best of times
Before you start reading Jamie’s letters I want you to understand why I started this website – what it means to me. To find his letters go to the archive on the left where you can select the month. To understand Jamie’s story, start at the beginning. There are also pages at the top that are separate from his letters.

Jamie is an important part of my life even though I only met him one time before his incarceration, and one time when I visited him in prison, with him sitting on the other side of the glass.  Nine years have passed and hundreds of letters have been exchanged.  Little by little I go through earlier letters  to bring out this story of this young man as he emerges into someone I am very proud to know.  He has changed my life.

 This website is a labor of love for me.  When Jamie gets released he will know how many people had the chance to read and understand his story.

Tears Falling    by Sonni Quick

copyright 2014

 

In many ways, the people who are locked up are a forgotten part of society to all except the people who love them. Even many of those people fade away over time.  Out of sight. . . out of mind.

I believe many people think, “If you do the crime, you have to do the time.” Maybe they think it can’t happen to them.  How easily it can,  if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There are many “crimes” that used to get a slap on wrist or maybe a fine or probation.  Not any more.  Now you get time, and if you’re black or a person of color your sentence will be longer. You’ll end up with even more time if you have no one to fight for you. The poor are targeted for a reason.

Prisons need to be kept full.  It’s big business.  The Prison Industrial Complex needs to be paid.  It’s quite a racket.   Much of our justice system is bought and paid for.  What we have now is a new slave system.  When one person gets released  there is another person to take his place. “http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/09/private-prisons-occupancy-quota-cca-crime

Maybe people think whatever happens to them while they are inside is justified.  Long sentences are given to show our justice system is tough on crime, but giving someone decades for many crimes goes way beyond reason.  The sentences don’t fit the crime. Many of these people come out broken, with no concept of how to put their lives together and end up right back in. Many inmates are subjected to abuse by the guards. Anyone who has the life condition called; “kick the dog syndrome” finds being a prison guard to be the perfect job. It needs to change but there are people fighting tooth and nail to not let that happen.

Inmates live in a tiny cement boxes.  On average they are 5×10.  Many don’t even have a tiny window to see the sky.  Their world is all shades of gray. They are served  food that is barely edible, sometimes living on a scoop of peanut butter and 2 biscuits for breakfast and dinner, day after day during frequent, long periods of lockdown.   Most inmates are always hungry, unless you have money for commissary.  Food is money.  It’s traded for things you can’t get because there is no money on your books.

They don’t have heat in the winter or AC in the summer.  There is mold in the showers.  They get medical care but it isn’t the kind you would want, and it’s not free.  You have to suffer a lot before you get care, if you are lucky.

prison elderly2Because of long sentences the fastest growing part of the prison population is the elderly,  made worse with medical problems caused by the lack of good nutrition.  Because they don’t want to pay for the medical care of an aging prison population they are dumping some of them right onto the streets, some straight from solitary, with only 30 days of meds.  Some inmates,  who have only known their prison cell as their home for most of their adult life have no knowledge or ability to care for themselves.  They have to learn to navigate a world that is strange to them.  So much has changed. Where do they go now?   Their family is likely gone or scattered.

If Jamie does his entire sentence he will be 40 when he gets out. He’s be incarcerated since he was 17. Except for a brief period at the age of 21, when he got out of juvy and met my daughter and they ended up producing a son, he has been inside the justice system  for 13 years at this point.  But at 40 he has a chance of having a life – if he has good support. There is a post called “Juvy to Prison”. It’s his story of how he got selected for that, and after a supposed 9 month sentence, they still didn’t let him go for 4 years. To make it worse, because he got so angry and ran to his room and started throwing his things around they locked him up him solitary confinement as punishment. Up to the day he was supposed to go home, with his bag packed, they still didn’t tell him, until he let it known that he was ready to leave.

Many prison guards are brutal and use unnecessary force whether they need to or not.  Being a guard brings out the worst part of their human nature.  They provoke the inmates to see if they can get them to respond so they have an excuse to physically restrain them and maybe get in a few body hits for good measure. It gives them a reason to lock them up. Having that authority is often abused. There is often retaliation if an inmate files a complaint. Guards stick together and lie for each other.

All of this is just good business for the corporations who were promised the prisons would be kept 100% full in exchange for campaign contributions.  If the prison falls below 90% capacity the government has to pay them money  to make up for it. They don’t lose.  Pretty sweet deal, don’t you think?

I know there are people inside that should never be allowed out because mentally they are too broken to exist outside on their own. There are also people who don’t have the knowledge and experience to make it outside and go back to the only lifestyle they know and end up back inside.  Their home, where they function best, may be inside.

