Sonni Quick’s Jpay Prison Email to Jamie Cummings

Encouragement(Sonni’s note: I’ve posted many letters from Jamie but I’ve not posted my responses to him. Many of my letters to him were written through jpay.com, the prison email system. I can email to him but he has to write back longhand. They keep a copy of all letters. Yesterday I posted a letter he wrote in 2010, so I went back and found one of mine from the same time period. His letter to me was shortly before I had to close my store in Key West because I was losing my fight with Hepatitis C and was rapidly becoming to sick to work anymore. Add our crashing economy and the BP oil spill in the gulf and my life came crashing down. I moved back to my home state of Pa to be near a good transplant hospital, Penn State Hershey Medical. I thought being near family would be good. I could not have been more wrong. This letter was written right after I was accepted on the transplant list and the fun was about to begin.)

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November 2010

Hello son,

I don’t know the number of the institution you are in to make those phone calls you want me to make, but I am going to look on the net and I’m sure I’ll find it. I know you need to know what is happening. But also, I wanted to know if I should call as mother or mother-in-law and if it matters, especially since your mom  is not involved in your life at all. Megan told me she heard of your mom’s pending marriage when she took little Jamie over there and also found out about your sister’s pregnancy and your brother’s trouble. Maybe the person who wrote to you thought it would be better if you didn’t know but that doesn’t make much sense. It seems they keep a lot from you.

I hope the book I sent was good. On Amazon you can read the first few pages to decide, but that’s all. It looked interesting. I’d send you books every week if I could. It would at least help to pass the time.

I hated to hear about your seizure and the way they treated you. Since they haven’t been consistent about giving you your medication, I’m sure that had a lot to do with it. What is your cellie like? I’m sure they find out about your illness and wonder if you will have one in front of them. People get scared of things they don’t understand. I know that it can harm you and do damage to you. I understand that people are in prison for a reason and some of those reasons can be very bad, but that doesn’t me it’s okay for the guards to treat people as though they are less than human.

I’m sure there are decent guards and also those that get off on hurting people, enjoying having that kind of control. But people get back what they dish out. It may not come from the people they hurt, but what goes around comes around. The law of cause and effect is very strict. There is an effect for everything we do – good and bad – so just sit tight and do the best you can and ride this out because it will, someday, be over, and when you start your life again you want to feel good about what you are doing.

Yes, family is very important. But the hardest thing some people have to learn is to respect other people’s privacy. I had not spent  much time around my family and I didn’t expect them to be so judgemental. I felt that I couldn’t say anything to anyone, including my mom without everyone calling each other with their latest gossip. And my mom was getting aggravated because I don’t do things the say she does. It was hard ripping up my entire life and moving up here into to my mom’s spare 10×10 room. Not much bigger than your cell. I don’t like people talking about my life on the phone or discuss my medical tests with each other. I had asked her for only one thing. Respect my privacy, and it didn’t happen. Mike and I spend a lot of time in our room because it is our only space. But my mom is getting better about it. We’ve had fewer testy little arguments. She is 77 and I have to remember that aging is no fun. She’s losing her hearing and she repeats herself a lot because she forgets, so I have to learn to just let things roll over me and not react. 

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It’s hard to picture the rec area and the cages and the way they try to get people to fight. I think I would rather stay in lockdown to lessen the chances of getting written up. Although being able to play basket ball would be good if your knees were ok. What have the nurses said about your knees? There is something very wrong. Is it possible that it is water on the knee?

It was good to hear that you were helping other people. Some people have had such horrible lives and have people that don’t know the difference between right and wrong. They don’t have a chance. You, too, weren’t raised in a way to feel that you were capable of so much more. No one to help with your schooling. Where were the adults that you could look up to and respect? You have a chance to change all that when you get out. To do something your enjoy, to feel good about yourself and have the confidence to get past the negativity.

And yes, I would like to see a copy of the things the commissary has. Also – are you still getting the mag subscription you wanted?

Well, time to eat. I made a big pot of split pea soup. I like to cook, and not being able to work right now gives me all the time I want to cook. When Mike and I get our own place my mom is sure going to miss me because I do all the cooking! She finds it hard to cook for one person and doesn’t eat as well as she should. Since she has diabetes, what you eat is very important. I’m sure you would just like to eat something that tasted good with fresh veggies and fruit and maybe some nice bbq’d ribs. Oh! I’m being mean aren’t I? Just trying to get your imagination going!

