The Second Time Around – The Visit

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The Visit

It was July 2009. Jamie knew if he didn’t make parole he’d be staying until 2023, and he wouldn’t make it that long. He couldn’t wrap his head around being stuck in here for that many years. He needed to be home where he could take care of his family and raise his son. He had to stay focused on that. Morgan needed him home. She had to do everything for the family and it was too much. He was no help in here.
     His first parole hearing wouldn’t happen until he was here for eight years. He had five to go which wasn’t even halfway. Doing the entire seventeen years would be impossible. He couldn’t do it. It was too depressing to think about.
     Learning to keep his mouth shut and staying out of trouble wasn’t easy. It was his own fault. He wasn’t used to letting people get away with constantly disrespecting him. These guards were always mouthing off at him, trying to get him angry and pressing his buttons. He wondered if they were trained in how to be a jerk. Even when he was minding his own business they liked to throw their weight around like some kind of underpaid ass.
     They would go on and on until he couldn’t take anymore and got sarcastic back. It didn’t matter if they started it. If he let himself get into it with them they had enough reason to write up a case on him. That was the reason why they did it. They weren’t the ones who were going to get in trouble. Right or wrong he was always in the wrong. Even if he tried to explain what happened, no one would listen to him.
     He got mad at himself every time he let them get to him. The best thing to do was ignore them. Look away, but it wasn’t easy. They knew what to say to be insulting.
     Ignoring other inmates who wanted to mess with him was hard, too. If he dissed the wrong dude it could get him hurt real bad. Jamie could take care of himself but he’d be written up if he got into it with anyone. So far he had only been written up twice this year and he wanted to keep it that way. He had to make it another seven months. Then he’d be raised back up to population and could work on getting a skill and study for his GED. He felt he’d come a long way. Now, if he could only keep it up.
     Tempers were high for everyone. The heat brought out the worst in people. There was no AC and no let up on the heat, even at night. There was no way to get away from it as long as he was in Texas, so he better get used to it. Everyone here was in the same boat, even the guards.
    He got regular letters from Sonni. He didn’t understand why she cared, but he was glad she did. He didn’t know her well enough yet to realize this was just how she was. If someone needed help she would do it.
     Jamie was glad to have someone to write to. He knew his writing and spelling wasn’t too good, but who knew, back when he was going to school that he would need to write so many letters?
     It was hard to keep all this stuff inside his head and not go crazy. He needed someone to write to about what was going on. Most of all, he needed to know he mattered to someone. Would she keep answering his letters? If he told her everything about him would it put her off? She told him she would always be there for him. It was hard at first to have that trust because he had been let down before. Did she know if she know about his past or what he had done? Maybe then she wouldn’t like him or want him around her family.
     Jamie wasn’t the one who did the robbery at the club that got him arrested, but knew his friend had a gun in his backpack. He showed it to him. He thought he was joking about robbing the club. He was guilty of being there and that was all that mattered to the court. He couldn’t blame nobody else for what happened. He could’ve run when he saw what was going down, but friends don’t leave friends behind, do they? Maybe he would have if he had known what was going to happen. 

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When Sonni wrote to him about Key West she made him feel like he was part of her family. She wrote about her employees and what it was like working in her store and dealing with the people coming off the cruiseships. Morgan worked there with her until the baby was a year old and decided to move back to Texas.
     Key West sounded like beautiful place, with palm trees and blue water. Lots of music. And fishing. He’d love to do some fishing in the ocean. It was different from any place he’d been, but then he really hadn’t been anywhere other than East Texas. He wished he could see it some day. When he was growing up he dreamed of being a truck driver so he could go all across the United States and see everything. That was probably out of the question now.
     What helped him most of all when writing a letter, is having someone to talk to about how much he loved his family. He liked to see the words. Sonni wrote back with every detail she knew about their lives. Any little thing Jamie could picture in his head was priceless to him. He felt close to them even though there were many miles between them. It helped him get through the rough days.
      Even though his family knew where he was, there was no way they could fully understand what he was going through. The conditions were horrible, but it was the effect it had on him mentally that was worse. Having one person who took the time to try and see things through his eyes was often the only difference between making it and giving up. Sometimes he pulled himself together because he didn’t want to disappoint her.
     The visit, that one visit he had with his family gave him something to think about and remember every day. The memory of everyone laughing and talking to him over the phone in the booth helped him get through many nights.
     Could they tell how close he was to losing it? Could they see on his face how much he wanted to give up? He tried to hide it. Behind his smile he was crying.
     Their time together that day was too short. It was gone in a blink. It was a small bandaid on a big wound. Morgan said she still loved him and told him not to give up hope. No matter what, they would always have a son together. Time could never take that away no matter what happened.
     Morgan promised she would write as soon as they got back home, so he would know they were okay. Next thing he knew they were waving goodbye and blowing kisses.
     He closed his eyes and lived that day again from beginning to end, pausing at his favorite places, rewinding and playing it over again. He had every moment engraved in his head. With so much time on his hands with nothing to do, reliving that day was his favorite thing to do. It helped him forget reality.

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When his family walked into the visiting room and Jamie laid eyes on his son emotion grabbed him in the chest. He was overwhelmed with love. He couldn’t stop thinking, “This is my son. This is my son.”
His son was growing up without him. No one could understand what it was like to be in a place like this, thinking everyday about a little boy he couldn’t see. They would never be able to get back the time they missed.
Would his son grow to love a man who was never there? His son, this smiling whirlwind of energy was what gave him hope, knowing he was waiting for him to get out. Jamie wanted to pick him up and swing him around. Hear him scream with laughter. Tickle him and laugh with him. He was dying inside. Not having his family was breaking him.
It had been hard for him when he had to grow up without a father. He watched his siblings go off to spend weekends with their fathers while he stayed home. He pretended it didn’t matter, but it did.
He and his mama didn’t talk about it, but that didn’t mean he didn’t wonder who he was. He had nothing to go on. There were no pictures to look at. His father was cut away from him completely. Was that good or bad? Did his father wonder what he was like?
Was it better for him to not know what his father looked like or where he was? He couldn’t miss someone who didn’t exist. But what did exist was knowing he didn’t have a father. Maybe he was being selfish, but he wanted his boy to know he was there. He wanted him to know he was loved. Nothing could ever change that. Jamie didn’t want to be this empty space in his son’s head where the thought of him was supposed to be.
To have so much love and not be able to show it because he could only look at them through glass was so cruel. The craving to wrap his arms around them was almost more than he could bear, but he didn’t want them to see that. He covered up the tears in his eyes with a smile. He wanted to touch him but couldn’t, so he wrapped his arms around his chest and held on to himself.
Little Jamie ran across the floor. He stumbled and fell, laughed and picked himself up. He ran back to the counter in front of the glass and laughed again. He knew he had an audience and ran off again. 