Not everyone inside the prison is in solitary. Some are able to have a job. Those jobs are a double edged sword.  Quite a few major corporations rely on prison slave labor and ‘used’ for their skills. These inmates make make zero to .23 an hour, with no overtime, vacation pay or benefits.  No human resources  or union is going   to go to bat for you.

There are different kinds of inmates.  For those in solitary confinement, it can destroy your mind from being so isolated from any kind of human activity. It can make you unable to ever be stable enough to can function on the outside. Many other inmates, in gen pop, need the rules that are imposed on them. There are also those who just screwed up.  They made a bad choice. Some have problems with drugs. But many, with a strong desire to change, to make better causes in their lives, have a good chance of becoming someone they can be proud of. And let’s not forget the people who have been unjustly punished and finding justice is nearly impossible. But none of these people deserve to be treated with such complete disrespect as though their lives have no value. People treat their dogs better than what they get inside.

In the summer there is no AC and in many places in the country the heat gets over a hundred and ten degrees and inmates die. Jamie told me he would lay naked on the cement floor at night, trying to feel a little coolness on his skin.  In the winter they have no heat and he freezes.  He puts on all the clothing he owns to try and get warm and it’s not enough to feel warm.

Many of these people have no family nor anyone who can help them find justice or be able to get the small things a that make it tolerable.  we take for granted that we can just go into the cabinets in our bathroom and take out another roll of toilet paper or bar of soap, when we need it.   Jamie can’t. Where is he going to get the money unless someone sends it to him.

He’s never been able to make a phone call.  What is the purpose of doing that? It does more harm than good.   The ones who can make phone calls?  It’s going to cost an unreasonable amount of money which puts a great hardship on the family that has to pay for it.  It’s just another way for them to profit off the inmates.  No one is stopping them, yet.

There are finally four states now who won’t renew their contract with corporations like CCA – Corrections Corporation of America.  Go to their main website.  They sound like such a good corporation.  Ha!  This only one of the corporations that are under contract with the prisons to provide different things for the inmates. Food contracts, program contracts, and medical contracts.  Of course they are going to do the least amount they can get away with so they can make as much money as possible.  There are so many lawsuits against these corporations but they make more profit doing a lousy job than the cost to pay the fines.

If you are white and have an attorney I promise you that you won’t have it as bad as Jamie.  He has spent a majority of his time some far in ad seg, solitary confinement. If you have someone to fight for you, they can’t get away with as much. You’ll have easier time.

There is definitely a connection between Jamie and I, and I would do anything I could to make his time easier.  I want to teach him things he needs to know and open his eyes to ideas he has never thought.  It is the effect we have on other people that becomes our legacy.  If what we do helps people change their life for the better, that is the way we live on.  He calls me mom but I know how much he loves his real mom.  I know how much he misses her and wishes she would visit him more often than she has, but he doesn’t complain.  I wonder if she understands the pain he is in for the choices he has made for his own life? As his mother,  has it caused pain in her life, too?

I have only just begun to go back through the hundreds letters I have from him to bring out the issues that have been the most important.  Even though his son, my grandson, doesn’t have him in his life today, he will be able to read this and have a good understanding of who his father is as he grows up.  It is one thing I can give to both of them, to help bridge the gap of years they are missing.

Knowing him has changed my life.  I want to pass this on to other people. I want to help  people become aware there are people inside who need our compassion and empathy. They need our help. The system needs to change.

Now go read his story . . . and help the word get out.

 

 

42 thoughts on “Jamie’s Prison

  1. Hi Sonnie,
    I am only a 24 year old scientist and most of what you say is so appalling and tragic my heart cringes with pain! The world you talk abut is unfamiliar to me but the feelings of longing and sorrow are common to all humans and so i do identify with that. I wish everyone of you lots of strength and will to get through this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. The sad thing is that it is so common. I never knew any of this before 11 years ago. Tragically it does so much harm to the person inside because of what they do that it is difficult for them to reenter society and 3/4 of those released end up back inside because they can’t get a job or find a place to live and end up getting picked up again. So I have stayed with Jamie all these years by letter and several times made the trip to Texas to see him. I don’t blame him for being afraid of getting out. So the music I write, book I’m writing and newsletter I put out are all so I hopefully will be able to get him started again at living when he gets out in 5.5 years. I like that you are a scientist. My husband, now retired has 2 degrees in science and he is constantly explaining things to me. lol

      Like

  2. Unfortunately, this is the story for so many black males. You brought out so many truths of our so called justice system. I here the same stories from my husband whose incarcerated. There’s no true form of rehabilitation and the intent is to keep business flowing. It’s unbelievable how people travel to visit their loved ones and are treated as if they’re criminals. There have been times when I have witnessed families that have traveled all the way across the country for a visit that should have lasted from 8am-3pm just to get to spend an hour or get no time at all because the guards feel like taking their time that particular day to call for the inmate. They don’t take into consideration the time, money, time off of work that you had to spend and arrange just to see your loved one. It just hurts my heart to hear some of the stories he’s shared and a lot he keeps to himself because he knows it will upset me and there’s nothing I can do. Modern day slavery…bloglifeofarealwife.com

