Scrambled eggs, tortillas, and salsa

This is a new blog (for me) I found today so I wanted to give him some space. I have been writing about the medical issues in prison lately and this fits right in with it. But best of it brings out the human element of what it means to care about even when it puts your life at risk. When you make the right cause you get the right effect to go along with it. Unfortunately his Cellie was too sick. The prison or prison corporation that ran the medical unit, combined with apathy from the prison warden and staff allowed him to deteriorate to a point there was no possibility of quality of life.

Did it have to happen like this? No, it didn’t. It happened because there is no respect for the lives of people incarcerated. I mean everyone. From the falsely accused and those forced into plea deals, to pretty crimes, mentally ill, immigrants, murderers and everything in between. No one cares. People die with easily treatable illnesses, but because they are there their life has absolutely NO value. And that is a crime. It needs to be changed. Corporations should not be allowed to put their bottom line before human life. Period.

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Mike was sentenced to fifty years to life for stealing $200 from a convenience store.  Mike was a Jehovah’s witness.  Mike was my cellee.  And Mike was sick.

When I first moved into the cell with Mike, I wasn’t sure what to think.  He was old, at least he looked it.  He walked with a cane and slept with a CPAP strapped to his face.  Other than his apnea, Mike didn’t really know what was wrong with him and the prison doctors certainly didn’t know either.  What he did know was that it was getting progressively harder for him to walk each day.

When I moved in, Mike had already been waiting six months for the “emergency” transfer he so desperately needed which would house him in a medical facility where he might get better treatment. A bed had been made available at a medical prison a few months earlier…

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ITFO Newsletter #9 For-Profit Medical Corps Cut Corners

This is the current issue of the ITFO Newsletter.

You can read back issues from the button at the top of the newsletter.

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Some of the topics in this issue: 

Do Inmates Have the Right to Life?

Twin Cities IWOC Podcast – an interview with inmates about their experiences with the conditions inside prison

This “Is” Hell and I Can See “You” From Here

Prison Legal News – Deaths Due To neglect in U.S. Mail’s Reflect Nation’s Values

Prisoners With Physical Disabilities Are Forgotten and Neglected in America.

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Prisoners With Disabilities Are Neglected in America

(Sonni’s note: This article has special importance to me because of what I know Jamie has been through suffering with epilepsy. In addition, every inmate suffers when dealing with any medical illness, even when critical. No one would ever allow their own family member be treated with the lack of care inmates deal with. You wouldn’t let your brother layon the floor after a seizure not caring if they were okay. Epileptics often injure themselves. The level of anti seizure medicine in their blood is important. They should be housed on a first floor because they need to be carried to medical. The warden lied to me and told me they had too many prisoners with seizure disorders or needing walkers so he had to be on the second floor. I later found out this was fabricated. After a seizure they cuffed his legs and wrists and picked him up and carried him face down a flight of stairs. They had failed to get the board he should have been strapped onto, lying on his side. If he had had another seizure while being carried like that they would not have been able to hold him, and dropped him on his face.

What I don’t understand is why they get away with this, and every other rotten thing they I do. There are regulations for everything else the govt has their fingers in yet they can’t make sure prisons follow the rules and make sure the people they are responsible for are cared for, kept safe, feed edible food, educated so they can work, and sentenced to reasonable time – instead of being abused in a slave system for profit)

Prisoners With Physical Disabilities Are Forgotten And Neglected in America

By Jamelia Morgan, Arthur Liman Fellow , the ACLU National Prison Project

JANUARY 12, 2017 | 9:30 AM

Dean Westwood arrived at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon in a wheelchair. Prison officials required him to surrender his property, submit to a search, and agree to administrative procedures like finger printing. This is standard practice. But unlike other detainees, Dean is paralyzed below the waist and has limited use of his arms and hands.

Staff at the Oregon jail didn’t know how to handle someone with his disability. They rough-handled his limbs and pulled his fingers apart to get his fingerprints. They stripped him down for a search, rough-handling his genitals. They forced his body into a set of jail clothing that was a couple of sizes too small, which caused Dean severe irritation below the waist.

They then placed him alone in an isolated medical cell for approximately seven days. Without the means he needed for assistance in moving around, Dean lay flat on his back in an isolation cell. He endured painful convulsions because the jail failed to provide him with his medically necessary anti-seizure medication.

The way Coffee Creek jail officials treated Dean Westwood is a travesty, and his story is one of many. Prisoners with physical disabilities constitute one of the most vulnerable populations in detention, yet across the nation, they are needlessly subjected to neglect, denied services, and placed in solitary confinement.

These prisoners rely on corrections staff for support and services every day, be it assistance in taking showers, getting dressed, receiving medication, utilizing law libraries, or visiting prison commissaries. Although comprehensive data on the number of prisoners with physical disabilities in jails, prisons, and detention centers across the nation are currently unavailable, as many as 26 percent of state prisoners report possessing a mobility, hearing, or visual disability, according to one 2003 estimate. When cognitive disabilities and disabilities that limit a prisoner’s ability for self-care are included, the proportion of prisoners with physical disabilities in prisons and jails increase to 32 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Moreover, as the prison population ages, reports indicate the number of prisoners living with physical disabilities in American prisons will increase significantly.