     Jamie watched him run. It grabbed his heart in a vise. He had screwed up so bad. It ripped him up not being able to watch him grow. Here he was, so close, but he still couldn’t reach far enough to touch him. He wanted to hold him, smell him, and kiss his skin to make sure he was real.
     He could tell Little Jamie knew he was his father just by the way he looked him in the eye. When he took off running he stopped, turned around and looked back at him to ee if he was still watching. All Jamie had to do was give him a frown and point at the chairnin front of him and he went right over and sat down.
     He didn’t know then that it would be another five years before he saw his son again, and when he did, he son wouldn’t know him. Not really. He shied away. He stared at his hands and would only answer a question with yes or no.
     It felt so good to see and talk to his mom. He was too far away for her to come visit on her own. He missed her. She asked if he needed anything. He asked if she could help him get a fan. She told him when she got home she would send him the money. It cost twenty-two dollars and he had no other way of getting money.
     Some states paid inmates a small amount of money to work, anywhere from ten cents an hour to maybe a dollar an hour for skilled labor. Texas won’t pay any amount of money for work no matter what the job was. They said they would give good time off your sentence, but they usually found a reason to take it away, even if they had make it up. The prison wasn’t above seeing up an inmate with false charges.
     The afternoon sped by. Toward the end everyone but Morgan went off for one last trip to the vending machines. The kids sure did like to feed it quarters. The older kids had grown so much. In his heart he was acutely aware of the time he was losing with his family. Would he ever be able to make it up to them? Would he get home before they were grown?
     Morgan sat in front of him silently as they looked each other in the eye. He didn’t know what to say to make it better.
     “Every day I miss you so much,” Jamie began.”This isn’t the way I wanted it to be for us.”
     “I know. I miss you, too.” He could see tears in her eyes. They put the palms of one hand on the glass and matched it.
     “I don’t expect you to wait if you find someone else.”
     She shook her head. “There isn’t anyone else,” she assured him with a little laugh. “When would I have time? Besides, who would want a woman with three kids?” She laughed again, trying to make light of it.
     “I would,” he answered back. “I plan on making parole and coming home in five years, but that is still a long time. You can talk to me if you do meet someone.”
     He paused and searched her eyes. “Please don’t hide anything from me because you think I’d be upset.”
     “Promise me you’ll write,” he added. “I don’t think I could stand it if I didn’t at least have your letters. No matter what happens I’ll always love you.”
     “I promise,” she lowered her eyes when she answered.
     “Will you write when you get home so I know you got there safely?”         She nodded her head.
     “If you’re still there and waiting for me when I get out, I promise,” Jamie paused to let it sink in, “the second time around I will make it up to you.
     A guard came over and told Morgan, “Five minutes. Wrap it up,” and walked back to where he was standing and folded his arms over his chest.
     This was the hardest part, saying goodbye. When would he see them again? How many times could he say the words, I love you? They were going to walk out of the room and a guard would take him back to his cell. Now all he had left were the memories of the day to think about.
      Jamie was more than glad they had come. It was better than he had hoped for. He had hope again. Everything was going to be okay.

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Over time Sonni became like a mom to him. She signed her letters, Love, mom. Jamie needed family. He needed encouragement that he could make it, and he needed to understand who he was. Sonni helped him make sense of what was happening to him. She said he brought this into his life. There were lessons to learn. He didn’t quite understand what she meant by that. But he knew if he didn’t have plan he wouldn’t make it. In the Fall, after the visit, he wrote her this letter:

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Dear Mom,
How are you? As for me I’m okay. I’ve been kinda upset. It’s been three months and I’ve only gotten one letter from Morgan. I’m trying to not let it get to me. I think she found someone else. I’m trying to control my emotions. I’m learning to have self control over my temper. So my days are going a lot better now.

I stay out of trouble by staying to myself. I have time every morning and evening in the day room for two hours. The rest of the time I’m in my cell. That’s because my custody level is G4 line 5. I am almost to where I’ll be in 24 hour lock up, if I get one more major case. If I make it seven months I’ll be put back in population. Then I can go to school and learn a trade and go to the library.

Thank you for caring about me. Yes, you can send books but you have to send them from someplace online. You can’t send them. We can also get magazines and puzzle books.

I have to go now. I forgot to say happy birthday. Write back soon, love,

your son

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It’s Hard to Walk Away From a Prison Visit

 

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It’s hard to walk away from a prison visit not knowing when another visit might be possible. Visits with Jamie will be behind glass until he is classified G2. To get to the visitors area I first had to go through a metal detector – remove everything, like at an airport, and go through a thorough pat down. They even checked my pockets and the cuffs on my pants to feel if anything was sewn inside. A woman behind glass took down his ID number, checked my DL and wrote down identification of my car. She called ahead to see if she could send me through.

This was my third and last visit. Visiting hours are only on the weekend. The adseg cubicles were full so I was given a card with a number and told to go back to my car, move to a different parking lot and wait – for about 1 1/2 hours. This visit was a regular visit – two hours. The previous two visits were special visits that had to be approved by the warden. On the Monday before I had to call at 8 am and submit my name and where I was traveling from because special visits are only granted for people coming long distances. They only reserve 5 cubicles (for 3,500 inmates) so there is no promise you’ll get approved. On Thursday you call back at 2 pm to see if the warden approved the visit. The weekend before I was approved. It was a two hour drive, then a four hour visit and two hours back. Two days in a row. This last visit was a regular visit for two hours. They close at five. As I sat in the parking lot waiting, I was afraid this delay would cut my visit short. He might think I wasn’t coming if it got too late.

I had to rent a car this time instead of using my daughter’s car and they didn’t open until 11 am. I couldn’t get on the road as early as I did the weekend before. I sat in my car and watched a series episode on Netflix to pass the time until I saw a staff car pull beside my car and wave me over. It took a little less than they thought. Someone must have left early. I was relieved. If it had taken as long as they said my visit would only be an hour. I knew by now he thought I wasn’t coming and he would have been so disappointed. I couldn’t get word to him for at least a couple days using JPay.com to send an email.

I went back through the metal detector and pat down and they waved me through. There is a decent length walkway outside leading to the main building. I stood and looked up at the layers of razor wire and guard tower. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny. Under a tree was a bench with a flower pot. There was a plaque indicating it was a memorial to “fallen guards”. I wondered if there was a memorial somewhere for all the prisoners who died from “natural” causes. I gave a little laugh under my breath knowing it was a stupid thought.

I thought about the visit I was going to have, knowing he would be disappointed because his son wasn’t with me. His son, Jamie, was going through his own issues with his father locked up and dealing with limited communication. He wouldn’t come with me to the prison this year. It’s hard on both of them, because they have never had time together to bond. They have never touched.

