Unintended Consequences – Chapter – ITFO

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It was so hard to keep his head together. Jamie’s mind went all over the place. It was hard when there was no one to talk to. He was so alone. There was no one to talk to so he often carried on conversations with himself. He was in 24/7 lock-up for a year. Administrative segregation, or adseg, it was called. He didn’t leave his cell except fir showers and commissary once month. He had tried so hard to not let this happen. Staying away from trouble was his goal, but it always found him, anyway.  

     Mentally, he felt himself going down and there was nothing to keep him from smashing headfirst onto the bottom. He didn’t know what was going on, but he tried to get it together. Before this happened he tried so hard. He didn’t know if he could try anymore.
     Before he got sent to lock-up he had made a change in his life. It was a pretty big one. He thought at the time maybe it would help, maybe not. Some dudes he met told him about Islam. He decided to join with them. They still believed in God, or Allah they called him, but there were a lot of differences in how they practiced.
      They weren’t like a lot of the other dudes. They didn’t talk tough. Peace was way more important than violence, or who was bigger and badder or who did the worst crimes.
     He decided to give it a try because everything he had learned through the bible never changed anything for him. No matter how much he prayed his prayers weren’t answered. It didn’t make any difference and he thought by now something would have happened to let him know God was at least thinking about helping him.
     One of them gave him a book to read and study. It was hard because he was supposed to pray about it five times a day. He needed a prayer rug but he didn’t have a way to get one. Anyway, he tried to learn and went to their meetings. He enjoyed the conversations about life. Then something happened and he was locked up, more alone than ever.
     To have your life so controlled as this was more than anyone would be able to take without getting angry and wanting to break everything. He was tired of being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to breathe or take a crap. He couldn’t do anything unless it was the right time.
     A year completely alone; it was too long. There was nothing to break the monotony. Bits and pieces of thoughts swirled around in his brain and they wanted to make him crazy.
     Things were happening in his life on the outside he couldn’t control or fix. How could he deal with this confinement day after day and not be able to do anything about it?
     Not only that, he knew there was another man in Morgan’s life. He convinced himself it had nothing to do with what they shared together. The two ideas didn’t touch. He couldn’t handle thinking about it any other way. They shared the treasure of a son together. Nothing could take that away. She wouldn’t be with this dude if he hadn’t screwed up. He needed to believe she was still waiting for him, but it was getting harder and harder to do.
     It was his own fault – all of it. Trying to find the answer was not easy and many days he wanted to crawl under the floor and give up. Just give up. Stop thinking of the future. He might not make make it. He might not get out of here.
     He started and stopped eating. He would only pull himself out of a funk because he was afraid of what it would do to his son. How would he deal with his own life when he grew up if he knew his father gave up on his?
     Jamie Jr. couldn’t read or write yet and it would be some years before he’d be able to. He wouldn’t miss his father during his childhood because he had never been there to learn to miss him. He had never been there, and that was what ripped him up. It hurt badly if he thought about it too much.
     His son won’t understand why his father wasn’t around. He really didn’t even know he should be around. But most of all, Jamie was afraid his son won’t love him when gets out.
     Maybe his son will hate him. His son, his only child might not care. He might not want to see him and that would just kill him. How could he stop these thoughts from going around in his brain?
     If he wrote to him what could he say? He couldn’t explain that he was in prison. What’s that? Why was he there? What did he do? He could never explain how bad it was in here. He didn’t need to think about that. When he gets a lot older and can see him face to face, maybe then he could explain.
     What is he being told when he asks about his daddy? He probably doesn’t ask yet. Even if he did ask there is nothing positive that could be said. He could only hope he was told his daddy loved him very much. He could hope.

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This was not one of Jamie’s better days. He laid down on his bunk and placed his right arm over his eyes. Maybe he could sleep for awhile. He was laying on a metal frame covered only in a sheet and blanket.
     He had been here for a few weeks so far. All of his property had been taken away, even his mattress. He was supposed to get it back but he didn’t know when. Sharing the floor with roaches was not an option so he did the best he could to get comfortable.
     The days were long. They stretched on endlessly. He knew he wouldn’t set foot outside his cell today. It wasn’t a shower day, so there was nothing to break up the boredom.. He had nothing to read because they took his books. Sleep was the only thing he could do to pass the time.
     After an hour of trying to sleep he gave up. He got to his feet and did some stretches, trying to get the blood flowing. It was up to him to keep his body going as best he could. He had to try. It was harder now that he was in lock up. He was where they wanted him to be and they made sure he got there. He tried to mind his own business but trouble always found him.
     Jamie was hungry. When Jamie ha a little money in his account he could buy things like tuna or sardines, sandwhich spread and crackers and chips. But right ow they aren’t letting him go to commissary so he was stuck with what they fed him. They never gave him enough food. His stomach growled all the time. Even when they did bring food it was pretty bad. Bland, overcooked, tasteless and cold.  It was taken out of the freezers and thawed by the time it got to him, but it was never hot. It was hard to swallow but he had to eat something so he choked it down. It would be easier to eat if they put some jelly or honey on the breakfast pancakes so it wasn’t dry, but his comfort wasn’t something they cared about. Eat it or not, they didn’t care.
     He paced the length of his home, back and forth, over and over. Ten feet in one direction and ten feet in the other. Well, not really ten feet because his bunk took up some of the space.
     He couldn’t get Morgan out of his brain. Over and over he thought the words, “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again. “I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of you. That’s all I can do.” Again and again, like a broken record. As broken as he was broken and he cried.
     After rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands he bent down, opened his trunk and took out a couple sheets of paper. He laid them on the tiny stainless steel ledge attached to the toilet that served as his desk. Using the edge of an envelope he patiently drew lines across the paper so it looked like tablet paper. This way his sentences would be straight and easier to read. It also took up more time so he made the lines as carefully as he could.
     He began to write a letter to Sonni. She was the one person he could write to and explain what was going on in his head. If he kept everything bottled up it would make him crazy. Over and over he told himself, “I won’t be here forever. I won’t.” Fourteen more years out of seventeen.  It will feel like forever. Instead he tried to imagine the feeling of happiness when he walked out of the building, never looking back when it becomes time to start his life again.

