Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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I’m doing some editing. I have found that as I learn about writing and later go back to things I’ve written. So many mistakes glare out at me. It might be grammar but it is usually sentence structure or I had written something totally unnecessary and twisted it in a way that didn’t fully explain what I was trying to say.

I was naïve in the beginning thinking I could write something and publish it when I was finished. After all, I was writing blog posts, right? Wrong. It would be like learning the lines and spaces on a music staff and thinking I would be able to write music. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what I know and I’m still a long way to what I think is my potential.

Even though I’m doing a second draft, I have gone back a number of times and re-edited something I thought needed shaking up.  When I’m done with this draft and someone professional looks at it, I’m sure there will be much more to do. I’ve read the beginnings of too many lousy, self-edited and self-published books that I’m sure the author thought was good enough, or perhaps they were too broke to pay someone. Maybe they had their best friend read it, and didn’t care enough not to throw the time it took to get this far down the drain, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Many people have read bits and pieces of chapters I have posted but really don’t know how it all got started, so I decided to publish the prologue. Why now? Because I just edited it – again – and made a lot of changes that I hope will make parts of the book fall into place better.  If you want to comment and tell me what you think I’d like that.  I need feedback from people who read what I write. If something doesn’t read right – tell me. When you are done, subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you up to date and let you know when it is – FINALLY – published.

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

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

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

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The year was 2006. My life was busy. I had a store near Mallory Square in Key West where the cruiseships docked and I loved my life. I lived where people go for vacation, but I didn’t have to leave. I could stay. I was happy.
Sometimes events happen in life that create a turning point we can look back on. I call them ‘Sharp turns to the left’. In the midst of my happy life, a monkey wrench crashed through it on the night I received a phone call from my daughter Morgan, who had recently told me was pregnant. Oh my, my life was about to get hit with a one-two punch, but it wouldn’t be the first time. After she explained what her problem was, I brought her and the children, ages six and eight, to Key West from Texas on a Greyhound bus.
They arrived at my home and moved into a small dollhouse sized apartment I had in the back. There was a loft, which gave her a place for the children to sleep. The problem? Her boyfriend, Jamie, had been arrested and was sitting in a county jail unsure of what was going to happen to his life. The only sure thing, he wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child. He didn’t have an attorney and would be provided a public defender. I didn’t know then that having a public defender who works for the system was usually like having no attorney at all. It didn’t look good for him.
Even though it was a difficult time, I enjoyed having my daughter near me. The bonus was being able to spend time with my grandchildren. We had lived too far away from each other when they were younger, so even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, there were still things to be happy about.
It was the only option, them to the Keys. I had helped her through the first two pregnancies as well. In addition to the emotional stress caused by what was happening to them, we had to find her a baby doctor. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to find an OB-GYN on an island that was only a little larger than one mile by three miles in diameter. We called every doctor in town and was turned down by all of them.
Morgan was in the latter part of her second trimester and no doctor would take on the responsibility of a patient this late in her pregnancy, because she had problems with her second pregnancy. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so difficult.
We had to start looking on the mainland, in Miami. With only one more number left to call, finally a doctor said yes. It was such a relief. We were starting to get desperate. I didn’t know what we would do if we couldn’t find one. When the doctor’s office said they would take her on I could finally relax. Morgan and I looked at each other and let out a long slow breath. We did it. Hurdle number one.
I knew it was going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive, which made each trip a hard day for Morgan. It became even more difficult as the pregnancy progressed. As she grew bigger she felt every bump on the one hundred and five mile, two-lane road that connected the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom at Key West. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made, as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.
The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. The days were long but she had a date they were going to induce labor to make sure she would have her doctor delivery the baby, which was born at 4 AM. It was worth it. I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. No joke. He was flawless. Even the nurses gathered around and stared at him. Not one baby wrinkle.
Jamie had a son. He was given his father’s name. He wouldn’t know yet that he would not be able to hold this child for a very long time. He would only see him through glass the few times he was brought in to visit. Having your child be so close yet never be able to touch him became a numbing grief that would be hard to bear. He couldn’t find a place in his brain to put it and it weighed him down constantly.
It was during one of the trips to Miami, before Jamie, Jr. was born, that the letter from Jamie arrived, addressed to me. It was waiting for me when we got back home. That was odd, I thought. Why would he write to me? I had briefly talked to him on the phone a few times and asked him how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.
I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. For Morgan to have another baby, thinking the father would be there to help, and now you had another child to raise alone, was a hard life to face. But Morgan was a strong woman and a good mother. I knew she’d find a way to make it work. She had no choice.
I wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Jamie that night. Kids, no matter what their age, never told the whole truth to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to explain without getting in trouble. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan was her mother’s daughter. Her life had been one drama event after the other since she was twelve. She was a difficult teenager and those events happened a lot more often than I could deal with. She kept trying to grow up too fast, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered until it was too late.
Jamie seemed to be good for Morgan. At 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and good manners, I liked him. He was nice. I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids who were living with my x-husband’s family. It didn’t matter to me that Jamie he was black. They seemed happy and that was the important thing.
He was arrested a couple months after we met. For a long time I had no idea what really happened that night. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. I made plenty myself at that age that would come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. You’ll find out about that later. How much of his life would be taken away to teach him a lesson, and ‘pay his debt to society’? Are there any other ulterior motives going on that would affect how much time he’d be given?
The law of cause and effect is very strict and there is a reason why things happen to us. I had no idea back then what all this was going to mean to my life. We have no other way to deal with things except in the order they appear, and what we do then will bring more effects to deal with. Life is a constant learning process whether we wanted to learn anything or not.
The day after the arrest Morgan went to the police station to drop off his seizure medication for epilepsy. They wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and that can take weeks before they are allowed a visit.
After she handed over the medication they rushed her out of the building. She tried to press them for details, but they wouldn’t tell her anything. As she left the building and began to walk down the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, and looked back at the jail. She glanced up, her eyes looking at the second floor. She could see him staring though the window at her. They didn’t signal each so no one would see and move him away from the window. They stood like that, looking at each other.
Jamie finally put his hand up on the grate that covered the window as if he wanted to reach through it to hold on to her one last time. He didn’t care if someone was watching. He looked so sad. At this point, Morgan still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew she had to make a decision for herself very soon. She had a baby growing inside her and that was her priority.
Morgan knew she quickly had to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. Jamie was driving it the night before. After the arrest it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher and higher. She needed to call her mom who was going to be upset. A lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought.

