Dead Men Don’t Bleed – Ten Years Later

Jamie's letters

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Inside The Forbidden Outside. Over the past many months I have been writing this book. What a learning process it has been. Writing a book is not like writing a blog post. I had a lot to learn. My first draft of 90,000 was an accomplishment in itself.  You can do a search on the title and bring up chapters I posted during this time that are not going to be used, although some pieces of it might. I’ve talked to authors and editors and read and read and read to learn the craft of writing. No writing is ever wasted I was told because it takes time to find your “voice”. I also had to find the focus of the book/the story I was writing. My first manuscript was missing the continuity of the story and who was speaking it?  Many people want to write a book.  Some start but aren’t willing to put in the time it takes to learn how to write something of quality. It would be like saying you are going to paint a great picture. You can buy the paints, canvas and brushes but that doesn’t mean you can paint something that looks like what you what it to be. With books, crappy ebooks on Amazon are a dime a dozen and about a dime’s profit is all they will ever make.  But they can say they are a published author for whatever that is worth to their ego.

I’ve been working with a developmental editor to help me with options on finding what it is I want to accomplish with this book or no one except people who love me will read it to the end. I’d really like some feed back on this.  Either in comments or email or facebook messages. This is just the prologue, that has gone through 5 rewrites, begins with now, 11 years into a 17 year prison sentence. After this – Chapter one flips back to the day Jamie Cummings was born.


DEAD MEN DON’T BLEED

ten years later . . .

    

Sleep? On a humid night like this? Ungodly heat sucked every square inch of breathable air out of his 5ft by 9ft cement cell. He sat up. Soaked with sweat, the worn frayed sheet stuck to his skin. He could smell his own stink. Air conditioning doesn’t exist. Texas heat rose to over 110 degrees in the summer, for weeks at a time, sometimes, with no let up. There was AC in the medical unit but only an epileptic seizure got him through those doors.

Hunched over, face cupped in his hands, he took long deep breaths of hot air. Searing pain creeping up the back of his neck created a rhythmic pounding in his head. Pain forced his lips to press together as he tried to stop himself from crying. Every day he listened to men break down from insanity. He wanted to be stronger than them but some days were harder than others. He choked his sobs down his throat until he got his emotions under control.

He stood and paced, fists clenched by his sides. He screamed at the gray walls, “I can’t take this no more,” turned and smashed his right hand fist into the cinder block wall. He watched silently as bright red blood from his torn knuckles dripped down his fingers.

“At least I’m not dead.” Dead men don’t bleed.

He reached over the toilet and turned on the water to rinse the blood from his hand. The water in the ancient pipes sputtered out rusty brown liquid. That was worrisome. What was making the water brown? Rust? Would it eventually kill him? He had no choice. It was all he had to drink.

He wadded up a small piece of wet toilet paper to wipe the bleeding and held his hand under the fan to dry. He had to be careful how much toilet paper he used. He was only given one small roll a week. God forbid he got the runs or even worms from undercooked pork and spoiled food.

Even though it was night it was sweltering. Some nights cooled down some but not this night. His cheap plastic fan only stirred hot air and dust. He wet a towel and covered the fan to blow slightly cooler air through the material. It dried quickly so it didn’t help much when he tried to sleep. Some nights, if the roaches let him alone he spilled water on the floor and lay naked on the cement.

Five minute showers, three times a week, were all he was allowed. It was his only relief, standing under cold water. Closing his eyes he craved the feel of a cool breeze; the soothing sound it made as it ruffled the leaves of a tree. From a childhood memory he could smell the scent of freshly mowed grass. He loved that smell. His imagination breathed it in and filled his lungs. People on the outside couldn’t imagine what things they would miss the most if they were locked up like this. He let his breath in and out slowly, ignoring the smell of rancid bodies sweating in other cells.

It was hard to be here for what seemed to be forever with conversations only taking place in his head. “Can anybody hear me? Is anyone there?” He yelled to the wall so he could hear the sound of his voice. “Shut the fuck up. I’m trying to sleep,” a voice down the hall answered back. Voices with no faces. Oh well, they disturbed his sleep often enough.

Jamie sat at the edge of his bed with only a three inch foam mattress for comfort. When he laid  down he felt his hip bones grind into the cement slab beneath. It didn’t make for easy sleeping. He didn’t want to know how many men had used it before him. When the guards wanted to mess with him they took away his mattress and he had to earn it back. Jamie was tall and the bed was narrow. The thought of stretching out on a king sized comfortable bed was an impossible dream but he thought about it anyway.

It was hard not to sink into depression. Sometimes, so he could think, he crawled inside himself to cope with this ugliness. It was the constant going back and forth from this reality to hope that could drive a man crazy. It was easy to forget what was real and what wasn’t.