Letters are hard. Jamie can’t talk about his life in prison. There is no way to explain to a 12 year old what he’s going through. How often can he ask how he’s doing in school? He has started many letters he didn’t know his to finish. Little Jamie only knows he doesn’t have his father. He has only his mother’s live-in relationship, who he calls dad at his mother’s suggestion. This man has been good to him and has provided a good home, but it is still not his dad. Someday Jamie will get out of prison when his son is nearly out of school. He will have missed his entire childhood. But your children are your children long after childhood. Hopefully they will find a way to come together and understand each other.

As I walked toward the double doors for the next ID check I looked over my shoulder. The sun was shining and flowers were planted along the walkway. Pumpkins were set out for Halloween. It gave a false sense of normalcy to a place that was anything but normal. I mused, how nice it would if Jamie could take a walk outside. Just walk, in a stride the length of his legs instead of having a chain connecting his ankles forcing him to take short steps. He’d swing his arms in rhythm with his walk instead of being cuffed behind him. We often take for granted the little things we do without thinking

I looked over at one of the buildings. I was sure I was looking at prison cells because Jamie had described the windows. There were three floors of windows/slats in the wall. They werr about seven inches high and two feet long. Too high to look out but it would let light in. He drew me a picture of his cell. 5′ wide by 10′ long. Just big enough for his bunk, toilet and a place to sit and write. Storage was under the bunk. At an earlier prison he had bars at one end so anyone could see in. There was no privacy. His cell now has a steel door so unless the guard opens it he sees nothing.

During each of our visits I bought food for him from the vending machines. Barely edible sandwiches, snacks and sodas. It was like buying dinner at a gas station. Even when I buy him a food box and have it sent there is little real food to choose. 

I was assigned to seg 7. I sat down in front of the booth and waited. It had been 1 1/2 years. June ’16. The only good thing is that he was a little closer to the end. When they brought Jamie in they first uncuffed his ankles on the other side of the door, let him in and locked the door. He has to squat down facing me and put his hands back through a small opening so they coulf remove the cuffs on his wrists. You can see it in the picture.

There are 3 types of seating. An open room where inmates can sit with their visitors at a round table. There were quite a few kids. Everyone seemed happy. They were allowed to hold hands. The microwave was constantly busy heating up sandwiches. The inmates seated here were classified G2, the least restrictive. They could take classes and get certifications, make phone calls and work an unpaid job.

In the middle was an area for G4 and G5. The inmates are in a plexi-glass enclosure with about 12 chairs. Visitors sit on the other side in front of them with with short panels separating each one to give a little privacy. One inmate had eight visitors. 4 adults and 4 children. He was one of the lucky ones to have so much support from family.

There were 8 locked cubicles like the one I was sitting in front of. The phone was terrible. Distortion. I had to talk loudly. I would have asked to be moved but the rest were full. The past weekend I was at #3 and the phone was better. The folding chair I had to sit on was so low the counter hit me mid chest. The metal phone cord wasn’t very long and it killed my shoulder holding the phone to my ear. I suppose they don’t want anyone to get too comfortable.

The prison had been on lockdown for about 1 1/2 months. An inmate in gen pop (general population) committed suicide – hung himself. The entire prison went on lock down while they did an investigation to see if it was suicide or gang (or guard) related. “What more can they take away from you?” I asked him. “My one hour of rec.” In a solitary cage. If he was G4 he could go to the yard – play basketball and talk to people, which is also dangerous because guards have pet inmates who do their dirty work for privileges. He is never safe. Every time he has gotten out of seg something happened and he was put back. A guard can file a false case. One time he was sent to adseg for a couple years because a homemade knife “appeared” on his sink during a cell search. It doesn’t leave him with much hope when he gets out of adseg this time – sometime – that he’ll be able to stay out, but he has to try.

Jamie has been in 8 prisons. When they let him out it’s possible he could be moved to another prison. He has already been as far west and south in Texas as possible. It’s is a big state. He could be moved too far away for his son to travel to see him because no one will take him. I might be able visit and take him if he is a two day drive away.

My daughter hates that Jamie and I have been writing. After all, he was her old boyfriend. I had sent him a card many years ago asking how he was. If I had never met him maybe I wouldn’t have. He wrote back. Over time I learned I was the only one writing to him – even his family wouldn’t write – was I supposed to stop? When the writing continues for more than a decade was I not supposed to care about him? We’ve both been through our fair share of personal crisis. I’ve been there for him and he’s been there for me. No one else was willing to help him get simple necessities. Not having someone on the outside makes it easy to for the prison to break them. Depression takes hold when no one cares. Knowing him prompted my writing, my music and research for the truth. I wanted to help him and it would help myself. Give him dreams to hang on to. My daughter thinks it’s inappropriate. Too much has been said in front of their boy that would be hard for him to process.

Prison is a society unlike any other society and it changes you. It makes it nearly impossible to have a “normal” life because you have acquired no life experience that is needed to live in the “Free World”. How to survive in prison is all an inmate learns, which is why so many end up back inside. He can’t be expected to know things he has never done. The world has changed. Society as a while makes it hard. Anyone who has been in prison has to be dangerous.

Because of trauma, letters become emotional when pain and frustration boils over. I feel his loneliness, dispair and anger at not being able to change what happens. He is supposed to have rights, but he has no rights. It’s a farce. I am the only left to fight for him. I pour these emotions into my writing, music, poetry and letters. It’s all I can do to give him a feeling of self worth and to know he hasn’t been forgotten – because everyone else has. I do care. I can’t deny that. I have to see this through because to do anything less makes me just like everyone else.  I won’t do that.

If he does all of his time he gets out early 2023. About 5 years. That seems like a long time but he’s done more than 2/3 of his time. He wants to make get parol buthe doesn’t have his GED yet or a trained skill, a place to live and family who writes letters of support. These are needed. I have a lot to do to help make life possible on the outside. I’ll be 69 and my health isn’t great. I need to finish the book, develop a business around a brand, write this blog, work on my music business and build a mailing list to let people know. 

If you aren’t on the mailing list please subscribe below to get the ITFO NEWS. It is one way you can keep up with what is happening. It helps. You can share what I write. It does make a difference. I reach out to many people affected by the prisons. We are learning there is strength in numbers. We can use that strength to help the many people inside and their families.

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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 Facebook . . .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.  I have a featured page. I intend to promote the music as a soundtrack for the book. Can it be done?