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After Morgan arrived I knew they needed to talk, but I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking I was mad at him. I assured him I wasn’t. I didn’t want to end up with a phone bill that would be hundreds of dollars. He was unaware of the cost, I’m sure. He just wanted me to know he was sorry.
The only thing I knew about prisons was what I learned in movies and TV shows. I have learned since that most of that was only the propaganda the government wanted you to believe. The truth wasn’t very important. I would end up learning more than I wanted to know, but still I kept digging to learn the truth. Once I knew about it, I couldn’t forget it. Once it got completely embedded in my mind I knew I needed to help people understand.
It didn’t happen right away. Morgan let me know occasionally how he was doing. She lived with me until the baby was a year old and then took the children back to Texas. It was heartbreaking to help them load their belongings into her car and watch them drive off. My life settled back into the old routine and life went on. I still had three years before my world fell apart and I had to leave Key West and go north. Another sharp turn was brewing. Jamie became a part of my life in a way I never would have thought.
But this story is not about what happened to me, even though my life got wrapped up in it. My life affected his. This is Jamie’s story, a sad story about entering the system, juvenile detention, for the first time at the young age of seventeen for something he didn’t do and having few chances to live a life as an adult on the outside.
He was growing into a man in his thirties, separated from everything he loved, and never having the necessary life experiences to learn from. That is how inmates get institutionalized. The routine of prison life becomes the norm. Functioning in society is sometimes too difficult and it becomes a form of PTSD, like when soldiers come back from a war zone.
As the years passed he feared I would I would stop writing, but I would never do that. He became my best friend and I could tell him anything that was going on in my life, but If I waited too long to answer a letter the fear would come back. He would be afraid again that I had gone away and was angry at him. Why shouldn’t he feel that way? Was else was answering his letters? Where was his lifeline, his support?
I knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life because things don’t happen by dropping on your head for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen or the part he would play in my life.
Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later. Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you entered the system.
His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Depression set in. It became rare to get an answer to a letter. How was he to buy hygiene products or paper and stamps?
It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was. The sum of anyone’s life isn’t determined by a stupid decision. Whatever it was, it was done.   People make mistakes. No one was hurt. I re-entered the picture about a year and a half after he went in. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card to let him know Ii was thinking of him. To me he was family because he was my grandson’s father. Our letter exchanges began.

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To begin the story, settle in. Relax. We have a good bit of time to cover. Hopefully you will see things a little different by the time we are done. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. Listen to some of the music I provided. You are entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that hopefully you will never get a real chance to see.

 

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Jamie’s Son Jamie

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I couldn’t resist putting up this picture of my grandson. Jamie’s son was 12 this past July. It’s been hard on him having a father in prison. The hardest part is not really knowing who he is. It wasn’t as if he knew before it happened. They will have to work that out when he gets out.

One of the hardest things for me is knowing he will have to face the racists who feel black people don’t deserve to share the same space they are in. It isn’t a matter of “if” it will happen but “when” and how often it will happen. I write to help people better understand the reality of an unequal society and the higher percentage that get locked up because of it. I devote a large percentage of my day working to make a change. Talking to people, answering their “What do I do now?” questions.

The T-shirt my grandson is wearing is for sale. It helps to cover the cost of providing what Jamie needs to survive. He has no help from his family. I wish I didn’t have to write that.

After Christmas I want to take a trip to The to go to the prison. It’s been almost a year. I hope to take his son with me.

This link – right here – will take you to the page where the t-shirt and tote bag are for sale. Or you can donate any amount of money from $1 up. Anything would be appreciated.

tote bag with Jamie's picture

One more thing. I sent his son a tote bag. He’s hanging out on his wall and using it as a place to keep his father’s letters and cards. Keeping them together is important to me.

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Unintended Consequences – Chapter – ITFO

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It was so hard to keep his head together. Jamie’s mind went all over the place. It was hard when there was no one to talk to. He was so alone. There was no one to talk to so he often carried on conversations with himself. He was in 24/7 lock-up for a year. Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. He didn’t leave his cell except fir showers and commissary once month. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Staying away from trouble was his goal, but it always found him, anyway.  

