And It’s Not Just The Ordinary Things

You better be damn sure whatever project you are working on that you are in it for the long haul or you will fail, or you will give up.

Prison was the long haul for Jamie.

Writing a good first book and learning how to do it was mine.

I dream about finding someone in “the business” who recognizes this and has the clout and connections to do something about it. There! I said it out loud! I put it into the universe. Positive or negative, we create our own personal universe we live in. I have to trust myself.

It has been a couple weeks since I last posted, hasn’t it? I’m a little behind because life has gone into mental high gear. It is my nature to bite off more than I can chew, and then have look to chew very quickly.

And it is not only the ordinary things that have to be done. We all have a life to live. For me it is medical issues that try to get in the way. Through it I have made tremendous progress in the writing of, “Inside the Forbidden Outside.” The music and the music videos I began making a year ago and starting a YouTube Channel, Sonni Quick Piano Improv, cultivating subscribers, added greatly to the busy hours of my day.

Hours spent promoting and marketing the chapters and the music every day pushed my workday (unpaid at this point) to 16 hours a day, usually 7 days a week. This is no exaggeration. Writing slowed down and blog post writing also decreased. But the project as a whole was coming together and moving forward. The response has been overwelming. It’s exciting. Every chapter done, every music recording finished and every video completed by my inexperienced hands has been a source of joy.  And it came with inspiring comments with the connections to people increasing everyday.

I reach people through my music, to touch them emotionally about Jamie’s story. The music is the emotion of the story. It reaches out through my fingers. It is my passion. It is that passion for grasping life in your hands ant not letting go that separates the winners from the losers.

When you truly love to do something you spend every hour of every day working on it in some capacity. No excuses are good enough if you don’t see it through. I think the idea of writing a book with music was a good idea. I have not heard of any other book who combined the story and music together. If you only had one or the other you would have only half of the story.

This story I’m writing, if you haven’t read any of the chapters I’ve posted at this blog is not just someone’s experience living with the brutality of the American prison system – the Prison Industrial Corporation. It is about love and hope – failure and determination above all else, to take back his life. He was going to be a father to the son he has rarely seen. He wanted to go to school and learn things. He was a good man who was never given a chance from the moment he was born,

because. . . . he was black.. . . he was poor.. . . and he came from a southern state known for racism – and he had epilepsy.

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While you are reading I want to link you to a page I wrote 3-4 years ago (also found up top where the pages are in white.  https://mynameisjamie.net/i-want-to-encourage-you-to-take-the-time-to-read-this-please/  As I was beginning this blog these are the reasons why. It might help you understand why this is important  

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The odds were against him. He was part of a family with four children, a mother and no father, so they raised themselves with little adult supervision. Mom worked hard to provide for her family, so how could she be there to raise them? I know that dilemma well.

Will this book help people to better understand what being in prison is truly about, and will they understand the psychological damage from grief, caused by loss? Will they understand the constant struggle inside the mind, trying to keep itself together, when what it really wants is to kick the walls and scream?

Will readers understand that? Because I know from talking to people ‘out here’ that many people don’t. The sheer number of people who end up locked in a cell that shouldn’t be is absurdly high – and then there are those who still think only the guilty go to prison.

Not every human being should be characterized and judged for the rest of his life because she/he went to prison. It is not the sum total of that person. When Jamie gets out of prison his identity should not be tattooed across his face – EX FELON. That is what happens to so many, making it so hard to survive. Even the ones who have been exonerated after decades in prison because the were falsely imprisoned have to live with that tattoo just because they were in there.

This book is the story of a great many men and a rising number of women. They are considered to be expendable people in this country which deems White Christian Americans to be a cut above all others as if skin color alone is the key to being a better person, except.  . . a better person knows how false that is and laughs at the notion that skin is the number one prerequisite for being a quality human being. Skin color isn’t even on that list.

What could the criminal justice system do to arrest and incarcerate even more people? There is no separation between good and evil. Money decides your freedom. Lock up people for any reason, true or false, and when they can’t make bail, lock them up anyway, for years! This is what lies in store for low income, minority people in this country whose guilt lies in having the bad luck of not being born in a good white neighborhood.

I am writing this book because all of this pissed me off. Royally. What a choice of words. So much inhumanity was happening to Jamie and I couldn’t do ANYTHING about it! I had all of this emotion running through me. I had to channel it into something positive.

“I’ll write a blog,” I said. I asked Jamie if it was okay.     “Sure,” he said, “but who would want to read about my life?” But I knew it was an important story because so many people had the same story. I realized before long I needed to write a book. Only I had never written a book (or a blog for that matter). I knew I could do it if I honestly tried.

I worked on it for 2 1/2 years. I learned a lot. I didn’t know enough about how to write a book. Writing a blog and writing a book are two different ways of writing. I took some online classes. I read and read about writing. I started over. I wrote and rewrote and continued learning. I think I am now about 60% done with the rewrite have many good tracks of music.

