The Smith Unit – Prison #1 – ITFO

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Inside The Forbidden Outside

The Smith Unit – Prison #1

Jamie could see the Smith Unit long before they reached it. After the bus drove through the small town of Lamesa he saw it sitting way back off the road on flat, treeless, desert land. Ugly and boring. The prison was a series of large, connected concrete structures sprawled out in different directions. He was definitely a long way from the piney woods of East Texas.
     Guards were in the towers at the corners, watching everything below. He could see big guns sticking out. Jamie wondered if they had ever used them to shoot someone trying to escape.
     High metal fences inside even higher metal fences were topped with multiple rolls of razor wire. No, he decided. He doubted anyone could escape if they tried. The only set of buildings in sight, this monstrosity, was now his new home so he better get used to it.
     Jamie could feel his stomach churning. He was scared and didn’t want to show it. Trying to calm his nerves, he took deep breaths and slowly blew them out. He had never been inside a prison, but he knew it would not be good it he appeared nervous or scared. The men inside would be looking for any weakness they could take advantage of. He was told not to look them in the eye or draw attention to himself. If he looked confrontational he might become a target before he had a chance to figure out what was up from down.
     He saw two huge buildings with two floors of tiny windows. That must be where the prisoner cells were. He could see fields in the distance with people dressed in white, working in the rows of whatever they were growing.
     Men on horseback with dogs walked next to the horses. Jamie frowned. Is this what his life was going to be now? It was hot as blazes outside. Maybe it was better than being kept inside, but he knew when he got overheated it could bring on a seizure. He didn’t think they’d care much about that.
     He had a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was a different world, inside a world that most people would never see, or even think of. He was now going to be part of a part of a society that would always be considered outcasts, even when they get out.
There were millions of people locked up in America; more than anywhere in the world.