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Dec, 3, 2009

Dear Mom,                      
     I am sorry it has taken me so long to write back. Things are not so good on my end right now. I haven’t heard from Morgan in like a month.
     I’ve beat myself up about that. It has been almost four years since we were separated. The longest years of my life, including the years in juvenile detention and not letting me go for four years after promising me I would only have to stay nine months. They lied to me. Why mom? Why is this happening to me?
     My eyes are always full of tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal just thinking about life without her. I’m really hurting Mom.
     I’ve been in a fight. It happened a few weeks ago. I didn’t tell you. I’m on 24 hour lockdown now for a year. However, maybe it’s a good thing because there is really nothing to do where I can get into trouble. They don’t let us out of the cell for nothing. Everything comes to us unless we need to go to medical, and then we’re in handcuffs.
     Anyway, this is how I got into the fight. Me and some of the officers have had our run-ins. It just so happened that one of them was at the pill window when I went for my medications. Another dude who was in front of me started calling out the officer’s name. The officer came to me and wanted to write me up for it. I told him it wasn’t me. He said he didn’t believe me so we went back and forth about it. I didn’t tell him it was the dude in front of me. People have been known to get beat up bad for telling. I’m trying to stay out of trouble so I don’t point him out.
    Later I go to the dude and try to talk to him about it and he punches me in the mouth. I was shocked for a minute because all I wanted to do was talk. I let my anger get the best of me and fought back. I did that because in here, if you don’t fight when it comes your way everyone looks at it. Then it’s hell from then on if you know what I’m saying. Someone else will come at you.
     Afterward, the dude apologized and said he tried to take the case instead of me. The rage in me wanted to jump on him. I felt he took a lot from me because it was me who was put in lock-up, not him. I only had five months left to get my G2 classification and get contact visits. I could have held my family if they came to visit. If the came visit. He took that possibility away from me. Now I have to wait a year and a half. I’m now G5, adseg.
     They took my property from me. All I have now is my sheets, a blanket, tissue and a few bars of soap. My back is killing me. My books were taken away so I don’t have the study book for learning more about Islam r any other books.
     Now I just sit here and look at the walls. I can get more books if you send them; just regular books to help pass the time. It’s okay if you can’t. I don’t want to make you feel like you have to. I don’t have anyone else to ask.

Write back soon. Please Please
Love, Jamie

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Lockdown 24 Hours a Day

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This is a repost from my first year of blogging. Some things never change. This is one of them.

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Hello mom,                                                                                          April 20, 2015

I want to say I’m so sorry for the long wait. Things have been real crazy the last two and a half months.  I’m on a special cell punishment which was supposed to be a 30 day lockup.

(Sonni’s note:  Inmates aren’t allowed to argue with the guards.  They are always right and inmates are always wrong. A guard filed a false case on him, which they often do when they have a grudge.  When it came to court the guard could not be found for 3 days.  Instead of dropping the case they had someone else stand in for the guard who wasn’t there and Jamie was not allowed to attend.  So, of course they found him guilty and took away all of his very newly earned privileges, like being able to make a phone call.  He was able to get in one last call to tell me what happened.)

My date started on February 3rd.  I was supposed to get off on March 3rd.  However they have made me stay in lockup telling me they have no open bunks. No open bunks?  So I was told I might get shipped to another unit on the other side of Texas.  I’ve talked to everybody from the warden to the Major about getting moved to a G4 block.

( Sonni’s note: G5 is solitary confinement, G4 is one step ahead and at least you get to leave your cell for meals and very limited time in rec to watch TV.  No other privileges.  Last time they did this it took 2 more years to get to G2 where you can have a family visit that is not behind glass and you can make phone calls if someone registers their phone.  You can get put on a list to take your GED or other trades and they might find you an unpaid job in the laundry.)

As of right now I’m ending a second term of this punishment because I am trying to avoid being sent to another unit.  I have watched people come and go for three months.  What I need is someone to call the prison and get on these people about when I am supposed to get off this punishment on the 24th. Call the warden or call classification.  You’re going to have to pretend you’re my bio mom or they won’t talk to you.

