change what is wrong.

********************

 

THE NEXT MONTHLY ISSUE OF THE ITFO NEWSLETTER WILL BE GOING OUT SOON. TAP THE LINK TO GET IT DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX. EACH ISSUE NOW WILL FOCUS ON A DIFFERENT ASPECT OF PRISON ISSUES EACH MONTH. THERE HAS BEEN NO TALK OF PRISON REFORM SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN WHEN EVERYONE JUMPED ON THE BANDWAGON SAYING THEY WOULD BE THE ONE TO FIX IT. NOW NOTHING IS BEING SAID. IT WILL BE THE PEOPLE DEMANDING CHANGE THAT HAS THE ONLY CHANCE OF CHANGING THIS. PLEASE POST THIS ON YOUR OWN SM AND ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO SHARE IT, TOO. WE’VE SEEN WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PEOPLE COME TOGETHER AS THE AMERICAN INDIANS HAVE DONE. WE NEED TO MAKE PRISON REFORM IMPORTANT, NOT JUST TALK ABOUT IT. CAN WE DO THAT?

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

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 We Care About The Children of Inmates?

The lives of children are severely affected when one or both parents are locked up. What happens to these lives as they grow up to be young adults? Do they follow in the same path because they see it as normal, thinking it will also be their future? Black children have been confronted with more of their relatives going to prison than the average white child.  Do they accept it as inevitable because no one taught them there was another path they could take – before it became too late?

jamie cummings
On the left is Jamie Cummings at age 8 who was never told the name of his father and is believed to be in prison. On the right is his son, my grandson, Jamie at age eight. He has only seen his father a few times in prison behind glass. What does he think of this?  How does this affect him? Has anyone asked him how he really feels? I know what his father thinks. This is his deepest grief, not being able to be with his only child.

I want to tell you a story about my own childhood which explains how a child could think the course of their life followed a plan.  Looking back on it my mother and I had a good laugh, but at the time it wasn’t so funny. When I was quite young, I learned my mother was raised by her grandmother, not her mother. She was only four years old. Both of her parents remarried. Neither new step parent wanted her to live with them because admitting there was a child from a previous marriage meant their spouse had been married before. Being divorced was shameful, so she was raised by her grandmother.  When she was 11 years old it went to court for a custody battle and her grandmother was given full custody. Having to go to court was a horrible experience for her, sitting alone in a back room. and it remains a bad memory. At some point she told me about it when I asked her why she wasn’t raised by her parents. I must not have understood it because afterward I was convinced everyone had to go to court when they turned eleven. I had several years of being afraid because the closer I got to eleven the more was scared I became of having to go to court. By the time I reached eleven I matured enough to know I wouldn’t have to go, but not once did I confront my mother about how I felt because I thought I already knew the truth. It may sound silly, but at the time I thought I had no choice. This is the way a young child thinks.

children-hopeformiami-org
source credit: hopeformiami.org

How do children deal with life knowing their father mother, or both, is locked up?  How many children grow up and the only visits they remember are in a prison visiting room, often behind a panel of glass with a telephone to speak into? Do we assume they know how to mentally process that?  Are they more apt to think what happened to their parent will be part of their life if they see it all around them? Why would they think their life would be different? Even the act of “stop and frisk”, which was condemned in New York City as racial profiling, are acts children learned by watching what happened by cops who crossed the line by stalking black people for no other reason than because they were black and hoping they would find something on them that warranted an arrest. Is this all black children?  Of course not, but it affects far too many.

black-white-acheivement-gapjpg-f7b89770bb2374b5
credit source: Mlive.org          This looks like white children are smarter, but the real reason is they aren’t given the same quality of education with equal accessibility of educational programs and materials that cost money to provide.

In addition these children need to get a worthwhile education in schools that are often underfunded or perhaps closed because they are in disrepair or don’t have books and even qualified teachers. Going to a school far away is not easily accessible. Low income families often don’t have enough food and kids only have school lunches too rely on for food. I could go on.  Many of these kids do not graduate.  They fall in line with what others kids do and the cycle continues on. Many youth end up in juvenile detention and even truancy from school is one of the reasons they are put there. They become part of the school to prison pipeline. That becomes the prison to poverty pipeline. No education means no job.  They have no life to go back to when they get out. They have to eat. If they want to be “rehabilitated” there has to be an open path to do that. There are few options. We need to stop this cycle and concentrate on raising capable people. But who cares? “They are just black kids and they get what they deserve,” is the thought of too many people.  This is why there are more black kids than white who are locked up, and more black men than white in prison.

