Prison, We Must Do Better for At-Risk Teens

Jamie started in the school to prison pipeline at the age of sixteen because a cop had a vendetta against his family. He literally pushed his way into their home, knocked his mother down and broke her wrist. Jamie defended his mother. Was that enough reason to put him in juvenile detention until he was 21, unable to get even a GED? What kind of job was he supposed to get. He might have legally been an adult, but he had no experience to draw on. He had also spent extended time in solitary confinement. In Juvy it was called “Behavior Modification Program” or BMP.

teens a risk, school to prison pipelineI recently started reading a book that was published in 1997. The title is, “No Matter How Loud I Shout -A Year In The Life Of Juvenile Court” – by Edward Humes. It takes place in juvenile courts in LA. The courts then, and now have no idea how to handle children criminals. Some are hardened criminals while still in their early teens and some get mixed up in something and learn their lesson. Some come from the streets and some come from the middle and upper middle income families where they have every opportunity a child could want. The conflict is when to prosecute them as adults. There can’t be one rule that covers everything that changes at an exact moment yet this is what they try to do. Are kids responsible for their actions and at one age. Some get their lives ruined and some get let go until the next crime they commit. It’s a tough call.

During this time this book was written I lived in LA until my children were teens. I went through rough times with my kids. When my son and daughter were 15 and 18 we moved away. I had to get them away. Educating them in public schools was impossible. I pulled them out of bad schools and put them in other bad schools hoping they would be better. But the writing was on the wall if we stayed. We loved north to a small town. My son got his act together and started working hard. My daughter got pregnant and had her first baby at 16.

When I read today about the juvenile courts in LA in the 90’s, knowing how easily it could have been my children I was reading about, it is scary. Today they are 35 and 38 and they have their own teenagers to worry about. It is much worse it today than it was in the 90’s. Kids have less and less respect for teachers or anyone in a position of authority. So many have less respect for themselves as well. They were never taught respect in their homes. Many parents wanted to be “friends” with their children instead of parents. These teenagers I am reading about in this book are in their 30’s now. Are they alive? Are they in prison?

As parents we want to say it won’t happen to our children. It does, and when they grab hold of your child, or your grandchildren, the system doesn’t plan on letting go until they have sucked every possible way of making money from them.  Look at Jamie. He is now 32. He STILL doesn’t have a GED. Without that, how can he take other educational courses? How can he learn about something he is interested in when he doesn’t even know what that is?

Are there bad kids out there? Absolutely. Bad parents in bad neighborhoods, and bad parents in good neighborhoods. Some parents don’t want to believe their child would do these things, but they do. There is a saying, “If you continue to do what you always done you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” Parents need to have a better perception of the life outside their children are exposed to. There is no one protecting them. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you are from or how much money you make. Some of the things my children tell me now they did 20 years ago had my jaw on the floor, similar to the things I told my parents long after the fact. We were lucky. Really lucky. Not everyone is.

In the past few years “The Law” has upped the ante. Now, instead of handling disciplinary issues that previously called for detention, being sent to the principle’s office or parents were called – now it is the police who called, who come and handcuff the children in the classroom and escort them out. Quite often the police are already located on school grounds replacing guidance counselors. They are also often taken into a courtroom in handcuffs, too. Why? Do the officers fear for their safety or is it for effect? Often the reason is not justified and does untold damage to the child’s self-esteem. Sadly, this affects black children more than it does white children and even Hispanic children. White children learn early in life that black is not as good as white and they carry that attitude into their adult lives and a new generation of racist attitudes is born.

An already bad situation with juvenile courts has been made worse. More adult criminals are cultivated. Black children learn their lives don’t have as much value. The juvenile courts are so overcrowded. There is no time for anyone to care. We need to do more to help in some way. Too many people are short in help and long in opinions and the children are thrown under the bus. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world



Prison, We Must Do Better for At-Risk Teens

Guest Commentary

Published August 16, 2015

Since the late 1980s, at-risk teens have been subjugated to terrible injustices. Being socially labeled super-delinquents by politicians and media, legally tried as adults under get-tough legislation, and psychologically stunted by zero tolerance in schools and abuse in correctional facilities.

Today, you would imagine that America has found a better way to deal with juvenile delinquency and youth-gang crimes, but unfortunately, many states still implement outdated, misguided policies that continue to funnel teens into the juvenile justice system. This populates our prison systems. And to make matters worse, recidivism keeps increasing this rate—that is, teens become damaged goods after cycling through “the system” and often return to prison as adults.

