Listen to Seize the Day by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
I finally recorded the music for the chapter in “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. Sometimes the music feels more right than others. I’ve gone through many changes in my music writing the past few years as I’ve experimented with sound and recording layers instead of just piano. It has been a learning process. It isn’t easy to lay one improv layer over an improv and then adding one or two more on top of that. I don’t know anything about playing other instruments such as flute or strings to know how it feels when you play them. It might not be appropriate to that instrument. It is also next to impossible to make a flute breathe when it is played on a keyboard. So it is a learning experience.
I don’t play blues or jazz or other genres I enjoy listening to. I consider myself a classical musician who no longer plays the classics, but the training is there. So I play “myself.” and how I hear the music that comes out of my fingers. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I do.
At SoundCloud I have a playlist of just the music recorded for the book. At this time there are 25 pieces. There is other music there as well. I am also writing chapter 21. Starting over last January on a complete rewrite has been daunting but I’m now about 58,000 words into it.
When this is done it needs a story editor, to make sure it’s all connected and a line editor. Then I can set a publishing date and work like hell on promotion. The sequel, “Open the Cage and Fly” is already in promotional story planning because it covers from 2016 through Jamie ‘s reentry into the world. He has already lived a couple of those years.
The story of being in prison is only half of the story. How he survives is also important. I have a catch up post to do on him yet because a lot has happened this past year I haven’t written about because of all the rest of the work that needs doing.
If you subscribed to the newsletter thank you so much. It’s the only way to let people know what is going on who don’t follow me regularly. It is so important to its success. Having a mailing list opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m so late at getting the next ITFO News out simply because I only have one set of hands. But there will be one out soon that brings it all up today plus a little extra. So those who have subscribed thank you very much.
This is the latest music written for my book. The chapter is being written today, largely focuses on Jamie have to live with epilepsy from birth. Any time you have more than one seizure for any reason you are considered to have epilepsy.
It can begin at any age, often developing from trauma to the brain that may have happened many years earlier. But Jamie had a seisure as he was born so he has never known life free of the possibility of a seizure at any moment.
While rereading hundreds of letters in a short period of time, preparing to write the book, I was amazed at how many times the prison withheld his medication for preventing seizures for days at a time. He was never seizure-free but it did cut down on the frequency. Receiving the letters over a ten year period made it less obvious how often it was.
Withholding medications and medical care in general is one of the main points prisoners wanted addressed in this latest prison protest. They are dying young from diseases they don’t need to die from. No matter what you think about prisoners, this was never part of their sentence – this comes from the greed of the corporations with the co-operation of the government, no matter what they say to try to convince you they want prison reform. Trump has tried this tactic recently. But releasing someone here and there does nothing to alleviate the problem. It just creates good PR for them.
Politicians receive a great deal of campaign money to vote in the best interest of the prison corporations. States let corporations run the prisons so the money doesn’t come out of their budgets. They promise they Will keep the prisons full so they can maximize their profit. Does that sound like prison reform to you. Inmate are worthless For any other reason, right? WRONG.
Dear mom or rather, Hello beautiful, It was so good to hear from you and to know you are starting to feel a little better from surgery. I must say, reading your letter about your pain complications really hurt me. Yes, it hurt me so much. Having to go to your juglar just to find a vein? I know how that feels. I’ve been stuck with needles all my life because of the epilepsy. Ever since I was a baby. I hate IVs. They hurt like hell. As I read over your letter it gave my stomach such a bad feeling. I’m glad you are okay. I’m very sorry you had to go through this.
(Sonni’s note: Do you ever wonder why certain people end up in your life? Why some people come into your life and walk out five minutes later and why some people stay and change your life profoundly? Jamie is one of those people who changed my life, and I changed his. There are parallels between his family and mine that allows us to understand the pain family can cause. We both have a medical history that has affected our quality of life. Our lives clicked on so many levels that I know had we not met, our lives would be drastically different and I doubt they would be better.
There was a reason I needed to learn about the issues with our prison system and learn to care about the people inside- yes, the people being abused by mentally sick people working in the prisons, either because they enjoy inflicted abuse, or they are making profit off them on a grander scale.
That doesn’t mean that all guards are like this, just like not all cops are bad cops. But the bad ones should be kicked out of the profession since it doesn’t look they will get prosecuted. This is what makes people angry. I have talked to quite a few inmates. They all say the same thing about guards. When a guard does something harmful to an inmates there should be consequences. If they cause a death they shouldn’t just be moved to another prison to continue abusing people just because they are wearing a uniform. It’s like Catholic priests that molest young boys. They get moved to another parish. Why can’t they be convicted when they break the law? Are inmates less human? Have they lost the right to live? The people inside are more than convicts, felons or inmates. They are more than whatever happened to put them there.
