Recent Letter From Jamie

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How is Jamie doing?

Sometimes it is hard to tell. I know he wants to show me he is doing okay so I don’t worry, but I don’t know how would fare having to live in circumstances like his.  How would you feel if you were never told anything and if you were you’d have to question if it was a lie or if he was just being given bull shit. How many years have I been dong this?

I know in April he comes up for parole again and he wants to be optimistic but nothing encouraging has happened. He actually has an uncle who is a parole officer in Huntsville, but I don’t think he has been in touch with him. So let me tell you what Jamie wrote.

Before I begin, I want to post an earlier piece – in case you might have missed it.

Good evening to you,

. . . .It is good to know you are still so much into your music. Not many people follow their passion. I can’t wait to hear the pieces you have made for me. I’m very thankful, not just for the music but for everything.

I know how things are on the outside with how bad it has gotten for black people just going into businesses and living their lives and white people calling the cops on them for stupid reasons. It is us who should be afraid of them, not them be afraid of us. They are the ones who are trying to kill us every chance they get. I hear it on the radio and read it in the newspapers that float around here at times.

When and if I ever get parole I know my family was trying to decide where I’m going and my brother said he would, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think I should try to go to a half way house. My family doesn’t know me anymore and hasn’t wanted to know how I’m doing and I don’t to be told what I have to do or be pressured. They don’t understand and there is too much that could go wrong if I’m not in the right situation. I have to make decisions for myself.

Thanksgiving, since I moved prisons again was different. Well, everything was the same but the chicken patty shocked me. Would you call Allred Unit and ask when they are going to send my property? I don’t have anything. You mentioned sending books so if you could, having something to read would be really good. I’m not going anywhere.

I’ll be here at Hughes Unit until I finish this program. After that I don’t know. I told Jamie jr. to never start something he can’t finish. This program is based on life and goals in life. Ho to deal with stress and depression and how deal with interaction after being seg for so long. But I have talked with the group yet. My case worker comes to my door to check up on me and talks to me about short term goals and long term goals. That is all I have done for four weeks now. There are four phases to the program and each phase is seven weeks long.

I can’t wait to hear back from you. It’s late so I better wrap this up. My love goes out to you like always.

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As hard as this has been for him, and I have been there through some pretty bad times and he through mine. I can only hope that having me there has helped him cope and gain wisdom about ho to deal with his life. But ultimately it has been responsibility to carry on with a positive attitude. I think he is doing that.

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Life in Adseg

 

prison letters,inmate letters,ad seg,level G4
A letter from 2010. For years he called me Mom. He needed one. His bio mom doesn’t write to him.

I’d like to bring you up to date about Jamie’s life in adseg. I’ve written a lot that is going into my book but after 2016 it will be in the sequel. That will be about the last years and the process of getting out and re-entry into society with all its ups and downs. This post will have parts of a recent letter I received. He wrote quite a bit about how certain things got done inside. Things we take for granted.

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Dear Sonni,

I hope all is well for you. Thank you for everything you do and the encouragement you give me. Someday I will be able to hear the music you write. You write with such passion. I can tell by the way you write about it and all the work you have done to tell my story.

I had my meeting about getting out of adseg. I knew the minute I walked into the meeting that I was screwed,, I had met with this officer before. Even though I was told at the last meeting they’d let me out next time I knew it wasn’t happening. He told me I was a danger to general population, although I don’t know how they figure that. But you’d be proud of me. I didn’t react. I wouldn’t give him that. I won’t let them break me. That’s what they want. I want you to know I’m okay. I signed up for a program. I don’t know if they’ll except me. If they do they’ll move me to another prison.

I was lucky to be able to call you. I can make a call now every three months. I didn’t know it would cost so much, $20 for ten minutes. I have to call collect. When I get out of adseg you can put money in my account and I can buy minutes. That might be cheaper.

I’m glad to hear you’re still walking. I’m in such a small area it’s hard to move or workout. Trying to workout in the dayroom is crazy cause dudes will watch. Crazy thing about that – it is only two things they are looking at. I don’t have to tell you what it is. Keep walking okay.

You asked me how we play chess. Our chess boards are numbered 1 to 64. We call out numbers and the piece and move pieces on both sides of the board to keep up with each other’s moves.

When I’m in the dayroom I like to help passing stuff, like kites, which are little messages, or books and commissary. A lot of the stuff will go under the cell doors or the rat hole which is a hole about the size of an apple in the back of the door. We can push commissary out of it.

The day rooms are right next to each other so we can stick our arms out and hand each other stuff. When we’re in our cells we use what we call a fishing line. We pull threads out of sheets or waist bands of clothes, then put mashed up soap into a used meat pack or toothpaste tube to give it weight. We tie the line to the soap, and slide it out under the door across the floor, over another line. We attach a staple so when it crosses another line it catches it. Then you pull that line toward you with what they are sending across.

Sometimes the officers will help pass stuff like books and magazines, usually when they don’t feel like doing other work, so we have to make a deal like give up rec or a shower or both.