    Like

    1. I understand what you are saying. Jamie is in Texas and I am in Pa. It is hard to get there to see him and it’s been almost three years.Finally I am going to see him the weekend of the 18th. I called the prison yesterday ab out a special visit of 4 hours. I have to call this coming monday right at 8 am. The have only FIVE slots for special visits. 5!!!. It is first come first serve to get permission. People who already know this know to call exactly at 8. If I am lucky I will be one of those 5. Otherwise it is a 2 hour visit. Three years ago he was on lockdown and they wouldn’t grant a special visit. when I got there they didn’t bring him down. They kept saying they couldn’t find him. 45 minutes before all visits had to end they finally brought. He said he was just sitting in his cell so it was deliberate. That was the last time he saw his son who is almost ten because no one in his family, or my daughter will take his son to see him. He has begged. My daughter gets angry with me and tells me to quit talking about him. I won’t let her forget him. I told her she can’t forget him, they have a son. They need each other. I started this blog 2 plus years ago because his story, and the story of others and the prison system in general needed to be told. The general public is told by the media they are all dangerous criminal when half of them shouldn’t be there and those that are guilty of doing something shouldn’t be getting 30 plus years. You understand. Then I started writing a book, “Inside the Forbidden Outside” which is in the editing stages. I have spent hundreds of hours to do this right in the hope of making enough sales to be able to help him with either a parole attorney, or education or life in general. They haven’t allowed him to take his GED. The property manager even took his GED book from him. He has epilepsy and heart problems and they won’t give him the meds he needs. He has had no one but me, and a few people who write to him who have read this blog because you know how important those letters are. I’ve just started a newsletter – not just about him but about others, too. If you want, go to the pages at the top of the sight and you will see at the end a page about signing up for the newsletter. I just sent out the 2nd issue and will be sending one out at the beginning of each month. If you want to see the first one I can send it to you. We all need to stick together and educate people. I will goo to your website as well. Thank you very much

      Like

    1. Thank you Cathy. I never knew what the conditions were until I had a reason to know. Like everyone else, all I knew was through TV shows. They aren’t going to tell the whole truth. They aren’t going to make the guards look bad the same way cops don’t have to take responsibility for the things they do.

      I hope you come back and read more. I am also going to begin a newsletter once a month, for info on the book I’m writing, “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. If you’d like to read about chapters and other things just shoot me a quick email at sonniq56@gmail.com thankyou

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes they sure are. They present them as harmless and do things guards would never do. When people watch these shows unconsciously they see them as truth. It’s the way media teaches us the way we should belive. How could they show the truth? If they do it with this, imagine the other things you believe tobe true. It’s scary.

          I did an internet radio show that played today. The David Shape show. It’s the 2nd one down on my blog. It’s on prisons, Jamie and the book I’m writing, racism in politics and more. I’d love for you to listen and tell me what you think. Hopefully it is the first of more media as I get closer to publishing my book. If you reblog it or even share it on your social media I would so appreciate it. If you listen, move the time ahead an hour and 20 minutes. I’m on after that, Unless you want to listen to the entire thing. He has a strong British accent. Pleasant to listen to.

          Thanks

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very very much for reading. It takes one person at a time to get a message out – especially when trying to contribute to changing a terrible part of our history and changing how we do it today. That change is slow but so many lives are at stake. Thank you again.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate that very much. I also enjoy reading people who have strong views and have something interesting to say. You can be sure I’ll be back as well!

      Like

  3. So fitting that you would choose, “whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times it’s the only time you’ve got” as you are giving Jamie and subsequently those of us who follow you the gift of time. The blog is not only a labor of love but the exchange of letters and acts of human kindness are so inspirational.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I made a promise to myself and to Jamie that he could trust me. I would do anything I could to be there for him. The concept of “Time” is important. Because it is how we perceive that” time”, and how we use that” time” is what determines whether we create value with it. In my letter to him last night, because, In the recent couple weeks when they put him back in solitary I knew it would devastate him. So I told him – what a benefit – now you have the” time” to answer the questions I asked in the last letter, because you should take the “time” to do that because it will help your future, having more “time” to think of your future and how you see it. Use this “time” to focus on creating value with your life.

      Now is the “time”. You can’t think of it as somewhere in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What can I say…this is one of the kindest things I’ve seen anyone has done in a while. I’d like to read much more of Jamie’s ordeal if I have time.