Sentences don’t fit the crime, if there even was a crime. After many of them are destroyed by the abuse they receive and then are let back out into society without the skills to cope, knowing the revolving door will push a majority of them back inside so the profit machine can suck up the rest of their life. What a way to Make America Great. )
I got my copy of the GED book and the dictionary. Thank you. It is good to have that to work with. I’ve skipped around reading it. I’ve read US History, US govt, world history and more. I just read about Indian Civilization. Also, I didn’t know India was the birth place of Buddhism. Just so you know I have been chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo x 1000 for you.
I got two letters from my family. That’s a first in a long time. One from my brother and and one from my grandmother. Indeed I was surprised when I got his letter and when I opened it there were four photos. He said he had a lot on his place but never asked how I was doing and said nothing about any help in any way. A My family knows you have been the only one helping me all these years and all he talks about is own full plate. He asked if he was still on my visitation list. No, not after 10 years of waiting for him to come see me. He let me know I have a new 3 month old niece. Nobody ever tells me anything. Better late than never, I guess. He sent photos. It’s the only way I feel I’ll get to see her. He has a son a year younger than my son, however I never met him. He did send an up to date photo saying he thinks he’s tough. I do appreciate the photos. I’ll write him back. He said my mom is sick again. So did my grandmother, but I haven’t heard a word from my mom herself. I never hear about anything until it’s way after.
(Sonni’s note: It’s not uncommon for family to gradually forget about a someone inside. I guess it’s out of sight, out of mind. The longer they are in the less they see them. In Jamie’s case, no one was ever there for him, right from the beginning. I tried to get his older brother to write to him about a year and a half ago. I called him. Family can make all the difference in the world. Depression is so common, and when someone is prone to depression it’s even harder. I can always tell what shape Jamie is in by his handwriting. He has quite a family neglect f family few different styles of penmanship and each one is a different mood.
In the last eleven years had his family bothered at all to write to him and find out how he is, it would have helped him – a lot. But no one could be bothered. No one had a stamp. He’s never heard anything from his younger brother, and his sister? Who knows. she has had her own set of problems. When I asked his brother to write to him his reply was, “It’s not my fault he’s in there. My life didn’t stop” as if someone has had blamed him. He told me, “It’s not your concern.” Well then who the hell’s concern is it? Nobody else has given a rat’s ass how he’s been. You can’t go back and undo that no matter how many letters you write now. Eleven years? I would have a hard time forgiving them. Can you tell this upsets me? But it doesn’t matter if they are forgiven or not. You reap what you sow. You get back what you dish out. What goes around comes around and most of all – there is an effect for every single cause you make and no amount of forgiving wipes that away. I wrote a post in February 2016 and sent it to his brother. I never heard back so I don’t know if he read it.
Do you remember the song, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother? This is the link to the post. The youtube video is in the post. It makes me cry every time I hear it now because I think of all hurt his family caused him and all the hurt of others in the same situation. You can read it if you like.
Thanksgiving was terrible. The food was bad. The only thing worth eating was the dessert. The dressing was too dry. Everything else was what we normally eat everyday – green beans etc. I don’t have an extra food to eat. Do you think you could send an Ecomm box? Leah, your friend who writes to me sent me some money for Christmas. I need to buy a new hot pot to heat things up in.
(Sonni’s note: Each yearly quarter I can order $60 worth of items from the commissary they can keep in their locker. It doesn’t affect any money in their acct. Coffee, cookies and crackers, Raman noodles, squeeze cheese. Like the kind of food you’d buy in a $1 store Cheap and not very healthy but it fills the hole and gives them goodies they might not buy. They probably trade some of it for stamps, which I can’ t buy for him, or he can trade it for other things he wants. Commissary is like money. Maybe someone draws greeting cards they can personalize. They have to get creative if they don’t have anyone to help support them. Inmates can also get pretty creative making dishes with commissary food. They can make cakes out of crushed cookies. It would be interesting to eat some of their recipes. But it isn’t just the food itself, it’s what they have to fashion to cook it in. They don’t have pans or a burner. They can buy a flimsy hot pot but it doesn’t get hot enough to boil water. But somehow they manage)
Time to go to bed. It’s late. Thank you so much for everything. I’ll be thinking of you. Get some rest and give yourself time to heal. Don’t rush it or you might hurt it.