It is a good thing I did not try to publish the first draft because it gave me more time to be better prepared. You can find all the chapters on this blog, even the first draft chapters if you do a search on the blog using the title of the book. You can see the progress if you are interested in reading it. The first draft has too much information and not enough story. This draft is more about the story and info to support it.

That is it for now, but there is another blog post almost ready to be published – about Jamie ‘s story. A little catch up from the past and why is where he is now.

Until then…

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My Blog Map of The World

My blog map

I like to look at the map of the world I have on this site where the flag counter is located under each post, which tells me how many hits and how many countries have tapped into my blog on any given day, week, month or year. In the past week it was 26 countries, some from places I really didn’t know existed. Overall, at last count if was a total of 135+ countries. Today I see that it is only Greenland and interior Africa that are the only places that haven’t come to my blog. I don’t get hundreds of hits a day like some blogs do. Maybe if this blog was all I was doing and devoted every day to it, it would be more. Most people who come here are not other bloggers, it is from Google searches for information that they find me.

People all over the world are looking for information that connects to prisons – largely the US prisons. Why? Because what we do affects people everywhere. We set a standard for others to follow and unfortunately that standard is a bad one. Will we ever learn to do the right thing? It is doubtful. Greed is much more powerful than the desire to do the right thing.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t punish people when they do something wrong, but it is wrong to give a black man 20 years in prison for stealing food if his family is hungry, especially when a white man would probably get a year of probation, maybe. We over-punish and we do it based on race. Or look at it this way; what would twenty years in prison do that one year wouldn’t do, especially since now his entire family is being punished. Or was that the intention? Destroy the family. Make them all suffer and unable to rise up out of extreme poverty. Take away any chance of survival. Our criminal justice system is really screwed up.

I don’t know a lot about the prisons in these other countries. I’m sure some are better or worse, but they don’t use them for corporate profit the way we do, making prisoners a commodity for individual stock market growth.

“A sure bet,” they say. “Just keep the prisons full of people.” “No problem” our government says. Laws are abused to make sure 1 in 3 black males will do prison time.

“Let’s reinstate stop and frisk,” says Jeff Sessions, even though it never worked and locked up many more people who couldn’t afford to bond out, and they sit for years in jail never being charged. That will make the corporations lots of money. They could build more jails – provide more jobs. Who cares who it hurts.

For more than ten years I have researched this as I have struggled to understand not only what they have done to Jamie in the prisons they have sent him to, but to try to predict what the effect will be when he gets out. It takes so much more than wanting to have a good life, especially when he has been hogtied in the worst way to keep him from being able to learn how to survive when he gets out. Keeping him in a solitary cell, not allowing him to get any education at all, then setting him free with no life skills. There iss no education for an inmate in adseg or solitary, so they refuse to let him out. They say he is a danger to the rest of the general population inmates. That is the reason they give him. No one can survive that, especially when family isn’t there for you. He has me. Just me, and I am not in the best of health and 30 years his senior. I’m doing all I can.

When I think of the long journey I have been on – helping what used to be a young man who never had a future. It was taken away when he was still 16. He is 35 now. He has been in the prison system far too long to hang in there with promises of a better future that doesn’t begin until the brink of middle age. Taking on that 17 year sentence with him, promising to be there for him is almost the length of time it takes to raise a child until high school graduation, and trying to be responsible for the nurturing of that person almost completely through letters and a visit every year or two. I can’t even touch his hand during those visits.

I’d do it again – because it also taught me a lot about myself. We weren’t blood related between he and I, but we are connected through my grandson. I have been through so much during these years – marking it along the way with crisis we both have had. Life puts you exactly here you need to be to grow as a human being, hopefully affecting other lives in a positive way. I can’t imagine my life without this.

That is all I wanted to say. I appreciate, more than you know, the people who have supported me in this effort – reading, sharing, listening. The book and music have taken far longer than I had thought but if the effort is going to be made it has to be to the best of my abilities, and sometime that means I have to rewrite part of it as I learn. I am confident there is a reason for doing it. I keep the end result in my head. We are what we think. But without other people – you – it couldn’t happen. I’m excited about what the future could bring for Jamie, his son, and yes, my daughter as they are the parents of their young twelve year old boy. My grandson deserves to know both parents. His life has to heal, too.

Thank you

 

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You Don’t have The Right To Bitch

“You don’t have the right to bitch about something unless you are willing to stand up and do something about it.”

This was said in a Ted Talk. It is very good and worth watching. I believe this. That’s the name of the game isn’t it? Lots of people have an opinion about what is the right thing to do. Some also pass judgement on others, but all they do is talk. When it comes time to do anything about it they go away because it is asking too much.

We have a problem in this country. When it comes down to helping to make the change that is needed they wait for someone else to do it. “I don’t have time” or “I don’t know what to do”. This is not everyone but if 25% more people did more than just read about it, maybe change in rotten systems, like the criminal justice system, could happen.