You asked about fires in a prison and if we had smoke detectors. There is nothing to tell us if a fire and no fire extinguishers. I’ve never seen one in any prison they sent more to. If there is a fire, often set by an inmate as a way to make a point an officer has to call it in over his radio.

Laundry – a lot of dudes don’t use the laundry. They buy new or wash their own. The laundry only has 3 big washers and they stuff them, really stuff them full and the clothes don’t get properly washed. They come out as dirty as they go in. Some dudes will wash your clothes in exchange for commissary. 

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If you don’t have anyone helping you with money or the ecomm box you can order every quarter you have to find some other way to get what you need. Commissary items are money in a prison. I send an eccom box every three months. I can send $60 of convenience store food and have it delivered, or I can split it between 3 months. The last quarter they raise it to $80 – the holiday box. There are some items that aren’t food. Select hygiene, paper, envelopes and pens. I buy him water, condiments, sardines, rice, ramen noodles, coffee, squeeze cheese, garlic sauce, things to doctor up the bland food, candy, cookies, chips. Nothing very healthy. They don’t have one can of vegetables on the list. 

I put money into his account to buy stamps ( also used as money) and buy other items he needs. I can’t send much so he uses it sparingly. This is why I have a post that comes up first if you log directly into the website that sells t – shirts with his face, a tote bag or you can send money to help me help him. I live on a disability check and help from my son. When my book is published hopefully that will change things. Until then I need your help.

Corporations that get a contract with the prison system that houses millions of people make a lot of money. The certainly don’t want prisons to close when people have no choice except to buy from them. But eating like this, if you have a long sentence, the lack of nutrition and diseases it causes ages them quickly, especially with a diet like this. When you add the poor medical care receive, that should be a crime in itself. 

People are punished and sentenced to prison. They don’t go to prison to BE punished. Everyone who has the capacity to make and change laws knows this. So why does this continue? That’s a good question.

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There is No Justice For Inmates

 

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No Justice For Inmates

This is a reprint of a post dated Feb 14, 2014

Four years ago. Four very long years. But at least they are past. Unless paroled, he has five to go.  I would like to be optimistic for him but the odds are not on his side. Not having a supportive family or a place to go provided, the book and music I am writing would need to be widely successful to make enough money to help him get started. Have you ever known when you just had to do something and it was the most important thing in your life to do? Everything you learned up to this point was so you could take care of that very thing? That is how I feel about my writing and my music or I could never spend the hours I do every day to do it.

The only thing that changed, is three years ago Jamie was moved from Wynne Unit in Huntsville to Allred Unit in Iowa Park. Both in Texas. He was physically abused and beat in Wynne Unit. They had put him in solitary for a bogus reason I won’t get into now. They took everything away from him including his mattress and he had staples in his head because they ran it into a wall. After talking to the warden, who told me the guards had filed thirteen sexual harassment cases against him, and his guards wouldn’t lie (choke), Jamie knew he needed to find a way to get transferred out of Wynne.

One step up from solitary confinement is Adseg. The added privilege is being taken to the commissary once a month. They had no open cells in G5 (which is another name for adseg) So he threatened a guard. It was the only way to get moved. I talked to Allred after he was moved because he didn’t get his property for a couple months. The woman I talked to said she understood he was moved for his safety and he will get his property when there are other inmates who need things moved, too. Some things were replaced with broken items or were missing entirely. Who was he going to complain to? Because he had to be moved, they said he would have to do one year in adseg – in a cell by himself where food is brought to you and it is rare to get out of your cell. Three years have gone by and he is still in adseg, always told twice a year he had to do another six months. In March there is another assessment. Will he get moved up?
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Mom,
They are starving us. I don’t know how they get away with this but they do. We can’t do anything about it. They put us all on lockdown again. Not because we did anything but because they want to toss our cells looking for weapons and drugs. One time they planted a weapon in my cell. They put a homemade knife on the sink. I was really surprised and mad when they “found” it. Even if I had made the knife, would I have been stupid enough to leave it out on the sink when I knew they were going to toss my cell looking for weapons? It had to be a guard. They try to get you in trouble and keep you down. It doesn’t matter if you are guilty of doing something in here, they will make sure you are guilty. It’s your word against theirs, and you can’t win.

We’re on our second week of lockdown. This is the hardest one I’ve gone through. By law they are supposed to feed you a hot meal every three days but they do what they want to anyone in a white suit, which is us. They are feeding us what they call a peanut butter sandwich which is a half spoon of peanut butter on bread. They only give us a half spoon because they are trying to stretch it out to last longer. It saves them money. They stretch it more by adding some really nasty soup or applesauce that makes me gag. But I have no choice. I have to eat it or I get nothing. I’ve heard that it costs $40,000 a year for each inmate, to keep us here. Where does the money go because it sure isn’t spent on us. Once in a while we get a meat sandwich or cornbread. Sometimes prunes or raisins. In the morning we get two biscuits with a half spoon of peanut butter or maybe two pancakes.