Love you, Jamie
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I’m not a professional so I can’t say for sure I know what I’m talking about. I only have my own observations of people who suffer from depression and also the what I’ve read. Depression is very real and it can be debilitating. My intention is not to make anyone uncomfortable or make light of their situation. I am only trying to understand something I don’t experience except on rare times when life temporarily gets overwhelming.
I’ve read the blogs of many people who suffer from depression and other chronic illnesses. Reading experiences is a best way to understand what they go through rather than only reading medical articles.
We all have deep sadness sometimes, and it can go on for a long time before we get a grip on it. Something happens to us sometimes we can’t find a place in our brains to put it, so it is always right in the front part of our thinking and it can stop us from living.
I’ve had times when I was down. It happened more when I very sick but I would find a way to pull myself out of it. The teachings from my practice of Buddhism gives me hope. I’m sure people of other faiths rely on their faith as well. I could that but sometimes people can’t.
Jamie has suffered suffered from depression since he was a child. Would it have been different if he didn’t have epilepsy that resulted in seizures from birth to present day? How does it feel knowing it will never stop unless science comes up with a cure?
How does a child deal with a hopelessness? Do people think, “He’s only a kid. He’ll snap out of it?” Jamie doesn’t like to talk about it. It took a long time for me to understand what it did to the relationships in his life with family and friends. It knocked his self worth down to nothing. Writing about it brings it back. He prefers to keep it locked away. It will have to be his choice to unlock it. Maybe talking about it could help but it is not my decision to make.
I know there are different kinds of seizures and they affect people in different ways. It must be a dreadful feeling to know one is starting and it can’t be stopped. There is nothing you can do. Is there a feeling of embarrassment, not wanting to show what you think is your personal failing to other people? Do they talk about you behind your back, laughing, if they wanted to be cruel or even feeling sorry for you like you are a broken. It has been this way for him since before he even knew what it was.
I asked him if he could explain to me what it felt like. He wouldn’t, really couldn’t tell me. To write about it in detail would be like reliving it. It was too much for him. It was then that I finally realized that epilepsy was the underlying factor for everything. If this one biological thing had been different it would have changed everything in his life, but it couldn’t be changed. He tells me when he has another seizure and he tells me if it was bad enough to be taken to a real hospital or if the guards just let him lay there because they don’t want to do the paperwork. The prison is messing with his meds and won’t give him what he knows will work so the seizures are more frequent than necessary. But he doesn’t go into detail about the seizure itself. We do what we need to do to protect ourselves.
Would talking about it begin a healing process? Not to change epilepsy itself, but would it change what it does psychologically? I don’t know, but I do think that years of stuffing it down has caused insecurity that is easily rattled and it begins another episode of depression he can’t stop. Being completely alone in a cell with no one talk to makes it worse.
When that happens if he feels it is hopeless why should he even try to go on. No one will bring his son to see him unless I go to Texas. Family, his son, and my daughter all live in Texas within a couple hours of the prison. Has anyone else made one trip to this prison? No. In the past ten years he’s been locked is he not worth visiting, even when they learned he also has problems with his heart? No. I don’t have enough money to go often enough.
His family ignores him. He recently tried again and wrote to them – with no response. Would that make you depressed on top of everything else? The total lack of caring makes me angry beyond words. He sold his food for stamps because he couldn’t go to the commissary. Not meaning to make it worse for him, I waited too long to answer his last letter because of everything else I’m writing and he began thinking I was gone. I left him. I was mad at him. He thought he did something wrong. He has lost the one person who has been there for him nonstop all these years. I’ve been his rock and it was like I died. It sank him into a depression where he stopped eating and used sleep to escape.
He wrote a letter and poured out all the pain he was feeling, convincing himself it was all his fault. I felt horrible. But that day, after he wrote and sent that letter, he received my ten page letter. Because of things happening in my life it took about a week to write it – in pieces. Sometimes I think he’s stronger than he is. Is it because I want him to be stronger?
I do know, and always have known, if I had never written that first letter he would not have made it this far. My daughter would still not be taking their son to see him. He is supposed to understand how hard it is on her yet she doesn’t understand the power she has to destroy him – or to make him happy. She doesn’t want for him to be happy – because of me. She’s angry at me for being there for him. His family would also still not be in his life. No one would be paying his medical fee, so his care would be even worse than it is. Medical care is not free. I’m on disability. It takes me months to pay off the fee and still have enough for a few basic necessities. He still would have no one who cared if he was okay. It doesn’t matter that Jamie’s son needs his father. Not “a” father – but his own father. If I wasn’t there his depression would have destroyed him – completely.
