My Mind is Playing Tricks on Me – ITFO Chapter and Music

 

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“I would enjoy riding my bike with you on a beautiful day,” Jamie called out into the universe with a slightly raised voice. He wondered if his words would reach Sonni and make her show up in his cell. He was lonely and desperately wanted someone to talk to.

     If anyone had been passing by his cell door at that moment they would probably think he was losing it. Other dudes down the hall probably heard him call out but they were used to hearing strange things being said by men locked in isolation, away from others. Most of them talked to themselves, too.

    “You ride your bike to the hill on one side and I’ll ride my bike from the other direction,” Jamie said, gesturing his arms to the right and left like he was directing traffic.  It was such a beautiful day. The sky was bright blue with puffy clouds passing over the sky. He stood and watched them for awhile. The green grass was the color of new springtime grass with dandelions growing randomly all over the hill.

     A thought came into his head – a memory, but he didn’t think it was his memory. That was strange. Maybe Sonni was in his head because he was seeing little girls with dandelions playing in a backyard. He was remembering children picking dandelions and holding them under each others chin. If there was a yellow glow on the skin it meant they were made of butter. A young child’s memory.

     Jamie had stuffed so many of his own memories into the back of his brain he had trouble remembering anything good. Sonni asked him to write down what he remembered as a child because she was thinking about starting a blog about him. Why would anyone want to read a blog about him? He was nothing special and hadn’t done anything special so He was curious about what she saw in him.

     He wrote to her about a couple things he remembered. They went to the zoo and his mom wouldn’t go in the snake house. That was funny, and they went to a pond to feed ducks. They were also going to see fireworks one July and he and his little brother had matching clothes for the special day. At the last minute his mom said they couldn’t go. That upset him but he was only eight years old and didn’t understand grown up stuff. So he sat on the steps of a house and listened to the boom! boom! He saw a glow in the sky, but he couldn’t see the fireworks. He remembered how deeply disappointed he was that night. He had been so excited about seeing the bright colors exploding in the sky. To this day, going to see fireworks was one of his favorite things to do.

     Picturing the serenity in his mind as he rode his bicycle to the hill was a way of getting out of his stark gray cell and into the warmth and colors produced by the sun. A nice cool breeze rustled the grass. The tree at the top would be great if it had a tree house. The thick branches would make climbing easy. He pictured a treehouse with a rope ladder. Little Jamie was standing at the door waving to him below. He waved back. He could hear a train blowing it’s horn in the distance. It had been so long since he had seen a day like this.

     With that picture in his head he closed his eyes and smiled. He pretended Sonni was standing there with him in this beautiful place even though he was really standing in his cell.

     “We’ll meet at the hill and climb to the top.” He told her. Even though it was only in his imagination, it lifted his spirits when he thought about the day he was creating.
     “Let’s bring a picnic of our favorite food and talk about how the future will be.”      

     Whenever Jamie thought of the future, his son was there and they would be playing together, whatever little Jamie wanted to do. They would both be happy and laughing. He knew there was more to reality than that, but he only wanted to have happy thoughts.
It was hard to develop a relationship with someone you never got to see or talk to. Did his son think about him? He was still very young, only five years old. He bonded to his oldest brother who was ten years older than him. He didn’t understand what prison was or why his father was there. He wouldn’t understand until he was older. He didn’t want him to be hurt by this, but there was no way it wouldn’t leave scars that needed to heal.

     An occasional picture was all he received from Morgan. It was never enough to quiet the pain. He couldn’t join him for birthdays or Christmas. He wouldn’t be in his son’s memories at all when he grew up and thought about his childhood, except to remember his daddy was never there. All Jamie could do was imagine what it would be like and that always left a huge hole in his heart. When would he see his son again?
     “Things aren’t going so good for me,” he said, still talking to the universe.
     “I’m doing my best, but I’m not getting nowhere.” He got to his feet and slowly walked five feet toward the cell door, turned around and walked back. He repeated the pattern over and over.
     “I know you have been very sick and can’t write me all the time,” he said as he paced, pretending she was there, “but to tell you the truth it hurts me when I don’t hear from you.”
     “That’s because you’re the only one I’m used to hearing from,” his mouth turned into a downward smile. “So when I don’t hear from you it worries me and I think I won’t hear from you again.”
     “Sometimes I think you’re mad at me,” he said quietly to the empty air.
     He closed his eyes.” My mind is playing tricks on me.”

“I told you I wouldn’t give up on you,” her voice came from out of the blue. ” I’m not going to go away.”
     “I got your letter yesterday,” he heard her say. “I told Jamie happy birthday for you.”
The unexpected sound of her voice made him jump.
     “He is getting so big.” Sonni smiled, and held up her hand to show how tall he was getting.
     “Geez, give me a little forewarning,” he said with a startled look on his face which settled into a smile. He was sure she wouldn’t be coming today. He never knew when she was going to pop in.
     Jamie’s days were long and boring, Sonni knew that. When all you have to look forward to is the possibility of a letter, your happiness rides on getting that letter, looking to see who sent it and feeling connected to reality that lives in the outside world. Letters are like gold and so many receive none. They keep you sane. Prison screws up many heads. She would never stop writing to him.
     “Does it take awhile to get my messages, and leave to get here?” he asked, “or is it like the old TV show, I Dream of Jeannie, and you zap yourself here with your arms crossed in front of you and a nod of your head?” He knew he sounded a little crazy, but then maybe he was a little crazy by now. How DID she get here?
     “Okay Jamie,” he said quietly to himself, “remember, her physical body is not really in this room.”
     He laughed at himself.

Jamie was relieved. He needed to see her, real or not. She had a way of helping him make sense of his life so he could learn to let his anger go. Yeah, he still had problems controlling it and it got him in trouble. Sometimes he started yelling and kicking the door trying to get rid of his anger.
     Sometimes he got into it with the guards because he was tired of being disrespected over every little thing. They tried to press his buttons to set him off. Sometimes they succeeded and he got angry. They could be such dicks.
     The guards often did things that would be considered criminal on the outside. They also do things to the inmates. They get hurt or killed. Although he hasn’t mentioned it much there was sex going all around him. Sometimes it’s between the guards and the inmates and sometimes it’s abusive. The guards bring in drugs and cell phones and set themselves in business. You couldn’t stop what is going on, but when you get hurt you need a way fight back against the abuse.
     No matter how wrong they were you couldn’t win. If he filed a grievance against a guard, the guard would retaliate. As prisoners they were supposed to have certain rights and being able to file a grievance because of mistreatment was one of them. It was pointless. The system was set up so prisoners would fail. Nothing good came of it when the guards had ways of getting back at them if they filed against them.
     It was more than that when it came to grievances. It is what the system was set up to do if you filed that grievance and went through the process, like a rat’s maze, chasing after a piece of cheese and finding out it was really arsenic with no way to save you.
     Most dudes, if they have been here for awhile don’t file grievances. After trying a couple times and getting denied you figure, what’s the use? Those who think they legally have a good case because what the guard did needed to be reported, might try to finish the process.
     The grievance process is set up so only filing a lawsuit will settle the grievance. You can’t win by just filing a grievance and hoping the right person read it and thought you needed to have justice. That wasn’t going to happen. You can only win if you have solid evidence that the officer was in the wrong. There would have to be evidence from a camera that the officer did what you claim.
     No officer will go against another officer even if he saw the officer doing it. If he did, the officers would retaliate against him. So if he wants to keep his job he needs to keep his mouth shut.
     If an inmate filed step one he’d have to wait 30 – 45 days to get it back – denied. Then he’d have to file step 2 and wait another 4 to 6 weeks to get that one back – denied. That is 2-3 months total. Step 2 along with step 1 is then filed in Huntsville with the TDCJ, for Texas prisons. If Huntsville sends it back not doing anything to correct the problem they will send all the paperwork back to him. If he wanted to continue the process he’d have to fill out a 1983 form for a lawsuit. He would have to take the officer to court and if he lost, because he didn’t have proof, then he’d owe the state $350. And since phones are illegal in prison, having proof by means of a cellphone is getting someone in serious trouble.
     This is a way to get more money out of the inmates and their families and it gives the officers time to get their stories straight.
     What good was having rights if you couldn’t act on them? It looked right on paper and that is what the outside world learned if they looked it up. Some people thought they had it pretty good inside – free healthcare, free food, free education, a free roof over their heads. They thought everything was handed to them on a silver platter without working for it. They even said prisoners wanted to come back to prison because they had it so good in here. What a joke. You had to be here to understand the truth of this place.

