Below are Jamie’s letters over the years on bad prison medical care. I wrote this a couple years ago taking excerpts from letters over at least six years. It is part of the first draft of the book I’m writing. It has taken me longer than I anticipating because of having to take care of so many other things that need writing – including my music. But when it is done it will all be worth it. When I read this today it reminded me how long Jamie has been dealing with bad medical care at the prisons. I sent him forms to sign to give me POA and I’m not surprised it didn’t reach him, although it is against the law to mess with mail – even in the prisons. So I resent the forms certified, return receipt. That way I can verify that the prison received it. They can’t open it unless it is in front of him. If they stop it from being mailed back then that is an issue I will take up with the warden. There are laws the prisons have to follow. They can’t make up their own. the problem is – people don’t know how to make them bide by the law.
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 put me on anti-depression meds because they say something is wrong with me. I don’t take it because nothing is wrong with me. I think they want to keep me doped up. I’ve gone on a few hunger strikes, off and on. The longest I’ve stayed on one 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 just have that ‘I don’t care’ feeling at times.
All of us 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, the only thing they feed us is peanut butter. I guess treating us like this is part of the punishment, But I don’t remember being allowed to starve us was part of the sentence. No one stops them. There is no oversight. The officers do what they want and get away with it.
On top of everything, an officer slammed my finger in the tray slot on the door – on purpose. It was a really deep cut. I made them take me to medical where they took a picture of it. I had to get an x-ray a few days later because it wouldn’t close. He told the sargent he did it. He said he didn’t mean to do it because he didn’t see my fingers. That was a lie. 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 who doesn’t like to be overruled by anyone.
The lieutenant told me to tell the officers to call him about moving me to another cell. lt 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 about that, too. They are trying to hurt me. I know they are. This cell 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. I’m writing up a grievance on this officer because I feel he is a threat to me. I also feel he will try to retaliate once he finds out what I’m doing. To go through this process will take 60-120 days. They make it long to discourage anyone from filing a complaint. It goes into the guard’s file and keeps them from getting promoted. Then the guard retaliates and makes life miserable. Even if the inmates feel threatened it keeps a lot of them from trying to do anything about it.
I’ve also been getting into it again with these people about my medications. They are trying to give me something and I don’t know what it is. Hell, they don’t even know what it is. Two different nurses are telling me it is two different medications. I’ve asked to speak to the doctor, but they won’t let me. The pills are the same dosage, but they are two different colors. Not only that, one has powder in the capsule and the other one is a hard pill. Something is not right about this. One of the nurses told me Huntsville uses us as lab rats to test medications from pharmaceutical companies. Since this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that, I stopped taking the ones that I’m not sure what they are. I’m not going to be a guinea pig.
Then they put me on a different anti-depressant. A lot of people in here are taking them. They’ve had me on so many different meds it’s crazy. I’ve been on about four or five different ones. Now they have me on Thorazine. I had to stop taking it. It makes me dizzy, lightheaded. I asked once if we could have a book on medications. The doctors are quick to put us on something and not tell us anything about it, except to say, “See if this helps. If not, put in a sick call.” They are in such a rush to get us out of their office. These meds they put me on? if it isn’t upsetting my stomach, it gives me terrible headaches. One had me where I couldn’t use the bathroom. I’m feeling bad all the time. I recently had a bad ear infection and all they would give me was a Tylenol. I laid on my bunk with my head and my ear hurting so bad, but they wouldn’t give me anything to help with the infection.
Sonni looked up one of the medications they gave me. I asked the nurse how to spell it. It’s a little brown pill. I had already stopped taking it. Some medications make you worse. The side effects make you sicker than you already are. That’s why I don’t take something they give me anymore if I don’t know what it is. If I feel they are giving me too much of my seizure meds I won’t take them. Too much will hurt me. I don’t trust them to know what they are doing. I go by how it makes me feel.
The people who work in the medical unit don’t know what the hell they are doing. I have such a bad pain in my tooth I can’t think straight. The first doctor I saw told me I had an infection when I told her about my pain. Then I saw another doctor, and he told me I not only didn’t have an infection, he told me there was nothing was wrong with me! I asked him if he thought I was lying about my pain because the pain had to be coming from somewhere. I also told him the other doctor told me I had an infection. I asked him if that lady was lying, and he said, ” I didn’t say that.” So I told him that somebody was lying, and I knew it wasn’t me. I could tell by his face he was mad. Who gives a shit? I’m in pain. He didn’t care about that. He just wanted to send me back to my cell. He’s here to waste time and get paid.
The pain kept getting worse. I had to wait two months before they decided it was okay to take me to a dentist to maybe have my wisdom tooth pulled. Since they knew it had to be done, making me wait for two months was their way of torturing me. They wanted me to be in pain. No matter how many times I told them they ignored me. Later I was told there is a nerve that goes around the ear. I wasn’t kidding about being in pain. The dentist who tried to tell me there was nothing wrong with me had to know that or he wasn’t a real dentist. That wouldn’t surprise me. I think they only hire medical people who agree to not help people. I wonder if they even have a license to practice. Maybe this dentist couldn’t get hired anywhere else because he was so bad.