His mother had him in therapy as a child and other times in his young life. It didn’t begin in prison. Because there is literally no help for those in prison who need it, when an inmate is locked up alone it often causes harm that can’t be undone. There are so many articles in the media about what happens to the mentally ill in prison and no one can seem to change it. Jamie is not mentally ill, but he does need people who care about him. He does NOT need to be made worse because the people in his life think he’s not worth their time of day.
He’s a big man, 6’2″. He is physically strong. He looks like he should be strong. But no one can see inside his head to find the scotch tape piecing him together. My daughter is very angry with me because she said I’m not allowing her to “let him go,” as if I’m doing this to her. She said my relationship with Jamie is gross. She’s angry at things I don’t even understand because it makes no sense. There aren’t any sides to take even though I feel as though I am supposed to take one. What is there to choose? She is my daughter. I love her and always will, but to do this will not make her happy.
I don’t know why she is so angry except maybe this makes her look at things she doesn’t want to see. Jamie has asked only one thing of her – one thing. To see his son. He loves him. Being a father gives him purpose when he doesn’t feel he has any. It is not a big thing he asks. My daughter does so much for her children. She is a good mom – except for this. It’s too much trouble to do this one thing. Give up an afternoon and let their son spend son time with his father. Don’t do to your son what your father did to you – ignore you.
When Jamie got my ten page and realized I hadn’t left him – I was still there – he immediately wrote another letter and apologized. I can’t take for granted he will understand if I wait too long to write. Do any of us thoroughly understand what it is like to spend years locked away from all communication – away from people? We can’t. We have never been through it, let alone for ten years. There are inmates who are locked up for three or four decades. Are they supposed to come out of that okay? Did it accomplish anything good or productive? No. It’s cruel. I will NOT be cruel and give up on him because I know there is a reason for me being there. I see in him what he is capable of. And I won’t let him give up on himself. It is not an option.
I will continue to try, to learn, and help others if I can. This isn’t about me. It is about how I can use my life in a positive way. If anyone else doesn’t understand that I can’t make them understand. Sooner or later his family and I will meet eye to eye. I can’t promise to keep my mouth shut.
( 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
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. )
Last moments of being free
Today with my son Jamie jr.
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 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.
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.
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.The 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.
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.
I think my head is screwed on better these days, but it doesn’t take much to send it in another direction. It’s easy to get a thought in my head that I can’t get out and it just goes round and round. Many times I write letters and send them but nobody answers. Then I try to figure out why and it usually isn’t good. This is how
I wrote to an address I have for my mother and it was a “return to sender”. It wasn’t the only one. I sent one to my brother and one to my sister. I got both of them back, too. I don’t understand. Things are crazy. I’ve also been trying to stay away from trouble, however it follows me no matter what I do. I feel I won’t be coming home anytime soon. I’m being pressured and I can only take so much. Stress is building up on me and it hurts. My head inside just wants to explode. I had two more seizures back to back due to all the worrying. I have had so many seizures in here. I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner. I think the stress brings them on. I don’t trust the mess they give me. Sometimes I think they use inmates as guinea pigs trying out different meds to see how they work. I’m never sure what I’m taking.
I don’t think anyone in here would really care if the seizures killed me or turned me into a vegetable. If it was someone in their own family they would rush them to a hospital. But we don’t matter. We’re just convicts. Just because I got railroaded into taking a plea bargain doesn’t mean that I deserve to be treated like this.
I don’t usually have seizures close together. I saw the doctor once and he took some blood and my level was in the toxic range. He took my meds down to 500 mg. It didn’t help so she put me on a different med. So now I’m on two different meds. So now I’m not having the seizures quite as often. It’s not unusual, though, to have one or two a week. I had one today and I when I got to see medical they told me my sugar was real low, 66. It’s supposed to be at least 70-100. It used to cost $3 to see someone but they changed all that. Now it costs $100 a year and when you send money they will take half of that until it’s paid for and then next year it starts all over. Some people think we get medical care for free in here but that’s not true. $3 might not seem like much to some people but when you don’t have money it’s a lot.