According the Annie E. Casey Foundation, despite the good intentions and regulations in our system, teens do learn how to become better criminals from inmates, and…

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Juvenile Probation in Mesquite, Texas

Dear Mom,
You wanted to know more about my life before I ended up in juvy. It was the last part of my teenage life I could still make my own choices. I had to leave Nacogdoches for awhile. I had gotten into some trouble in the tenth grade. I guess you could say this next year was going to be the last formal schooling I really had. I have an uncle who lives in Mesquite, Tx. I went to go stay with him for a year while I was on juvy probation. juvenile probation center

My uncle was a good man I must say. He’s a parole officer for adults and over the years he worked his way up the system. He has a son that got 20 years. I’ll explain that to you one day. I lived with him and went to school, but he wouldn’t trust me to go anywhere. I remember I went outside across the street to the neighbors house. They had two boys about my age. I went over and we talked and played basketball then I went back home to my uncle’s house. My uncle questioned me about where I was and told me not to go over there anymore. We didn’t do anything wrong. I was bored and it was fun to have someone to spend some time with. I guess he didn’t trust that I wouldn’t get in any trouble since he was responsible for me. He was never home when I got home from school because he had home visits to do for his job. I was supposed to come home and just stay in the house or the yard. When it came time for me to report to my probation officer I had to walk or ride my cousin’s bike. Man, it was far away. It was the only time I got away from having to be home all the time except when i went to school, so I began to really like the ride. I was getting to see more of the city, too..

I also started to do community service at the Boys and Girl’s Club. One night my little cousin was with me, and we were riding our bikes home. It was a good distance between the house and the club. One evening when we were leaving to start riding home it was beginning to get dark. We were riding on the sidewalk going down a hill when this dude in a truck pulled out of the driveway of an apartment complex. He didn’t have his headlights on so he couldn’t see me. when he pulled out in front of me I hit the front side of his truck, flew over it, breaking my left leg. I remember hearing my cousin screaming and myself yelling I didn’t want to get into trouble. After that I woke up in the hospital. I had a cast on my leg from my ankle up to my thigh. After I left the hospital and went back to my uncle’s house I called my cousin to check up on him. He came over when I called, but he stopped a good distance away from me and just looked at me. That was strange. He wouldn’t say anything or come anywhere close to me after that.

I completed my probation. My uncle asked me if I wanted to stay or go home. I told him I wanted to go home, but to this day I ask myself why I didn’t stay. I feel my life might have come out a lot better than what it is now. I tell myself I would have finished school, too. Look at my age now, thirty-two, and I still haven’t been able to finish school. We never know at the time that each time we make a decision it is going to take us in a different direction.

Many Black Families Don’t Have Dads

encouragement, grief, oevercoming obastaclesGrowing up all I had was my family on my mother’s side.  I know no one on my father’s side of the family.  Who am I kidding, hell, I don’t even know my father.  I grew up without him only having my mother.  It’s nothing different from most black families.  Single mothers raising kids alone.  Well, in my case it was a little different because my brothers and sister knew their dad and their dad’s family, leaving me with only a mom.  Each of us has a different dad.  That was cool, but sometimes I wondered what it would be like with a dad.  To this I still wonder, even though dad is home with mom now.  She said they got married.  I tried to reach out to and write a letter.  I even sent him a birthday card.  I’m still waiting for a reply.  So, I guess I still don’t have a dad.  She said he is a retired cop, no less.  He was married and didn’t tell her and then when she got pregnant, he told her and she ended the relationship.  She almost ended the pregnancy, too.  She told me that when she came to see me on my birthday this year.  That hurt. But back then? That was just the way it was. He left both of us.  She never told me who my father was when I was growing up.  That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?

