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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Circles Inside Circles – music and ITFO

Listen to Circles Inside Circles by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud

The partial chapter below was posted about 6 months ago. I included it again to give context to the music. When someone is trying to figure out up from down and what makes sense to them about why their life is the way it is, it is confusing and leaves you feeling out of control. You want to change but you don’t know what the truth is – so you search. You try things. You listen. There is more than one path to happiness, but some ways make more sense than others. Blind faith with no consistent proof is the hardest – at least it is for me.

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Jamie was trying. He couldn’t try any harder. He wanted to understand how he could turn his life around and make it through these years in one piece. If he didn’t, the years would be wasted and he’d be a mess when he got out of prison. He couldn’t afford that. He had to make up for a lot of lost time.
     This is what happened when you felt you had endless time on your hands. It was hard to fill the empty spaces. Jamie sat on his bed. He stared at the wall and lost track of time. It had no meaning. He spaced out thinking about his life and what he could have done different. Sometimes he got tired of trying and wanted to melt into the wall and disappear.
    How was anyone supposed to live in conditions like this, then get out and have an okay life? How could he get over it as though it never happened and be happy? It was hard to remember what that was.
     Jamie never had a real chance to find out what he was good at. He wasn’t blaming anyone, the right circumstances were never there. No one taught him how to make something of himself. He just followed along with whatever happened at the moment. He didn’t know how to have a dream. He needed to figure out how to do that.         All he knew for sure was the values he believed in didn’t seem to have the power to get him where he wanted to go.
     Maybe he needed to deepen his faith in God. Study more. Quite a few of the inmates also went to church. There were quite a few screwed up people who found religion after they were sentenced, and some went to church because it was something to do that got you out of your cell. Jamie really wanted to make it work but how were you supposed to know if it was making a difference in his life because nothing had changed for the better.
     He had the bible studies he sent for and was trying to study on his own. He hoped it would help. He had a lot of time to think about what he read. Still, it made no difference. He wasn’t giving up, but what could he do that would actually change things into a better direction instead of going in a circle that only went round and round? He wanted to learn something that would give him hope he was doing the right thing.

End partial chapter

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What Goes Around Comes Around – ITFO Chapter

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WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

 

Startled, Jamie woke up when he heard the food cart coming down the hall with breakfast. He sat up quickly and looked around. It took a few seconds to get his bearings. He half expected Sonni to be there waiting for him to wake up. What had happened earlier? It was confusing. It happened so fast he didn’t have time to put it all together.
     Did he dream the whole thing? He could have. He shook his head back and forth as if trying to clear the picture in his brain. It was surreal, like no dream he ever had before. He would like to think it was real, that Sonni had actually been standing next to him in his cell but that was crazy.
    Loneliness got to him. He heard some of the dudes who had been locked up by themselves for a long time sometimes talked to people they thought they saw in their cells but he knew he wasn’t that far gone.
     If he told anyone what he saw they would think he was nuts. He should write to her today and tell her what happened last night. She’d get a kick out of it. It did seem kinda funny looking back at it. That guard probably thought he’d gone off the deep end, unless he dreamed the whole thing. Jamie could laugh about it now, but last night he really thought he was going crazy.

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It was still dark when his breakfast tray was slid through the food slot. There wasn’t enough light to read or write letters so he laid down and went back to sleep.
     Later in the day he took some paper out of his locker and began drawing the lines going across like a writing tablet. He did it slowly. You could hardly tell it want printed on the paper. He stopped every few minutes and laughed a little as he tried to frame the words of the story he wanted to tell her. After that there was something else he needed to write about. She wanted to know more about the night he was arrested. He didn’t want to dredge it up but she needed to know from him what had happened.
     That’s the bad thing about storytelling. Everyone had their own opinion about what happened and why. A story can grow legs until the truth is barely there. She had heard more than one version of that night and he was the one to tell it. He lived it.
     People remembered what they wanted to remember and when they told a story they added their own details until it sounds like a different story. This was why he needed to write it out once and for all.
     There was one main thing he wanted Sonni to know, and it was important to him. It wasn’t his intention to get mixed up in a robbery that night. He was going out to party with a few other dudes. Morgan lost her car that night. It got impounded. He wouldn’t have done that. He was only guilty of not having good judgement about the people he hung with.
     After four years in juvenile detention from age seventeen to twenty one, Jamie didn’t know how to make the right friends. Everyone he knew was on the verge of becoming an adult felon when they got out. If kids were sent to juvy and shouldn’t be there they had to learn how to survive somehow. . . 