This system is built for the inmates to lose. If we think we’re being treated wrong by the officers and they write up a case against us ( make up a case against us is more like it ), they tell us to write up an appeal. First they take away any privileges, like going to the commissary or rec,for 30-45 days. Guess how long it takes for the answer to the appeal to come back? 30 days. It’s crazy. The appeal will always be denied, too. It’s all for nothing. I lose my comm privileges for nothing. I get punished because I appealed the false charges against me. I lose because I tried to stand up to the bullshit. There is no way around the system. All the officer has to do is lie and the next one will back it up or say he didn’t see anything.

But I know now there are effects for every cause that is made. All the good ones and all the bad ones. These guards in here don’t get away with the things they do. It’s written into their own lives. They will have to face the effects of so many lies. They don’t get away with the things they do to other human beings. They may get off treating us like dogs, but we aren’t dogs. They may talk to each other about the things they do to us and laugh, thinking they are getting away with it. But we are people. I will do my best to change the part of me that caused this to happen to my life. I will find a way to make a difference. I will become a better person. I will someday leave here a better person. I will have hope.

It’s a new year and I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble. I never try to make trouble. It’s always someone else who comes up to fight me. But no more fighting. Nothing. But when you don’t fight back then everyone feels they can run over you. But I’m not going to fight. I want to focus on coming home. I have to raise my level before they will consider me for parole. I’m level 3. I need to be level 1 before it’s even possible. Even then they could still turn me down. They well give me something called a set-off, which means I have to wait another five years before I can see the parole board again unless they want to bring me back up again. This system is built for our downfall. They don’t want us to survive in here. There is no justice for inmates at all.

 

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Wanna Trade Thanksgiving With Me?

HOLD.N.FF.JAILFOODWanna Trade Thanksgiving Dinner With Me?

Sonni, 

I got everything you sent to me. Thank you very much. I love those summer sausages and turkey bites you sent. Those were good. You asked me about the special diet I was on. It’s a low salt diet. It is another way they are messing with me by not bringing the right food. There are certain things we are allowed to request, like Jewish people asking for a kosher diet or diabetics requesting low sugar. It doesn’t mean they will do it.

There is too much salt in the regular diet of prison food and the salt will swell my legs and feet up. You may not believe me but I rinse a lot of my food off with water. Crazy, huh? The food I get on the special diet is baked. Everything. There is no getting around being fed pork unless I requested pork-free. Then they will give me two slices of cheese, a spoon of shredded cheese or a spoon of peanut butter. The main course will be beans – all the time.

Happy Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is out and the sky is filled with puffy white clouds. It’s a beautiful day all the way around. I want to fill you in on how Thanksgiving was. Well, as far as the food anyway. For starters we get the same thing every year. We are given two trays for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. We get chicken or BBQ on MLK Day and Spanish food on May 5th.

Anyway, Thanksgiving we get a hot tray and and cold tray. On the hot tray there was a ham roll, dressing with brown gravy, sweet potato, green beans and two cheese biscuits. On the cold tray was four different kinds of dessert – two oatmeal cookies, pumpkin pie, carrot cake and what they call a peach empanada. Then there was something that was supposed to be coleslaw, but it was nowhere near it. Pickles and jalapeno pepper slices. They usually give olives and onions but not this year. Last but not least was the coldest, driest piece of sliced turkey I ever ate – or tried to eat. I ate half. I was scared to eat the other half. It was BLACK. It had a piece of sliced cheese over it, I guess to hide it. I pulled the cheese off and cut around it.

Tell me about your Thanksgiving. What was cooked? You said Mike does the cooking for this meal so you can just relax and be waited on. You deserve it. I know you stress yourself with everything you are doing. Have patience. Everything takes time. I know it seemed like we got a lot of food, but getting enough to eat only a couple times a year doesn’t make up for the rest of the meals. Even though it is supposed to be a hot tray and a cold tray, everything is cold. Those that can go to chow get hot food. When they let me out of adseg hopefully in March I will be able to go to chow for my meals.

Thank you for the food box and money you sent through Texas Eccom. It’s good to have something different to eat that tastes good, especially when the food is really bad. I’m lucky. I love you for that. You didn’t cut out on me in all these years ago like my family did. So many men don’t have anyone, especially those who have been here a long time.
I better get this ready to send because they will be picking up soon.

Love, Jamie

 

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Prison Torture Never Ends

Heat in Texas prisons, no AC in prison in the summer
Wynne Unit, the prison Jamie is in. These fans are the only cooling system even when it is over 100 degrees. Since there are no open windows all it does is blow hot air around. Credit source: beaumontenterprises.compip

Jamie has been at the Allred unit in Texas for nearly three years. Before that, Wynne Unit. How much is an inmate supposed to tolerate from staff and guards? They can do anything they want to them and there is nothing an inmate can do. Why is that? Everyone knows it. Anyone with the power to stop it – doesn’t. They can file a grievance but the system is not set up where the inmate wins. When the medical unit and staff knowing screw around with someone’s health, aware of the consequences to the inmate, I wonder if they stand around and laugh about it in the break room? They push inmates to break them and so often succeed. Here is what is happening . . .