I really hate this because some things I don’t want to remember.  Growing up, my favorite cousin was my Aunt Ann’s son.  His name was Keithy.  He passed away in 1996 from sickle cell anemia. Since I had epilepsy, we were the sick ones in the family.  He broke my heart so bad.  We used to follow each other. I didn’t matter he was older than me by six or seven years. We enjoyed each others company.  We had each others back.  We played together all the time. He loved to go fishing. I would go with him.  There were times we caught nothing, but we still loved to go.  We sometimes had our days when we were mad at each other.  But it didn’t take long for us to make up.  We had lots of fun. There were also times I couldn’t visit him because he was too sick, and that made me mad.  Mad that he was sick.  There were times he went to visit his dad’s family.  One time when he came home from his dads he was sick.  I went to visit with him one day and when we were playing he just started crying.  My aunt came in to help him and called my mom to come and take me home.  While I was waiting  his pain got worse.  I could hear his cries for help.  It hurt so much to see him like that.  His sickness got real bad so I ended up having to stay home a lot.  I then started leaving home.  I felt empty as far as friends.  So I would leave sometimes just to get away.  It got to the point where I would leave in the middle of the night to try to fill in that blank space.  Well, I left home one too many times at night.  My mom got worried about me and placed me in a children’s hospital.  I didn’t like it there.

I don’t remember how long I was there.  I do remember them letting me call home one day.  I remember explaining to my mom that I didn’t like this place and I began to cry.  I also remember the day that really broke my heart.  But I started out happy that day because my mom came and got me out of the hospital and took me to my aunt’s house.  There was a lot of people there.  My mom took me to the back room where everybody was and she told me that my cousin died.  I broke down.  My old brother grabbed me and told me not to cry, but we both cried.  We went to view him and he looked so different.  I remember touching him and asking my mom why he was so cold.  Then we buried him.

( Sonni’s note:  Jamie was in prison long before he actually was in one.  It’s easier to have hindsight than it is to have foresight. He arrived in this world broken and never had a fair shake.  His cousin died 19 years ago, but it could have been yesterday.  He had a lot of obstacles to overcome that he is still working on today.  There have been many lessons learned.  But I believe it was after his cousin died that the road in his life took a sharp left turn.)

Teachers More Likely to Label Black Students as Troublemakers

black students

I watched a few TED talks today about kids.  One of them I posted yesterday if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.  This young woman was in college she met someone from the inner city of Philadelphia and she asked him if she could do a paper on him and he agreed.  That paper became a dissertation and ultimately a book.  At a time when many white students are preparing for their life by going to college, many black youth are preparing each other be learning how to evade the police, because they know it’s just a matter of time before they become a target. Kids playact 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 pretend to do cavity searches.  This is real life to them.

What makes it even harder for black youth is the way schools punishment them, starting with the attitude of many teachers.  An after school fight for two white boys more than likely end end with their parents being called. If you are black, more than likely the police will be called and they get their first taste of jail and end up with fines they can’t pay.  If they can’t pay they are arrested again for that.  It begins a spiral down that becomes an inability to finish a high school education. Forget college. The spiral only continues in one direction. The school to prison pipeline is set.

inmate education, recidivism ratefor educated parolees
photo source:

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 best to end his possibilities.  He is still trying to get his GED.  He would love to have an education. At age 32 now 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 been research to find out what his options are.  There is a school for inmates in Dallas called the Windham School.  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 him involved or when it can begin, but it worth finding out. I can only think that something like this would help him with parole. This isn’t automatically offered to inmates.  You need someone on the outside who takes the time to find out about it. 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.

inmate education, prison classroom,
source credit:

I recently found the article below.  It explains how difficult it becomes for black students when they get labeled as a troublemaker by their teachers.  If a child has a mental deficiency such as autism, parents get upset if their children are labeled.  They want their children to have the greatest chance of success.  But racism in early education by teachers makes getting an education much more difficult for black students, especially in the inner cities where it can be made worse by extreme poverty.  Discriminating against children because of the color of their skin,  not taking into account how smart or artistic the child might be,  how many of these children get labeled a troublemaker when a white child wouldn’t be – for doing the same thing? Yes, white children can be labeled a troublemaker, but they would have to do much more to earn that label. Below is the link to the original article.


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,

Jennifer L. Eberhardt, psychology: (650) 703-2224,

Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224,

Read more

#STPP in Action: A Tale Too Often Told

I needed to add this one too. It’s time for people to wake up and see what happens to kids when the school system decides they aren’t worth working with. Where will this kid end up? What are his choices when he has been deemed a failure before he even got started.

The #PushBACK Project

It’s difficult to really understand the School to Prison Pipeline if you are only thinking about it in terms of national statistics, mass incarceration rates, or facts and figures.