Despite these known facts, prisoners with physical disabilities are often denied the services they are entitled to under the law. Over 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits public entities from discriminating against people with disabilities, discrimination against people with disabilities persists in prisons and jails nationwide.

END PRIVATE PRISONS

Recent court cases have brought to light the serious violations of the rights of prisoners with physical disabilities. In March 2015, the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department settled a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Southern California, agreeing to provide mobility devices and physical therapy for prisoners with mobility disabilities after horrifying incidents of neglect and abuse. In an ongoing class action lawsuit, prisoners held in Illinois state prisons challenged the denial of, among other things, alert systems that would provide warnings to deaf prisoners during fires and other emergencies in the state prison facilities. Another recent case against the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola alleges that corrections staff refused to provide a blind prisoner with a cane for 16 years. The problems, however, didn’t stop there. The prison also declined to place him in a facility with accommodations for the blind. As a result, he was forced to rely on other prisoners rather than prison staff to carry out his daily activities.

Neglect is only part of the story. Prisoners with physical disabilities are at constant risk for placement in solitary confinement and its attendant harms. Though few studies exist examining the physical harms to prisoners placed in solitary, research suggests that placement in solitary can exacerbate existing disabilities or chronic conditions, particularly in cases where adequate care and treatment is not available for prisoners held in solitary. There is also extensive research that shows that placing individuals into solitary confinement causes devastating psychological harms.

Worse still, prisoners are often placed in solitary not as punishment but for logistical reasons. For example, when there are no available and accessible beds in the general prison population, prison officials may place prisoners with physical disabilities in solitary confinement as a solution to overcrowding.

In Maryland, Abdul Muhammad, a blind prisoner, sued the Maryland Department of Corrections (DOC) for placing him in solitary confinement and denying him access to showers, phone calls, religious services, visitation and library privileges as well as educational and vocational programming. The complaint alleges that prison officials informed Muhammad they were placing him in solitary until they figured out where to place him long term. Muhammad remained in solitary confinement for almost six weeks. The Maryland DOC’s actions flout federal regulations prohibiting the use of solitary in this way.

All prisoners in solitary risk being denied access to prison rehabilitative programs and services, but the harms of this denial are particularly acute for prisoners with physical disabilities. And it is a harm that perpetuates further harms. Prisoners are often required to complete “step-down” programs to progress out of solitary confinement. When institutions fail to provide, for example, a manual for prison rules or disciplinary procedures in Braille for blind prisoners or sign language interpreters during disciplinary hearings for deaf prisoners, they are creating significant obstacles to prisoners with physical disabilities being able to progress out of isolation. Rather than ignore or harm these prisoners, states must address and accommodate their physical disabilities.

There is much that is wrong that needs to be righted in our prisons and jails. To ensure that prisoners with disabilities are guaranteed their rights under the ADA, criminal justice advocates and disability rights advocates must come together to address discrimination against people with disabilities and work to make the promise of the ADA a reality in prisons and jails across America.

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NPR – Investigation Into Private Prisons Part one

illegal immigrant inmates, prison inmates
photo source: tumbler.com

Sonni’s note: Earlier today as I was driving around town I was listening to NPR on the radio. This interview was just beginning to play. Because this issue has been in the media quite a bit the past few days I wanted to hear what was said.  I learned quite a bit I didn’t know. This post is fairly long because it covers so much, but I broke it into two parts.  Many people showed a lot of interest when they learned about the Federal prisons being closed, but those articles left out some very important facts so please read this carefully.

I had a discussion with my medical doctor about a year ago about doctors in prisons.  I told him the experience Jamie has had with his medical care. He came right out and told me it wasn’t true; there was a doctor on the premises every day.  It was the law.  He said the HAD to provide care to the inmates.  I didn’t argue with him.  It was obvious he really didn’t know the facts.

I have also wondered why a doctor would want to be a prison doctor.  Was it because they couldn’t get a job anywhere else because of their own record of care?  I couldn’t see them being paid well. According to the four years of research this journalist did, some prisons may go for up to a year without a doctor at all and the only medical care the inmates get are from fairly untrained nurses who provide care illegally above their degrees of training.

Jamie – and other inmates have told me, Tylenol and ibuprophen  are the drugs they hand out no matter what the medical problem.  For Jamie’s heart problem, they denied the cardiologist wrote down he had a problem at all.  When I called the medical unit all the person in charge did was talk me around in circles because his chart was empty.  It said he went to the cardiologist, but there was no report.  I wonder why?

So why are there so many deaths from lack of care? that is an easy answer.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross, who’s off this week. Last week, the Justice Department announced it would start to phase out the use of private for-profit prisons to hold federal inmates.

Our guest today may have had something to do with that. Seth Freed Wessler is an investigative reporter who spent much of the past four years looking into conditions at the 13 privately operated prisons in the federal corrections system.

Wessler sought records under the Freedom of Information Act from the Bureau of Prisons, which finally released them after Wessler sued and got a court order. The resulting 9,000 pages of medical records and 20,000 pages of monitoring reports paint a troubling picture, particularly in the area of medical care for inmates.