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The rest of the chapter is available to anyone who subscribes to ITFO News. You can leave me a comment and ask me to email it, send me a Facebook message or send an email to squick@mynameisjamie.net. I do not swamp your inbox. Promise. I’d like a way to reach you when it’s ready to publish, and any further ( hopefully ) books I write. A sequel it’s planned for this book. This book will end before he is released.

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Can Someone Be Happy on Death Row?

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I have written posts and pages about a man who lives on Death Row. I use the term “lives” because he has a life. It might not be the life he wants, or one you and I could tolerate, but it is the life he has and he is trying to make it the best life he can.  He has spent years studying to understand life to a greater extent than most people do. He had to go back to the earliest part of his life to understand and learn to appreciate it.

Most people float through their lives from day to day without much thought about why we are the way we are, or why we ended up with the life we have.  We often don’t take responsibility for making the causes we have, to end up where we are. I began writing to him a couple years ago because he intrigued me. I had gone to a pen pal site for inmates, not looking for someone to write to, because I was writing to Jamie, but because I thought this site might a place to put his info and acquire a pen pal or two for him.

Then I saw this post about an inmate named Armando Macias who was on death row, and he was a Buddhist. Since I am a Buddhist as well, I found that intriguing.  I doubted he was a Buddhist before he was sentenced to death row, and how does someone find that practice inside? There aren’t Buddhist monks in prison like there are chaplins. What has his study and practice changed his life to enable him to have quality in his life while living in a tiny bathroom sized cement box. We have had wonderful letters discussing the teachings of Buddhism while getting to know each other.

A member of my family, not understanding, even asked why why I would even want to have him for a friend?  Why would I even want to write to him/  He murdered someone!  He didn’t deserve to be a friend of mine. He no longer qualified to be a human being.  He was going to hell, I was told. Even though he understood what he did was wrong he didn’t deserve to be treated with kindness ever again for the rest of his life.  Because none of us are perfect and do things that are wrong does that mean we should be shunned?

I’m writing about him today because something a little strange happened two days ago. Most of my posts, no matter when they were written still get views. I think that is fairly normal on blogs that aren’t time sensitive, like news. He sent me something to me near the end of 2014 he had written. I broke it down into The parts and it can be found at the top of the site where all the pages are. It is called The Inhumane Society

I still get views every month on the entire series of three posts.  I was quite shocked the first time i read it because it was quite degrading. So far it has been read over 500 times.  That’s not bad because I was a fairly new blogger when I posted it. It showed me it was something people were interested in finding it out more about. People are realizing they have been lied to a great many things and they are tired of being lied to.  We need to insist even stronger we aren’t going to take it anymore. The days of being manipulated are coming to a fast close.

The other day, in the space of two hours, 62 people read this post. Read it yourself.  What do you think?  These were unique viewers.  My blog won’t register a viewer as “unique” if a person logs into the same post within 24 hours. What was bringing here? It wasn’t a new post, I’ve had a few take off and have had 800 to 5000 views over a couple weeks, but not when it had already been out for 1 1/2 years. Was it the subject and was was happening now to get a lot of traffic?  Why was it being quickly shared?  Mind you I’m not complaining.  Anyone who writes wants to have their words reads.