I’m on lockdown 24 hours a day.  I only come out for showers 3 times a week.  No rec. I get jacked for it every week.  So I give them hell.  They are treating me wrong so I am treating them wrong. They hate to do paperwork so to hell with them.  I yelled all day, beat and kicked on shit and I’m still here.  I had a seizure.  A bad one and spent 9 hours in the hospital.  When the day comes and I’m not out of here I’m going to do this all over.  I will make them G5 me so at least I can go to rec and get some fresh air.  Back here we aren’t allowed to go outside.  They put us in a cage and we walk around in it.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want to let you down by going G5 again, but it’s really getting to me.  They put the same officer here had to deal with before  and he is (REALLY) working my nerves.  He’s doing crazy shit just to take away my rec because he can. They took away all of my things.  They let me have deodorant and my soap and paper, but they took away all my books.  Please help me get away from back here.  They will ship me to West Texas.  They been sending dudes there.  I don’t want to go back there.

I love you always

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(Sonni”s note: I wrote an immediate answer to try and help him get his head together.  He’s trying to fight a battle they will never let him win.  He’s playing into it. But after almost 3 months locked up again in solitary confinement –  only worse, because they have left him with nothing to do.  His magazines aren’t getting through and he can’t get to commissary.  He has tried so hard, but sometimes it seems hopeless and no matter how hard he tries there is some asshole guard who gets off on pushing the inmates until they lose it.  It is some sort of vile game with them.  People who have control over other people often abuse it, especially when their bosses give them the okay that it is okay.  I will call the prison on Monday.

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

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It’s Hard to Walk Away From a Prison Visit

 

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It’s hard to walk away from a prison visit not knowing when another visit might be possible. Visits with Jamie will be behind glass until he is classified G2. To get to the visitors area I first had to go through a metal detector – remove everything, like at an airport, and go through a thorough pat down. They even checked my pockets and the cuffs on my pants to feel if anything was sewn inside. A woman behind glass took down his ID number, checked my DL and wrote down identification of my car. She called ahead to see if she could send me through.

This was my third and last visit. Visiting hours are only on the weekend. The adseg cubicles were full so I was given a card with a number and told to go back to my car, move to a different parking lot and wait – for about 1 1/2 hours. This visit was a regular visit – two hours. The previous two visits were special visits that had to be approved by the warden. On the Monday before I had to call at 8 am and submit my name and where I was traveling from because special visits are only granted for people coming long distances. They only reserve 5 cubicles (for 3,500 inmates) so there is no promise you’ll get approved. On Thursday you call back at 2 pm to see if the warden approved the visit. The weekend before I was approved. It was a two hour drive, then a four hour visit and two hours back. Two days in a row. This last visit was a regular visit for two hours. They close at five. As I sat in the parking lot waiting, I was afraid this delay would cut my visit short. He might think I wasn’t coming if it got too late.

I had to rent a car this time instead of using my daughter’s car and they didn’t open until 11 am. I couldn’t get on the road as early as I did the weekend before. I sat in my car and watched a series episode on Netflix to pass the time until I saw a staff car pull beside my car and wave me over. It took a little less than they thought. Someone must have left early. I was relieved. If it had taken as long as they said my visit would only be an hour. I knew by now he thought I wasn’t coming and he would have been so disappointed. I couldn’t get word to him for at least a couple days using JPay.com to send an email.

I went back through the metal detector and pat down and they waved me through. There is a decent length walkway outside leading to the main building. I stood and looked up at the layers of razor wire and guard tower. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny. Under a tree was a bench with a flower pot. There was a plaque indicating it was a memorial to “fallen guards”. I wondered if there was a memorial somewhere for all the prisoners who died from “natural” causes. I gave a little laugh under my breath knowing it was a stupid thought.

I thought about the visit I was going to have, knowing he would be disappointed because his son wasn’t with me. His son, Jamie, was going through his own issues with his father locked up and dealing with limited communication. He wouldn’t come with me to the prison this year. It’s hard on both of them, because they have never had time together to bond. They have never touched.

Letters are hard. Jamie can’t talk about his life in prison. There is no way to explain to a 12 year old what he’s going through. How often can he ask how he’s doing in school? He has started many letters he didn’t know his to finish. Little Jamie only knows he doesn’t have his father. He has only his mother’s live-in relationship, who he calls dad at his mother’s suggestion. This man has been good to him and has provided a good home, but it is still not his dad. Someday Jamie will get out of prison when his son is nearly out of school. He will have missed his entire childhood. But your children are your children long after childhood. Hopefully they will find a way to come together and understand each other.