Wessler wrote a series of stories which told of crowded conditions, understaffing, inmate deaths from untreated illnesses and four prison riots, all related to complaints about medical care. Seth Freed Wessler is an independent reporter working for The Investigative Fund. His series on conditions at the 13 privately run federal prisons appeared in The Nation.

Well, Seth Wessler, welcome to FRESH AIR. How long has the Federal Bureau of Prisons been using private correctional facilities?

SETH FREED WESSLER: The Bureau of Prisons in the mid-and-late ’90s began a process of privatizing a subset of the federal prisons that it manages. In the ’90s, the size of the federal prison population was growing massively.

And the federal BOP decided that to house some of this population of prisoners, they would start contracting with private corrections companies. And very soon, the Bureau of Prisons decided that they would use these facilities – these private separate facilities – to hold noncitizens convicted of federal crimes.

And the logic was that noncitizens, because they’ll later be transferred to immigration officials and deported, are an ideal group of people to hold in these sort of explicitly stripped down federal prisons because unlike citizens who the federal government says need to be provided re-entry services to return to their communities, noncitizens will be deported and so don’t have to be provided those same services.

DAVIES: Right – even though the sentences are pretty long – right? – in some cases.

WESSLER: Yeah. Yeah. People spend years in these prisons. Usually, the last few years of their sentences – and are then transferred to immigration authorities and deported. So men I talked to who had been held in these facilities for three, four, five years – really languishing there, often just sort of waiting out their time with little access to programs or services before, later, they’ll be deported.

DAVIES: Just to be clear here, these are not – we’re not talking about immigration detention facilities that the immigrations customs enforcement folks do. These are people who have committed crimes and are in federal custody, right?

WESSLER: That’s right. There’s a separate immigration detention system operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold people who are waiting for deportation, who are – who may be deported.

These facilities are used only for people who are convicted of federal crimes and are being held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for those convictions. Many of the people in these facilities are held for a crime called re-entry after deportation. That is returning to the United States after they’ve been previously deported.

And increasingly over the last 15 years, that act of crossing the border after a deportation has been treated not as a civil violation that’s responded to with – just by deportation – but as a crime. And sentences for crossing the border after deportation can be years and years.

The average sentence for illegal re-entry is a couple of years. And so many of the men inside this sort of separate segregated system of federal private prisons are held for just that crime of crossing back over the border.

DAVIES: The logic here was that it was easy enough for people once deported to return that they had to really impose a tough penalty so as to discourage that? Is that the idea there?

WESSLER: That’s right. In the mid-2000s, the federal government started prosecuting huge numbers of people – tens of thousands of people a year – criminally for crossing the border in an attempt to deter them from crossing again.

In fact, when federal investigators went looking for evidence that that deterrence worked, they didn’t find any. But last year, more than 70,000 people were charged criminally for illegal entry or illegal re-entry. Those prosecutions now make up about half of all federal prosecutions and have helped to grow the size of the federal prison system.

So while the prison system has expanded in significant part because of drug prosecutions – and that gets a lot of attention – in the federal context, these immigration violations that have been criminalized are also helping to expand the size of the population of federal prisoners.

DAVIES: OK. Before the Justice Department made this announcement that it would try and wind down the use of these private prisons, how many prisoners, roughly, are being held in these private correctional facilities?

WESSLER: There are currently 22,000 federal prisoners held in private facilities. Most of those are used only to hold noncitizens. And they make up about an eighth of the federal prison system.

At one point, that number was about 30,000. It’s started to fall a bit in the last few years. And the Department of Justice announcement says that the Bureau of Prisons will have to begin diminishing its use of these facilities, closing them over the next few years as the contracts end.

By next year, that number of prisoners in federal private facilities will have dropped to about 14,000. And within five years, the federal BOP is to sort of zero out the number of people held in private facilities altogether.

DAVIES: So you spent a couple of years getting documents, interviewing people. In broad terms, what kinds of problems did your reporting discover?

WESSLER: When I began investigating these prisons, I found that the men held inside were being held in conditions that were incredibly disturbing. And this is especially true in the context of medical care, which I investigated at length.

I found that in case after case, prisoners who were sick with treatable illnesses were not being provided even baseline levels of medical care and were complaining time and again about pain and illness. And those illnesses got worse and worse. And in some cases, without any substantive care at all, men died as a result of substandard care.

I wrote about the case of a man named Claudio Fajardo Saucedo (ph). He was in his early 40s and was held at the Reeves Facility, a GEO Group-run facility in West Texas. And soon after he arrived at that facility, he started to complain of pain – back pain, headaches, other pain. And he complained over and over again.

In fact, he complained 18 times – at least 18 times in two years. And every time he complained of this pain, which was getting worse and worse, he was seen only by low-level medical staff – in this case, licensed vocational nurses who go through training for about a year and are supposed to act as support staff to registered nurses.

Well, those were nearly the only people that Mr. Fajardo Saucedo was seeing when he went to these clinics. He was sent back to his cell only with Ibuprofen or Tylenol until finally, after two years of being held in this facility, he collapsed outright in the facility and was sent to a local hospital, where he immediately tested positive for AIDS and died days later of AIDS-related illnesses.