If the School to Prison Pipeline (STPP) doesn’t impact you directly, then you might have a difficult time understanding the system pushes students out of school and into prison. On the other hand, you might not have heard of the STPP–but if you are a student of color, a student with a disability, an LGBTQIA student, or a parent/guardian of a student with any or multiple of those identities, you probably have felt the effects. You might not understand why, but you know that the education system is not providing what is sorely needed-which is equal access to education.

Let’s take a look at one student and pretend his name is Tim. Tim entered a new school having been kicked out of…

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Alternative to Violence Project

avp, alternative to violence project

photo credit:

Something positive is happening inside a Maryland prison

Facilitators of the Alternative Violence Project ( AVP at the maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown insites you to join us for our annual  “AVP Recognition Night”


Tuesday July 21, 2015 at 7 PM

The program includes and opportunity to meet and hear from

inmate and community volunteers who are AVP volunteers

Founded and developed from the real life experiences of prisoners and others, encouraging every person’s innate

power to positively transform themselves and the world AVP is a non profit national and international program

which is run entirely by volunteers both in prisons and in the community

AVP, alternative to violence project
photo credit:


Why am I posting this?  This is the next step for me in completing my journey.  I have been writing this blog for almost a year and a half. Earlier this year I began writing the book Inside the Forbidden Outside. Many people have been following the story of Jamie Cummings.  I have received many heartfelt responses and also many comments from people who had no idea what our prison system is about, and now they do.  Nothing can change until people are aware there is something to change.

There have been a lot more articles in the media about these glaring problems, and it has already become part of the issues next years presidential candidates are choosing to talk about.  Not because they believe in what they are saying, but because it has become a hot topic.  Of course, each party blames the other party for being the country that has locked up the highest percentage of it’s citizens, especially the gap between black and white which is six to one. It’s almost as though they are noticing it for the first time.

What this tells me, the time to write this book is now.  Over the year and a half it will be in the news more than it ever has been.  Between the racism in our police force which leads to the racism in our prisons, which starts at the juvenile level, there is no better time than the present to step up my involvement.

I know a lot.  I have researched every side of these issues.  I have my experiences with Jamie Cummings and also Armando Macias on San Quentin’s death row, who also gets the bad end of the stick when it comes to racism.  One important thing I am lacking, for this book to be successful, is the credibility of having hands on experience inside the prison system.  Being able to work with people who are familiar with this system from the inside will be another piece of puzzle of that will help make this work.

Books aren’t written and then magically appear for sale.  There has to be a funnel to send it out. The old days of sending a manuscript to a publisher and they take it over, give money up front and then promote your book and send you on book tours is over – unless you are an accomplished writer with a proven track record.  That certainly isn’t me.  But I do believe what I’m writing has value.  Since I am self publishing  I need to wear ten hats.

My main concern is when Jamie gets paroled – what then?  Seriously, what then? Will they even parole him without having a GED, although it is the prison who has made sure he couldn’t study for it.  68% of all males in state and federal prisons do not have a GED.  Does he move to his mother’s house, a house he has never lived in, with the man she recently married she claims is his real father, who never acknowledged him? That could be tense.  How about moving in with family who showed him no support during his incarceration?  No, “Hi Jamie, how are you?  Remember, we love you!”   How about finding a job in a small East Texas town that until twenty five years ago had unpaved streets in the black (ghetto) part of town? What would he do to earn money?  It sounds pretty bleak to me.

This is what I see in my head:  With book in hand, holding his head high, talking to communities, schools, boys and girls clubs, churches and other places, about the issues that lead kids through the juvy system and into the prisons right where the prison industrial complex wants them.  The school to prison pipeline is very real and finally in the past year has been recognized as a real problem that needs to be addressed.  The 6 to 1 odds come from the fact that the police raid these neighborhoods 6 times more than white neighborhoods.  They are instructed to stay out of white neighborhoods because parents of these kids wouldn’t stand for it.   Even in schools it is a fact that black kids are punished much harsher than white kids for doing the same things.  These things need to change.  Jamie’s experience can be used for positive change.  His experience is not unique, but it takes someone with a desire to change, to use that experience to help people.  If he needs me to lean on until he gets his bearings, then that is okay.  During this time I will be writing the second book – his life on the outside.