I received a letter from Jamie yesterday. He is close to getting out of adseg – administrative segregation – a fancy word for solitary. Locked up in a cell 23/7, except for Jamie it’s 24/7 because he’s trying to stay away from the guards by refusing showers and rec. He bathes using the sink. He knew they’d try to press his buttons to keep him down. He’s had no write ups in a long time.

He wrote to me that the nurse is refusing to give him his seizure medication for epilepsy. At his point of writing it had been three days. He keeps asking her for it and she refuses to bring it. Have you ever watched someone have a grand mal seizure? The prison won’t give him the medication that works best for him. I already went rounds with the medical unit over that and they wouldn’t budge. So he still has more seizures than he should. But not taking anything, and as any protection leaves his body it will induce more. Add to that the terrible heart in a closed cell with no ventilation makes me angry.

Guards work three 12 hour shifts. One of the guards put his hands in his food just to try to make Jamie angry so he could retaliate and write him up. He won’t eat now if this guard is on shift. He only eats breakfast, which is pitiful, but not lunch or dinner when this guard works. He’s close to losing it. I could feel it. I wrote to him today to turn away. Don’t let them take away your chance of getting out of adseg. He can’t study for his GED until he is classified G2. First he has to get to G4. This process could easily take another 1-2 years. At G4 he can leave his cell for chow and limited time in TV rec room. He’s been this route before. They can, and do, take it away in a heart beat and it takes years to climb back out. He’s had 11 years of this. If seems deliberate. The guards get a perverse pleasure from abusing people with permission. Jamie has been in adseg this time for almost 3 years because he needed to move prisons because of physical abuse that included beatings by guards at the Wynne Unit. They moved him – and gave him 3 years of adseg to go with it.

I also bought him food today. It’s like gas station convenience food. Not even one can of vegetables on the list. Snacks. But also tuna, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sardines, coffee, Raman noodles and such. They only allow someone on the outside to purchase $20 a month or $60 a quarter. But I wasn’t due to buy him more until Oct. I sent it to another man, probably next to him, who doesn’t have anyone helping him. He’ll probably pay him in food. They go on lockdown soon – for 30 days – every 90 days. They cut food rations so without extra food and that guard who’s messing with his food he’d get hungry. There are so many inmates with no one on the outside. It’s easy to see why so many don’t make it when they get out

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Most of you who follow this blog know I put out a monthly newsletter called  ITFO NEWS. Each month I focus on a different prison issue. The one being published at the end of the week is on Incarcerating The Innocent. It’s an important topic because many lives are ruined even when there is no solid evidence to convict them. I’m having a book give-away this month. Each new person who wants to try ITFO NEWS can enter their name and email address HERE and have a chance of winning a signed copy (or ebook if you prefer) of “Waiting on the Outside” by Sharron Grodzinsky. If your name is randomly pulled by Sharron, you’ll receive one of ten free copies, shipped free. 

GRODZINSKY_Waiting 3D book_SMALL

This book is timely for what is happening today. It is a true story of a young man still in prison today who got involved in the KKK as a teenager, attracted to craziness, violence a drugs and couldn’t find away out. Young people are easily swayed. You need only to look at pictures in our media to see who the recruits are. Any mother who has lived with the fear of raising an out of control teenager will find this book hard to put down. Did it start when he was a child? This story shows you what unconditional love is. Will he make it now when he gets out? Will the KKK let him go? 

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Core Civic – CCA – Their truth, My Truth

This is one of the major players in in the prison business. It doesn’t matter what they try to make the public believe, I know, and anyone who has been in one of their prisons or has a loved one inside knows the truth.  But here are a few things CCA has to say about themselves taken from there main website. I know this is long and I copied only a portion.  I think it is important for people to understand who these are and how these use people to make money.  Now adding new prisons for immigrants has them excited – literally.  He goes:

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fox2news

“We recognize the inherent dignity of the human person and the need to treat every individual with respect. As we have since our inception, we share the responsibility of our government partners when they entrust individuals to our care.”

CCA founded the private corrections management industry three decades ago, establishing industry standards for future-focused, forward-thinking correctional solutions. A commitment to innovation, efficiency, cost effectiveness and achievement has made the company the partnership corrections provider of choice for federal, state and local agencies since 1983. (This video was made in 2009 so when it is said they have 35 facilities is wrong. They have many more)

As a full-service corrections management provider, we specialize in the design, construction, expansion and management of prisons, jails and detention facilities, along with residential reentry services, as well as inmate transportation services through its subsidiary company TransCor America. We are the fifth-largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states. CCA houses nearly 70,000 inmates in more than 70 facilities, the majority of which are company-owned, with a total bed capacity of more than 80,000. CCA currently partners with all three federal corrections agencies (The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement), many states and local municipalities.

Since our inception, CCA has maintained its market leadership position in private corrections, managing more than 40 percent of all adult-secure beds under contract with such providers in the United States. The company joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1994 and now trades under the ticker symbol CXW.

Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, CCA employs more than 13,000 professionals nationwide in security, academic and vocational education, health services, inmate programs, facility maintenance, human resources, management and administration. We are proud of the distinctions of having been named among “America’s Best Big Companies” by Forbes magazine and ranked number one in the publication’s “Business Services and Supplies” category and having been consistently named by G.I. Jobs magazine as a “Top Military-Friendly Employer.”  Being a part of the community also provides valuable economic benefits to our partners by paying property, sales and other taxes, and providing a stable employment base that focuses on building careers with unlimited growth and development opportunities. As a strong corporate citizen, recognized by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine, CCA contributes generously to host communities through volunteerism and charitable giving.

We offer offenders a variety of dynamic evidence-based reentry and rehabilitation programs, including education, addictions treatment, GED preparation and testing, post-secondary studies, life skills, employment training, recreational options, faith-based services and work opportunities. (For 11 years Jamie has not been able to study for his GED and I got him a fourth book and dictionary because somehow they disappeared)

As an enhanced focus on reentry, CCA’s community corrections facilities, specializing in providing work furlough, housing and rehabilitation in residential reentry centers. Our work is grounded in providing hope, direction and the best possible opportunity and environment for offenders within the communities we serve. We offer government agencies responsive, innovative and cost-effective solutions for offenders, including a variety of rehabilitation and education programs, including substance abuse treatment using the cognitive behavioral approach, a specialized women’s program, onsite Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous meetings, life skills lessons, employment readiness, cultural diversity workshops, release planning and assistance in re-establishing family ties.

Protecting Those in Our Care

As stated in our Human Rights Policy statement, CCA recognizes the inherent dignity of the human person and the need to treat every individual with respect. Part of treating our inmates and detainees with respect is giving them a safe place to live. We believe in safeguarding their rights, including protecting them from being subjected to personal abuse/injury and harassment. (wow, that is a lie)

Zero Tolerance Policy

In compliance with Section 115.11 of the PREA regulation, CCA has established a Zero Tolerance Policy against all forms of Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment. CCA has outlined an aggressive plan specifying the efforts we undertake to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to all allegations of conduct that falls into either category.

(If you have a prison of all men – and all women there is still going to be sex whether the other inmate likes it or not. Also, Jamie is a good looking black man and female guards proposition him for sex.  I say try, because he knows these women are having sex with other men who have had sex with men and the rate of AIDS and Hep C and other sexually transmitted diseases are high.)

Inmate Wellness

CCA Corrections provides inmates and detainees with the opportunity to pause and assess their lifestyles. For many, incarceration marks the first time in their adult lives when they will have seen a medical professional or received a regular and balanced diet. At CCA, we are proud to offer life-changing services that will enable men and women to find healthy paths toward wellness. We do this through a wide array of options, including:  (excuse me while I pause and go throw up)

Nutrition Services

Mealtime is very important in our everyday lives. Food is known as such an important aspect of correctional operations that it is often directly tied to inmate behavior and morale. Not only do breakfast, lunch and dinner help provide daily structure and routines, they also have an impact on overall health and wellness.

Nutrition service is a vital aspect of CCA operations. Guided by our individual government partners, CCA takes great care to offers meals that support specialized diets and cultural preferences, while conforming to rigorous nutritional guidelines. Our team of culinary experts relies on a library of nearly 700 recipes to meet the dietary needs of those in our care. All meals provided at CCA facilities are reviewed and approved by registered dietitians. On a daily basis, we provide meals that support religious diets and more than a dozen therapeutic diets. In fact, seven percent of those is our care receive specialized therapeutic diets that serve to support wellness for a wide array of medical conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, pregnancy, and autoimmune diseases.

We take pride in our food service. In partnership with our partners, we maintain the highest standards, ensuring compliance with local health departments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the American Correctional Association. Additionally, all of our kitchen managers are trained and certified by ServSafe.

For many, incarceration serves as a much-needed opportunity to receive consistent access to quality nutrition services. When people have access to sufficient food, they are able to make better choices, increase learning abilities, and combat various health issues. Through something as fundamental as food, we are able to help guide inmates down a path toward health and wellness, both while in our care and after their release. 

Health Care

All too often, for many offenders, the first time they receive comprehensive health care is upon becoming incarcerated.

Upon intake at a CCA facility, inmates are screened so that our medical professionals may manage existing concerns and address any new diagnoses. A typical CCA facility has a medical unit where physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and medical assistants can provide routine check-ups, manage sick calls and address non-emergency needs. Our correctional health care facilities typically include a dental clinic, too.

For offenders who experience mental health problems, from emotional conflict to mental illness, we have a team of qualified mental health professionals to assist them with their needs. Offenders are screened upon arrival at each facility, and if needed, they’re referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health specialist for follow-up evaluation and intervention.  We provide treatment in the form of medication, when needed, as well as group and individual counseling. All CCA staff receive training in the identification of mental health crises, and they refer offenders to the professional staff whenever they suspect someone is experiencing a problem. We constantly monitor the offender population for signs of declining mental health and suicide risk, working actively to assist a troubled offender in his or her time of need.