What’s striking about this is not only that he was completely neglected for these two years – that he wasn’t provided any substantive care from doctors or more highly trained medical providers. But also, this prison – Bureau of Prison rules require that prisoners who arrive at new facilities be tested for HIV, and he was never tested for HIV, even as he complained of illnesses that would have suggested he might have been HIV positive. Doctors who I asked to review his medical records said that had he been tested and had the facility known that he was HIV positive, he very likely could have survived.

DAVIES:  I want to talk about the conditions in some of these facilities that are – 13 facilities, right – at which non-citizens are kept in and – that who are convicted of federal crime. You described in some detail a prison in Raymondville, Texas, Willacy County. And I was struck by the description of just the housing units, where people slept. How did that work?

WESSLER: The Willacy County facility in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas is a facility that the bureau – the Bureau of Prisons decided to start using several years ago. It’s a prison that has had a long history of problems. In fact, the Willacy facility was actually built to be a detention center where people would be held for a pretty short amount of time. And as a result, it’s not a regular prison. It’s not built out of concrete. There are no real walls in most of the facility. It was actually a facility built entirely out of Kevlar tents. There were rows of these massive Kevlar domes that stretched for a couple of football fields and held in each of them 200 prisoners, men charged with and convicted of federal crimes.

Inside of these tents, men who I talked to who had been held there said that the facilities would get incredibly hot, that it would smell terrible inside, that sometimes the toilets would back up. And they were held in these – in these tents for months and sometimes years at a time. This same facility, the Willacy facility, actually lost a contract with federal immigration authorities years earlier largely because of really terrible conditions inside.

And just months after the immigration agency got out of this contract, ended its contract with the Management and Training Corporation to run this prison, the Bureau of Prisons reopened the facility as a federal prison or prison for federal prisoners contracting again with the Management and Training Corporation to hold its inmates.

DAVIES: And in these big domes where you say 200 inmates would live together, did anybody have private cells or were they just racks of bunks?

WESSLER: No, they were rows of bunk beds, and so men would sleep a couple of feet apart, and they had no privacy whatsoever. They were left largely alone to manage their own affairs, usually with one guard overseeing a whole crowd of prisoners. And from time to time, they’d be let out of the domes and allowed to spend time on a concrete yard. And in the middle of all of these tents, guards would walk back and forth, watching what happened inside of these yards. But by and large, men spent months, sometimes years, held in these Kevlar domes in this – what started to be called the tent city in Willacy.

DAVIES: And was it typical in these private prisons that prisoners stayed in group dwellings as opposed to cells with just one or two inmates?

WESSLER: You know, what’s interesting about these private prisons is that they’re all very different because they’re often built in haphazard ways. There’s another facility called Big Spring in another part of Texas that was constructed on the premises of an old Air Force base and in an old hotel in this town of Big Spring. And so some prisoners in that facility were held in cells that where 10 people were sleeping in a room the size of about a normal hotel room. In other places, prisoners were held in much larger areas in other places in several people – in cells that held just several people. There’s no real order to how these places are built. The private companies find spaces and then rent these spaces out to the federal government.

DAVIES: Health care is a – was a big issue in – among the inmates and led to riots. I mean, there were – what? – four riots, all of them related to medical care, right?

WESSLER: That’s right. You know, it’s incredibly unusual in federal prisons for unrest, for protests to turn into riots. But at least four times in these for-profit prisons, prisoner protest turned into massive riots. And at Willacy, the south Texas facility I talked about, that riot, which started as a protest and then as a result of incredible force used by prison guards – rubber bullets, tear gas, these sort of BB-filled exploding grenades that prison officials used to respond to that protest – a riot erupted.

And prisoners actually so decimated this facility, burning holes and – cutting and burning holes in the sides of those Kevlar tents, that in that case the federal government determined that the facility was, quote, “uninhabitable” and closed it down last year.

When I spoke with prisoners who were held in the facility, men who were now locked in other prisons or had not – or who had been deported and I spoke to in Mexico, as well as with prison guards, it became immediately clear that this was a protest that had emerged over issues including, most substantively, bad medical care in this facility.

DAVIES: These privately run prisons in the system are for non-citizens, I mean – very typically people who were arrested – illegal immigrants who were arrested for trying to enter the country after having been deported, and the standards are different, right? How are the requirements and standards different for a regular Bureau of Prisons facility which citizens are housed? How are the standards different for them as opposed to these privately run prisons?

WESSLER: The Federal Bureau of Prisons, when it runs its own facilities, it applies hundreds of rules and standards, these things called program statements to the operation of those facilities. Those program statements guide how everything works from the nitty gritty of medical care to how many guards will be on any given unit to how prisoners are fed and so on. When it began contracting with private companies to hold some federal prisoners, one of the ideas was that these companies could help the Bureau of Prisons save on costs, and in an attempt to help these prison companies do that, the BOP, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, applied fewer rules to these facilities. So only a few dozen of those program statements actually apply to the way these facilities operate. And what that means is that the kinds of programs and services that exist in regular Bureau of Prisons facilities simply don’t operate in these facilities.