It’s been ten years since the concept of “prison” entered my life. I had never known anyone who was incarcerated. I knew nothing. The only time I ever thought about it was during an episode of Prison Break.

These years have taught me what it really means to have compassion for human beings regardless of who they are or what they have done that landed them in a prison cell. Some were forced in with plea deals. Some aren’t guilty at all. Some tried to get away with doing something and got caught. Some are mentally ill and were imprisoned instead of treated. Some should never be let out because they are too dangerous to be allowed in society – but that doesn’t mean they should be inhuman treated. That makes us just as bad.

I want to thank those who have supported my effects by sharing posts and commented, subscribed to my newsletter and steamed my music. Followed my YouTube and read chapters of the book I’m writing. Thank you. Thank you.

Without you I could do none of this.

 

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I Don’t Write About Happy Things

 

males-2091701_640It is easy to write about happy things. Some people want to be entertained and read things that takes them away from daily life. Some look for new ways to do things hoping they find that magic bullet that will hold their interest for more than thirty days. Some are trying to improve themselves so they read every article on nutrition or exercise or mental well being. I don’t think we can be happy or well when so many in our population are being abused. Not every inmate is guilty. Many prisoners are innocent. My writing focuses on these points:

1. People are housed out of sight so we don’t have to think about them. We blame these people for all the ills of society. We turn a blind eye. We don’t want to let them back into our neighborhoods because media has taught us these people are to be feared because they want to hurt you in some way. We want to believe these people deserve what is happening to them and there are no  exceptions in our mind.

2. Incarceration, and for many it is not what you think. People develop their own ideas about the millions of peoples who are locked up. The government and the media have you brainwashed at this moment that all immigrants are criminals, drug dealers and lowlifes who deserve to have our wrath because we believe they are taking something valuable from us. It is a fallacy. Your life will not be one bit better with a 50 ft wall. We think it is true because that is what the media and government have told us day after day to justify what they do.

3. Understanding the role of the prison corporations in the lives of all incarcerated people – which affect you also. Very few understand the amount of money that is made or the importance you that the people remaining ignorant, No one wants to  know these things – until it affects them, and sometimes they contact me. “What do I do,” they ask? “You won’t believe what they are doing to my son. He needs insulin. They are refusing to give it to him.” Or, “My husband has a heart problem, and his cell is over 105 degrees, everyday. He has passed out twice and they won’t let him see the doctor.”  In my case it is the refusal to give seizure medication for epilepsy – and this is just medical.

The book I am writing is centered around the life of a man, Jamie Cummings, whose life has been taken from him since he was 16.  He is now thirty-five. My book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside” is about his life and his fight to survive until he is released – in 2023, if they don’t find a way to keep him and add years.  Yes, that happens.

14 million people are incarcerated every year to find permanent replacements for the 2.3 million who constantly fill the prisons, not counting the immigrant prisons.  That is a lot of people.  It is more than any country in the world yet we have only 5% of the world’s population – and 25% of the prisoners.  Incarceration makes some people very rich. The quality and strength of a society can be seen in the way they treat the incarcerated, the poor, minorities and the elderly. The US is sadly lacking in compassion on all fronts, because people won’t turn around and look.

I write to educate people because nothing will change until people stand up and treat each other the way each of us wants to be treated, if we were down.

You can easily find individual chapters to my book on this website.  Here are a couple to get you interested. They are not the 1st and 2nd chapter, but you will understand. Click the subscribe button to get on my monthly newsletter. Share it with your friends.  In it are articles, chapters and new music that has been written for the soundtrack of the book.

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

What Does It Mean T Be Alone

 

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Life on the Sex Offender Registry

I saw this video today. It hurt to watch it. I know a woman who has a son who was turned into a poster boy and given 20 years in prison for touching the breasts of an underage girl at a party. Unfortunately, this girl didn’t look like a minor and it was with her okay. They were playing games at a party. It was not okay with her parents when they found out. He got 10 years for each breast. His parents were shocked. He was getting ready to go to college so he, too, was pretty young. It snow balled out of control. His life is ruined. His education is ruined. Growing up, having a family of his own is ruined. His parents can now only see him a couple hours at a time in a prison waiting room. They can no longer share birthdays and holidays. Being convicted of a sex crime, in prison with men who can only have sex by using or raping other men puts a big target on his back. Will he get through 20 years without being raped? A pretty young virgin boy? Not likely.

Was this the only option? Should he be ruined for being a sexually inexperienced boy who wanted to do what all straight makes crave – to touch a girl’s breasts. Is he a monster? Someone to be afraid of? Someone who can’t be allowed into a park or live near a school when he is released from prison – middle aged? Everyone convicted of a sex crime, no matter what it is, is lumped together in one basket that says “Sexual Predator For the Rest of Their Lives”

Yet so many real sexual predators, like our president, who admits he can get away with anything, even p*ssy grabbing women, has no repercussions. “I’m a star!” he says. Why can he do that and others, who aren’t using their money and “stardom” to assault people, end up in prison and/or branded for life as a pervert.