As I walked toward the double doors for the next ID check I looked over my shoulder. The sun was shining and flowers were planted along the walkway. Pumpkins were set out for Halloween. It gave a false sense of normalcy to a place that was anything but normal. I mused, how nice it would if Jamie could take a walk outside. Just walk, in a stride the length of his legs instead of having a chain connecting his ankles forcing him to take short steps. He’d swing his arms in rhythm with his walk instead of being cuffed behind him. We often take for granted the little things we do without thinking

I looked over at one of the buildings. I was sure I was looking at prison cells because Jamie had described the windows. There were three floors of windows/slats in the wall. They werr about seven inches high and two feet long. Too high to look out but it would let light in. He drew me a picture of his cell. 5′ wide by 10′ long. Just big enough for his bunk, toilet and a place to sit and write. Storage was under the bunk. At an earlier prison he had bars at one end so anyone could see in. There was no privacy. His cell now has a steel door so unless the guard opens it he sees nothing.

During each of our visits I bought food for him from the vending machines. Barely edible sandwiches, snacks and sodas. It was like buying dinner at a gas station. Even when I buy him a food box and have it sent there is little real food to choose. 

I was assigned to seg 7. I sat down in front of the booth and waited. It had been 1 1/2 years. June ’16. The only good thing is that he was a little closer to the end. When they brought Jamie in they first uncuffed his ankles on the other side of the door, let him in and locked the door. He has to squat down facing me and put his hands back through a small opening so they coulf remove the cuffs on his wrists. You can see it in the picture.

There are 3 types of seating. An open room where inmates can sit with their visitors at a round table. There were quite a few kids. Everyone seemed happy. They were allowed to hold hands. The microwave was constantly busy heating up sandwiches. The inmates seated here were classified G2, the least restrictive. They could take classes and get certifications, make phone calls and work an unpaid job.

In the middle was an area for G4 and G5. The inmates are in a plexi-glass enclosure with about 12 chairs. Visitors sit on the other side in front of them with with short panels separating each one to give a little privacy. One inmate had eight visitors. 4 adults and 4 children. He was one of the lucky ones to have so much support from family.

There were 8 locked cubicles like the one I was sitting in front of. The phone was terrible. Distortion. I had to talk loudly. I would have asked to be moved but the rest were full. The past weekend I was at #3 and the phone was better. The folding chair I had to sit on was so low the counter hit me mid chest. The metal phone cord wasn’t very long and it killed my shoulder holding the phone to my ear. I suppose they don’t want anyone to get too comfortable.

The prison had been on lockdown for about 1 1/2 months. An inmate in gen pop (general population) committed suicide – hung himself. The entire prison went on lock down while they did an investigation to see if it was suicide or gang (or guard) related. “What more can they take away from you?” I asked him. “My one hour of rec.” In a solitary cage. If he was G4 he could go to the yard – play basketball and talk to people, which is also dangerous because guards have pet inmates who do their dirty work for privileges. He is never safe. Every time he has gotten out of seg something happened and he was put back. A guard can file a false case. One time he was sent to adseg for a couple years because a homemade knife “appeared” on his sink during a cell search. It doesn’t leave him with much hope when he gets out of adseg this time – sometime – that he’ll be able to stay out, but he has to try.

Jamie has been in 8 prisons. When they let him out it’s possible he could be moved to another prison. He has already been as far west and south in Texas as possible. It’s is a big state. He could be moved too far away for his son to travel to see him because no one will take him. I might be able visit and take him if he is a two day drive away.

My daughter hates that Jamie and I have been writing. After all, he was her old boyfriend. I had sent him a card many years ago asking how he was. If I had never met him maybe I wouldn’t have. He wrote back. Over time I learned I was the only one writing to him – even his family wouldn’t write – was I supposed to stop? When the writing continues for more than a decade was I not supposed to care about him? We’ve both been through our fair share of personal crisis. I’ve been there for him and he’s been there for me. No one else was willing to help him get simple necessities. Not having someone on the outside makes it easy to for the prison to break them. Depression takes hold when no one cares. Knowing him prompted my writing, my music and research for the truth. I wanted to help him and it would help myself. Give him dreams to hang on to. My daughter thinks it’s inappropriate. Too much has been said in front of their boy that would be hard for him to process.

Prison is a society unlike any other society and it changes you. It makes it nearly impossible to have a “normal” life because you have acquired no life experience that is needed to live in the “Free World”. How to survive in prison is all an inmate learns, which is why so many end up back inside. He can’t be expected to know things he has never done. The world has changed. Society as a while makes it hard. Anyone who has been in prison has to be dangerous.

Because of trauma, letters become emotional when pain and frustration boils over. I feel his loneliness, dispair and anger at not being able to change what happens. He is supposed to have rights, but he has no rights. It’s a farce. I am the only left to fight for him. I pour these emotions into my writing, music, poetry and letters. It’s all I can do to give him a feeling of self worth and to know he hasn’t been forgotten – because everyone else has. I do care. I can’t deny that. I have to see this through because to do anything less makes me just like everyone else.  I won’t do that.

If he does all of his time he gets out early 2023. About 5 years. That seems like a long time but he’s done more than 2/3 of his time. He wants to make get parol buthe doesn’t have his GED yet or a trained skill, a place to live and family who writes letters of support. These are needed. I have a lot to do to help make life possible on the outside. I’ll be 69 and my health isn’t great. I need to finish the book, develop a business around a brand, write this blog, work on my music business and build a mailing list to let people know. 