It was a way of life for people like him, much more than whites, but it was still hard to believe there were so many, of either race who were locked up. They were being hid in plain sight if anyone bothered to look. They were able to provide jobs for people because someone had to look after them.
     This was his new address. He had traded his name for a number. Towns with prisons were only to happy to have it there. Of course, they were far enough away so no one had to look at it. They could pretend it wasn’t there, unless it was putting food on their table.
     Pains were taken to keep people from knowing what really went on inside, no matter how brutal it was. He didn’t really know himself yet how bad it could get. All he heard were stories. He learned a lot from talking to other dudes at the jail who had been locked up before. Would his time be any better?
     Why would anyone care about people who were locked up? They were criminals. They were bad people. It didn’t matter what kind of criminal. Murderer, drug addict or bad check writer, they were all treated the same. He was about to find that out for himself.
     Jamie told himself he didn’t care. He could make it, as long as he had Morgan and the kids, he didn’t need anything else. Just thinking about it made his heart hurt. All he knew, if he had been inside before, he wouldn’t do anything that would send him back here again.
     He was headed into this prison and there was nothing he could do about it. He no longer had any control over his life, or anything in it. He better get used to it because it would be a long time before he got it back.
     Do what you’re told, when you’d told to do it. Eat what you’re given you to eat, no matter how bad it is. Sleep when you’re told. Wake when you’re told, even if it is breakfast in the middle of the night. Shower when you’re told. Crap at the right time, before the toilets automatically flush. Wear the same prison uniform every day. There was no decision he could make on his own for the next seventeen years.
     Jamie knew he had to worry about other inmates as much as he needed to worth about what the guards could do to him. There were different laws inside, enforced with a different set of rules. His rights as a human being were taken way. There was supposed to be prisoner’s rights, that maybe looked good on paper, but enforcing them was another matter. This would be a hard transition.
     He wanted to scream at the driver, “Pull over. Let me off. This is a terrible mistake. I’m not supposed to be here,” but he didn’t. He kept his mouth shut. It would be a bad way to start day one.
     None of the dudes he started with on this ride were still on the bus. One by one they had been dropped at other prisons and new faces came onboard. Five men got off with him at Smith Unit.
     It was hot as hell when Jamie stepped down to the pavement. They were lined up in front of the bus. In spite of the heat, it felt good to stand and stretch his legs. Sitting so long made his knees swell.
     The heat coming through the bottom of his slip-on tennis shoes would probably fry up some bacon and eggs. When Jamie was hungry he tortured himself thinking about the different food he knew he couldn’t have, and wouldn’t have again for a very long time. He really was hungry, though.
     There were no clouds in the sky and the sun beating down was brutal. He wanted to shield his eyes but didn’t want to raise his hand to his face. It might look like an aggressive move. Three guards had walked up to the bus and two of them had a mean looking German Shepard at their side. He was not about to test them.
     The third guard stood in front of them and carried a clip board. The first name called out was “James Cummings?”
     “That’s me,” he answered back.
     “When I speak, you say, yes Sir.” The guard instructed.
     “Yes Sir,” Jamie repeated back.
     He called off the rest names and said, “Follow the yellow line into the building. Stop at the desk on the right for instructions.” The guard backed away and they filed into the building.
     The guard standing at the desk handed each of them a clean set of whites along with a worn, white towel wrapped around a tiny bar of soap. Jamie looked down at it. This was all he had. Everything else was gone. He didn’t know when, or if his property from the jail would be sent to him. He wasn’t counting on it. Others told him sometimes things had a way of getting lost when you were sent someplace.
     They were taken into a room and told to get naked for a strip search. No privacy, of course. If anyone was embarrassed, too bad.
     “Open your mouth,” he was told. “Stick your tongue out, then lift it up and down so I can see under your tongue and the roof of your mouth.”
     “Put your hands behind your head,” while they patted him down and checked behind his ears and arm pits.
     “Lift your balls,” was the next order, and Jamie listened. The guard then turned him around while he put on latex gloves to do a cavity search from behind. It wasn’t his first strip search. He knew there would be many more so he better get used to it.
     The men were then taken to the shower, which was good because he he knew how much he stunk from the bus trip. They were naked as they followed orders to walk down the hall. He felt eyes sizing him up as they walked toward the showers. They entered one big room with a shower nozzle every three feet.
     The mold on the floor and walls made him want to back out of the room before he touched anything. There were a few men already in there, standing under the water, going to town on themselves as if they were in a room by themselves. They didn’t seem to mind an audience.
     He had five minutes to wash. As filthy as he was, it was barely enough time. He would have enjoyed standing there for awhile letting the water pour over his body, but he was no longer allowed to decide how long his shower would be. They shut the water off whether you were done or not.
     When he tried to put on the clothes he was given, he realized they gave him a white shirt and pants that were way too small. Maybe it was done on purpose to see if he would complain. The pants had an elastic waist and drawstring but he could barely stretch the elastic enough to pull them up. He was going to split the seams for sure.
     He was led to the first tier of a cell block in medium security. The cells lined the interior wall. There was a walkway around the second tier with men standing outside their cells, leaning over the railing looking to see who the new guy was. Cat calls and rude comments were shouted down at him. He ignored them. He was put in a cell with another person sitting on the bottom bunk. They didn’t say anything to each other. There was plenty of time for that later.

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After a couple weeks he wondered if he was ever going to get his stuff from the jail. He didn’t know what they did with the clothes and shoes he had on when he was arrested. That stuff didn’t matter so much, but there was also papers he didn’t want to lose.
     Maybe Morgan had them. There was also her letters to him and his pictures. She sent him pictures of herself and the kids and little Jamie’s pictures this first year. She also sent him pictures of his family. Now he had nothing.
     So many times Jamie had laid the pictures out on his bunk and stared at each one, trying to memorize it. His mom and brother came to see him in the beginning and then they stopped. He didn’t understand why.      All he had were their pictures and now they were most likely gone. 
He missed them. He figured it was his fault his mom wouldn’t answer his letters. He gave her a hard time growing up. And the letters?          Morgan’s letters were his lifeline. He reread them so many times. It was like she was talking to him. He didn’t feel lonely when he read them. Now he did. Now he had nothing. A little more of him was chipped away every day.