Men like Bill O’reilly are walking free. Roger Ailes had people looking the other way even though they knew what he was doing. Bill Cosby couldn’t get convicted even though he admitted he drugged women and then raped them when they were unconscious.

But the woman in this video, who was underage herself had sex with an underage boy, who wanted to have sex with her, has had her life ruined by his mother. What happened to him, I wonder? Was he charged with anything or was only she punished for the rest of her life?

Neither of them should have been punished with a felony. Maybe it was the parent’s fault for not teaching their children responsible behavior. This is a law that needs changing. The punishment does not fit the crime. There are real sexual predators, and their are people like this woman and my friend’s son. There is no fairness in our justice system.

Is this boy’s mother in the video proud of what she did? Teenagers are horny. Their hormones are kicking in. Did anyone get hurt? My 41 year old son told me he lost his virginity when he was 12 to a much older girl. Would I have pressed charges had I known? No. We would have had a serious talk about pregnancy and STDs. Kids will have sex whether we like it or not. I had sex with my 16 yr old boyfriend when I was 16. My parents found out. It was awhile before they let us be alone when he came over, but it didn’t stop us outside the house. She they have had him arrested? Or should I have been arrested?  Why should any of these kids been arrested?

What part of society is served when this can’t get a good job or raise her children the best way for them? Who does it hurt if she can’t even take them to a park or take a trip and go out of state? Is she a danger to children? I’m surprised they let her be a mother and didn’t take her children away and adopt them out to more “suitable” parents. But CPS is a subject for another day.

Please share this video with your own contacts. When you can, take a stand.

 

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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

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Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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SkunkRadioLive . . . Indie radio station out of London playing music composed for  the book being written for Jamie.  If you can, help support by sharing the music and leaving a comment or following. Thank you to those who have. It will all help Jamie in the end when he gets out of prison. I’m trying to create avenues of income because getting a job after prison without even a GED is nearly impossible. The more people know about these projects I’m working on the more people there will be to buy the book and the music – and in general be there for emotional support. Knowing people care makes a big difference.

I’m going to Texas in a couple days to hopefully have three visits with him, the first visit in a year. We will talk about the book and tie the chapters together with information that is hard for him to write in letters. Then I will finish pounding out this revision, send it to an editor and see what needs to be re written. The process of writing a book is more than I ever realized at first, but I want it done right. To do that – I work on getting to know people who care. Some have a loved one or friend in prison, too. This is why I constantly tell people about ITFO News and ask them to subscribe. They get to follow the progress and often share an issue.  Reach issue focuses on a different prison issue. The last issue was seen by over 2500 people.

I had a book give-away my last issue, of ten signed copies titled “Waiting on the Outside” by Sharron Grodzinsky. I will be contacting those people for their physical addresses very soon. You can also purchase the book at Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

Make Ban the Box Better

This is so important – everywhere. When someone completes their time their sentence should be over – OVER! When you take into account that many are completing mandatory minimums the judge – who should be able to also determine the length of the sentence but can’t because his discretion has been taken away and all offenders must get the same sentence. So many prisoners were sentenced unfairly. Also, black community and poor neighborhoods have been unfairly targeted and can’t afford a private attorney and are forced into taking plea deals whether they are guilty or not. Because the prisons have an unfair percentage of black inmates to white inmates with a quickly rising Hispanic population anyone with half a brain can figure out the profit motivation being pushed by the prison corporations who are fighting to keep the mandatory minimum sentencing. It makes for a very profitable return on an investment for all shareholders. I would wager most shareholders are in the rich white category who want to keep the poor peons locked up because of the financial. Of course removing “ban the box” might allow more ex-felons get a job and get their lives together – instead of doing something illegal in order to eat.

This is but one thing that needs to happen to allow men and women re- entering society to have a chance to have a successful. It doesn’t really matter if they were guilty or not guilty, because we sure do have a lot of people in society who are guilty of something but never got caught, myself included. If they are free they shouldn’t need to keep telling people that in their past, 5-10-15-30 years ago they made a mistake and have to reiterate those facts of an earlier time in their lives. They already paid their dues.

How Solid is Your Rock?

This year we had an example of what happens when we fight against wrong, and win. The people who have been marginalized for centuries after we took their land from them and then pushed them onto tiny patches of land and continued to strangle them as though their lives were worth nothing. They stood up and showed us what the word courage meant. Their intention was not meant to teach us that, they had decided they were not going to let the bullies in this country tell them once again it didn’t matter what they thought; they couldn’t have a say so about the land given to them in treaty if it went against what the bully wanted.

What a proud, strong name – Standing Rock. How appropriate. How unmovable. It was sheer will against sheer will.