How will I get the knowledge to do these things?  Why would anyone listen to me if I approached them about setting up a community meeting?  Who am I?  I know that Texas has the same kind of volunteer services at their prisons as I am sure most all states, do.  I live closest to the Maryland prisons and I was given the contact to call.  It is my way in.  Through the different services they provide along with different kinds of workshops with the inmates as well as training for people who want to learn how to facilitate a workshop is where I begin the process of credibility.  They look for people with the ability to get up and speak to a room full of people, which I have no problem with.

The next step will learning how to translate that to Texas.  Jamie needs to be able to tell the parole board why he should be released next Oct 2016.  He needs to have a plan.  Another inmate in a different prison told me if he could find a way to start a group inside the prison, perhaps fathers with children who are also separated from them it will show he is thinking about his future.  How to accomplish that is a mystery, but maybe I can learn how that can happen, through the new experiences I will have.

I’m excited.  When you want to do something bad enough, and you have no doubt you can do it, doors open up.  I have unshakable belief I can do this. 

writings.  Help me build a larger readership base.  I know this isn’t a fun topic.  I’ve had two people in the last 24 hours who told me they couldn’t “like” my post – because they didn’t “like” what it was about.  Feeling good about it is not the point.  I want you to share it because you don’t like it, because it needs to change. blog posts and news about injustice all all over the world.

This is Why I Do What I do For Jamie Cummings

Sonni’s note: For those that see this posted twice, I also printed it as a page on Inside the Forbidden Outside<

Early in 2015 I began to write a book giving Jamie a voice for his life -a voice to speak about the experiences he’s been through and why they happened. Rereading his letters, there are a few common threads that run through them. The deepest one is loneliness. The second one is not understanding why no one cares. The third one is determination. When he gets he out he is going to be a father to his son, one he never had himself. It was hard not be affected by Jamie. Other people see what the people closest to him cannot.

This is why, after years of writing letters, I chose to start writing his blog the beginning of 2014. It’s hard to not have feelings for him when you read his words. I have heard from so many readers who have been affected by his story and are pulling for him to have a successful life. He hasn’t heard many words of encouragement from people in his life, but he will knows there are many people all over the world who wish the best for him. He is a good man – a lonely man – who had one time in his life where he thought he found happiness. He so loved a woman who loved him back, who was having his baby. His child! But he lost that long before it ever breathed life. That child is now almost nine years old. The times he has seen him, through glass, has been few.

jamie Cummings, father and son
Jamie and Jamie Cummings- age 8

The first half of his life he was a lonely child. You can have a large family and still be alone. Getting sucked in to juvy system at sixteen took away the rest of his youth. Being released at age 21 and shortly after, meeting my daughter and getting pregnant was the happiest he had ever been. He didn’t know life could be so good. He would do anything he had to, to take care of his precious family. Anything. But how could he do that? He didn’t know what to do. He had no education. No job. No driver’s license because of epilepsy. He had no wisdom. He didn’t understand consequences. He had no life experience to draw on and no one to seek guidance from. Under pressure to take care of this precious life he created, he chose to go along with something incredibly stupid, and lost everything. Now at age 32, he still sits, trying to stay optimistic about having a life, yet still doesn’t know how to do that.

Does that make him a bad person? No. He, too, is a product of his environment, just like we all are. There are many people in prison who are very broken. They come from tortured lives of abuse and violence. What their environment taught them, took them to a place where having a life that fits inside society is far beyond their grasp. The only place their life works is inside a prison where others understood the language they spoke. They never experienced or learned what a good life should be. You learn by your experiences, your community. When these people get out of prison, they may want a different life, but they won’t know how. They will end up back inside. These people are only a portion of why people are locked up and unfortunately those are the ones you hear about. So you believe that prisons are only for bad people, and most of them, unfortunately have sentences that last longer than they should, with every form of inhumane treatment your imagination can think of.

But how did Jamie end up losing his way? What cause was made where this could be the only outcome? The experiences you have in life don’t happen by accident. There is no such thing as good luck or bad luck. There is only causes you’ve made that you might not understand. Some are easy to see and some are not. There is nothing that manipulates life like a puppet on strings. What he is experiencing, just like all of us, is the effects of these causes we made in our lives. So how does he change it? How does he turn it around? That is what I explore in this writing of his life.

