Prologue for Inside The Forbidden Outside

 

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I’m doing some editing. I have found that as I learn about writing and later go back to things I’ve written. So many mistakes glare out at me. It might be grammar but it is usually sentence structure or I had written something totally unnecessary and twisted it in a way that didn’t fully explain what I was trying to say.

I was naïve in the beginning thinking I could write something and publish it when I was finished. After all, I was writing blog posts, right? Wrong. It would be like learning the lines and spaces on a music staff and thinking I would be able to write music. It has taken me a lifetime to learn what I know and I’m still a long way to what I think is my potential.

Even though I’m doing a second draft, I have gone back a number of times and re-edited something I thought needed shaking up.  When I’m done with this draft and someone professional looks at it, I’m sure there will be much more to do. I’ve read the beginnings of too many lousy, self-edited and self-published books that I’m sure the author thought was good enough, or perhaps they were too broke to pay someone. Maybe they had their best friend read it, and didn’t care enough not to throw the time it took to get this far down the drain, cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Many people have read bits and pieces of chapters I have posted but really don’t know how it all got started, so I decided to publish the prologue. Why now? Because I just edited it – again – and made a lot of changes that I hope will make parts of the book fall into place better.  If you want to comment and tell me what you think I’d like that.  I need feedback from people who read what I write. If something doesn’t read right – tell me. When you are done, subscribe to the newsletter so I can keep you up to date and let you know when it is – FINALLY – published.

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PROLOGUE

Dear mom how are you?

Fine I hope as for me I’m okay. Anyway, the reason I’m writing this letter is to let you know how sorry I am about the phone calls and the hours I was calling. Once again I’m sorry it’s just being in here is hurting me do to the fact that I don’t know if I’m going to be there for my family. I love Morgan with all my heart and being here while she is in pain is putting me through pain also. I love her not only because are having a child together but because she is a loving, caring and bright young woman. I love her with all my heart. I would do anything for her even if that meant giving up my life. I love her so much mom. I sit in hear and think about her all day every day and that is why I called so much. Worrying myself about how she’s doing wondering if she’s okay. It hurts me to go so many days without hearing her beautiful voice. If you could please tell your husband that I’m really sorry about the phone calls too. I’m really sorry for being disrespectful to the both of you I just worry about her every day. Well I have to go now but before I do I want to say I sorry again. Love you Mom

P.S. Thanks for the positive advise
Love Always, Jamie

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The year was 2006. My life was busy. I had a store near Mallory Square in Key West where the cruiseships docked and I loved my life. I lived where people go for vacation, but I didn’t have to leave. I could stay. I was happy.
Sometimes events happen in life that create a turning point we can look back on. I call them ‘Sharp turns to the left’. In the midst of my happy life, a monkey wrench crashed through it on the night I received a phone call from my daughter Morgan, who had recently told me was pregnant. Oh my, my life was about to get hit with a one-two punch, but it wouldn’t be the first time. After she explained what her problem was, I brought her and the children, ages six and eight, to Key West from Texas on a Greyhound bus.
They arrived at my home and moved into a small dollhouse sized apartment I had in the back. There was a loft, which gave her a place for the children to sleep. The problem? Her boyfriend, Jamie, had been arrested and was sitting in a county jail unsure of what was going to happen to his life. The only sure thing, he wouldn’t be around for the birth of his child. He didn’t have an attorney and would be provided a public defender. I didn’t know then that having a public defender who works for the system was usually like having no attorney at all. It didn’t look good for him.
Even though it was a difficult time, I enjoyed having my daughter near me. The bonus was being able to spend time with my grandchildren. We had lived too far away from each other when they were younger, so even though the circumstances weren’t ideal, there were still things to be happy about.
It was the only option, them to the Keys. I had helped her through the first two pregnancies as well. In addition to the emotional stress caused by what was happening to them, we had to find her a baby doctor. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to find an OB-GYN on an island that was only a little larger than one mile by three miles in diameter. We called every doctor in town and was turned down by all of them.
Morgan was in the latter part of her second trimester and no doctor would take on the responsibility of a patient this late in her pregnancy, because she had problems with her second pregnancy. Neither of us realized getting her a new doctor was going to be so difficult.
We had to start looking on the mainland, in Miami. With only one more number left to call, finally a doctor said yes. It was such a relief. We were starting to get desperate. I didn’t know what we would do if we couldn’t find one. When the doctor’s office said they would take her on I could finally relax. Morgan and I looked at each other and let out a long slow breath. We did it. Hurdle number one.
I knew it was going to be a grueling eight hour round trip drive, which made each trip a hard day for Morgan. It became even more difficult as the pregnancy progressed. As she grew bigger she felt every bump on the one hundred and five mile, two-lane road that connected the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom at Key West. I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made, as I tried to learn and remember the rough patches.
The closer she got to her delivery date the more often we had to make that drive. The days were long but she had a date they were going to induce labor to make sure she would have her doctor delivery the baby, which was born at 4 AM. It was worth it. I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. No joke. He was flawless. Even the nurses gathered around and stared at him. Not one baby wrinkle.
Jamie had a son. He was given his father’s name. He wouldn’t know yet that he would not be able to hold this child for a very long time. He would only see him through glass the few times he was brought in to visit. Having your child be so close yet never be able to touch him became a numbing grief that would be hard to bear. He couldn’t find a place in his brain to put it and it weighed him down constantly.
It was during one of the trips to Miami, before Jamie, Jr. was born, that the letter from Jamie arrived, addressed to me. It was waiting for me when we got back home. That was odd, I thought. Why would he write to me? I had briefly talked to him on the phone a few times and asked him how he was coping, but I never wanted to use up his minutes and would quickly get Morgan. Those fifteen minutes were precious to both of them and they went by fast.
I felt bad because their life fell apart so fast. For Morgan to have another baby, thinking the father would be there to help, and now you had another child to raise alone, was a hard life to face. But Morgan was a strong woman and a good mother. I knew she’d find a way to make it work. She had no choice.
I wasn’t sure exactly what happened to Jamie that night. Kids, no matter what their age, never told the whole truth to their parents when they thought the truth was too hard to explain without getting in trouble. How did I know this? I did the same thing. Morgan was her mother’s daughter. Her life had been one drama event after the other since she was twelve. She was a difficult teenager and those events happened a lot more often than I could deal with. She kept trying to grow up too fast, but the word consequence wasn’t a word she remembered until it was too late.
Jamie seemed to be good for Morgan. At 6’1”, a bit chubby, with a pleasant face and good manners, I liked him. He was nice. I met him the previous Thanksgiving when I went to Texas to visit Morgan and the kids who were living with my x-husband’s family. It didn’t matter to me that Jamie he was black. They seemed happy and that was the important thing.
He was arrested a couple months after we met. For a long time I had no idea what really happened that night. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people? Was he guilty? I didn’t know. Was he a bad person? Not by what I saw. I know good people can make bad decisions. I made plenty myself at that age that would come back to haunt me for the rest of my life. You’ll find out about that later. How much of his life would be taken away to teach him a lesson, and ‘pay his debt to society’? Are there any other ulterior motives going on that would affect how much time he’d be given?
The law of cause and effect is very strict and there is a reason why things happen to us. I had no idea back then what all this was going to mean to my life. We have no other way to deal with things except in the order they appear, and what we do then will bring more effects to deal with. Life is a constant learning process whether we wanted to learn anything or not.
The day after the arrest Morgan went to the police station to drop off his seizure medication for epilepsy. They wouldn’t let her see him. No one can have visitors until they have been processed and that can take weeks before they are allowed a visit.
After she handed over the medication they rushed her out of the building. She tried to press them for details, but they wouldn’t tell her anything. As she left the building and began to walk down the sidewalk, she stopped, turned around, and looked back at the jail. She glanced up, her eyes looking at the second floor. She could see him staring though the window at her. They didn’t signal each so no one would see and move him away from the window. They stood like that, looking at each other.
Jamie finally put his hand up on the grate that covered the window as if he wanted to reach through it to hold on to her one last time. He didn’t care if someone was watching. He looked so sad. At this point, Morgan still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew she had to make a decision for herself very soon. She had a baby growing inside her and that was her priority.
Morgan knew she quickly had to figure out a plan. She couldn’t go through this alone. She didn’t even have a car now. Jamie was driving it the night before. After the arrest it was impounded. She didn’t have the money to get it out and knew every day it stayed at the impound lot the fine would get higher and higher. She needed to call her mom who was going to be upset. A lecture would probably come with it, but she also knew her mom would never let anything bad happen to her if she could help. She could trust that thought.