It would have been easier for him in here if he had his family. If they had shown they loved him, sometimes, but they didn’t. He was forgotten. Seventeen years was too long for them. He only had one person he could count on who taught him he had value. That was Sonni

She was all he had to make him feel loved. As a child he was pushed down a path meant to destroy the lives of black families. Slavery was illegal, but not in the prisons. They became the modern day slave plantations. Blacks would never be equal in the white man’s eyes. It was the biggest corporate racket in the US. The school to prison pipeline is real. Most kids and adults locked up were black, but most of the people in America are white.

Jamie sat in front of his fan, the stench of unwashed bodies in every breath he took. Without thinking he reached up and caressed the scar on top of his head. He needed nine staples to close the gap after being beaten by five guards and then sprayed in the face with burning chemicals.

Sounds from down the hall penetrated his thinking and jerked him back to reality. He glanced quickly toward the cell door. It was a food slot banging shut down the hall. It must be at 3 A.M. The guards were bringing breakfast trays. Peace and quiet was almost over. So many men in this unit were crazy from being locked up so long, and some were crazy when they got here. This was now the place to stack the mentally ill. He didn’t have to wonder what breakfast was going to be. A spoon of peanut butter and two biscuits or two small pancakes? No butter. No jelly and they’d be cold. Milk or juice. Not enough for a grown man.

Some people thought inmates had it good in here. “Three hots and a cot” and free medical careand a roof over their heads. They never spent time locked up. All illness is treated with water and Tylenol. If you are really sick with heart disease or diabetes you’ll probably die if you’re here too long. They don’t care. Treating you takes away their profit.

What would he be doing right now if he hadn’t been railroaded into juvy as a kid? Would he have ended up here? What if he had been able to finish school? He wasn’t a bad kid. He was just a black kid in a poor neighborhood where people like him were supposed to live. Would he fail when he got out? He’d be almost forty. What would he do? How would he live? What changed? He heard racism was worse than ever. Cops were ruthless and got away with murder. What if they came after him again? He worried about all these things and there was nothing he could do about it.

He wished he could take classes, but he couldn’t. He wanted his GED but he wasn’t allowed being in adseg, another name for solitary confinement. How far could he get with no education? He wanted to learn things. He knew he wasn’t stupid. But getting an education means he could rise up and be somebody and that was not on their agenda. It was important blacks be kept down We could one day get good enough to knock the white man off his privileged post. We weren’t supposed to be as good as they were. Slavery didn’t end, it just moved indoors.

Oh well, today’s another day. A long, hot, sweaty day. Maybe the guards would take him for a shower. That would feel good. Maybe he’ll write a letter or read for awhile and take his mind off things. He took a look at his smashed knuckles. They were gonna be sore for awhile – a reminder not to hit the wall. His body does still bleed.

     To tell his story so it makes sense, he needed to go back to the beginning, to January 10, 1983 . . .


 

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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.

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

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
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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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So How Did You Think They Had Sex In Prison?

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

 

Before I print Jamie’s letter I want to give you a new piece of music I recorded called “Finding Me again” which you will see here on Sound Cloud.  Beneath it is another new piece called “Graduation Day” and is up there as one of my favorites, with the mixing of highs and lows of emotion.  I hope to include a disc of some of the music I have written on the inside of the back of the book when it’s done.  Please fill out the form at the bottom to be included on the mailing list.

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I have been writing for the book like you asked me to. I started where it began ten years ago, when I was at the county jail in 2006. I tried to explain about each prison I’ve been to and some of what I did in each place. I’ll send it soon.  Right now I’m writing about the Smith Unit. I’m writing more about this unit because this is where most of my troubles started.

I’m missing not having my photos. I had a lot. Ones from when Jamie was born and everything you and Megan sent, but I also had family photos my cousin sent here and there. I got the first box of  books you ordered while I was still in Wynne unit, but I didn’t get the rest of my property. I never did hear from my family for my birthday. I really don’t much care, either. You asked me what it was like growing up. I never had a birthday party but I had a cake here and there. Nothing special. Just another day to me.

I know this is a difficult subject to talk about. Thank you for understanding. Being a man who has gone a long period of time without a woman is hard on any man unless he desires another man. I will never do that. Disease in prison is everywhere.  No way would I have sex even with a female guard. If she has sex with dudes in here a lot of them have sex with men and they could be infected. So I practice safe sex with myself. What we have here is a lot of people who aren’t supposed to want sex. If they are caught, even taking care of their own needs they are punished, which is what they did to me. We have no privacy. If we put up a sheet if  our cell has bars they rip it down.  On the other hand, officers force themselves on weaker dudes. It is all about power. Maybe the officers weren’t like this before. Maybe working in this hell turned them to be like this or it brought something out in them. I guess its the same or worse with the females. I bet they have a really hard time.

sheets

In this new unit I am learning to keep my mouth shut and not draw attention to myself. Anyway, they don’t mess with me for sex. I haven’t been here long enough to know if it is any different. Believe it or not a lot of the officers like it better with same sex couples because then they feel they can make them give them up information about things. However, if they don’t it give up, they are blackmailed. They do the same thing to others with some changes. They feed them to the sharks by saying things that puts them in danger with other inmates if they don’t tell them what they know. They turn dudes against each other.