     Mentally, he felt himself going down and there was nothing to keep him from smashing headfirst onto the bottom. He didn’t know what was going on, but he tried to get it together. Before this happened he tried so hard. He didn’t know if he could try anymore.
     Before he got sent to lock-up he had made a change in his life. It was a pretty big one. He thought at the time maybe it would help, maybe not. Some dudes he met told him about Islam. He decided to join with them. They still believed in God, or Allah they called him, but there were a lot of differences in how they practiced.
      They weren’t like a lot of the other dudes. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, or who was bigger and badder or who did the worst crimes.
     He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the bible never changed anything for him. No matter how much he prayed his prayers weren’t answered. It didn’t make any difference and he thought by now something would have happened to let him know God was at least thinking about helping him.
     One of them gave him a book to read and study. It was hard because he was supposed to pray about it five times a day. He needed a prayer rug but he didn’t have a way to get one. Anyway, he tried to learn and went to their meetings. He enjoyed the conversations about life. Then something happened and he was locked up, more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled as this was more than anyone would be able to take without getting angry and wanting to break everything. He was tired of being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to breathe or take a crap. He couldn’t do anything unless it was the right time.
     A year completely alone; it was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony. Bits and pieces of thoughts swirled around in his brain and they wanted to make him crazy.
     Things were happening in his life on the outside he couldn’t control or fix. How could he deal with this confinement day after day and not be able to do anything about it?
     Not only that, he knew there was another man in Morgan’s life. He convinced himself it had nothing to do with what they shared together. The two ideas didn’t touch. He couldn’t handle thinking about it any other way. They shared the treasure of a son together. Nothing could take that away. She wouldn’t be with this dude if he hadn’t screwed up. He needed to believe she was still waiting for him, but it was getting harder and harder to do.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer was not easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up. Just give up. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped eating. He would only pull himself out of a funk because he was afraid of what it would do to his son. How would he deal with his own life when he grew up if he knew his father gave up on his?
     Jamie Jr. couldn’t read or write yet and it would be some years before he’d be able to. He wouldn’t miss his father during his childhood because he had never been there to learn to miss him. He had never been there, and that was what ripped him up. It hurt badly if he thought about it too much.
     His son won’t understand why his father wasn’t around. He really didn’t even know he should be around. But most of all, Jamie was afraid his son won’t love him when gets out.
     Maybe his son will hate him. His son, his only child might not care. He might not want to see him and that would just kill him. How could he stop these thoughts from going around in his brain?
     If he wrote to him what could he say? He couldn’t explain that he was in prison. What’s that? Why was he there? What did he do? He could never explain how bad it was in here. He didn’t need to think about that. When he gets a lot older and can see him face to face, maybe then he could explain.
     What is he being told when he asks about his daddy? He probably doesn’t ask yet. Even if he did ask there is nothing positive that could be said. He could only hope he was told his daddy loved him very much. He could hope.

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This was not one of Jamie’s better days. He laid down on his bunk and placed his right arm over his eyes. Maybe he could sleep for awhile. He was laying on a metal frame covered only in a sheet and blanket.
     He had been here for a few weeks so far. All of his property had been taken away, even his mattress. He was supposed to get it back but he didn’t know when. Sharing the floor with roaches was not an option so he did the best he could to get comfortable.
     The days were long. They stretched on endlessly. He knew he wouldn’t set foot outside his cell today. It wasn’t a shower day, so there was nothing to break up the boredom.. He had nothing to read because they took his books. Sleep was the only thing he could do to pass the time.
     After an hour of trying to sleep he gave up. He got to his feet and did some stretches, trying to get the blood flowing. It was up to him to keep his body going as best he could. He had to try. It was harder now that he was in lock up. He was where they wanted him to be and they made sure he got there. He tried to mind his own business but trouble always found him.
     Jamie was hungry. When Jamie ha a little money in his account he could buy things like tuna or sardines, sandwhich spread and crackers and chips. But right ow they aren’t letting him go to commissary so he was stuck with what they fed him. They never gave him enough food. His stomach growled all the time. Even when they did bring food it was pretty bad. Bland, overcooked, tasteless and cold.  It was taken out of the freezers and thawed by the time it got to him, but it was never hot. It was hard to swallow but he had to eat something so he choked it down. It would be easier to eat if they put some jelly or honey on the breakfast pancakes so it wasn’t dry, but his comfort wasn’t something they cared about. Eat it or not, they didn’t care.
     He paced the length of his home, back and forth, over and over. Ten feet in one direction and ten feet in the other. Well, not really ten feet because his bunk took up some of the space.
     He couldn’t get Morgan out of his brain. Over and over he thought the words, “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again. “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again and again, like a broken record. As broken as he was broken and he cried.
     After rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands he bent down, opened his trunk and took out a couple sheets of paper. He laid them on the tiny stainless steel ledge attached to the toilet that served as his desk. Using the edge of an envelope he patiently drew lines across the paper so it looked like tablet paper. This way his sentences would be straight and easier to read. It also took up more time so he made the lines as carefully as he could.
     He began to write a letter to Sonni. She was the one person he could write to and explain what was going on in his head. If he kept everything bottled up it would make him crazy. Over and over he told himself, “I won’t be here forever. I won’t.” Fourteen more years out of seventeen.  It will feel like forever. Instead he tried to imagine the feeling of happiness when he walked out of the building, never looking back when it becomes time to start his life again.

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Dec, 3, 2009

Dear Mom,                      
     I am sorry it has taken me so long to write back. Things are not so good on my end right now. I haven’t heard from Morgan in like a month.
     I’ve beat myself up about that. It has been almost four years since we were separated. The longest years of my life, including the years in juvenile detention and not letting me go for four years after promising me I would only have to stay nine months. They lied to me. Why mom? Why is this happening to me?
     My eyes are always full of tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal just thinking about life without her. I’m really hurting Mom.
     I’ve been in a fight. It happened a few weeks ago. I didn’t tell you. I’m on 24 hour lockdown now for a year. However, maybe it’s a good thing because there is really nothing to do where I can get into trouble. They don’t let us out of the cell for nothing. Everything comes to us unless we need to go to medical, and then we’re in handcuffs.
     Anyway, this is how I got into the fight. Me and some of the officers have had our run-ins. It just so happened that one of them was at the pill window when I went for my medications. Another dude who was in front of me started calling out the officer’s name. The officer came to me and wanted to write me up for it. I told him it wasn’t me. He said he didn’t believe me so we went back and forth about it. I didn’t tell him it was the dude in front of me. People have been known to get beat up bad for telling. I’m trying to stay out of trouble so I don’t point him out.
    Later I go to the dude and try to talk to him about it and he punches me in the mouth. I was shocked for a minute because all I wanted to do was talk. I let my anger get the best of me and fought back. I did that because in here, if you don’t fight when it comes your way everyone looks at it. Then it’s hell from then on if you know what I’m saying. Someone else will come at you.
     Afterward, the dude apologized and said he tried to take the case instead of me. The rage in me wanted to jump on him. I felt he took a lot from me because it was me who was put in lock-up, not him. I only had five months left to get my G2 classification and get contact visits. I could have held my family if they came to visit. If the came visit. He took that possibility away from me. Now I have to wait a year and a half. I’m now G5, adseg.
     They took my property from me. All I have now is my sheets, a blanket, tissue and a few bars of soap. My back is killing me. My books were taken away so I don’t have the study book for learning more about Islam r any other books.
     Now I just sit here and look at the walls. I can get more books if you send them; just regular books to help pass the time. It’s okay if you can’t. I don’t want to make you feel like you have to. I don’t have anyone else to ask.