 

Children and Families of the Incarcerated Fact Sheet

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This information came from the recent newsletter put out by Kate Boccia of the NIA – The NATIONAL INCARCERATION ASSOCIATION.  It was compiled by Rutgers University – National Resource Center on Children & Families of the Incarcerated
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Many people do not have a clear understanding of how children have been affected by our government’s “War of Drugs” and how they are beholden to the contracts the US government has with the Prison Industrial Complex. They hold the government responsible for keeping our prisons filled to the max. Since the government is required to pay the PIC for empty beds, they are more than willing to lock up people by any means whether they are guilty or not. And if they are guilty, the sentences far exceed anything that would help with rehabilitation. If they ruin the people locked up, so much the better. That means they will probably get locked up again because they lost the ability to function in society because of the abuse they received while inside.
Why should they care? Because it is the right thing to do? The prisons are stocked with predominantly Blacks, Hispanics and poor minorities who don’t have the resources too fight back. I use the word “stocked” because that is exactly what they do.  It doesn’t matter if they are people. They believe these people exist for them to use for profit. Unfortunately, too many people don’t care because they have been slammed with propaganda telling them these people have criminal tendencies, lower intelligence and are not safe to be around. Lock them up. Most people are out for themselves. Unless it affects their family they don’t have time to care.
But the children who are affected do care. Their lives are also chewed up by the system.  it is not just their parents who are locked up. It affects their lives. What do they learn? How does it affect their adulthood. Is our government, along with the prison system intending on grooming the next generation of adult inmates? When does the government become responsible for the damage they do to the families? So many of these children end up is fostercare. 70% of those locked up right now went through the fostercare system, having no reliable adult in their lives who genuinely cared about them.
Below are some statistics you should read through very carefully. With the new crimes the Trump administration is dreaming up because crime is down, and they can no longer lock someone up for decades for smoking a little pot, much to Jeff Sessions disappointment, they will have to find new prisoners somehow.  We’ve already been reading about some of these new crimes. Do you think you are safe?  Are your children safe? Think again.
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Jamie and his son. Last picture taken, behind glass, 4 years ago

The growing number of children with an incarcerated parent represents one of the most significant collateral consequences of the record prison population in the U.S.

Children with Parents in Prison Demographics
More than 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. That is 1 in 28
children.
Approximately 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration at some point in their lives.
One in 9 African American children (11.4%), 1 in 28 Hispanic children (3.5%), and 1 in 57
white children (1.8%) in the United States have an incarcerated parent.
Approximately half of children with incarcerated parents are under ten years old.
Impact
While many of the risk factors children of incarcerated parents experience may be related to parental substance abuse, mental health, inadequate education, or other
challenges, parental incarceration increases the risk of children living in poverty or
experiencing household instability independent of these other problems.
A misperception exists that children of incarcerated parents are more likely to be
incarcerated than their peers, and are predisposed to criminal activity. There is no basis
for this in existing research.
Parental incarceration is now recognized as an “adverse childhood experience” (ACE); it
is distinguished from other adverse childhood experiences by the unique combination of
trauma, shame, and stigma.
Child Welfare
2% of incarcerated fathers and 8 ‐ 10% of mothers have children in foster care
(these data do not include at least some persons in prison with children in kinship foster
care placements)
Information from one study on children in Foster Care with incarcerated parents provides the following data
25% of children live with their fathers when a mother goes to prison.
90% of children remain with their mothers when the father is incarcerated
50% of children with an incarcerated mother live with their grandmothers
In the child welfare system, 1 in 10 children in in – home settings is living with someone who is on probation.
About 15 ‐ 20% of children entering the child welfare system have an incarcerated parent
About 1 in every 5 African American children who come to the attention of child welfare agencies have a recently arrested parent compared to only 1 in 10 White children and only 1 in 20 Hispanic children.
Incarcerated parents lose their parental rights at a disproportionate rate due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) which set strict timelines for initiating Termination of Parental Rights (placement cannot exceed 15 of previous 22 months)
 
Parents in Prison
In 2010 1.5 million people were in State or Federal prison in the U.S, and 750,000 in jails.
This is a 10% decline from 2009 but still significantly higher than 1980 when “mass incarceration” began.
92% of people in prison are male, 8% female.
The number of women in prison increased by 587% between 1980 and 2011, rising from 15,118 to 111,387
Including women in local jails, more than 200,000 women are now incarcerated in the US
Nationally, there are more than 120,000 incarcerated mothers and 1 million incarcerated fathers who are parents of minor children (ages 0 – 17).
44 – 55% Percent of fathers had at least one minor child living with them before incarceration
64 – 84% Percent of mothers had at least one minor child living with them before incarceration
59 percent of fathers and 58 percent of mothers had no personal visits from any of their children.
62% of parents in state prisons and 84% of parents in federal prisons are held over 100 miles away from their residence. 43% of parents in federal prisons are held over 500 miles away from their last residence.
The uneven geographic distribution of incarceration in poor communities and communities of color means that the effects radiate beyond the individual to the
broader community, presenting profound long ‐ term consequences for family
integrity, public health and general quality of life.
54 % of men and 73% of women have a history of mental health “problems” as opposed to 25% entering prison with a mental health diagnosis.
In 2010, 93% of Federal Prisoners were convicted of non ‐ violent crimes, including 48% for drug offenses, and 11% for immigration offenses.
In 2010, 47% of State Prisoners were convicted of non ‐ violent crimes, including 17% for drug offenses, and 18% for property offenses and 13% for Public Order offenses.
More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities.
These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two – thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
Roughly two ‐ thirds of women in prison are women of color, representing the fastest growing prison population
Blacks make up 12.3 percent of US population and 43.9% of the state and federal prison population. Latinos constitute 12.6% of the country’s population, but make up 18.3% of the prison population. Whites are 69% of the general population with only 34.7% of those
incarcerated.
If these trends continue, one in every 3 Black males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime.
Care must be taken with these data on disproportionate representation of children of color so as not to interpret them as an indictment of specific groups of people but rather as a reflection of the long ‐ term impact of poverty, segregation, discrimination and urbanization.
Caregivers
Caregivers of children with parents in prison bear numerous burdens, including stigma and shame associated with having a family member in prison, increased financial strain,
physical and emotional stress, and lack of external resources.
Public assistance programs, including TANF were not designed with relative caregivers in mind. Grandparents especially are reluctant to seek support for fear of losing the children to the child welfare system.
Caregivers struggle with multiple challenges in fostering continued relationships between children and their parents in prison.
Most prisons are not accessible by any form of public transportation, restricting child
‐ parent visits. In some cases this means children will never visit their parents.
Collect phone calls from prisoners are subject to excessive surcharges, an economic
burden most caregivers cannot manage. Familial incarceration can be characterized as an “ambiguous loss” leading to “disenfranchised grief.”
Caring for children who are experiencing the stigma and blame associated with parental incarceration is particularly difficult for caregivers and may be taxing emotionally and physically.
Arrests
One study conducted in 1998 estimated that of the parents arrested: 67% were handcuffed in front of their children
27% reported weapons drawn in front of their children 4.3% reported a physical struggle
3.2% reported the use of pepper spray.
Children who witnessed an arrest of household member were 57% more likely to have elevated post traumatic stress symptoms compared to children who did not witness an arrest.
 
