Are You New To Jamie’s Story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

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

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

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

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My Last Day After 18 1/2 Years in Confinement

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There is much I could say here about solitary confinement, but you can find many other posts and pages on my blog that speak of it. I published this post before and it has been read and watched over 8500 times over more than two years. with a few updates it was worth published it again.  This is just as important now as it has ever been. There are links beneath the post when you click on it to take it out of the archive roll that can take you to other sites that will give you many more examples of it. The best one is Solitary Watch

Between the story of the man this blog is about, who has spent a number of years in ad seg and solitary confinement years largely in retaliation for standing up for his rights and the rights of other inmates; almost 11 years total in prison, first offense, with 6 years to go, and others like Armando Macias, who has become an interesting pen pal over the last couple years. He has 3 pages here that can be found at the top of the page in the white area of his writings about his experiences when he arrived on death row and the humiliations they put him through. I recently found out he just got married to his long ago love in his life. How do marriages work in prison? That is a topic for another post. I can only tell you now he is as happy as any other newly married man because he knows he is loved, regardless of his past. He has hope. I have learned more than I ever wish there was a need to know about prisons. It has opened up in a sense of compassion for people that most others would throw away as having no value. There are good and bad people in prison just as there are good and bad people in the population.

I sincerely hope you keep on reading while you are here, and return often. Jamie’s story is one that needs to be told. You probably came to this page from a social media site. If you go to the page that starts out with, “I want to encourage you . . .” You will find out the important places to start first reading that will give you a better understanding of the purpose of the blog. So often people do the wrong thing for the right reason but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. And it doesn’t mean he should lose so many years of his life because of it, unless there is financial motivation. During 9 years we have been writing it gave me a clear understanding of how necessary it was to help him. He mattered to me. This one human being, younger than my daughter, father to one of my grandsons, who wants to have another chance at life.

Prisons are kept full using the backdoor method – mostly parole violations, not new crimes, although they do exist. Actual rehabilitation is not really a high priority. The fact that Jamie also has epilepsy and has had a multitude of seizures while inside, will only make it that much harder to find work. The fact that he spent over 4 years in juvy on a bogus charge from late 16 to 21, and not able to get an education will also make it harder. Renting a place to live will be the hardest. He is worried and he has a good reason to be.

In addition to these things you will find music media files on some of the posts. I am an improvisational pianist and and play and record music that fits the emotion of how I feel when I write. I hope you enjoy them. Any one of those pieces will take you to SoundCloud where there are 29 pieces total.

I’m writing a book about Jamie’s experiences with the justice system and bad prison policy in general titled “Inside the Forbidden Outside” Publishing a book when you have never published one is a daunting task. I spend most of my day writing and learning about the business of writing.

I also put out a newsletter once a month about prison issues, stories of other inmates, updates on how the book is coming along, and other information. You can sign up below.

Thank you.

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Picking Up Broken Pieces Inside AdSeg

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June 3rd, 2016

Hello mom,
I received your letter today and boy, that sure was one long letter. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can. I will also give you my true thoughts. I’ve really been sitting and thinking about my future. So many things just pop into my head, even when I don’t want to think about it. Please know that I’m okay. Sometimes I just go into a shell to get away. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m fine, okay, so don’t worry.

(Sonni’s note: But I do worry. No matter how strong someone may think they are, if you spend time in solitary for an extended period of time you can’t help but be affected by it. Sometimes you have a grip on your head when you’re alone and sometimes you don’t, and it gets to you. I have studied extensively the effects of solitary. Unless you have been there no one can know – including myself, what it is like to go weeks, months and years with no one but yourself to communicate with. No physical touch, no words except orders, no one to talk to about these things in your head.

I had a few rather callous conversations with people who don’t understand and are quick to place blame. “It’s his own fault. He put himself there.” Nobody blamed anyone else, so why are they so quick to make sure you know that. Strangers and family. They think, he is in prison, he shouldn’t be making any mistakes, so it’s his fault. Don’t you think he know that? Do you think he should have learned to behave 100% of the time and never give in to emotions.. The inmate must never forget they are to blame.

Jamie has had some very tough times this last ten plus years – for a variety of reasons – some are because of things he has done and some are because of retaliation from prison guards who have let their authority go to their heads and there are no repercussions for the things they do to inmates. They think, even if he is being continually mistreated, he is supposed to remailn calm and don’t contradict guards when they accuse him of doing something he didn’t do. Jamie fills out grievances that are never filed. He is carried down a flight of stairs face first with the guards hooking their arms through the cuffs on his wrists and ankles after having a seizure, because the guards are too lazy to get the board he is to be carried on, strapped on his side in case he has another seizure. . . . .

But he is not to get mad? He is supposed to stay in control and be polite no matter what they do to him? But he is a human being. We all have emotions. Even with an animal, if you treat him bad often enough he is going too bite you. So here we have a human being – someone I know very well and he is expected to do something you yourself would not able to do. You might think you could, but you couldn’t.

Someone said to me, “But you would think by now, after ten years, he would have learned!” Does that mean, no matter what is done to him he is supposed to stand there and not react in any way, always staying polite. Never should he ever reach the point where he can’t take it anymore. Maybe he should crawl into his head so far that he can’t find his way to normalcy when he gets out? How is he supposed to interact with other people when it’s been driven into him that who he is, what he thinks and how he feels really has no importance.

I tell him constantly his life has value. He won’t have a clue what to do when he gets out, but no one who knows him will have much patience with that. They won’t help because they have no clue what solitary confinement is and they will expect that since he is a grown man he should know what to do. Honestly, no one gives a damn what happens to him. He is going to have to prove himself to them before they trust him enough to even be nice. Why should he have to do that?

If he had been a drug addict or a violent person who hurt someone or had a string of convictions that says this guy is trouble – stay away from him; I could understand their skepticism. Except for this, he has not one conviction on his record. Was he perfect? No, but then neither was I. I did things in my youth that could have gotten me prison time had I got caught. I know lots of things people who didn’t get caught for things they did. Have I made them prove themselves to me? I’d like to flush his family down the toilet.

When I read his letters there are times when I can tell he’s in trouble – not physically, but mentally. He tries to stay strong in his letters to me. But he will also apologize to me when he thinks something happened and he should have been in better control. It’s okay. tomorrow is another day. Start over and focus again on your future. Imagine where you’ll be and the
things you want to do. What have you learned that can help other people

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I’ve been asked, “Why is he back in ad seg again. What did he do?” He probably reached the end of his rope one day and got angry. You aren’t allowed to get angry. Everyone single person has gotten angry and yelled at someone. What if you weren’t allowed to ever get angry and you had to push it down deep inside. Could you do it and NEVER fail? You would just quiet your mind and not react – month after month after month? No, you couldn’t, and then they would give you more time in adseg. It is a lose/lose situation
Many inmates spend years locked up alone. They never get out. How does the prison do it, because it is against the law now to punish someone with more than fifteen days of solitary? By creating more cases. It takes a long time to get out of the lower classifications of prison. Solitary, ad seg (G5) and often G4. If the guards can’t find a way to sentence you with more time, they will just make something up. Do you think they wouldn’t do that? The more people that are locked up like that, the less they have to do. If you were paid what guards were paid you wouldn’t want to do much, either. Besides, they have to endure heat, too. But they get to go home at the end of the day. Still, it’s s sucky job, so amuse yourself and go pick on some inmates. No one will care. Guards stick together just like cops.)
I got a letter from someone who reads your blog. She said her son just got 20 years. She asked me for some pointers. I told her that family support is very important. ( something his own family will never understand) I also gave her some do’s and don’ts to give to her son. She said she was thinking about getting him an attorney, one who used to be a felon. Bad move. I told her to be careful. Make sure he works for a firm so he is legit. Some are just out to get your money because you are vulnerable.