In the context of medical care, the contracts that the companies sign with the federal government require the companies to follow some of the Bureau of Prisons’ own rules. But in other areas, the prisons are allowed to sort of make it up as they go. And that includes the prisons staffing plans, so one of the things that I found in my reporting was that in these for-profit prisons, the companies are using much lower-trained kinds of medical workers, often licensed vocational or licensed practical nurses, who have about a year of training. These LVNs are the sort of front-line workers in this medical system. So when a sick prisoner has a problem, the person that they’re talking to is somebody who’s really not trained to provide substantive care, and that can be the only person that this – that an inmate sees for months sometimes at a time.

DAVIES: So in that case, you have a, you know – a medical person who typically provides medical support services, and they’re the one diagnosing what could be a serious or complicated medical issue.

WESSLER: Well, what ends up happening is that somebody comes in and complains of a headache or of back pain or of another kind of illness, and it’s this low-level medical worker who’s making decisions about what should happen next. And often that decision is that nothing should happen next or that this person just needs some Tylenol. And so the prisoner will be sent back to their cell with a couple of pills of Ibuprofen, and that’s it.

And then again, that same person will come back and complain again of a similar illness and see only one of these low-level nurses. I asked doctors to review the medical files I obtained of prisoners who were held inside of these facilities. And they said over and over again that these low-level licensed vocational nurses were really operating outside of their legal scope of practice, outside of what they’ve been trained to do.

And then when I got to obtain more records from the Bureau of Prisons, I found that the Bureau of Prisons itself, the monitors that the agency sends into these facilities to check on how these private companies are operating – they found that 10 of these private prisons had actually broken state nursing practice laws by pushing nurses to work outside of their legal scope of practice of what they’re trained to do.

DAVIES: Seth Freed Wessler’s stories on privately run prisons appeared in The Nation. After a break, he’ll tell us about what federal monitors reported on conditions in those prisons and why those reports didn’t lead to change.

End part one . . . Start part two

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Depression, Chronic Illness and Solitary Confinement

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I’m not a professional so I can’t say for sure I know what I’m talking about. I only have my own observations of people who suffer from depression and also the what I’ve read. Depression is very real and it can be debilitating. My intention is not to make anyone uncomfortable or make light of their situation. I am only trying to understand something I don’t experience except on rare times when life temporarily gets overwhelming.

I’ve read the blogs of many people who suffer from depression and other chronic illnesses. Reading experiences is a best way to understand what they go through rather than only reading medical articles.

We all have deep sadness sometimes, and it can go on for a long time before we get a grip on it. Something happens to us sometimes we can’t find a place in our brains to put it, so it is always right in the front part of our thinking and it can stop us from living.

I’ve had times when I was down. It happened more when I very sick but I would find a way to pull myself out of it. The teachings from my practice of Buddhism gives me hope. I’m sure people of other faiths rely on their faith as well. I could that but sometimes people can’t.

Jamie has suffered suffered from depression since he was a child. Would it have been different if he didn’t have epilepsy that resulted in seizures from birth to present day? How does it feel knowing it will never stop unless science comes up with a cure?

How does a child deal with a hopelessness?  Do people think, “He’s only a kid.  He’ll snap out of it?”  Jamie doesn’t like to talk about it. It took a long time for me to understand  what it did to the relationships in his life with family and friends. It knocked his self worth down to nothing. Writing about it brings it back. He prefers to keep it locked away. It will have to be his choice to unlock it. Maybe talking about it could help but it is not my decision to make.

seizure webmdcom

I know there are different kinds of seizures and they affect people in different ways. It must be a dreadful feeling to know one is starting and it can’t be stopped. There is nothing you can do. Is there a feeling of embarrassment, not wanting to show what you think is your personal failing to other people? Do they talk about you behind your back, laughing, if they wanted to be cruel or even feeling sorry for you like you are a broken. It has been this way for him since before he even knew what it was.

I asked him if he could explain to me what it felt like. He wouldn’t, really couldn’t tell me. To write about it in detail would be like reliving it. It was too much for him. It was then that I finally realized that epilepsy was the underlying factor for everything. If this one biological thing had been different it would have changed everything in his life, but it couldn’t be changed. He tells me when he has another seizure and he tells me if it was bad enough to be taken to a real hospital or if the guards just let him lay there because they don’t want to do the paperwork. The prison is messing with his meds and won’t give him what he knows will work so the seizures are more frequent than necessary. But he doesn’t go into detail about the seizure itself. We do what we need to do to protect ourselves.

Would talking about it begin a healing process? Not to change epilepsy itself, but would it change what it does psychologically? I don’t know, but I do think that years of stuffing it down has caused insecurity that is easily rattled and it begins another episode of depression he can’t stop. Being completely alone in a cell with no one talk to makes it worse.

When that happens if he feels it is hopeless why should he even try to go on. No one will bring his son to see him unless I go to Texas. Family, his son, and my daughter all live in Texas within a couple hours of the prison.  Has anyone else made one trip to this prison? No.  In the past ten years he’s been locked is he not worth visiting, even when they learned he also has problems with his heart? No. I don’t have enough money to go often enough.