If you aren’t on the mailing list please subscribe below to get the ITFO NEWS. It is one way you can keep up with what is happening. It helps. You can share what I write. It does make a difference. I reach out to many people affected by the prisons. We are learning there is strength in numbers. We can use that strength to help the many people inside and their families.

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Picking Up Broken Pieces Inside AdSeg

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June 3rd, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

biz card
Beware this picture is 30 years old!

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

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

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

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There Is No Place Like Home – part 2

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Early Morning Pain – Prison is No Place To Keep Love Alive

burning heart flame
photo credit:
revalationsofprofoundlove.com

Early Morning Pain by Sonni Quick   copyright 2015

December 10, 2009

(Sonni’s note: It is still December 2009 4 1/2 years ago, as I continue to read older letters. The sad thing is that it is a letter I could have received today. He was G5 then and he is G5 now. I’ve begun to wonder why it is that there are inmates in some states who are at different level security prisons, yet the offense is the same, or an inmate who committed a far worse crime than Jamie did yet he is in medium security prison where Jamie is in a maximum security. Is it something than an attorney can help with? I don’t know. It took a lot of letters for me to start to understand what it all meant – how hard it was. I knew nothing when I started writing)

I’m now G5 which is 24 hour lockdown. I’ve been back here going on four weeks. life in prison. I’m good in a way because I haven’t been in no trouble. However, I’m also doing bad because they won’t give me any of my property. All I have is sheets, blanket, tissues and a few bars of soap. I don’t have a mattress. They haven’t given me one yet. I’m sleeping on an iron bunk. My back is killing me. My cellie lets me use his every now and then. I have nothing to do. I just sit here looking at the walls. I can’t do any of my studying because I have no books. I no longer get to go to the Islam services. I’ll do all my studying when I get my books back. I don’t know when that will be. It could be a month or two from now.

Mom, in your last letter you asked me if I needed anything. I was going to ask if you would send me a few books. However, I remember saying in a letter she wrote that you are a nice lady and to not take advantage of you. It really hurt me that she would think I would do that to you., so it’s okay about the books, mom, thanks anyway. I know you told me all I needed to do was ask. I told Megan that it hurt that she thought I would do that to you. I would never do that to someone I love, or even someone close to a loved one. Mom, I think she has moved on with her life, so I just want her to tell me that’s all. I don’t want to hold her up if she wants to move on. I just want her to know I really love her. I understand she is having it hard by herself. I can apologize a million and one times but it won’t help bring me back home. I messed up, but at the same time it’s just as hard in here, having someone run your life. People you don’t know who are 5 or 6 years younger than you. It hurts mom, really, to have someone run over you just because they can. There is lack of humanity in here.  They enjoy watching you suffer.

Well, I love you mom but I’m going to end this letter. My cellie is an old dick and he’s telling me why I love Megan. He’s been down the same road. I love you, mom. Write back soon please please. TELL MEGAN I LOVE HER PLEASE PLEASE. THANK YOU.

Ask her if her flame for me still burns? If it takes awhile for her to answer please tell me. Then I know she has moved on. Thank you. Sorry it took so long to write back.

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In The Beginning I thought He was Safe in The Hole – Part 2

prison guard brutality
source credit:
a.w.i.p.com

PART TWO

by Sonni Quick

Still, in the beginning at least, I thought he was safe there. But he wasn’t, and the treatment this time in G5 is a lot worse than it was before. Either that or he just didn’t tell me everything so I wouldn’t worry. This is torture. This violent abuse. You get treated in ways no human being should ever treat another human being. When your captors get away with grinding your face into the floor, jamming you headfirst into a wall and split your head open, jump on you and beat you while your hands are cuffed behind your back, you know you have no place where it is safe. These are prison guard brutality is real yet there is no punishment. Why this kind of behavior is not only allowed, but also condoned, makes me very angry. It makes me feel helpless because I know there is nothing I can do to help him. Why is this allowed!?

Some of the guards exhibit worse, insanely criminal minds than many of the inmates, yet they are allowed to leave the building at the end of their shifts and go home. To their wives? To their girlfriends? Do they tell them the brutal things they did to other human beings while they work? Can they go home and say, “Hi, honey I’m home”, and then go outside and play with their kids? Or are their own heads so screwed up by the violence they perpetrate that they instead end up in a bar trying to drink their memories away? Because I know, from some of things I’ve read, only someone who is psychotic would enjoy the things they do to inmates, when the inmates can’t do anything about it.They say they are breaking prison rules. They will get ganged up on by five guys at a time, in armor, who’s sole purpose is to spray them with gas, rip them apart and make sure they are way beyond hurt. Prison politics have their own set of rules that have nothing to do with what is considered breaking the law in the land of the free.

Jamie has worked his way up the levels to reach certain benefits more than once. It never lasts for long. Jamie has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. He expects if someone makes him a promise to do something they should be accountable to that promise. When that doesn’t happen he gets angry and lets them they are wrong. The more he insists on trying to right that wrong the harder he gets punished. What does that teach him? How is he to learn to trust someone when they use the words, “I promise” yet that promise means nothing? He is constantly judged to be right or wrong so expects other people to behave accordingly, especially when the words, “I promise” are being used. Even through these situations he is expected to remain calm and not get angry? Because if he does get angry it is the excuse to make him feel  more pain and suffering.