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

biz card
Beware this picture is 30 years old!

So you want to play gigs again. Really! that sounds cool. I think you still have what it takes. I’m sure you are asking yourself, how could I say that? I’ve never heard you play. Passion. It’s because you have a lot of passion and I know that must be in your music. I know you can do it. Go ahead and start gigs again and do something for me while you do it. Enjoy yourself. That’s all for now. I’ll be waiting on you.

(Listen to this piece – really listen to it. Close your eyes.  Put your head back . Tell me what it means to you. Can you tell me what I’m saying?.

I had quit writing music about twelve years ago. I had no more reason to write. I had convinced myself my years of playing professionally were over. I was still teaching, but i played with headphones on so no one would accidentally hear me. I was told my playing might bother people.  I had also been sick for a long time and couldn’t sit up for long. I had nothing to write about. As I began this blog I wanted to play music again. As I healed I started playing my piano more and more. Something had changed, though.  My entire thought process for writing had become something else.  I stopped writing songs and crawled into the music. I started out writing music for Jamie. Music is emotional. Going through these years of keeping him going brought something into my music that wasn’t there before. Now, probably only one day a week, I want to find a nice piano bar or restaurant that would like beautiful music in the background. My days of fronting a band are long over. Now, as you see posts that have music on them you will understand a little more why I insert them.)

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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:

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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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Life Doesn’t Have to Be Bad In Ad Seg

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February 2016

Dear Mom,

You told me that most inmates who get out end up back inside again – 71%.  That’s because that is how many go out in the world with the thought of making a change for themselves.  some of them talk about making fast money.  They talk about getting a job but doing something illegal on the side.  Me, when I get out I want a job and I want to have my son in my life.  I really want to talk to young males about the system.  Not just black males, everyone. 

I don’t want to scare them. I want to tell them the truth about how I spent my life behind bars; how I lost so many years I could have been doing something with my life.  I want to tell them how I was treated by other inmates and officers.  I don’t know why but it’s hard to put it on paper.  I try sometimes, but something always happens.  Sometimes the officers go through my stuff and (poof!) it disappears, like they don’t the information to get out.  They did it to keep me down.

Anyway, I just want kids to know the truth as well as some of them who call themselves homeboys til they get put in a situation. I want them to know that life is nothing without freedom. Freedom is something the world has fought so hard for, only to give it away with a bad choice we made in life.

That is what I want to do. Schools, boys and girls clubs, Juvenile detention halls, internet, radio stations, etc. I’ve tried my best to stay on Jamie about somethings, however I know it’s nothing like me talking to him face to face. I said something to him about what goes on in the world. I ask him to be careful and stay away from trouble, although cops will make trouble for him even if he does nothing so he has to be aware of what is happening around him.

I wrote to Jamie and asked him if he has been reading like I asked him to. I told him to take 30 minutes to an hour to read and never be scared to ask for help. I tell him about stuff I hear on the news about kids. I just word it different and ask him to be careful when he’s outside. I need to spend more time parenting in prison than I have been.  Sometimes I get caught up in my own problems when I should be building our relationship stronger.

Change of subject. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to write to my family and ripped the letter up after writing only a couple sentences. My mind goes black or there are things I want to say but don’t want to hurt anyone or make them mad, even though I am the one who should be mad. I think that is why I lash out at people. I have so much built up inside of me. By doing that is how I created more negative karma. You’re right, you can’t change anything through anger.

prisonguard2I understand you not liking the fact of me being in  ad seg. Being here at the Allred Unit doesn’t have to be the same unless I make it the same. Now I am more focused than I have ever been. It’s quiet. I can think. I can chant without being bothered – and I can move the universe. When this is over I will stay on a positive track. I have changed my way of talking to the officers. I thank them for everything. I even say please to them now. This is something I haven’t really done before. However, I have to come to understand, if I stay respectful to them, they will to me. When I ask them something they will listen to me and then let me know if they can help me or not. Not once have I been turned down for help. But I don’t put anything past them because I know they work together.

I can’t wait until you come to visit. I hope it won’t be too much longer. It’s been so long.
Love always, Son

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Sonni’s Side of The Story – part two

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

SONNI’S SIDE OF THE STORY – part two

 

     One day I asked Morgan for Jamie’s address. I wanted to send him a card. I don’t remember if it was a holiday or even why I wanted to do it.  He popped into my mind one day and hoped he was doing okay.

     Prisons were in a different world than anything I had experienced. I thought prisons were supposed to provide the essential things the prisoners needed. I was totally clueless about the US prison system. It didn’t take much research to find out how wrong I was.

     Not long after I sent the card I got an answer back. He was surprised to hear from me, but it was a welcome surprise. It started a relationship through letters that became much more than I thought it would when we started. For the most part, the art of letter writing all but died when sending emails became easier than finding an envelope and stamp. Reading a letter by hand says much more than just what the words say. Jamie has many different styles of handwriting and I can immediately sends his mood by the way he writes. My handwriting is the same as it was when I was twenty and is quite illegible, so I type and print out about half the letters I send.

      There is nothing interesting in the mail these days. It is all junk mail or bills. When I see I have a letter to read, I dump everything on the table and go get comfortable to read his letter, or other letters from other inmates I write to. When Jamie’s son gets older, if he wants his son to read the letters, he will get to know his father in ways he would never otherwise understand.  Over the years these letters made me realize he had a story that should be told.
      I not only learned about what kind of man he was, but I learned the true story about what happens in the prison system. When I have other inmates telling me the same thing it makes it hard to have respect for the system.  Finding out about how inmates are treated – abused- made me angry. I became frustrated because I wanted to do something to help him. 

      Because of propaganda, many people have the attitude of, “If you do the crime, you gotta do the time.” It’s not that easy to use that phrase in a general sense about all inmates. It’s not just about doing the time. It isn’t that cut and dried. Although there are many people locked up who should never be let out on the street, there are even more people being given sentences that don’t fit their crime, if they are even guilty in the first place. These people are valuable to the Prison Industrial Complex. They have a contract that stipulates their prison will be kept full, whether the people in it are guilty or not.
      Much of what is written about prisons in the media only tell a partial story. It doesn’t say enough about the extreme abuse prisoners have to endure, the same way it is hard to convict a cop. There is an image the system wants to preserve as cops and guards being people who uphold the law are in the right and have reasons to abuse people. If people believed otherwise they would lose control. Stories get twisted about how people were hurt to make people believe they only hurt people when it is justified. We know that isn’t true, but how many murder convictions have their been of cops and guards? Almost none. They are more likely to only get a short suspension, if even that, but they don’t end up in solitary confinement being treated the way they have treated others.
      There has been a lot of inhumane treatment and torture inside those walls for hundreds of years. The pain of knowing that, and personally knowing someone who was experiencing it started ripping me up inside, telling me I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. If you realize evil is taking place and you look in the other direction, you are condoning what is happening and that makes you guilty, too. From the warden on down, everyone who works in the prison knows what is happening, but there are seldom repercussions.