Why should I care? Why was I pulled into his life? What part was I to play? Why couldn’t I be like everyone else and say how unfortunate it was that this was happening and then go on with my life? Or, I could say it hurt me so much he was in there, that I was unable to bring myself to write back. It wasn’t my fault he was there. Why did I feel it was my job to be there for him? I didn’t just become part of his life for no reason. A cause was made. By him? By my daughter? By me?

I became part of his life because was no one else there. He is the father of one of my grandsons. His pain was too great for me to become like everyone else. Jamie and I needed each other. It wasn’t a one way street. He wasn’t “using” me, as one person told me. I didn’t buy the statement, “Once a loser always a loser.” He needed to be taught things he never had a chance to learn – how to pull himself up so he can one day be a father to his son, my grandson? Wishful thinking won’t cut it. He needed someone he could count on, who wouldn’t judge him, and like a parent, I became mom.

That is why I do what I do.

Looking for Testimonials of people who have been through the Justice System

open prison door in jail or prison
I want to start a new section that is about the stories of other people who have been through this. Justified, Not justified. Guilty or not guilty. This isn’t a place to pass judgement, just a place to let people know what you know about these things I write about. This is space to air how you feel and maybe talk with other people who understand. Write to me and tell me if you’d like me to tell your story.

It could be a story of life before prison, prison life or life after prison and everything in between. I invite any other prison bloggers to add their story here as well.

Video – We Need to Talk About Injustice by Brian Stevenson

Last year I joined EJI – Equal Justice Initiative – being able to watch and hear this video solidified for me exactly why I am doing what I do. I have joined and/or read about many organizations trying to change our injustice system. Why do I have the desire to fight to change the perception many people still have who think prison is just a place to lock up bad people. Unless you’ve actually done the homework and followed the trail, it is very easy to believe what you see on the media. But that is an issue for another post. It seems to be getting so much worse. There is a new injustice, a new murder or beating every week, by the police, and by the prison guards, and people are getting very very angry. Can you blame them? There is more to it when you take the time to understand. It is so easy to put people in prison who have been deemed unfit to be in society while also giving the prison industrial complex another body to fill a promised bed by our government. Why has our government promised that? How can prison population be reduced when the profit makers are fighting so hard to make sure we keep our inmate count as high as it is? How many more of our children are forced through this funnel to complete their profit agenda. People are more expendable now than they have ever been. Are my grandsons going to get sucked into this? It scares the crap out me.

It is very very easy for white people to say they aren’t racist, but have a black man approach them walking up the street and they are going to think of the possibility he is going to hurt them, steal their purse, or they’ll cross to the other side of the street just in case. I tested that theory on someone who declared she wasn’t racist, but still said she would be very suspicious of seeing a black boy in a sweatshirt with a hoodie? An article of clothing made her fearful. That was what the media has shoved down people’s throats. So she said she would be suspicious of anyone where she couldn’t see their face. So what about a wide brimmed hat, or a baseball cap and sunglasses. Would she be suspicious then? Does that count, or is it just hooded sweatshirts? She didn’t know what to say. She isn’t racist – but still thinks racist because the media has made her fearful of hooded sweatshirts.

But having the probability of that racism being directed at a member of your own family and you will be forced to look at yourself and the split second racist thoughts that fill your lead. Add to that all the people who are outright racist – against any race not like them and it becomes the powder keg it is now, where it’s okay to shoot a black man in the back seven times and try to say it was because you feared for your life.

The percentage of black children without a father is staggering. It is many times more than white children. The effects of only having one parent has an effect on children that really isn’t talked about, because we, as single mothers just suck it up and do what we have to do to take care of our children, and the ramifications later in life is where we see those effects the most. I understand that. So should my daughter, the mother of Jamie’s son, but it seems she doesn’t. I would think for that reason alone, my daughter would make an attempt on behalf of her son to help him know his father loves him. But later, when he grows up he will have all the letters his father wrote about how much he loves him and begging to see his son.

I do what I do in the hopes that it will help him create a life when he gets out where he will be able to help provide for his son; use the experience of his life to talk to children and communities. If he can be a positive example and role model and turn this negative experience into something positive, isn’t that worthwhile pursuing? How could he provide for a child without even a GED, any work experience or even the smallest amount of wisdom learned from life experiences? His teens years were spent being unjustly locked up in juvenile detention, and juvenile solitary confinement in detention centers too far away for family to visit if they wanted to. He was swept up by a cop with a vendetta. I’ve written about that story. When he gets paroled, sometime in his 30’s, he will still not have any life experience. Do I let my grandson’s father flounder with no guidance, when I can help? How does he not become one of the 71% of parolees who go back to prison because they don’t know how to make it outside? No one will rent to them or want to give them jobs. Having epilepsy with the possibility of a seizure at anytime is also a drawback. Life will be very hard.