Write back soon. Please Please
Love, Jamie

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Hopefully you’ve seen the new t- shirts I’m selling with Jamie’s face and name. I’m trying to raise much needed money to help him. So many have read his story and listened to the music for the book. Help spread the word by sharing, subscribing to the YouTube channel – Sonni Quick Piano Improv – to watch New music videos and also to the newsletter – ITFO NEWS. There are multiple ways to help support.

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I Love You Always, Daddy (Repost)

I was going through old posts today and re-read this one from father’s day 4 years ago. Rarely seeing his son because no one took him resulted in his son saying, “But I don’t know him. ” Of course he doesn’t. NO ONE would take him. Only me when  could fly down to Texas from Pa. I hope when both Jamie’s meet when he gets out Of prison, when his son is 17, they can make up for lost time.


I sit and think a lot. I sit and think about how life will be when I get home, wherever that is. A lot of this has been frustrating. Father’s day was real hurtful for me. It was on a weekend. I didn’t hear from or see Megan with Jamie, or from anyone else, either. I was hoping that since it was a weekend that she’d bring my son. Oh well, it wasn’t a surprise to me. And now Jamie just had his birthday. 8 years old. It hurts like hell that I didn’t get to see him on his birthday. I’m having something made for him. I spent everything I had left to get it done. It’s still not finished. Would you call him please and tell him I did not forget him? Tell him I love him and happy birthday. I wrote him a letter would you send it to him? I sold my food to get a stamp to send this letter to you.

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(Jamie’s letter) Guess who? Yes it’s me, Daddy. First I want to say I’m sorry this is so late. I have never forgotten about you. Not did I forget about your birthday. I’m getting something made for you. You will like it when you see it. I love you Jamie. I will always love you.

So happy birthday from a father to his son. I will always love you no matter what. Life is hard but we’re blessed to have it. We’re blessed to have each other. Strong faith will always keep us together. Even if I’m not home, believe, my love is so strong!! No one can break our chain of love we have for each other and that I have for you. I know it hurts, me not being home, but know that I think about you all the time. I didn’t forget your birthday and never will.

What did you do for your birthday? I hope you had lots of fun!! If I was there we would have lots of stuff to do together. Movies, swimming, basketball, football, fishing. Lots of stuff. I couldn’t be there with you because of a poor choice I made a long time ago and I’m sorry. Making a poor choice will hurt your life, son. So be sure to live life in a positive way. Stay away from trouble, drugs and stupidity. Nobody means you any good if they are trying to get you to do wrong. Stay in school and pay good attention. Work hard for what you want. I did not do that and that is why I’m in jail. Listen to me son, nothing is worse than having your freedom taken away. Please stay away from trouble. Pay close attention to your education.

I love you always, Daddy

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I sit and think a lot. I sit and think about how life will be when I get home, wherever that is. A lot of this has been frustrating. Father’s day was real hurtful for me. It was on a weekend. I didn’t hear from or see Megan with Jamie, or from anyone else, either. I was hoping that since it was a weekend that she’d bring my son. Oh well, it wasn’t a surprise to me. And now Jamie just had his birthday. 8 years old. It hurts like hell that I didn’t get to see him on his birthday. I’m having something made for him. I spent everything I had left to get it done. It’s still not finished. Would you call him please and tell him I did not forget him? Tell him I love him and happy birthday. I wrote him a letter would you send it to him? I sold my food to get a stamp to send this letter to you.

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(Jamie’s letter) Guess who? Yes it’s me, Daddy. First I want to say I’m sorry this is so late. I have never forgotten about you. Not did I forget about your birthday. I’m getting something made for you. You will like it when you see it. I love you Jamie. I will always love you.

So happy birthday from a father to his son. I will always love you no matter what. Life is hard but we’re blessed to have it. We’re blessed to have each other. Strong faith will always keep us together. Even if I’m not home, believe, my love is so strong!! No one can break our chain of love we have for each other and that I have for you. I know it hurts, me not being home, but know that I think about you all the time. I didn’t forget your birthday and never will.

What did you do for your birthday? I hope you had lots of fun!! If I was there we would have lots of stuff to do together. Movies, swimming, basketball, football, fishing. Lots of stuff. I couldn’t be there with you because of a poor choice I made a long time ago and I’m sorry. Making a poor choice will hurt your life, son. So be sure to live life in a positive way. Stay away from trouble, drugs and stupidity. Nobody means you any good if they are trying to get you to do wrong. Stay in school and pay good attention. Work hard for what you want. I did not do that and that is why I’m in jail. Listen to me son, nothing is worse than having your freedom taken away. Please stay away from trouble. Pay close attention to your education.

I love you always, Daddy

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The Second Time Around – The Visit