DEATH ROW AND THE DEATH PENALTY

There have been more articles written about the death row and the death penalty than there ever has been.  People want it changed and it has gone back and forth over the years.  The fact that it has been proven that we murdered innocent people and it is too late to give them their lives back.  to have that on your conscious is hard., I would think. Many people aren’t guilty and are used to falsely fill the prisons for the sake of the profit of the prisons.

Yes, there are some really bad people inside, but they are the minority, not the majority, and the length of sentences are often beyond reason. If they aren’t as bad as they have been out to be, simply to fill “for profit” prisons, that means the people in this country were taught to have no moral compass..

This brings me to the second problem I realized. America wants to insist this is a Christian Nation. If this were true – if this country was founded on Christianity, what the hell happened? Why does this piece of dirt that holds 5% of the world’s population have 25% of all the prisoners in the world? Do you see what I’m getting at? Either there is something ineffective about the teachings or there aren’t as many people really and truly “practicing” the teachings, living their lives as if the teachings make a difference. There is so much hate and so many hate crimes, and people think they have a right to do them. People either have no idea what the term”you reap what you sow” means, or they think it doesn’t apply to them.

I recently read a article on a Christian website. The preacher was teaching a lesson. He said to his followers, “You don’t have to worry about the phrase, you reap what you sow. Jesus died for your sins.” What??? It doesn’t matter what you do or who you hurt. You are saved and going to heaven.. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that.  You get back the effect of every bad -and good – thing you do. If you aren’t happy, it is for a reason. It also applies if you are happy. You have no one else but yourself that is responsible for your life. Even if you were taught differently, it doesn’t make it so.

This country should be overstuffed with happy Christians. Where are they? They are all out there proudly toting their guns In case their neighbor tries to shoot up the grocery store while they are in it.  A Christian country wanting to terrorize lgbt people because they say Good doesn’t like it. They terrorize Muslims because they say every single one of them wants to kill you in your sleep. And damn those Mexicans raping and killing our women. Then they teach this to a new generation of kids? Is this our Christian nation? It’s shameful.

Armando Macias studied all religions to find the truth about his life.  He did do something bad. But through this bad thing, with the teachings of Buddhism, which is doubtful you know anything about, he learned what it meant to truly be a human being. He is more free in that prison than most Americans are carrying they guns around because that is their god given freedom to protect themselves – from what?

NICHIREN BUDDHISM

It is Nichiren Buddhism I teach Jamie, so he will truly learn his value as human being. Praising an entity does not replace the work we need to do on ourselves that make us better people. We can’t say “Praise the Lord”, and then do as we damn well please and think we won’t have to pay the price for our actions.

This is my opinion. Please understand i am not lumping all Christians into this category.  You can believe what you want. Each of us to come to terms with our own life.  You can be angry or you can think about it. I’m not saying you should stop being a Christian. But understand why you are.  Was it told to you ha

I think it is hard to not try to analyze it, but that doesn’t change anything. So how does one change something that causes unhappiness? Let’s take a hard situation, since I mostly write about the prison system. Today I wore about juvenile detention and the artwork is from a man on death row. He committed a contract killing. Not his first offense. Read what he wrote about what happened the first time he was released. He wanted a better life. His karma was too strong. What is karma? The effect of causes made. If you want to know what causes you made in the past look at your life today. How do you want you future to be? Make the right causes. Otherwise life just slaps you around and if you really think life isn’t being fair it is easy to play victim and say it is not your fault – it was done to you by something outside your control. At that point many people would pray to God to fix it and when that doesn’t work they’d say it was part of God’s plan for them to suffer. So nothing changes and no responsibility is taken. Amen. Praise the lord!

How does someone change the fact they are on death row? or Ad Seg like Jamie? Physically, right now it won’t change. What changes is attitude and life Condition. You could call it moods. depending on your mood, when something happens you will react differently. If you are angry and a guard treated you badly, you’ll get pissed which will start a chain of events that could end up with you getting very hurt. If you have a higher life condition you might blow it off and the guard would  just walk away. You could have a higher life condition and instead, genuinely smile him.  After all, he has to work in this 100 degree weather with more clothes on than you and tempers are flaring. Now that he isn’t angry and you weren’t condescending to him maybe you’ll be the first one he takes to the shower and you thank him. Different causes. Different effects. This is all of life. This is how karma is made.