     Inmates can’t fight back against what is done to them. It took until mid 2013, after receiving hundreds of letters, to realize this was a story that needed to be told. Not just for Jamie’s sake, but for all people, men and women, who were given unjust sentences so the prison corporations could fill beds at ‘for profit’ prisons. I watched a video* of an auction of a new prison to the highest bidder when the auctioneer, as a selling point, explained there would be a never ending supply of inmates to fill it. This was a prison built to hold illegal immigrants coming over the border. Instead of deporting them, it was financially in their favor to lock them up, even though they had committed no crime other than trying to find a better life. They didn’t deserve prison if the only motivation was profit. The bidding started at five million. These were men who were in the business of buying people for profit, and then denying them medicine and medical for even now profit.

      Prisoners are a commodity; and they are expendable. They are just criminals, lower than the lowest. Drug companies us them to test new drugs, without their knowledge. Manufacturing companies bid on them as nearly free labor to make their products. Inmates purchase commissary items from companies who make a step profit selling to inmates. Prisons do not want to pay for medical tests and costly drugs unless they absolutely have no choice. There are different laws for inmates than there are for free people. I want to think the public wouldn’t tolerate it if they knew, but I’m not so sure anymore. But I do know there is an outrage if animals kept in cages are treated inhumanely so I have to have hope they would also be outraged if they knew what did to people.

     There seems to be an abundance of hate in the world in the world. The call for justice is dim in the background of the noise of people screaming about the injustice done to them. How are they supposed to care about injustice done to people they loathe; convicted criminals. There are fights against this injustice but it isn’t loud enough. It may never be loud enough. Corporations have the money resources to fight change and they won’t give up their profit easily.

      I began to put my thoughts on paper, writing and rewriting, encouraging Jamie to write to me about what happened earlier in his life. I needed to see if there was something I could do to make a difference. First I started a blog and began publishing some of his letters. I wanted to do more and began writing this book.
      Our letter writing began in 2008 when little Jamie was about between 1 1/2. My only intention was to hopefully brighten his day and let him know someone was thinking about him. I knew letters were often the only communication an inmate has with the outside. What I didn’t know then – I was the only person writing to Jamie, except for an occasional letter and pictures from my daughter that soon slowed from a trickle to a barely existent drop.
      Morgan soon met another man, got married, and had another baby boy. After that she turned off the baby making machine. She didn’t stay with the fourth baby’s father, either, and life was hard. She was working two jobs was so tired all the time. I wished I was closer to her so I could help more and even though she rarely asked me for money, I sent it to her anyway because I knew she needed it.
    Jamie was hurt because no one in his family answered his letters. I couldn’t stop writing to him. He needed me. I told him I adopted him so should call me mom. He needed someone to know what was happening to him and he needed someone to write to he could encourage, too. The letters weren’t just about him, they were also about me when I needed to talk about my day. He wanted to hear about my life. We needed each other to talk to. I can’t understand how a mother could not want to know how her son is, knowing how hard it was for him. How can you go for years and not want to see how your son was? I could understand if he was far away, but he wasn’t. I think I was more upset about that than he was. He had already given up.
      He spent years in ad seg – which is short for administrative segregation – which means you were locked up in a cell 23 hours a day. If you were lucky and were taken for a shower or in the cage to exercise. The human mind can’t take that kind of deprivation and stay sane. I knew he was desperately unhappy. Right before this he spent four years in juvenile detention on a charge that should not have happened. He had spent very little time on the outside since he was sixteen years old.
      A few years after he went inside they started charging inmates $100 a year if they wanted to be able to call for medical help, even if it was only one time in the year. Inmates went without help when they needed it and infections spread easily. Many couldn’t afford it. They could still ask for medical help but they would often be ignored. I started paying his fee every year because some of his epileptic seizures were pretty bad. There were times he needed to be taken to the hospital. No one was going to help me pay it even though I asked his family for help. The question was ignored.
      When I realized there was no one else but me to keep him going, I mentally reached inside his cell, grabbed hold of him. He became my son. I would joke and say he took after his father because he is as black as I am white. On prison forums on the internet, like M.I.S.S. – Mom’s With Incarcerated Sons Society, it is a place for moms to talk with each other and get support. There were a few with daughters. Men in prison have mothers, wives, girlfriends and children and many of them stick by their loved one and want to talk to other women who are going through the same thing.  I told them he was my “adopted” son, but also told the truth and said he is the father of one of my grandsons.  Jamie desperately needed someone to care about him. I could have never stopped writing to him. It was too important. I wasn’t going to be another person who made him think he didn’t matter, because he did matter. He needed someone he talk to about Morgan and his son until he could find the right place to put it. He was grieving.
      Through the years I connected him with his son through pictures and stories Morgan would tell me. Morgan started resenting me because I would ask her to write to him. She didn’t want me to talk about him anymore. She had let him go and didn’t want me telling her she should write. She couldn’t understand why he was so important to me. I could understand that, but I wasn’t going to stop writing.
Jamie and I had each had each been given a prison sentence. We held each other up with encouragement and caring. I slowly began teaching him the life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. I knew how much benefit I gained from what I had learn over the years, and the wisdom I gained from many hours of chanting daimoku, which is the chantin of nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It got me through many crisis points in my life. I don’t think I would be alive today had I not made the continued effort to change the negative parts of my life.
      He needed to understand why his life was happening the way it was. Why him? What did he need to learn? Learning about the law of cause and effect and how the decisions we make in our lives affects our future, doesn’t allow us to stay in the victim mentality and think what happens to us is not our fault. We make the causes for our life to go in the direction it does. We can learn how to make different causes and gradually pull our life out of the tailspin we sometimes find ourselves in.
      Having so much alone time, sitting in a prison cell, is the perfect time to reflect about those causes we made in our life that put us where we are. We are the only ones who can change our destiny by making better causes and getting better effects. In Buddhism, prayers are not answered by someone or something outside yourself who has personal plans laid out for you. Only when you look inside yourself and change will it reflect in the outside world around you. Each person has the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to believe in. Does your faith show proof in your life, or is it blind faith with no results?
      I have tried to keep Jamie centered on being positive. Trying to stay on an even keel when there are other people trying to make him lose control of his anger isn’t easy. At times he has been ready to give up. I try to keep him thinking about his future. It wasn’t going to be successful unless he made the effort – the causes – for it to be that way. He needed know how to respond in a different way to his environment than with anger.
      Trying to keep his head together, while living in a single cell with no one to talk to, separated from humanity, is probably the hardest thing anyone could be expected to do. People are not meant for such solitude. It is why the percentage of inmates going insane and committing suicide is so high. It is living in hell. The fact that he has done as well as he has is incredible. It is not the same as telling some they need to have better behavior and expecting them to do it. There are so many other influences that make it hard to do. I try to keep him supplied with books and magazines, so he can imagine another world. It is the only way to escape reality.
      These years in prison he has endured so far is only the first half of his experience. Getting out and staying out is the second half. The recidivism percentage, the rate people end up back in prison is in the high 70%, so the chance of staying free is against you and not in your favor – especially if you don’t have emotional support. Almost every inmate wants to do better when he is free, but staying free does not happen by accident. He needs a plan and he has to have discipline. When he gets out and enters a society he doesn’t recognize, the going gets tough. This society won’t care if he makes it or not. Racism didn’t end while he’s been inside.
      Because we are human, we usually take two steps forward and one and a half steps back That makes it hard to see our progress. It’s been very hard, for both of us. It’s easy to get your legs yanked out from beneath you and react to things that cause even more negativity in your life, but if you learn how to get back up again and redetermine, there is hope. He is not a victim. He can change his life into a positive one. It can and will be a benefit to his life and will strengthen him as a human being, even if it is hard for him to see that right this minute.
      Everything happens for a reason. There is no such thing as luck and there are no miracles. There are only affects of causes, even if you don’t understand what they are. The phrases, “You reap what you sow”, “What goes around comes around.”, “You get back what you dish out”, holds true in all circumstances, not just once in awhile. Teaching someone in prison to understand this is difficult, but he has come a long way. Without understanding this he doesn’t have a chance of ever getting out of there and have his mind in one piece. If he understands this and puts it into practice he will turn this experience around to have a positive meaning in his life. There are those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, and they are both right. This will affect my grandson and what he teaches him about his life when he gets out. Black men have a one in three chance of ending up in prison because that is the way our justice system, through racism, has forced it to go. I have two half black grandsons and I fear for the racism that will come their way after they are not under the total control of the mother. White men don’t have to worry about prison the way black men does. White men aren’t accosted and harassed on the street just for being white.
      There are many people who live his story. There are many family members who are faced with this same thing when the men in their lives are locked up. Yes, some of it justified. Some of it is because neighborhoods have been so ground down they lost hope a long time ago. A prison sentence for one person is a prison sentence for the entire family and everyone suffers. Families don’t know how to help someone in prison and because most are low income they don’t have the money to visit, accept phone calls or hire attorneys who aren’t only trying to force a plea deal.
      Toward the end of 2013 I started his blog, mynameisjamie.net and began posting his letters. Slowly his story emerged. I also have copies of my letters to him. The responses I received kept me writing, and kept Jamie encouraged. today there are other people who write to him that let him know his life is important. There were even men who wrote to me and said his story made them cry. He began touching people’s hearts. I began searching for other blogs about people in prison, like I was doing, because I wanted to learn what was happening in other prisons.
      I started reading and learning. I began researching all aspects of the prison industry, from the juveniles to the elderly. What I learned was often shocking. I was appalled and angry. Some blogs or books published were about ex-gang members who turned their lives around. Other inmates were never going to get out and were trying to make sense of how they were going to survive a life sentence. Many went through years of searching, looking for answers. Some found God, some turned to the Muslim faith and some turned to Buddhism. And there are those who turned to negative ways of dealing with life such as white supremacy and other gangs to give them a sense of brotherhood.
      All Buddhism is not the same just like there are many sects of Christian religions, from Pentecostal to Jehovah Witness. Jamie is learning about Nichiren Buddhism. Most inmates join some kind of group, often for protection, and most stay within their own race. But Jamie has spent little time in the general population. He has spent years of his time in the lower levels * of prison, often in a cell by himself, locked up 23 hours a day. He is only let out to shower a few times a week and maybe to go to chow – maybe. No programs – no education – nothing in ten years. How would you be doing if you had to live like that?
      In 2015 I began to write this book with the hope of not only validating his life, but to also help people understand what this country has done to millions of people; how the combination of racism and greed flourished in the prisons. Nothing is going to change until people force it to change. We can’t continue to ignore what is happening. In order for anyone to say America is a great nation, it has to be earned. We have to care about the people, not just ‘say’ we care.
    I hope you learn something from this writing you can pass it on to someone else. This story is about creating an indomitable spirit that learns to never give up, no matter how bad it gets. You need to have no doubt you will get to the other side of whatever problem you face. There is something to learn from everything we go through. Jamie, today, at this moment is still sitting in a cell by himself, hopefully studying and planning for his future. Will he make parole someday? What will it take? It will depend on his determination. The parole board is not going to want to parole him, so it will be a fight. They do not like to parole black people. They usually get turned down, no matter what is recommended.
      Maybe, by the time I get to the end there will be better answers. Politicians are now saying they want to change the system and also release more people, but then why are they still building more prisons? The numbers don’t add up. It never will. It’s politics.