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The Visit

It was July 2009. Jamie knew if he didn’t make parole he’d be staying until 2023, and he wouldn’t make it that long. He couldn’t wrap his head around being stuck in here for that many years. He needed to be home where he could take care of his family and raise his son. He had to stay focused on that. Morgan needed him home. She had to do everything for the family and it was too much. He was no help in here.
     His first parole hearing wouldn’t happen until he was here for eight years. He had five to go which wasn’t even halfway. Doing the entire seventeen years would be impossible. He couldn’t do it. It was too depressing to think about.
     Learning to keep his mouth shut and staying out of trouble wasn’t easy. It was his own fault. He wasn’t used to letting people get away with constantly disrespecting him. These guards were always mouthing off at him, trying to get him angry and pressing his buttons. He wondered if they were trained in how to be a jerk. Even when he was minding his own business they liked to throw their weight around like some kind of underpaid ass.
     They would go on and on until he couldn’t take anymore and got sarcastic back. It didn’t matter if they started it. If he let himself get into it with them they had enough reason to write up a case on him. That was the reason why they did it. They weren’t the ones who were going to get in trouble. Right or wrong he was always in the wrong. Even if he tried to explain what happened, no one would listen to him.
     He got mad at himself every time he let them get to him. The best thing to do was ignore them. Look away, but it wasn’t easy. They knew what to say to be insulting.
     Ignoring other inmates who wanted to mess with him was hard, too. If he dissed the wrong dude it could get him hurt real bad. Jamie could take care of himself but he’d be written up if he got into it with anyone. So far he had only been written up twice this year and he wanted to keep it that way. He had to make it another seven months. Then he’d be raised back up to population and could work on getting a skill and study for his GED. He felt he’d come a long way. Now, if he could only keep it up.
     Tempers were high for everyone. The heat brought out the worst in people. There was no AC and no let up on the heat, even at night. There was no way to get away from it as long as he was in Texas, so he better get used to it. Everyone here was in the same boat, even the guards.
    He got regular letters from Sonni. He didn’t understand why she cared, but he was glad she did. He didn’t know her well enough yet to realize this was just how she was. If someone needed help she would do it.
     Jamie was glad to have someone to write to. He knew his writing and spelling wasn’t too good, but who knew, back when he was going to school that he would need to write so many letters?
     It was hard to keep all this stuff inside his head and not go crazy. He needed someone to write to about what was going on. Most of all, he needed to know he mattered to someone. Would she keep answering his letters? If he told her everything about him would it put her off? She told him she would always be there for him. It was hard at first to have that trust because he had been let down before. Did she know if she know about his past or what he had done? Maybe then she wouldn’t like him or want him around her family.
     Jamie wasn’t the one who did the robbery at the club that got him arrested, but knew his friend had a gun in his backpack. He showed it to him. He thought he was joking about robbing the club. He was guilty of being there and that was all that mattered to the court. He couldn’t blame nobody else for what happened. He could’ve run when he saw what was going down, but friends don’t leave friends behind, do they? Maybe he would have if he had known what was going to happen. 

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When Sonni wrote to him about Key West she made him feel like he was part of her family. She wrote about her employees and what it was like working in her store and dealing with the people coming off the cruiseships. Morgan worked there with her until the baby was a year old and decided to move back to Texas.
     Key West sounded like beautiful place, with palm trees and blue water. Lots of music. And fishing. He’d love to do some fishing in the ocean. It was different from any place he’d been, but then he really hadn’t been anywhere other than East Texas. He wished he could see it some day. When he was growing up he dreamed of being a truck driver so he could go all across the United States and see everything. That was probably out of the question now.
     What helped him most of all when writing a letter, is having someone to talk to about how much he loved his family. He liked to see the words. Sonni wrote back with every detail she knew about their lives. Any little thing Jamie could picture in his head was priceless to him. He felt close to them even though there were many miles between them. It helped him get through the rough days.
      Even though his family knew where he was, there was no way they could fully understand what he was going through. The conditions were horrible, but it was the effect it had on him mentally that was worse. Having one person who took the time to try and see things through his eyes was often the only difference between making it and giving up. Sometimes he pulled himself together because he didn’t want to disappoint her.
     The visit, that one visit he had with his family gave him something to think about and remember every day. The memory of everyone laughing and talking to him over the phone in the booth helped him get through many nights.
     Could they tell how close he was to losing it? Could they see on his face how much he wanted to give up? He tried to hide it. Behind his smile he was crying.
     Their time together that day was too short. It was gone in a blink. It was a small bandaid on a big wound. Morgan said she still loved him and told him not to give up hope. No matter what, they would always have a son together. Time could never take that away no matter what happened.
     Morgan promised she would write as soon as they got back home, so he would know they were okay. Next thing he knew they were waving goodbye and blowing kisses.
     He closed his eyes and lived that day again from beginning to end, pausing at his favorite places, rewinding and playing it over again. He had every moment engraved in his head. With so much time on his hands with nothing to do, reliving that day was his favorite thing to do. It helped him forget reality.

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When his family walked into the visiting room and Jamie laid eyes on his son emotion grabbed him in the chest. He was overwhelmed with love. He couldn’t stop thinking, “This is my son. This is my son.”
His son was growing up without him. No one could understand what it was like to be in a place like this, thinking everyday about a little boy he couldn’t see. They would never be able to get back the time they missed.
Would his son grow to love a man who was never there? His son, this smiling whirlwind of energy was what gave him hope, knowing he was waiting for him to get out. Jamie wanted to pick him up and swing him around. Hear him scream with laughter. Tickle him and laugh with him. He was dying inside. Not having his family was breaking him.
It had been hard for him when he had to grow up without a father. He watched his siblings go off to spend weekends with their fathers while he stayed home. He pretended it didn’t matter, but it did.
He and his mama didn’t talk about it, but that didn’t mean he didn’t wonder who he was. He had nothing to go on. There were no pictures to look at. His father was cut away from him completely. Was that good or bad? Did his father wonder what he was like?
Was it better for him to not know what his father looked like or where he was? He couldn’t miss someone who didn’t exist. But what did exist was knowing he didn’t have a father. Maybe he was being selfish, but he wanted his boy to know he was there. He wanted him to know he was loved. Nothing could ever change that. Jamie didn’t want to be this empty space in his son’s head where the thought of him was supposed to be.
To have so much love and not be able to show it because he could only look at them through glass was so cruel. The craving to wrap his arms around them was almost more than he could bear, but he didn’t want them to see that. He covered up the tears in his eyes with a smile. He wanted to touch him but couldn’t, so he wrapped his arms around his chest and held on to himself.
Little Jamie ran across the floor. He stumbled and fell, laughed and picked himself up. He ran back to the counter in front of the glass and laughed again. He knew he had an audience and ran off again. 