Lots of love son, mom

“Getting Religion” in Prison

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

Hi mom, I hope all is well with you,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prison is More Like Death Than Life

Moon from a prison window,solitary confinement, inmate mental health
Moon From a prison Window

(Sonni’s note: This is a re post. I wanted to bring it back into the picture. It was originally written early last year. It will help those who don’t know the story of Jamie and what happened in the year between being finally let out of juvy and ending up in prison. It was during this year he met my daughter and they had a baby who was born 7 months later. My daughter tried to be there for him but she was young and in her 20’s and knowing it would be a long time before he got out, she eventually went on to live her life. It left Jamie with no one. Because there was no one else to love, that last image of her he has carried with him as if it were yesterday. His own family has contacted him very infrequently and for a very long time it was just he and I, trying to get through his years of solitary confinement, also called ad seg or G5, as he was helping me get through years of extreme illness.

I found him to be a gentle soul, that due to circumstances, never had a chance to find out who he was. This is why I started the blog and why I started writing the book InsideOut, to validate his existence and try to turn these years from something negative to something positive. You can find two of the chapters of the book at the end of the paragraph. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you’d like to leave, and if you want to be on the mailing list for the book fill out the contact page at the bottom and state that it is for the book, as other contact forms are out there for other reasons.. https://mynameisjamie.net/2015/01/27/insideout/ and https://mynameisjamie.net/2015/02/26/insideout-chapter-nightmares/

photo credit: ynigogus.keep.pl
photo credit: ynigogus.keep.pl

Ahhh. . . The moon. It was a beautiful sight. However, I’ve been moved to another cell. I can no longer see outside. But I can still see the moon in my mind. Such a beautiful sight to see, it is. Sometimes my memories are the only thing standing in the way to insanity. Today it is my memory of the moon. It makes me want to write a poem.

Being alone so much there isn’t anything else to do but just sit and think. It makes me think a lot about my past. You told me it is foolish to get upset when I think about my past, but I think otherwise. When I sit back and read over old things I’ve done or remember things I really don’t want to, it hurts. I don’t need anymore pain. I realize now that I’ve been locked up most my life.

I loved the year I was home. I really enjoyed it. The mistake I made is that I passed up an opportunity. It hurts. When I got out of juvy I went to stay with my uncle, and I know for a fact if I had stayed with him I would not be here now. But I wanted to go back to Nacogdoches. My home. I think so much about that chance I passed up and it hurts me. I know I had a chance for a better life. Foolish, yes, indeed. But would something else have happened in Dallas? Was it my karma to be locked up?

If a cause had been made for that to happen sometime in my life, even if I don’t remember what it was, wouldn’t the effect happen no matter where I was? A person can’t run away from the the causes they make. It follows them. There is always cause and effect for everything. Things don’t happen for no reason. There can’t be an effect without a cause, and we can’t go somewhere else and expect things to be different. There is something inside of us we have to change first. I have to understand what that is. But still, I think of my life and it makes me sad. Almost like I wasted it. I have to find a way to do better.

Life inside these walls are more like death than life. No one was ever meant to live like this. I know I did something wrong but this kind of punishment far exceeds the crime. What people don’t know is there is so much that goes on in here that the world doesn’t know about. I really don’t see how the guards can go about their life knowing what goes on in here and the things that happen and then go on about their day pretending that what they do is okay. I think a lot of them like having control over other people. It brings out the worst in them. Who knows, maybe they get off on it.

(Sonni’s note: In Nichiren Buddhism there are different life conditions that a person has and one is called “the world of animality”. It’s also called “kick the dog syndrome” That means that someone who is crapped on by their boss goes home and takes it out on his wife and kid who goes over and kicks the dog. Each person wants to get over on the person beneath him so that he can feel in control. But how can these guards go home to their families and pretend their life is okay? What do they tell their kids about what they did at work that day? Do they want anyone to know how they mistreat people? I don’t see how they would. I think in the beginning that many of people who work here start out okay. They applied for a job that pays good and has benefits. They were probably never inside a prison before. It changes them. They lose the ability to have compassion. They don’t see inmates as human beings who have value. I can’t imagine what they say to each other. They get mean. They start to enjoy causing misery. It may not happen to everyone who works here, but I think it happens to many.)

There is nothing I can do about it. I can’t get any help. If I try to say anything it just comes back on me so I stay quiet most of the time. There is no place I can complain where anyone would listen, that’s for sure, and if I could it would just get me in trouble. I can’t win in here.

Bible Thumping for Prison inmates

Photo credit: worddesign.biz
Photo credit: worddesign.biz

(Sonni’s note: I was going through a hard time. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family, and I was going through yet another hopelessly dysfunctional episode with my dysfunctional family. It’s enough sometimes to ask yourself, why bother? Along with, knowing what Jamie has gone through with his, nothing gets any easier.