“We are going to make you move,” the bully said. “We don’t care if we ruin your lives. We are going to put that pipeline under your water. We are bigger and more powerful and you can’t stop us!”

“This rock stands. It is solid,” The Americans, the true Americans said. “We will not fight you. We bring no weapons. We come in peace but you will not dig up our land to increase your profit. You have raped this land for too long.” The bully isn’t used to not getting it’s way. Other bullies, including our new president have invested much money in this pipeline, in the destruction of our earth and by God they were going to get their way – except they didn’t.

I’m sure the bullies are dreaming up other ways to force the Indians to do their bidding. Who are they, after all, to stop them? They have always won, until now.

The bullies in the land, the wealthy corporations, who can never have enough money and power, disguised their motive in the beginning as being for the good of the people. There is no need to pretend any more. They intend to take what they want and destroy the lives of anyone who gets in their way!

I wanted so much to see the American Indians win but deep in my heart I didn’t see how they could – but they did!

My heart swelled with joy and admiration. All they did was stand there, immovable, and thousands of people came and cheered for them, joining in solidarity. They faced off the bullies. One side with weapons and the Indians with peace. This was important enough to lay their lives down if they had to.

The call came in. The bullies were backing down. Today, while reading I learned something new. Originally, the pipeline was to be put in close to the town of Bismark. They said no! You can’t put it here. You might destroy our water! After thinking a about it they decided instead to put it through the protected land of American Indians, the only true Americans in this country. Bismark won, too, but they suffered no casualties. You see, Bismark is 92% white. The bullies would never have attacked them with guns and other means of hurting people. Bismark was filled with the chosen race, the pure race, the white race. The Indians were expendable.

(update 12/29: I found out with further research that the info I read on Bismark was misleading and was never viable as an option. My apologies for not double checking my resource)

This gave me so much hope and encouragement. It showed me what having faith in one’s convictions really was. For years I have been trying to help change what the bullies do to millions of people who are often innocent of crimes yet get caught in the money making teeth of the Prison Industrial Complex. Guilty or not guilty doesn’t matter. They just need people to make them money. They are forced to work for pennies if they pay them at all. Companies bid on slave labor to make their products. They twist the minds of people through PR until they say, “Let the notion of slavery rest. Why do you always call it slavery?” But if they were forced to work in often very poor conditions, ignoring medical issues, fed slop only fit for pigs and then use their pennies to buy hygiene and cannot use it to help their families, then slavery is exactly what it is. Many are sexually assaulted. Men and women and often by guards.

They twist the minds of people through PR until they say, “Let the notion of slavery rest. Why do you always call it slavery?” But if they were forced to work in often very poor conditions, ignoring medical issues, fed slop only fit for pigs and then use their pennies to buy hygiene and cannot use it to help their families, then slavery is exactly what it is. Many are sexually assaulted. Men and women and often by guards.There are many groups of people across the country and around the world who are fighting to help the men, women and children who are caught in this hell. We fight for sentences to be reasonable and for the non guilty to be freed.  We do not want anyone to be forced in a plea deal out of fear because they are told if the choose to go to court they will add charges so they will never get out. 

White people, black and brown people who commit the same crime should get the same sentence. Parole should fair, and people granted more than a few minutes on a video screen to plea their case while the parole board looks at the next case.

Prison corporations need to go. Education and rehabilitation need to be there so when they are introduced back to society they have a chance of survival instead of being forced to do something illegal so they have enough money to buy food.

prison labor

There are millions of people inside prisons working hard so you can buy the products made for the companies that bid on prison labor. You have no idea if it is made by an inmate who had no choice but to work for for pennies an hour. There are three times that many people affected on the outside as well, and many on probation and parole who can’t find places to life or get a job. Slowly it is changing because people like me,  are working to educate people that prison is nothing like what they watch on TV.

There will be a stand-off coming where people are going to have to choose whether they want their lives ruled by corporate profits. Starting in 2017, for the first time, we will have a government run by the very corporations we railed against. I don’t have to list these corporations. Read the news at Common Dreams, Alternet, Truth Out and others that actually print the truth and not what they are paid to print. Verify at more than one site before you believe anything, the mistake I made earlier in this article. Open your mind and learn the truth. I have no time to fill my mind with the things they want us to believe. Some people are gullible and believe something because they want to and it has no bearing in truth.

The wrong people are changing our country in the wrong way. It’s time we stand up and fight for each other and with each other instead of fighting against each other for our destruction. Make your life count for something. That is the legacy you leave behind.

Idalee – When Do We Heal?

dance-628733_960_720

Earlier in the year I found this artist, Idalee, on SoundCloud and put his music on my list, and then forgot about it. I listened to it again today and did a more in-depth search on him. I related to it more than I realized. Music has been part of my life since the 2nd grade. I always knew, without a doubt, it was who I am. Like him, Iso had an affinity for drugs and it almost managed to kill me like it almost killed him. I don’t know where it came from.