     Jamie watched him run. It grabbed his heart in a vise. He had screwed up so bad. It ripped him up not being able to watch him grow. Here he was, so close, but he still couldn’t reach far enough to touch him. He wanted to hold him, smell him, and kiss his skin to make sure he was real.
     He could tell Little Jamie knew he was his father just by the way he looked him in the eye. When he took off running he stopped, turned around and looked back at him to ee if he was still watching. All Jamie had to do was give him a frown and point at the chairnin front of him and he went right over and sat down.
     He didn’t know then that it would be another five years before he saw his son again, and when he did, he son wouldn’t know him. Not really. He shied away. He stared at his hands and would only answer a question with yes or no.
     It felt so good to see and talk to his mom. He was too far away for her to come visit on her own. He missed her. She asked if he needed anything. He asked if she could help him get a fan. She told him when she got home she would send him the money. It cost twenty-two dollars and he had no other way of getting money.
     Some states paid inmates a small amount of money to work, anywhere from ten cents an hour to maybe a dollar an hour for skilled labor. Texas won’t pay any amount of money for work no matter what the job was. They said they would give good time off your sentence, but they usually found a reason to take it away, even if they had make it up. The prison wasn’t above seeing up an inmate with false charges.
     The afternoon sped by. Toward the end everyone but Morgan went off for one last trip to the vending machines. The kids sure did like to feed it quarters. The older kids had grown so much. In his heart he was acutely aware of the time he was losing with his family. Would he ever be able to make it up to them? Would he get home before they were grown?
     Morgan sat in front of him silently as they looked each other in the eye. He didn’t know what to say to make it better.
     “Every day I miss you so much,” Jamie began.”This isn’t the way I wanted it to be for us.”
     “I know. I miss you, too.” He could see tears in her eyes. They put the palms of one hand on the glass and matched it.
     “I don’t expect you to wait if you find someone else.”
     She shook her head. “There isn’t anyone else,” she assured him with a little laugh. “When would I have time? Besides, who would want a woman with three kids?” She laughed again, trying to make light of it.
     “I would,” he answered back. “I plan on making parole and coming home in five years, but that is still a long time. You can talk to me if you do meet someone.”
     He paused and searched her eyes. “Please don’t hide anything from me because you think I’d be upset.”
     “Promise me you’ll write,” he added. “I don’t think I could stand it if I didn’t at least have your letters. No matter what happens I’ll always love you.”
     “I promise,” she lowered her eyes when she answered.
     “Will you write when you get home so I know you got there safely?”         She nodded her head.
     “If you’re still there and waiting for me when I get out, I promise,” Jamie paused to let it sink in, “the second time around I will make it up to you.
     A guard came over and told Morgan, “Five minutes. Wrap it up,” and walked back to where he was standing and folded his arms over his chest.
     This was the hardest part, saying goodbye. When would he see them again? How many times could he say the words, I love you? They were going to walk out of the room and a guard would take him back to his cell. Now all he had left were the memories of the day to think about.
      Jamie was more than glad they had come. It was better than he had hoped for. He had hope again. Everything was going to be okay.

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Over time Sonni became like a mom to him. She signed her letters, Love, mom. Jamie needed family. He needed encouragement that he could make it, and he needed to understand who he was. Sonni helped him make sense of what was happening to him. She said he brought this into his life. There were lessons to learn. He didn’t quite understand what she meant by that. But he knew if he didn’t have plan he wouldn’t make it. In the Fall, after the visit, he wrote her this letter:

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Dear Mom,
How are you? As for me I’m okay. I’ve been kinda upset. It’s been three months and I’ve only gotten one letter from Morgan. I’m trying to not let it get to me. I think she found someone else. I’m trying to control my emotions. I’m learning to have self control over my temper. So my days are going a lot better now.

I stay out of trouble by staying to myself. I have time every morning and evening in the day room for two hours. The rest of the time I’m in my cell. That’s because my custody level is G4 line 5. I am almost to where I’ll be in 24 hour lock up, if I get one more major case. If I make it seven months I’ll be put back in population. Then I can go to school and learn a trade and go to the library.

Thank you for caring about me. Yes, you can send books but you have to send them from someplace online. You can’t send them. We can also get magazines and puzzle books.

I have to go now. I forgot to say happy birthday. Write back soon, love,

your son

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An Inside Out Oreo Cookie

Meet you on the hill , riding bikes
Meet you on the hill at 8 pm

“Mail call,” the female voice yelled as she came on the floor. Jamie had been asleep. Any time a woman came into the area they had to announce themselves. If they didn’t, no telling what they might catch someone doing, if you catch my drift.

As he sat up and stretched he wondered what the odds were he’d have mail today? He could use something new to read and think about. He needed some encouragement to keep going.  He gave up waiting for family to write years ago. There was a time he’d look at pictures of his family every day wishing he could see them. He missed his mama. He used to think it was his fault she never wrote him, because he caused her so much trouble when he was a kid. But now he couldn’t find any excuse good enough, no matter what anyone says. 

“I can’t write because it hurts me too much knowing you’re there.” What? Hurts who? Buy a card that says I love you. Wish you were here. Put a stamp on it and put it in a mail box. How much would that hurt? Better yet, how much would that help? Oh well, it’s long past.

He’s been ignored for so long he wasn’t able to care anymore. Oh, he knows he says that. He’d welcome her any day with big smiles but that wouldn’t erase the pain. Besides, she isn’t here anyway. No one in his family ever is. And it’s not like they lived far way. either. He doesn’t look at pictures anymore. It depresses him. They let him know how important he was to them a long time ago. 

But there might be a letter from Sonni. It had been more than a week since the last one so it might be possible.  He stood up to wait by the slot in the door just in case it opened.

She was all he had to hold on to. So many dudes in here had no one. Some of the things they had to do to survive he could never do. Prison law is different than on the outside. Some let themselves be used. Having someone on the outside was like gold. She was his only connection to this world to remember he was still part of it. She kept him sane and told him everything she knew about his boy. How he was doing in school and all that. 