children-breakaway-outreach
source credit: breakawayoutreach.org

Blacks have long been sought after to fill the prisons starting with juvenile detention. Teachers have admitted they suspend black children much more often than white children. Is it too late to re-educate teachers about this treatment? Is it too late to re-educate cops? How many teachers would not be able to say out loud that they have been unfair? Their own education probably began with how they were raised and how their own family felt about blacks. But even today many people still believe black people are are less able than white people. They think blacks do more crimes, consume more drugs and the reason there are more blacks than whites in our prisons is because they were born with a gene that makes them want to commit crimes. This has been proven to be a fallacy, but it was what the media has reported and some people believe anything they read if that is what to believe.

But the real reason is so many children were raised themselves with one one parent or relative – if they were lucky – and the foster care system if they weren’t. Mothers can’t be fathers and young boys need the guidance of a man. So many didn’t have the experience of having a family who provided stability. That isn’t a guarantee, but sure helps. Kids look around them and follow the course they have been exposed to and that often leads to prison. At the same time that very system is doing everything they can to lock them up whether they are guilty or not. If this were not true, how could most of the people given pardons be able to prove they are innocent, even after they have 20 plus years imprisoned – and most of them are black people. This is the race that has been blamed for crimes and imprisoned even if they were out of town when the crime was committed.  It didn’t matter.  The police only needed someone – anyone – they could pin the crime on not caring they were ruining not only that person’s life,  but the lives of their children.

Can these children now go out into the world as adults and lead a life they have never lived that makes them acceptable in society? Many don’t even have a GED or work experience and have to look for manual labor jobs. Many test with low IQs – not that they are retarded but because they don’t have enough education to pass simple tests. Children grow up to be adults and they have to live their lives still shackled. Finding a landlord to rent them an apartment is harder than getting a job. So it all goes back to their childhood and not having many of the advantages other children have. The children of inmates become the next generation of parents whose children are on the other side of the fence.

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http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest
If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

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

Why Do Black Children Become Prison Inmates

black students

At a time when many white students are preparing for their life by going to college, many black youth are preparing each other by learning how to evade the police, because they know it’s just a matter of time before they become a target. This is not a joke. Black kids KNOW  it’s just a matter of time before they will be harassed by cops for absolutely no reason. When they are old enough to drive many get pulled over an average of once a week. There is no violation. They are just black and cops often do whatever they can to find a reason to arrest them, smash their windows, use their tazers even in front of their children, terrifying them. They don’t care what they do in front of children.  Everyone has seen the videos. I have two half black grandsons. If I didn’t, I could like all white people and say, they probably did something to deserve it. It really affects my life because I’m white and cops smile at me.  But they won’t be smiling at my grandsons, so I’m in this fight for the long haul.  One in three black men go to prison at some point in their lives. With 2 grandsons what are the odds of at least one of them will go to prison? A black man doesn’t need to be guilty. We hear often of inmates being set free because they were finally proven not quilty. Over 70% of these men are black.

It starts in childhood. Kids play act what they see. A game of tag becomes instead, pretending to be a cop and a criminal and learn how to arrest each other and pretend to cuff their playmates and do cavity searches.  This is real life to black children.

What makes it even harder for black youth is the way schools punishment them, starting with the attitude of many teachers.  Racism in schools is rampant. Many teachers teach racism by their actions.Why is it that teachers find it so easy to expel a black child, when a white child mihg de only get detention for doing the exact same thing? An after school fight for two white boys more than likely will end with their parents being called. If you are black, the police will be called and they get their first taste of jail and end up with fines.  If they can’t pay that fine they are arrested again. Minority families with lower incomes are affected the most. When a child is removed from school it begins a spiral down that becomes an inability to finish a high school education. Forget college.

inmate education, prison classroom,

This is what happened to Jamie’s life, and there was no one who could help him or his mother change the outcome. By the time he was in his mid teens with his high school years just beginning, the court system was doing it’s damnedest to end his possibilities.  He is 33 and he still isn’t allowed to take the test to get his GED.  He’s a smart man. He would love to have an education. With more time to go and still having no education, what are his chances?