But, in this letter it is he who is picking me up and encouraging me, instead of the other way around. It’s so easy now to see how much he has grown. I know now he has grown strong enough to make it through this this time of being knocked back down and having all of his privileges, he had worked so hard for,taken away again. Knowing the prison system, it probably won’t be the last time, either. You don’t have to do anything wrong to get thrown back in lock up.If a guard doesn’t like you for any reason they’ll find a way to write a case against you…

February 14, 2015

Hello mom, I can tell by your letter you were hurt and upset. I’m sorry about the pain and hurtful emotions your family is giving you…However, know this. You know you have someone who loves and care for and about you, and that’s me and your kids and grandkids.

I’m sorry about what happened to your sister (quadruple heart bypass surgery). What you need to do is be strong. That hole? No,no,no I’ve been in that dark place plenty of times with my head down. Right now you need to be chanting for her just as you would chant for me. Give it some time and have faith just as you have had it all this time. Your sister will be fine.

(Sonni’s note:If you haven’t read other posts you might not know I am a Nichiren Buddhist and Jamie over the years has also studied. It has helped him to make sense of his life and to know it is how we react to these things in our lives that determines the effects we get, and the cycle goes on. Chanting is when we pray – not to something outside to fix of problems but to pray for wisdom to understand, and to have the confidence to not doubt the outcome. But we are human and we have to try every day to have the right attitude about our lives.

As for the situation with your family. I think they need some help, really. Anyone who can be so negative at you at such a time of not knowing the outcome of a family member will be, needs help. Especially ones that say they are good Christians. Because for anyone who will allow their anger and hate for anyone, family or friend, is a real selfish person. It’s something intheirlife that’s making them feel likeSHIT<em or are they just riding with something that have been drilled into their heads. Nieces and nephews, never give up on tryen to have a relationship with your family. Sometimes it takes situations like this to bring a family closer. It’s wrong the way they are treating you. This is your sister. Who give a shit what someone thinks. Devil, yeah anyone who acts the way they do and call themselves Christians are the damn Devil.

You know, the chaplain here acts the way they do. If you’re not a Christian he don’t like you. He tries to hide it but he’s not good at it at all. That’s another story. He says, “The lord’s will. We all was placed here to live and die,” point blank.
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You know what I find funny? Bill. The dude who was going to help me get a lawyer and come down here and was going to do all these things to help me? I find him funny because he became in here what we call a fake Christian. They are the ones who do everything that goes against what the Bible says. And him teaching Sunday school and all. Ha! He must love to hear himself talk. He’s the worst kind of Christian. Phoney. Them that say they know the most know the least. He just wants attention for himself. Come Sundays and Wednesdays he’s the first one out to church jumping up and down saying “praise God” Muthafucka like that I hate because they try to tell someone else how to live their life when he’s not living his life the way his Jesus say to. Bill’s a piece of shit and he will have a letter from me soon. He thinks he can go to jail for a few days because he pulled a gun on his wife when drunk one night and find the Lord and read some verses and think that changes him. Well we both know that did not happen. Lies are what a lot of Christians are good at, and Bill is a so called one. Bible thumping, that’s what it is.

We both are getting hit by big trucks right now. The only difference is, I told these people to fuck off. Yes, I have a lot of daimmoku (chanting) to do.

I been in lock up again since the third of Feb. I don’t know when they are going to let me out. I’m G4 for now, so it could still be worse. I’m chilling.

Happy Valentine’s Day Lovely Lady
Love always, So
Relax and chant, okay?

Inside The Forbidden Outside chapter – Nightmares

photo credit:  play2compete.co.uk
photo credit: play2compete.co.uk

(Backstory: For those not familiar with the book it is a being written about Jamie Cummings, who is currently being held at Huntsville Prison in Texas. He has completed 9 of a 17 year sentence. This is a random chapter. This story is based on his life using hundreds of letters written to each other during these years. If you wish to read Chapter one you can find it here https://mynameisjamie.net/2015/01/27/insideout

If you would like to be on the mailing list to receive any other future posts or information about “Inside the Forbidden Outside” please fill out the comment form below.

THE NIGHTMARE

In some ways Jamie feels like he’s back at the beginning and opening his eyes for the first time to this nightmare. He was trying to wake himself up, having that same dream again. He was having this same dream over and over and it was beginning to freak him out. If he could just go back to sleep and wake up again, maybe he’d be in a different place, in some other person’s dream. Anyone’s dream would do.

“Maybe all this really did just happened yesterday,” Jamie mused. ” Maybe he hasn’t been here forever, it just feels like forever. Wouldn’t that be something?”

“Or maybe I’ve been been here forever.” he thought, “It’s my own personal version of hell.”

Depressed1“Maybe that’s it. Everybody was really in a different kind of hell just for them. Everyone’s hell was different.” Now he’s beginning to think for real that he’s starting to go crazy. He didn’t believe in all that nonsense of heaven and hell, anyway. He thought all that got started just to scare people into believing it. It was just as nutty as his nightmares.