The end of this partial chapter

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Watching The Inside World – ITFO Chapter

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WATCHING THE INSIDE WORLD

 

Jamie was laying naked on the cement floor. Summer hit in full force. Sweat was dripping down every crease in his skin. He didn’t know how he was going to make it through another summer, and there were many more to go.
     After midnight when heat trapped inside the walls began to cool, the cement floor seemed appealing. He stripped off his whites and stretched out hoping it would bring relief.
     He had already passed out twice so far this summer from the intense heat, and had one seizure. The only good thing that happened was being taken to the medical unit which had air conditioning. It was a small reprieve but it only made it worse when he was returned to his cell.
     He needed more water, good water. He was dehydrated and was afraid to drink too much of the water that came out of the faucet. There was an odor to it and sometimes it wasn’t exactly clear. There was a brown tint to it, some days were worse than others. Would it make him sick? He sweat so much he knew he needed to replace the minerals, like the ones in sports drinks, but he didn’t have any. They sell it at commissary but it was sometimes a month or more before he was taken there.
     There was no energy in him to move, and no reason to move. His body felt so heavy. His blood pressure was pounding in his head. How could the warden do this to everyone? He had to know how much they were suffering. Was this his way of rehabilitating them? Yeah, they were learning things; how to hate the prison and everyone in it.

How much anyone suffered depended on what level they were on. There were three levels in adseg. There was no power and no AC on level three. They even covered the vents to cut off any possibility of air circulation. That was a good punishment wasn’t it? If you owned one of the little fans they sell in the commissary you were out of luck because it didn’t work on level three.
     Jamie thought they were trying to teach them a lesson about how screwed they were. Whoever created these punishments had be masochistic.
     If he was level two he would have power and it would be cooler than level three, but not by much. That was the level he was on before the knife was planted. He had to do thirty days now to get back to level two and sixty days to get to level one. Three more months total. During summer that was a lifetime. He heard it took 90 days at level one to get moved to G4 where he could go to chow, but he wasn’t sure about that.
     He knew the guards didn’t like him. Not for any real reason. They hated most everyone in here. They didn’t take this job because they were interested in doing guard duty. There wasn’t much else in town for a steady job.
     They found a way to put him in adseg, but it wasn’t because of anything he did, he was set up. He did react back and that was his fault. If the guards didn’t like you they found a way to mess you up. It didn’t matter that he was trying to play by the rules, not if he didn’t get along with one of them. This one guard, Rodrigues* was an asshole, always making sarcastic remarks trying to piss him off, and sometimes succeeding. Then they’d write up a case on him. He needed to learn to keep his mouth shut.
     The unit went on lockdown. The guards were going from pod to pod ripping up everything. They tore apart the cells looking for weapons, drugs and cellphones.
     While the guards had fun destroying their property, the inmates were locked in cages barely bigger than a phone booth. There was a ledge they could sit on to wait until they were done. Then they had to go back and clean up the mess. Most of it was unnecessary. The guards destroyed things because they could.
     The guard who had consistently harassed Jamie “found” a homemade knife sitting on the edge of his sink. He tried to make it look like Jamie was stupid enough to leave a three inch piece of sharpened metal laying out in the open, even though he knew they were coming to toss the cells. If the sergeant believed that, then he must have been in on it. It was his word against theirs and there was no way he could win that argument.
     He had been fixing to get his level one. The weapons charge knocked him back down to level three. The main office for Texas prisons, TDCJ, in Huntsville, was contacted and the knife was sent to them. This was one way they added extra years to someone’s sentence. He only needed one more major offense for that to happen. At the least it would now take longer to get out of adseg.
     He didn’t even own a knife. It made sense now what the guard said when he was sitting in the cage. He walked by, then stopped and smiled at him.
     “What are you smiling at?” Jamie asked.
     “You’ll see,” he said, and laughed as he walked away.
     Jamie knew then he was the one who planted the knife. It wasn’t right. He didn’t do anything, but then he got angry defending himself. He played into their hands. He needed to stop reacting and think before he spoke.
     They sprayed him with chemicals. It was the first time. It felt like his skin was burning off. Three days he lived with it before it started wearing off. When he tried washing it off it made it worse. Being burned in a fire had to feel like this, only you couldn’t see anything on his skin except a little redness. Was it legal to use that kind of chemicals on people? Probably not, but who was going to stop them?
     No one would do that to an animal. The guards plotted a way to lower his level in adseg and then punished him with cruelty that was beyond inhumane. It was the guards who needed to be sprayed so they could feel what they we’re doing. There was nothing he could do about it now but someday they will get it back.