Why did I want to do drugs? Because I was scared of people, and because I knew there was no reason why anyone would want to be around me. I had no self worth, no confidence. My inferiority complex was deep. Drugs helped me pretend I was stronger – more outgoing – likeable. I came out of my shell and could be the person I wanted to be. But I was young and stupid and thought nothing bad would happen to me – as most youth do.

So this song – When Do We Heal? – has to begin with knowing we deserve to heal. And that healing has to be spread to others – without being judgemental. Everyone has their own healing. No one is born perfect.

I started healing in 1988, when I was 34, when I started studying Nichiren Buddhism. I needed to study my life. Why did I feel the way I did about my life? What was my purpose? How do I change the parts of myself that needed changing? I absolutely do not believe in a God “out there” that plans our life and loves me,too. Healing is up to me. I can’t all something else to do it for me. That is my choice and I don’t think people should follow my choice nor should they try to choose for me our tell me I’m wrong.

Over these years of study I began to understand where my music comes from and my purpose to create. The older I get, the stronger the need to express myself with music becomes. It has the power to aid in healing. To put these feelings into a solid form and then hear it back and never even remember playing it, is awesome. I just close my eyes and it comes out of’fingers. I feel the pain of others. It overwhelms me. I cry. Any deep emotion – happy, sad or anger makes me cry.

My music led me to the prisons. It was a place full of broken people, many with no one to care. I understand that sometimes good people screw up big time, but that doesn’t mean they are worthless. There are many reasons why people end up inside and why some don’t. Beginning my journey, ten years ago into understanding the people in our prisons and the torture they are given to demean them until they are broken is so wrong. This knowledge gave my music a purpose. Instead of writing music to become the next Stevie Nick’s, as I was told, I learned that reason never works.

I now write for people. I give my music as gifts. It is the most I have to give of myself. The older I get the more it means. It doesn’t have to be loved by the masses. It needs to only affect one person, hopefully in a positive way. Below the video I am going to add a recent piece I’ve published before. It catches in my throat because it says exactly what I mean. “Picking Up Broken Pieces”

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About Idalee

Heal: An in-prison music video by Idalee In honor of Prison Fellowship’s 40th anniversary, singer-songwriter Idalee has gifted us his new song called “Heal.” It’s a song about #grace and #secondchances. It begs the question, #whendoweheal? Prison Fellowship partnered with Idalee to take the song into prison, where he performed “Heal” with a band of incarcerated men. The result was this amazing music video/documentary. Take a look and SHARE it with your friends. Then head over to idalee.com/heal to grab your free download of the song! Posted by Prison Fellowship on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

WHY I EVEN CARE ABOUT PRISONERS

It’s become pretty common knowledge that American prisons are overcrowded, over-criminalization locks away too many people, and mandatory minimum sentences are setting our culture back. They’re big problems and there are more than a few opinions on how to change this. I’m not really gonna talk about that now. Through performing music in prison and shooting video with inmates all over the country, I’ve really cared most about a true second chance afforded to those men and women released back to society – which is over 90% of incarcerated people. I care about them getting help on the inside and a fair enough playing field for them to get to work when they get out. I didn’t go to prison myself. Could have. Easily. But I didn’t. But I’m aware that there was only one variance between what I did – I’d be there too. Regardless – I feel like I got a second chance at music after the accident. I got a second chance to do what I wanted to do with my life – to contribute – to create. For those who TRULY work for a second chance – I want them to get it.

Juvenile Detention Ruins Minors For Life

Source: Michael Korchia on Flickr

The youth are our greatest commodity. We have left them a crappy world to live in because of the greed of certain corporations. It will be up to them to fix the problems we created. But all children are not created equally. Not all children have the good fortune to be born in good neighborhoods or go to good school in districts that have effective teachers. Which of these teachers are willing to teach kids who are raised in poverty with all the effects that come with it? The NRA has an agenda that insists everyone has a right to carry a gun. Teachers should carry. Students at universities should carry. They want everyone to carry a gun.  Everyone means everyone. In some neighborhoods that means kids won’t survive very long because they all carry guns.  More guns does not fix a gun problem.  Where does it stop? How does it stop?

Most of these youths don’t come from stable homes with two parents, or even one parent.  Many are in foster homes. Kids don’t ask to be born into violence, and they have no one to teach them a better way of life.  They certainly don’t see a better way of life around them. The easiest way to deal with these children is for us to lock them up and throw away the key. They become the next batch of adult inmates the corporations use as money makers. The justice system doesn’t have enough help to deal with these kids. One probation officer may have up to 200 kids to monitor. How is that possible? It isn’t, so the kids become fodder. They slip through the cracks. There is no easy answer. But the bottom line is – these kids are people. They weren’t “born bad”. They were born without someone to give a shit. My question to you is: What are You going to do to help? I read what people say on facebook, when they shoot off their mouths about how fetus is a baby, even if it is only a 24 hour old clump of cells and that “baby” has a right to be born! That baby has the right to have a life, too, don’t you think? Or do you think, BFD, it’s not my problem. If you are going to take the time to adamantly, and even violently, vocalize your opinion that this baby has to be born, because that is what God wants, then you should also be prepared to do something to make sure this baby has a decent chance at a good life. You shouldn’t want one without the other. Not your problem? Did these kids deserve a chance the moment they were born? How does the overcrowding of prisons – paid for with your taxes – ever change if we don’t do something.