Our correctional health care teams are supported by a regional network of medical professionals across the country and are led by a talented team at the company’s headquarters. Additionally, CCA facilities leverage medical technology to securely automate medical records, scheduling, medication administration, pill call and pharmacy services.  (Fucking liars, pardon my French. They also erase files of illness they don’t want to treat and pretend it doesn’t exist.  They won’t give Jamie the seizure medication that works for him and give him something else.  it’s probably cheaper. I have talked to the drs and nurses and staff and everyone plays dumb – with a smile.)

Quality

CCA has a strong commitment to providing quality corrections services, working hard to live up to our own high standards as well as explicit guidelines, detailed requirements and rigorous oversight of government partners. The American Correctional Association, the independent gold standard for corrections management, has accredited more than 90 percent of CCA’s correctional facilities. These facilities have been rated on more than 500 standards in administrative and fiscal controls, staff training and development, physical plant, safety and emergency procedures, sanitation, food service, and rules and discipline. CCA also meets the standards of the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, the nation’s leading organization in ensuring quality health services inprisons, jails and detention facilities.

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(There is more but that is ALL I can stomach.  Seriously it makes me ill to know the things that have gone in the prisons Jamie has been in, the quality of the food; inmates cook it not big time professional chefs serving up delectable and nutritious meals. This is why I send him a $60 food box every 3 months.  That is the limit. He goes to the commissary once a month – if they aren’t on lockdown which is every three months and then they cut the food portions. If you made it to the end of this I heartily congratulate you. Now you know a little bit more of what they promote to stockholders in their profitable business venture. All of my notes are in this color.  Complete credit for the rest of the bullshit belongs wholeheartedly to CCA.)

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Thanksgiving in The Privacy of Prison

To begin this post, I’ve been out of commission this month and had surgery to make me a bionic woman! I have a healing brand new titanium shoulder, or rather the ball on the top of the arm bone that goes into the shoulder joint, and a great deal of metal holding my elbow together. Very painful process.Thank goodness it wasn’t my dominant arm, although typing with one finger on my Nook is rather frustrating. I’ve slowly been catching up with myself and my blogs and all else with life. Yesterday I wrote the post below as I gather my recent letters from Jamie for my next post. He really is an amazing man, fighting to keep his sanity together while living in the bowels of the prison where they keep the mentally insane and the ones they have driven insane. But he is fighting to survive. I wonder if I would have made it if I had been through the abuse he’s taken. I do know he would not have made it alone. People need people. No one deserves what they have done to him and many others. Fighting the corporate profit machine will never get easy. People know it is happening but there aren’t many who try to do anything about it. I understand. At least pass on information and help educate others.

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Thanksgiving

Twice a year inmates are fed better. Maybe not the dinner you’d feed your family, but it’s better. More food. I remember one year Jamie was offered a second meal if he agreed to not be taken down for his shower. He said it was the first time in a long time he felt full.The prison he is at now raises pigs so the serve a lot of pork – undercooked, pink and rubbery. He won’t eat it.

prison

No one likes confinement or solitude. Sitting alone during holidays is probably the hardest. Not being remembered during holidays, birthdays and Father’s Day is the worst.  Experiencing it endlessly for years makesyou doubt your value to your family. I understand how that feels and I can see it in the mood of his handwriting.

When we, on the outside go down and we find ourselves confined, it is usually illness or other medical conditions that put us down. It is bearable when we have someone in our lives who loves us and is willing to do our bidding we still hate to lose our precious  freedom and have to ask someone to help us. We get bored and usually glad to be up and around. We usually know our confinement has a finite end. It could be days, weeks, months or possibly years depending on how fast we mend. Sometimes the situation is permanent, but if we aren’t alone we can often find a way to rework our lives so we feel we have purpose. We haven’t lost everything. We have hope. At least most of us do. I’ve been confined to bed for 1 1/2 months because my arm needs to heal right. Lately I’ve carefully gotten up with my husband’s assistance. I walked around the livingroom and sat at the piano for a few minutes and played with my good arm. I’m ready for the confinement to be over. 

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It is easy to tell someone else, “I understand,” even when you have absolutely no idea what you do and don’t understand about being imprisoned, no matter how much you want to. But those of us who have a heart – we try. We want to understand. We bring all the hurt inside and try to hold it for awhile to ease another’s pain.

For almost eleven years now I’ve been writing to Jamie and visiting when at all possible; not as often as I wish I could, but my money is scarce while making ends meet on a disability check. I live in fear of a car repair on my well worn, somewhat banged up fifteen year old Mitzubishi. It can be a tough road when illness takes you from making money and owning a business to being one of “them”, the lazy welfare queens the Republicans say don’t want to work and would rather suck off government benefits than make my own money, so I can buy new tires, fix the heater in my car and be able to put the driver’s side window up when it rains. It angers me sometimes to hear politicians blame people for ruining this once great country instead of putting the blame where it really should good – the profiteers. The corporations who put profit before people and don’t care one iota if they destroy them in the meantime.