I know you told me that I have choices. I could let this place turn me in to bitter person. I could become a hardened criminal. But I have tried so hard. I have. It seems no one cares. I told my real mom about you a few years ago. I told her about all the letters we wrote, but I don’t think she knows how close we have become. You have been there for me. Thank you so much. It’s not supposed to be that way, but I am really grateful that. I gave my mom a hard time as a teenager. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t want to see me now. And I can’t see my son. Megan doesn’t keep me up with him. I don’t understand that, either. He is my son, too. It wouldn’t take much effort and it would make me happy and would make it easier to go on. Sometimes, though, I feel like I want to give up. Since I don’t have any answers to these things, it just goes round and round in my head, and I think that is what is causing the seizures.
I need some help this month. I don’t have any toothpaste and only one bar of soap. I don’t have any deodorant, either. I hate to have to ask, but I need a little money. I know your money is tight because of your medical bills and I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you do for me. I don’t know what I would do without you. The books and magazines you send help me get through my day. I love you very much for that. Thank you. There are so many people in here who don’t have anyone.
I got a new cellie. I’m glad my old one got moved because all he did was cry and whine. That got a little hard to take after a while. But my new cellie. He’s gay. I don’t have any problem with him being my cellie, but I let him know, don’t play no crazy games with me! I told him I didn’t have any problem with him and what he chooses to do. Bad thing is, he got into a fight and got his head split open. The thing about that is I can get in trouble for it. I can get blamed. They will say that I have been beating on him and extorting him for his things. That happens a lot in here. I told him he needed to tell on the dude who did it to him if the officers ask how his head got split open. I sure don’t need to get blamed for something I didn’t do, and it would be easy for that to happen.
The road I’ve lived on has been hard. Only because I chose to make it that way most of the time. My life has had sharp turns in it. Quite a story it is. However, I’m trying to turn that story around. More stuff will happen Life can be hard for anybody. There are good days and bad days. I have a lot of bad days because of what I put myself in. I hate this shit. But I know I can make it, no matter how long it takes to get up that hill and over a mountain. Being unhappy is my setback. I wish I could say I’ve been better at fixing that. The things that happen that make me unhappy? Well, it just hurts my mind.
…..I’ve written a lot about solitary confinement and ad seg. As you read this article remember that Jamie is doing his third round and the first two were for two years each. You will understand then why I have made so much effort trying to keep him sane and to know, no matter what, he was not alone. If his family cares about him I can’t understand why no effort has been made to help him AT ALL. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. If he was a lousy person who hurt people it might be one thing, but the only thing I can really see is times with depression. Given the fact that he grew up with severe epilepsy, not being able to have a childhood playing with friends and spending a lot of time alone afraid of the next seizure I just don’t understand how a family can just kick you to the curb. And he takes full responsibility and just keeps waiting for them to write.
Reading articles like this one makes me double my efforts.
Courts, legislators look to rein in a practice they say causes behavioral problems but state prison officials call an essential tool
By Milton J. Valencia
| Globe Staff
May 07, 2013
Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe
Jose Bou of Springfield was once a prisoner in solitary confinement, then sent to a minimum-security prison.
Neil Miller is still haunted by the seclusion, the disorientation, the darkness.
During his more than 10 years as a prisoner, Miller spent weeks, months, and once even two years in solitary confinement units, where inmates are kept for as many as 23 hours a day.
“It’s a mental game in there,” Miller, now 46, said recently, still reflecting the anger and acting out that repeatedly got him sent to what prisoners call “the hole.” “You’re fighting with your own sanity, trying to keep yourself together.”
Growing up all I had was my family on my mother’s side. I know no one on my father’s side of the family. Who am I kidding, hell, I don’t even know my father. I grew up without him only having my mother. It’s nothing different from most black families. Single mothers raising kids alone. Well, in my case it was a little different because my brothers and sister knew their dad and their dad’s family, leaving me with only a mom. Each of us has a different dad. That was cool, but sometimes I wondered what it would be like with a dad. To this I still wonder, even though dad is home with mom now. She said they got married. I tried to reach out to and write a letter. I even sent him a birthday card. I’m still waiting for a reply. So, I guess I still don’t have a dad. She said he is a retired cop, no less. He was married and didn’t tell her and then when she got pregnant, he told her and she ended the relationship. She almost ended the pregnancy, too. She told me that when she came to see me on my birthday this year. That hurt. But back then? That was just the way it was. He left both of us. She never told me who my father was when I was growing up. That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?