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After Morgan arrived I knew they needed to talk, but I had no idea what it cost to accept a collect call from a jail. It was shocking when I got my first phone bill – twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. What a racket. This is why he wrote that letter to me. I had to tell him he could only call a certain amount of times each week. He felt bad thinking I was mad at him. I assured him I wasn’t. I didn’t want to end up with a phone bill that would be hundreds of dollars. He was unaware of the cost, I’m sure. He just wanted me to know he was sorry.
The only thing I knew about prisons was what I learned in movies and TV shows. I have learned since that most of that was only the propaganda the government wanted you to believe. The truth wasn’t very important. I would end up learning more than I wanted to know, but still I kept digging to learn the truth. Once I knew about it, I couldn’t forget it. Once it got completely embedded in my mind I knew I needed to help people understand.
It didn’t happen right away. Morgan let me know occasionally how he was doing. She lived with me until the baby was a year old and then took the children back to Texas. It was heartbreaking to help them load their belongings into her car and watch them drive off. My life settled back into the old routine and life went on. I still had three years before my world fell apart and I had to leave Key West and go north. Another sharp turn was brewing. Jamie became a part of my life in a way I never would have thought.
But this story is not about what happened to me, even though my life got wrapped up in it. My life affected his. This is Jamie’s story, a sad story about entering the system, juvenile detention, for the first time at the young age of seventeen for something he didn’t do and having few chances to live a life as an adult on the outside.
He was growing into a man in his thirties, separated from everything he loved, and never having the necessary life experiences to learn from. That is how inmates get institutionalized. The routine of prison life becomes the norm. Functioning in society is sometimes too difficult and it becomes a form of PTSD, like when soldiers come back from a war zone.
As the years passed he feared I would I would stop writing, but I would never do that. He became my best friend and I could tell him anything that was going on in my life, but If I waited too long to answer a letter the fear would come back. He would be afraid again that I had gone away and was angry at him. Why shouldn’t he feel that way? Was else was answering his letters? Where was his lifeline, his support?
I knew there was a reason why this was happening in my life because things don’t happen by dropping on your head for no reason. I didn’t know then what was going to happen or the part he would play in my life.
Morgan would end up moving on with her life, even getting married again and having another boy a couple years later. Jamie couldn’t move on. The making of new memories had come to a dead stop. All he had were old memories and many of those were too painful to think about. In prison, growth and wisdom gained by life experiences stays exactly where it was the day you entered the system.
His life stopped. The world outside moved on. Depression set in. It became rare to get an answer to a letter. How was he to buy hygiene products or paper and stamps?
It didn’t matter to me what he did or if he was guilty, or even how guilty he was. The sum of anyone’s life isn’t determined by a stupid decision. Whatever it was, it was done.   People make mistakes. No one was hurt. I re-entered the picture about a year and a half after he went in. I asked Morgan for his address. I wanted to send him a card to let him know Ii was thinking of him. To me he was family because he was my grandson’s father. Our letter exchanges began.

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To begin the story, settle in. Relax. We have a good bit of time to cover. Hopefully you will see things a little different by the time we are done. Make a nice, hot cup of tea. Listen to some of the music I provided. You are entering the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that hopefully you will never get a real chance to see.

 

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When I Lay Sleeping – ITFO Chapter and Music

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Listen to When I Lay Sleeping by Sonni Quick #np on #SoundCloud
https://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick/when-i-lay-sleeping

 

When I Lay Sleeping

 

Christmas came and went as though it had never happened. Jamie watched as other dudes were taken to see their families and then listened to them talk about how happy they were to see their children. It was good to see someone happy. A few passed pictures around from cell to cell, proof of the family they knew was waiting for them on the outside. Their families loved them. He was getting used to it. He didn’t expect family to visit. It was too far away for anyone in his family to travel.
     Fortunately, the kitchen fed them pretty good this year. Enough to feel full. That didn’t happen very often. Throw the prisoners a bone once in awhile. Keep them happy with a little extra real food instead of slop.
     Getting mail would’ve helped. He received only one card from his brother and he smiled when he saw it. He usually sent one at the holidays. He didn’t get one from anyone else, not even Sonni and it had been three weeks. That wasn’t like her. He was worried. He felt something was wrong. It was already January fifth. He was glued to his cell door, standing in it all day waiting for mail delivery. Every time it passed him by his spirits sank a little lower.
     He was tired, mentally not physically. He felt like he was turning a corner and it wasn’t going to a good place. Once he turns it he wasn’t coming back. He felt like he was left out to dry on his own. It was hard to keep his head up. The feeling of loneliness was overwhelming.
     Was it so hard to send him a Christmas card? Then New Years passed and now his birthday was coming up in five days. Yes, he thought to himself, this was the hardest time of year to get through. All it showed him is how the ones who say they care, really don’t, or they’d find the time to tell him.
     Jamie went to his locker to get a sheet paper to write to his brother, then sat down on the edge of his bed. He had to try to get him to understand, if he has nobody outside these walls he’s like the walking dead.
     Picking up his pen to write he sat there instead with the pen in the air, staring at the wall. He couldn’t bring himself to start writing. Most of the time he crumpled up his letters and threw them away, anyway. He’d get his feelings out and then toss the letters. They wouldn’t understand. Besides, they had their own lives to worry about. They knew they weren’t helping him get through this. He didn’t have to tell them. They left him to think whatever he wanted.
     Jamie wrapped his arms over the top of his head and clasped his hands together pretending he was being given comfort. He breathed warm air into the crook of his elbow pretending it was someone else’s arm holding him.
     When he laid down he thought to himself he was heading on his way out soon. Maybe he’ll go to sleep and not wake up. He knee that this type of thinking is his depression talking to him but he couldn’t shake it off.
Sometimes it snuck up on him. Then he has one down day after another. It’s hard to pull out of it. He knows he can’t take much more of this. He often found himself spacing out, staring at nothing. Then one of the other dudes would turn on his radio and he would find himself listening to it. Most of the music was in Spanish but that didn’t matter.            On his pod there were two blacks and twelve Hispanics so he just had to deal with music from Spanish speaking radio stations. It was cool. He didn’t know what they were saying but music is music and he needed it to help him think straight about other things.
     Trying to find ways to keep his spirits up was hard so he had to use any way he could to get through another day. He needed to find a way to smile and be happy. He could only do that by crawling into his head to find memories or else make up something about what he wanted his future to be.

Morgan was still in his head a lot. She had a way of hiding in the shadows. He wondered if she had forgotten about him? Maybe she didn’t want to write and waste time anymore? That seemed pretty clear. Their son will be six this year and he has only seen him six times since he was born. A son he knows but doesn’t know. It hurt so much because in the future it will be his father he hates for not being there when he needed him. That is something Jamie wouldn’t be able to stand.
     He remembered telling himself he would never be like his daddy. Shit, he didn’t even know who that was for sure. At least his own son won’t have to worry about who his daddy is. He was sure he’d want to know about him, wouldn’t he?
     Jamie knew he was beating around the bush, always saying he was going to put his pen down and give up writing letters but he couldn’t do that as long as Sonni was writing to him. She was like a mom to him and cared about him like he was her family. He couldn’t let her down. He had to keep trying.
     Still he felt like he had been thrown to the dogs and there was no way to recover because he believed
the statement, “Just because we don’t write to you doesn’t mean we don’t love you.”
     He thought he had a right to feel sorry for himself at least once in awhile. No one wanted to write to him or help him get things the prison doesn’t provide. They didn’t understand writing is the only way he could communicate with anyone. What other way was there? Phone? But no one registered their phone.
     How was that supposed to make him feel? He was in this cell because he made a mistake. But he needed to know people still cared. He couldn’t be the only person in his family to make a mistake. He felt like his whole life was a mistake from the start.
     He never thought Morgan would stay with him a long as she did. His heart was real tender and caring, and he cared for a lot of people who have stepped on him. He’s never been one to hold nothing against nobody and more than likely never would. That’s why he kept trying.
     He really needed to lay down now and try to go to sleep. He started thinking about Sonni. He knew she was sick, but he hadn’t heard from her, and she hadn’t popped in here to see him in three weeks. He was hoping she would feel better soon. He was sorry she was going through so much and he couldn’t help her. She would be blessed soon and then she wouldn’t have to worry about pain.

As he closed his eyes he had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. It felt like butterflies and it made him dizzy even though he was laying down.

Jamie immediately started dreaming. It felt strange because he knew he was dreaming. He found himself walking down a hospital corridor but he didn’t know where he was or how he got there. Nothing looked familiar.
     There were no windows to see if it was dark outside, but it was so quiet he thought maybe it was the middle of the night. There was no hustle of nurses or other staff going in and out of the rooms and there was no one to ask him who he was looking for. There was no beeping from machines or lights flashing on and off outside the doors so nurses would know someone needed help. It was so quiet and it felt strange.
     Looking down at himself he saw he was still wearing his prison whites. Did he look like an inmate in case anyone saw him? He thought maybe he could pass for an orderly.
     He knew what room to turn into but he didn’t know how he knew that. He opened the door and quietly closed it behind him and walked over to the bed to see Sonni, sleeping. Should he wake her?
     At that moment he heard the door open again behind him and a light came on. He jumped and his heart started racing. He quickly turned around and saw a nurse walking toward the bed, pushing a machine in front of her with her right hand that held a blood pressure cuff and other instruments needed to take vitals. She had a clipboard in her left hand. What would she say? Should he not be here? What if she called a security guard?
     She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even acknowledge he was in the room and instead walked over to the bed and gently woke her by touching her arm. He heard a soft sigh as she woke up.
     “How are you feeling?” the nurse asked quietly. “Are you in any pain?”
     “Uh uh, no. I’m okay,” he barely heard her reply.
The nurse took her blood pressure and temperature and then turned her back to him to fill a small cup with water from the sink near the bed.
     “I have a pain pill for you,” she said when she turned toward the sink. In that tiny second Sonni looked at Jamie and winked. It was the first indication she knew he was there. Did she know what was going on? He sure didn’t. Jamie also realized the nurse couldn’t see him. That’s why she didn’t say anything when she came in.
     The air still felt weird. It had a thick feeling almost like moving through cotton candy and there were no extra noises like from the fan near the window or. . . anything. It was like they were in a vacuum. The light that was on near the bathroom glowed a little as if there were extra colors in it. Hazy almost.
      Were they both in a dream or was he in her dream and she really was in a hospital bed? Maybe she was in his dream? It was confusing. He already thought it was strange that she came to visit him at the prison. Now this? What was going to happen next?
     The nurse handed Sonni a couple pills in a little cup and watched her swallow them. As she pulled the machine back toward the door she turned and asked, “Do you want me to turn out the light?”
      “Yes, but leave on the little one near the bathroom door, please.” The nurse nodded and soon after she quietly closed the door behind her. They both laughed a little at the weirdness of what just happened. 
     “This is strange,” Jamie said. “Where are we?”
     “You’re in control of this one, Jamie,” she answered all smiling. “You came to see me.”
     “I did?” he asked with an incredulous look on his face?       “How?”