We hear, “Let’s Make America Great Again!” Fancy words that have absolutely no meaning if everyone waits around for someone else to do something. What’s the plan? All I hear are words and campaign hype. What are you going to do to help this country? Many people are all talk and no action. If we don’t raise the youth to be better, then nothing changes and we continue to implode.

Those who declare every baby has the “Right to Life”, should be saying, “Every baby has the right to have a good life.” We can’t  insist people have to be born just for the sake of being born. There needs to be an agenda going with it which enables unwanted children to at least have a chance to be something other than profit for prison corporations. But there are no programs to enable children to have that.  Most of the budget for this country goes into the military, instead of going into quality of life for the people.  We all complain about the things our government doesn’t do for us.  Us – means everyone. If all people do is complain, it never fixes anything.

I’ve heard people say, “No one made these kids commit a crime. They had a choice. But they have no wisdom, and no one to teach them right from wrong. Neither did you, when you were a kid. For many, there is no one to teach them. No one checks their homework or even knows if they went to school that day.  The school to prison pipeline is a very real thing.  There is no one at home to feed them, or buy them clothing.   Many steal or sell drugs for these things.  No one encourages them. If you are someone who believes that every clump of impregnated cells deserves to live, yet you do NOTHING to actually help one of these children have a life, then your negativity about abortions is meaningless, because you don’t do anything to help . If all life is precious – it includes these kids, too, whether they come from your home town, or from the ghetto.

Once these kids go through juvenile detention, experiencing the same physical abuse, Young offender, kids in prison, juvenile incarcerationsexual abuse, lack of mental illness help, and little chance of an education, they will never have a life most of us would consider “Normal”.  Isn’t that a shame?  You fought so hard for them to be born.  If you care about the welfare of children, yet do nothing to help even one of them, then your opinion also means nothing. If you think they deserve to get life sentences because they had a life where no one showed them how life had value – “Get this broken child off the streets!”, then your opinion has no value. If you believe you are a compassionate person, yet have no compassion, what does that make you?

I know there are people who care. Maybe you want to do something, but don’t know what. If you are reading this online, then you can research options. You can write letters to organizations, or letters to editors. You can express yourself among your friends. You can befriend kids. You can stop assuming all black kids are thugs. You can volunteer at a school. You can help with homework. There is so much you can do. If you have a positive effect on the life of even one child, the ripple effect can spread to many others. Stop complaining about crime and start doing something to help change it.

kids in handcuff
photo source: bordc.org

When they were taken to juvenile court no one cared. Many were moved from one abusive foster parent to another. When they started doing petty crimes no one cared. When they ended back in juvenile court, the courts were too swamped and probation officers never checked on them to see if they were in school. They were sent to home probation. No one cared.

The saddest casualties of this rush to throw as many people in prison as possible, are the children. Yes, children often do serious crimes. Many of these kids were thrown away.  They had abusive, neglectful, or addicted parents. Many were raised by the state and the only mentoring they got was from other, often young, people in the same shoes. These are ” at risk kids” with no wisdom, and no understanding of what they were doing to their lives and it doesn’t have to be that way. It is so sad. It rips my heart out.

Only their friends cared. Their barrio, their homies protected each other. They survived.  The courts often did nothing.  There was no time or resources to get these kids the help they needed. There are too many of them. The crime rate by children soared. Then one day the child finally did something really bad and this time they noticed. Now the court said,

“You are a horrible child, you’ve been in trouble for years. We told you to stay in school and you didn’t. You can’t be helped. We’re going to send you over to adult court, and they can deal with you.”  What a relief they felt.

22 States certify children as young as 7 to be tried in adult court. By now their lives are lost. They become habitual offenders. They know no other life. They have no idea what it feels like to being loved, cared for, and raised to be the best they can be. 70% of all foster children end up in prison, and female foster children are 600x more likely to have a baby they struggle to raise on their own, but now they have someone who loves them unconditionally.

What are we going to do about this?

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Sign up on the email list for the book “Inside The Forbidden Outside” currently being written about the troubled youth of Jamie Cummings that led to 17 years in prison of which he currently has 7 to go.  Learn how he turned his life around.  When he gets out, he wants to work with kids to teach them how not to do what he did.  It is so hard to reintegrate into society and have a good life.  Prejudice against ex-felons makes it hard to live.  Proceeds from this book will help him get started again.