“That would be a really awful possibility,” he thought. A nightmare that just went round and round in circles like a merry-go-round, except, there was no way you could ever get off. The longer you were on it, the faster it would go, until you were hanging onto the neck of the horse with both arms wrapped around the head. Sometimes he felt like he was hanging onto that horse by a thread and the thread was starting to break.

“Sounds like that old time TV series, Twilight Zone,” he mumbled. He’d seen reruns of it as a kid and some of them really creeped him out.

Maybe this was the way being crazy started. The way your mind turned on you and made you think things in your head was real and you heard things you didn’t want to hear. Crept up on you real slow until it had you by the throat and wouldn’t let go. He needs to stop thinking this crap.

“Maybe I’m dead and this is hell.” He laughed, seriously a little crazy this time. “If I knew this was hell,” he thought. “I could probably deal with it better, knowing for sure this was it, I could stop wondering if I was ever going to get out. I wouldn’t have to worry no more about getting out of here.”

He wouldn’t have to think about it anymore. He’d just have to come up with a better plan for his days because right now he wasn’t dealing with this solitary crap very well. You’d think he’d know the ropes by now. No use about complaining. They’d only turn on him more if he did that.

“If eternity was going to be just like this, then accepting it is all anyone could do, or go crazy” he thought out loud.

“Problem is, it feels like an eternity already.” He was crazy for sure, having this dialogue with himself, but if he didn’t talk to himself, then he really wouldn’t have anyone to talk to. Being alone is being alone. People don’t understand how alone, alone really is. The guards didn’t want to have conversations with you. Probably told not to. You know you’re in bad shape when even having a conversation with a guard sounds good. He got up and started pacing the floor. Three steps up and three steps back. Three steps up and three steps back. He really wished he could go outside and run. Just run until he was tired. Run until he was out of breath.

“Don’t make friends with the inmates.” That’s what they probably taught the guards, although they most likely don’t use as nice a word as calling them inmates.

“Make them as miserable as you can, they were taught.” I think they take that part of their job really seriously.

One of guards said to them, “If any of you have a smile on your face then I’m not doing a good job.” They probably laughed with each other as they talked about the ways they had fun making them as miserable as they could.

He knew they tried to make people on the outside think it was all the inmates who do wrong and the guards would never did anything really bad, but he knew better. There was good guards and there was bad guards. To him it seemed the bad guards outnumbered the good guards. Only when one really slipped up and someone died did it bring any notice to the prison, but they always managed to find a way not to take responsibility. If a dude has a heart attack from the torture they did, then the heart attack was how he died, and the torture never becomes a part of it. He knew it was worse in some states than others. There were lots worse places than Texas, so maybe he should be glad he was here and not in a state like Alabama. That was worse.

“How long is an eternity supposed to feel like?” he thought, looking up at the ceiling, as if looking toward heaven was going to give him any answers.

“Probably the guys on death row have a better answer because they know there is no way, for any reason, they were ever going to get out of there.” They might keep them there for decades until they died, but they ain’t ever getting out of their one man cell.

“At least I know I’m going to get out someday,” he hoped. “Someday”

Besides, maybe outside was the real hell. He had no idea what he was going to do. It scared him. How did he know how he was going to be able to take care of himself? He didn’t even know how to do anything to take care of himself like most people already knew at his age. He didn’t even know how to get his lights turned on in a new apartment.

What if he did something without even meaning to and they picked him up again, not even giving him a chance? They wanted to make sure they got the inmates back. They owned you.

He knew, even when you’re on parole, they still own you. You’re still on paper. You still belong to them and they controlled your life. They really don’t want you to make it out there and they set you up to fail. Nine years inside and they make it so he can’t even get his GED. If he makes parole in 2016 they know he doesn’t have any way to take care of himself. Why else would he see the same people coming back again after they left?

It’s just their way of filling the prison through the back door. Pretend they were all for you getting out of there and having a life, and it’s all bullshit. No one is honest with you here about that. If he got caught walking crooked they’d probably say he was on drugs and lock him up, even if there was no drugs in him, it would be his words against theirs. They’d be the one to make it true.

Just like it was in here. People lie an getting people wrote up that wasn’t guilty of anything at all just so they could have someone owe them a favor. The truth doesn’t matter much in here, or out there. And he knew what it was like out there. Cops didn’t need no reason to pick up blacks and charge them with things and try to make them guilty of something they didn’t even do. He heard the stories. He heard the guys when they were brought back in again because they did something that broke their parole.

But it makes you think, “What’s the truth? Nobody knows what the truth is and nobody seems to care, neither.” He pressed the palm of his hand against his forehead, pressing on the tightening of his skin that was turning into a headache. He was getting himself worked up about things he couldn’t do nothing about.

“Damn, it’s depressing,” he said out loud. “Or it’s enough to make you depressed if you thought about it enough.”