I really hate this because some things I don’t want to remember. Growing up, my favorite cousin was my Aunt Ann’s son. His name was Keithy. He passed away in 1996 from sickle cell anemia. Since I had epilepsy, we were the sick ones in the family. He broke my heart so bad. We used to follow each other. I didn’t matter he was older than me by six or seven years. We enjoyed each others company. We had each others back. We played together all the time. He loved to go fishing. I would go with him. There were times we caught nothing, but we still loved to go. We sometimes had our days when we were mad at each other. But it didn’t take long for us to make up. We had lots of fun. There were also times I couldn’t visit him because he was too sick, and that made me mad. Mad that he was sick. There were times he went to visit his dad’s family. One time when he came home from his dads he was sick. I went to visit with him one day and when we were playing he just started crying. My aunt came in to help him and called my mom to come and take me home. While I was waiting his pain got worse. I could hear his cries for help. It hurt so much to see him like that. His sickness got real bad so I ended up having to stay home a lot. I then started leaving home. I felt empty as far as friends. So I would leave sometimes just to get away. It got to the point where I would leave in the middle of the night to try to fill in that blank space. Well, I left home one too many times at night. My mom got worried about me and placed me in a children’s hospital. I didn’t like it there.
I don’t remember how long I was there. I do remember them letting me call home one day. I remember explaining to my mom that I didn’t like this place and I began to cry. I also remember the day that really broke my heart. But I started out happy that day because my mom came and got me out of the hospital and took me to my aunt’s house. There was a lot of people there. My mom took me to the back room where everybody was and she told me that my cousin died. I broke down. My old brother grabbed me and told me not to cry, but we both cried. We went to view him and he looked so different. I remember touching him and asking my mom why he was so cold. Then we buried him.
( Sonni’s note: Jamie was in prison long before he actually was in one. It’s easier to have hindsight than it is to have foresight. He arrived in this world broken and never had a fair shake. His cousin died 19 years ago, but it could have been yesterday. He had a lot of obstacles to overcome that he is still working on today. There have been many lessons learned. But I believe it was after his cousin died that the road in his life took a sharp left turn.)
I’m sorry about just now writing back. Things have been crazy these past few weeks. We’re on lockdown right now. They’ve been looking for weapons, drugs and phones. A lot of inmates have been tested for drugs and coming up dirty. It’s crazy mom, because so many different drugs come through this unit. It’s the officers that’s bringing it in, but if someone tells on the officer they get punished.
Okay now, I got moved from E pod 76 cell to 49. Now get this – 49 cell is in the corner. On top of that the dude next to me has seizures, too. I don’t know if it’s from epilepsy like me. Just yesterday, on the second I had a seizure. It was in the morning when it happened. Later that night, after I went to sleep I woke up to get a drink. I called to him to check on him because there’s a hole in our wall we can talk through. He never answered so I thought he must be asleep. However, right when I went to lay back down I heard him fall and hit his head. I called for the officer and asked others to help. We started kicking the doors asking for help. When they came, his mouth was all busted up. Blood was everywhere. Like I said, it’s crazy right now. Get this, mom – he called me through the hole. He says to me, “look”. When I looked I saw he done cut himself with a razor. I got help again by kicking the door. I don’t think he’s all there in the head. I’ve only been in this cell one day and it’s stressful. I can be asleep and then I’d get up to check on him, or if I’m asleep he starts hitting the wall and I would get up just to make sure he’s okay or if I need to get him help again.
I’m really thankful that you tried to help me get a visit with you son. I think I was just so looking forward to it. But hey, it’s not the first time I didn’t get a visit I thought was coming so don’t worry about it okay. It would have been nice to see him, but I understand why he couldn’t come. At least he got some time to spend with Megan and the kids. I’m really glad that Jamie got some time to spend with his uncle. It’s hard when work takes you out on the road so much and you can’t be home with your wife and kids. I understand that a lot. But he has to do what he has to do to take care of his family.
Sorry about what happened at home. Wow, that was some cuss words you used! That was very shocking. Lets just say I never thought you would use words like that. But then again when I sometimes imagine the way you said them, I laughed. I remember the letter when you wrote about someone putting something in the kool-aid because they were acting crazy. lol. Sorry, it was just funny.
Snow, I would love to see it! Eight inches! I’ve never seen snow before. I’ve seen a little ice here and there. I’d love to stay somewhere it snows. I just know it’s a beautiful sight.
How is Megan doing? I still haven’t heard anything from her. I’m worried about her as well. Please try once more to get her to write. If she doesn’t I feel as she wants me to leave her alone.