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This is the end of a partial chapter  When you subscribe to ITFO News to can send me an email at squick@mynameisjamie.net and ask me to email you the rest of the chapter or any other partial chapters I have posted. Please share and help me build a mailing list for when the book is done. I don’t hound your inbox. Most news letters are at least a month apart. Also let me know what you think about the story. Your input is needed. This is creative non fiction. His story and what happens is real, but I do get a little (a lot) creative when pulling the pieces together.

 

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Life is a Merry-go-Round

This is my newest piano piece – You’ll find it later on one of the chapters to my book. One by one the chapters are rewritten, music is recorded and videos are made.

Read some of the chapters. They are easy to find. They have a picture of the book cover at the top. “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” 

Leave feedback! I want to know what you think. Subscribe to my newsletter and most of all – share, as I build a following. This is to help Jamie when he is released from prison, which is getting closer and closer. Only a little over 4 years to go! Also, go to sonniquick.net to hear all of the music and videos done so far.

This is the most important projects of my life. Years of learning to play the piano, performing and writing. But most of all it is for someone else – to help his life. To be there for someone that most everyone has forgotten.

How we treat people shows us what kind of person wee are. The golden rule, no matter what your philosophy or religion is: treat people the way you want to be treated. If everyone kept that in mind, the crisis America – and the world – is going through would make or lives better. That is all I’m trying to do. 

For those who follow me – or find me by accident – thank you very much. Come to my other social media and say hi.

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Seize The Day – ITFO Chapter

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SEIZE THE DAY

As Jamie slowly gained consciousness he realized his face was smack against the cement floor and his mouth hurt. Keeping his eyes closed he took an internal counting of his body parts. Anything else broken or bleeding? What the . . 

d      Waking up on the floor was not a good sign.

      He couldn’t move. It took too much effort to try. His body felt as though huge bricks were holding him down. Every muscle felt like it had been run over by a truck, more than once. He’d been through this before – too many times. He knew he’d had a seizure.
     A voice behind him said, “Should we take him to medical?”
     Jamie wanted to shout, “Of course you need to take me to medical,” but his mouth betrayed him and refused to form the words he could hear in his head.
     His blood needed to be checked. Was the right level of seizure medication going through his veins?
     Probably not. He had skipped too many days. What bullshit story would the doctor tell him this time? He usually ended up telling him to file a case if he felt he wasn’t being treated right, but he knows how that goes. It will get lost somehow and won’t get filed. They’ll lie. He wouldn’t know if it was filed or trashed.
     It was this kind of stuff that discouraged anyone from even trying to make them do their job because nothing ever came of it. Free medical care in prison? Not if they can help it. People in the free world didn’t have a clue how they are badly they were treated in here.
     The nurse had a bad habit of skipping over him when it was time to hand out meds. That happened more times than he could count. The medical staff conveniently turned into deaf and dumb mutes when he asked where his meds were. They wanted him to have a seizure, or at the very least didn’t care if he did.
     How do people get like that and turn a blind eye knowing they are hurting someone? He knows he’s not the only one. Surely they didn’t go into the medical field with the intention of hurting people. What happened to them?
     These thoughts went through his head at lightening speed. They were no different from all the other times he questioned if the prison staff was indifferent to whether or not they ended up killing him. After all, how many seizures can a brain handle before it gets fried?
     Jamie ran his tongue over his teeth and found one tooth broken off. It was sharp. The taste of blood was in his mouth so he must have banged his mouth on something when he fell off his bunk. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last.

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When he’s seizing, he is never conscious of what is happening to him. He learned to roll with it a long time ago because fighting it was useless.
     Seeing someone have a seizure often freaked people out. They didn’t know what to do so they usually stood there and gawked at him with their mouths open. Afterward he usually needed to sleep for a few hours because it knocked him sideways. It often took hours to recuperate.
     Deliberately keeping his seizure meds from him, which didn’t stop them completely, but at least slowed them down, was cruel. How many other inmates suffered because the medical unit jacked with their meds? Probably a lot. It saved the prison a ton of money. He couldn’t see any other reason why they would do it. He didn’t matter to them. He was just a criminal in their eyes, and someone’s back to make money off. They thought he deserved it. He was just a loser in their eyes.
     Watching someone have a seizure would be freaky if you had never seen one. You wouldn’t know what to do. When you see it happening to someone your whole life, like his family did, you don’t feel any sympathy. It’s a fact of life. No big deal. “Jamie’s having a seizure,” someone would call out, then continue doing what they were doing.
     When he was a little kid and felt one coming on he got scared. He’d run down the hall and hide in the closet thinking it wouldn’t find him. Feeling a seizure coming on was like a boogie man chasing him. He hated it.
     Since he was born having a seizure, there was no time in his life when the next one wasn’t there, just waiting to jump him, never knowing when it was going to happen or how bad it was going to be.
     One time, he remembered, he tried to jump up and hold on to his mama, but she didn’t know why so she brushed him off and he fell to the floor.
     Another time he fell down the stairs, onto a glass coffee table and smashed it with his face. He still had the scars to prove it. He hated having seizures. Why him? No one could understand what it was like. What did he do to deserve it? Why did all this bad stuff happen to him? He thought he was a good person yet it kept happening. It was time for something good to happen.

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His mouth was still bleeding a little from where the broken tooth dug into the inside of his cheek. But there was no sharp tooth pain so he didn’t think it hit the nerve. They weren’t going to get him down to medical, anyway.
     “If we take him down to medical do YOU want to do the paperwork?” the other guard asked, “because I sure don’t. It can wait.”
     “Our shift is almost over,” he added. “Leave it for the next guys.” Jamie realized then there were at least two guards in his cell. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, letting then think he was still passed out.
     “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” the other one said as he shrugged his shoulders. “There’s no reason why someone else couldn’t do the paperwork.
     “No one would know exactly when this went down,” the other one reasoned. “This inmate isn’t going anywhere to talk to anyone.”
     Jamie was fairly conscious by now, but he couldn’t move. He was being restricted, realizing his wrists were cuffed behind his back and his ankles were shackled.
     “What the fuck,” he started muttering as he tried to
sit up. He felt bad and his head was pounding.
     “Watch yer mouth,” the voice behind him said with a threat in his voice.
     “Are ya gonna be still now, or are ya gonna keep kicking,” one guard said, not really wanting to get in the middle of anything that would need explaining.
     Didn’t these dumb asses know he had a seisure, Jamie thought? He wasn’t just kicking because he felt like it. He knew he must’ve been out cold on the floor for awhile, long enough for them to chain him up. Maybe his legs were still twitching so they cuffed him. That happened sometimes with a seizure. But if he had had another seizure cuffed like he was now he could have broken some bones. Then they would have had some explaining to do.
     “My head is killing me,” Jamie said. “I need some water, and I need to go to medical,” he emphasized. When he got no response he spoke a little louder. “I didn’t do anything to deserve these cuffs.”
     He took a couple deep breaths and calmed himself down, “Please, take them off.” They obviously didn’t know what they were doing.
     “Now you’re talkin’ with a little respect,” one of them said and unlocked his wrists and ankles. Without another word both of them left the cell and the door locked behind them. They were going to leave him there without helping him? He wasn’t surprised. Closing his eyes, still laying on the floor, he rested.

Jamie sat up after awhile and rotated his head, stretching his neck muscles to ease the tension. He sat like that for a few minutes before pulling himself together and getting off the floor.
     Damn, he had wet himself. Sometimes he lost control of his bladder when he had a seizure. The guards didn’t notice it and he was glad for that. They would have laughed and make fun of him later – to his face – and would probable tell everyone on this block. So what? He took enough teasing from kids all his life. If the guards were THAT bored it was their damn problem. Dumb ass guards.
     There was nothing clean to change into. He’d have to pull it together, wash his pants and hang them to dry.
     “Now what?” Jamie said to thin air, with his hands raised. He wasn’t expecting any answer to miraculously come to him. What was there to believe in, anyway?      Counting on something up in the universe to see his problem and care about fixing it for him didn’t leave him feeling optimistic. How can you have faith in something you don’t even know is there? If there was something up there who cared about him like the h uBible said, he wouldn’t have let all this shit happen to him. He didn’t see any of his prayers being answered.
     Sonni told him more than once everything happened for a reason. Well, what was the reason then? He couldn’t figure it out. How does he change it? How do things happen for a better reason. Life was slapping him around and he couldn’t control it. There has to be a better way than to just wait for the next bad thing to happen.