    You know, our meeting might not have been an accident and could have very well have been destined. I have an uncle who has recently been put in jail see, and I harbor much sympathy for the man.

    My uncle (I won’t name him yet for personal reasons, sorry) has always been the blacksheep of the family. From when I was a kid up until now, a year wouldn’t go by without the family hearing of another trouble from him again. Irresponsible father, being a drunkard, doing drugs, shooting his rifle while on guard duty…yep, he’s loony on the head. Still, I knew his upbringing; he had an abusive father and I heard he was never a good student hence a future of uncertainty awaited him. The poor man was robbed of his childhood, so I could understand how it deeply affected his adult life.

    Late last year however, he became adamant in reforming his life. He was spending more time with his family. He has 7 kids, and his youngest son is particularly attached to him. Although he still had his vices, I could tell he was on his way to recovery (he quit drugs at least). He then signed up for a job in my mother’s company. Life seemed good.

    But then, something came up. He was tasked to guard our house because a portion of the wall surrounding our property was torn down for renovation. Although that torn down part was enclosed with a metallic fence, but we couldn’t be too sure so Mother hired him as the strongman to protect the kids if ever intruders come along. In his fourth night on guard duty, he didn’t come. That night our house was vulnerable.

    No robbers came along that night, thankfully. In the afternoon of the next day though…two cops came. One of them asked “Do you know anyone by the name J—, alias ‘pretty boy’?” Alias what? And so I told the policeman that he’s my uncle. He then told me “You’re uncle has been arrested for illegal possession of firearms, and he told us to come to this address if we needed to contact anyone about what happened to him.”. It was devastating news indeed, as it was the worst problem he’s ever committed in his life.

    Apparently that night, he went drinking for a co-worker’s birthday party. Somewhat, he brought a gun along with him in the party and showed it off to his drinking buddies. Apparently too, things got heated up and he ended leaving the party in a fit of rage. He was found later by cops cursing and wobbling on the side of the road. Then they found his gun. He was arrested thereafter.

    So now, he faces 6 years in prison with no possibility of parole within that period. He could be out of jail if we bail him out with 80,000 Pesos but that’s a big amount of money here in my country, the Philippines. I’ve been hearing talks from my family saying things like “Let him rot there. He’s brought us nothing but problems anyway.”. But then we all knew in my hearts that he was already becoming a good man, so why should we leave him now? He was an idiot for doing what he did that night, but we’re talking 6 years here and loss of a father to his family. Surely you can’t take six years away from a man’s life just because of something so dumb? And why should he serve that long when he didn’t have any criminal intent at that time whatsoever?

    I’ll be reading this blog because I know it’ll give me the idea of how tough prison really is. Also, you gave me an idea. If it ever comes a time that he’s becoming neglected already (I have heard that his wife is actually “happy” that he’s “independent” of him now and my mom doesn’t to have much to offer as of late), maybe I could go visit him myself then tell him to write me letters to send to his family or even just to express what he feels. I don’t know but maybe I’ll imitate you too. I’ll see where things go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Karlo, I meant to get back to you earlier, I have had a very ill sister and my emotions have been torn. Please, follow your heart. People are born with a karma that makes them who they are. Then the culture you spend your early years helps to shape that further. There are obviously very bad men in prison who should never get out and then there are the people who just do something stupid. Should they have to pay for that? yes, but make the sentence fit the crime – and they don’t. Did anyone get harmed? That should be taken into consideration. There is no one out there who hasn’t broken some kind of an offense in their lives that someone could lock them up for, but they didn’t get caught. He has made bad causes in his life. There are effects for every cause we make. Every single one. When we don’t understand that cause we tend to say we aren’t responsible, but are. Always. His wife, who wants to be rid of him is all talk of anger and of being fed up with dealing with his crap. That, too, is the making of a cause for her. Everything we think, say or do makes a cause, yet most people don’t usually think of that, yet if they are Christians they have a saying, ‘You reap what you sow” I am a Nichiren Buddhist. I don’t place the responsibility for my life anywhere but squarely in my own hands. At the end of our life, the only legacy we really is the effect we have on other people that helps to change their life. So yes, have compassion. Write to your uncle. He has kicked himself enough for what he did, don’t add to it. No one understands prison, and in the Philippines I have no idea what it is like there. Set an example for your family to follow.

      Like

    1. Having Jamie in my life has changed it, and I have changed his. It is important to be able to give hope when someone feels he has none. Here is a line I have typed many many times. “The only legacy we ever really get to leave behind is the effect we have on other people.” Physical things mean nothing. Money destroys, but change a life who changes others? That is the ultimate cause you can make in your life that will come back as an effect in your own life. People throw around too easily the term, you reap what you sow, you get back what you dish out, or what goes around comes around. It’s all the same thing. The law of cause and effect.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s