Today was July 12, 2011. Jamie’s son was five years old. He sat on his bunk and sang Happy Birthday to him with a heavy heart. He wished he could see him right now. He wanted to put his arms around him and hold him.
     “Morgan said he seems happier now,” Sonni said said as she sat down next to him. Little Jamie had been acting out with tantrums.
     “We all been mad at the world a few times,” he nodded in agreement as he glanced at her and smiled a sad smile.
     Jamie was still convinced he was losing his mind each time she came to talk. Sometimes it was days or weeks before he saw her again and thought maybe those were times when she, too, was feeling bad.
     Sonni was on the liver transplant list and had moved to Pa to be close to a good hospital and her family, but her family didn’t care about her. It was hard on a person when they realized they didn’t mean much to people who they thought loved them. This is why she understood how much it hurt when no one answered his letters or came to visit. It hits you from out of the blue. A lot of dudes in here had to go it alone for many reasons. It wasn’t easy and it made it hard to survive when they got out.
     She recently sent him some money for commissary and ordered a magazine subscription. He had nothing to read and was really bored. Time dragged. Every bit of kindness meant something to him. Nothing was taken for granted.
     “Once a week the guards are supposed to give us one hour of dayroom time,” he told her, “but they are too lazy.”
     “It’s easier to provoke someone and make him mad so they have a reason to not take them and call it a punishment,” Jamie added.
     “They do the same thing when it’s time to take us to shower. It’s crazy back here and that’s just half of it.”
     When he had passed out from the heat and had the seizure they took him to medical. Then they took money out of his commissary and paid themselves for the effort.
     “They cause the problem then take what little money I have because it made me sick.” He knows he doesn’t have to tell her everything. She seems to know what he’s thinking.
     “They probably look forward to the hot months,” she said back, “because of the extra money.”
     If he didn’t have any money in his account they would wait until she sent some, and then take it out.
     “To tell you the truth there is not a day goes by I’m not worried,” he continued.
     “I never know what’s going to happen or when it will happen,” he said starting to get an upset edge to his voice.
     “That is why I cry when I think about the visits.”
     “No one in my life knows what happens to me.” Jamie stood up and turned his back to her so she wouldn’t see his face.
     “And I don’t know what’s happening with them,” he sighed. “I worry about my mom and nobody tells me nothing.”
     “Do they think I don’t want to know?”
     “Since I’m big I’m supposed to be tough and take no shit from anyone,” he said, lowering his voice.
     “My family is not seeing this inside world the way I do,” he tried to explain. “They don’t have to watch it happening, so they don’t have to worry.”
     “Yeah, I know they are going through some stuff, too, but not like this.” Jamie paced back and forth.
     “They don’t understand how bad this is. They have never been through it and I wouldn’t want them to.”
     Jamie stopped talking to think for a minute. “I don’t think they care enough to even try to understand,” he frowned.
     “Not that I can tell.” He turned to face her again.
     “If I’m not sleeping, I’m day dreaming,” he said.
     “Playing old moments in my thoughts are like movies in my head, imagining where those movies would have taken my life if I wasn’t here.”
     “I know for a fact me and Morgan would live closer to you. I don’t know if she ever told you, but she tried to get me to fly down to visit you. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but I’ve never been on a plane. Driving there was too far. I’ve never left Texas. I didn’t know the freeways. I wish now I would’ve come to see you.”
     Sonni stood there silently listening.
     “I’m sure you got upset with me when I told you I was fixing to get locked down again,” Jamie began again.
     “Stop right there,” she said, putting her hand up to quiet him.
     “I am not upset with you, about anything,” she said softly, putting her arm back down by her side.
     “You have not done anything,” she explained. “These people have been determined to punish you. Some people enjoy causing others to feel pain.”
     “You have not been trying to hurt people, and I know there are people here who do, who think this is their castle and they are going to rule it.” She moved closer and looked him in the eye.
     “That would be different,” she told him. “But that is not you. I wouldn’t be here if I thought it was.
     “And I’m not going anywhere,” she added sternly.
     “I’m not going away. I am not everybody else.” she wanted him to believe it.
     “Even when you don’t see me, I’m not far away.”
     Jamie could feel tears behind his eyes so he closed them. When he opened them she was gone.

*Rodrigues – not the real name of the guard

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Almost everything in this  chapter was taken word for word from letters Jamie wrote in 2011, broken down to create dialogue. Background Description is added to better understand his environment. Some incorrect English is kept in the dialogue because it gives a more accurate feel for his state of mind. As years go by and he reads more his use of words and phrases improves. None that has anything to do with intelligence, but rather the lack of basic education.

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Eyes In The Back of My Head – ITFO Chapter

last-note-2-sm

 

Eyes in The Back of My Head

 

There was a murder in the shower. A dude was stabbed twenty-seven times by his cellmate. Jamie was blown away. It was going too far. This could happen to anyone in here if they got on the wrong side of someone else. Punishment was dished out the way anyone thought it should be. Lots of these dudes had been screwed by the justice system, so they were going to give justice the way they saw fit.
     There was so much violence in this prison. No prison is a good prison but he heard dudes talk about this prison being one of the worst. The guards were corrupt and in business with the gangs. They make the inmates fight each other and bet on who will be left standing. He should be getting used to this by now, but he wasn’t. He didn’t want to get mixed up in it but they don’t let that happen. He was a big guy and he knew how to fight. He tried to stay by himself as much as possible. The last thing he wanted was to get more time added to his sentence, and they would do that in a heart beat if the wrong person saw a fight going down.
     Eyes in the back of his head were what he needed. He couldn’t trust nobody to have his back. More than half the dudes in here had some sort of weapon and they wouldn’t hesitate to use it if they felt threatened.
     Drugs were involved in everything. It’s how money was made on both sides of the fence. The quantity and variety of drugs coming through here was crazy. Pills, weed, heroin; you name it, it’s in here. There was more drugs in here than a crack house on a street corner, and just as easy to get – if you have the money. If you don’t, and you don’t pay up, that could get you killed.
     It comes in packed along with supplies and the staff that worked in the kitchen or handled other supplies for the prison made sure it got to the right people. That wasn’t the only way it came in. Visitors smuggled it in, too. Some got caught and some didn’t. It’s not worth the risk. If you were an addict you’d probably think different.
     On top of that, some of the men made their own wine. Five dudes recently got caught who were stupid drunk on their assess. Getting drunk wasn’t worth the possibility of getting caught with it, trying to escape reality. Whether inside or out when you didn’t like your life, drugs and alcohol gave you a false sense of a better world for a short time. Then you come down and you’re still living in the same screwed up place. People die of overdosing in here the same as on the street. He wasn’t tempted to do drugs, at least chemical ones that mixed with his seizure meds. That was dangerous. He didn’t mind a little weed, though, but in here you don’t know what you’re getting and there is some bad shit going around that really messes you up. The dude who killed his cellie in the shower was drunk when he did it. What happened that he needed to kill him over it? This wasn’t like the free world. No one thought about consequences. They reacted to what happened right that minute and didn’t care because they were already locked up.
     Without a courtroom the men acted as the judge, jury and executioner in a much worse way than the courts could impose. It took very little for someone to decide you needed to die and you ended up with a knife across your throat. He wanted to be transferred somewhere else, but he didn’t see that coming anytime soon. In the meantime he needed to be careful.

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Jamie was lucky. He had a window in this cell. sometimes he didn’t and never what time of day it was. It was suffocating. Sometimes he went a long time without breathing any fresh air. He couldn’t see much of anything out the window. He doubted if it had ever been cleaned. Still, when he closed his eyes he could feel light on his face when he closed his eyes and he could pretend he was anywhere but where he was.
     Summer would be on them really quick. Right now it was the time of year when it wasn’t to hot or too cold. It wouldn’t last. In Texas the summers were killers, and every year more people died. There was always talk about how that needed to be fixed, usually around an election time, but nothing was ever done about it. They weren’t going to spend money they would rather put in their pockets.
     It was going to be hard. There was nothing he could do but try to get through it. He dreaded this time of year. He had lived in Texas his whole life so he should be used to it. The difference was he couldn’t step through a door into air conditioning and find relief, except if he had to go to the medical unit.
     Things weren’t looking up for him. He feels like he’s in a no-win situation between a few of the guards and inmates. If he wasn’t careful it could get him getting killed in the shower, too.
     He had reason to be scared because these guards will let the inmates beat you up, or beat you up themselves. There was a fine line between guards and criminals that was crossed all the time. So it was really not guaranteed he would someday go home. He tried not to think about that, but it could happen.
     Wanting to be with his family was the only thing that got him through the day. He promised himself he would never give up, even though he was hurting inside. There were a lot of corners to turn and hills to climb but that it was part of his life now and he had to find a way to get through it.