His family ignores him. He recently tried again and wrote to them – with no response. Would that make you depressed on top of everything else? The total lack of caring makes me angry beyond words. He sold his food for stamps because he couldn’t go to the commissary. Not meaning to make it worse for him, I waited too long to answer his last letter because of everything else I’m writing and he began thinking I was gone. I left him. I was mad at him. He thought he did something wrong. He has lost the one person who has been there for him nonstop all these years. I’ve been his rock and it was like I died. It sank him into a depression where he stopped eating and used sleep to escape.

He wrote a letter and poured out all the pain he was feeling, convincing himself it was all his fault. I felt horrible. But that day, after he wrote and sent that letter, he received my ten page letter. Because of things happening in my life it took about a week to write it –  in pieces. Sometimes I think he’s stronger than he is. Is it because I want him to be stronger?

I do know, and always have known, if I had never written that first letter he would not have made it this far. My daughter would still not be taking their son to see him. He is supposed to understand how hard it is on her yet she doesn’t understand the power she has to destroy him – or to make him happy. She doesn’t want for him to be happy – because of me. She’s angry at me for being there for him. His family would also still not be in his life. No one would be paying his medical fee, so his care would be even worse than it is. Medical care is not free.  I’m on disability.  It takes me months to pay off the fee and still have enough for a few basic necessities. He still would have no one who cared if he was okay. It doesn’t matter that Jamie’s son needs his father. Not “a” father – but his own father.  If I wasn’t there his depression would have destroyed him –  completely.

jamie cummings
Father on the left and son on the right – both eight years old.

His mother had him in therapy as a child and other times in his young life. It didn’t begin in prison. Because there is literally no help for those in prison who need it, when an inmate is locked up alone it often causes harm that can’t be undone. There are so many articles in the media about what happens to the mentally ill in prison and no one can seem to change it. Jamie is not mentally ill, but he does need people who care about him. He does NOT need to be made worse because the people in his life think he’s not worth their time of day.

He’s a big man, 6’2″. He is physically strong. He looks like he should be strong. But no one can see inside his head to find the scotch tape piecing him together. My daughter is very angry with me because she said I’m not allowing her to “let him go,” as if I’m doing this to her. She said my relationship with Jamie is gross. She’s angry at things I don’t even understand because it makes no sense. There aren’t any sides to take even though I feel as though I am supposed to take one. What is there to choose? She is my daughter. I love her and always will, but to do this will not make her happy. 

I don’t know why she is so angry except maybe this makes her look at things she doesn’t want to see. Jamie has asked only one thing of her – one thing.  To see his son.  He loves him.  Being a father gives him purpose when he doesn’t feel he has any.  It is not a big thing he asks.  My daughter does so much for her children.  She is a good mom – except for this.  It’s too much trouble to do this one thing. Give up an afternoon and let their son spend son time with his father.  Don’t do to your son what your father did to you – ignore you.

When Jamie got my ten page and realized I hadn’t left him – I was still there – he immediately wrote another letter and apologized. I can’t take for granted he will understand if I wait too long to write. Do any of us thoroughly understand what it is like to spend years locked away from all communication – away from people? We can’t. We have never been through it, let alone for ten years. There are inmates who are locked up for three or four decades. Are they supposed to come out of that okay? Did it accomplish anything good or productive? No. It’s cruel.  I will NOT be cruel and give up on him because I know there is a reason for me being there.  I see in him what he is capable of.  And I won’t let him give up on himself.  It is not an option.

I will continue to try, to learn, and help others if I can. This isn’t about me. It is about how I can use my life in a positive way. If anyone else doesn’t understand that I can’t make them understand. Sooner or later his family and I will meet eye to eye. I can’t promise to keep my mouth shut.

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Why Do Prisons Get Away With Sloppy Medical Care?

no justice in prison,prison guard lies, lockup,inmate loss of privileges
photo credit: adwart.com

Why do the prisons get away with providing sloppy and inadequate medical care? Everyone knows it’s subpar. Everyone knows inmates die, simply because the prisons don’t want to pay the cost. This way they have more profit to spread around. But my question is why? Why do they get away with it? This past election year nearly every politician made a statement that he would be the one to clean up the prisons but it’s all bullshit. For years from now nothing will have changed. There is one good thing, though. This is the first election positive prison reform was even put on the table.

There are so many deaths inside the walls. From Nov 2015 to May 2016 in Mississippi State Correctional there were 14 deaths. One suicide, one murder, a couple with illnesses, worse than necessary because of lack of care, and the rest? The cause of death is still pending. After six months they still have not determined why they died? Why is that acceptable? Are family members asking what happened and they are stonewalling them until they get tired of asking and they have no money to fight it? We have rules and laws for the some stupid things but no enforceable protocol for to prevent deaths in a prison? Over the years I have read so many articles along this line.

Health care in prison

A couple weeks ago I called the medical unit at Allred about Jamie. He had a seizure. The prison staff won’t give him ground floor cell. So they cuff his hands behind his back, along with his ankles, and four men carried him face down, down a flight of stairs by looping their arms through his cuffs. Imagine being carried like that yanking your arms up behind you. He so easily could have been dropped. The nurse I spoke to was so nice. She said it was their standard way of carrying people down the stairs; they do it all the time. They said they won’t give him a ground floor cell because they need those for people in wheels chairs or the elderly. They also have over 300 seizure prone inmates. They can’t all have a ground floor cells. That makes sense, doesn’t? This prison is also denying him the seizure medication that works best for him, and instead give him an earlier developed drug with bad side effects.