Sleep was what he wanted. Then he wouldn’t have to think. Getting up and washing his pants wasn’t something he wanted to do. He had no choice if he didn’t want to stink. What he really wanted was to be anywhere other than where he was.
     Jamie had no idea how long he’d be here before anyone else came. After the shift changed he’d put in a sick call, but he’s wasn’t sure of the time. When did he eat last? Did he miss a meal? He didn’t care about that. He wasn’t hungry, but if he put in a call for medical he didn’t want these same guards coming back.
     Sleep was what he really needed. That wasn’t going to happen until he washed out his clothes, even if it meant later putting them back on wet. He pulled himself up onto his knees and pushed down the waistband of his white pants.
     Jamie rested on the edge of his bunk for a few minutes before taking them the rest of the way off. Standing at his small sink he began washing and rinsing his pants. He did have clean boxers in his locker so at least he wouldn’t be sitting there naked.
     Being inside this box gave him a jaded view of humanity. He saw the worst side of people, how jaded they become when they are allowed to abuse others with no consequences. If he learned nothing else from this experience but this, he knew what kind of person He didn’t want to be.
     Men built this system enslaving their fellow Americans for profit. It was a hideous side of human nature. They made everyone think prison is only a bad place with bad people. Yes, there were bad people in here, that’s the truth, and there were also many who shouldn’t be here or their sentence far outweighed whatever they did.
     Most people have a distorted view of what prison is like by watching TV and movies, but the reality of prison is by far much worse than anything that is shown to the public. If everyone knew the truth maybe someone would be able to change things. The real question is, would people believe the truth? 

 

 

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How Do I Find My Way – ITFO Chapter

Last Note 2 sm

 How Do I Find My Way

Later: that afternoon, after Jamie got back from the showers, he sat on the edge of his bunk and opened his locker. He took out a stack of letters he had saved. They had been read so many times the creases from folding and unfolding were getting weak.
      These letters were all he had to connect him to the free world. Other inmates knew when you got letters and knew you had someone on the outside. Many men had no one, especially those who had been locked up for a long time.
      Family or friends who wrote when you were first locked up often slowly stopped writing. Maybe they ran out of things to say or got tired of writing. Life went on for them but it stopped for those inside.
      One sure fire way to stop them from writing was to ask if they could send money. No one wanted to support someone inside. Many didn’t have the money. Jamie knew Morgan could barely made enough to take care of the children. She couldn’t support him. But there was no way to get any of the things he needed unless he asked for help. The prison didn’t provide things like deodorant and other hygiene products, stamps, paper or envelopes. He’d like to be able to get some food items and maybe a radio but the other items had to come first.
      If there was no one to put money on your books for commissary you had to find another way to trade for what you needed. That could get you into a lot of trouble if you got caught. If inmates could get paid for work they did they would have a little money to to spend at the commissary. He didn’t mean housekeeping or laundry jobs, but the jobs where they made things for corporations to sell. Inmates didn’t get paid for those jobs, either.
      Texas prisons didn’t pay anyone for working although most states did. Even though the pay might only be twenty cents an hour they could still accumulate twenty to thirty dollars in a month. Texas said they give time off your sentence for good behavior but they always find a way to take it away from you.
      Jamie rarely heard from anyone in his family, although he did in the beginning. He made himself believe they were busy and he would get a letter soon. But that day rarely arrived and it was hard to deal with it sometimes. If he didn’t have Sonni’s letters he didn’t know if he would make it through with his sanity in one piece.
      Every day he listened at mail call to hear if his name was called. What if she stopped writing? She said she would always write but he was still afraid her last letter might really be her last letter.
      Finally, Jamie got up the courage to ask her if she could send a little money. He told her over and over it was okay if she couldn’t. He didn’t want her to think he was using her for money. It was hard waiting to get a letter back after that one. He was afraid he had blown it and she would be upset.
      She wasn’t. She wrote back and asked him how to send it. He sent her a slip to fill out and told her to send it back with a money order. Jamie was relieved.
    Letters from Morgan came with longer silences in between. She finally wrote and told him there was a new man in her life. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, it ripped him up, but he knew she needed to go on with her life. He couldn’t blame her for that, but it also meant he would learn less and less about his son. Sonni helped fill in the gaps but it was never enough.
      That did not mean he expected someone else should take care of his family. Sitting in here year after year was pointless when he should be home talking care of them himself. It was hard for Morgan to take care of three kids by herself.
      He didn’t know what to do to make things better for her. He wanted to help but there was nothing he could do. He felt like was letting all of them down. He should be able to do something, but he couldn’t.
      Jamie carefully arranged his letters in piles by who wrote them and the date, the oldest ones on the bottom. This way he could read everything in order from each person. There were not many piles. He passed the rest of the afternoon by reading letters.

As he read he realized his day today could have ended up a whole lot different than it did. He had a short fuse. He knew that. He had no patience with people who had the authority to mistreat people just because they were locked up and they felt like it. Inmates could not fight back. If they argued because of being mistreated they paid a price for it.
      During the shower when the guard cut off the water, if Jamie hadn’t stopped himself from reacting in anger, the guard could have written up a case on him. It could have taken a couple years or more to turn that around. He was supposed to take the abuse because he was the inmate and had no rights, at least none they would let him use.
      From the time he was seventeen and spent four years in juvenile detention, being lied to over and over, he learned to have no patience with guards and staff who treated people with disrespect.

    Jamie pushed those thoughts out of his head and opened a letter from Sonni. Even though he had read her letters over and over, sometimes a sentence jumped out that made sense in a way he didn’t catch before.
   “Don’t believe something is the truth just because someone told you it was the truth.” That made sense, but what truth was she talking about?
      “It’s easy to believe something when you’ve been told the same thing over and over, but that doesn’t mean it is true.” She must have been answering something he had written to her in his letter. What was it? He could not remember.
   “Everything in your life happens for a reason. Something caused it. Things do not happen out of the blue just because you can’t figure out what you did to cause it.” All of this made sense but he had never thought about it like this.
      No one had ever talked to Jamie about why things happened in his life. He handled things in his day as they happened. He knew he needed to have more self control over his anger because he learned it could mess up his day.
     Jamie never thought much about these things up until now because he was always busy trying to dig himself out from under some problem. He didn’t always think about why it happened.
      The main problem was he didn’t think about what caused his problems until it was too late. What was done was done. It was hard to wrap his head around figuring out why it happened.

Sometimes one thing led to another and that made something else happen. He could see it looking back but he couldn’t see it looking ahead. But it made sense if he made different decisions it would cause different outcomes. But how was he supposed know what to decide in a split second when there was no time to think about how it might work out?
      Sonni’s letters made him think about things he never thought about. He didn’t know to think about his life in a deeper way. He was told God oversaw everything and he tried to pray for the right thing to happen. He could plan and change things in anyone’s life if he wanted to. He could bless people with good things. His family was not the type who went to church every week or anything like that, but he assumed everyone believed in God and would go to heaven.
      He always began or ended a letter hoping the receiver would be blessed or that he had been blessed. He didn’t think about what he was writing. It was automatic thing he wrote in his letters.
     If everything happened for a reason, then what could he do to change all of this for himself so he could go home? How could he know what to do?
      Jamie repeated this over and over in his head. It was like one big giant puzzle. It was starting to make his head hurt. All along did he deserve to be in here? From the time he was born it was God’s plan? Did God plan some things but not all things. That didn’t make sense so he didn’t think so.
      Did he have a choice or was he supposed to end up in prison no matter what he did? He was told God gave people free will. What happened if that messed up His plan. Did He have to make a new one – for everyone? He was expected to believe things that didn’t make much sense. But that was faith, right? He believed because it was all he knew.
      Having so much time to think about this yet have no one to talk to is difficult. Jamie was brought up to believe in God and you were supposed to pray to him when life got rough. Did God want his life to be this way? This was too many questions.
      You reap what you sow. That phrase was in the Bible, but he never really thought about it. Growing up they weren’t really a Bible reading family. The pastor here said he should trust God to take care of everything. These two ideas were so opposite from each other.
      Jamie went to church every week. He was trying to do the right thing. He wanted to hear the message. Did it change anything? He believed in God because it was what he was told to believe by people who were smarter than him. He didn’t think to question it.
      Going to church didn’t change anything in his life. The prison chaplain pushed it on the men. In reality, this man wasn’t very nice to those who said they didn’t believe and didn’t want go to church. That seemed hypocritical to him.
      So why did he believe in God? What did that belief do for him that made his life better? What prayers did God answer that he could say for sure happened because God made it happen? Growing up, hearing God made the world, and when we die we go to heaven is a pretty powerful reason to want to believe. If everyone learned the same thing it was easy to go along with it. No one had any different ideas. Believe, or not believe, was pretty much it.
      Where would he be if he wasn’t in prison? Jamie would like to believe he would be home taking care of his family. He would have a job, but he didn’t have any idea what that would be or what he was qualified for. He did have a job for a while. He worked for a cleaning company that cleaned offices and schools. One day cleaning supplies came up missing. He got blamed and was fired. He didn’t do it, but that didn’t matter. They had someone to blame. Why would he risk his job by stealing cleaning supplies? No one thought about that.