405-7 Cooper Street Camden, New Jersey 08102
Tel: 856 225 2718 Fax: 856 225 6435
E-mail: nrccfi@camden.rutgers.edu
Fact Sheet Resources
1 Bernstein, N., All Alone in the World, Children of the Incarcerate, 2005
The Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Center on the States.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC. 2010
Mauer, M., Nellis, A., Schirmir, S.; Incarcerated Parents and Their Children – Trends 1991-2007, The Sentencing Project, Feb. 2009 – http://www.sentencingproject.org.
The Pew Charitable Trusts: Pew Center on the States.
Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility. Washington, DC. 2010
Mauer, M., Nellis, A., Schirmir, S.; Incarcerated Parents and Their Children – Trends 1991-2007, The
Sentencing Project, Feb. 2009
Phillips, S.D., Errantly, A., Keeler, G.P., Costello, J.E., An gold, A., Johnston, D., et al. (2006).
Disentangling the risks: Parent criminal justice involvement and children’s exposure to family risks. Criminology and Public Policy, 5, 677–702
Raimon, M., Lee, A., & Genty, P. (2009). Sometimes Good Intentions Yield Bad Results: ASFA’s Effect on Incarcerated Parents and Their Children.
Hairston, C.F. (2007). Focus on the children with incarcerated parents: A overview of the research literature. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Mumola, C.J.-Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (NCJ-182335). Washington, D.C.
US Department of Justice, BOJS, 2000
Philips Ph.D., Susan D., Gleeson, Ph.D., James P., Children, Families and the Criminal
Justice System, A Research Brief, Center for Social Policy and Research. University of
Illinois, Chicago 2007.
Johnson-Peterkin,Yolanda Children of Incarcerated Parents Information Packet. National
Resource Center for Foster Care and Permanency Planning, 2003
http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/ Ibid
Raimon, M., Lee, A., & Genty, P. (2009). Sometimes Good Intentions Yield Bad Results
: ASFA’s Effect on Incarcerated Parents and Their Children.
Glaze, L. Correctional Populations in the U.S. 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC. 2011
Conway, J .M. , Jones, E. Seven Out of Ten? Not Even Close.A Review of Research on
the Likelihood of Children of Incarcerated Parents Becoming Justice – Involved (Working title). In Press
Glaze, L. Correctional Populutions in the U.S. 2010. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC. 2011
The Sentencing Project
http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications cc_Incarcerated_Women_Factsheet_Dec 2012final.pdf
Glaze,L. and Maruschak, L. Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children.
Bureau of Justice Statistics Washington, D.C. 2011
Mumola, C.J. – Incarcerated Parents and Their Children (NCJ-182335).
Washington, D.C. US Department of Justice, BOJS, 2000
Human Rights Watch. World Report 2011:United States http://www.hrw.org/world
– report – 2011/united-states
Carson, E. A., and Sabol, W. J., Prisoners in 2011
Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics.2012
Mauer and King; Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity;
The Sentencing Project, 2007 The Sentencing Project
http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/page.cfm?id=122
Fact Sheet,
Women In Prison Project, Correctional Association of New York.
http://www.correctionalassociation.org/pp/about-women-in-prison-project
Mauer and King; Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity;
The Sentencing Project, 2007 The Sentencing Project
http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/page.cfm?id=122
Mauer, M. Addressing Racial Racial Disparities in Incarceration.Sage Publications 2011
Tavis, Jeremy, Solomon, Amy, 2003, Families Left Behind, Urban Institute, Justice Policy
Center
Vigne, N., Davies, E., Brazzell, D, Feb. 2008Broken Bonds, Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarceraetd Parents.
Margolies, J.K., Kraft-Stolar, T, Feb. 2006, When “Free” Means Losing Your Mother, A Report of The Women in Prison Project of Correctional Association of New York
Hairston, C.R., 2007, Focus on Children of Incarcerated Parents, An Overview of the Research Literature, A Report for the Annie E. Casey Foundation Arditti, J.2012,
Parental Incarceration and the Family ( Pages 103-105) New York University Press
Phillips, S., Gates, T.2010, A conceptual framework for understanding
the stigmatization of children of incarcerated parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 20,286-294. 8 Phillips, S. D. (1998). Programming for children of female offenders. Proceedings from 4th National Head Start Research Conference. Washington, D.C.
Phillips, S.D., & Zhao, J. (2010). The relationship between witnessing arrests and elevated
symptoms of post traumatic stress: Findings from a national study of children involved in the child welfare system.
Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 1246 – 1254
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Me, A Racist? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

Letter date – Aug 29th, 2016

Hello mom,

From reading your letter it looks like your hands have been full. You do so much on the computer and I have never messed around on it.  Of course, it was never like it is now. Back in the 90’s we had a computer but we didn’t have internet.

time-cover

I was just reading the new issue of Time magazine you got for me. On the cover was little furry monster with horns, a big grin and a laptop on his lap.  the article speaks about all different websites, what they are used for and so on.  However, the main topic was about the hate in the internet world. It’s everywhere and it’s crazy.  I thought about what you said about me being called a racist and that is why I had no visitors.  Someone had spread rumors about me to people and maybe that is why nobody wants anything to do with me. Could this be the excuse I get now when there is still no visit? Like you, even though I know I can’t change anything with my family I can’t help but still think about it.  it seems as thought there should be a reason I could understand. Maybe I don’t agree with what is said but I don’t have any way to prove that it is not the way I am.

Being accused of being a racist when you know you have never said anything that could be taken as a racist remark makes me very angry. I have no way to defend myself. I can be accused of anything and those stories can be spread. People will believe these stories I am not this young immature man anymore. I am a man who has been through a lot these past ten years.  I have had to take responsibility for my actions and also take responsibility for things I didn’t do and was accused of doing, but I will be damned if I am going to take responsibility for being a racist.

It’s bad enough to be in here in the first place with other “charges” being added to my time.

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

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Special Visit For Inmates

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Dear mom, and hello beautiful.

First I want to say thank you.  Thank you for everything. and most of all thank you for going out of your way to bring my son to see me.  First visit in three years, and a special visit at that! Two days. Two days to see my son. No one would bring him but you. To know you cared that much to do this means so much to me. I had a chance to learn a lot more about him as well as being able to enjoy time with him.  I noticed he is very open to people.  He loves to make friends. I was the same way, only the people I chose to be friends with were not friends.  So I will talk to him about that.  I told him he could talk to me about anything. I want us to be able to have a real father son – bond.  I want him to know he can come to me as he grows, and that he can trust me and talk. I feel that we bonded more than at the last visit, but then he is older, turning 10 on July 12.

No, it does not make up for all the time I have missed, but no one thought it was important enough for him or for me to bring him to see me. No one cared about my family, my son – at all. What was most important is we opened up to each other and that is what matters.

We even share smiles. I didn’t show him, but I can do the same tummy rolls he showed me, but I can’t wiggle my ears like he does! Lol.  Everyone has a special talent.  Maybe that is his. We just have to take the time to find out what they are.  I play that visit over and over in my mind as much as I can.