Later I got to thinking. Almost 10% of the inmates have seizures? Isn’t that a bit on the high side? Here is reality. If they have to take an inmate down a flight of stairs they are to be taken down on a wooden litter and he should be strapped down on his left side. If he has a seizure while being carried face they would drop him; they wouldn’t be about to hold him. Also, in the wing he is in there are no elderly. No one older than their 30’s and no wheel chairs or walkers. They are all segregated into their own wing. The drug issue is a profit issue.

The bottom line – they do as little as possible as cheaply as possible. The guards are too lazy to get the proper equipment they need to move people, guards will let inmates lay there needing medical care and wait until the next shift comes on because they don’t feel like doing the paperwork.  All the nurse usually says – for every illness and condition; drink more water, because, after all water is the known cure all for everything, right? The staff is trained to lie sweetly when people inquire about the inmates inside – and they lie very well. I know, because I’ve been on the receiving end of those lies more than once. This is the result of letting the Prison Industrial Complex run the prisons.

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The Prison Stole My Books When They Moved Me

Hello mom,                                                                       April 1 st, 2016

How are you today? Fine and in the best of health I hope. I’m not too sure what the weather is like outside today. I don’t really go outside. However, I can tell that the weather is crazy just by sitting in this cell. When it gets hot and stuffy the walls will sweat. Then it will get child Then it has rained quite a but down here as well. Now that is Texas weather.

What kinds of herbs are you going to plant this year? Are you planting any flowers? I never took the time to enjoy the sight of a beautiful flower. My mom had a couple ivy plants and I’d water  our spray them every now and then.

So you know, you don’t have to keep worrying about the heat and me being hot. I just got a new fan today. Also the medical co pay is paid off. Thank you. I also write to Leah and thanked her, too, for helping me. My radio the property lady took? They are $20 and I should be able to get one soon. I miss not hearing what is going on in the world.

InsideOut,original music compositions by Sonni Quick,Jamie Cumminngs

Books. I never got my books back. I don’t know why they kept my GED study book. She told me I was not going to get it back. Why? Why did they take that one away? And she took the brand new one Melvin got for me. I didn’t get a chance to read it. I’m still pissed about that.  I wrote a step one grievance to try and get them back but I haven’t gotten it back with a reason yet.  That book is about a man who was framed for  three murders and was given a life sentence. He fought the system for 23 years for his freedom. I have his first book. She took the second one. I never got a chance to read it. I also would like to read the Jim Crow book. When I’m not sleeping or writing, I read.

I can read a book and be finished with it in a day and a half. I read them and pass them along to others to read. Where we are, on level three and two they take our property. So out of 83 people I’d say more than half have nothing to read. The ones who do have a few books they have read them over and over. So I’d let them read something. Then there is always someone to spoil everything. I let a dude read a book but I wanted it back because I hadn’t read it yet. He kept it. Anyway, I still have quite a few to read. Sending the books in the 30 book lots has really helped me a lot to keep my brain occupied. I’m okay.

I received some post cards from Sherrll and her husband, and Jason. I’ve been writing them back, too. Having other people write to me and having letters to write is so important. If people only understood it can make such a difference between making it and not making it. Doing time is easier when you know people care about you. I’m regret I agreed to do the 17 years. I didn’t think I had the choice. I lost so much I can never get back. So I have to make it worthwhile.

I meant what I said about showing respect and have so much determination to give it and show it. It is very strong.The nurse that returned your call about my seizure meds, remember, there are some who will help but most just try to cover their ass.  But she doesn’t really care and this is how I know. I just had that seizure that caused me to have those seven staples in my head. I was in a cell on row one. Now they have me in a cell on the second row. What am I doing on two when I have seizures. It is harder to get to me for help and more dangerous for me.

My seizure Med – Tegretal – I explained about the doctor taking away my meds at the last unit, Wynne unit. He told me the first time I saw him he wouldn’t put me back on Tegretal because my level was too low. Then he said he can’t do it because I had headaches. I told him when he asked me how I felt. I told them I HAD a headache which is common after a seizure. The doctor said he didn’t care he still won’t give the Tegretal. They want to put me on Dilantin, which I took as a kid and it has really heavy side effects – makes you feel like a zombie and made my gums bleed.

You said you sent a picture in your letter but there was no picture.  Someone took it.  I get your big envelopes when you print things out but I don’t know if anything is missing, so make a list of what should be ever in it.

I’m okay mom. Don’t wory.

Love to you, Jamie.

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This is the Internet radio show interview I did on the David Snape Show, and how to sign up for my new monthly newsletter about the book I’m writing, inmates who need pen pals,info about changes in the prison system, inmate stories that need to be told and other books inmates are writing.