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When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think, “This is never going to work out,” then at that instant every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight.

— Daisaku Ikeda

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way.  Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Sonni’s Pinterest boards

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares (forward)
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy
There Is No Place Like Home – part one
There Is No Place Like Home – part two
Sonni’s Side of The Story – part one

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There Is No Place Like Home – part 2

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME – part 2

(Don’t forget to read part 1 before you read part 2)

     In 2012 I was moved to yet another Texas prison, the GIB Lewis Unit, in Woodville, Tx. Now I was even closer to everyone. I’m only forty-five minutes away from my mother. All I could do was wait – and hope.
      On September, 2013, I got a letter from mom. She was flying to Texas and was coming to see me. She had been sick for three years with a bad liver and had a liver transplant in the summer of 2012. She was sick for a lot longer than that, but the last years forced her to close her store in Key West and get on the transplant list. It was a difficult for her to give up everything and lose her health on top of it.  I was worried about her. The liver came through unexpectedly and she didn’t have time to tell me. Her sister wrote me a message through JPay, the prison email service. Mom knew it was going to be awhile before she would be able to write to me and she knew I’d be worried to death about what was happening.
      I was surprised when I got the letter saying she was coming to visit. It was only fifteen months since her surgery. She knows what it is like to have family who doesn’t care. When she moved to Pa to be near a transplant hospital she thought she’d have the support of her family, but she didn’t. They treated her with indifference. Even when she had the transplant no one called the hospital to see how she was. What kind of family is that? This is why she understands how I feel about my family. She knows how it feels when people don’t care. Even as sick as she was, she knew if I didn’t hear from her I’d worry because I knew how sick she was. This is what people do when they care. If someone says they care but their actions say something else, then they are not telling you the truth. They only say they care because it makes them feel less guilty. So she made sure I knew what was happening. Why is it that some people care about others and some people don’t? It’s not right. Maybe that is why Morgan’s mom and I hit it off so well. She wanted me to know important I was to her; important enough to make sure I knew what was going on.

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     In 2014 I was moved again to the Wynne Unit in Huntsville,Tx. In January 2016 I was moved to Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Tx. Moving people around like this keeps us from being able to make friends and keeps us in the frame of mind of always losing anything personal. The steal and break or property and we have no way of getting it back or replaced. There is nothing we can do to help ourselves, no recourse to take because they only deny doing it and we can’t prove it. Every time I’m moved more things are stolen from me. Tell me why i shouldn’t be mad