Thank you mom, for being there for me. You are a very loving and caring. Your encouragement keeps me focused so I can learn not to lose it. I love you for this. It’s what I really need to stay on my toes and in the right frame of mind. There are lots of times I get very depressed, really. I just try to block it out. I will seek help for this. Right now you are all I have. Families are hard to understand. I don’t think I can understand why mine doesn’t think I need them.  I guess it’s because we think we know them when we really don’t. How can you and I think we know them? We both have families who don’t care about what happens to us but there is nothing we can do about it. But I have spent enough time thinking about this. I have to work on myself. I get so angry sometimes. But I have a right to get angry don’t I? Am I not supposed to let this make me angry because my family is never there for me? Should I not get angry because I can’t see, ever, my only son, my flesh and blood? It hurts me so much I sit here and cry. It builds up in me and I want to explode. It is a punishment that is hard to bear. But it is my karma, right? I don’t know what I did but it is up to me to change me. It’s inside me. My lesson to learn. I want to be happy. You have not seen me snap. My anger takes control. But this is something I am personally working on.

The thing I want most in my life I am denied – my son. I have missed so much of his life. Even though this unit is closer to him I am still going to miss being part of his life, but I guess that’s family for you. Why do I deserve the punishment of not being able to see my son? Am I such a bad person that my love for my son doesn’t matter? I think about how my son feels. Does it hurt him to not be able to see me? It must make him feel bad too. Won’t this hurt him as he grows up? This punishment is for both of us. When I think about it I look at it as Megan don’t want Jamie to think it is good to see my son in a way. I look at it like that but I feel something else.

I’m more focused than I have ever been. So far everything in here is going well with me. I stay to myself and read. I work out here and here and get the rest I need. I chant and focus on what I need to do. As for respect, I give it and don’t look for it back. I don’t really talk to the officers believe it or not. I know these officers hold grudges – bad. Anyone who gets on their bad side, let’s just say, they won’t eat during the four days the officers are working. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and they get away with it. So with that said, I don’t say nothing to them but thank you when they bring me my food, or yes and no if I want to go to the shower or go to rec. Other than that, I might speak to my neighbor here and there. No, this is a different one, not the crazy one I had before. I was moved. I’m a level 2 now. I have to do 60 days more to get level one. So about March if I don’t get any major cases.

I want to say thank you to the people who wrote to me. I don’t have any addresses to write back because I don’t have my property. Tell everyone hi for me. It was really good to hear from them. It helps me a lot. More than they know.

I love you, Love always, Jamie.

Chapter List: “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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Guards Are Always Right. Inmates Are Always Wrong

black hands on cell door, prison guard brutality
source credit: pittsburgurbanmedia.com

Today I started reading through old letters I sent Jamie. This one is six months old and it was written at the time after he had just lost his new privileges of being able to make phone calls and have contact visits – for three weeks. It was devastating to be sent back to lock up again after it took him another two years to reach a level where it was allowed. It happened because of lies by guards and no one would listen to you. The guards are always right and the inmates are always wrong – every time. If a guard does not back up whatever another guard says he, himself, will be retaliated against. When that happens it is hard to keep your anger from making you lash out.

nmrk0731
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion, there what illness can be an obstacle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention daimoku which is a Nichiren Buddhist chant – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  Like meditation it allows you to have better control of your mind, your thoughts. Practicing Buddhism has been very good for Jamie.  It has been part of my life for a very long time.  I started teaching Jamie Buddhist concepts and how to apply them at least 6 years ago.  Being in prison is more difficult than you can imagine, knowing the years you lose, you will never get back, and the abuse you will have to take will be humiliating, because it is wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.

Chanting, with the deep breathing you have to do, lowers your stress level.  High stress also makes his epileptic seizures  more frequent. This allows the person inside to shine. We have to understand the right thing to do, instead of responding emotionally.  But chanting doesn’t mean you will always do the right thing.  We are human.  We learn from our mistakes. Changing our habits and our reactions is a life long battle with ourselves. But I believe – asking someone or something outside ourselves to fix our problems that cause us unhappiness.  Change must come from within.  Chanting gives you time to think about your life and take responsibility for your actions.  It is about gaining the wisdom to make the right decisions to change your life – to see things in a different perspective.

Living in a prison is about as close to the concept as hell as you can get. Buddhism does not look at hell as a place you go to when you die, but rather a life condition you live in here on earth. What better describes that life condition than a maximum security prison.