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Jamie never knew who his dad was, at least not for sure. There was never a man who was active in his life. His mama didn’t talk to him about it. The other kids in the family each had fathers and he was jealous sometimes when they went off to spend the weekend with their other family and he had to stay home.
     He got one letter at the prison from a man who said he was his father. Just one and then he never heard from him again. If he was his father, how come this was the first time he was hearing about it? Did this man write to his mom but never ask about him? Or he did ask about him but his mom never told him. What was the truth?
He told Jamie he just got out of prison. For what? Was he in since he was born? How come his mama didn’t write to tell him now that she gave his address to this man?
     In this letter he asked Jamie to give him a chance to be a dad. He was twenty- five so it was a little late to be a dad. Still, Jamie told him it was okay and asked one thing from him; to give the love to his grandson that he never gave to him.
     Jamie never heard from him again. He gained and lost a father in one letter. That was fast. Was this man really his father? Did it matter at this point? He was over not having a dad. He knew the most important thing now was that his son knew he had a dad.
     His son would grow up knowing his father was in prison. He didn’t like it that and hurt real bad. Jamie knew he wouldn’t be there for all the growing up years. He wouldn’t be able to teach him anything. He couldn’t watch him play sports. He couldn’t help him with school or share holidays. So in a way he was absent just like whoever his own father was.
     Maybe his dad loved him but couldn’t find a way to tell him because he was ashamed to tell him. Not knowing was worse because he thought his dad didn’t love him. But since he will never know the truth, it was too late to wonder what it would be.
     Jamie did know one thing for sure. He loved his son. He wanted the best for him. He wanted him to grow up to be a good man. He had to trust that Morgan would raise him right and keep him safe. When he got out, Jamie would make it up to him as best he could.

 

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Waiting Months To See a Dentist – Medical Care in Prisom

This is a repost from Nov 2012. It is still relevant today because medical care in prison hadn’t improved. Now that I have a medical POA ( power of attorney) on file in Huntsville, ( each state has their own Burough of Prisons where inmates complete files are kept.) In Texas it is the TDCJ – Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Allowing someone to lay in their bunk with extreme teeth pain for months is abusive to the extreme. In 2012 I had no idea what I could about. I was intimidated by the prison system.

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( Jamie’s letter)

I’m waiting to have surgery on my wisdom tooth. It’s infected and it’s hurting really bad. It gives me headaches and everything. I’ve been waiting two months now. They keep pushing my appointment back. They don’t care. They want me to go off. I tell them about the pain every day.

These people don’t know what the hell they are doing.  They are just here.  The first doctor I seen told me about my infection as I told her about my pain.  Then I seen another doctor and he told me I didn’t have an infection. and that nothing was wrong with me.  I asked him if he thought I was lying about my pain, and I told him that another doctor said it was an infection.  I asked him if that lady was lying and he said, ” I didn’t say that.”  I told him that somebody was lying and I know it wasn’t me.  I could tell by his face he was mad.  Who gives a shit?  He don’t care about me. He’s here to waste time and get paid.

It got worse because I had to have my wisdom tooth pulled.  I was told after about the nerve that goes around the ear.  Fun huh? Remember I told you about having to wait to have my wisdom tooth pulled?  Well, on the first week of this month I left on what they the call medical chain,  to a unit in Huntsville that has a hospital on it.  It took two days to get to the unit.  It takes so long because they pick up and drop off to other units at the same time.  Oh, we sometimes ride on a bus the call a Blue Bird or a van.  I rode on both.  That van is so uncomfortable.  They really make it hard on us.  They have us elbow to elbow in the van.  On the bus if you’re not from Ad Seg you are cuffed to someone else.  Yes, they pair everyone up.  I’m sure you might be wondering about having to relieve ourselves.  There’s a toilet  so that means if someone has to go the other has to go too.  Crazy huh?  Sorry, I wondered off.