It takes more than wishful thinking.  Because there is no one else willing to do the legwork, I have research to find out what his options are.  There is a school for inmates in Dallas called the Windham School.  http://www.windhamschooldistrict.org/

EDUCATING INMATES 

inmate education, recidivism ratefor educated parolees
photo source: imgarcade.com

Educating inmates lowers the recidivism rate back to prison.  Getting a GED, learn a trade or take college classes.  I don’t know yet what it will take to get Jamie involved or when it can begin, but it is worth finding out. I can only think that something like this would help him with parole. This isn’t automatically offered to inmates.  An inmate need someone on the outside who takes the time to find out about it. Overall, there needs to be more stress on inmate education if you want to slow down the revolving door for those who want to get off the ride.

This past year the subjects of prisons and decreasing the population has been a hot topic. Are the politicians serious? Or is it all talk? In this election year I have heard more hate talk and about people that shouldn’t be allowed to live here. The KKK is endorsing Donald Trump. If by chance he wins, what will they expect back? A large amount of people think we should have never freed the slaves. Are these the people who become cops who kill and teachers who expel black kids? Who taught these adults when they were kids that hating another race was okay? Who taught the adults today they are superior? Because somebody did.  Are these people who think they are better, because they are white ever going to want these black people back into a society that doesn’t want them there in the first place?

This presidential election year has shck n me how hateful, cruel and judgemental the people of America can be and it scares me. Politicians have to loudly proclaim the are Christians but their actions  at makes a country great, since making America great again seems to be such an issue, is the people in it. When I see the incitement of hate, and the cheering that goes with, when I see a candidate say he wants to punch a man at his really and people cheer it’s like watching America vomit all over itself.

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http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/april/discipline-black-students-041515.html

By

Racial differences in school discipline are widely known, and black students across the United States are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled, according to Stanford researchers.

Yet the psychological processes that contribute to those differences have not been clear – until now.

“The fact that black children are disproportionately disciplined in school is beyond dispute,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jennifer Eberhardt in an interview. “What is less clear is why.”

In the study, “Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students,” which was recently published in the journal Psychological Science, Eberhardt and Stanford psychology graduate student Jason Okonofua reported on two experimental studies that showed that teachers are likely to interpret students’ misbehavior differently depending on the student’s race.

In the studies, real-world primary and secondary school teachers were presented with school records describing two instances of misbehavior by a student. In one study, after reading about each infraction, the teachers were asked about their perception of its severity, about how irritated they would feel by the student’s misbehavior, about how severely the student should be punished, and about whether they viewed the student as a troublemaker.

A second study followed the same protocol and asked teachers whether they thought the misbehavior was part of a pattern and whether they could imagine themselves suspending the student in the future.

The researchers randomly assigned names to the files, suggesting in some cases that the student was black (with a name such as DeShawn or Darnell) and in other cases that the student was white (with a name such as Greg or Jake).

Across both studies, the researchers found that racial stereotypes shaped teachers’ responses not after the first infraction but rather after the second. Teachers felt more troubled by a second infraction they believed was committed by a black student rather than by a white student.

In fact, the stereotype of black students as “troublemakers” led teachers to want to discipline black students more harshly than white students after two infractions, Eberhardt and Okonofua said. They were more likely to see the misbehavior as part of a pattern, and to imagine themselves suspending that student in the future.

“We see that stereotypes not only can be used to allow people to interpret a specific behavior in isolation, but also stereotypes can heighten our sensitivity to behavioral patterns across time. This pattern sensitivity is especially relevant in the schooling context,” Eberhardt said.

These results have implications beyond the school setting as well.

As Okonofua said, “Most social relationships entail repeated encounters. Interactions between police officers and civilians, between employers and employees, between prison guards and prisoners all may be subject to the sort of stereotype escalation effect we have identified in our research.”

Both Okonofua and Eberhardt suggested that useful interventions with teachers would help them to view student behavior as malleable rather than as a reflection of a fixed disposition, such as that of troublemaker.

While racial disparities can be lessened by psychological interventions that help improve black students’ behaviors in class, it is also important to understand how that behavior is interpreted by teachers and school authorities, Okonofua said.

Jason A. Okonofua, psychology: (650) 736-9861, okonofua@stanford.edu

Jennifer L. Eberhardt, psychology: (650) 703-2224, jleberhardt@stanford.edu

Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224, cbparker@stanford.edu

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Sometimes I Ask Myself, Why am I still Alive?

cartoon4Mom, in your letter you said you feel sad for me. Don’t be. Lonely is something that has always been part of my life. You are the only reason I have not lost my mind. Remember that, okay? I love my family so much. No, I can’t explain why. I can’t explain anything. I don’t know why they made the choice to not help me or come to see me. Sometimes I ask myself, was I that bad? I know I caused these things to be in my life. It is my karma. No one else is to blame. But what did I do to cause me to not know who my dad is or even know if he is alive? Will I ever know who he is? It was hard growing up knowing my brothers and my sister’s dad but not mine. My mom did everything she could to take care of us kids. I love her for that. I would never turn my back on her. She has never hurt me, at least not up to my 32nd birthday when she said she almost aborted me because my so called dad wouldn’t leave his wife. That hurt. Right then I forgot all about the visit and was on another planet.