This letter was sent using jpay.com, a system set up for most state prisons, not federal. I can type an email letter, or send money through them.  To send a letter costs one “stamp” per page.  To send a picture is one stamp.  Two pictures is two stamps.  The advantage is they get it faster, and my typing is easier to read than my handwriting!  I do write, though, because I know it is a more personal connection.

 
Date: 5/11/2015  5:18:10 PM
Sent To: JAMES CUMMINGS
Attachments:

Hello son,

Just a quick letter today. I wanted you to know that I did talk to Ms Johnson in classification. She said you had to go to the UCC (prison court) on May 12 for a case. She said she didn’t have anymore information. She said after that you would be released, but she didn’t say released to where. Jamie, you can’t fight them. I know this is so hard. You worked so hard and waited so long for your privileges but they always find a way to knock you down even if they have to lie to do it. I know they didn’t do you right. You need to keep the bigger picture in mind and put all the rest of the garbage out where it belongs – in the trash. I know it’s hard.

You probably won’t get this letter in time – but chant daimoku (Nichiren Buddhism) before you go to court.  Center your mind. Stay calm. You have grown so much and learned so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes sometimes. The harder we try to change, life throws curve balls at us to keep us down. But if you remember there is something to learn from everything, you will be okay. This will  be over one day. It will be behind you and you will have a chance to live again. Have faith in that. You will have a life and it will be a life you will be proud of. All of this  you are going through is making you the person you are. A person with compassion. A person who will always know what it is like when the chips are down. You are learning things through all of this. I will be chanting for you tomorrow to be strong. Have no doubt, Jamie. Keep your dreams in the front of your head.

You might find this a bit funny. You REALLY upset Bill (my egotistic brother-in-law who uses his knowledge of the Bible as a way to feel important, but doesn’t apply any teachings inside the covers to his own life) with that plastic Christian remark you called him. If the shoe fits, wear it. My sister and family had a field day ripping you and me to shreds because of how much he “helped” you, and you had the nerve to expect him to follow through with the things he said he could do for you,.  I should have known better. You bruised his inflated ego. If it weren’t true it wouldn’t have bothered him so much. He knows what he did – he just didn’t want anyone else to find out about it. He said were ungrateful. It must have made him feel good to rip apart our relationship. Well, I hope he enjoyed himself. After all he is such a sincere Christian. You are a much better man than he is. The law of cause and effect applies to him as well. Hearing those words, “Cause and effect” makes him go berserk with rage.  But isn’t it the same as, “You reap what you sow”?

reap what you sow

My mom wants to have a happy family. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon. I wouldn’t go to any family affairs if they invited me, which I doubt they will – because I don’t like to be around plastic people either. I have other people in my life who know who I am and care about me. After almost 5 years of trying to have a family since I moved here – I give up. I just can’t live life they way they do. I can’t pretend.  But remember – the best revenge against people like that is to have a good, happy life. Live with the principles you know to be true. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

On that note – write me asap and let me know what’s up. What a mess this all is. I love you. Never forget that.

Your mom

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The Only Good Things in Prison Are Your Memories

Jamie Cummings jr

memories

Hello mom,

July 7, 2015

How are you? Fine I hope. As for me I’m okay. I’m waiting for this lady to come on. So I can send Jamie his birthday present. Wow, 9 years old. Time is flying by fast. I have been away too long and it really hurts bad. I have missed so much of his life. I remember just like it was yesterday. I was in Austin and Megan came to visit. Jamie had just started to walk. We were walking all over the visitation room. I was behind him. He had hold of both my index fingers. We walked everywhere in there. Lol. I loved it. Now he’s fixing to be 9 years old on the 12th, running and jumping everywhere. I just hope he never tells me I’m not his dad. I would lose it.

Yes, you and I are just alike. Crazy as hell. Both of us! We’re not to be messed with!  Also, I completed Melvin’s challenge to chant  nam myoho renge kyo every morning and evening.

August 10

Hello beautiful, I received your letter. So how are you feeling? That was a crazy question. You’re still hurting from the surgery. Give it time, you’ll be fine.

Butternut squash, red bell peppers, onions and raisins. Chicken vegetable soup. Cucumber, tomato and onion salad, with a side of peaches, apples, butter and brown sugar. Hmm, getting sticky are we? lol. I love it, it all sounds good. However you got me with the squash. I don’t eat that. (Sonni’s note: He hasn’t had my squash!) I’ll take a Reese’s peanut Butter Cup instead! speaking of Reese’s, Melvin bought one at our last visit. They was good. They don’t have that at the commissary, only in the vending machines in the visitors room.

Man, wait, you mean to tell me you went out for a massage? What is wrong with Mike’s hands? What is going on with that, that he won’t give you a massage? lol. If there is one thing I know about a woman it is that she likes to get massages. I don’t mean that sexually. I think it’s important to any relationship to have that to look forward to. A lack of these things cause lots of women to feel like their mate has lost interest in them.