When I got to the hospital I had to wait because there was others in front of me.  So I had to wait two more days.  When I went in for the surgery they did x-rays.  The photos showed up on the computer.  The one I was going to get pulled was growing sideways and was cutting my gums.  The dentist saw the top back left one and was like wow.  I asked what was wrong and he showed me the photo.  You could see all my teeth perfect and he showed me and it was flat!  The word he used was, deformed.  So he asked if I wanted it removed.  I was going to ask him if he would anyway.  They don’t allow them to pout us to sleep.  they just numb it.  Mom, he was on it for two hours!  When he finally got it out the tooth had four roots!  It came out in five different pieces,  All that pulling and pushing and drilling.  I held on but I almost passed out.  Then bottom one hurt as well.  He had to do a little more cutting. I felt it too.  We had to stop.  Mom, I’m in so much pain.  It took me four days to get back because of the weekend.  The first five days the hospital was giving me Tylenol with codeine for pain before and during the surgery.  Now I’m back in my own unit and their best meds are Ibuprophen.  They think that  and water helps everything.

So I’ve been sleeping a lot to try and get away from the pain. ( Not helping ) This is the bad part here, mom.  It hurts to chew and drink  because my tongue is swollen.  However they have me eating solid food when I’m supposed to be on a soft diet but the doctors here won’t give it to me.  I’ll eat sometimes and sometimes I won’t.  I try not to give these people what they want so I just deal with it the best I can.  Just know that if the pain becomes too much I’m gonna try the right way first to get help.  If I don’t get help there is only one other way.

It’s been crazy in here the past few weeks. Well, it’s crazy every day but I try not to pay attention to it. I do my best to take my days one at a time. They got me on anti depression medication because they say something is wrong with me. I don’t take it ’cause nothing is wrong with me. I go on hunger strikes off and on. The longest I’ve stayed on is a week and a half. I just have those kinds of days. I don’t want to do this or that. It causes trouble sometimes. Oh well, I I just have that ‘I don’t care feeling’ at times.

Me and everyone else have been getting into it with the officers. We’ve been without hot water for over a month. We’re also back on lockdown for 30 days. Once again only peanut butter. I guess it’s part of the punishment that we, as humans, get treated in here.

Then, on top of everything, an officer slammed my finger in the tray slot – on purpose. That’s the thing they open when they give us our food. He cut it open. A really deep cut. I made them take me to medial where they took a picture of it. I had to get an x-ray a few days later because it wouldn’t close. The officer told the sargent he did it but that it was an accident. He said he didn’t mean to do it and he didn’t see my fingers. He lied. It wasn’t the first time he had tried to do that. I told him I wanted to talk to the lieutenant. This guy is the kind of dude that doesn’t like to be overruled by anyone. But the Lt. told me ask about moving me to another cell because also, the cell I’m in leaks water from the shower. One night I fell getting up to use the rest room. I hurt my ankle and had to go to Medical. They’re trying to hurt me. I know they are. The cell I’m also leaks bad when it rains and they know it because an officer told me the dude who was in here before got moved because of it.

They want me to fall their trap but I won’t. I’m writing up this officer who hurt me because I feel he is a threat to me. I also feel he will try to retaliate once he finds out I’m writing his a** up. To go through this whole process will take 60-120 days. They make it so long so you’ll give up. If you’ve tried to file a grievance before and couldn’t, you wouldn’t try again. The officer might try to get back at you to show They are in control. So They win either way

I’m gonna go for now. But not before I say Love You Always, Jamie

 

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Help support Jamie. Share his story. Subscribe to keep up on the progress of the book and to read news about the prison industry. I also print the stories of other inmates that need telling if you have a story to tell.

When you subscribe and share other people have the opportunity to learn about the book being written which will help Jamie start a life when he is released. He needs your support.