Next up the ladder is level G4. On this level you get to leave your cell to go to chow and you get a little time in rec to watch TV. It isn’t much, but it is better than having your food put through a slot in the door. You don’t have to eat so many meals of biscuits and peanut butter, or two pancakes and peanut butter. When you can go to chow the food is at least a little better. Not by much, most of it still look like slop, but you can get a hot meal and there is more food.

I don’t think there is G3, at least not that I’ve heard of. When you make it to G2 you are allowed to make phone calls and you can have contact visits sitting at a table

prison jobs, prison janitor
photo source:
photgraphersdirect.com

instead of sitting behind glass talking on a phone. You can also get a job, perhaps in the laundry or as a janitor to clean the showers. Prison labor is very important to the profit margin of the corporations that own the prison. There is no pay in Texas, but at least you get out of your cell and do something productive, something physical that makes you tired enough to go to sleep at night. Jamie has only made it to G2 once in the years we’ve been writing, and that lasted only a few weeks. He could call me for twenty very short minutes. I was the only person to register my phone. Being able to make phone calls in prison is their lifeline.  Taking that away breaks their ties with their family and they may not get that back.  No one else. No family. I honestly don’t understand how family can just pretend you don’t exist, but it seems to happen frequently to inmates.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I think they will throw him a party when he gets out and then go back to their separate corners and let him figure out what to do next with no help from them.  There is no help now so why would that change later?

It doesn’t take much to get knocked back down to G5 again, A guard can file a case on you for anything they want, real or imagined. Another guard will always verify it is true. It snowballs from there. Inmates aren’t always allowed in the prison courtroom (UCC) when their fate is decided. The guard who filed the case doesn’t even have to be there. Another guard can stand in for him and swear it is true. Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. It doesn’t matter what the issue is.

When Jamie reached G2 he applied to take a course to study for his GED and also to learn a trade. He wasn’t at that level long enough for it to take place. He has been in prison for nearly ten years and he has never been at a level to complete one program that would show the parole board in October of 2016, they should let him out. Without that they will most likely turn him down because without even a GED, and with at least that he has no chance of getting any kind of job anywhere. I understand that, but if they don’t allow him take any classes doesn’t that seem pretty deliberate? He’s not a hardened criminal. He wasn’t a gang member. He had no other convictions on his record. He was guilty of being black more than anything – and not being able to afford a real attorney. Is he guiltless? No. Does he deserve what they have done to him? Again, no.

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Lockdown. Voice From Inside

lockdown,voice from inside

July 23, 2013 – nearly two years ago

I try my best to stay away from trouble. But I guess it’s my karma. I’m here in lockdown again and I don’t know why. All I know is my celly threatened me in front of an officer. They locked him up and came and got me the next day. My celly was trying to get away from another dude. He sold the dude his fan for 6 pictures of women and toothpaste!! However, he later tried to back out of the deal and the dude told him he was going to beat him up. So my celly did what we call ‘catch out’ cause he didn’t want to fight. But these people are now saying that I’m under investigation. I think my celly done lied on me about something. I don’t know what’s going on. The Security Threat Group Officer come and ask me if I was ok. However he said I have to be placed in tranzed (?) til I see UCC. ( Sonni’s note:UCC is the inprison court which is usually run by the warden. He hears so many claims about the same thing that not much attention is paid to what the inmate is saying most of the time.)

I seen my celly. He said the officer wrote him a case for a shank. He got G5 today. Could you call and see what’s going on please? I haven’t been given a case yet. There’s no telling what my celly done lied about. I tried to help him by talking to the dude but the dude didn’t want to hear it. So I left it alone and told my celly the dude didn’t want to hear it. So I left it alone and told my celly the dude said to sit the fan out. Like I said, it’s my karma for trouble. If you call just ask them, why am I being locked up? They won’t tell me nothing. Don’t say nothing bout my celly. Well, you know what? Just don’t say anything bout him getting G5. I’m not sure what’s gonna happen. I don’t think I’m in any trouble. Then again I’m looking at where I’m at. In lockdown. I think this time they’re trying to make sure I’m safe. I hope that’s what it is. Cause I ain’t did nothing. But if they try anything I’ll be going back to ad seg. I’d rather be by myself. Then I don’t have to worry about no inmates. Who am I kidding? Trouble is everywhere.

I don’t know why I’m worried. I’m fixing to get up and dance and sing! For awhile, and then chant. That’s what’s wrong with me. I worry too much. But you know what? I don’t forget anything! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Cause I would like to see just how good at dancing you are! ( drew a smiley face) I don’t know you just might win. Naw, I’m just playing. We’ll see one day.

Love Always, Son

(Sonni’s note: For those of you who are tuning in for the first time, I’m not his real mom, but I guess you could tell that by the pictures. If you’d like to continue reading and find out who Jamie is, which I hope you do, go to; My Name is Jamie, and then to Jamie’s Prison, and The Meaning of It All. This are pages at the top. It will give you his story. Then start at the beginning of the posts, the oldest ones, as there is a story that unfolds through the years. Follow me as I continue to write and reshare on your social media. I am sorting through older letters until I reach all the way back to 2006. I have a lot of letters to go through! They are sometimes funny, but mostly sad because he missed the birth of his only child, now 8 1/2. He’s never touched him or talked to him on the phone, but hopefully he will be able to do that real soon!