Now I want you to know I enjoyed your visit as well.  Your company really means a lot to me.  Being able to spend two days talking was more than I had hoped for.  I didn’t want to hope too much in case it fell through for some reason.  I loved looking at you ( since we don’t ever get to see a woman that isn’t in a guard uniform and trust me they aren’t much to look at.)  I guess what I’m saying is that I was really watching you.  That is why I wasn’t doing so much talking.  I was just taking it all in and trying to remember everything.  I appreciate everything you have done for me.  Many men in here don’t have someone who has stood by them for ten years  the way you have, no matter what, being there for me when I needed someone.  You trust me when I say I am trying hard to do things right and that I want to have a good life when I get out.

Only you know who I am right now.  However that is fixing to change because I am going to write a few of my family members.  I know they won’t write back.  I just want them to see who I am now. But to tell you the truth they probably won’t pick up on it. All they have to do is read my letter carefully and they will see the different person I am. I want them to know me as a man. I’m not a kid anymore. I want them to know me as an older person.  I never write to them anymore because I feel like I’m just wasting stamps because no one writes back. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

I’m getting sleepy so I’ll write more later. . .

 

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

(Sonni’s note:  We don’t appreciate life until we almost lose it. It would be hard to imagine losing ten years of my life to a prison, but in some ways we did the time together.  Not literally, of course.  I have had ten hard years with some pretty hefty mountains to climb and he has been there encouraging me when I needed it most.  When I think about it, he has been there through some  major things, just like I have been there through his. I believe he’s been honest with me about things that have happened and I helped him as much as I could. We’ve become very good friends who impacted each others life.

Does the time go by fast or slow? Do the years just blend together? If he never makes parole, which is a toss up, he still has six and a half years to go.  He is right.  He went in a boy and will come out a 40 year old man and I will be 69. His son will be nearly 17. My husband will be 76.  Life keeps marching on.  Aging in prison is not where you want to age. There has been so much he has had to learn about himself and the biggest thing has been controlling his emotions.  But many people have that problem.  I see it every day.  But if he can learn something that will benefit him later then he can take one good thing from this experience.

There is no way of knowing what kind of life he would have had if this didn’t happen, but I doubt he and my daughter would be together as a family.  I have worked with him teaching him things about life he needed to know, but had no one to teach him. Most of all he needed to know he had someone who believed in him; someone who believed he had special talents, too, who wouldn’t judge him by what he did, but by the potential he possessed. This was a new thought for him,  that there was someone who would help him open the door and reach for better things.  But if you don’t even know what those better things could be, how could you reach for them?  I’m going to be on the better side of old when he gets out.  Life will be completely different than when he went in.  Right now he is inside the forbidden outside.  Later he will be outside and life will be challenging.  I believe he will have a better life than he would have had he not gone in.  There is a positive inside every negative.  He will have to find out what that is.)

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My Two Day Visit At Allred Prison

Finally I got to a computer! Since I am traveling right now, and also visiting with family and grandchildren, having the time and space – and internet connection – so I can sit and write has been hard to come by. I’m in New Mexico right now and my son lives out in the boonies; great for peace and quiet and lots of land for the kids to run while raising chickens and rabbits – but has no phone reception in the house because of think adobe walls.  If I want to talk or even text I have to go outside and it’s over 100 degrees.  This is the first chance I’ve had to sit and write.  So let me tell you how the visit went:

images (1)
photo credit: Google images. Ironically, #6 was the booth we had with Jamie. At the bottom of the window you can barely see where he would have to squat to unlock  wrists. Two phones on the visitor side and one on his side.

Allred Unit is the largest prison in Texas with 3700 inmates. Visiting days are Sat and Sun.  They have 5 slots for “special visits”, which are two day visits with four hour visits each day. You have to call on the Monday at exactly 8 AM and hope you are one of the first 5 callers.  Otherwise we would have had one two hour visit.  Since it has been nearly three years since I’ve been to see Jamie that was also the last time I took his son to see him, I really wanted to get that special visit.

I stayed with my daughter and took a rental car to the prison which was another 120 miles away. We went to the entrance we were directed to.  There are two entrances.  They gave us a placard to put on our windshield and then told us to go back to our car and wait for someone to come around and signal it was time to go in.  They were full and said we might have to wait and hour or two for people to leave.  After waiting for about 1 1/2 hours they called us to the front and said, “Oh, I’m very sorry. We told you to wait in the wrong place so now you have to go around to the other entrance and give them your ID.  This caused us to only have a 2 1/2 hour visit the first day because they kick everyone out at 5:00.

When we finally got in and went through security we sat in our chairs on one side of the glass for at #6 and waited for them to get him. His cubicle had a door with a small window and I could when they walked him past it to unshackle his legs. They put him in the cubicle and locked the door.  He had to squat all the way to the floor and stick his hands out a slot to unlock his wrists.  Then he could sit down.  He had such a big grin on  his face. The last time little Jamie saw his father he was seven and very shy.  I think that time he was a little scared of meeting this man who was basically a stranger. It was hard to get him to look him in the eye and say more than yes and no answers.  In letters from Jamie he said, “What if he still won’t talk to me?” But Jamie wasn’t shy anymore and told his dad everything he was doing; how his reading had improved – he has dyslexia – and how good he is in sports, especially football and running.  I could tell his father was drinking up every word he was saying. Since we had another day of visiting there was no rush. Since there could be no contact all, the three of us put up our hands on either side of the glass.

Unfortunately there was no picture taking that day.  They only do it the first weekend of the month.  I was hoping since it was father’s day there might be an exception, but no dice.  So all I have are the old pictures. He had a little hair – he said because he couldn’t get a razor, but he’s definitely bald on top.  He had a small goatee and big square black glasses that only a prison would issue.

The next day we got in right away.  Since little Jamie is just a ten year old boy I knew he would get antsy so he was in charge of the quarters. When you go in you can only take your ID, car keys and a bag of $25 in quarters.  Since they don’t check we took in $32. The vending machines that had anything decent, like sandwiches you could heat up, were out of order so the only choices were the standard candy, chips and soda items.  I let little Jamie buy what he wanted because he had no lunch and he picked out whatever he thought his dad might want.  It kept him busy.  Sunday was father’s day so there were other kids there to talk to.

Father’s Day

When I planned this trip I didn’t realize it was father’s day and I knew this made it much more special for Jamie. Also, because he is in ad seg he is deprived of any human contact. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell and the other hour is either to a cage to exercise or the shower. It is hard having no AC but he says he’s okay. He’s been at Allred for 6 months with 6 months to go to get out of ad seg.