     He went to church every Sunday. He even sent off for Bible studies. He didn’t go to church just to get of his cell. He wanted to hear the message. He was searching for answers, trying hard to figure things out. He wanted to make sense of things, but somehow it wasn’t working.
      Not knowing what was going on at home was getting to him. Day after day he waited and prayed a letter would come, and it rarely did. But then, just when he was ready to give up, he would hear the mail person call his name. A letter would come, his mind was eased, and he would feel better for a while. The emotional seesaw took its toll.
      Soon the cycle would start again and his anxiety would slowly build until he couldn’t sleep. Weeks and months went by. The hardest part about this was not knowing what was happening.. Why was he kept in the dark? His mom said some things at her last visit about maybe being sick but she didn’t exactly say what was wrong, or if anything definite was wrong. He had no way to find out.
      Jamie was scared to death something was going to happen to his mom. He didn’t think he could handle that in here. His mind was thinking crazy thoughts. He couldn’t think straight.
      On top of that he was worried about his own family. It was all his own fault. He wasn’t doing so good. This was all because he wasn’t around. No one thought he needed to know anything. So he sat and stressed every day and could not stop himself. He wrote this letter to Sonni:

<<< >>>

Hello Mom, 8/20/09

First I want to thank you for the love and support you’ve given me even though you didn’t have to. I’m real thankful for it. Well, I’ll get to the point of what I’m saying. It’s rough when I sit here waiting for mail and I don’t get any from nobody but you. So I’ve made up my mind to just do this time and put everything else behind me. This way I won’t have to stress myself out. I’m not giving up on my family. I just have to do this because I’m hurting myself. I know something is wrong. I can feel it.
I’m not saying I’m going to go off and get in trouble. I’m going to end my letter here. But before I do I want you to know I’m still going to keep my promise and stay out of trouble. And thank you for the book, mom. It was good.

Love, Jamie.

<<< >>>

Living in silence was hard for Jamie. He couldn’t deal with it. It made no sense. When it became too much for him he lashed out. Depression surfaced easily. Maybe his family thought if he didn’t know what was going on he wouldn’t worry. It was just the opposite. He did worry, because he didn’t know. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. He wrote many letters hoping he would get an answer back but no one wrote. Sonni’s letters were all he had to lean on. They were his lifeline. She promised she wouldn’t disappear.

<<< >>>

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Keeper My Thoughts – Chapter in ITFO

Last Note 2 sm

 

Keeper of My Thoughts

 

The harder Jamie tried to stay out of trouble the more it came looking for him. The guards went out of their way to get in his face and push him to make him react. Why? Were they bored? Did they want to mess up his day or they we trained to be that way?
      If the inmates were locked up the guards had more control over them and there was less they had to do. It was stressful for Jamie. He always felt like he was on the edge, waiting for them to file a case against him whether he did anything or not.
      One of the hardest things for him to overcome was the instant anger that came over him before he had a chance to think. He expected people to do the right thing and that didn’t happen in here.
      On the outside it was supposedly right and wrong that got you locked up, but once inside right and wrong had different meanings. When he spoke up for himself or tried to explain anything, it always got him in trouble. So right or wrong didn’t matter. Only who had the power mattered, and it was clear he didn’t have any. Guards didn’t like it if you called them out on anything. Getting bumped down in his line class was almost always because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
      Jamie didn’t want to lose the last of the privileges he had. The simple actions of being of being able to walk to chow or sit in the day room were hung over his head to keep him in control. If he lost these last privileges he would be confined to his cell.
      He could learn to control his own actions but he couldn’t control what a guard did, so to lose these privileges he didn’t have to do anything. A guard in a bad mood could make up a charge and it would be his word against the guard and he would lose every time.

<<< >>>

What a lousy night. Forget trying to sleep. It was too friggin’ hot and no way to cool down. Summer heat in a Texas prison was hard to get through but there was no choice. It was at least 90° and it was still the middle of the night.
      Jamie’s little fan, pointed at his face barely moved the air it was so heavy with moisture. His skin stuck to the mattress so he took it off the bunk and tried to sleep on the metal slats beneath.
      He ran the risk of a guard seeing his mattress off the bed. If he noticed it when he came around for his thirty minute check he might get yelled at to put it back on the bed. It was worth the risk but it didn’t work, anyway. It was a little cooler than the plastic but the metal didn’t make for good sleeping. Now he was tired and cranky with a bad headache.
      In the morning a guard finally came and took him to the showers. It had been three days since his last one and he knew he didn’t smell very good. He craved the feeling of cold water streaming down his body. There was so little pleasure in this place and a shower ranked on the top of the short list of things that caused pleasure.
In the middle of his allotted five minutes, with soap on his body, the guard shut off the water.
      “What the fu..” he started to say while turning around to face the guard.
      “What did you do that for?” Jamie asked with a sharp tone in his voice. He could feel himself getting angry so he closed his eyes, took a deep breath and thought, “Not today. Don’t lose it today. Get a grip”
      They stood there for a long second and stared at each other. All Jamie wanted to do was finish his shower and wash the soap off his skin. If he couldn’t do that the soap would dry on his skin. It would irritate it and make him itch. Add humidity to it and he’d be miserable.
      The guard who took him to the showers wasn’t having a happy day, either. He didn’t enjoying babysitting this sorry bunch of men. He wanted to hurry Jamie so he could get on to the next smartass he had to bring here. The faster he got done, the faster he could get back to the air conditioned staff office and whatever porn magazine happened to be lying around.
      This was a crappy job. He’d been here five years now and sometimes he felt like he was the one being sentenced. There weren’t any other good jobs in town that had benefits. He had a family to feed so beggars couldn’t be choosers. He had jumped at the chance to work here, but that didn’t mean he enjoyed it. They didn’t pay him well enough to have to watch these poor suckers get naked and whack off in the shower. He’d seen enough naked men to last a lifetime.
      They could do whatever they wanted in their cells, even though he could write them up for that, too, but the poor bastards had to get off somehow. He wouldn’t turn a blind eye, though, if he caught them doing each other. That was a mortal sin. The bible was adamant about that. He knew what went on in the cells so he no tolerance for any of them and what they might do.
      He had no tolerance for this one, either. He was going to hurry him up by turning off the water. He didn’t care if he didn’t get to rinse off the soap. He could plainly see it was all over his body. Serves him right for being here. That was his problem. He was the one in charge and he was calling the shots.
      Jamie was angry enough to let loose and tell him what he was and wasn’t going to do and demand he turn the water back on. He hesitated. If he did that he might lose everything he had been working toward, over a stupid, lousy shower.
      He told himself every day to stay in control of his mouth. He didn’t want to do something that would mess up his chances of going home. This would get him in trouble, probably get written up and lose his line class. That would put him in 24 hour lock up.
      Was it worth it over a shower? No. He was angry because he couldn’t do anything about it. Right and wrong didn’t matter. He’d screw the last months he was trying to get through so he could get moved back up to population. He wanted to go to school so he could take care of his family when he got out. He had to remember that.
      Jamie stopped and shut his mouth. He clamped his lips together and tried to think fast. He had two ways to go. Each one had a different result. Up till now he followed his instinct and let his anger speak for him. It never worked. Not once. He could do it different this time.
      He reached for his towel and covered himself. He didn’t look at the guard in a confrontational way. He lowered his head and looked down. What did he really want here? He only wanted to finish his shower and he didn’t want no trouble. He didn’t need to let his pride stand in the way. He sure didn’t want a stand off with a guard that would only end one way – with him in lock up.
      “Sir?” he said respectfully. “Could I have another minute . . . please . . . to rinse off?” Jamie waited. He said nothing else. It was the guards turn to talk. There was nothing he should find fault with.
      “About time,” the guard thought to himself. He was being shown the respect he thought he deserved. Why he thought he deserved respect without earning it, because he was a guard, was at the root of the problem between inmates and guards. But Jamie appearing subservient felt good so thought he’d bestow a little kindness on him, like a man in authority should do.
      “Okay, one minute,” he said as he flipped his fingers at him like he was brushing a fly away from his face.
      “Make it snappy,” he added.
      The guard turned the water back on and stood there and watched. You couldn’t be too careful with these morons. You never knew what they might do.

 

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New YouTube Music Video For Jamie’s Book

I recently posted the chapter, poetry and music for the title, “Can Anybody Hear Me?” , one of the chapters in the book, “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” Last night I uploaded the music video. Little by little I work through finishing all the parts.  I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel ( way down at the end and around a corner.)

 

I have posted some chapters over time of the rewrite, but I haven’t given links to be able to read them with any continuity. I’m going to post them so anyone who wants to can read the early part of the book, to hopefully create enough interest to want the finished product when it is completed.  You can subscribe to ITFO News at the and get info on other chapters and music published.  I will depending on readers to help share what they like. 50% of the profits go to Jamie sso when he gets out of prison he will have a cushion to help get his life started and also to help write sequel to this book.