A Story About Extreme Prison Guard Brutality

May 15,2015

black hands omn cell door, prison guard brutality
sourd credit:
pittsburgurbanmedia.com

First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day. I received your letters. However, things have gone downhill for me.  I’m G5, but I did that so I can stay close to home. I didn’t want them to move me to west Texas.  I’m stressed out to tell you the truth. It’s all too much. I’m losing it in here. I got a letter from Megan  and she’s talking about our relationship as if we still had one. Believe it or not I still love her and care for her. Why? Because she’s my son’s mother. I love and care for you, too, because you are a very understanding woman. Also, you have been here for me at times when no one else has been. She has been better about writing back to me. One for one letters. I’ve gone a long time sometimes without any word from her about my son so I’m glad.

Now let me give you the scoop on me. I’m still in the same place. I might be moved around to different blocks, but not off the unit. If I do get moved I’ll write and let you know. I wouldn’t say that I’m doing too good because I’ve been through a lot the past week. I’ve been getting cases. I’m fine now but I wanted you to know this. 

I want you to write about what I’m going to tell you.  Put it on the blog.  This is about what the guards do to us they aren’t supposed to be allowed to do.  An officer wasn’t going to let me shower. I asked to speak to the other officer working the block.  I explained to her the situation and she told me I would get my shower.  The whole time I am talking to this officer, I’ve got my arm in the food slot to where she can’t close it.  However, she promised me I would get my shower. 

(Sonni’s note:  remember, this is summer in Texas in a building with no AC. It’s very uncomfortable and very sweaty.  A shower is the only relief they have.)

I asked her again and she said she doesn’t lie. I gave her the slot because she gave me her word.  Of course, she lied.  So at chow time, the ranking  officer  Lt Rodrigues was on the block feeding chow.  I call and call and call but she doesn’t answer me.  Even when chow was over I call her but she blows me off.  So when the female officer brings juice I take over the slot and tell her to call her ranking officer.  When she arrives she doesn’t want to talk or hear me out.  All she wants is the slot.  I know if I give it to her she’ll walk off.  So I try to explain.  She tells me she’s going to get a five man team spray me with gas and so on and so on.  It’s what they do.  They spray and send five dudes with helmets and body armor to run in and jump on us.  But get this, She comes with the team and asks for the slot.  I give it to her cause if I don’t she’s got the right to spray me.  So I give it to her.  She has the officers place me in handcuffs BEHIND MY BACK. They put me out of my cell and up against the wall.  They pack up ALL my stuff and take it.

This is why you haven’t gotten a letter from me. They aren’t supposed to do this.  When I gave her the slot she and her team were supposed to leave.  Instead, she violates policy by taking my stuff. I ask her why she’s taking my stuff and she just winks at me. So now I’m upset.  She tells the two dudes that’s holding me on the wall to put me back in the cell. While doing this I’m being pulled and yanked on. This is the second time.  The first was right when I got off the phone after I talked to my mom when she got home from the hospital. The officers do this so they can slam us on the floor while we’re handcuffed behind our backs.

prison guard brutality
source credit:
a.w.i.p.com

Anyway,The Lt sees them pulling and yanking on me and even though I am the one who is handcuffed she tells me to stop resisting.  Then she tells her officers to put me down. One grabbed me by my arm, one by my neck and my right leg. The other two jumped on me causing me to fall head first into the wall and busting my head open.  I felt the blood pouring down from my head.  My face was covered as well as the floor.  I was on the floor with all the officers on me. 

That was another violation. Nothing was supposed to happen without medical, because of things like this.  But medical wasn’t here.  Another violation.  But they don’t care.  So neither do I and I made sure they all heard the threat I made to each and every one of them – because they were in the wrong! Do you know these muthafuckas tried to put me back in the cell with my head busted open?  I wouldn’t let them put me back in so they called medical. At medical they cleaned the blood off me and sent me to my cell.

A little later my head starts bleeding again. I went back to medical. Now I got to see the doctor. Nothing was hurting at the time but now my head and back has been giving me problems. They left me with nothing in my cell. Nothing. I had to set fires and flood my cell just to get these people to talk to me. I told them I will burn this bitch down with me in it if I have to.

They turned my water off for two days. They couldn’t stop me from setting fires with help from other inmates.  I set fires for two days straight only because they ignored me when I tried to talk to them with respect.  I asked, “Is this what I got to do just to get ya’lls attention?”  “I called ya’ll with respect and you ignored me.”  Guess what?  The Lt came down and talked to me and said she was giving all my stuff back that she took.  Well not all, but most of it.  I told her, “If you want to play games then okay, I’ll make you look bad.” They have too many important people that come here from Huntsville.