If you haven’t read earlier chapters, he intentionally had himself put in ad seg by threatening a guard and  because his last prison, Wynne Unit doesn’t have ad seg, they would be forced to move him.  He wasn’t safe there. The guards were abusive and also retaliated against him by filing false cases.  Inmates have the right to file grievances against abuse but those grievances were not filed.  They were thrown away. I talked to the warden about it and he said, “What grievances?  I don’t see where he filed any grievances.” I wasn’t going to get any help with him.

Jamie has an anger button.  How much can anyone take when they are being pushed and pushed and beat up and sprayed with chemicals.  After ten years of this, anyone would be angry.  It started a cycle of abuse and inmates can’t win that fight.  Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong.  When he got to Allred he had the determination to not let them get to him and also, show respect, even when they didn’t deserve it.  He’s staying quiet and doing good.  He did this before and it took 2 years to get moved to the level of G2 where he could have contact visits and make phone calls, but within a month, because of a false case filed against him his privileges were again taken away and things spiraled down hill. He’s back on track again.

He will be moved again when he’s done with ad seg and if he continues the rest of the year with no cases he will be moved to another prison and be able to apply to study for his GED and then other training.  After four years in juvy from almost 17 to 21, and back in prison at 22 and is now 33 he has a lot of education to catch up on. He’s not a boy anymore but he doesn’t have the life experiences of a man.  He’s a good man.  I believe he has the potential to do something worth while.  What he has learned these years he can use to help at-risk kids.  We talked about the possibility of going to school to become a counselor.  With schooling it would be a paid job. He will need help and guidance.  How can you know what to do when you have never done it?

How To Survive

He has heard nothing from his family at all.  I asked him, “When you get out, do you think they will come to you as though nothing is wrong and want to pick up like all you did was leave town and now you are back?” He said, “Yes.” But I don’t think that will work this time.  I know he loves his family – they ARE family – and I know he loves his mother.  But what they did was fail to show him that he mattered and they loved him, too.  I know what that feels like so I understand the pain. I think it will be hard for him to forget. None of them was there for him or even cared to find out how he was.  He has never seen his younger brother, and got only one letter from him.  He hasn’t seen his older brother in eight years.  Why? “It’s not my fault he’s in there,” he says.  Of course he must have a perfect life and makes no mistakes.

It will be time for Jamie to move on and create the life he wants to have. There was a reason I came into his life when I did.  His life gave my life a purpose.  He has helped me and I have helped him.  When I finish the book I am writing about him, “Inside The Forbidden Outside,”the last chapter will be this visit and the epilogue will be about what he would like to see for his future.  As I gather notes for the sequel, that book  won’t be out for some time – years – because it will be about his last years inside, the process of getting out and reintegrating into society and the obstacles he has to overcome.  In the meantime I will write another book.

I’m also working on the next issue of my newsletter.  Thank you so much to the people who have supported me, read it and shared it. This gives the book name recognition.  I hope to have it out in time for Christmas sales and there is still a lot of editing and rewrites to do.

So after this week of visiting with more grandchildren I’m off to pan for gold and go to the Grand Canyon and I don’t know where else.  I’ll be off in an RV with friends.  Wish me luck.  Maybe I can find enough gold to pay to finish my book!  Well, it’s always good to have a dream. LOL

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Unexpected Vacations are The Best Kind

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 I just couldn’t resist! My daughter sent me new pictures of my grandkids and this was taken just the other day of Jamie’s son Jamie who will be 10 mid July.It will be 3 years this October since – our I –  have seen my grandchildren. He has grown so much. They all have. My oldest grandson is going into the Marines. He’s excited but I’m scared crazy. He doesn’t understand war. He bought the “defend America’s democracy” propaganda hook line and sinker not understanding that corporate profit and resource control is why we are in perpetual war.

I love the great picture apps there are to make the one I have here. I’ve been making great albums of mostly all old time photos. Ill print this one out and send it to Jamie to put on his wall.

I’ll be leaving on Wed. I’m taking my first long distance Greybound bus trip instead of a plane to go to Tx. I’ve had friends who looked at me in horror at the thought, but I’m looking forward to it. Kick back, plug in my Nook, blog, watch movies and work on my book. Sounds relaxing to me. Security is beefed up to a two hour wait at airports, driving to DC in a 5 hour round trip rush hour traffic nightmare and other stressful things.

In addition to seeing grandkids in Tx and going to see Jamie at the prison, and then driving across hell and seeing more grandkids in NM, collecting fresh eggs in the morning and picking fresh vegetables for dinner from their wonderful garden and feeding the rabbits, then I will be RVing with friends to Carlsbad Caverns, planning for gold in Prescott, Az and going to the Grand Canyon, taking some well earned time to go have fun. I haven’t had a “vacation” in awhile. Ill be gone at least 5 weeks. Some of that time I’ll not be near wifi hook up or having too much fun to type. But Ill take lots of pictures to share pictures.

 

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“A Person Can Have More Than One Mom,” His Mother Tells Me.

(Sonni’s note: before you get to the end of this letter you will see evidence of what I have been saying about the lack of decent medical care. Simple procedures for people in pain. They will not do anything they can get away with not doing – and that is medical among other things. It screws up their profit margin)

Nov, 29, 2010
Hello Mom, Good Evening,

So how are you doing? Fine I hope. As for me, well, I’m a lot better now that I’m out of lockdown. As for the trouble part. I’m in a cell by myself. I could be here for two or three months before I get moved. So I’m not worried about the trouble part right now, mom. Only when the time comes for me to move. However, I’m sure I’ll know how to handle the situation when it comes, mom.

As for the phone privileges, yes ma’am, it’s the one thing I pray we could get around to.It would mean a lot to me to be able to speak to you, Megan and the kids. They will only do land lines. Cell phones they won’t let us call ( Sonni:s note: That rule was changed recently and they do allow cell phones, perhaps because many people no longer have land lines. ) Well, it’s been over two years not this has been going on. The system is crazy. Officers bring in all kinds of stuff. Yes, even cell phones. Anyway, two years ago one of the inmates called the governor. They sent him and his family threats. It may seem like it has nothing to do with outgoing calls, However the lady said they can’t keep up with all the cell calls. I think it’s because not all of them are contract lines. They can’t keep up with the prepaid phones. So I’m sure they’re not going to let it happen. The only way for me to call to Pa is to put your mother on my list. I don’t want to put you through that trouble. Oh, you’re on my visitors list. Actually, you’ve been on it over a year now. I was hoping you was going to come to the prison and visit one day when you come to visit Megan and the kids. ( Sonni: note: it was exactly three more years before I was able to make that visit. I am hoping to go back this coming Sept, two years after that visit. )

Yes, it would be nice to get transferred closer to home. The weather, it gets chilly down here. It has snowed a few times as well. This prison has no heat.

it's okay to have more than one mom,Jamie Cummings, prison visits
photo credit: bing.com

Family, well nothing has changed. I wrote my brother and mom the same time I wrote you. Neither one have yet to write back. So much for help. I guess I need to give them more time. If they don’t write this week I know they probably aren’t going to. Sometimes I think they won’t write me because they don’t want me to ask for help. however, I know they will help me if they can. So I’m really trying to find out why they don’t write. Maybe I’ll find out later. Right now I have to concentrate on getting home.