Yeah, some of them that got paroled got into things they shouldn’t, so it was their own fault. He wasn’t going to do that. He had his son to think about. But the cops didn’t need a reason. And just like in here, where the guards are always right, no matter what happens, he was sure it was the same out there. He needed to get out of Texas. Cops didn’t need no reason to pick you up and put cuffs on you and throw you in jail. He wasn’t going to be like all the others and get picked up and brought back here again.

But how could he leave Texas with his son here? He’ll have to think about that later. First things first. He had to get to prove he didn’t belong here. Not on his son’s life would he do anything to end up back in here again.

“I have to keep my eye on the end game,” he determined. ” Maybe other people didn’t have a reason to change things, but he did, and he needed to remember that and not get all caught up on maybes and what ifs.”

Crazy thoughts were always shooting through his brain like this. He had way too much time to think. He had trouble remembering a time when he could laugh and smile. It was forever ago, like some repressed dream that came to the surface and he found himself inside a nightmare he couldn’t get out of. Bits and pieces of things he could make whole stories out of, if he wanted to. But he needed something positive to do.

Sometimes it seemed as if the dream was something that didn’t happened ‘to’ him, but instead he walked into a theatre into the middle of a movie where he never saw the beginning, and fell asleep before he got to the end. It was the kind of dream where you could feel yourself falling and you knew if you hit the ground you were going to die, and woke up startled and scared and afraid to go back to sleep again. When he was little and had bad dreams he used to think of cartoons and tried to stay awake. There were no cartoons in here.

Sometimes he had this dream over and over. Like it was a premonition of some sort making him feel like it was going to come true. But there was a hazy part he just couldn’t see quite clear. He would lay there for hours and think about it, but it was no use.

“I have to snap myself out of this,” he thought. “I have to write a letter or something and get my head together.” He’s been here long enough, and has been through other times like this, and he knew it was easy to spiral out of control.

He lived that movie in his head over and over, never knowing if he was going to die at the end. It never felt like it was okay. He never felt any hope, only despair. Every time he went to sleep he was afraid he would see it again and most always, he did. He had no one he could talk to about it and he just got more depressed every day.

When he woke in his dream he was running. Running so fast. His heart was beating so fast, knowing without a doubt that he was in a place that felt so wrong. It was hell. It was hell and he couldn’t change it. So many times he woke up crying. Crying for the loss. Crying for everything. And it was never, ever, going to be over. He was lost forever. It felt like forever. He was never going home. He buried his head in his pillow and he wept.

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

This is what drove men mad. This is what solitary confinement did to the mind. He spent more than 4 years in here. He should be crazy, too, and probably would be if it weren’t for Mom. She held on and wouldn’t let go. Two years each time. All for lies. The hopelessness. He knew there were men who were kept in places like this sometimes for decades. His sentence was only seventeen years, if the word ‘only’ means anything.

credit: solitarywatch.com
credit: solitarywatch.com

There are men here only because they’re mentally ill and there is nowhere else to put them so they lock them up in prison. They can’t survive around other people and being in solitary made it even worse. They lock them up for their own protection, they say, but that only gives them the right to abuse them, and to laugh at them and to do things to them that would be a crime on the outside. Sometimes they die because of the way they are treated. Out there these guards would be locked up because sane men didn’t do the things they did to people in here. In this place, people don’t have the rights of a dog. In fact, dogs have more rights because they’d haul you off to jail for torturing animals.

They torture the men. In the real sense. Physically torture them and some of them die. Because these men couldn’t stand being locked up, they would do things to themselves. He heard the stories. No one deserved to end up like the men in solitary confinement.

They would try to kill themselves by cutting their veins and smearing the blood all over the window in their door, and all over their walls and floor, trying to bleed out. They would take these men to medical and sew them up and instead of getting them help, they would double their time in solitary and it would happen all over again. They make them crazier and then punish them more because they got crazier.

Does that make sense to you? Now they just don’t know what to do with these men. They can’t let them out of their cell because they would probably try to kill someone. They’re completely loony. Maybe they should’ve thought of that before they destroyed the rest of their minds.

He remembers what it was like in solitary when he was in the juvy system. It was no picnic then, either. It wasn’t any different now. Alone is alone, no matter what age you are. A person can only take so much. He was so young then. Just seventeen. What did he know about being locked up like that? He got mad. They said he could go home after he did nine months and when he was packed, they wouldn’t let him go home.

They said “No, you can’t leave. You didn’t make your line class.”

“What line class?” He said. “You never told me about nothing about no line class” They lied to him! He got mad. He went to his room and started punching the walls. They were the liars! They put him in solitary for that. It was no picnic then, neither. It wasn’t any different now.