Laying in my bed with a bulky sling on my left arm, trying to balance my Nook on my right thigh, I think of Jamie and the hardship he goes through every day in prison. In the state of Texas, one of the worst states to be incarcerated, it is worse than most of the other states, although none are someplace you’d choose to be. They keep him in the pit of hell; the part of the prison where they keep the completely insane they have already ruined. I write him and tell him to hold on – he can do it! Keep your mind on the future. Don’t react when they push and push trying to make you react. He’s only human. How many people could ignore what the guards do as they push every button a person has, just to make them angry so they can justify some kind of abuse. Laughably, look at Trump. He can’t handle ANY criticism of any kind and reacts with immaturity and threatens to sue people left and right, yet inmates who are beaten, starved with rotten food and given inadequate medical care are just supposed to ignore it and say, “Have a nice day.”

His cell is in a hallway of cutters and those who not only throw shit and piss around, the inmates have a game they play where they make darts with razor blades from disposable razors and shoot them at each other and one man asked if Jamie wanted to “play”. “Are you nuts?” he replied. I tell him over and over, “Hang in there. Hang in there”.

He has no where to turn. I’m all he has. He trusts me when I tell him I’m here, but still gets afraid he has said something wrong and I’m mad at him if I wait to long to answer a letter – insecure and thinking I’ve gone away. He’s scared of the life that will await him one day on the outside. He doesn’t know that world. There is no option. I can’t let him down. I told him he can count on me to be there and I don’t even know what that means. I have to heal my broken bones to finish his book. I need to keep his name out there so people will want to know his story and but his book. I was just scouting piano bars in restaurants to play gigs again, for my own survival and to make money to see him and take his son with me.

These are obstacles. Nothing good is easy to accomplish. Everyone has obstacles but this will be a middle age man with medical problems and no life experience and no job experience. Change is hard. Changing everything about your life is impossible for most. I’ve told him over and over, there is something important he is to do and he needs to discover what that is.

I just sent him his fourth GED book. The first was stolen by an inmate. The second was stolen by the property mgr at a prison. The third one he didn’t receive and it was sent back to Amazon. I’m now waiting to hear if he received this last one. I ordered the same book for myself so I can help him study. If you’ve never seen a GED book, I hadn’t, it is not easy cramming all of high school into one book. It is very comprehensive. If I study with him it would help keep him on track and even fun to make quizzes for him or maybe explain things he doesn’t understand. I hope he gets this book.

Part of Jamie’s problem is that he is a black and 6’3″, a pretty big guy. Out on the streets when cops are shooting black men after they pull them over, a normal cop’s excuse, whether they mean it or not is, “I was afraid for my life,” Even if the man never took his hands of the steering wheel. This fictionalized reality was started decades ago when the media portrayed black men as dangerous and uneducated and how they want to kill you. It was used over and over as the justification for why cops shoot first; why they verbally say, “Stop resisting arrest”, even if the man is unconscious, so they can get away with murder. These biases carry over to the prisons.

So I write and I write and I keep him from going crazy as best I can. I make sure he knows he is wanted. He has value. His son needs his father. We have come too far to give up. He still has six years to go out of 17. It is still a long time and a lot can happen during that time. If you’d like to, you could write to him. He would appreciate any communication. Don’t use stick on address levels or colored envelopes. They would be returned. Thank you for reading.

James Cummings#1368189/Allred Unit/2101 FM 369 N/ Iowa Park/Tx 76367

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The focus of the next newsletter going out early in December is on the issues of female inmates and their families. If you know someone this topic is of interest to please have them sign up for the ITFO newsletter or share it with them. If someone has a story they want told leave me a msg and a way to contact you.

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The Most Violent Prison Documentary

This is interesting.  It follows the lives of several prisoners and also the prison guards who have to keep everyone safe. I had never seen a prison like this one.  It is round with many tiers of cells.  You can look up from the inside and see layer upon inmates layer guard tower is in the middle.  These inmates seldom leave their cells. This is an unusual style of prison and totally unlike any Jamie has been in. The thought of having to live the rest of life there would be a horrible thought.

It is evident, though, listening to the inmates talk, the one thing that keeps the minds of the men in one piece,  and also keeps violence at a minimum are the visits they get from the outside.  When inmates are moved out of the range of family there is an escalation of violence and also depression.

Quite often men (I don’t know if this holds true as much for women), lose their relationships when they go to prison. More so if it is a girlfriend, not a wife. Some women can’t handle the time they will be gone. Life goes on. But sometimes a man finds a girlfriend while incarcerated that starts out as a pen pal. These relationships can be insecure. If the woman starts missing visits or goes to long without writing there is fear they’ve lost her even though nothing had been said. If they can’t call and reassure themselves it can become a major loss – until their next communication. You will see that with one man in the video who is very much in love with a woman who didn’t make a visit. There is also the fear they will be moved to a far away prison out of range to visit.

The food is often rotten.  One inmate showed the camera the food that had just been delivered to him.  There was, among other things like macaroni salad, two pieces of baloney that were turning green.  It was inedible.  Why is it that there is no oversight of the food they are served? You wouldn’t feed your dog this food.

The inmate with the tattoos all over his face is not someone who will most likely never see life outside of prison.  To mutilate yourself like that would mean you had no hope, but I don’t know his story.  But to look at him tells me that his problems started at a very young life.