HEAL A DAMAGED HEART    by Sonni Quick  copyright 2016

I sometimes ask myself, why am I still alive? Up till now you didn’t know this, but I cut my left wrist twice since I’ve been in here. Remember when I was moved to the prison in Richmond? I was only supposed to be there for a short time. I was happy because it was closer to Megan and my son. I thought she’d come see me but she didn’t. They moved me there because of my depression. I was refusing to eat. Sometimes I have wondered if I’ll make it out alive. Not only because of what they might do to me, but because of what I might do to myself. I have fought depression ever since I was a kid because life has been so hard.

No one could know how hard it is, always being afraid of the next seizure. They are so painful. Having them in front of strangers. Making a fool of myself. Knowing they were talking about me or maybe they were making fun of me. It’s probably why I had no friends growing up. They were afraid of me or their parents made them stay away from me. I’ll bet the guards make fun of me. Maybe that’s why they pushed me so hard. Maybe they want to see me have one. All of this made me so angry and sometimes I needed to be angry to keep going. It’s easy to say life isn’t fair but if what you say about karma is true, I’m getting back in my life something I caused and I need to learn something about myself to understand it.

Unless someone had ever been here and had to be alone for so long, there is no way to understand how your mind takes control. Every day I have to fight with myself to be the one in control. I read your letters over and over about you telling me I have value so I have to fight for my life. When I read your letters I believe you. Knowing you are out there helps me. Many dudes in here have no one and they go crazy. There are lots of crazy people in here.

I’ve been waiting for six weeks for my property to reach me. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get it. I think the lady in property at Wynne unit lied to you. I have talked to the property lady here myself and still nothing. I’m trying so hard not to flip out on these people.

( Sonni’s note: I called the Allred Unit and talked to the warden’s office. His secretary did some checking and called me back. He just had his belongings delivered. They don’t send it through the mail. They send it to the main prison until they have enough other belongings to send of other inmates to warrant a trip to that prison. Then it has to be gone through to make sure there is nothing he shouldn’t have. That process took two months. It doesn’t matter if that inmate doesn’t have anything he needs. Anything that matters to him is in that locker. To lose it would be devastating. While he waited, I sent him another box of 30 paperback books from http://imailtoprisons.com so he could keep his mind busy. Melvin sent him money so when he got his new ID, because a guard at the other prison destroyed his, he was able to go to commissary and buy paper, envelopes, a pen and stamps. But he had no addresses other than mine because he memorized it. This letter I received 3 days ago. If anyone wanted to write to him, the easiest way is to send him an email to: mynameisjamie2@gmail.com. I would then forward it to http://jpay.com. They print it out and deliver it to his cell. If you want him to write back put your address in it. You can also send an email directly through jpay using his ID#1368189. It costs the value of one stamp per page and one stamp per attachment if you send a picture. If you wanted to send any money so he can buy food – coffee, Raman noodles, canned food, snacks and hygiene products – you can do that at moat, too. Right now I’m paying off his medical fee for this year so he can call medical. It costs to see a doctor our even a nurse. But If for any reason you don’t want to pay the cost, I’m more than happy to send your mail for you. Letters from the outside mean so much. Just send it to the gmail address.)

I have nothing to read to give me that encouragement. No books that you and Melvin sent me that teach me how to change my life. I fight inside myself to stay alive because I don’t want to disappoint you after all these years you’ve been there for me, trying to get me ready to have a life outside here with my son.

I’ve wondered what it would have been like for me if we had not been writing each otherBlack and white hands and you helping me. Truth be told it brings tears to my eyes because I know I would not be coming home. I would be lost in the system. So right here and right now I want to say thank you. I love you for all of your help and support as well as encouragement. And I can’t forget the love. It’s been too long for there to not be love. Sorry about that, my feelings just popped out. (smile)

Til later, love you.
p.s. Tell Melvin I’ll write soon and thank you.


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My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

[/audio

My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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Prisoner Re-entry YouTube Video

This puts an amusing twist on a very real subject that affects hundreds of thousands of people every year. You might look at x-inmates as dangerous criminals – and some of them are. But a majority of those people being released aren’t dangerous criminals.  are like you and me and are no more apt to be a danger to you – than yourself. Unless of course you are a danger to the people around you.