Oh, he didn’t want to think about this right now. He had taken so much already for too long. What had he ever done in his life to deserve this? They put him on antidepressants. Every time they saw him he was sleeping. Clearly depressed. Who wouldn’t be? All he wanted to do was sleep now.
All this thinking was starting to make his head hurt. Either that or maybe he was hungry. He was always hungry. Maybe he could pretend his peanut butter tonight was a piece of apple pie!

“Maybe I can dream about apple pie tonight,” he laughed and cried, and lay down on his bed.

“I’ll take a nap and see if I can figure all this out while I’m sleeping.” Even that bit of laughter made him feel little better. He has to be careful… It’s so easy to get your head in a funk and it drags down the whole day.

He pulled a letter out of a book. It was one of mom’s letters. He was using it as a bookmark. He kept it in the book he was reading so he could take it out and read it when he wanted. He read lots of her letters over and over. When he’s finally able to make phone calls it sure will be nice to talk to her.

She had written some stuff in this letter that looked like gobbledy gook to him. She said it was Japanese. She wrote these letters down ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ Weird. He had no clue how to say it or what it meant. She said it didn’t matter, just try to say it the way it looked. He had no idea what it meant but he tried anyway because he said he would. She’ll tell him more about it later. Maybe she was crazy, too, because she told him if he said it over and over he could be happy.

“What do I have to lose?” he laughed again. “Nobody else had any better suggestion, so I guess it can’t hurt.” He fell asleep thinking about all of these things in his head. He even had a dream about apple pie, but tasted just like peanut butter, what they give him every day for meals.

There’s No place For a Fish Out of Water

walking fish-cartoon 1

Ok, first I want to thank you for the way you broke everything down about Nichiren Buddhism for a better understanding. Because you’re right, there are religions that that promise people a great many things that will help them with their lives. To promise someone life after death is too much. How does this person know there’s life after death? They don’t. So why promise someone something when you can’t give it to them? I just never really understood the Bible in the way it contradicts itself in so many ways. Or why people would feel a book written by man thousands of years ago would be a nice way to live their life today by telling them how to live it. And then to have man rewrite it and add and take away things what was written is crazy. And it’s crazy and all how much sin went on at that time as well. I always had a hard time believing the Bible and Jesus. I read part of the Bible and even the Quran. I’ve been told the Quran is the only religious book that hasn’t been rewritten. I don’t believe it because I don’t know. The way you have broken down part of Buddhism, it shows it not to be a religion but a way of life. All causes and effects are a part of life. I do learn from what you send me. I also share it with my cellies and others. Oh yes, Megan taught me how to say the words and how to chant when she came to visit me before even though she stopped doing it. I know she used to do it everyday until she got around her dad’s family and they wouldn’t have accepted her doing any chanting, and she was around it when she a was little. She needed to be accepted.

l remember her visit just like it was yesterday. I chant. It’s just that I am very easily distracted. But I do chant. ( Nam Myo Renge Kyo ) Sometimes when I chant I find I won’t be saying anything because I find myself zoned out. I’ll catch myself staring at the wall or out the window at the sky. I feel my life has been a real waste. I sometimes feel there’s no place for me here. You know, like the way land is no place for a fish out of water. I feel like I’m a waste and out of place at times. I do my best to keep my head above water, but I can only swim for so long. Life goes on is what makes it worse.

Matters of the Heart

 

matters-of-the-heart

(Sonni’s note: I received this letter four weeks before my liver transplant surgery in July 2012.  I was very sick.  I wasn’t capable of writing anymore letters because I couldn’t make a connection between my brain and my hand.  I was playing the waiting game.   I was at the point where I didn’t have a whole lot of time left.   I was told  later that I had come as close as possible to death without dying.   Jamie and I were in our own prisons. He was alone and yet his thoughts were for me. He was sitting in ad seg, solitary confinement, and I was confined to my bed.)

Hello mom, sorry this letter has taken so long to get to you. I pray that as this paper touches your hands it’s as soft as a dove and that you are in the best of health. I pray that this letter brings a smile to your face, and it takes a lot of pain and stress away. I know that things are hard on you right now. But hey, if there’s one thing I know about the women I love and care so much for, you, Megan and my mom, is that you the are strong women. I know the pain is hard to bare. I also know that you will pull through. So everything is going to be fine. It’s nice that several members of the SGI have come to visit you and keep you encouraged but I know you already have the courage.

I understand about bad choices. You aren’t the only one who’s made a bad choice in life. We’ve all made one or two or maybe even three! Look at me. I’ve made lots of mistakes. We all make them. It’s part of life. Some of us turn our life around and some don’t. I wish I could have turned mine around.

I read the World Tribune newspaper and the magazine, Living Buddhism, that you got me. I understand some of it and some I don’t. I try to do the chanting. I do my best and it helps me when I’m mad. So there, I pray for you and everyone I love the only way I’ve known how. I pray for me and Megan’s happiness. But the more I think about it, I know she’s tired.