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

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

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

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Dear mom,                                                                                                                               July 25, 2016    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Changes On Death Row at San Quentin Prison

Solitary confinement

Dear Sonni,

Hello there.  It’s good to receive your letters. I apologize for not responding right away to your last letter and I received another one today. It’s labor day weekend so I’m gonna write you all weekend. I was out of stamps and paper plus I was not feeling well. I’m trying to figure out what is going on around here. Now I do which I’ll get to later 🙂

The AVP program you are involved in is something to be proud of. It seems very progressive. I see volunteers enter the church here and inmates pour in for various programs. I imagine many people in prison are helped through these programs. I’m proud of you.

(Sonni’s note: I’ve written several posts about AVP – Alternative To Violence project – workshops in the prisons in 36 states to help inmates deal with anger issues)

Here’s the news with me. There is a lawsuit here in the California courts over solitary confinement. You already know this. Us men on death row filed to join in. It came out in the news. The lawyers came to interview me so I could join. On September 1st they reached a settlement. CCR justice (in prison court). I don’t know the details but maybe you could look it up. On the news it said there was to be an end to unlimited isolation and there would be programs for the men. No more being locked up like this for decades simply because they consider you to be “associated” to a gang member. So I’m going to be cut loose from isolation. I’ll get to go to the program building. They have one year to implement these changes. 🙂 All I wanted was to be judged by my own behavior inside these walls, not by my race. I would not denounce those of my race simply because they, and myself, are Hispanic.

This means I’ll get to hug my family and I’ll get better food! 🙂 I’ll be able to use a phone and have fun! 🙂

For awhile I was unsure what would happen. I had filed another complaint because at first they told me it would take 4 more years. That morning the Lt denied my complaint but in the afternoon I heard they reached a settlement. I was happy. We all were 🙂

A Phillipine Buddhist visited me. She was good. We mediated together which is a first for me. She told me to try various meditations – all of which I’ve read about but is so different when you do it with someone else. She could tell if I was having difficulty with a certain mediation because a look in her eyes told me she could tell. She teaches yoga, mediation and travels the world learning from spiritual teachers. I don’t know if she’ll be able to come back again, though.

There is a Legionaires disease outbreak going on here right now. 6 confirmed cases. 95 more possibilities. It started here in my unit and then spread out into the prison. It must be in the water in the trays? The CDC is testing everything. No showers for us in this building. The news says we are getting showers, but not here. Only the main building. We get a gallon of bottled water every 24 hours, one hot meal (a small TV dinner) and 2 lunches. One is for breakfast. Needless to say it is not enough food. I am hungry.

You brought up a good topic about heaven. Heaven is backed by Christian biblical scripture. PBS did a documentary on the surroundings of the writers of early Jewish writings. The argument is: the story of the garden of Eden is about a garden where they believed gods lived. Not understanding anything, people automatically attribute it to there being a god that does things they think are beyond the ability of humans.

( Sonni’s note: considering what we now know about early man; skeletons unearthed that are many tens of thousands of years old – Adam and Eve, portrayed as Christians would want them to look just like us isn’t possible. Our supposed first man and woman would look more like apes than the beautiful man and woman with carefully placed fig leaves for modesty. But people can’t handle that picture just like they have to believe Jesus is a WHITE man with long flowing brown hair because they can’t worship a black man with nappy hair (per the Bible) because too many white people still feel they are better than black people. They want people to believe in their version of Jesus when it is built on lies and misconceptions? One white artist’s version of Jesus that has now become truth??)

This belief of heaven? There have been many human cultures. They all believed in an afterlife of some type. People are afraid of what happens after death.

Sonni, you asked me about my education. I started high school – 9th grade – but was arrested the first day of school. I went to another high school but was kicked out. I ended up going to school one day a week in my probation officer’s office. I picked up my first attempted murder charge at age 13 and other similar cases all of which I did just enough juvy time to beat it. A week after my 17th birthday I was back in juvy for 2 assaults with a deadly weapon. Later that night the detectives came to talk to me about the murders and I ended up with only one murder and 4 attempted murders. I came from a violent home where I was beat every day and lived in a violent neighborhood. There was no other way for my life to go. It is easy to say we all have choices but we don’t. You have to know what those choices are to choose them.

That was half my life ago. I don’t know how life is on the outside. So it’s not realistic to talk about a reality I know nothing about. All I know is I have a lot of patience now. I could live a normal life now. If they let me out I’d be okay. Is there a chance of that happening? I won’t allow myself to hope when that hope is not realistic. I will wait on the new settlement to see what improvements are made to my life inside here and think about what happiness that could bring.

Well Sonni, I hope all is well with you. It was good to have received your letters.

(Sonni’s note: It is easy to judge people for what they have done and hold it against them for the rest of their lives. I have been judged. I know what that feels like when people are determined to only look at half of a truth and deem it to be the entire truth. Many people have also given up the art of letter writing and many have even given up knowing how to write at all. The correct use of the English language, spelling and punctuation is slowly being forgotten. Young people have no knowledge of how to write cursive because it isn’t taught. It is the men and women in prison who continue to write our language. When was the last time YOU wrote a letter?

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