Yes, I got everything you sent. I have paper and stamps and I’ve been writing. I’m still on restriction so I’m only able to go to commissary once a month. It is hot 98 degrees, but it feels like 104 or 105. I’ll lay on the floor at night and sometimes during the day. Depends on the roaches.

I tell these people about my foot every day and they still ain’t tryin’ to do shit. these stitches have been in my foot 18 days and they haven’t helped nothing because the wound is still open.

All those weird letters you typed you didn’t take out when you fell asleep when you were typing ym ymymymyyyy …ymmumuuum. I think we both need sleep!

What are the dudes in here for who are around me? They are in for everything. Murder even. I, myself, have run into dudes with the same time and charge as me. They only separate us if they say we are a threat to the officers and other inmates or if they were put on death row.

A long time ago we started sharing our personal lives with each other. If I didn’t have you to care about me I wouldn’t have anyone. Making me think about taking walks or riding bikes to the top of the hill, making me imagine being out of here and somewhere else, has been the one thing that has helped me keep it together. I don’t know if I would have. I know you care about me. And I care about you. I’m not trying to disrespect you and Mike. It’s not like that. I just wanted you to know how much it means to me having your letters to look forward to and having someone who helps me when I need it. It makes me think that someday everything is going to be okay.

jamie cummings

I got the picture you made of me and little Jamie at the same age. We both had a lazy eye at that age. I laughed when I saw it. I laughed hard. The short set I had on was taken the day we were supposed to go to the baseball park and watch the fireworks and we ended up not going. Ain’t that something.

It’s late so I better go. Til next time. Love to you. Get well soon.

(Sonni’s note: It was good to get a letter of just chit chat and not another bad thing that happened. He seems in good spirits)

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What Has Happened Now? The Prison Cut Off My Emails.

I’m concerned. Two nights ago I started writing an email to Jamie. I have used http://Jpay.com to write to him for about 7 years. I can send him emails, money and pictures, which is easier than handwriting mail, and getting money orders, although I do send him other things – articles and cards. But when I logged into Jpay yesterday morning, the option to send mail had disappeared. I could only send money. That had never happened before in all the years I’ve been writing.

I called Jpay. The rep I talked to had not heard of this happening, either, and called her supervisor. She told me the prison must have stopped it as a way of disciplining him. To me that says they are out of things to take away from him. There isn’t much more they can take away from you when you are in ad seg. So his books must be gone as well as all belongings, probably his mattress as well. His little fan? In this godawful heat. His food -still on food loaf, which I think they make from garbage. They feed it to them three times a day.

food loaf

So what the hell happened that they would resort to stopping my emails. They would know I am the only one writing to him. Will a snail mail letter get through? Is it also directed at me for some reason because they didn’t like what they read?  I’m grasping at straws.  I just double checked again and it’s still blocked.  My concern is mostly for Jamie because most likely it is a punishment for something.

Melvin, the man in Texas who goes to the prison to visit with him every 4 to 6 weeks was recently there.  He said he was in good spirits.  The cut on his foot was still hurting but it was starting to heal.  They chanted together for awhile.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Jamie has been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for several years, a practice that is difficult to do on your own.  It’s easy to begin, like deciding to go to the gym, but it is hard to maintain with encouragement, because since it is a practice it is something you do every day.  He has been learning that we are the cause for own problems.  We make the causes.  We get the effects.  Learning how to respond to life a different way takes more than just thinking about it.  If you have an issue with anger there are things that are going to press your buttons and you are going to respond the same way no matter how many times you tell yourself not to.  Actually changing something inside yourself that reflects in your environment takes time.  You make baby steps.  The first step is understanding how you could have reacted in a different way.  We chant – deeply – to change that part of ourselves that causes us the most grief.  It is a life long process.  Most people understand there are benefits to meditation and chanting has the same benefits of that.  Deep breathing calms you and enables you to think.  Chanting is deeper that that.

The universe runs on a rhythm.  We see it easily in the tides.  All life is a cycle.  Birth, aging, sickness and death.  All of nature and all living beings. When you are able to join with that rhythm it brings into your life those things that help you and also those things you need to learn so you can change the things that cause you unhappiness.  When you try to change the things that hold you down the only way to do that is to confront the very things that cause you unhappiness. We never get rid of problems.  What we want is to deal with our problems in a different way that gets us a better result. This is not about asking something “out there” to change your life but instead looking inside yourself to change negative into positive.  Accepting responsibility that there is no one but yourself to blame for the plan you have for your life.  The plan wasn’t decided by something outside yourself.  We make the causes that affect us.  If we don’t change these things – especially an inmate – when he gets out he has little chance of doing things different and gravitates back to the life he had.