Jamie decided to stay in his cell today. He had little to do except have conversations with himself. He was doing his best to stay away from trouble but it managed to find him if he left his cell. He didn’t have anything to read he hadn’t read countless times already. He was restless. Sitting on his bunk he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. Maybe he could go to sleep for awhile and kill some time.
     “It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?” Jamie kept his eyes closed and smiled. He was starting to like this. It was good timing, he needed someone to talk to.
     He cocked his head to the right and opened his eyes.
     “I can only take so much,” he said, answering her question.
     Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that went almost to her waist. It looked good on her. She stood there looking at him, wearing jeans and her hands were on  her hips. She was smiling. He never realized before how valuable a smile was ’cause he sure didn’t get many. She might be Morgan’s mom but they sure didn’t look anything alike. They were both beautiful in their own way.
     Suddenly he realized, if he was making all this up in his head he sure did have a good imagination, didn’t he? In a way he wished others could see her, to prove he wasn’t nuts, but maybe it was better this way.
     Jamie thought about the three years they had been writing.  He never really understood why she started writing to him after he had been inside almost two years, but he was glad she did. When he asked her, she said he was family, but after getting to know her she knew no one else was writing to him, so she did.
     She sent books, a little money, and their friendship grew from there. He hated to ask her for money, but she was the only one who would help him. She didn’t make him feel like he was begging. He was grateful for everything she did, but he didn’t want anyone to think he was using her, especially Morgan. She told him not to feel like that. She helped him out because she wanted to. She sends what she can when she can.
     Her letters kept him going. She was his connection to the outside world. He didn’t know if he would make it if she stopped writing. He knew people had their own lives and were busy surviving. He didn’t blame them for not having time for him. He didn’t need anyone to write all the time. The occasional letter he did get was about what was happening to whom, but no one asked him how he was doing or if he needed anything. If you don’t ask you don’t know. Gradually even those letters faded away .
     Jamie needed her, and she knew it. When she wrote it was like a conversation back and forth. She cared how he was doing. Apart from the mental need, if she didn’t help him get things like stamps and hygiene he’d have to find some other way to get them. He might end up owing someone and maybe that would not end too good. In addition, she was a sight for sore eyes, even if she wasn’t real.
     “I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to handle the situations I have on my hands right now and what to do about it.” Jamie told her.
     “What’s the problem?” she asked.
     “I can’t sit in my cell 24/7. In fact, I’m not going to,” he said, making up his mind.
     “Why do you think you need to stay in your cell?” not understanding the problem.
     “If I can’t talk to these dudes about the problem we’re having then there’s only one solution.
     She wasn’t going to like this. “I hate to go back down that road but I might have to. I’ve had two fights already and the way things are going there could be plenty more to come.”
     “That’s what they do in here – fight,” he told her.
She paused for a few seconds and frowned.
     “That’s the way karma works,” she began.
     “Causes made in the past come into play today, or in your future,” she gently explained. “When a cause is made there is going to an effect at some point, for all the good and all the bad that has happened. The same is true for everyone. No one – gets away – with anything.”
     Jamie got up and went to his locker. He sorted through a stack of letters until he found the one he was looking for.
     Taking it out of the envelope and reading through it, he stopped and looked at her, “It’s true what you said,” he paused.

<<< >>>
     

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Are You Aware There is a Prison Protest Happening?

There is so much continued repetitious crap in the media right now, regurgitating itself over and over again – about the antics of Donald Trump – that serious issues are being put to the sidelines. Intentional? The ongoing dumbing down of America?

Over 14,000,000 people are arrested each year, often incarcerated for years without ever being charged and found guilty – because they can’t afford bail. The corporations make a fortune off these people from phone  calls and commissary alone. Many of these people provide the constant filling of prison beds. Add to it the reopened, crumbling prisons that had been previously closed, and the tent prisons used to hold the immigrants who needed out help. What did the US do with the people – they were turned over to prison corporations like CoreCivic to use and abuse for more profit. I won’t get into what they did to the kids.

Because of horrible and corrupt prisons where many of the guards are dirty and bring in drugs and other contraband to line their own pockets. It feeds the drug dealers and the gangs inside and puts everyone’s lives at risk. Contrary to popular, ignorant belief – everyone inside is not a hardened criminal. Some are innocent and some want to get their lives on track and lead a better life. Some have families that are left outside scared their loved one will get killed. I have communicated with a lot of inmates. Don’t argue with me until you have done the same. Prison is nowhere close to “Orange is the New Black.” The guards on that show are a joke and the inmates make good comedians.

This month there was a riot inside Lee’s Correctional institute in So Carolina. Seven men brutally died. Part of the reason was because there were very few guards to help put it down. A large percentage were dirty. The men had been left to roam free in the prison. Enough is enough is enough.

http://sawarimi.org/national-prison-strike  This includes the demand list.

There was, at last count, 17 prisons that started a protest for better conditions inside less than a week ago. That protest will go on until Sept 4th. Instead of listing everything this protest is about along with a list of their demands, I will give you the links to read it for yourself. The powers that be are trying viciously to not let info on the protest inside their prisons. I found one inmate yesterday that knew nothing of it. Now he does and he is armed with details. If you know anyone inside, find out if they know and get this information to them so more inmates and their families can stand in solidarity. The men inside are begging us on the outside to support their efforts.

 

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What Does It Mean To Be Alone – ITFO Chapter

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Standing next to the door of his cell, Jamie leaned his back against the wall. He stared at a cockroach walking across the floor, seemingly without a care in the world. He wondered what its plan was. Where was it going? He read somewhere that roaches had been around since the dinosaurs. The world could blow up from a nuclear bomb and the roaches would be the only living creatures that survived. He used to smash them for having the nerve to walk over his body, but there really was no point in doing that. There were a million more where that one came from.
     He felt the same way about the guards. They were like cockroaches. They crawled out of the cracks in the walls looking for someone to walk on. What was the point of hating one and wanting to get even for the way they  treated the inmates, when there was an endless supply of new guards getting younger and younger every year, replacing the ones who got burnt out and quit.
     Some of them were barely eighteen, right out of school. They got maybe six weeks training trailing older guards around the prison before they were released to do whatever damage they could do on their own. They were put up against men in cells who were two- three times their age who had years of experience dealing asshole guards.
     These young ones thought being a smartass was part of the job. The trouble was, they had a lot to learn. The men here had ways of getting even with guards who disrespect them for no reason.
     One day there was an arrogant, new guard. A tough kid who today was helping bring lunch trays to the cells. Couldn’t be more than nineteen. He thought he would show off and spit on Jamie’s food before putting it through the open slot. He laughed after he did it, with an expression of “eat that, sucker.”
     That was one meal Jamie didn’t eat. It pissed him off. This wasn’t the first time a guard intentionally ruined his meal and it probably wouldn’t be the last, and if this kid was doing the same thing to food trays of other men, he’ll learn his lesson the hard way.
     He’d seen it enough times. The men will collect piss and shit. On a certain day and time they’ll catch this guard in the hall and shower him with the waste they had saved up. Even some women guards got nailed.
     Man, you should hear the screams as all the stink landed on them. They couldn’t get away. Going back or forward, someone was gonna nail ’em. Jamie shook his head and gave a little chuckle at what the men have to do for a little amusement around here.
     The free-for-all stink bombs did make for some heavy duty, eye-watering fumes in the unit, and inmates had to clean up the mess, but how exactly were the guards going to punish men who were already in 24/7 lock-up? They could take away their personal property for awhile, but it was worth it.
     In defense, the kid tried to keep up his shitty attitude on his face to show he didn’t care, but it couldn’t keep the embarrassment from showing through pink skin as each man going down the corridor laughed at him. The young guard also learned that day not be so blatantly stupid.
     Some of the men locked up in here weren’t wound too tight. Maybe they kept them in adseg too long. Some cracked and couldn’t take it anymore. There wasn’t enough mental health people to take care of them. They needed the right meds they weren’t getting.
     You really had to have your shit together to not lose it. Too much isolation was hard, but no one who worked here gave a damn if it was right or wrong. Inmates became punching bags.
     Most everybody got out of here sooner or later but some didn’t leave being able to survive on the outside and ended up coming back from no family or friends to help them.
     Most of the teenage guards the prison hired were hyped up with making steady money but most didn’t make it past a year before they were fed up with the working conditions and quit. More took their place.