If these writings that he and I are doing together are able to make a difference in his life where he can help provide for his son, hold his head up and set a good example, will it help his son, as well as his younger brother, who doesn’t have is father, either? Can fault be found by what I’m doing? If there is a possibility that I can actually get this book I’m writing, “Inside the Forbidden Outside” off the ground, is it not something worth trying? It’s easy to fail if you never try. It’s easy to give when it becomes too hard. I don’t live my life that way. Never have and I won’t start now. There is already a second book planned. I struggle to learn because I have a dream. I see this dream. I don’t take the easy way. Instead of encouragement I hear negativity, but I will not give up. Because I love my family, my kids and grandkids and because I love Jamie, as a man, a human being and a man with a life worth fighting for. I can see what the possibilities are, and I am the only one who has fought for him. No matter what, when my grandchildren are grown I hope they learn from me that you need to fight for the things that are important. I hope they look at my life as an example that life is for the living. His son will always know the love he has for him. No one can take that away.

I have several mottoes I have used to live my life. One of them is: There are people who make things happen, people who watch things happen and people who say, What happened? I am a person who makes things happen. The strength and intensity of my convictions scares people – because they have nothing worth fighting for.

Loving your children, by itself, will not protect them from the cops or the racism coming and they, too, will be easily swept up into the school to prison pipeline that has propelled far too many kids into, and it ruins their lives and you can’t do a damn thing about it unless you have a whole lot of money, and even that often doesn’t work. It would be better to join me in this fight. Help me fight for their lives instead of fight against me. It will be seen, perhaps, when it is too late, and you end up being the one trying to take care of someone who is locked up. The percentages are not in my grandson’s favor. A vast amount of people, especially during the next ten years will use every excuse to add one more juvenile to the roster of kids in detention to abuse, waiting until they are old enough to go to prison.

The prison industry uses the test scores of 3rd graders to determine how many beds they will need for adult prisons because they decide these kids will never have a good job and will instead turn to crime. Recently they filed felony charges against a 12 year old black boy with autism because he got emotional and panicked and pushed back against a cop who was trying to restrain him and the cop filed felony assault charges on him – this tiny boy with black glasses. Why would this cop do that? What was his training? This is what I am trying to fight against and too many people turn and look the other way after they see the blurb on TV news. After all, what can they do? The American people have looked the other way about many things far too often.

Thank You For Supporting, “Inside the Forbidden Outside”

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Inside the Forbidden Outside

Many people have followed me, Sonni Quick, on this journey I’m taking, writing about the life of Jamie Cummings. “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. chapter one which had the previous title of “Inside Out”. You’ve encouraged me and told me to keep writing. Some of you have given me guidance and writing tips as a new book author. You told me it was a story that should be told. Some of you have told me you cried tears. You had no idea what being in prison really meant, because only knowing what TV and movies portray is not the whole story. Only people who have been where Jamie is will know for sure that what I say here is the truth.

Tears weren’t cried because Jamie is in prison. Tears were cried because his anguish was felt; his loneliness and depression. The loss of his family and his son from his life, with no one making the effort to bring him to visit. It is easy to see what he is going through through in his head, trying to understand what happened to his life that brought it to a screeching halt inside the thick prison walls.

Over the nine years I’ve known him, trying to hold him up, made me want to reach through the prison bars and wrap myself around him and hold him him, telling him it would be over someday. Reading and knowing about the stripping away of human dignity is hard to read.

There are many different reasons why people are put in prison. The reasons for what they did, and having those reasons used for corporate gain has put millions of dollars into many people’s pockets. Now American private prisons are spreading outside our borders and we are teaching other countries how they,too, can exploit their citizens the same way we do.

Imagine yourself in his circumstances. You can’t say it will never happen to you, because it can, easily, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These are the things you seldom read or hear about in the media. The government has to justify why there is no money for education, yet hundreds of millions of dollars are available to build new prisons to satisfy the unending thirst of American corporations that want to use prison labor to manufacture their products. Lower taxes for the rich will not create jobs for the people, but it will provide more prisons to house more inmates to manufacture items that are available on our store shelves. Inmates also produce a great many items our police force and military needs to continue to do what they do. A subject to explore at a later time.