I get so tired of people professing that the United States is a Christian nation.  There are prisoners in every corner of the world but none come close to the amount this country has locked up and the number in solitary confinement that we have.  Do we breed more criminals? I don’t think so. Why is it that this country is the ONLY country that is so adamant when insisting we are a Christian nation, especially when there are so many faiths practiced here? How disrespectful to the many millions of non Christians.

No country uses people for profit as much as we do. We imprison so many people unjustly. We lock up more children. Cops think is okay to throw a student across a classroom, while she is still sitting at a desk, because she stood up for herself and the girl defending her gets arrested, too. How can this be?  Is this what it means to be a Christian nation? We lock up people who don’t have the money to fight back or hire an attorney.  We do this for money! For profit! So many of our citizens are led around with a rope through their nose believing the garbage put out in the media about how the color of one’s skin can make them dangerous so they can justify ruining their lives and destroying their families. They are deemed worthless.

Yet we are a Christian nation? Really?

I am sick of hearing politicians saying they are Christians and even Ted Cruz says a president should start every day on his knees, as if this type of Christianity makes them right in the things they do.  It is scary if this is the way these Christian politicians think America should be. If this is how people think, if people are supposed to study the Bible so they can feel the loving arms of God around them (I was told), then why is it that the line is drawn in the sand when people leave prison and their life is judged so negatively that help is not extended because people think they are not worthy enough to live near you or work with you because they think they are so much better than they are.

This is the holiday season when we spend money to send out cards that say “Merry Christmas”, and “Peace on Earth, good will toward men” ALL MEN, These phrases that make us feel good for a minute but change nothing.  Now, I know there are people who care. You know who you are. But I don’t tell you the other things people say, “You should take this site down and shut the fuck up.” ( an actual comment)

If you care about people – if you really do want this world to be a better place – stand up for everyone’s right to live and be happy – even those who don’t think like you, who have families to feed, just like you. Who need a job to survive, just like you. Who need a place to live, just like you. and even those who may have a different faith than yours.

The presidential contender Donald Trump has a slogan. “Make America Great Again”, although he thinks he can do it through racism, insults and selfishness and war. I think we can do better – don’t you?

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Original Improvised Piano Music –
The music I have written for this blog has been moved to Soundcloud to make it easily accessible for those not on WordPress.  It would help me tremendously if you went there and “liked” it, commented and shared.  people tend to listen to music that others have listened to and it would give me a push to get started to have better stats.  All bloggers understand that.

Juvy to Prison

cuffs and books

This was originally posted over a year ago and I decided to post it again.  With so many posts to read to learn about Jamie, it is easy after all this time for his story to get lost.  Why does this matter? How did he get caught up in the school to prison pipeline that led to prison, as it does for a very high percentage of youth. Not only is their education is taken away, their self esteem is lost. They are not expected to succeed, and many don’t have parents who care. It became just as easy for kids to be put in solitary confinement as adults. They are sexually exploited. They become angry and they give up.  They become the next crop of adults who feed the prison industrial complex.  A different kind of slavery, but slavery none the less.  Juvenile detention has only one direction – Do not pas go. Go directly to prison.  They belong to the system now.  And who cares?  Not many.

Why is police racism encouraged by their superiors?  Why do they look in the other direction or do whatever they can so these legal criminals don’t have to pay the price for their actions?  In the part few years especially, it has become so much worse. Police brutality is off the charts. Why has it been more difficult for black kids than white kids? Why do blacks kids get taken to jail for simply walking down a street after dark because a white man “thought” he looked suspicious even though he hadn’t done anything wrong? Why are kids handcuffed in school for reasons that not long ago only got detention? Why? Because it became profitable.

There are still so many misconceptions by the average American because he gets his “news”, and I use that term loosely, from the media who is paid to report things in a biased way, or he learns from TV shows that aren’t based on reality, yet it is taken as truth.

                       **************************************

Before I met Megan I had only been home for 9 months.  I had done just 4 years in Texas Youth Commission, better known as TYC.  I was placed in there in 2000 when I was not yet seventeen.  The charge was assaulting a police officer.  This never should have happened.  The cop was harassing our family.  It was his fault.  But when you’re black and the cop is white it’s always your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it.  I always seemed to do something to get me in trouble.  I’m beginning to understand that karma has a way of doing that to you.  This is the story of what happened that day.