 

MATTERS-OF-THE-HEART

I was going through my letters and ran across the first few that you wrote me. I’m not trying to make you feel bad or nothing. I just feel it’s the truth, but it just took a little time for me to understand. You stated that Megan would move on and find someone else. It hurt at that time and it really still hurts at just the thought. I have so much hurt inside sometimes I wonder if I should leave this place. Because as time passed I asked myself, why go home? Family showed they really don’t much care. The woman I love has hurt me as well. I know that by me getting locked up that I hurt her. But never would I have stopped my love for her. Never. If the shoe was on the other foot I would have never done anything like that. Why? Because when you find the love you know you have, you don’t. I have never found anyone to love me like Megan. I know she loved me more than most of my family. However, I see that when someone is not around, the love isn’t either. It’s lost. I have some deep scars, just like you mom.

I’m going to let you in on something I never understood. Why is it that you wanted to help me? 670px-Cope-With-Holiday-Stress-and-Depression-in-Prison-Step-05I never understood, although I am very thankful and always will be. We didn’t really get much of a chance to know each other in person except those couple times. However, we have learned a lot about each other over the years. I’m glad to have someone like you and Megan, even though she hardly writes, but I promise you, the day I’ve had enough, everyone will know.

My Window

thHLMII2F0

 

This was first published on March 31, 2014 when he was still in solitary confinement

I was told that I could maybe be moved up to G4 in a few months. I don’t know if I want to do that. I have a window. A nice big window. I look at the sky a lot. I like to stand and look at the sky. At night I can look up at the moon. It’s beautiful. It’s been a long time since I could just stand and see outside and see the sky. With this Buddhism I have been reading about, there is this guidance I read about the moon:

“As you make your way home tonight may you pause for a moment to gaze up at the night sky and let your heart communicate with the moon in wordless dialogue. Perhaps you might compose a poem and set it down in your journal tonight. How good to have such a poetic spirit!” ( Sonni’s note: This is a guidance I sent Jamie from Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI-USA Int’l, the lay organization for Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.  it is these guidances that have helped him keep his head straight and have hope for his future.)

But one thing that is not so good because the water coming out of my faucet is a muddy brown. Maybe it’s from rust? It’s the only thing I have to drink. It’s probably not even safe to drink. How can they get away with this? Why is there no one who says, you can’t do this? You can’t treat people like this.  It’s not right.

I think about my life a lot. I have a lot of time to think. I’m trying so hard to do my best to turn my life around. I need to do this for me and for the kids. I’m trying to come home, I really am. But with everything that has happened it really hurts me. I read what you sent me of this blog and it hurt me. I cried because reading it was like reliving my past and I didn’t like it at all.

Growing up, yes things were hard on me. It was because I didn’t have a father. No one ever knew how I felt about anything because I never tried to talk to anyone about it. You are the only person I have opened up to like this. I never asked my mom questions about my father. I just went on with my life.

I used to try and follow my older brother around, but we all know how that goes. Older brothers don’t want to be around their younger brothers. Again, I just went on about my life. Things fell apart as I did that. I hung around the wrong people, picked up a few bad habits and ran with it. I sold drugs here and there. But then I started stealing. I’m sure you’re wondering where my mom was while I was doing this. Well, I would wait while she went to work or sleep at night. I would even go to school and then leave after two periods. I got into a lot of trouble with my mom when she found out, because there were times I got caught stealing and skipping school. My mom never knew about the drugs. But she knew about a gun I had. She told me to get rid of it before I got in trouble. She was right about that. Look where I am now. Still hanging with the wrong people!

I used to leave the house when my mother was asleep. It would be about 10 PM. I was young, maybe 14 or 15 years old. It’s not my mom’s fault at all. I would leave to do what I wanted every change I could. I felt free. I hung around older dudes in the neighborhood. I felt cool. My mom always told us we had to be in the house before the street lights came on. We had to eat, clean up and bathe, and be in bed by 9:30. I didn’t like it because it was more fun staying out at night. Sometimes I would stay away from home for 2 or 3 days at a time. I knew I had it coming when I got home. So I would wait til my mom went to work to go home and get something to eat, take a bath, and then leave again. However, I would get tired and just wanted to lay down and sleep. So I would go home knowing that the belt was waiting for me.