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     Some time passed and I was moved next was the Wynne Unit in Huntsville. A lot happened while I’ve been here. It took over a year, but my level was raised from ad seg to G4 and then to G2. While there I was able to make phone calls for a few weeks, I had a job in the laundry and was on the list for my GED. Because of actions by a guard it was stripped away and I lost it all. I was put back in lock up. It’s hard because I worked so hard to reach that point and in a matter of minutes it was all taken away. I became the punching bag of a few guards who had nothing better to do but throw their weight around and got angry. How could I not get angry? Anyone in my position would have gotten angry, too. I’ve been here awhile. I think this is the last stop before they ship me out to yet another prison, but I don’t know which one. There is no window in my cell, so I can’t see the sky. I haven’t seen it in months. I also haven’t breathed fresh air in all these months, either.
      The cell they locked me in is like living in purgatory. Will I go up or down? For awhile they took everything away; even my mattress. I have no books and no personal belongings. I was only allowed paper, pen and a few hygiene products. They took away my rec, too, unless you count the other little windowless cell they take me to a couple times a week. Later, they did give most of my stuff back. This was their way of showing me they are in control and I better deal with it or pay a price. Even when I were able to go outside for rec it is inside a cage, like an animal. They should parade the tourists by me and tell them, “See people, here is what an honest to goodness criminal looks like. Don’t get too close, he bites!” What kind of recreation am I supposed to do there? Jump up and down? Do push ups? That’s what most of the inmates do. The guards are trying to break me. If it weren’t for my son, knowing I have him to live for, they would succeed.
    I think they are trying to send me out west again. They’ve been shipping other inmates out there. It seems, all of a sudden, the prison is too full and there is no room for me in level G4. I admit, I’ve been on a downward cycle. But it didn’t help that I’ve been beaten up a few times and had my head rammed into a wall. It didn’t help that the guards filed thirteen sexual harassment charges against me that were false, just to make me look bad. It’s impossible to stand up for yourself when every single card in the deck is stacked against you. Whether I am right or wrong doesn’t make a damned bit of difference.
     I was only supposed to be here for thirty days and then I would be sent back to G4 but they said there was no room for me there. So they kept me in solitary for months. Then I noticed people were leaving. They were shipping inmates out west. I don’t want to go back to west Texas. I know I rarely get visits, but if I am out west there is no way anyone could come visit even if they wanted to. They only thing I could was to do something bad to break their rules, then they would put me in G5, or ad seg. There was room for me there. So I started yelling at the guards and threatening them. I was very abusive verbally. It wasn’t right but it worked. They lowered my level from G4 to G5. It could take a year to get out. I’ve already done 4 years in ad seg, so I know how to bide my time. At least in G4 I can leave my cell to go to chow. One benefit is I’d get more hot food, and I would have limited time in the rec room where there are two TVs and have the option to play cards.

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     Mom, tell me, why am I alive? I have your letter in my hand. Your letter tells me I am still alive and you are the only one who knows I am still here. Can you tell me, what was my purpose in being born? Was I destined to be here from the very beginning of my life? Is this the reason? Is this the space I was supposed to fill all along? Am I of value to anyone? Or is it because I have a dollar value attached to my head? Is that the reason? Or did I do something so bad long ago and this is the effect; I deserve to be here? You know, what goes around comes around. Is that what it means to reap what you sow? Cause and effect? Was each day of my life working up to this moment of understanding? I have all these questions I need to find the answers to. Does it have to be this way? Have I been kidding myself by thinking, when I get out of here, I can make up for all the sadness in my life, and it will be replaced with happiness? How am I supposed to know how to be happy? Is it possible this has all been a bad dream, because if it is, I wish I could wake up now.
      I wasn’t trying to get into trouble. I go back and forth in my head trying to understand the reason to keep trying. Sometimes I feel strong and sometimes I give in. If I could just know how my son is doing. He is all I have that gives value to my life and I couldn’t bear to lose him. The way things are going I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to see or hear from him again. It’s hard not to think these thought. They scratch at the back of my head trying to get in.
      It hurts me to sit and think like this, but as time passes and I don’t hear anything, the worst always comes to mind. You have been my only way, mom, to know how he is and I appreciate that more than you know. Without that I would have lost it already. Morgan gets mad if you talk about me or even say my name. What did I do to deserve that? Is it because the man she is living with gets jealous of me? Is she trying to make herself believe she doesn’t care anymore? Does she have to punish me because of that? You only talk to her because I ask you to. Who else will tell her to write?
      Morgan has no way of understanding how alone I am and how hard it is. You see, I can’t figure out what I did to make Morgan want to punish me by not letting me know about my son. I don’t understand what I did. I have to stop thinking this way. If I didn’t have mom to remind me to stay focused on getting out of here I don’t know if I could do it. This is what happens to the inmates in here. They don’t have a reason to keep trying and they get in more and more trouble until they keep them locked up for good. Then they go nuts.
      Once in awhile, when I’m about to give up, Morgan writes. I think that’s when her mother pushes her. Maybe she feels guilty about waiting so long. She doesn’t have to sit and write me long letters. Sure, I want to know she’s okay. I want her to be happy. I think she needs to separate herself from me, she thinks she has to separate Jamie, too. This man she is living with probably doesn’t like her writing to me. Maybe he’s worried about what will happen when I get out. Nothing will happen. She chose him, not me. I wouldn’t want to mess that up. I only want time with my boy. Even if she just put pictures or schoolwork in an envelope and sent it I’d be happy. I’d feel part of his life and would have something from him. Wouldn’t she want that if the shoe were on the other foot? I’ve sat in my cell and cried so many times because my heart is feeling so much loss.
      I wonder if my family thinks life will go back to the way it was when I get out. I wonder if they have even thought of it at all? Will they help me get on my feet or help me get a job? I don’t think so. I’m not the child I was before. Besides, I don’t think we can just pick up the pieces and pretend the silence wasn’t there. That can’t happen. How could they look me in the eye and say they love me? There is no life to go back to. There is no home to go back to. Too many years have passed, and they aren’t done passing. But when I come up for parole I have to show I have a support system to help me. Where does that support come from?
      The thought of my family giving up on me is also really hard to take. I guess it was just a matter of time. It happens to other dudes in here, too. People go on with their lives and forget people who are locked up, especially the ones who are locked up for a long time. When someone isn’t around, how long does it take for people to forget about you? They don’t know you anymore and you don’t know them. They only know you until the time you go in and I have been gone for most of 14 years now, if you count the four years in Juvy. Sometimes, I don’t think I should plan on making it home. I see what they do to some of the inmates. Not everyone goes home.
      I want to make it home to everyone, but why go back to a place where no one loves or cares about me? They will have a party for me and everyone will be happy and give me big hugs. Then they will go on about their way thinking. I’m a man now and should figure everything out on my own. But I don’t know how to figure things out on my own. They won’t care. I’m not their responsibility. They have their own problems to deal with. I’m afraid because I don’t know if my son will hate me for not being there for him. I felt the same way about the dad I never had. You can’t love someone who was never there. Feelings don’t have a chance to grow. I’ll be a stranger to him. Maybe he’ll even be afraid of me. It’s would really hurt me if my only child hates me or doesn’t have interest in knowing me. Am I just feeling sorry for myself? Am I making a problem where there isn’t one?
      I look at what happened in my life and how it all led me to this very place. I look at all the things I did as a kid and the trouble I got into. I know I was a difficult kid. I gave my mama a hard time. She did the best she could. She did what she knew how. I wouldn’t listen to her. Does giving a kid the belt teach him anything? Because I got into trouble as a kid, is this why she never tries to help me in here or answer a letter? How can a mother never ever answer even one letter I send her? Is it my fault? Is it too much to ask? It’s rare for me to hear from anyone. Would it have been different if I had growing up if I had a dad? No sense thinking about that because i can’t go back andf change that now. I have so many unanswered questions. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands. Time is all I have now.
      Will I always be judged by these years inside? Will people see me as a failure? Will being black make it extra hard? I feel I should know these answers but these are things you have to experience to know. I don’t think racism has changed since I got locked up. I’m in my thirties; I’m not a boy, but still I haven’t had a chance to learn these things on my own. I want to learn to be the father I never had. Maybe it’s too late for me, but I don’t think it is too late for my son. I want to change it for him so he doesn’t follow in my footsteps.