( Sonni’s note: he’s still waiting for that help to come. After nine years, I don’t think it’s going to happen. On the spur of the moment, before I lost my nerve, and because I didn’t want to make it worse for him, two days ago I wrote to his mother. It was a nice text. I didn’t have her address. I talked to her one time recently about Jamie’s early life for the book I’m writing and it was a good conversation. We talked for two hours. So I wrote to her and told her I was having trouble paying the prison medical fee this year, $100, so he can call for a doctor when he needs it, because of his medical problems. medical is not free. Everyone has to pay that $100, and since many people can’t, they don’t don’t ask to see a doctor even when they are really sick because going even one time cost $100. Once it is paid then he can use it for the rest of the year. But if you have no one to pay it for you, you’re up the crick without a paddle. I’m sure he has already told her this, so I don’t know if my asking will do any good. It’s not a lot of money, except that I only have a disability check and I also send a little money for commissary and maybe a couple books. I have covered all the things he has needed by myself. I thought, what can she do? Get angry because I asked her if she would help pay for something for her son? Feel guilty for allowing me to take care of something family should at the very least help pay? This is why he calls me “Mom”. Because I took over the role of being his mother. She knows he calls me mom and said it’s okay. “A person can have more than one mom.” she says. At least I got past that hurdle. I didn’t know how she would take it knowing he called me mom. I guess he wrote to her and told her himself because she already knew. I wasn’t trying to alienate her. I’ve been trying to fill a very big hole. She will always be his mother and will love her no matter what. It’s just hard on me to hear him be so despondent at times because I know how much he wants to hear from her, and waits and waits and waits. Every child, no matter how old he gets, at times, wants his mother. He wants her to say that it’s going to be okay and it helps him get through another day. Severe depression in prison is very common. I haven’t heard anything back from her yet. yet.)

About commissary – yes, there are a lot of people who are like me. Also there are people who trade and sell hygiene products for goods. There are some whose family cares and some that don’t. I want to thank you personally for caring mom (thank you). No, I didn’t have nobody to help me with my attorney. I was talking to some dude about my case. They said I could try to get a time cut. As I was talking to them I remember my brother saying something about ten years. The thing is I was never told nothing about ten years. So I’m going to try and get a time cut. They will help me in the law library. Hopefully it would help. If not there’s nothing wrong with trying.

I feel it’s always been hard. Not just for blacks but for everyone. There’s a lot that makes it hard for everyone. Things like school, family, work and society. It’s the way life is hard. and stressful. Life isn’t easy, you’re right. We all go through struggles. We’ll make it through it. I’ve been riding it out for five years now. I pray that things will change.

About my knee. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. When it swells up it stays swollen for like a month and a half. It goes down and then swells back up. it’s crazy. Sharp pain over my knee cap. It’s both knees but I have more problem with my right. I stretch it all the time. I told the doctor it needs to be drained. SHE SAID,”THEY WON’T DO IT.” ( caps are Sonni’s) Well, I need to get this in the door before they pick up mail.

Love always, Son
P.S. Thank you Mom

The Prison Laundry. My New Job!

washer4I got my G2! It’s a lot better than G4. I get to come out and watch TV all day. On the weekend I get to stay out until 1:00 am for late night. I work in the laundry now. It’s a good job. Everyone has different jobs in the laundry. Some work the washers and dryers and others press the clothes. There’s folders and janitors. I do everything but work the washers and dryers. It’s pretty cool. I love it mom!

I put in for GED classes. I might be put on the waiting list. I don’t know yet. I’m waiting to find out. There’s other classes I’m going to put in for as well, but I want to get used to my hours at work first. I work Thurs-Sat 12 midnight to 8:30 am. I’ve slept for the past three days. I almost passed out at work. I went to the folding tables and went to sleep. It’s hard when I’m not used to it. That’s from being stuck in the cell so long. I’ll get past it.

I got a xmas card from Jamie ( sent by Megan) and my brother. I want you to get a hold of my family. I worked hard to get a contact visit. Even though I like G2, If I can’t get to see my son there’s no need to be G2.

(Sonni’s note: There are more reasons to be G2. He is just so desperate to see his son and feels that it’s not unreasonable to think that someone would make the effort to bring his son to see him. They both need that.

Before Christmas I was contacted by an organization called Angel Ministries. They had my name, but no phone number or address. The were able to reach me and came to visit. They wanted to buy Christmas presents for his son, in his name. They wanted to know Jamie Jr.’s sizes and what he likes.jamie xmas2 2015 Later that week they brought over wrapped presents for me to send. I sent them in a box, separate from other presents I was sending my daughter’s family, with the prison address on the box so his son would think they really came from him. They did, in a way. Jamie just didn’t go out and buy them. When his son got the box and saw they were from his dad, he was excited. He has never been able to have his father in his life and keeping this connection alive is very important for both their sakes.jamies xmas2014 He, like all sons, needs his father in his life.I don’t want my grandson to end up being another statistic. I read that black boys have a 50% chance of having their father spend time in prison growing up. He’s already part of that statistic. I didn’t want him to suffer any more from that than he already has.

Jamie needs to be G2 to make phone calls and no one but me has registered their phone yet. We’ve had a few phone calls and it was so good to finally hear his voice after all these years. I had forgotten he has such a strong Texas twang! He probably doesn’t even know he has one. lol.

Still it took a couple phone calls to get out the, “It’s so good to hear your voice” remarks, and be able to settle into a conversation. It’s been a long time waiting, to be able to have these calls. They only have 20 minutes to talk and the time sure does go by too fast.)

I want you to have Megan get my family’s phone number. I really want to get a visit and have someone bring my son to me! I want to talk to my mother. I want to talk to her about a lot of things. If you have to lie and say I’m sick, if that is what it takes to get someone to visit, then it’s cool. It might be the only way to get someone down here. But if you talk to my mom, remember that she’s taken on a lot taking care of my sister’s kids and now my cousins kid’s, too.

Man, it is sooo cold here. What is so bad is that they turned off the heaters. Sorry about my writing. It’s because it’s so cold. It’s 12:40 am right now. I’m sure you’re probably up. You’re a night rider.

This sure has been a long ride up and down. You of all people has been by my side the whole way. I, James R. Cummings want to thank you for all your help, encouragement and love you have given me all these years. Without you I know I would have been lost in this system a long time ago. However, with your help and encouragement, I had fallen down and you helped me up. Thank you.hands

I’m going to end this letter for now. I love you. Love always, Son

(Sonni’s note: Jamie didn’t know I had already talked to his mother. She’s coming to see him on his birthday in a couple days!)

Human Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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