Jamie had just finished his breakfast of three small, cold pancakes with a spoon of peanut butter, cold coffee and an apple. It was still dark outside. Another long day stretched ahead of him
    He tried, sometimes to put a schedule together of things to do to fill the day. It was hard to keep to it. He had never developed the discipline to keep to a schedule. Keep it loose, but keep the day going.
     The workout room, where there were weights and equipment was off- limits to him. All he could do was what he could mange in his tiny space, like push ups, sit ups and squats. He had to tire himself out or he laid awake at night.
     The guards constantly woke them up all night anyway, making sure they didn’t escape, which was a joke. It was just another form of torture. If the guards had to be awake and miserable, so did they.
     Two weeks earlier he got his property back. Having all your things taken away really messes with your head. There was so little he could call his own that reminded him that being an inmate here was his only identity. Not having his pictures to look at or old letters to read again made him feel more alone than he was, if that were possible. These things, along with books and magazines made him feel human, and a human being had things, as few as they were. Did the prison want him to feel grateful for getting back these few personal items? It worked. Being able to see his son’s face, Morgan and his family made him feel less lonely, but it also made him feel depressed because he was away from them.
     “Okay,” he said out loud. “Don’t let it suck you in or it won’t let you go all day.” There have been enough days like that and they were miserable, “Get a grip.”
     Shaking it off, he went through the titles of his books, running his hands over the covers. When they take your stuff you don’t always get it back, or what used to work, like a fan, might be replaced with one not working.
     All his books on Islam were there. Guess nobody wanted those, so he tried to do some studying, and his prayers. He needed a way to focus on the positive parts of his life and trying to do these prayers every day would help him learn discipline. Five times a day, though, was hard.
     An hour later, looking through the slots in the wall that passed for a window, he could tell it was morning. He didn’t think the sun was out and it was already hot enough to know he would really be sweating in a couple hours.
     Summer was almost over according to the calendar, and he was glad about that, but Texas in the summer lasted a lot longer than it did in other states. It wouldn’t start cooling down until mid October. These thick walls trapped the heat and turned it into an oven.
      He kept himself busy by doing a little cell cleaning. It would make him feel better. Being moved around to different pods on different floors he found most cells were so filthy you didn’t want to touch anything. The little bars of lye soap the prison gave him each month had to do all of his cleaning including his body, the cell and his clothing. He kept his space as clean as he could. If he had a little money in his account that Sonni sent he could buy a bar of soap but mostly he used it for stamps, hygiene and food.
     It was time for lunch so he didn’t pay much attention to the noises he heard in the hall until they were at his door. He was on his hands and knees, looked up and saw it was the sergeant, with two guards. This man didn’t usually come unless it was something important. Was he in more trouble he didn’t know about? Again, he was trying to keep his nose clean of any problems, but that didn’t mean anything here. Trouble found him easy enough no matter what he did.
     “James Cummings?” The officer asked, glancing around the cell.
     “Yes, sir,” he answered with suspicion in his voice and got to his feet.
Jamie’s eyebrows knit together. Standing up he walked closer to the door, but not too close. This man knew who he was. He didn’t have to ask.
     There was a clipboard in his left hand. He glanced at it and let it hang by his side. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sergeant hated – hated coming into the adseg pods of the unit, especially in the summer. They smelled like an open sewer covered up in Lysol, which it was. Jamie could tell this was an official visit of some sort.
     “You’re being transferred.”
     Jamie lit up. “Transferred?” Maybe he’d be moved closer to home.
     “Where to?” He didn’t want to show his excitement.
     “McConnell Unit,” the sergeant answered. “in Beeville.”
     “Contact your family if you want to.” Then he turned away and walked toward the end of the hall with the two guards walking behind him.

Jamie walked over and sat down on his bunk. Putting his elbows on his knees and the palms of his hands together in a picture of prayer, he sat there tapping his fingers against his chin. He had to think. Why were they moving him? He hadn’t ask to be moved. He had thought about putting in for a medical transfer but he hadn’t done anything about it.
     They were moving him clear back across the state, way south, near Brownsville which was near the Mexican border. He would still be too far away for anyone to visit in one day so he’d be in the same boat he was in right now. And it would be just as stinking hot, if not more so. He was sure if he were close enough his family would come to see him regularly, or at least sometimes. They shouldn’t move people so far away from family. It makes it worse for them. Wasn’t locking them up enough punishment? Did they have to keep family away, too?
     He knew about McConnell Unit. He talked to a dude in the day room a while back who used to be there. He had nothing good to say about it, but was there anything good to say about any prison? A lot of inmates died there. He would do as best as always to stay out of trouble if he could.
     Going back across the state would be just as long and boring as it was getting here a few years ago. He was naive back then and thought if he were good he could get out early.  Now he just wanted to get out in one piece. The trip will be several uncomfortable days on the road, but he’d be out of here. He’ll be able to look out the window and see life, sky and birds. Cars on the road passing others who were going places. They probably didn’t understand how precious their life was and how easily it could be taken from you.
     This was another sharp turn to the left. Where would this take him?

 

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ITFO news is a variety of things. Published about once  month unless I get too far behind or traveling and skip a month. I don’t inundate you inbox, I only like to keep you informed on how the writing, music and videos are coming alone. 

I sometimes publish someone’s story that needs telling or other news in the prison industry that I didn’t put at Jamie’s Facebook page. It’s a way to keep you in the loop. You can follow my music and videos at my website. You have a wonderful day.

 

Jamie’s New Merchandise

I am raising much needed funds. For two main reasons. Jamie has some legal expenses that are connected to the lack of medical care he isn’t receiving for epilepsy that has caused him to have more seizures I am using legal means to force the issue. My second reason is the funds needed to keep the ball rolling in producing the book/music I am writing. I want to do a good job. The proceeds from this will help him get his life started when he gets out.

50% of the profit from initial sales will be used for jamie’s personal needs such as stamps, hygiene and items he can get at the commissary.  This is the first time I have for outside help from anyone who can. I survive on a disability check  and trying to take care of these things has become more difficult as expenses have risen.

 

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There is No Justice For Inmates

 

wh jamie

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?
———————————————————————–

sc cell
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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Watch and Whirl – Sonni Quick.   This is my other blog. An odd assortment of rants and raves on a variety of subjects and music info, too.

Can You Stop Prison Abuse?

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Can you stop prisons abuse? On a whole – no. But can you help the person you support? I believe you can. I’m not going to sit by with crossed fingers hoping they won’t succeed in hurting or possibly killing him. They crossed a line. 

I’m on a plane, headed home from a three week trip to Texas to see family and visit with Jamie. It was a hard trip but much was accomplished. I was able to go to Allred Prison three times for a total of 10 hours. It was good to see Jamie and the smile on his face told me he was looking forward to this visit, his only visit since my last trip in Sept ’16. One sad note – his son refused to go with me. More on that another time.

I have learned things. If someone you care about is locked up and you seriously want to help them, read this post through to the end. If you are writing to an inmate you met as a pen pal you probably aren’t invested enough to go to bat for him/her against the prison system, although taking the time to communicate with someone who needs the support of someone in the free world is no small thing.

I learned things about the prison system. How they get away with doing things that put inmates in danger. The prisons and staff should be held accountable and made to do the right thing but how is that possible? Who makes them? Does your call to the warden make them? If it doesn’t, can you just sit at home and worry while you wait for a letter or a call to know they are okay, if they even have phone privileges, which Jamie doesn’t?