Everything you think, say or do creates karma. Even in a prison cell he can be happy. There are many kinds of prison cells. To escape unhappiness you have to understand the causes of your life. When you are in rhythm with the universe you will bring to you what you need, and when you try to change, your life will throw up obstacles to keep you down. Resistance to change. This is a life long battle. How do you get in rhythm? By chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” The law the cause and effect through sound and vibration.

Some people mediate, but that is too passive. You physically have to do something. Yes, you can think about change but it isn’t the same. There are so many things I want to do. None of it will happen unless I make the cause for it to happen. We understand that on a basic level. Can you even imagine what you could do if you took control of how you’re life actually went? So whether it is changing violence, or anger or jealousy or lack of confidence, or a hateful coworker, or not wanting to be alone, anything – if you have complete confidence your mind will figure out a way. But we are human and it is always 2 steps forward and one step back That is life.There is nothing supernatural about it. No God up there who has the ability to love no matter how much people want it to be so. Common sense. This, was the intro to Nichiren Buddhism 101. You don’t have to believe it, but millions of other Nichiren Buddhists in this country to do, which is why this is not a Christian nation.  We have to have laws for all people not just a select person.  There is no fat happy Buddha, either, BTW.  We don’t worship the man, we try to live what he taught.

This was not meant to insult anyone and their faith, only to bring to the surface the people that don’t practice their faith as it was meant to be, but instead use it to judge others they think should practice what they believe in, and use hate and violence to push their agenda – no matter what faith they have.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
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Allred Unit- Prison #8

Early Jan 2016

Hello mom, I’m sorry it to so long for me to write. Things have really been crazy the last few weeks. I have through hell and back. But that’s in the past. I’m not in the Wynne Unit no more. I’m now in N. Texas.

(  Sonni’s note: This is the 8th prison Jamie has been in. IF you would like to write to him here is his new address: James Cummings #1368189  12-Fpod-84, Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 North, Iowa Park, Tx 76367 for those who have written and had birthday cards returned because he was transferred. If they were delivered, they haven’t sent his property to him yet so he doesn’t have any addresses, stamps, paper or ID to get any at the commissary. Hopefully he’ll get it, but last time the guards took things. It’s normal to be moved all over the state. There are more than 110 prisons just in Texas. Going to N Texas is better than going south. Texas is hot in the summer all over. But the south is hotter)

lockdown,voice from insideI am in ad seg, but believe it or not it’s okay as of right now. I am so glad to be away from Wynne Unit. It took two days to get here and we went through a little snow storm.

(Sonni’s note: Jamie told me a long time ago that he’d never seen snow. He’s never been out of Texas. So he must have enjoyed seeing snow. I just sent him a letter through jpay.com and sent a picture of the snow storm we just had on the east coast. 33″ and add 2 more feet of drifts. I hate cold weather. I prefer the tropics so I am typing right now wrapped up in three blankets! I hibernate in the winter.)

So far I’m okay. I’m still having chests pains here and there but I’ll be seeing a Dr here soon. They’ll start taking my medical fee out of any money you send until it’s paid. If you hadn’t been paying it all these years and helping me I wouldn’t have anything. I hope the send me all the books you had just sent.

( I buy them by the foot. A variety of all kinds of used books that measure three feet when stacked. I already bought another 3 feet. If he gets the last shipment h, too, he’ll be set for a couple months! In his property is also a radio. I found a neat article about how a monk sets his day. I jokingly told him he is like a monk who also lives in a cell. It helps to have a routine and stick to it spending so much time doing each thing and keeping his mind occupied in a positive way.