I have been hurting though lately. Why does life have to be so difficult? I don’t know what the outcome to this will be. I’m sorry.
With love, Jamie

P.S.BTW They have me on what they call food loaf for 16 days. Look it up. It’s some nasty shit. It’s like molded cat food. It’s what I get for all three meals. They are only allowed to do it for 7 days. I’m on a hunger strike.

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A Little Prison Life History . . . Why it Matters

I recently found letters from Jamie going back to early 2009. There are older ones, but I haven’t unpacked them yet from when I moved to Pa almost 5 years ago. Jamie had been inside for 3 1/2 years by now, staring at the inside of a concrete cell, the days slowly ticking by, reading and rereading the same books and letters, waiting every day for a letter to come from someone. Anyone. I was still living in Key West at the time waiting for my liver to totally crap out on me, a ticking time. I still had my retail store catering to tourists coming off the cruise ships. Looking out the store door I could beautiful turquoise water, palm trees and beautiful sunsets. I rode a bicycle for transportation because why drive anywhere for just a few blocks? I loved my life there.

Jamie cummings before prison
Jamie, the day I met him

Thanksgiving, 2006 I met my daughter’s boyfriend, Jamie, while visiting Texas. he was a very nice, shy young man. There was no way of knowing that in just a few months the world would come crashing in for him and my daughter’s since she was pregnant by him at this time, although she didn’t tell me. When Jamie got busted she moved to the Keys and stayed with me until the baby was a year old and then moved back to Texas. One day the thought crossed my mind to write to him and ask him how he was.

I didn’t know anything about prisons or prison life. Like anyone else, my knowledge came from TV and the movies. I didn’t actually know anyone inside. I’ve learned a great deal since then. This put my life into a direction I didn’t know it was going to go in. It was because he had no one else and his family wasn’t answering his letters nor giving him any help in any way. Help didn’t mean that it had to be money, although I’ve helped him enough to get hygiene products, some books, stamps and magazines. The real help was being his friend. Taking the time to let him know that someone cared. The longer the time passed the less and less he heard from anyone and no would send him even a nickle. I became “Mom”. He became “Son” I have never regretted one moment of it. I can honestly say I haven’t gotten much of any encouragement from my own family. he had been written off as a lost cause, or the term, “Once a loser, always a loser” was used. But I don’t buy that. I gotten to know him well enough to know there is a good person in there who with the right encouragement can have a life of value. So I refuse to give up. I want what I write to go wide and go deep. I know there is a way to turn a negative into a positive if that is what you want.

Since 2006 his life has changed little. Mine changed rapidly, because outside prison life doesn’t stop. He hasn’t even been allowed to see daylight for three months. So far he has spent well over 4 years in lockup with only his letters and books to keep his sanity. Many people in solitary lose their sanity . And if you have read any other chapters excerpts at Inside The Forbidden Outside then you have read about the effects of solitary confinement.

If you are in gen pop ( general population) with the rest of the inmates, it’s a very unsafe place to be. There are many who have nothing to lose and they have a law they abide that belongs to them. There are short times he made it up the levels – Ad seg, which is solitary or G5, then G4 then G2. He made it once to G2 for a short tyouime and could make phone calls for the first time, but that didn’t last long. He wanted to study for his GED and maybe learn a trade, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before they would find a way to knock him down again, and they did. When the prison owns you, they own you. You can trust no one. The guards can often as bad as the criminals only they get away with. They have their own kind of prison politics and I can promise you there is no justice in prison. Their special kind of crime is legal in there and torture is common. No, prison is not a place you want to be in.

What happens when he comes up for parole again in Oct of 2016? What happens when they ask him what he has done to “better” himself? He could say, “Gee whiz? What exactly could I do when you keep me locked in a 5’x 8′ cell, allowing guards to file false cases against me that i can’t fight and I can never win?”

Am I naive to think that I can write a book and somehow it will make a difference? That it will allow him to rise above the rest and they will see he should be let out? They will see he is a real person who only wants to go home and be a dad to a boy that no one will take to take him to visit with him? He is his reason for living. Can I make enough money from the book that it will help him be able to have a life? There is a prejudice against x-felons. it’s a life that society won’t want him to have because he will be someone people will be afraid of. His son is the only good thing he has to look forward to in his life, and that boy is my grandson, one of seven grandchildren. So I keep writing and I keep my determination high that I can do something for him that will make a difference.

Through these years of writing, in almost every single letter, he is waiting, constantly waiting to get the letters answered he wrote to all the people who were supposed to love him. Always waiting. Surely they will write back soon. Maybe they were working too hard or just busy. So after hundreds of letters he and I have written – he’s still waiting – and giving excuses because he wants to believe he matters.

I decided to give a little background history because I know many new readers don’t know his story and may not go back to the beginning. I hope you do take the time to read and I hope you go to the menu at the top and read the pages there as well as the posts. There is also a page of piano music links that has all the music I have written that are scattered on these posts. Music that expresses the emotions I feel when I write his story. I hope you take the time to listen.

Thanks for reading my rant. Sometimes I just have to get it off my chest. Follow the blog and keep up with his story and share it with people you know. The more readers I get, the more possible books I will sell. Help me help him. Thanks.