So I have to think – What has happened?  Most of these guards have such low life conditions.  We read about prison guard brutality more and more in the media. They have no problem hurting inmates just for the pleasure of being able to do it and get away with it. Did he react to something they did and that gave them the reason to want to hurt him?

All I can do is wait while I send him a snail mail.  Today is Saturday.  I tried to call the prison and no one is picking up the phone. Are they closed on Weekends?  That doesn’t make sense.  They have visiting hours today.  I’ll keep trying. On Monday I’ll try again . . .

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Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

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

Incarcerated since late 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

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

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

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

F**k it. I’m Tired of Starting Over

prison letters,inmate letters,ad seg,level G4
Jamie Cummings letter 2010

( Sonni’s note: This is not the letter below, but is instead the next letter I’ll post.  Jamie is from Nacogdoches, Tx and this prison is all the way across to the other side.  Texas is a big state.  For Megan with the kids and his mother to visit  it would take 3 days.  It seems quite often as though the prison system tries to separate the inmates from their family. It’s like another way to make it harder on them. I have read many times of this being done.  Mothers separated from their sons and daughters and husbands from wives.  Considering there are 110 prisons at last count in Texas. Quite a lot don’t you think? After a few years in that prison he was sent back across Texas, but to prison  far south, in Beeville.  After a few years there they sent him closer to home,  forty five minutes from his mother and a two hours away from his son, but still, visits have been minimal.  He hasn’t seen his son in a year and a half, but his mom did go visit him on his birthday in January. An SGI member -Melvin – from a Buddhist organization, visits every couple months to keep him encouraged to have a positive attitude and plan for is future.  I have hundreds of these letters.  They have been his life line, but my lifeline as well.  When I was so sick for a few years I always knew he cared, and it gave him someone to care about. Both of us were in prisons of our making.  Effects of causes we made.  It was time to make better causes – better choices.

At the end of your own day, how would you feel if there was no one who cared?  No one you could write to or call about your day?  Getting to know this man through these letters and knowing his mind is not that of a criminal, and knowing that someone has to be there to help him develop a life for himself, inside and outside, because when he gets out, society will not be waiting with open arms, ready to give him a second chance.  Quite the opposite.  And that effects their survival rate on the outside. 71% of all parolees end up back in prison within 5 years because they have no way to take care of themselves.  They never learned a new way to live and even though most parolees are determine it is going too be different when they get out they don’t have a way to make that work. No one wants to hire them or rent to them, so they resort to old habits to live.  they are looked at as worthless or dangerous, even if they weren’t inside for a violent crime. This is our fault.  The prison’s fault.  If an inmate serves his time he should be able to begin a life and not looked down on.  We do that – society This is why I am writing a book (first chapter)about him based on these letters.  The original title was “InsideOut” and recently changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside.”  Please follow this blog to find out how he’s doing and/or  fill out the contact sheet below for the email list to only get posts about new chapters and to find out when it will be published. There is a media file on some posts that have original, improvised piano recordings of music I’ve composed for Jamie that I hope to have included with the book.)

Written 6/18/2013

Hello Mom,
Good morning.  How are you? Fine I hope.  As for me, Well, so far things are Okay.  Sorry it’s taken so long to write back. I’ve been moved to a different pod. I got my G4 so I’m waiting to be moved again to where the other G4’s are. I also had to find some paper.  I got this from an officer.  I was waiting on the paper you were going to send. Could you send me two pads of paper so it will last me for a while?

(Sonni’s note: Jamie did get a 12 pack of writing pads I sent before he was moved to another prison and an officer stole it from his belongings, along with books, letters and pictures.  He said there was no point in filing a claim because not only was he in a different prison, there was no proof he had these things in the first place.)

I read your letter a few times cause I wanted to understand everything. Yes, a lot of things happen in life. But who said we’re perfect?  We make mistakes.  It’s a part of life.  Learning from those mistakes is what counts. No, no one has a perfect life, but all we can do is try our best. A lot of people feel they have are supposed to have a perfect life only to find out later they don’t. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life they want. but life, as some of us know is what hurt and kills them.  Challenges, we should try to overcome them.  Some do and some don’t.

When I found out about you being in the hospital I did something I really don’t do.  I prayed, but I didn’t know to who.  I was just doing it.  At the same time, I knew things would come out fine.  For you, and you are woman of faith.  Your faith in the teachings of Buddhism.  So yes, I worried,  just as the rest of the family did. The outcome of your surgery came out fine.  Don’t get me wrong, I chanted as well. Nam myoho renge kyo. Strange words but I try to understand the best I can what it means to practice with magazine and newspapers that come all the time. ( the World Tribune and Living Buddhism)  Try to keep faith. There’s a lot of people care and that’s what is good.  It hurts to know so many peoples lives are at stake because they have to wait a long time on a liver transplant.  It hurts to know so many people die, especially kids.  It’s not right.  You said you needed the confidence. Confidence comes from within., even during the surgery.  I wish I was out at that time.  I would have made sure to be there.  Everyone has challenges we all have to overcome.  This just happens to be your challenge.  This happens to be mine.