Source: Timo Waltari on Flickr
photo source: wikipedia commons (also from previous article)))

If you haven’t yet, read the post before this one about solitary confinement in the UK.  It’s hard to read what this kind of solitary does to the mind. It causes depression and mental illness. Suicide in prison is high. Depression and paranoia. Human beings are not meant to never be touched or talked to. Most people can’t handle it. Jamie is no stranger to solitary confinement or ad seg. They are both 23 hr a day lock down. Every three months they lock you down further to toss cells. Commissary is suspended even though he can only go once a month anyway and food rations are cut. Being able to stock up on food from the commissary is important.

Jamie studies Nichiren Buddhism. I started teaching him about 6-7 years ago. It’s not an easy practice to do every day without support. Compare it to taking out a gym membership. After going for awhile most people gradually stop going and make excuses why they can’t exercise that day, but they’ll go tomorrow and when they don’t see results they quit.  Buddhism produces actual results. It isn’t like Christianity where you go to church once a week, ask forgiveness and all is okay and you treat the world around you the same. We look at life and death in a different way and don’t think it was created by a god. It is different than a religion where a god is at the center. Since there is no god in Buddhism to worship, we don’t pray to an entity outside of us to change things in our life. We pray for the wisdom to know what to do to be able to change the part pf your nature that ends up causing you unhappiness. When you are able to change something on the inside, it affects your environment on the outside. 

We cause our own problems and over time we see the effects in our life around us. We can’t expect our life to change without doing the work. It’s like praying to change something and then holding out our hand expecting the benefit of cookies. We have to learn how to make better causes so we can be happy. In the last year, when Jamie was knocked down from G2 status that allowed him phone calls and had also allowed him to have a job – cleaning the showers – that he had worked hard to reach, because of the vindictiveness of a guard, it was a major let down for him and slowly he allowed his anger to have more control over his actions than common sense. He’s human. We’re all human, and we do or say things we later regret. But in prison you also have to deal with the rule that guards are always right and inmates are always wrong and there is nothing you can do about it. This has happened a number of time over the years where he had privileges taken away because of someone else has power over him.

But still, it is the result of cause that were made that put him in this situation to begin with, and only by changing how he deals with it can he change it. Wanting to change it doesn’t work by itself. If it were that easy to change, people would be doing it all the time. But they don’t and many fall back on, “That’s just the way I am.”

This is why we practice Nichiren Buddhism – not Tibetan or Zen or any other because they are ass different as Pentecostals and Catholics.If your faith only tells you what you should to be happy, but doesn’t tell you how to do it, then you have only half a teaching. Praising a god or any religion is not how you change the problems in your life. I’ve gone into this explanation because it’s a very important part of how he will be able to have the life he wants.  It’s up to him and asking an entity in the universe to fix his problems won’t work.  Ask any inmate in solitary confinement how that method is working for him.  If that worked we wouldn’t have the prison system we have because I’m sure there are a lot of inmates who are trying that method.  I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s choice of faith.  I hadn’t intended this to be a post on faith, but it is a big part off how I keep his head above water.  I only know what works for me now and what hasn’t worked in the past. If anyone would like to know what this is go to http://sgi-usa.org.

So you had the chance to talk with the Warden when you called about my medications. The warden is just as bad as the guards. He’s the type of fool who tries to bone every female officer who works for him. When he can’t have his way he writes them up. This whole place is corrupt. I’ve had women who work here offer me sex. I would never have intercourse with them even if I wanted to. I’d be too scared because of HIV. A lot of these women have sex with these dudes and a lot of these dudes have sex with other dudes. So I have safe sex, with myself.

This seg is nothing like the last one. Officers here are respectful. I haven’t met them all yet but I’m going to do my best to be polite.

Do you think you can get Megan to bring little Jamie to see? If you are still planning on coming to Texas this spring I can’t wait to see you! I have to go for now. I only have one piece of paper and a stamp that I borrowed. I’ll write again as soon as I can. Please call Jamie. And tell him I love him.

Love you.