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

     My mama had to go through a lot with me being sick when I was growing up. I guess I used up all the worrying she had. After I got locked up she ended up raising my sister’s kids because she got locked up, too, and then my niece’s kids, so she’s been raising kids all her life. Maybe she thought that since I was over twenty-one I was an adult and an adult shouldn’t need his mother. Tough love; She let me go. But the thing is, I still needed her. I still do. Just because I am a man does not mean I don’t need to know my mother loves me and is still there when I need her.
      The world preys on boys like me. Black boys with no father. They’re locking up all the black men. It’s very deliberate. Mothers can’t be fathers. Mothers can’t be mothers, either, when they have to work all the time and be the only ones to discipline the kids because there is no one around to do that. Us kids were left to fend for ourselves most of the time. We weren’t little kids. But still, even teenagers need to have someone around to watch what they are doing and to try to teach them the things they need to learn.
      Mama worked two jobs to take care of us kids. She made sure we were fed and had clothes. We weren’t on welfare or food stamps. She worked hard, so I can’t fault her for that. I think that is why, when Sonni came into my life, she took over the role of mother. She knew I needed a mom, and she’s been there every year since then. She can’t really come to visit me because she’s so far away. She can’t send much money, but she sends enough so I can get my hygiene and stamps and extra stuff when I need it, and she pays my medical fee each year so I can call for medical help. This is what a mom does. But aside from doing these things, I know she does this because she loves me. She tells me she loves me and I believe her.
      All these years we’ve been writing, and with all the things we’ve shared, there is no way there isn’t love. Yes, she’s married and she loves her husband. I know she is twenty-nine years older than me and nine years older than my mother. But in prison, age, looks, race and anything else doesn’t matter. You could be an ugly dog, but it wouldn’t matter. Sometimes people love someone because they are beautiful and they are attracted to each other, but what happens when the beauty is gone? When all you do is write words, you get to know someone in a completely different way; from inside their mind. You end up loving the beauty of the person through the things they write to you. When those letters become hundreds of letters and you can reread all the way back to the first one, you can see how the caring grows.                                                                                                                     Above all, I don’t want to disappoint her or let her down. When I do things in here that I’m not proud of,  I don’t want her to know these things because I don’t want her to think less of me. I know that doesn’t really matter because she says there is nothing that would make her go away. I just get disappointed in myself. My real mom only knows me as this boy she raised, but she doesn’t really know who I am. She doesn’t understand what her silence does to me. I know I can’t change that, but it is part of is the reason why this is so hard to take some days.

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

     People on the outside have no idea what it’s like to live in a prison. They see TV shows and movies but they never tell it like it is. They don’t show the things that really happen. They don’t show guards beating the crap out of people or tasing and gassing them. I can’t change the channel and make it go away. There is no way to explain what it does to your head to be in here day after day, year after year. Growing up I had no common sense. No kid does. My wisdom was that of a boy. Yeah, I learned certain things in juvy but none it had anything to do with how to live your life and not screw it up.
      When I get out, when I am nearly forty, how am I supposed to know what the right thing is to do? I will have to be so careful.  The simplest thing could land me back in here again.  I don’t know how to do the things an adult would know. How can I rely on my own wisdom when I don’t have any? The only things I know, is how to survive in here. It’s scary to think about being on the outside when I don’t know how to the necessary things to take care of myself. Everything will be so changed. My family might have a welcome home party for me, but most of the people won’t even know me. After that they’ll say, “You’re an adult. Go take care of yourself.”
      When I get out of here half my life could be gone. How will I be able to pick up the pieces when I don’t know where the pieces are, or how to put them back together. I’m clueless. I have no experience how to live my life and be free to do what I want. I don’t remember what being free feels like. It is easy to see how inmates get institutionalized when they are in here too long. Some of them, when they get out, are only comfortable when they are in a tiny closed room.  it makes them feel safe. I don’t want it to be that way for me.
      Do you know what it feels like to have people look at you like you’re dirt, when they don’t even know who you are; just because your skin isn’t white? A white person can’t really know how that feels, to be looked at like that your entire life. In prison it’s even worse. What’s weird is even the black guards look down on me like I’m scum. But what can I do? They have control over my life and if I don’t kiss their ass they’ll lock me up in an even smaller room. Besides, they don’t care who I am. They get to bring out the bully part of their nature that gets off on hurting people.
      I sit here for awhile and the reel in my head starts all over again. I need to keep the determination to change this. I want my life to go right for a change. I made mistakes. I loved a woman. I didn’t have the sense to know the right thing to do. I know that sounds like I’m making excuses, but it’s the truth. Because I loved her and needed to provide for her , I went with my cousin to a gaming hall where he pulled out his gun and it ruined my life. I didn’t think I had any choice. I couldn’t leave. Friends don’t leave friends behind. In juvy, that’s what you learn; loyalty.
      “There is a baby on the way,” Morgan said one night, driving home the point that it takes money to have a baby. I was so happy but I didn’t know what to do. How was I supposed to get money to take care of her? I couldn’t get a job. I didn’t even have a GED.  I couldn’t drive a car because I can’t have a license with epilepsy. We are all capable of doing stupid things when we love someone and our back is up against the wall. I did something crazy, and I didn’t understand what the effects could be because all I thought of was Morgan so I didn’t stop it from happening, and I could have. So that makes me just as guilty. I hadn’t been out of juvy for long. I was just being stupid. Who did I have to teach me? We learn from the people around us. I feel my son has paid the highest price for my mistakes. What a mess I made of things. There is no place like home. I lost mine. If I could just go back and start all over again . . .

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way. I’m very determined to do this, and do it right. Between writing the book and writing for my two blogs, and writing long letters to three inmates, and writing music, I write until sometimes i fall to the right and almost land on the floor! Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Sonni’s Pinterest boards

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy
There Is No Place Like Home – part one

Please fill out this form to be on the email list so you don’t miss any chapters I publish and to hear any new and exciting news in the world of a new author writing her first book. I’m also open to any constructive criticism you can think of that would help me put out a better book when it is time to actually publish it!

There is No Place Like Home – Part 1

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME  – part 1

 