I haven’t overcome my challenges because I’m going up and down with my problems.  I’m waiting on the pieces in my life to come together.  You say, sometimes we really want something and it will make us happy.  I know if I can see my family, better yet, be with them, I’ll be happy.  But for some reason, I can’t have that.  I understand your situation.  Yes, it would be better if you only needed the transplant.  It hurts to know you are going through so much afterward.  The device sounds good if it will help with the pain. I know you are strong and independent as well. But I’ll do my best to stay away from the trouble.  I promise you.

Okay, here’s the difference between ad seg and G4.  In ad seg everything comes to you, like food.  You only come out of your cell for one hour a day or for medical, and you’re in hand cuffs everywhere you

chow in prison. Sanitary hair nets around food
Sanitary hair nets around food in the prisons

go.  In G4 they let us out to watch TV and go to rec with each other.  Say about 84 people. We get to walk to the chow hall, which is what I need to stretch my legs.  That’s really it, but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’m going to go.  There’s this lady feeding chow.  She’s mad cause I told her she needs to have a hair net on because it’s policy.  So, to cover her ass she told the Stg I threatened her.  So I might not go to chow.  But fuck it, I’m tired anyway.  I’m tired of starting over.

A couple days later – I went to the UCC today and talked to the warden.  He asked what happened and I told him.  He said he was going to give me another chance. Inmates are always wrong in every case.  There is no justice in prison. I thanked him and walked out.  It’s okay, as of right now I’m not in any trouble.  I’ll do my best to stay away from it. But as you know, I’m around a lot of other people (gangs).  From what I was told the officers trip about any small thing. Shoes not tied right.  Anything.

epileptic seisures,prison medical care, injustice system,prison letters
Epileptic seisures

I went to the doctor today. ( Sonni”s note:  I pay $100 a year for him to be able to see a doctor when he needs to, especially because of his epilepsy.  The quality of that medical is substandard.  I read of one doctor who wouldn’t get within 5 feet of any inmate for fear of “catching” something.  How can you diagnose anything with actually feeling the area that causes the symptom.  The remedy for chest pains is to drink more water.  medical care is costly and the more they spend on it the less money there is for the corporation supplying the care.  There are many lawsuits against these corporations like Corizon who owns many of the prissons across the country, but I suppose paying the lawsuit is less than what the care would have What little I can send him for commissary, they take half of it until it’s paid for. His family has never helped.) 

It’s my left leg and knee.  It swell up big.  It’s an up and down kinda thing.  The doctor says it’s my joints, Arthritis.  Would arthritis make my leg swell up, too? It hurts bad.  But I guess it’s just something I have to deal with.

Well, till next time, I love you.  Love always, Son

Bible Thumping for Prison inmates

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

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

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

February 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melvin and Nichiren Buddhism

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I’m sitting just thinking about that wonderful breakfast of yours. I wish I was there, it sounds so good. Breakfast here is not one I look forward to. They serve pancakes at least four or five times a week, often with just a half spoon of peanut butter. Sometimes they have little sides of oatmeal or grits or a piece of fruit. When we’re on lock down they serve us less. Just enough to keep us alive. You’ve seen how much weight I lost. Oh well, I’m doing everything in my will power to change that. I will change it. I will.

We just got off lockdown. I had to wait to get stamps to send letters off. I got the books you sent. I don’t know why it took so long. I could see when you ordered it. I also received a book from Melvin. It is called, The Buddha in Your Mirror. It’s a real good book with lots of knowledge in it. Is hard to put down when I start to read it. I love it. It breaks things down where I can understand it. Please give my greetings to the members when you go to your next SGI meeting.

In this prison I’m only allowed to have two visits per month as a G5. I come up for my G4 in a month. I hear they aren’t letting a lot of people have their G4.
(Sonni’s note: G5, Ad Seg and solitary are all the same thing. At least 23 hours a day locked up with no privileges of any kind. He can’t make a phone call or have a visit that isn’t behind glass until he is G2. He is served food through a slot in the door. Exercise in the yard is in a cage) They are making me do an extra six months. The thing about that is, when I do come back up I might be coming up for my G2. We’ll see. That hasn’t happened so far. Things have away of not not working out the way you want them to

As much as it hurts me I have to say this. I love Jamie and the kids with all my heart. I do. However, I’m starting to feel like I am no longer a part of their lives. It hurts. Megan still don’t try to bring Jamie or try to talk to my family. So that’s why I hurt. As his father, I’m not able to be there for my son so he will know that I love him. I’m being stopped from doing that. Any other dad might be glad he didn’t have to worry about his child or children. The men who don’t care have women who drive them crazy trying to get them to be interested in their kids. However, the ones who do care have so many problems trying to spend time with their kid. I don’t why.
A lot of things are changing as life goes by. Change is a good thing. We all need change sometimes. I’ll know things are changing for me when I am able to see my son when I want to – and when I am home.