Every politician, whose job is to create policies that are supposed to be for the good of the people, KNOWS how corrupt the system is. So why aren’t the prisons made to change and treat human beings kept inside the cages and cement closets as something other than a commodity they can beat and misuse any time they want?

Many people, due to lack of education about the prisons believe only the guilty are prosecuted and they deserve whatever torture they receive. The guilty inside lose the right to be human. There is abroad spectrum of guilt. Not everyone inside is a child abuser, murderer, rapist or the like. There are people inside because they couldn’t pay a court ordered fine or they were with someone who committed a crime and are guilty by association. Some are guilty but why are there different sentences for the same crime if you are white instead of black. Some are innocent left with no option but to take a plea deal because there is no one to fight for them. 17 years or 50-99. Would you plead guilty if you are innocent and risk never getting out?

New crimes are being decided this year to fill the gap left by less personal drug use arrests. They are prosecuting people who dare to protest. They are arresting kids as young as seven for fighting. They are handcuffing kids at school. Detention isn’t good enough anymore if money could be made for the prison system. Ruin them young, destroy their education and it later becomes a filled bed in an adult prison. Why do you think they want to lock up kids? Read Jamie’s story in the links at the to of the page and learn what they did to destroy him at 16 even though the only crime committed was by a cop who busted into his families home.

Many of the “guilty” inside are there because they couldn’t afford an attorney. It doesn’t matter how guilty someone is, they are treated the same. They lose the right to live as though their life matters. No one is going to make the prison system do the right thing, especially if you base it on the concept of actual right and wrong. Even the politicians who outright say the prison system needs changing don’t have the power to make that happen. There is too much money to be made. The corporations involved need to be fed. It doesn’t matter – at all – if thousands of people across the country die from abuse if it pads their bottom line. No family or friend on the outside who learns about the abuse of their loved one is going to change that.

We do the best we can to help our husband/wife/ son/daughter or other family/friend. We call the prison/medical unit/warden/mail room when things go wrong or we just need answers. An inmate files a grievance that gets lost. A guard can retaliate in many ways. The warden looks the other way. He lies to you and says, “My guards would never do that.” Medications are withheld that can cause death – heart/seizure /cholesterol/insulin/ depression and psych meds and others. Medical problems can easily be erased out of records. Wrong medications can be substituted. Dental problems not addressed. An abcess? Who cares? Pain? Too bad. The list of what they can do is long.

Let’s say your son has been sentenced to 10-20 years. Does he have a Medical issue? What if he is beat – by guards or inmates, how will you intervene? The prison staff is trained to lie to you. Do you know when they are lying? Do they sympathize with you while they lie? What can you do about it? Are we helpless to help?

The list of things done to Jamie over the years is long. Incomprehensible and cruel acts that are often life threatening. Judging by the comments guards and medical personnel say to him it seems as though they take pleasure in hurting people. Are they paid to be this way? Do they get satisfaction knowing their actions caused someone to possibly die? Many death certificates in prisons say, “Died of natural causes,” but it doesn’t say they withheld necessary medications that caused this natural death. Do you think an autopsy will be done to understand the cause of death? Absolutely nothing would be done that indicated the prison was responsible. You’d be lucky to even find out the whereabouts of the body.

If you have a loved one who is locked up you probably have been through some of what I am saying. There is no rule book. Where do you go to find out what to do? Who will help you? Who has the answers? Even if you talked to an attorney, does that person understand how the prison corporations operate? Probably not. That is field not practiced by the average attorney.

If anyone wants to know where hell is located, it is in the prison system and any entity associated with it. It mentally ruins anyone who works within it, including those who look the other way because they want to keep their job. At the end of the day they go home to the free world knowing what they witnessed and knowing they went along with being cruel to human beings way beyond what their sentence dictated. Inmates are sentenced to time, not abuse. All prison staff have to live with that. What goes around comes around.

At any given time there are millions of people in the system. Every year they lock up at least as many people as they let out. The prisons stay full – per the contracts the prison corporations have with the government. Since they can’t easily fill the prisons anymore with people caught with a personal stash of weed, they have had to make new crimes. Jeff Sessions has vowed to increase mandatory minimums. Why do you think he would want to do that? Because these people are too dangerous to be free? Or died he own prison stock? The major push of immigrant detention has made these corporations very happy and even more rich. Why else would you lock up women and children when they seek medical care or go to church? Are these the bad hombres? The prison corporations love Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions to pieces, they are so damn happy.

The next issue of ITFO NEWS will focus on this issue to help you understand how to fight for someone who is inside. No one knows what to do. You can subscribe below to make sure it is delivered to your inbox. I can’t stress how important this is if you have someone you care about inside, especially if you are already aware of wrongdoing. You will want to keep this issue as a resource. Share it with a friend you know who has someone inside.

If you have read my blog you know Jamie has epilepsy. I’ve been worried, even more so since they upped their game messing with his meds on a regular basic and giving him excuses why they wouldn’t give him his seizure meds. He had a seizure and they let him lay on his cell floor untreated. They lied to me when I called and said he didn’t have a seizure. I was also told I couldn’t call back to check on him because I was only “allowed” to call once a month. Is that true? How do I find out? This isn’t the first time they refused his meds but I didn’t know what I could do about it. I thought, “Why would they do that? Isn’t it wrong? How can I find out if he is okay?”

After my first visit his ID came up missing. Three days the following week he was again denied his meds because he had no ID, even though a new one was requested and they know they know him. A week later and he still had no ID. He knows his number and they can look it up. It was deliberate. They most likely took his ID. How else could it disappear into thin air? I am fighting this now.

You know the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” This is one of those times. We can’t force the system to change. That isn’t going to happen. But you can learn what to do to keep your loved one safe and fight back. You CAN force that horse to drink when you learn how to play their game. Knowledge is power.

 

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Are You New To Jamie’s Story?

j and jWhen I started writing this blog for Jamie over three years ago it was because I thought people needed to hear his story. It wasn’t because his story was exceptionally different from other people in prison. It was because his story is too damned common. A large percentage of people live their lives oblivious to the pain and suffering inflicted on many people who are locked up in all kinds of detention centers – not because they are dangerous people, although there are many in prison who are – but because they are a source of profit for prison corporations and shareholders who have stock in the growing number of prisons. It is also a source of campaign donations for politicians who then bide by what the prison corporations want – more people to profit from and little oversight about the way they are treated and cared for. We know what the problems are but we can’t make them change.

I don’t blame people for not knowing. I didn’t know anything, either, before Jamie came into my life. All I knew was what I learned in TV series like Prison Break. I didn’t know it didn’t tell the whole story. I thought people were in prison because they deserved to be there. I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether the amount of years they were sentenced was fair. I didn’t know blacks and minorities were targeted. It didn’t affect my life – I thought. Then I met Jamie.

In the pages at the top of the blog is a page that was written at the beginning of my writing the blog. “My Name is Jamie”. If you don’t know his story that is a good place to start because it tells some of the reasons why he is there and what his life was like. There have been many changes since that was written. If you read through all 300 plus blog posts for the ones that include his letters you would be able to follow his life, but that would take a lot of dedication. Instead I thought I’d give you a synopsis of where he is now and what is going on.