Now, I would love to see and hear from her more often. Same with Megan and Jamie. All I can do is ask. I can’t make them do it. So I sit and wait and hope I get a visit. I get discouraged when all I do is sit and wait and nobody comes. I gave my mom a hard time growing up.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

lotus flower art

(Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18. Sometimes the things Jamie writes about will come in several letters. I go through them and find the pieces and put it together into one. Sometimes I’ll add a sentence so you’ll understand.   I’ll go back into a post and add something else he wrote about the same thing.  Sometimes I have to change the way it is written but I never try to write his spirit out of it.  When he gets the chance to read this when he gets out, he’ll be able to see how much his life has affected other people in a positive way.  Please leave a reply on a post or two if you like what you read. It only takes a minute and would mean so much. Also, come back and read again. Start at the beginning. Get to know him – and me, too.  Thanks)

For the last couple years mom has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because there is support for that in here. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I gave it a good shot but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. Mom has practiced Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. She didn’t say anything about it for a long time but a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, she started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. She talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes.  I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect.

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would defend myself. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. Buddhism calls it obstacles. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.  The translation is really much longer but it’ll do for now.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. There is something else called gongyo. Mom sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. She said it didn’t matter if I did it right or wrong as long as I tried as best I could.

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

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

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

 (Sonni’s note: Chanting for these things is praying but it is not the same as those that pray to some entity that is out there somewhere. You don’t chant for something else to fix things in your life. That never works anyway. Change comes from within. Pray to have the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things, but are far apart in the reasoning of how to get to the place you want to be. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. I find that this makes sense to me. Here ends your lesson in Nichiren Buddhism. (smile) Do a search on the SGI-USA if you are interested in finding out more.)

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

Human Revolution

It’s 1pm and man is it hot!  The sun is really beating down on this place.  One of the dudes was playing with me yesterday and acted like he was going to bite me!  I stopped and asked him what the hell he was doing.  He told me, “Were all cooking in this hot ass place and I looked like I was done! I told him, just cause the skin is dark it doesn’t mean I’m done. Lmao!

I try to have a laugh here and there because things are starting to get real rough.  I get my G2 in 90 days and the road is starting to toughen up on me. It’s as if I’m being picked at.  Not just by officers but by other dudes in here as well. I don’t want to stay G4 and I sure don’t want to do all my time.  However, I won’t let anyone run me over.

I have a lot of stress on me.  I’m upset that I’m this close to home and no one is trying to bring my son to me. I’m trying to stay away from trouble but it manages to find me. I got into it with an officer. I was looking for my ID in my cell. We have to have it when we go to chow.  Well, this female officer slams my cell door shut! I called and called her and she kept walking.  So I called to the other officer.  He comes to the cell door and yells “What?!!” I tried to talk to him but just kept yelling over me, “Do you have a razor in your hand?” I tell him, “Fuck no” and yell back at him, “Why are you yelling at me?” He walks off. Well, as you probably know I did not get to eat. I was inches, just inches from going overboard.

These people don’t like to do shit. When they have to call for anything, like chow, service, shower or med appointments, and you aren’t out of your cell by the time they get to your cell they are going to close the door. They walk fast, closing doors just to rush people. You and I both know they will constantly keep coming at me no matter what.

How’s Ms. Patty and Ms. Carol doing.  Please tell them I said hello and ask them to chant for me? The road gets rough when you’re improving.

(Sonni’s note: When you try to change, obstacles come up to hold you down. You need a lot of determination and perseverance to do things differently – to react differently.  We’re wired to react a certain way after a lifetime of doing it that way. But it is often that these very reactions are what keeps us down. It’s common to hear the phrase, “It’s just the way I am.” We what we do but we except it as something we can’t change, even if it hurts us.  We react a certain way and wish we hasn’t. We might even tell ourselves that next time we will react differently but when it does happen again we react the same way anyway.  We can’t change these things about ourselves with wishful thinking.  It takes a lot of work and a lot of self reflection to understanding that the way we are, and the environment we live in is a direct result of all the causes we have made in our life.  For some it is easier to believe that things happen because something “out there in the universe had a plan for us”. That would be nice. Then wouldn’t have to feel responsible for everything.  But as you begin to take charge of your life and as you begin to make changes, it is the start of your “human revolution”.)

I received a visit from Melvin.  I really needed it We talked and chanted.  We had a good time, but he noticed that something was wrong with me.  I explained about how I felt not being able to see my son.  It really hurts me. It’s hurts bad when I hear others talk about their son, saying that he just turned this or that age.  Then I say my son just turned eight but I haven’t seen him in almost a year.  Lol, the jokes on me.

I read an article in the newspaper I’d like you to read it.  I have a copy of it but they probably wouldn’t let me send it to you. Maybe you could look it up.  It’s in USA Today on Aug 15, 2014.  The title is “Yep, Slavery is still legal” by Jim Liske. He’s the president of Prison Fellowship.

Did you hear about Gov Rick Perry? He was indited for trying to force the DA out of office. I hope he’s convicted so he can get a taste of what he’s putting us through.

Tell Megan I want to hear from her soon.  It’s been too long.  It’s not right!!