There Are No Judges Here – And Some Things You Can’t Let Fly!

Medical treatment behind bars

Hello mom, October 7, 2015

I received your last two letters. It’s been a bumpy road for me and I’m doing what I can to control myself. However to tell you the truth I have developed a bad temper in this place. I try to control it but it gets the best of me. I win over it at times at keeping it under control, but I’m being provoked a lot – because of my temper. I’ve been trying hard to stay in control of myself. I’m going to stop going to chow just so I won’t have to interact in any way with the officers. I will eat in my cell. I’ve been in a few situations with officers to where I have written them up. It’s the route I’m taking so these people will see I am trying to handle things differently.

Thank you for the photos you sent of the boys. It put a smile on my face to know they were both doing something for a good cause. What is my son eating? He has gotten so big!

Jamie and his little brother Ben
Jamie with his little half brother Benjamin

I’m sure you’re wanting to know about my trip to the hospital again. I spoke to the doctor. I do have around my heart. They never did do the MRI. They did an EKG and an ultra sound. They took pictures of my heart. The doctor told me he was going to give me something for the inflammation, however I was told it wasn’t in the paperwork so I haven’t been getting anything. I spoke with the doctor here on the unit and he said I have another appointment at the hospital in two months. So sometime next month I’ll be going back. I’m okay so don’t worry. I just have these off and on chest pains. I’ll be fine so don’t worry yourself.

Prison food
Source:brokenchains.us
I got into a fight with a dude, an inmate. He works in the kitchen with food. My cell is right in front of the kitchen. I can watch them do everything. Well one day I watched him put his bare hands on all the cornbread. We had a verbal conflict. Then I said, “Man have to eat that. Don’t nobody want to eat nothing you’re putting your nasty hands on.” I called a Stg. She gets on him about it. Well this dude goes around telling everyone I snitched on him. But he didn’t tell everybody that he put his hands all over everybody’s food. He just said I was snitching. So I told him he’s playing a dirty game and I was ginning to beat his ass when I caught up with him. It just so happened we bumped into each other when I was coming back from the hospital. It’s nothin so don’t worry about it. I was just locked down for a few days. Sorry, but things like that you can’t let fly. If I did, I’d have more than a lot of problems come my way. (There are no judges here)

I have to get this in the mail now. They will pick up soon. Could you send me some books? Thank you.

Love you, Son

(Sonni’s note: One of the best reasons to deny parole are the cases that are filed against inmates for disciplinary reasons, even though it is the Guards who push and provoke the inmates into reacting – and they know it. It is a rare human being who can continually turn away and ignore someone who mistreats and humiliates you. Keeping an inmate in the lower levels of restriction also keeps him from education – another reason to deny parole. Institutionalizing a man severely lessons his chances from making it on the outside after he finishes his extremely long and abusive sentence. I’m not talking about the seriously sick criminal. I’m talking about the man who pushed through the system and sentenced beyond common sense and used as slave labor.

What do you do when necessary medication is kept from these inmates, when life sustaining medication is withheld for a higher profit margin. The prison system gets away with mistreatment. Even if an inmate or x-inmate manages to file suit against the prison staff, the court will do everything it can to keep the prison from having to take responsibility. At the most, maybe they will buy off the inmate. But it is rare that the abusers have to take responsibility. 

Inmates are in prison because it was deemed that their crime demanded that they be locked up, often for decades. Why? Because they are supposed to be a danger to society. Many are – but not all. We all know the reasons now for our over full racist prisons and how it came about. Only someone fairly ignorant would actually believe anymore that black men are more dangerous. That is the white man’s propaganda. So where is the punishment for the legal criminals? Do you think these guards, who abuse prisoners, and get a kick out of it, change into different, respectful, compassionate people who go home and play with their kids and have loving relationships with their wives and friends? Can they forget their abuse of another human being who often does not deserve what was done to him. Can they just go on as if they did nothing? Does it matter if they use the excuse that the officer above him condones what he did? No. It doesn’t. Ultimately he doesn’t get away with it. The law of cause and effect or you reap what you sow – whatever you call it – is strict. These guards are damaged goods. They are criminals and they think their actions are okay. They are a danger to society. They. Are. Sick. And they get no help because they aren’t held accountable for their actions. This is not every guard,  just like not every inmate is guilty or innocent. But there has been enough reported incidents of prison guard abuse and brutality to know it is a serious problem. It is not a guard’s job to abuse whenever they feel like it. When an inmate dies because of abuse it is to late to change it for him. These murders don’t seem to count. Inmates don’t seem to have viable lives. When they die from lack of medical care it is still murder. I have heard the public sarcastically proclaim that inmates get 3 squares a day and free medical, because they believe the propaganda the media puts out. We could stop that guard from sadistically abusing another man, and we could stop the prison from allowing it to happen – but we don’t.

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list