They made an odd sort of family, Nana, grandson and dad in the middle like an inside out oreo cookie. She called him a Hershey Kiss ’cause he was sweet chocolate. Anything to make him smile. She did her level best to keep his head screwed on straight when he started to slip down. He needed her. She needed him. She knew things about him even he couldn’t understand, whispering in his head to not give up. Always making him think about why things are the way they are. 

At first he didn’t know why she was there. He thought he was a loser. What did she see in him? She laughed at him a little for saying this. Said she shook her head with a knowing smile. “You’re family”.  He wasn’t alone. He thought about her a lot. She was in his head. They talked. Not talk for real. He wasn’t allowed to make phone calls. They joked about imagining they were riding bikes out in the country and would go to the top of a hill and sit and talk about things. Have a picnic. They would both think about it at 8 PM so they could go together. Thinking about each other at the same time. Sometimes she’d write it at the bottom of her letters to make a date to meet outside the prison. 

Why did she care so much? Did she love him?  “Of course,”  She told him, “Love comes in many ways. Sometimes it comes and goes and you can’t remember who the feeling is attached to. But sometimes it is bigger than that. When you take it inside it becomes a part of you. No matter what, it is always there.

She called him Son. He called her Mom. At that time he needed a mother. Really she was a lot older than his mom, but she was beautyful to him. He was broken in a million tiny pieces and wanted to give up. He was going to die in here.  She came right into his cell, into his head and wrapped her arms around his being. She told him he was safe. He wasn’t alone. Don’t worry. He didn’t have anyone else to think about. She always knew when he was worrying too much. About his future. About his son. All the things he couldn’t figure out while he was in here. He didn’t know how to figure things out. He could do nothin’ about any of these things, but he worried anyway.

The biggest pain causing him the most heartache was not being able to see his son. His son, who has his name yet he is like a figment of his imagination. Born after he was sent away he has only seen him a few times in his ten years of living. His family hasn’t brought him. The mom won’t bring him. Only Sonni when she comes to visit but she is too far away to come often.

His boy, who he loves most in the world. He was afraid he would hate him for not being there. Knowing he is there, on the outside and he can’t touch him. He touched him once, when he was a toddler. It was the only time, the only time and he was lost, eyes closed reliving the memory.

“Cummings!” He heard his name and it startled him. “You got mail, really you got a box.” He had to move away to the back of the cell and stand there with his hands showing because they had to open the cell door. The guard brought in a box and a letter. Jamie thanked him. 

Only two things came in boxes. Food and books. Someone on the outside could go to the Texas prison website and order $60 in food four times a year. Not much but it was a few extras to supplement the garbage they served. Sonni got him some fun things. Cookies and Oatmeal Pies. Coffee. Something’s he could trade for stamps if he needed.

But this was a book box and he desperately needed books. They came from a used book store approved by the prison. All kinds. Mysteries, Sci fi, even romance and Westerns. 30 in all. That will keep him reading for awhile and get his mind off things and escape. But before he went through the books he settled down on the bed to read what Sonni had to say today.

He smiled. Sonni always had a lot say.

( This is not a book chapter. It is a submission for a writing class)

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Do We Care About The Children of Inmates?

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

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

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

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source credit: hopeformiami.org

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

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

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

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source credit: breakawayoutreach.org

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

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

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

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My Son Has Only One Father – Me. Boyfriends Don’t Count

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

I wish I had a newer picture to use to show you of Jamie and his son, but when we visited they weren’t taking pictures that day.  They only do it the first weekend of each month. The trade-off is that we were there for father’s day and that meant a lot to Jamie. He told me, “You live so far away yet you are the only one who cared enough to bring see my son to see me.  I’ll never forget that.”

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Dear mom,                                                                                                                               July 25, 2016    

       Here it is yet another day, after another day. Will they bring me pancakes again today?  We’ve already had pancakes four times this week. Sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes with applesauce and sometimes with shaved pineapple along with oatmeal.

       Well, just so you know, I did write to my uncle, the parole officer in Dallas that I stayed with a long time ago when I was teenager, the year I was in 9th grade. My mom thought I would do better out there. I started the letter off doing something I never did before. I thanked him and his wife for wanting to give me a chance at a new start in life, even though I turned down his offer to stay and went home after I did the year. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I had stayed there and not gone back to Nacogdoches. I should have stayed. But as you have said, karma is karma.  There are causes we have made in the past that have to have their effects.  I understand that more. I asked him for addresses of family and asked how everyone was doing. I gave him the info about where I was and told him to give it to my mother. Maybe she doesn’t know where I am and that is why I haven’t heard from her. I always want to give excuses because I don’t want to believe reality.

      I told him about our visit and you bringing my son to see me. I told him how much I enjoyed it. I also sent him an up to date picture of Jamie. It angers me that Jamie don’t get to see more of my family. Anyway, I almost got mad just thinking about it. Come to think about it, that’s what happens most of the time when I write Megan. I  get mad and  just go off. I would ask her why the hell I couldn’t see my son? I would just start speaking my mind to her about her not bringing him. It hasn’t been fair. He’s my son, too. She didn’t make him by herself.

       She promised me a long time ago she’d be there and bring him and she broke her promise. She wrote back and said to stop talking shit. Yes, I would talk shit. He is my son! He is not her boyfriend’s son. He is not my son’s father and never will be. I know she’s telling him to call her boyfriend dad but Jamie knows who is father is. My son loves me and he has a father who loves him but has to go through hell and back because his mother is selfish and doesn’t think of that. I have tried in the past to be positive but it just gets to me. I think I have a right to let it get to me. All I ever got were excuses why she couldn’t come.

        I’m sorry about that. I got carried away. It hurts. And it hurts because he never gets to see any of my family. But they haven’t tried to see him, either. I wish Megan and my family talked. I know she talked to my brother but I know my brother doesn’t care about me.  He made that clear.

       I only have 4 stamps. I’ve been selling my lunch trays. I’m going to write my grandmother and my cousin. Hopefully, I can go to commissary at the end of August. We’re still on lockdown, but they let some other dudes go, so maybe I can go.