Sharing is a great way to do that. If you are new to this blog read his story on the blog beginning with the ones at the top. Early posts found inn the archived will also help you get tho know him. The story begins 19 years ago when the the kids in the family defended their mother from a racist cop who forced his way into their house. Jamie was put in juvenile detention. His story needed telling.

Sonni Quicks Piano Improv – YouTube channel of the music videos being created for “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” New videos released as they are made.

My personal music website  – sonniquick.net

Skunk Radio – Indie radio out of London. My personal page

Soundcloud – all of my music can be found here plus music I have personally liked from other musicians that can be played. You can also play my album “Stories without Words”

Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the worldS

Improv Piano music of Sonni Quick – at Facebook . . . music news and other musicians

Twitter – My Name is Jamie

Watch and Whirl – Sonni Quick.   This is my other blog. An odd assortment of rants and raves on a variety of subjects and music info, too.

 

From The Bottom Of My Heart

 

thank-you-so-much

Over the last two years I have met many wonderful people who have followed this blog and my other one Watch and Whirl

FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART  by Sonni Quick copyright 2016

My one regret is not being able to follow as many of these blogs as I would like to. I try to go to two or three a day. There are so many that have blogs with worthwhile things to say. If I only had my blogs to keep up with I would be able to spend more time reading and I often feel guilty because I can’t get back to blogs in a timely manner. I do a lot of writing to other inmates, too and work on the book is intense.

I have had wonderful support from people on this blog for Jamie. This is not a fun blog to read. How does one “like” a post that is about something that makes you angry. I try not to think of liking it because you actually like it, but because you appreciate the knowledge, and then share it with other people you think need to know. There are still so many people who don’t realize that prison is not what you see on TV. Shows are not going to tell you the truth about the inhumane treatment for the same reason it is hard to prosecute a cop when he abuses minorities. The media needs to keep up the premise that guards and cops are good guys. I think many guards and cops start out as good guys but get turned by the authority they have and no one stops them.

Thank you to those who have taken the time to read the first draft of chapters of the book I’m writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. What a project it has been. I have learned so much. I think I am about half way. I now need a story editor to help me get it in order so it makes sense. For those of you who have gotten to “know” Jamie, he needs all the help he can get. If I can make enough money to get him a parole attorney so hopefully he won’t have to do all of the remaining seven years it would be wonderful. Or if there could be money waiting to help him get on his feet, that would be great as well. There are also things he needs that I pay out of pocket for – his books and educational materials, his medical fee, a new fan because the prison he was moved from sent a broken one and summer is starting in Texas. The prisons get over 100 degrees for months at a time. Someone stole his radio, his dictionary set with also a grammar book and thesaurus and world almanac. The prison also kept 19 books, most of which I just bought for him along with other special books he had been saving. They also kept his hygiene products and stamps he had just bought at the commissary right before they moved him. Thank goodness they gave him his pictures and letters.

I have never asked anyone for help before, but there is no one I can go to. His family won’t help. I did ask them once but nothing came of it.  If there is anyone who can send him ten or twenty dollars, it would also help me. I live on a disability check and it only goes so far.  I buy him books or send money to use at the commissary.  I know everyone is getting hit up ten times a day from all kinds of political sites asking for money and many of them seem like worth causes.  But still, I needed to try.  You can send it through jpay.com. It goes right onto his account. His medical fee is almost paid off for the year so that is good.  Only $35 to go.  His name is James Cummings. His ID is 1368189. That is all you need. You will be able to send a note with the money like a tweet. You can leave your name and address if you want to hear back from him.

He didn’t ask me to do this. My asking you this was spontaneous as I began typing this note of thanks. You can also send him emails at this site for the cost of a stamp. When someone is locked up alone in a solitary cell with NO communication with anyone, these letters are a lifeline. It helps battle insanity because people are not meant to have this much loneliness.

But again, most of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sonni

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