My older brother and I got into a fight in the front yard.  He had an amp for music in his car.  I took it to a friend’s house across the street.  I went back to get it but it was gone.  I don’t blame my brother for being mad at me.  He thought I sold it.  We weren’t little kids and we fighting pretty good. My mama yelled at us to come in the house. There were four of us kids. Raising us wasn’t easy.  I have two brothers and a sister.   My mom had to play the part of both parents and work all the time to take care of us.

As she was talking to us inside the house about what happened outside there was a knock on the door.  When my mama answered it there was a police officer standing there.  One of the neighbors must of called them.  The officer wanted to speak to my brother and me but my mama said no, she had everything under control.  The officer didn’t listen to her and called to us anyway.  My mama told him again she had everything under control. She was the parent. It should have ended there. Then my mama tried to close the door and the officer stopped her by putting his foot in the door.  He pushed the door open again.  My brother and I stood up.  We told him again that we had everything under control.  He was determined that he was going to get inside the house.  He pushed the door open so hard that my mama fell to the floor.  She broke her wrist.  I  knew this was going to be bad.  We had problems with this officer before.  He was bad news.  I helped my mama up off the floor and my brother went after the officer for hurting her. The officer maced him. When he did that my anger let loose and I hit him with a broom!  His arm was all cut up from the straws.  Then my little brother came into the room and it was just hell.  My sister was pregnant but if she wasn’t she would have gone after him, too.

My mama was taken to the hospital and my sister went with her.  My older brother was placed in the back of the cop car.  He was so angry because the officer maced him that he kicked out the car window.  Me and my little brother were put in a different car because we were minors. Let’s just say that I got the short end of the stick.  After a while everyone got to go home except me.  I was sent to do 9 months in the TYC.

When I got there I stayed in my room and didn’t talk to anyone.  I said to myself that nine months in juvy isn’t that bad.  I could do it.  I did everything I was told to do.  I went to school and attended groups.  I waited and waited as time passed.  Finally, the day came for me to leave.  At least I thought it was supposed to be the day I was going to leave.  I was packed and ready to go when they told me I couldn’t go home.  I didn’t believe it.  I got really upset and asked them why? I did everything I was supposed to do.  They told me I didn’t have my level four to go home.  I said I didn’t know nothing about needing a level four . My lawyer didn’t tell me and he didn’t tell my mom neither about any of this.  They told me again I couldn’t go home so I went to my room and slammed the door.  I sat in my room and cried.  I just wanted to go home.  Then I started kicking the door and walls.  I really wasn’t trying to listen to anyone because I was lied to.  There was so much anger inside.  I started throwing the stuff I had packed to leave.  An officer came and I was sent to 23 hour lock up in security.

young offender

disclaimer: This is not Jamie, but it is a locked up child

From then on everything with me was always on the negative side. I caused all kinds of problems with school. I got into fights in the dorms. I would take off running around the campus. I did everything I could to rebel. I got into it with the staff. It went from a nine month sentence to them keeping me there for four years. I was so angry. I shouldn’t be there in the first place.  Things went up and down with me. But at some point I finally stopped and started thinking. I wanted to go home. I needed to do the right things that would get me home.

(Sonni’s note:  It always sounded fishy to me seeing the reason he was locked up.  What kid would not defend their family in their own home.  Isn’t it the same with the gun issue?  You are supposed to have the right to defend yourself in your home?  But this was a cop.  Why is it legal for a cop to literally push his way into your home without a warrant? With no crime committed.   Was it a good  enough  reason, to physically hurt the mother and then not expect that her kids were going to get upset and defend her?  You can’t defend yourself from a cop? Looking at the behavior of the police today, why am I so amazed at that?

It’s police brutality. But why put Jamie in juvy?  And why not prosecute his brother? Because they knew they couldn’t.  But kids are different. They’ll put kids in juvy, sometimes even because they are absent from school. It’s called the school to prison pipeline. They know it sets the stage to push them clear through to prison. These kids get out without an education, learning more about crime then they ever knew going in. That kind of atmosphere would be of no help to any young person. They don’t get the help they need and they never learn their life has value. When the kids get upset and lash out they put them in solitary confinement in juvy is just as bad as solitary confinement in adult prison.

But there is another reason.  There’s a lot of crooked business going on between judges and juvenile detention centers among other reasons.  There’s a lot of money to be made.  For example there has been a case in the Pa courts about this very thing. This judge sentenced thousands of kids to juvy in exchange for money.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/4/kids_for_cash_inside_one_of

From the beginning they had no intention of letting Jamie go home.)