(after the visit) Hello mom, I’m back. I just had a visit with Melvin. He’s a real good person. He’s funny, too. He encourages me a lot and that’s pretty cool and it’s what I need. We talked about a lot of stuff. You know, about his life at their restaurant. We talked a lot about his life. He calls it ‘back in the day’. He’s a wonderful person. We had a good time at our visit. He caught me on a bad day. I want feeling well and I was tired. I made the best of it because I knew it was for a good reason he was here that day. We enjoy each others company. We laughed, talked and changed together.

He told me about a group of four that gets together to chant. Of course, one of them is him. However, the group of four added another person yesterday. Guess who that person is? (smile) It’s me! We are called the Onalaska group. We are having our first meeting on the 27th of April at Melvin’s restaurant. I will be here but not in my mind.

He asked me about the food. I told him that T.D.C.J (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) has some units that butchers their own pigs. This place happens to be one of those units, so they serve a lot of pork. Too much pork. I just have to deal with it the best I can. Then we chanted for five minutes. I was tired. He could see it in my eyes. He told me to get some rest. please call him and tell him I will continue to chant and encourage others. Ask him, how did the first meeting go?

There was a problem that day, I found out. My mom tried to visit and they turned her away because I already had my two visits for the month. I go for years without having a single visit from anybody. Now I had too many! Yes, life is changing.

I’m going to go for now, but not forever. Till next time. Love you always, Son

(note from Sonni: SGI stands for Soka Gakkai International. The words are Japanese and translate into Value Creation Society. This letter is different from other letters. It was filled with hope and determination. It had laughter. His mind was outside of the prison in a positive way. I told him if he studied the causes he made throughout his life, and learned to make new ones, better ones, and if he was able to make the changes he needed and begin to learn what cause and effect is, and what the word consequence means, and gradually make the right causes, he could be happy, even in a prison. Today I saw change. Today I could hear happiness in his words)

(additional note from Sonni: This was originally posted on May 18. I decided to add these words and reprint it today because Melvin has been to see Jamie recently, four times total. It has been such a lifeline for him. I have overwhelming appreciation for this man whom I have never met in person, but feel there is such a heart to heart connection. The cause was made by Jamie to have this man enter his life. There are no coincidences in life. No luck and no miracles. Only causes we don’t understand. You cannot have an effect without a cause. It isn’t logical. Buddhism is reason, not fantasy. Fantasy isn’t real no matter how much you want it to be.

I know they chant together which is important for someone who is just learning. You need to hear how it sounds. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Melvin has encouraged him to keep going. Two weeks ago he told me that Jamie found someone else in the prison who also chants and they’ve been chanting together in the yard. Jamie has told me that most all the inmates make determinations to be better when they get. They want to have a better life. But just wanting a better life is not enough. They need to change the way they process their environment. Because they can’t, they get sucked back into the life they lived before and many end up right back inside. I realize that there are inmates that don’t go back in but far too many do, and the next time is usually worse. After that, they lose all hope of having a life outside the prison with people and events they can be proud of.

Jamie has never had a life. His karma was set before he was born. If it hadn’t happened then, something else would have happened. It was going to happen. I know that anyone reading this who doesn’t understand what Nichiren Buddhism is and what it does for you, wouldn’t understand how it is affecting his life, but little by little things are changing and you can see that change as you look back. I want so much for him to be able to change things for the better and that when he gets out he will be able to change the direction of his life. He will understand himself better and know that there is value in his life. Nichiren Buddhism gives you hope. It gives you the power of determination and it gives you the power to change the things that make you unhappy. You also learn that by helping other people you are helping yourself.

Most faiths try to teach you how to be a good human being and how to live your life right. In Christianity there is the phrase, you reap what you sow. In the secular world the phrase is, you get back what you dish out or what goes around comes around. In Nichiren Buddhism it is the law of cause and effect. But in Nichiren Buddhism we take that phrase very seriously and consciously try to make good causes because there is an effect for every cause that is made. Good and bad, by thought word and deed. And why do we believe in this? Because we want to be happy.

The law of cause and effect is absolute even if we don’t understand or realize that we even made a cause. It is absolute whether you believe it or not. Being in prison is being in the state of hell. But even in prison you can find the state of happiness, even if that state is only there because you finally understood something about yourself that has caused you unhappiness. Every change on the inside shows on the outside. If this change caused you to react to your environment in a different way you’ve made a change.

There is a saying, ” If you continue to do what you’ve always done then you will continue to get what you’ve always got.”

This is my prayer for Jamie. End Sonni’s note.)