This book will end before he is released. The sequel will about the process of getting, and the difficulties, mentally, emotionally and actually living in a society who has already prejudged him as a person.  Our society is not very welcoming. There is often so little we can do to help the people who have been abused in our prisons.

But the one thing people can is to support the efforts being made to help them be able to stand up when they get out.  If I thought for one minute that he was a threat to society in any way I would not be doing this.

These chapters do not start at the beginning, and don’t entail what happened to put him in Juvenile detention from late 16’s through 21.

Waiting . . . too long

Looking Into The Crystal Ball

How Much More Can I Take?

The Falling Rain

The Smith Unit – Prison #1

Can Anybody Hear Me?  ( The post before this one )

 

 

Can Anybody Hear Me? ITFO Book Chapter

Anyone who is reading this chapter, I have favor ask you. I’d like feedback from you. I can tell how many times this post has been opened but I can’t tell if it as been read or what you think, except for just the wordpress bloggers who “like” it, but I don’t know why. I need good honest critique. What you like about my writing or about the story and what you don’t like. I spend a lot of time looking at it from every angle, but fresh eyes see things I don’t. When it is time to be read for professional editing, I want it in the best possible shape. If you can PLEASE comment. If you are coming from Facebook, leave a comment there if you want. Chapters are often shared with Facebook – tell me why. If you see it on my newsletter in April you can comment there. If you have read other chapters, tell me. If you think you might buy the book and music when it’s done, I’d love know. Are you a first time reader? Do you want to read more? Would you like to a beta reader and read everything? In your opinion, what can I do better?

Last Note 2 sm

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

“Put your shirt back on,” a female guard barked at him. Jamie and other inmates were being led back inside after working in the fields. “You can’t walk around like that.”

     “I need to cool down. I’m on seizure medication,” Jamie tried to tell her so she would understand. She cut him off mid sentence.
     “I don’t give a crap what your excuse is,” she fired back. “Put your goddamn shirt back on,” then turned and started in on another inmate.
     “Yes ma’am,” he replied with all the respect he could muster. No point in pissing off a guard. He couldn’t win that fight. He was learning he had to show respect and not expect any in return.
     Jamie continued down the hall until he reached his cell and went inside hoping his cellmate wasn’t there. He wanted to get some rest. His cell door was unlocked during the day, but in the evening all the doors were locked at the same time after the guards did the count to make sure they weren’t missing anyone. They needed to know everyone was in their cell and no one was someplace they shouldn’t be.
     He knew there were inmates who sold drugs and hid it in places outside their cell so they couldn’t get caught with it. Sometimes it was the guards who smuggled it in for them. You could get any kind of drug you wanted. Hooch was made, too. They could distill just about anything and make it into alcohol. Most of it tasted pretty nasty, but if it got you drunk that was all that mattered.
     He tried it a couple times but it wasn’t for him. If they got caught making it, so what. They were already locked up. They might do some time in solitary, but it was worth the chance if they wanted to get a buzz.
     General population – gen pop – his classification, meant he wasn’t confined to his cell and had more liberties than other classifications. G2,G4, G5, ad seg and solitary got lower and lower with less and less liberties. Some of the dudes couldn’t even leave their cell to go to chow, and had to be cuffed and in leg chains if they went anywhere. That wasn’t fun. They had a food tray shoved through a slot in their door. He never wanted it to get that bad. He needed to be able to at least walk around.
     It could be dangerous outside his cell, but it could be dangerous in his cell, too, if someone had a beef with him and came looking for him. He could never let his guard down. Having eyes in the back of your head could save your life.
     Prison rules about how to show someone respect wasn’t the same in here as it was in the free world. Some of the dudes were lifers and had nothing to lose if they hurt you. He always had to be careful. Someone could be carrying a shank. There were lots of things that could be turned into a knife. Stabbings weren’t uncommon, especially among the gangs.
     He could go hang out in the day room if he wanted, but he was too tired to do that right now. Besides, he was really grungy and needed to clean up. It was hot and stuffy, but it was like that anywhere he went.
His cellmate wasn’t there and Jamie was glad. They pretty much ignored each other. It was easier that way. He didn’t want to get to know him or be friends. He was an asshole with a bad attitude most of the time. He did nothing but complain and Jamie was tired of hearing him blame everything that happened in his life on someone else.
     He stripped off his clothes and wet his towel in the sink. He did his best to wash down his body using a small piece of soap he had left. Not until after the first of the month would he be given the meager supplies the prison was obligated to give him.
     They gave him a small tube of toothpaste each month, and every three months they gave him a new cheap toothbrush with bristles that fell out. It only had a three inch handle so it would be hard to file down into a blade. Much too small for a man’s hand, too.
     He got three little soaps, smaller than the soap you got in a motel room. It was made here in the prison and had lard and lye in it. It could take your skin off if you left it on too long. These the bars had to take care of all his cleaning. His body, the clothing he handwashed or cleaning his cell. It didn’t last long. Right now he needed to clean up as best he could. His skin was sticky with sweat. He felt dirty.
     Jamie would sweat rivers down his chest when he was outside. In this heat and humidity he was always soaked. Working out in the fields was some of the worst heat he ever felt.
     It was back-breaking work even on a cool day. Constantly bending over and pulling up vegetables was hard as hell on his back. He was constantly bending backward and rubbing the muscles in the small of his back. He never got used to it.
      When he bent over and his head hung down, the sweat ran into his eyes, and it stung. He tied a piece of cloth around his forehead but once it was soaked the sweat dripped anyway. It was hot and humid in East Texas, but West Texas was a different kind of hot. It sure felt like the sun had to be closer to the earth. When it beat down on you, and you got fried crispy like piece of chicken.
     Jamie knew what the slaves must’ve gone through long ago when they were forced to work the fields. Prison guards, slave owners, they were probably the same.
   Funny, now that he thought about it. They had overseers that probably walked the fields with whips and dogs just like the guards, except the guards had guns. Slave owners wouldn’t shoot their slaves because they paid a lot of money for them, like cattle. They needed their money’s worth out of them.
     All of them here in this prison were owned, just like slaves were. There was little difference between now and then except the slaves had their women to go to at the end of the day for comfort and he didn’t, not that he’d want Morgan to be here. But he did wish he could see her and little Jamie once in a while.
      “Stop it,” he argued with himself under his breath. “Just stop it.” He tried not to think about her all the time because it made him depressed. He tried to push it out his head.
     Jamie rinsed out his towel and hung it to dry by putting it over the round metal stool bolted to floor near the toilet. He stretched out on the lower bunk with his feet hanging over the end.
      Because of his epilepsy he wasn’t supposed to work in the sun. There were side effects from the medicine that sometimes made him feel bad. When he was overheated it could bring on a seizure. He wanted to be able to go outside so he rarely talked about it. Outside he could pretend he wasn’t here. In his mind he was able to start walking and keep on going. For a short while he was free.
    Jamie had felt like he was about to keel over and needed to cool down. That was why he had taken off his shirt. And he wasn’t naked, neither, no matter what she thought. He still had on his tank which was completely soaked.
      Coming inside wasn’t much relief. There was no air conditioning. If it was 105° outside, it was going to be 95° inside. All he could do was sweat. Playing cards or watching TV made him sweat.
     He wrote to his mom to see if she would send some money so he could buy a fan, but he didn’t hear back. Maybe she’ll send a letter later, sometime next week. It was always next week. He gave her excuses why she didn’t write. He never gave up hope. He didn’t care if she sent any money or not, he just wanted to hear from her. Was she okay? He loved his mama whether she wrote or not. He wished she would write.
    The field he worked in was huge. They grew a lot of different vegetables. Guards rode around on horses holding rifles. It looked like a different time in history. They had attack dogs walking around with them, too, in case one of them tried to run, which would be really stupid. There was no place to run except across the field and no way could anyone outrun those dogs in this heat. They’d probably drop dead of heat stroke.
       Even though it was stifling hot he still liked to go outside. As long as he could see the sky he felt free. He knew Morgan was seeing the same sky he was. Maybe they were both looking up at the same time. That was a new thought. He’d have to ask her to look up at a certain time. It was one thing they could do together.
       He had been here now for close to two years. In a way it seemed the time had gone by fast, and other times it crawled in slow motion. He tried to stick to himself and stay out of trouble. All he had to break up the boredom were Morgan’s letters. He daydreamed a lot. He would picture walking out of the prison and walking up to her with open arms. She was his family, her and the kids. They were all he had. To be honest he felt unloved by his family. He felt they didn’t want anything to do with him and that made him depressed and stressed out.
    Now, maybe it was his imagination but it seemed Morgan wasn’t writing back as much, and was taking longer between letters. He knew she was busy and all, taking care of three kids wasn’t easy, but she used to always find time, even if it was just a few lines.
     Maybe he was reading too much into it. He was afraid of losing her. What if it was over between them and he was by himself. What if he had no one to go home to? Sometimes when he thought about the years ahead he wanted to give up, but he couldn’t. And he had to make it. No matter who leaves him he always had his son. He couldn’t give up on him.
     His head started to pound. It was rocking back and forth between his temples. With one hand on either side if his head, he pressed. Not knowing what was going on really screwed with his head. He curled over and put his head on his knees. The pounding blood only made his head hurt worse. This is why some dudes went batshit crazy when they were locked up.
     Was anybody out there? Did anyone think about him in here all alone with nobody? Did anybody care? If he screamed would anybody hear?
      Today was his son’s birthday. Jamie bit his lower lip to keep himself together. It was heartbreaking to not be there. He never got to hold him. He would never get this time back.
     Jamie managed a smile as he pictured his son in his head. But why hadn’t she written back yet? He was starting to get worried. He sent a birthday card and put a letter for her inside. This was probably the longest he had gone without hearing from her. Maybe she had something she wanted to tell him but didn’t want to say it. Maybe she was seeing someone.
     Even though it scared him to think he would lose her, he understand the reality of how many years he could be gone. He had a meeting with the parole board when he reached five years, but if he didn’t get it they would probably put him off for another five.
     Jamie couldn’t give up on the hope of being released. But if he wasn’t, he knew he would be locked up too long to expect anyone to wait for him. Why would anyone else commit to being alone if they didn’t need to? It was a long time to ask someone to wait. He told Morgan in a letter she could talk to him about anything. If she wanted to move forward with her life he would understand. They could still write to each other and she could tell him about Jamie. But to not at least write? He couldn’t stand that.
     He thought he was the type of man who would want the mother of his son to be happy, not depressed and stressing. He wanted her to leave the stressing to him. But if she did find someone else he wanted her to say goodbye, not just stop writing and make him worry.
     It was easy to let his mind go crazy with all the possibilities that could go wrong with him locked up. It was hard to stop thinking about it.
     He closed his eyes. He was all twisted up inside worrying about not knowing what was going on in the world outside. There was nothing he could do about it. Not even make a phone call to find out. He had no numbers to call. No one registered their phone because it was too expensive, he guessed. He just had to wait.
      He fell asleep. He let go of the worry. His brain stopped spinning and he relaxed.
   “Mail,” the sound bounced inside his head.  “Mail.” Jamie was suddenly wide awake, listening. He didn’t jump up, but he still hoped there was mail for him. His head felt better. The pressure was gone. He could hear the cart being wheeled down the hall and soon come to a stop at his cell door.
     “Cummings,” was called out. “James Cummings, here’s your mail.” The inmate who delivered the mail reached in and handed him a letter. Then he turned to continue walking down the hall.
     “Thanks,” Jamie called out after him and looked down at the letter. He had expected it to be from Morgan, but it wasn’t. It was from her mom. Her mom?
     He sat down on the bed and stared at it for a few seconds. Why did she write? She had never written to him before this. Was it bad news? It had to be bad news. Did Morgan get her mom to write and break up with him? It looked like a card, but it wasn’t a holiday or anything. Finally, he ran out of excuses and starting opening the envelope.
     At that moment, before he had a chance to finish opening it, his cellmate walked in, pissed off and cussing up a storm. Jamie didn’t know why and wasn’t interested in finding out. The sound of his voice was instantly bringing his headache back again. He had to get out of here.
     He got up and headed down to the day room, hoping to find an empty table. He wanted some privacy to read and think. There were two tvs tuned to separate sports stations. If it wasn’t sports it was soap operas. They loved the soaps. People got hurt if they tried to change the channel. It wasn’t worth it. The old timers always got first dibs.
       He found a table and set the envelope in front of him. He looked at it again, front and back. She sent it from Key West. It was a card. A generic one. Nothing special. Did she just sign her name or did she say anything? He opened the card to see she wrote up the whole inside. He settled back to read:

Dear Jamie,

I should have written before, but time flies so fast some days. I have been very busy at the store. I thought of you many times these last couple years. I should have written before now. Morgan fills me in with how you are when I ask her. I know it has been very rough for you and I’m sorry you were moved so far away from your family. It would be easier if you could see them.

I miss not have Morgan and the kids here. Little Jamie had only turned one year old when they left. One day they were here and the next day they were gone. I asked her for your address.

I know she wants to come see you but she can’t afford it. Traveling with the kids would be hard. I told her if she could find someone to go with her I would pay her expenses and also pay for a motel. She asked your mom to go with her and she said yes. I’m sure she will write and tell you the weekend they are coming. You will finally get to see your son.

Write back if you want and I’ll answer your letter.
Take care, Sonni

Jamie sat there not knowing what to think. He closed his eyes and one tear rolled down his cheek.

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How Much More Can I Take – ITFO Book Chapter

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How Much More Can I Take

Jamie lost track of time. He tried to mark the days by tearing threads out of his blanket, but he no longer knew what a day was. When did it begin and when did it end? It felt like he had been in the hole for a lot longer than he probably was. There was no way to know the time of day. That was intentional, adding to his disorientation by deliberately keeping him off balance. If the system could break him mentally it was an added bonus for them. People who work in a miserable setting enjoyed causing misery to others.
     The grunge on the tiny window high up on the wall only let greasy light through. It was worse than the times he spent in solitary when he was in juvenile detention, and that was hard to deal with. He didn’t know how to process what they did to him. If adults can’t wrap their head around that kind of deprivation, how could a kid?     

Those memories and the scars it created were carved images in his head he could never forget. This time he felt like there was no hope, like everything good in his life was gone and he was never getting out. He wanted to crawl inside himself. The feeling of despair was complete.
     The only thing that broke up his day was when they brought food. Most of it was the same, and too awful to eat. He didn’t eat. He didn’t know if he was being served breakfast or dinner and doubted it was being given to him at normal eating hours. No one answered his questions or told him what time it was. He gave up asking.
     Jamie laid there. He knew he lost weight and he also knew he stank pretty bad. Showers were out of the question. He wasn’t sure which smelled worse, him or the room itself.
     One day it was over. Just like that. He had no idea they were going to let him out. He heard the lock turn in the door and it opened. They said his time was done. The guard threw clean clothes at him and he was taken to the shower. Afterward he was taken to a dorm similar to the one he was in before, but smaller. A bunk was pointed out. He guessed he wouldn’t be beating up anyone else after this.

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A few months later, a guard came to the cell door and called out his name. His son has been born on July 7th, 2006, at 4:20 A.M. Finally, his son was here and he was okay. He was relieved.
     He knew it was going to be a boy and that his name would be James. Jamie might be in a bad place right now being locked up, but the day he found out his son was born felt like the happiest day he ever had in his entire life. He was beaming.  He was a father! That caused a smile to spread over his entire face. Jamie laughed. He couldn’t help himself. His cheeks hurt from grinning so big.
     Morgan had sent him one of those pictures they take at doctor appointments of the baby when it’s still inside. Jamie knew his son would be beautiful, because Morgan was beautiful. She also sent him a picture with her big tummy. Sometimes he took out the picture and stroked the growing mound with his finger, wishing he could feel the baby move and stretch. It made him realize how much he was missing.
     He might not be able to be the kind of father he wanted to be, but he would do his best. He tried not to think about that. Not today. He was going to be happy on this day.
Little Jamie was planned to be born on July 7th. Morgan and her mom drove to Miami the day before and got a hotel room because they had to be at the hospital early in the morning. After taking her to a room on the labor and delivery floor, one of the nurses gave her a medicine to start the labor. The medicine didn’t work. More than twelve hours later Jamie Jr. showed no sign of being born.
     The hospital where the doctor worked was a four hour drive from Key West. Morgan didn’t want to go into labor and not be able to make it to her doctor. If she had the baby in the Key West hospital she would get the doctor on call. Someone she didn’t know. She had problems with the delivery of her last baby. If there were more problems with this one they would fly her by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital, which wasn’t the right hospital, either.
     Jamie didn’t realize how tense he was about the upcoming birth until it was over and he was able to relax. Not knowing what was happening and being out of the loop was the hardest to deal with.
     A lot of the dudes in his dorm were grinning and quite a few congratulations were going around. Even a couple of the guards congratulated him. That surprised him. He guessed hearing about a new baby allowed them to act human for a change.
     Jamie told everyone. This day would never come again and he wanted to make the most of it. It was the first time in more than seven months he had something, anything, to be happy about. Good things didn’t happen very often when you were locked up. Any reason you had to smile was a big deal, even if that reason belonged to someone else.
     He thought about his family. He missed them. He couldn’t share this with them. He was gone for four years when he was in juvenile detention and he did those years alone. He hadn’t been free for long before this happened. They weren’t there for him then, either. He didn’t feel like he was a part of his family for a long, but he still missed them. He wanted them to miss him, too. He felt like an outsider. Nobody told him nothing about what was going on in their lives.
     He needed his family to help him get hygiene and stamps and other things because he was not able to get any kind of job to make money. They don’t have jobs at jails. Not ones that pay you. All you do is wait, sometimes for years. But maybe when he gets sent off and settled they’ll give him a job.
     Jamie didn’t care what the job was, he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. Even if it only paid twenty- two cents as hour, like he heard many jobs in prison did, it would still add up to dollars he could spend.

