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. Hello Sonni, Thank you for being brave enough to write about what most people don’t care about, or would judge you in a detrimental way for. You stopped by my blog, where I am writing about my son, incarcerated in a federal prison in Texas, and give information for friends and family of those incarcerated. You and I are part of a small, but dedicated group, who try to illuminate just what prison really is like, and how both the family of the prisoner and the prisoner suffer. I am also writing a book about my son’s life. (WAITING ON THE OUTSIDE) It is being edited now and I would be happy to send you a copy when it is published. I am sure you will find a lot in it that rings true for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please, I would love a copy of your book. My book is in the beginning stages. Working on chapter three. I haven’t even figured out how I am going to get the finished products together and what to do. Is it an online book or published in book form. I know in my head exactly what I want to do this for and i can what I’m going to do with it. And I want it to be an inspiration and a help to other people. I connect with many people who are newly experience having a loved one inside on several other websites. it’s getting very hard to keep up with all I want to do and I feel such a sense of urgency.

      No one every thinks of the families, the kids. How many lives it destroys and the fact that it is profit based and the powers that be don’t care is a disgusting human trait.

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  2. 4 1/2 years not being able to decide for yourself what to do, what to eat, what to wear, and not having any respect for being a human being is hard. Whatever you did I hope you came out of it a better person. Being able to see any of it with humor makes me think you did. I couldn’t find a link to your blog. Would you send it to me? Does it have anything to do with your time inside? If so, I have a place in my links section for personal blogs of people who have been inside.

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  3. I spent 4 1/2 years in a state prison in new york. luckily my conditions werent AS bad as the ones jamie apparently is dealing with, thank god, but it was still a terrible time in my life. I write about my life there in my blog if you’re interested, i try to do it with more humor, but still getting across the point that its no way for people to live. im glad there are people like you who are trying to spread the word.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for visiting me, I am honest sometimes brutally honest and it gets me into trouble and people go off me pretty quick, but if you cannot deal with the truth then don’t ask for it.

    I have been a photographer as you know for many many years and I have been on many forums dealing with photography and people who are new to photographer normally had their camera on auto and they pointed it fired off 20 shots at the same thing and they choose one they like, they then post it on a photo forum and say the immortal words “I am new to photography, here is one of my photos…What do you think?” now that is like a red rag to a bull to say that on a photography forum which many long term, pro photographers reside and when they tear the photo to pieces not because we are being nasty but because we want to teach that person about taking photographs, but the picture owners then have a mighty strop, throw their toys out their pram and call everyone a name and tell us we know nothing about photography and then leave.

    If we lied we would be failing that person, that is why being truthful to a person, on a blog or on my blog there is just no point in it, tell it as it is, we are suppose to be adults, we don’t argue, we discuss loudly with the occasional objectional word thrown in. 🙂 If you wish to look at my photography you can at http://www.rainbow-photography.net and hit the gallery link, if you like to see what I do to relax and take my mind off pain have a lookie (thats look in Scotland – where I live) http://www.greatscot-gifts.co.uk
    Please keep in touch

    Take care and God bless ya 🙂

    Pete

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Pete, I will definitely go to your site. I honestly understand where you are coming from. When there is something I know I have knowledge in and someone tries to tell me they know more, when I know they don’t, when it is my field of study, yes I understand the red flag in front of a bull statement. Ironically I recently had a conversation with someone and I explained that they were waving a red flag in front of a bull, and I was the bull. The conversation didn’t go well after that. I am brutally honest and some people can’t handle that. Good fortune to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did go to your site. Others should, too, if you’d like to see some interesting pictures of Scotland. You overcome a lot to take your photographs. I am sure it is also something that soothes your soul and makes your day a little easier. I know that I often grit my teeth because what I’m doing has far more value than the pain I am in.