I love the books, mom. Thanks. Here’s a few things from the book we both have: (1)When the going gets tough – Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but of sometimes playing a poor hand well. (2) A way of action – Real understanding comes from doing. Only action has the power to turn knowledge into wisdom. (3) We have seen the enemy and it is (with in) us. (4) Life has cycles. whatever goes up comes down, and what falls can rise gain. (4) Riding the natural cycles – Some of us interpret rough times as divine justice – a punishment from God. I’d like to say that it isn’t God that punishes us. We get opportunities to balance our life and to learn.
I want you to know how much I appreciate you being there. I wouldn’t know anything about my son without you telling me. Please ask Megan again to write.
I love you, Son
PS Tell Megan I understand if she’s too tired to write and if she needs more time.
(Sonni’s note: It’s hard to wait and wait for people to write. He gives them excuses because it’s hard to think they don’t want to write – that he doesn’t matter anymore. It would take so little time to buy a card, write a few lines, slap a stamp on it and mail it. Nothing has changed since then and it’s been another three years. There are people in my life who don’t understand why I do this for him – write this blog and now the book. It all began because no one was writing to him and I knew how much my letters meant to him. It’s discouraging to write letters to your family and not hardly get anything in return. Do they even wonder how he buys the stamps. It grew into a relationship of each of us holding the other up when we needed it.
I know when he gets out it will be like throwing him to the wolves. How can he know how to do even the simple things in life if he’s never done it before? How does he live a successful. There is much we take for granted. I want him to have the chance to find out what he can do. Go to school. Support himself and help raise his son. In that aspect, I am his mother. That is what a mother does. He doesn’t want much. Who will be there for him? His family? So I keep writing to him and writing the book “Inside the Forgotten Outside”. I constantly strive to learn the things I need to do for this venture to be successful. It is mind boggling. But like I tell Jamie, it all starts with having a dream. Then you work at it every day and visualize it being completed. Don’t let doubt get in the way. Believe in yourself. Your mind is powerful. It will find a way to make it happen. You either think you can or you think you can’t, and either way you go is right, because that is the way it will happen. Taking a positive direction will have a positive effect.
I have several sayings I repeat often. Here is one of them. “The only legacy we can leave behind at the end of our life is the affect we had on other people.” Then they affect other people. That is how we live on. I live my life with that in mind. If what I do helps this man, then he will be a better father to my grandson and teach him the things he needs to know. If I were to do nothing, what do you think the end result of that would be? That end result scares me.
(Sonni’s note: In the past few years entire prisons have gone on hunger strikes, the most notable in California during the summer of 2013. 33 of California’s prisons joined in with thousands of inmates from all over the country in protest of the way they were being treated. Families stood in protest outside the prisons as well. A few inmates died as the result of a hunger strike that lasted 50 days, because they wouldn’t give in. Realizing that the inmates were willing to die for their cause,I am sure, had a lot to do with them relenting. Why was it so impossible for the prison officials to see these people as people – as living breathing people, with some of them there unjustly as the evidence now shows. Eventually they were granted a few small concessions but it was too little and they didn’t apply to the people who were the most confined – those on death row – Those in the SHU Secure Housing Unit. Jamie spent a total of 4 years locked up in solitary.
I wasn’t going to print this yet, because I’m waiting for a letter. He was able to get his privileges back and could call me for two weeks. He was able to have ONE contact visit with his natural mother on his 32nd birthday. They found a way to throw him back in solitary last week. I knew it was going to happen. I just knew it. Their rules to stay out of solitary are hard to play by. You can not argue with an officer even if you are right. If they say the snow is black and you say it is white you are insubordinate. He got to make one last phone call, and then was stripped him of all of his privileges and is once again getting his food through a slot in the door.
Those on death row. Why would someone scheduled to be murdered by the state be interested in a class of education? I’m sure that’s what the must have thought. Why would any of these concessions be of any importance to them, even though many of them had been locked up for decades and large portion of them were mentally or insane because of the deprivations? But there are many others that want to be able use the rest of their life, if they are still to killed, in a way that at least allows them to give some value to their own lives. Maybe they did something horrible. Maybe they are falsely accused. Maybe they are a victim of circumstance. It doesn’t matter. The are still human. They are living out the worst things anyone can go through to pay for their transgressions – they are waiting to die. That is their sentence. That is their punishment. So why the need to keep punishing by not allowing them some comfort while they wait. Justice was served. What is wrong with supplying them some art supplies so they can draw? They were promised that. This next excerpt is credited to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jul/25/pelican-bay-prison-hunger-strike where you can read the entire article.