Inside The Forbidden Outside, writing new book, JamieCummings,solitary confinement, prison industrial complex, Sonni Quick
We can dream great dreams. “Inside The Forbidden Outside”

In addition to this blog I am also writing a book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”, which is in the second draft. It has taken me longer than I expected to write because I can only write one thing at a time. Two blogs, A newletter “ITFO News” and a book take time and I work on them in a cycle. Add to the mix all the required social media promotion to build a network. When I work on one I can’t work on another. I often work until the sun comes up.

In addition, I am an improv piano composer and I’m working on an album of music for the book. Much of the music was originally written for different blog posts you could find scattered throughout the blog. The music is sometimes painful and melancholy, relaxing and peaceful, best listened to with your eyes closed in the dark. Music promotion takes up another huge chunk of time. You can find my music at these two websites. Skunk Radio Live and ReverbNation. (the links are below the post) Share it if you like it. For anything on line – stats matter.

The reason for all of this is to create a place mentally for Jamie to go when he gets out in 2023. He needs something to work on that has meaning. A book to use to talk to people – help young people stay out of prison and give meaning to his 17 years inside. Turn a negative into a positive.

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Jamie has been inside for 12 1/2 years. He has 4 1/2 years to go. He did 4 years in juvenile detention right before this on a charge he wasn’t guilty of. He took the fall for his younger brother and was told if he did the time for him he would only do nine months. There should have been no charge period. A cop illegally came into their home with no warrant and no cause for entry. His mother got hurt and his little brother hit the cop with a broom in defense. But Jamie was lied to. They didn’t let him go until he was twenty-one. This is in a chapter early in the book. With no education, no life experience, no job history and no counseling, what was he supposed to do?

I think the last 4 years of his sentence are going to be harder than the first four because he is tired. Burnt out. He will be 35 in January 2018. In the beginning he had no idea what to expect, he only knew it is going to be a long time. He hoped his family will be there to support him. He lost raising his only child, a boy, my grandson, who was born after he was arrested. He turned 11 this past July.

He waited and waited for his family to be there for him, giving them excuses of being busy and they will probably write later, which they never did. He asked for a little money to buy hygiene products and nothing was ever sent. He suffered from depression – and epilepsy. No one asked him how he was or if he needed anything. My daughter, his son’s mother went on with her life. He never blamed her for this. They hadn’t been together very long.

How would you feel if this was you and no one gave a damn how you were? The largest percentage of inmates come from the fostercare system, but he had a family and that family acted as though he didn’t exist. Letters weren’t answered. They still aren’t answered. The only person he has had through this is me – and through me, some of you who have written and encouraged him.

Jamie wasn’t guilt free but when you are black or a minority and have no money for an attorney they force you to take a plea deal with threats of a longer sentence if you don’t. If he had an attorney he would have never gotten 17 years. Only 3% of those arrested actual go to court to have their case heard. 97% only go to court to plead guilty – in and out of court in ten minutes. There are so many people arrested there is no time for anything more. this is also why there are so many, often after decades get their cases overturned. But nothing can back the years of suffering inside.

He has been moved around to eight prisons so far. He isn’t in gen pop where there is an opportunity to take classes or go to the library. Even so, gen pop is a dangerous place because there is a mix of inmates with nothing to lose. A lot of bad stuff happens, not only with the inmates with drugs and sex and fights with weapons, it also often includes participation with the guards. Jamie has been beaten, sprayed with gas and false cases have been filed against him he can do nothing about. At the last prison, in retribution for filing grievances against guards for their treatment they filed thirteen sexual harassment cases against him. He can’t fight that. It’s on his prison record.

Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. It’s the same thing out here in the “free world” when it comes to cops and taking responsibility for the people they murder for no reason.

Today he still sits in adseg – administrative segregation – another name for solitary. When he was moved from the last prison 2 1/2 years ago because he was no longer safe there, he was given one year in adseg. Once he was moved they added two more years. Why? Because they can. He has a meeting this month to see if they will let him out. He has a 50/50 chance. If not, then the next meeting is in six months. Is this serving any purpose? Or does it make the guard’s job easier?

I’m worried about him. It is too much time alone. He turns down going to the shower and does a bird bath in the sink – to stay away from guards. He turns down his hour of rec for the same reason. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of getting out of adseg. How will this affect him when he gets out? it isn’t a matter of, will it affect him? It is only a matter of how much. Reintegration will be hard.

This Fall I am making another trip to Texas for a few weeks. I went a year ago, too. I want to finish up on some details I need for the book. I can take his son to see him. I can encourage him to hang in there. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the things I am trying to do to create a life for him, which also has a benefit for me with my music and gives me a reason to keep on writing. There has to be a sequel about what happens next.

It’s important to focus on the positive. See yourself being successful with whatever you want to do. If your life is full of, “I can’t . . .” or “It won’t . . .” or “I could never . . .” then you won’t do anything. All you will do is sit back and feel sorry for yourself and the bad hand of cards you were dealt. It is up to each of us to make our lives work. But if no one teaches you how to do that, what can you do?

I have spent years teaching Jamie the law of life – the law of cause and effect. Some call it “You reap what you sow,” but many don’t take it seriously. Where we end up is the result of the things we have done, so it is up to us to do things to undo what we don’t like and get our life going in a positive direction.

I want to thank all the people who have encouraged me. It has kept me going when i doubt myself. It has helped give me the strength to not give up. Who am I to think I can accomplish these things? If I lose confidence I remember why I’m doing it and what the stakes are. My actions affect other people. Everyone else abandoned Jamie. It happens to most who spend a long time inside. I promised him I would be there and he is counting on that.

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Next issue coming soon. The topic this month – Incarcerating The Innocent  . . . AND . . . beginning today, until ten days after the next issue is published, anyone not currently receiving the issue in their email can tap the above button and enter a sweepstakes to win a signed copy of Sharron Grodzinsky’s “Waiting on the Outside.” Ten copies will be given away.  No shipping fee. Absolutely free.

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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

Sonni’s Pinterest

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

Piano Improv Music of Sonni Quick . . . New facebook page of the past and present

ReverbNation . . . Website of Indie music not on traditional radio stations. Sonni’s featured page.

SkunkRadioLive . . . Indie radio station out of London playing music composed for  the book being written for Jamie.  If you can, help support. It will all help Jamie in the end.

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Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Get screwed by a landlord? Customer not refund your money? Need a FREE will done? (normally about $300) Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord. She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. All for much less than a trip through Kentucky Fried Chicken. Call me, email me, msg me here or at FB. It’s that easy.

No one can make you do this, but it is why you have car insurance even though you are a good driver – the other person who hit you, isn’t. Then you call your insurance company. That is why you NEED Legal Shield.

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Will Our Prisons Make America Great ?

alone

November 2016

Dear mom or rather, Hello beautiful,
        It was so good to hear from you and to know you are starting to feel a little better from surgery. I must say, reading your letter about your pain complications really hurt me. Yes, it hurt me so much. Having to go to your juglar just to find a vein? I know how that feels. I’ve been stuck with needles all my life because of the epilepsy. Ever since I was a baby. I hate IVs. They hurt like hell. As I read over your letter it gave my stomach such a bad feeling. I’m glad you are okay. I’m very sorry you had to go through this.

(Sonni’s note: Do you ever wonder why certain people end up in your life? Why some people come into your life and walk out five minutes later and why some people stay and change your life profoundly? Jamie is one of those people who changed my life, and I changed his. There are parallels between his family and mine that allows us to understand the pain family can cause. We both have a medical history that has affected our quality of life. Our lives clicked on so many levels that I know had we not met, our lives would be drastically different and I doubt they would be better.