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  5. Hi Janice, thats quite an open piece but I find it difficult to think that people who are in orision dont deserve to be their, my father, my brother and my nephew have all done time, my sister mentioned that one of her sons this Christmas is the first time in 6 years that he has been home, that is nothing to be proud of, my brother spend most of his teenage years and his 20 and 30’s in and out, if someone chooses that life then so be it. There is a saying in Scotland which I made my son remember ‘If you fly with the crows, you are shot with the crows’ Everyone makes a decison, whether its stealing sheep or stealing a car, dealing drugs or using a gun.
    There is no victimless crime, everyone suffers, from the guy beaten in the street or the woman who is raped, Some times the law is an ass and some people do get to long a sentence but if a person is handed down a sentance that seems to harsh then what about the victims, is it to harsh that the woman who was beaten and eaped has to live every single hour of every single day knowing that she has been violated, or the old woman to frightened to leave her home for the fear of being mugged again, or the children who has to grow up without a father just because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Some people should not be in prison, some suffer from mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, they should be given help not prison. I didnt get the best start in life eldest of three, father made me watch while he beat my mother, living behind a storeroom, outside toilet no bathroom, do I have a criminal record, no, choices choices choices, lifes choices, we all have our own mind, whether you use it for better or for worse then thats the toss of the coin.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Pete, so much of what you say is so true. There are some, because of the culture they are raised in that has them leaning toward a life of crime from they day they were born. I’m sorry your life was so hard growing up and that you managed to make better choices. For some, though it is not a choice. Sometimes it is because of what you are. If you are black you are 6 times more likely to find yourself in prison. Black people are NOT more prone to be criminals – it is an extension of slavery that started a long time go when the US wanted to make money off the backs of black people. It still does. For many, you don’t have to be a criminal to find yourself in prison. The Is holds the worlds record for the most incarcerated people that has risen so exponentially high in the last 30 years. Why. Do we all of a sudden have more “criminals”? No, we have a bought and paid for industrial prison complex that wants their money. Most prisoners are there because of greed. Not by the prisoner, but by the corporations that line the pockets of the politicians for a guarantee that the prisons will be kept full – or they get paid by our government for the difference. So it is not always – if you do the crime you have to do the time. There are many “crimes” where the only victim is the person who his handed an unjust sentence. Thank you for your imput.

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  6. This article is very deep. I would in time go through Jamie’s letters but i can assure you that it’s even worse in my part of the world where people get long jail terms of 10 for offences like stealing a neighbours’ sheep. Oh yes, it is very true, believe it or not. I am however surprised that this happens in Europe because really, sometimes media images tend to portray that it’s better to stay in prison than on the streets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It amazes me the things that can get someone a long sentence. What is the purpose? It seems that the reasons have to be different than punishing the person. Who makes money from it? Where is the benefit? In the US it costs so much to house an inmate, more if they are put in solitary. The cry about the awful cost taxpayers have to pay, yet they continue to do it. Hands are getting greased along the way. Here, the prison corporations pay lots of campaign contributions to make sure the prisons are kept full. I recently started another blog , watchandwhirl.wordpress.com. There is a post, Why is racism alive and well? There is a link that takes you to many of the corporations that use the slave labor from the prisons to make their products. It would shock you to see what companies are listed there. In your country are the prisoners “used” for any other reason than for punishment?

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      1. Prisoners here would be more than elated to even get that kind of slave labour from big corporations believe me. Here prisoners are used for manual communal labour; something more demeaning than the slave labour your talk about. Well, still call it slave labour though. You will be damn lucky to come out of a prison here alive and this is not because of any physical torture but more due to the horrible prison conditions Sonni.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I can understand that it is bad there. Are there organizations trying to improve it? To try and change it? Yes, there is slave labor here that is different there, but there is also the manual slave labor here that is very much like the slaves that were made to work on the plantations in the south before they were so called “freed”, that is well guarded by men on horseback with rifles and dogs trained to kill. They work the fields. It depends on what prison you are in. In one prison Jamie had to work the fields which was hard because they wouldn’t take it into account that the heat brought on his epileptic seizures. I know that prisons can be bad in other countries by pictures I’ve seen and accounts I’ve read. Can you give me a link that will give me more information about what you are talking about? I will create a links page that is devoted to other countries prison systems. This blog has been read in 72 countries. I think it would be good to broaden the scope to include what they know to be true in their part of the world. Thank you for this idea.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Yes, I will, and I will get back to you about this. I think it’s important to expand our horizons, so to speak, in many ways, to try to understand what it is like to live in other countries. I doubt I will get the chance to visit the places I read about in more globally oriented publications, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help make people be more aware of the world around them. This is why I like the about.me website, where we met, because it brings more of the outside world a little closer.

              Liked by 1 person

        1. It means a lot to me that you did. I hope you come by again and read the letters – new ones that come in and old one I go back through. What many people don’t realize, especially because they have no one in prison, and they only read an article here and there when it his the news, is there is a strong human element here with many people being extremely mistreated. But there is little oversight. The prison industrial complex pays politicians so much money not to touch their golden egg which makes so much money for them.

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