      Standing here I can close my eyes, stretch out his arms and touch both walls of my cell. I can run my hands down the walls of my home. There has been so much unhappiness in this cell. I can feel it. I can smell the desperation of men who thought this might be the end of the road for them, the last place they will live. For some, it was. Will my desperation be added to it? The craving to leave this place gets so intense sometimes.   Knowing I have no control over my life makes me want to hit the walls and scream. But I won’t. I’ll stuff it down. If I listen hard I can hear the echos of their cries of anguish and loneliness, but no one listened back, just like they aren’t listening now. Not many people could withstand this kind of loneliness, when you have only yourself to talk to. This is why so many men go insane in prison. Its easy to crawl so far down inside your head that you get lost, and can’t find your way out again.
      These walls feel like they are part of me, like the skin on my bones. How small this cell is, the size of a small bathroom. It’s not the home I thought I would have. My home was supposed to have a family in it, but I guess it’s the home I chose by my actions. I was so stupid. There is nothing in here that belongs to me. Nothing personal. Nothing of comfort. I have my pictures, though, and I look at them every day. Maybe I should hang up a sign that says, “James lived here”. This way the next guy could see who he’s replacing and he can add his desperation to everyone else.
      I fight to not become that person, and it’s hard. I have to make it through years of this shit, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to do that. Mom tries so hard to help me and keep me encouraged. I knows she’s right. I will get out of here someday. But I’m not dealing with someday. I have to deal with right now, today. I try not to worry her and make her think I’m doing okay, but I’m not, and she knows it. I tell her some of the stuff I go through, but I’m afraid she would be upset with me if she knew how hard it really was. She wants for me to be okay. I doesn’t want to disappoint her. I want to be the person she wants me to be. Nobody ever expected me to be anything, but she does. I have to try to live up to that. I also know, no matter what happens, she will be there for me. She doesn’t judge me. Everyone makes mistakes. She always says we can start new the next day and try again. She encourages me over and over to keep trying. Everyone has problems and it is possible to turn them around, but sometimes I fall down and it’s hard to get up.
      In the beginning I tried hard to convince myself I could do this. This isn’t the way I wanted my life to be. I’m really not a bad person. I knows I have a problem with anger and that seems to get me into the most trouble, but everyone has something they need to overcome that gets in their way. The more I try to control it the harder it becomes. From the very beginning of my life its been hard and adding this to everything here made it worse. But can I say it is anyone’s fault but my own? Maybe that is what makes me the angriest, because I really can’t blame anyone else. Maybe if my family would have been there for me it would have been easier, but that isn’t the way it worked out. But my family isn’t there for me and Morgan won’t bring my son to see me. Year after year of this and it has made it harder for me and I admit, the things that go on in here do make me angry.
      The sad thing is that I don’t think anyone thinks about me or how I feel. I’m not important to the people who should be there for me – my family. Everything has been taken away from me. Am I not worth loving? Has no one else ever made any mistakes? I don’t have the answers to this because no one talks to me. If I didn’t have Sonni – mom – I would have no one. Well, what good is this doing me, feeling sorry for myself? Suck it up and find a way to turn this around or destroy myself. I will find the answers to this. It has to be happening for a reason. Is there something I’m supposed to learn from this?

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      After I accepted the plea for seventeen years they didn’t move me to a prison for a long time. At least a year and a half. Morgan had been living in Key West with her mom until a year after Jamie Jr was born. She came back for a visit and she brought the baby to see me. The visit was behind glass. It’s so hard to hear with the phones and the plexi-glass is all scratched up. I wanted so bad to be able to hold my son, to feel his skin and smell his baby smell, but I couldn’t. It tore me up inside. But at least I could see him. It broke my heart.
      By the time Morgan moved back to Texas for good, when little Jamie was a year old, I was already moved out to West Texas, the McConnell Unit in La Mesa. I couldn’t have sent me any farther away from my family and stay in Texas. In fact, it was the farthest I had ever been from home in my life.
      La Mesa was a small town in the middle of nowhere. Many prisons were in small towns to keep them away from large populated areas. I know now exactly how it feels to be a slave. I worked in the fields and was guarded by men on horseback with rifles and dogs. East Texas is hot, but it is nothing like West Texas with its flat, barren fields, and very few trees. My epileptic seizures were more frequent when I was overheated, and the physical stress made it even worse.
      I tried to tell that to a woman guard. She pretty much told me that no one cares. It didn’t matter to the prison. Medical problems are no excuse for not doing the work you are assigned to do. We weren’t paid anything because Texas doesn’t pay wages at any prison. Not even 20 cents an hour so I could buy deodorant. It was hell. But even so, being outside and able to breathe fresh air and see the sun was almost worth it.

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

     In the beginning I was in Gen Pop – general population. It can be dangerous. Everyone kicks it with their own people for protection. It was safer to be with your own kind. I have to have eyes in the back of my head if I want to stay alive. For those who choose to join a gang, Your gang watches your back. But you have to be careful of the guards. Many of them are just as corrupt and dangerous as some of the gangs.
      Guards can get other inmates to jump people they didn’t like and trade it for favors. Contraband comes in with the guards and the staff of the corporations that run the businesses inside the prison. Illegal, but profitable items come in with supplies. Some guards bring in cell phones, drugs and cigarettes. That is a well known fact even the media reports, but they can’t stop it. The guards aren’t paid well enough to not be tempted by the money inmates pay them. There are so many cell phones in the prison. They can’t find them faster than they are brought in, no matter how often they sweep the cells to find them. If you want drugs, the easiest place to get them is inside a prison. In fact, you can get anything you want if you know the right people. I don’t go near that stuff. It’s the last thing I need. Besides, you can’t trust anyone. They own you once they find your weakness.
      I also never wanted to join any of the gangs in a prison. It’s an easy way to get killed, and you if were told to get revenge on some other inmate you have to do what you’re told, or someone else would get you. Blacks stayed with blacks, and Hispanics stayed with Hispanics. White people often joined the Aryans, even if they didn’t think white people were superior. You needed a gang to have your back. Instead, I joined the Muslims.
      The Muslims taught peace. They would try to negotiate when gangs wanted to go to war with each other. The prayers done throughout the day were a tough discipline, but I needed that. I tried to believe the things it taught, about praising Allah and all that. But in many ways it was a lot like Christianity – believing in a God outside yourself that had a thinking mind. other people interpreted what he supposedly meant so they could tell you what to do and what to think. I was looking for something that would help me make sense of my life and how I got myself into this mess. If I could understand things maybe I could have a better life when I got out. It also gave him friends; a social life of sorts. Eventually, though, when I was sent to a different prison I lost these connections. I couldn’t keep up the practice every day on my own because I didn’t have a support structure anymore.
      I had one visit while I was in that prison. I wasn’t expecting any visits because I was so far away from everyone, but one day Morgan, my mother and the kids drove across the state of Texas to see me. That is a hard trip. You drive for hours without even seeing a billboard. Megan asked my mother to come along because she needed help with the kids. My mother couldn’t have made the trip on her own, either.
      I started getting letters from Sonni the previous year, after I had been inside for a couple years. She helped them make the trip. She hadn’t yet become “mom” to me. I didn’t understand yet what it was she saw in me and why I mattered to her, but I was grateful for the things she did to help me. It was the first time I saw his son since he was a little baby. Now he was a toddler. He was laughing and running everywhere. He loved putting coins in the snack machine. Having my family there and being able to see my son was the best day I had in a long, long time. The feeling of happiness was overwhelming. That memory got me through some pretty tough days when I wanted to give up. All I have is my memories and I have worn them out, playing them in my head so many times. What I didn’t know then, it was going to be another five years before I saw any of them again.
      When I was moved from Le Mesa I was sent to a prison way down south in Beeville, near Brownsville, close to the Mexican border. It was another desolate place that was hot as hell. No matter what prison I was in there was no way around dealing with guards with bad attitudes. All I wanted was to be left alone. I was in a cell by myself, waiting out the time to get moved up to a better level. Often when you a guard puts on a uniform it brings out the worst in them. They have approval to abuse the inmates and if they want to physically hurt them no one is going to stop them. Inmates can’t fight back when they are in restraints. They don’t get in trouble. I’m sure they probably brag to the other guards to show what big men they are.
      I spent most of my time writing letters and waiting to get one back, that never came. That’s family for you. It was getting harder and harder to keep myself together. Depressing kept creeping over me. I only wanted to know my family cared. Dealing with the silence was hard. I spent most of my day laying on my bunk sleeping. Guards came by and woke me up to make sure I was okay. I was refusing to eat. There didn’t seem to be a reason to eat anymore. Maybe I could starve myself to death. Eventually the prison psyche doctor came to talk to me and I was transferred to another prison in Richmond, which was on the outskirts of Houston. I was only supposed to only stay there for a little while. Hopefully, since I was closer to my family maybe they would come to see me. I got his hopes up. Surely now Morgan would come to see me and bring Jamie I was only two hours from Morgan and my family so there could be no excuse not to come.
      I waited and waited. Every week I felt this was going to be the week I would get a visit. Sonni had long since became mom by now. I knew she was talking to Morgan to convince her to come visit but there were always excuses. I didn’t understand! Was Morgan punishing me by keeping my son away? Why? He’s my son, too! She didn’t have him by herself. I knew she had another man in her life, got married and even had another baby, but she couldn’t erase me from her life. Nothing could take away my son. Since no one would talk to me it left me to come up with my own explanations.
      My depression got worse. When I was still in juvy for those four years, depression hit me hard then, too, and they moved me to a detention hall for people with problems. Throughout my life I had trouble handling difficult things. But now I had turned twenty-one and they had no choice, They had to let me go.
      All these years locked up I had asked for so little. Wasn’t my sentence enough punishment? Did this have to be added to it? I knew life wasn’t easy for Morgan. She had to work a lot, sometimes two jobs, to take care of her children, but couldn’t she bring him at least once in awhile? Why did everyone care so little that I never had a chance to see my son? It was one thing that could make the difference of making it through this, yet no one cared? I am done now. I am going to let them go. I will give them two more weeks to answer my letters and if they don’t, I will cut them off and take them off my visitors list. Won’t they be surprised if they come to see me now and found out they can’t get in. Serves them right. It made me laugh in an odd kind of way. I know, what good would that do? They would never even know they were taken off the list. They weren’t going to come see me. If they were going to, they would have done it a long time ago.