There was a reason I needed to learn about the issues with our prison system and learn to care about the people inside- yes, the people being abused by mentally sick people working in the prisons, either because they enjoy inflicted abuse, or they are making profit off them on a grander scale.

fox2news
source credit: fox2news.com

That doesn’t mean that all guards are like this, just like not all cops are bad cops. But the bad ones should be kicked out of the profession since it doesn’t look they will get prosecuted. This is what makes people angry. I  have talked to quite a few inmates. They all say the same thing about guards. When a guard does something harmful to an inmates there should be consequences. If they cause a death they shouldn’t just be moved to another prison to continue abusing people just because they are wearing a uniform. It’s like Catholic priests that molest young boys.  They get moved to another parish. Why can’t they be convicted when they break the law? Are inmates less human?  Have they lost the right to live? The people inside are more than convicts, felons or inmates. They are more than whatever happened to put them there.

Sentences don’t fit the crime, if there even was a crime. After many of them are destroyed by the abuse they receive and then are let back out into society without the skills to cope, knowing the revolving door will push a majority of them back inside so the profit machine can suck up the rest of their life. What a way to Make America Great. )

I got my copy of the GED book and the dictionary. Thank you. It is good to have that to work with. I’ve skipped around reading it. I’ve read US History, US govt, world history and more. I just read about Indian Civilization. Also, I didn’t know India was the birth place of Buddhism. Just so you know I have been chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo x 1000 for you.

I got two letters from my family. That’s a first in a long time. One from my brother and and one from my grandmother. Indeed I was surprised when I got his letter and when I opened it there were four photos. He said he had a lot on his place but never asked how I was doing and said nothing about any help in any way. A My family knows you have been the only one helping me all these years and all he talks about is own full plate. He asked if he was still on my visitation list. No, not after 10 years of waiting for him to come see me. He let me know I have a new 3 month old niece. Nobody ever tells me anything. Better late than never, I guess. He sent photos. It’s the only way I feel I’ll get to see her. He has a son a year younger than my son, however I never met him. He did send an up to date photo saying he thinks he’s tough. I do appreciate the photos.  I’ll write him back. He said my mom is sick again. So did my grandmother, but I haven’t heard a word from my mom herself. I never hear about anything until it’s way after.

(Sonni’s note: It’s not uncommon for family to gradually forget about a someone inside. I guess it’s out of sight, out of mind.  The longer they are in the less they see them. In Jamie’s case, no one was ever there for him, right from the beginning. I tried to get his older brother to write to him about a year and a half ago. I called him. Family can make all the difference in the world. Depression is so common, and when someone is prone to depression it’s even harder. I can always tell what shape Jamie is in by his handwriting. He has quite a family neglect f family few different styles of penmanship and each one is a different mood.

In the last eleven years had his family bothered at all to write to him and find out how he is, it would have helped him – a lot. But no one could be bothered. No one had  a stamp. He’s never heard anything from his younger brother, and his sister? Who knows. she has had her own set of problems. When I asked his brother to write to him his reply was, “It’s not my fault he’s in there. My life didn’t stop” as if someone has had blamed him. He told me, “It’s not your concern.”  Well then who the hell’s concern is it?  Nobody else has given a rat’s ass how he’s been.  You can’t go back and undo that no matter how many letters you write now. Eleven years? I would have a hard time forgiving them. Can you tell this upsets me? But  it doesn’t matter if they are forgiven or not.  You reap what you sow.  You get back what you dish out. What goes around comes around and most of all – there is an effect for every single cause you make and no amount of forgiving wipes that away.  I wrote a post in February 2016 and sent it to his brother.  I never heard back so I don’t know if he read it.

Do you remember the song, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother?  This is the link to the post. The youtube video is in the post. It makes me cry every time I hear it now because I think of all hurt his family caused him and all the hurt of others in the same situation.  You can read it if you like.

Thanksgiving was terrible. The food was bad. The only thing worth eating was the dessert. The dressing was too dry. Everything else was what we normally eat everyday – green beans etc. I don’t have an extra food to eat. Do you think you could send an Ecomm box?  Leah, your friend who writes to me sent me some money for Christmas. I need to buy a new hot pot to heat things up in.

images(Sonni’s note: Each yearly quarter I can order $60 worth of items from the commissary they can keep in their locker. It doesn’t affect any money in their acct. Coffee, cookies and crackers, Raman noodles, squeeze cheese. Like the kind of food you’d buy in a $1 store Cheap and not very healthy but it fills the hole and gives them goodies they might not buy. They probably trade some of it for stamps, which I can’ t buy for him, or he can trade it for other things he wants. Commissary is like money. Maybe someone draws greeting cards they can personalize. They have to get creative if they don’t have anyone to help support them. Inmates can also get pretty creative making dishes with commissary food. They can make cakes out of crushed cookies. It would be interesting to eat some of their recipes. But it isn’t just the food itself, it’s what they have to fashion to cook it in. They don’t have pans or a burner. They can buy a flimsy hot pot but it doesn’t get hot enough to boil water. But somehow they manage)

Time to go to bed. It’s late. Thank you so much for everything. I’ll be thinking of you. Get some rest and give yourself time to heal. Don’t rush it or you might hurt it.

Love you, Jamie

 

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ITFO Newsletter #7 – Raping Female Inmates

Source: Michael Korchia on Flickr

ITFO Newsletter # 7  

For The Women and Their Struggles in Prison

Please Click on the above link to bring up current issue of the ITFO newsletter. Below is just a few snippets. Each issue follows different subjects that need changing and updates. I try to educate people on things they might not know.

It has been a learning experience putting a newsletter together. I hope you click on the subscribe button on the bottom and help me share it through social media. I have lots of plans and projects for this coming hear and it will take people everywhere to help make the changes we need in our prisons and all of the family and friends who are connected to them.

The prisons and our govt is finding new ways to fill our prisons and it starts with the children by making it a felony in some places for boys to even have an after school fight. A young girl was arrested for just baffling up her first at a cop. Cops aren’t there to help you anymore, they are to be feared. Of course fighting isn’t good behavior but boys have been doing it since the bidding of human beings and they weren’t imprisoned for it. It will cause years of prison time no matter how young while it destroys education. There is absolutely no reason for destroying a child’s life for something that should be between a principle and a parent. It will also be used to predominantly lock up kids who are white more than anyone. Kids expelled or suspended today are mostly black, which has been admitted by teachers.

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ITFO NEWSLETTER #7

The rape of men and women have no help from prison staff – and often it is done by them, goes on and is not reported. Women are at the mercy of men who use them at will. In addition, some women locked up are pregnant and don’t receive the medical care they need. Lack of prenatal care and vitamins during pregnancies. Often there are no check ups to make sure the baby is okay. Was this part of their sentencing? Shackling a woman to the bed during labor, and general lack of medical care for all female issues can lead to life long problems. In addition, Women often lose any other children to adoption because they are forced to give up their parental rights. When a judge reads a sentence, where does it state losing their children is included?If a woman is not capable of raising children that is one thing,but we know it isn’t always the case and each situation needs to be judged on it’s own merit. The problem is, CPS makes tens of thousands of dollars for each child it takes away and more if the child is adopted out. Did you know this?

In the rest of the newsletter I will give you stories and links to follow about incarcerated women in the hope of creating better understanding and empathy for women who don’t have the means to keep the children they gave birth to, or to stop being sexually assaulted by their jailers. Don’t judge them, help them. Our prison system is a racket which uses and misuses the people caught in it’s snare. Most of them do not deserve what happens to them inside but it will   continue as long as we allow it to happen. Cont . . .

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