In the four years I was in juvy I only got four letters.  I know now that if my family couldn’t write to me then why should I expect them to write me now?  I’ve written a lot of letters and it isn’t very often that anyone writes me back.  I can count on one hand how many I got.

Anyway, I finally made it to level three.  I was doing good and I got to do a lot of things.  I went swimming.  I got to play pool and watch movies.  I loved it.  I did good for a year and a half. Then I received a letter from home.  One of my aunts died.  My grandmother had ten kids.  Six boys and four girls.  I’m crazy about my aunts.  I only had three.  I lost it and went downhill.  I was placed on BMP, Behavior Modification Program, for thirty days.  I had to deal with 23 hr a day lockdown.  They brought my schoolwork to me.  I got an hour of rec.  I was on three of these BMPs all total.  I didn’t care anymore.  The last time I was sent there was because I hit one of the staff and broke his nose so they filed charges on me. I did it because he used to just pick on me for no fucking reason.  It really gets to me when I think about it.  It brings it all back like it was yesterday.  He used to call me nigger.  It hurt me and it ate at my feelings.  I know it sounds better to call it the N’word but lets just say it the way he did, and he didn’t call me ‘N’word.  He called me nigger.  I told his supervisor but she didn’t believe me because of all the other trouble I caused on her dorm.  While I was finishing up on the third program a Broward County police officer came and told the staff about the charges that were filed on me and I was placed in the back of the patrol car and taken to Broward County Jail.

While I was in there I really started losing it because I knew what the outcome of my life was going to look like, with me ending up right where I am now.  This would have probably happened to me no matter what I did.  This is where my life was going.  I look at all the things I did.  How could it have turned out any different?  I had chances to change things but I always screwed it up. I have no one to blame but myself.

During the time I was in county jail I wasn’t myself.  I did try to stay out of people’s way.  It wasn’t easy.  I got into a fight over the TV,  and once I got stabbed with a pen.  I really lost it and went into a deep depression.  I stopped eating.  I couldn’t sleep.  I thought of my aunt and cried.  I was miserable and I couldn’t pull myself out of it.  They placed me in a single cell and sent a doctor to come talk to me.  Afterward, she talked to the judge and I was sent to a state hospital for more than three weeks so I could get some help with my depression.  When it was over they sent me home. Finally.

This was back in 2004.  I met Megan in 2005.  I ended up back in here in 2006.  Ain’t that crazy?  I finally got home but I placed myself around the wrong group of so-called friends.  I lost myself again.  But I’ll say this much, it won’t happen again.  I’m going to change the direction my life has taken.  I’m going to be the kind of person I can be proud of, and my son can be proud of, too.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Original Improvised Piano Music

That Is The Connection of Love

RAIN UPON MY WINDOW CELL   by Sonni Quick  copyright 2015

Letter written, November 16, 2015

Dear mom,

I know it’s been hard on you the past few years due to all your surgeries and all, but please know – that was all in the past, so you have to look forward and never look backward. It’s a crazy life, but more important is that you enjoy yourself. You have a passion for music and I heard you play the piano over the phone and it was beautiful. Do what you enjoy doing and love yourself. I am proud of you because you were strong, encouraging and stayed confident through it all – the perfect success. The power of chanting paid off. Things take time but one must never give up.

Jamie cummings before prison
Jamie, the day we met, with my daughter and grandkids

(Sonni’s note: This is know.  People come into your life for a reason.  Some people come in and out of your life so fast you don’t even remember their name.  If life hadn’t taken the twists it did, the night I first met Jamie, ten years ago, could have very well been the only time I ever saw him.  I would only have a fleeting memory him because there would not have been a reason to remember him. If my daughter had not introduced me to him the night she brought him to my hotel room, when I went to Texas to visit for Thanksgiving, it would not have changed the things that happened to him, or the fact that Megan had another baby, but we would not have had an effect on each other.  He would have no one to be there for him and prison would be having far graver impact on him today, with seven more years to go. Although his life is still up for grabs, he now has a higher likelihood of having the life he dreams about.

Not crossing paths with each other would have probably lessened the chance of success of a better life when he gets out. How many people are sitting in prison who have no one who cares if they live or die? Some are very bad people, some were abused people, some were falsely accused and many fell prey to mandatory minimums and were sentenced harsher than than they should have. I would have never written this blog, or book I am writing, and my ignorance about our injustice system would not have changed. Helping him has enabled me to reach out and help other people. Once again I will say: At the end of our lives, the only thing that matters is the effect we have had on other people. We live on when we change their life – for the good or for the bad – and they use what they learned to influence others. That is cause and effect – karma – you reap what you sow – no matter how you look at it or what your faith, or lack of faith, means to you.