2nd part to be continued . . .

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way. I’m very determined to do this, and do it right. Between writing the book and writing for my two blogs, and writing long letters to three inmates, and writing music, I write until my face hits the keyboard when I fall asleep. I have a band -aid on my nose. Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy

Please fill out this form to be on the email list so you don’t miss any chapters I publish and to hear any new and exciting news in the world of a new author writing her first book. I’m also open to any constructive criticism you can think of that would help me put out a better book when it is time to actually publish it!

My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

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My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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In Ad Seg How Can You Deal With Loss?

January 16, 2016

     Hello mom, How are you?  Fine and in the best of health I hope.  As for me, so far,no trouble.  I have been staying to myself.  It’s okay here, just a little weird.  I have a neighbor who is really coo-coo.  He talks to himself and when gets mad he goes off on everyone around him.  So guess who gets the first verbal ass whippin’?  Lol, yep, me.
As of right now the unit is on lockdown, so there is not much going on.  I’m waiting to see the doctor.  I should see him this Friday or Monday.  They have charged me with a new co-pay of $100 so they will taking half of the money you send me until it is paid.

cellRight now now I’m a level 3.  I’m only allowed to have one visit per month.  I’ll receive my level 2 in 30 days only if I do not get any major cases.  I don’t plan on getting any. Life is life and no one knows the outcome of the future.  However I do know the causes and effects.  Only I can stop myself from being who I really want to be.  I’m going to let the past be the past.  I am in control.  I have just been allowing my anger to get the better half of me.  However, I also knew that half the time the guards at the Wynne Unit I had to deal with were the same ones all the time and I knew what their routine was going to be every day. They would spend time talking shit at me to pass the time.  I knew it would not be long before I blew my top and put my hands on one of them.

     You have no idea of the suffering I went through the last few weeks there.  Before I was moved to Allred Unit I was sprayed two days in a row with a big ass can of pepper spray.  then they tossed me back in the same cell with no water because they turned it off.  I also had all my stuff taken away from me again.  This takes the cake: Then they rammed my head into a glass window.   Now I will say that half of that was my fault, but it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t taken my property.  All of this happened because I tried to help someone else.  they don’t like it when you do that.  I always end up in deep shit because I try to help someone.  It’s the risk I take. I try to help people who are new when they don’t know the rules.  The officers get mad when I do that so they lash out at me. When I tried to talk to them with respect they looked at me like I got shit on my face.  It’s crazy.

     That way was the past.  New unit, new year.  I should only be here until I get out of ad seg.  I will then go to a program.  I can make parole from here in seg.  It’s going to take a little time but it’s worth a shot.  It takes a year to get my line class yet.  I have to do a year anyway in seg.  Well, really it’s a little more than a year.  I’ll be okay so don’t worry. So far everything is okay, besides the nut next to me.

     I’ve been sleeping better lately, which is good, because I haven’t slept good in awhile.  At night I do some chanting, exercise, deep breathing and meditation that I learned from a prison magazine called “Turn it up”.  It’s pretty good.  There are some websites I wrote down that I wrote down from it.  One of them is on a woman named M. Alexander.  If it is possible, could you order me a book called “New Jim Crow Organizing?”

(Sonni’s note: I have written about Michele Alexander.  The full title of this book is: The New Jim Crow.  Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. http://newjimcrow.com/  I recommend going to this website and reading about it.)

     You have come to know me so well, so you know pretty much when something is wrong.  Please call Wynne Unit and ask again about my property.  I am so afraid they won’t send it all to me.  They have all my letters and books and all of my pictures.  They have everything I own that is my life and much of it can’t be replaced.

antie
Jamie’s older brother, Antie

     I have so much mixed emotions about the truth.  Sad but true.  I have come to realize that my communication with my family has run out.  I think of them and it hurts me.  However, when I am just going about my day, I am fine.  The last visit I got from my mother she told me my brother was outside, but that he wouldn’t come in and see me.  Did he not want to see me? Was my mother telling me the truth?  Telling the truth may not be what she does, thinking about others things she said.  I was hurt when she said my brother didn’t want to see me, but I got over it.  I try to put it behind me but it pops up here and there and I would say to myself, fuck him.  But I can’t be mad at him, because I’m here because of me, not him, but it would help if I had my family.  As far as my mom, I just can’t bring myself to say anything bad about her.  Yeah, it hurts like hell that I have not had her support while I’ve been here these last ten years.  But there is nothing I can about that in here.

(Sonni’s note:  I have reasons to believe that his mother wasn’t telling the truth about his brother being outside but not wanting to come in. He loves his brother and was hurt thinking he came so close – outside the building – and wouldn’t come in.  something sounds wrong with that.  His mother has said other things that weren’t true, like telling him who his father is – he has never known – and saying that they got married and that he is an x-cop.  Jamie started writing letters to him that were never answered.  He even sent him a birthday card, so was that made up, too? I asked her once to help pay his medical fee, which has to be paid every year, and she blew me off.  She told him this exactly a year ago during a rare visit.  But funny, she lives alone and recently moved again.  She never got married to anyone.  Would someone in his family told him his mother got married – and to his father no less?  Wasn’t that supposed to be a happy thing? She gave him hope and broke his heart with it.  Why do you think he calls me mom? )

This letter is to be continued . . .

Jamie’s facebook page . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Chapter List for the Book I’m writing: Inside The Forbidden Outside
A Message From Someone Who Cares
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare

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