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Some dudes had problems with their baby mamas and couldn’t see their kids. Jamie was glad it wasn’t like that with him and Morgan. She would never keep Jamie Jr. from him. He didn’t have to worry about that.
     Since he was let out of solitary and back in a dorm he was able to make a phone call to Morgan. She told him all about their baby. He stood there, still grinning, listening to all the details. He wasn’t happy, though, hearing how hard it was for her in the delivery room.
     “It wasn’t easy, Jamie.” Morgan told him quietly. “I had to have a c-section at the last minute. The doctor found the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times. They didn’t know that until they tried to take him out. That’s why he wouldn’t go down the birth canal. His vitals were dropping. The doctor had never seen a cord wrapped around a neck like that. Without surgery he would have died. He was lucky. We were all lucky”
     Morgan sounded tired. He wished he could’ve been there with her. She must have been scared. Healing from surgery, taking care of a newborn by herself, as well as the other kids, would wear her out. He was glad she was with her mom so she could help her. Now more than ever he realized how much he screwed up by going out that night.
     “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you,” he spoke quietly. Jamie’s regrets would become a pain that never healed.
     “More than anything,” he said, “I wish I could be there with you right now. Hold you in my arms with little Jamie between us. I want to protect both of you, and I can’t.” The anguish in his voice made his throat tighten.
     A fifteen minute jail call goes by too fast. There was never enough time to say all you wanted to say. The sadness in his heart after he hung up overshadowed the happiness he felt when he dialed her number.
     Reality hit hard. He didn’t want to think he wouldn’t be able to raise his son. He would miss every first – first laugh, first step, first tooth, first birthday, second birthday and more after that. He would miss it all. And little Jamie would miss having a daddy.

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He found out he was finally being moved. They couldn’t have sent him any farther away from home. Was it on purpose? There were a hundred prisons they could have sent him to. They had to choose one that was clear across the state where no one could visit if they wanted to? East Texas, where he was from, was had hills, pine trees and red dirt. West Texas was flat, a desert.
     There was no way now his family could come and see him. They had the perfect excuse. Making the drive in one day was impossible, especially with kids in the car. It looked like he was on his own for sure.
     Texas was a huge state to travel across. He had never been any farther west than Huntsville. Now he was being to sent to Smith Unit in Lamesa. By car it took about eighteen hours. By prison bus it would probably take four days. They wouldn’t take a direct route. They’d zigzagged to different prisons, picking up inmates and dropping others off. It would be a trip through hell.

It was summer and scorching hot. Even though there was air conditioning on the bus, it wasn’t strong enough to keep it cool from the heat of the sun scorching the metal of the bus. Having so many unwashed bodies inside that stank didn’t help, either.
     Through the entire trip across the state, Jamie wore the same white shirt and baggy elastic waist pants he put on the day they loaded up the men who were being transferred. He wouldn’t be able to take another shower until after he was processed when the bus arrived at the prison. No one cared if the inmates missed a shower, and no one cared how they felt about riding on the uncomfortable metal seats on the bus. Suffering was part of their sentence. They deserved it, right?
     After all the red tape was taken care of and he was assigned to a cell block, he should be able to make a phone call to Morgan and see how she and little Jamie were doing. He didn’t know then it would be weeks before he was allowed to make that call.
     Prison was going to be a lot different than jail. Jamie didn’t know how different, but he was going to do his best to do it right so maybe he could get out early. He also hoped maybe after awhile he could request to be moved closer to his family. If Morgan moved back to Texas he would do that for sure.
     Seated on the bus, the inmates were separated from the guard and driver up front. There was another guard and a dog in the back to keep them in line if needed. The guard had to deal with the stink right along with them.
     Guards and drivers changed a few times when they stopped at prisons along the way, exchanging some prisoners for others. The guards got to walk around and stretch their legs. The prisoners weren’t so lucky.
     The men had to sit silently and wait for the driver of the bus to start the engine again. He wasn’t allowed to let the engine idle if the guards weren’t onboard. They were standing outside having a smoke. The AC wouldn’t go on again until the engine kicked over. Jamie felt sweat drip down the side of his face. It was going to be a long, uncomfortable ride.
     The seats on the bus were hard like a city bus, not a Greyhound bus. There was no padding anywhere. The seats didn’t go back to make it possible to sleep or even relax. They were straight up and only came as high as his shoulder blades. There was no way he was getting comfortable. No way to sleep without dropping his chin to his chest. Because he was a big guy he couldn’t move his arms. either. The bus was made to make sure the men would be miserable.
     It was impossible for Jamie to stretch out his legs, so circulation was cut off at the knee. He couldn’t even cross a leg over his knee to get in a different position, and relieve one foot from hanging straight down. He knew his ankles and feet would swell. The heat made it worse.
     The guards were never amused by complaining. It was pointless, anyway. There was nothing they could do. He knew it was going to get worse the farther west they drove, when it became a drier heat. It sucked all the moisture out of his mouth and throat. He felt dehydrated and craved water. They weren’t given enough water. Less bathroom breaks that way, he guessed. But if anyone asked for water they just might make them wait even longer. Anything to make them feel worse.
     It was impossible to do more than doze off for a few minutes of light sleep. The whirring sound of the tires, as they turned on a road that was hot enough to melt rubber, was enough to lull the men into a stupor. Problem was, if they started falling to one side, the person next to them would give them a shove with their shoulder to tell them to straighten up.
     Jamie was cuffed to the man beside him. “I gotta piss.” The man nudged him. “We gotta get up,” he said almost in a whisper. This wasn’t their first trip to the toilet.
     “Guard, we need to go to the back of the bus,” he said loudly over his shoulder.
     If one man needed to use the john, they both had to go. Peeing was one thing, but it wasn’t much fun if you needed to sit and take a shit. No matter how hard they tried not to, sooner or later they all had to take a turn sitting on the seat.
     The guard came and unlocked them from the bus seat, but not from each other. It was hard for two connected people to do anything that took co-ordination.
     The guard returned to the back of the bus and stood near the door-less restroom. There was no privacy. Jamie and this other prisoner made their way to the back by walking sideways past the seats. When the other inmate stood inside the small closet-sized restroom, Jamie stood outside the doorway, and looked away, with his arm inside attached wrist to wrist down near this dudes privates. He was trying to give him a little privacy. He didn’t want to picture his wrist and hand participating with this stranger relieving himself.
     “Damn, it stinks in here.” Jamie muttered under his breath, trying not to cough as the dude finished up. Since they were all cuffed no one could easily clean up after themselves. There was pee on the floor, and anywhere else it splashed. The toilet seat was kept up out of respect for those who needed to sit, but it was still a mess. Forget washing your hands. How could you? After a couple days the smell was overwhelming. All they did was spray Lysol around the cubicle. Mixing with it was the heavy odor of a port-a-potty type toilet, along with body odor, making it hard to breathe. The men sitting in the back had it the roughest.
     Jamie desperately wanted to wash up. Splash water on his face and neck. Put on deodorant to mask his smell. He wished he had his property. That was supposed to arrive in a later bus, he was told, so no one else had any deodorant, either.

The only good thing about traveling on this bus was being able to see outside. There wasn’t much to look at but he could still see the horizon pass by. He supposed some people liked living in the West Texas desert but it sure looked boring to him.
     It was almost exciting to see a billboard and read the advertisement of some business trying to sell something. Insurance, an attorney office or a number to call if you feel suicidal. But there was also a high point knowing you were outside the walls and you could watch the day go from morning to night.
     Once he got to the Smith Unit he would be on the inside, and the outside became forbidden territory. The free world. A place he wouldn’t be able to live in again for a long time.
     “Hey, you got any family?” Jamie whispered to the dude next to him.
     “Shut up. No talking,” came from somewhere behind him.
     After a minute or so he heard a whisper, “Two girls. Three and five. You?”
     “Baby boy,” he whispered back. He glanced to the right and saw him nod. “Sorry, man.” He knew Jamie would miss the time of his baby being a baby.

     It felt to Jamie as though they were never going to get to the other side of Texas. It felt like an old Twilight Zone TV show where a scene was supposed to be real life, but you found out at the end it wasn’t. You never got to where you were going. The bus kept traveling down the highway. It didn’t get anymore unreal than that.

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Remembering My Life – New YouTube Video

This is the newest music video for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life and his experience in prison. I have been recording piano improv for each chapter as a soundtrack. Music in a movie enhances our experience while we watch. It helps create emotions. A movie with no music can be dry and have the feeling of a documentary. Having music to listen while you read, knowing it was written for the main character in the book, I hope will add to the experience. I haven’t seen this done before. I’d like your opinion. If you know of any examples please let me know.

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Below are the websites and blogs where you will find my writing or my music. I have been concentrating lately at Reverbnation which is a great place to find new music and artists) and my personal website (where you can subscribe to music and book info) and to ITFO News (which is largely prison and inmate news) You can subscribe to one or both.

In the next couple weeks I’ll be monetizing my music sites so you can purchase – or download music you like. I’m determined to give Jamie the opportunity he deserves to have a life. That takes money. I need to start now or he will have nowhere to go when he gets out and no way to survive while he figures out how to live. Many inmates end up in shelters or on the street when they don’t have a supportive family. He definitely doesn’t.

Please share this video so more people learn who Jamie Cummings is.