Jamie has learned the value of his life. Being in prison does not make him a lesser man. He has learned the uselessness of anger, unless that anger is used in a positive way. I have learned that just to say you aren’t racist doesn’t mean you aren’t racist, because saying those words are meaningless. It is in your actions, your thinking and your honest intentions that count.

For Jamie, to be sitting in a solitary confinement cell and still be able to encourage someone else and be able to say the words, “I am proud of you,” is amazing. I know I can’t completely understand what he is going through. I know he holds a lot back because he doesn’t want me to worry about him. So much has happened to him that would have many men thinking about nothing but anger and revenge, which hurts no one but the person thinking it. This success story in the making, with many ups and downs, is his story. His encouragement has helped me get through my own hard times. We feed each other the strength we think each other needs so it goes around and around. It is hard when you are in the middle of the experience, but later in life as we both sit and reflect how these years have gone by, there is so much we both have gained. I stay confident there is a reason for this that will affect many people in a positive way.

I have been so fortunate to have Jamie, and this experience in my life. He is a special person and I have learned so much. He will always be my grandson’s father and I will always be his son’s grandmother. I will always be the mother of his son’s mother. Nothing can take away that connection. That is the connection of love, which is of course his strongest love. I don’t mean that as a relationship love. He’s younger than my children. But not all relationships turn out to be positive. Not all last a lifetime. Good friends are often harder to come by and can last a lifetime or longer. Passion comes and goes and often you can’t remember their name. There is a bigger reason why our lives crossed, and it is because of that , that it has come to mean so much. I know him. He deserves to have a chance at life and also to be what he wants most – a chance to be a father.)


Mom, I will get back into writing the things you need for the book. Things are just crazy here. I tried to write up the officers like you said – fill out grievances – so there is a paper trail of what they do and don’t do. However I can’t leave a paper trail if my write-ups are being thrown away. I wrote up three different officers and I have yet to get the forms back. I have to get away from this unit because the warden is the one to investigate the form. I have to have the denial of the first write-up before I can write the second one. It’s stupid. The first grievance you file is ALWAYS denied and it always takes a month to get the denial. They are stalling for time hoping you’ll give up. Because this process rarely works, most  won’t even file a grievance because nothing good comes from it. But you said they are counting on that so don’t let them get away with it. I keep writing the grievances, one after another, to show that I tried to use the system that was set up for us so we have a way to settle problems. But they have the upper hand and I think they must be just throwing them away. If I don’t get the first grievance form back it is like nothing was ever filed.

Blacks and Hispanics always had it bad. Yes, we commit crimes, but so have all the races. Many people don’t understand history. A lot of blacks have been sent to prison for nothing. Back in the day it was nothing to send a black man to jail. Now, instead of sending us to jail, they just kill us. (crazy)

I did go back to the hospital last week. Yet again, the medical unit did nothing. I was told again I would be placed on medication for my heart problem yet I have yet to receive any. I asked about it but I was told things were backed up. Unlikely. Life is becoming real hard for me in here. I’m trying to keep it together. I get so caught up in my problems. They took all my stuff away and it is locked up in the property room.

You can send me the chapters you are writing for the book. Don’t black out nothing. As long as there is nothing that violates policy, send it, it should be okay. I don’t care what these people think. I’m not violating no rules. Wow, you sure do have a lot planned for the book – the whole nine yards, huh? It seems like a good idea to me if you can sell or give away the music to the people who buy the book.

Look, whenever you get ready to come visit make sure you tell me so I can stay clear of these people. I’m not going to beg Megan to bring Jamie to see me. I’m through with that. I have to stop letting shit take control of me. And when I get caught up in this bullshit with these people here, I lose myself because I am so upset at times.

I got the three books you sent. You asked me how much room I have in my locker for books, and I have a lot if you want to send a bigger box. (Sonni’s note: I sent him 30!) I need them to keep me busy doing something. Could you add some Westerns? Thank you. (This is the first time he ever mentioned he liked Westerns. lol)

Wow – Mike’s cooking for Thanksgiving? He can cook green bean casserole? I love that! It’s good. I’m sure Thanksgiving will be okay here. Not better than being home, though. I have to go for now.

However, till next time,
Love you, Son.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni Quick piano music complete list