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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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Early Morning Pain – Prison is No Place To Keep Love Alive

burning heart flame
photo credit:
revalationsofprofoundlove.com

Early Morning Pain by Sonni Quick   copyright 2015

December 10, 2009

(Sonni’s note: It is still December 2009 4 1/2 years ago, as I continue to read older letters. The sad thing is that it is a letter I could have received today. He was G5 then and he is G5 now. I’ve begun to wonder why it is that there are inmates in some states who are at different level security prisons, yet the offense is the same, or an inmate who committed a far worse crime than Jamie did yet he is in medium security prison where Jamie is in a maximum security. Is it something than an attorney can help with? I don’t know. It took a lot of letters for me to start to understand what it all meant – how hard it was. I knew nothing when I started writing)

I’m now G5 which is 24 hour lockdown. I’ve been back here going on four weeks. life in prison. I’m good in a way because I haven’t been in no trouble. However, I’m also doing bad because they won’t give me any of my property. All I have is sheets, blanket, tissues and a few bars of soap. I don’t have a mattress. They haven’t given me one yet. I’m sleeping on an iron bunk. My back is killing me. My cellie lets me use his every now and then. I have nothing to do. I just sit here looking at the walls. I can’t do any of my studying because I have no books. I no longer get to go to the Islam services. I’ll do all my studying when I get my books back. I don’t know when that will be. It could be a month or two from now.

Mom, in your last letter you asked me if I needed anything. I was going to ask if you would send me a few books. However, I remember saying in a letter she wrote that you are a nice lady and to not take advantage of you. It really hurt me that she would think I would do that to you., so it’s okay about the books, mom, thanks anyway. I know you told me all I needed to do was ask. I told Megan that it hurt that she thought I would do that to you. I would never do that to someone I love, or even someone close to a loved one. Mom, I think she has moved on with her life, so I just want her to tell me that’s all. I don’t want to hold her up if she wants to move on. I just want her to know I really love her. I understand she is having it hard by herself. I can apologize a million and one times but it won’t help bring me back home. I messed up, but at the same time it’s just as hard in here, having someone run your life. People you don’t know who are 5 or 6 years younger than you. It hurts mom, really, to have someone run over you just because they can. There is lack of humanity in here.  They enjoy watching you suffer.

Well, I love you mom but I’m going to end this letter. My cellie is an old dick and he’s telling me why I love Megan. He’s been down the same road. I love you, mom. Write back soon please please. TELL MEGAN I LOVE HER PLEASE PLEASE. THANK YOU.

Ask her if her flame for me still burns? If it takes awhile for her to answer please tell me. Then I know she has moved on. Thank you. Sorry it took so long to write back.

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Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

“Jamie” by Sonni Quick copyright 2014
Sept 9,2013

Incarcerated since late 2005

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you it is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions. It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in it but they all say they are bright and everyone else is wrong. The Chaplain in here doesn’t like you if you aren’t a Christian.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

Mom,I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of the magazine, Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about what happens next.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me? I’ve wasted more than seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one. Ill try chanting “nam myoho renge kyo”. Maybe it well help change things. I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU.  Please give me some time to think.
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(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

It is hard for him to remember there is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father. What he is learning because of this will change his direction. It is painful He can’t see it now but he will later. Nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens is the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is.

During the first year after this letter was written he began studying the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism. His attitude about his life improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and a determination to succeed; a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. He wanted to understand what propelled him the direction that led to prison. Buddhism puts responsibility for your life squarely on your own shoulders. No plan laid out for you by an entity who loves and punishes you. Only the effects of the causes you made yourself are what You are in the driver’s seat.

It does not mean life is smooth sailing and everything is a bed of roses. Try to change, and the obstacles increase andbtest your determination. But Jamie now is getting a better understanding of why things happen to him, and he is learning to make better decisions in his life. He is seeing how his emotions govern how he feels about his life, especially anger. Regardless, if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy. But it is always two steps forward and one step back.)

“Getting Religion” in Prison

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

Hi mom, I hope all is well with you,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bible Thumping for Prison inmates

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

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

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

February 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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