The first week of this month I left on something called a medical chain. I needed to go to a unit in Huntsville that has a hospital. It took two days to get there, even though it is only a couple hours away. It takes that long because they pick up and drop off other inmates to different units along the way. Texas has over a hundred and ten prisons. Sometimes we ride on a bus they call a Blue Bird, and sometimes we ride in a van. I’ve ridden on both. This time the trip was in the van. It is so damned uncomfortable. They make the trip as hard on us as possible. We sit elbow to elbow in the van. On the bus we are cuffed to someone else. They pair everyone up. If we have to relieve ourselves there is a toilet, but if someone has to go, the other one has to go. So much for privacy if you have to do something other than pee.
When I finally got to the hospital, I had to wait. There was others in front of me. It took two more days of waiting until it was my turn. Now it’s been four days since we left and the pain was bad. The gave me Tylenol with codeine and it helped some, but not enough. I’ve had about all I can take. I wanted to lay down and cry.
Before I went in for the surgery they did x-rays. The photos showed up on the computer so I could see it. The one I was getting pulled was growing sideways and it was cutting my gums. It was the top left tooth in the back. When the dentist saw it he said, “Wow.” I asked what was wrong and he showed me the photo. You could see all my teeth perfectly. He showed me the bad one, and it was flat! The word he used was deformed. He asked if I wanted it removed. Of course I wanted it removed. It was killing me. I couldn’t keep it the way it was. They don’t allow dentists to put us to sleep, even though this was a lot more than just pulling a tooth. He was going to have to cut it out. He was only allowed to numb it. He was digging at it for two hours. When he finally got it out, the tooth had four roots! It came out in five different sized pieces. All that pulling, pushing and drilling was bad. I held on, but I almost passed out. One of the bottom teeth needed work, too. He had to do a little more cutting. I felt every minute of it. He had to stop. I was in so much pain and still am. It took four days to get back to the unit I’m in. The hospital gave me Tylenol with codeine during the surgery. Now that I’m back in my own unit, their best med is Tylenol which isn’t doing much for the pain.
I’ve been sleeping a lot to get away from the pain. It hurts like hell to chew or drink because my tongue is swollen. I’m supposed to be on a soft diet, but the doctors here won’t give it to me. The guards only bring me solid food, which sometimes I can eat and sometimes I can’t. I try not to give these fools what they want so I just deal with it the best I can. 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.
On a brighter note, I think of the beautiful the days outside. I imagine the sun, and taking a walk, and that really sounds good. In my mind I can meet mom on the hill. We both will walk until we ache too much. Its cold down this way, as well. A jacket would be nice.
The unit is on the second week of lockdown. This is the hardest one I’ve gone through. I’m hungry. They are supposed to feed us a hot meal every three days but they do what they want to anyone wearing prison whites. They feed us a peanut butter sandwich with only a half spoon of peanut butter. We are supposed to get a full spoon but on lockdown they only give us a half spoon. It saves them money.
The food they serve is nasty. They stretch it more by also adding some really horrible soup or applesauce that makes me gag. I have to eat it or I get nothing. I’ve heard it costs $40,000 a year to keep each inmate in prison. Where does the money go? It sure isn’t spent on food. Once in a while we get a meat sandwich or cornbread, and sometimes prunes or raisins. In the morning we get two biscuits with a half spoon of peanut butter or maybe two pancakes. That’s why I have lost so much weight. The food is worse when we are on lockdown.
It’s hard dealing with this. It’s 2013 but it could be any year. Nothing changes. Stress builds up inside me and it hurts. My head wants to explode into a million pieces. I had two more seizures, back to back, because of all the worrying. I have had so many seizures in here. Sometimes I feel like I’m being backed into a corner. Stress brings them on. The people who work in the medical unit don’t know what they are doing. Why are they working here, instead of a real doctor’s office? Maybe it’s the only job they could get. Everyone is always in a bad mood. There is never a comforting touch or even a smile.
I don’t think anyone in here would give a damn if the seizures killed me. If it happened to someone in their own family, they would be rushed to a hospital. But I don’t matter. I’m only a convict.
The scary thing is, I don’t usually have seizures close together. I saw the doctor and she took some blood and said my level of seizure medication was in the toxic range. Did the last doctor give me too much? She took my meds down to a lower dose. It didn’t help, so she put me on a different one. I’m on two different meds. I’m not having the seizures as often but it’s not unusual to still have one or two a week.
I had another seizure today. When I went to the medical unit I was told my sugar was low, 66. It’s supposed to be between 70-100. I know I need to see the doctor a lot. There is nothing I can do about that. It’s not my fault. It is the way it is. Some inmates rarely have to go to medical. It used to cost $3 to see the doctor or a nurse, but they changed all that. Now it costs $100 a year, whether you see a doctor one time or fifty times. When I get money they take half until it’s paid. Next year it starts all over. Someone who doesn’t have a chronic illness, if he need to see the doctor he probably won’t go. Sometimes they get sicker and it spreads to other inmates.
Some people think we get medical care for free, but that’s not true. This small amount of money might not seem like much to some people but to me its a lot. I also wouldn’t call this medical care. They won’t help so they don’t have to pay for anything. Even things they can treat they won’t, and it gets worse until people die. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer. People die because they are left untreated. They don’t care. The public doesn’t care. They think we deserve it. No one cares if we’re in pain. They just ignore us.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Piano Improv Music of Sonni Quick . . . New facebook page of the past and present
ReverbNation . . . Website of Indie music not on traditional radio stations. Sonni’s featured page.
SkunkRadioLive . . . Indie radio station out of London