Largely unrestrained by courts, legislatures or public opinion, solitary confinement has become routine – a punishment of first resort for all sorts of prison infractions. Today, a prisoner can be placed in solitary not only for violence, but for any form of “insubordination” towards prison officials, or for possession of contraband (which includes not only drugs but cell phones, cash or too many postage stamps). Some inmates are sent to solitary confinement for exhibiting the symptoms of untreated mental illness. Others, including juveniles in adult prisons, end up in isolation for their own “protection” because they are targets of prison rape. Many of the men in Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit are there because they’ve been “validated” as gang members, based on their tattoos or on the say-so of other inmates, who are rewarded for “snitching”
(So this is the setting for this blog post. Hunger strikes are a common thing when inmates are treated badly. It is their only method of defense and a way to make a statement. This isn’t the only time he stopped eating and he at one time stopped taking his meds because he thought he was being used as a lab rat – which is something the prisons do. Who better to experiment a new drug on than a worthless inmate. He was a pretty big guy when I first met him. He was a real skinny guy when I saw him in Oct of 2013. His clothing was falling off him – literally. The Beeville prisons raises hogs. That is why everything they fed them was some kind of pork often made into loafs that were unrecognizable as anything he could identify. The prisons do not like to pay medical bills, though they do everything in their power to cause ill health. Why is this not being stopped? Why are they allowed to commit crimes on those that are still human beings? Isn’t this in itself also a crime? If someone murders someone on the outside and it is a homicide and they get life in prison, should the person committing the same crime inside a prison get the same punishment? Why are there two sets of standards?)
This is a letter Jamie wrote on 8/28/12 when he was at the McConnell Unit in Beeville,Tx
Hi Mom, How is everything. I know you are home from your surgery. I hope everything is okay. I have to take a lot of pills. Some are my seizure meds for epilepsy and also fluxotine for depression. I’ve taken off some pounds lately. I stopped eating because I’m on a hunger strike. They feed us pork every day and I’m tired of it. Sometimes they sub it with peanut butter or two slices of cheese.
This unit is getting really bad. They just had a riot in the chow hall and a dude got stabbed four times and died. Another one was stabbed 23 times but he lived. He was lucky. I’m losing it in here.
I’ve written lots of letters but nobody writes me back but you. I don’t understand why I keep writing but I do. Maybe I think it will change. I think this is one of the reasons why I get depressed. I can’t make sense of it. People don’t understand how important it is. I still have a year and a half before I come up for parole, in 2014, so there isn’t anything else I can do except sit here. It hurts because we are all suffering badly. There’s nothing I can do about these things. I want to just give up on everything. I’m trying. I really am. Everyone is so quick to judge me. It’s nothing new to me. I can be doing good but I’ll still be judged because of my past. I don’t know where things will end up. Again, I’m losing it. I had some crazy thoughts. The nurse asks me what’s wrong and I just look at them crazy. I know they can’t understand. I guess this is my life. Tomorrow I’m going on strike with my medication. Life is so painful. Why not add more. I have nothing. My fan broke and its August in Texas. It is so hot. And these people took my hot pot that I can cook in because of a loose wire. I can’t take this no more. So what I’m saying is that I’m giving up. Why not? It seems like everyone else has. I read because there’s nothing else I can do, sitting in this cell all day and night. This is where everyone wants me and it’s starting to feel as though this is where I belong. I love you, as well as everybody else, but I can’t take it. Please try to understand. I have fallen and have no reason to get up. I have a year left in ad seg, (solitary confinement – administrative segregation) maybe less. I’m trying, but it seems that nobody cares.
(note from Sonni – Jamie scared me with this letter. I could see how terribly depressed he was. I begged him to eat and take his meds but by then a couple more weeks had passed. Depression is something that runs rampant in the prisons. No one can live with that kind of solitude. What does it prove? What’s the purpose? He never did get out of ad seg. No human being can live through that. He is doing better psychologically. But it has been a challenge.)
( another note: this one written today. He never did get out of solitary until this past November. Then he was moved to G4 and then G2. G5 is actually the same as ad seg or solitary. Then in December he made it to G2. Finally. Then in the middle of January he could make phone calls. I was the only one who hooked up my phone so he could call. No member of his family did. Now it’s all taken away – again. I don’t know for how long,)