       Right now I’m a level three.  I am only allowed to by hygiene and stamps, paper and pen at the commissary.  No food. If you could send me an ecomm box with bags of coffee; they are $2.15 and fruit and mint sticks that are .10 each, I can trade them for stamps.  The dudes in here sure do like their sweets.  I can get a stamp for just 2 sticks. Less than the price of a stamp in the commissary. Also soap if you can.  I can trade for things with soap.  I also need deodorant and toothpaste and some chips and soup if you can. I have to pay the inmate worker in stamps for him to get it for me.  Stamps are currency.  But it is how we get the things we need if we can’t go to commissary or if they won’t let us buy it.

      (Sonni’s note: Jamie is allowed again to get what is called an ecomm box.  Four times a year he can get a box worth $60.  It can be spread over several months if he wants. I can send food he can keep in his cell for times the unit is put on lockdown or he is unable to go to the commissary.)

       I must say you are the busiest person I know with all the things you do.  I don’t know how you do it.  Your birthday is coming up.  I hope you and Mike go out and do something nice for yourselves.  Take a walk. Enjoy the air.  Do the things I can’t do.  Say hello to your mom and tell her I am chanting for her, too. You are good to your mom, especially after her stroke.  I know it is going to add more work to your day when she comes home and you are willing to be there. That is the way kids should treat their mom, but no everyone does.  I know your told me about how your one sister treats her and she should be ashamed. You should never disrespect your mom. How you treat people comes back at you.  I knew that even before Buddhism but I didn’t know how to understand it. It is the way I would like to treat my mom, but I never see her and she doesn’t care how I’m doing.  That is really messed up. But for Jamie, when I get out I will be the best dad I can be and no one can stop me.

        I was a boy when I came in here, but I’m not a boy anymore.  I will be there for him.

       Lots of love to you, too, for being there for me when I needed you.  Anyone would be lucky to have you for a mom – Jamie

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Special Visit For Inmates

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Dear mom, and hello beautiful.

First I want to say thank you.  Thank you for everything. and most of all thank you for going out of your way to bring my son to see me.  First visit in three years, and a special visit at that! Two days. Two days to see my son. No one would bring him but you. To know you cared that much to do this means so much to me. I had a chance to learn a lot more about him as well as being able to enjoy time with him.  I noticed he is very open to people.  He loves to make friends. I was the same way, only the people I chose to be friends with were not friends.  So I will talk to him about that.  I told him he could talk to me about anything. I want us to be able to have a real father son – bond.  I want him to know he can come to me as he grows, and that he can trust me and talk. I feel that we bonded more than at the last visit, but then he is older, turning 10 on July 12.

No, it does not make up for all the time I have missed, but no one thought it was important enough for him or for me to bring him to see me. No one cared about my family, my son – at all. What was most important is we opened up to each other and that is what matters.

We even share smiles. I didn’t show him, but I can do the same tummy rolls he showed me, but I can’t wiggle my ears like he does! Lol.  Everyone has a special talent.  Maybe that is his. We just have to take the time to find out what they are.  I play that visit over and over in my mind as much as I can.

Now I want you to know I enjoyed your visit as well.  Your company really means a lot to me.  Being able to spend two days talking was more than I had hoped for.  I didn’t want to hope too much in case it fell through for some reason.  I loved looking at you ( since we don’t ever get to see a woman that isn’t in a guard uniform and trust me they aren’t much to look at.)  I guess what I’m saying is that I was really watching you.  That is why I wasn’t doing so much talking.  I was just taking it all in and trying to remember everything.  I appreciate everything you have done for me.  Many men in here don’t have someone who has stood by them for ten years  the way you have, no matter what, being there for me when I needed someone.  You trust me when I say I am trying hard to do things right and that I want to have a good life when I get out.

Only you know who I am right now.  However that is fixing to change because I am going to write a few of my family members.  I know they won’t write back.  I just want them to see who I am now. But to tell you the truth they probably won’t pick up on it. All they have to do is read my letter carefully and they will see the different person I am. I want them to know me as a man. I’m not a kid anymore. I want them to know me as an older person.  I never write to them anymore because I feel like I’m just wasting stamps because no one writes back. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’m getting sleepy so I’ll write more later. . .

 

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

(Sonni’s note:  We don’t appreciate life until we almost lose it. It would be hard to imagine losing ten years of my life to a prison, but in some ways we did the time together.  Not literally, of course.  I have had ten hard years with some pretty hefty mountains to climb and he has been there encouraging me when I needed it most.  When I think about it, he has been there through some  major things, just like I have been there through his. I believe he’s been honest with me about things that have happened and I helped him as much as I could. We’ve become very good friends who impacted each others life.

Does the time go by fast or slow? Do the years just blend together? If he never makes parole, which is a toss up, he still has six and a half years to go.  He is right.  He went in a boy and will come out a 40 year old man and I will be 69. His son will be nearly 17. My husband will be 76.  Life keeps marching on.  Aging in prison is not where you want to age. There has been so much he has had to learn about himself and the biggest thing has been controlling his emotions.  But many people have that problem.  I see it every day.  But if he can learn something that will benefit him later then he can take one good thing from this experience.

There is no way of knowing what kind of life he would have had if this didn’t happen, but I doubt he and my daughter would be together as a family.  I have worked with him teaching him things about life he needed to know, but had no one to teach him. Most of all he needed to know he had someone who believed in him; someone who believed he had special talents, too, who wouldn’t judge him by what he did, but by the potential he possessed. This was a new thought for him,  that there was someone who would help him open the door and reach for better things.  But if you don’t even know what those better things could be, how could you reach for them?  I’m going to be on the better side of old when he gets out.  Life will be completely different than when he went in.  Right now he is inside the forbidden outside.  Later he will be outside and life will be challenging.  I believe he will have a better life than he would have had he not gone in.  There is a positive inside every negative.  He will have to find out what that is.)

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When I Get Out Of Prison

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Dear mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love, Jamie

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

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

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