In Prison There is No Way To Win From Losing

“Sending All My Love to You” is the latest piece I’ve written and recorded”

December, 2015

seizure webmdcom
photo source: webmd.com

Hello mom,
How are you? Fine and in the best of heath I hope. As for me, things are crazy here as always. On Friday Dec 11 I had to go to the hospital. I had a seizure while I was asleep. I’m okay, I just hurt my left shoulder. It hurts here and there. They took x-rays and said I’ll be fine. I’m still not getting the medication for my heart. Nothing new with these people.

( Sonni’s note: That makes me so angry that they are allowed to do this. Why is that even the rights the inmates are supposed to have, the prisons don’t have to follow, People in our government know they aren’t being followed, and people get hurt or die because of their negligence. I don’t get it.)

The medication for my seizures was changed. They can’t stop giving me that one. They can’t screw with that diagnoses and say I don’t that medication. With the change in this medication, I’ll see if it helps. the other medication was giving me bad headaches. I was taken off it. So far so good.

Oh, just so you know I received all the books you sent me except for one. Something with the subject matter they didn’t like. It’s okay. There’s a lot of good books here.

( Sonni’s note: I sent him 30 books from an website that sends books to inmates. http://imailtoprisons.com.   You can send new books and used books and its already approved by the prisons. Who cares if they are used? It will keep him reading for quite awhile and then he’ll read them all again. He asked if I could send him some Westerns. He had never said he was interested in that. Why not? Fortunately there were some Westerns in the lot. He said he was going to save them for last. I guess it is like eating dessert last. Save the best until last. I got a laugh out of that.)

I also got the big envelope with the book chapters you wrote for Inside The Forbidden Outside. I’m waiting to get some stamps so I can answer your questions. I also received a few letters from people who read the blog. It was really good to hear from other people. It makes me feel as though there are people who care and I didn’t feel so alone.  I got a couple letters from a woman named Leah.  She said she talks to you a lot online.  Another lady is Kelly Sherrell.  I’m waiting to get stamps so I can write back to them.

I really enjoy everything you sent in the big envelope.  That is some strong stuff you are writing. You know, it always good to hear when you are doing good.  But remember some things can be fixed and some things can’t.  Just like with these guards with the way they treat me  me and the shit I give them back.  It’s wrong on both our ends.  Someone has to be the bigger person and I see it’s going to have to be me, because the system doesn’t care nor do the people who works for them.  I’ve been through a lot and I’m tired, so I want you to know something.  This might upset you a bit, however I think this is the best thing for me, okay? I’ve been placed back in ad seg (another term for solitary confinement)  As of right now I’m waiting to be sent to another unit because they don’t have ad seg here – only G5 (that is really no different either.  It’s a classification, but you are still in lock down 23 hours a day and get served your meals through a slot in the door and have no communication with anyone. ) So I’m waiting to leave.  Please don’t be mad.  I could still make parole in ad seg, but I have to get my line class back and that will take a year.  Also inmates that go to ad seg get a lot help as far as programs and school when we get out.  I feel this will be a new start and I will get a lot out of this, mom, really.

solitary confinement, Jamie Cummings, ad seg, behind glass visitation
Jamie Cummings in Prison Whites

I’ve sat here and read your letter over and over about how to keep my mouth shut, however it was already too late.  I did this to myself and it hurts me to tell you I’m going back to ad seg. because I know it is something you don’t want.  I understand if you want to stop writing to me. (fat chance of that happening!)  Just know that I will try and I’ll keep trying, okay?  I won’t give up.

Please give me a little time.  I will beat this.  I’m going to overcome myself.  I feel that this would help me more.  They offer a lot to us when we get out of the seg program.  I know I can do it.  I’ve done it before.

One of the officers broke my ID so I can’t go to commissary and it will take me three weeks to get another one.  One of the dudes in here got some stuff for me that I needed, and I will be able to get it back to him when I get my new ID.

I won’t give up.  Like you always said, it’s two steps forward and 1 1/2 steps back.  Everything happens for a reason.  It is what I learn about myself that counts.  Sometimes when something looks like a bad thing, there is something good inside it to learn.  I have to learn  how to overcome my anger.  I know I get angry fast and if I don’t learn why it happens and how to control it, it will get me into trouble when I get out.  I want to have a good life when I get out, so I have to work on these things now.  There is a reason for this.  I can’t blame nobody else but myself.  Like you said many times, to be happy I need to understand cause and effect.  I need to make better causes to get better effects.

I need to get this in the mail.  I love you, mom.  I love you always

Jamie    Merry Christmas

(Sonni’s note:  my response to this will be in another post)

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About SoundCloud – Click on my face to bring up all 12 music pieces. Use headphones to listen in you can or you lose the richness of the piano tones. Otherwise it sounds tinny.  My Newest piece is titled “Sending All My Love To You” It should be at the top of the list. I am using Soundcloud now instead of inserting a music player. I only ask that if you like it, let me know.  I only know by the stats, just like blogging. Share it or like it or leave a comment if you want. Getting feedback helps me a lot and when someone is a newbie at a site like this it encourages others to listen as well. There are 12 music pieces there. I put them on my first CD for my mother to play and share with friends. When you aren’t a computer person it doesn’t help to tell someone to go to a computer to listen to it! I enjoy creating music. I hope you enjoy listening to it.

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.

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list