I posted a two minute video recently. It is not of Jamie, but it is of a man who spent 18 1/2 years in a solitary cell not unlike the cell Jamie has spent years of his own life. Jamie’s sentence is 17 years and he has done more than 9 so far. Not all of it has been in an ad seg unit (administrative segregation), but it has been determined the human mind can only safely stay in deprivation like that for 15 days before there are possible alterations in the mind. There was a politician about a year ago who voluntarily went into a solitary cell for ONE DAY and wrote about how horrible it is. I say, stay in for 15 days. Maybe then some laws will change. Keep him there for a month, not even
years which is so common, and he will be screaming to be let out just like all the others.

Even though I believe what happened to Jamie’s life, beginning at a young age, was unfair, coming to life through racial inequalities, life isn’t fair. I also believe if he had not been with this particular group of friends that got busted that night, which you can read about in Jamie’s Prison or read the post Juvy to Prison. Something else would have happened to produce the same result. He didn’t learn the life skills he needed. He needed to “belong”, and was easily swayed by the wrong people.

So, what to do about all of this now? How do we make something positive from something negative? The change in the life of a single human being can change the world. Because there are 10 strikes against any person getting out of prison, beginning with of the lack of acceptance by society, it is extremely difficult for them to survive and create a life of value. No one wants to employ an ex-offender and no one wants to rent an apartment to them, either. Many of these people, men and women, have families they love and need to take care of. They paid their price to society and have earned the right, at the very least, to gain their self respect. Society wants to keep punishing them for the rest of their lives. Ask yourself why? For this reason many ex-felons have to resort to other ways to make money, because they have no other way. Our prisons didn’t teach any way. Do you understand the dichotomy of the situation?

What happens to an x-offender, who, from his teen years has not been able to get an education? When he is finally released in his mid to late 30’s, or older, and has no work history, but wants to work, where is he going to find that job in a unwelcoming society who is afraid of him simply because he has been to prison? God forbid, he could be dangerous!There are many people who have never been to prison who can’t find work. If they have a hard time, how does an ex-offender find work? Many of these people, who haven’t been incarcerated apply for government assistance, live in public housing or section 8 housing, get disability, or use WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or food stamps to help supplement the rising cost of food. Most people don’t go to the government for help because they are lazy, but because they have no other choice, as the media would like you to believe. NONE of these options are even available for an ex-offender. Jamie won’t even be able to apply for disability because of epilepsy until he has been out for one year. How does he survive that year?

Jamie is black. I am white. We are connected by the blood of his son, my grandson. He is part of my family. he calls me ‘mom’. Because I have taken the time to be his family andf because he let me inside his head to feel the pain as he tries to understand the causes he made for his life to produce the sharp left turns that led to prison.

What should he and I do with this knowledge? I believe it can and should be used to help people. Help kids understand what the end of the path leads to if they choose to go down the wrong one. Young people have no wisdom to draw on. They can’t understand something no one has taught them. There are many ‘Jamies’ out there. His life story can also help educate people so they can have a better understanding of our prison system and why America has only 5% of the world’s population but imprisons 25% of the world’s inmates. His life story can also help inmates who want to do better, to understand their lives have value. It’s all about choices. Cause and effect. Not all inmates are inherently broken. Some just made a bad choice and have paid for that mistake. Many deserve a second chance and need our help, even if that help is only having a better understanding and acceptance of their value as a human being.

This is what I need from you that would help me in my quest. Please, go to different posts and pages on this website and post them to your own social media. Go to posts that talk about the book and send them out. The category still says “Insideout” for now uieven though the title has changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. Encourage people to fill out the contact form to be on the mailing list for the book. If you don’t use social medial there is a tab where you can send out emails.

I have a dream. That dream is watching Jamie have the kind of life he can be proud of and being a father to his son. Will you help me help Jamie? My dream is that this book will sell, but I can’t do it by myself. It will be book sales that will enable Jamie to survive in this society he will hopefully, someday, in the near future, enter into. Inside the Forbidden Outside is still being written. There is still a lot of work to be done, but when you self publish writing and promoting have to go hand in hand.

I know I’m asking a lot from you, You have my sincere appreciation. . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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