Looking Into the Crystal Ball – Chapter

Last Note 2 sm

 

This is a random chapter in the early part of book, when Jamie was forced to take a plea deal or have more charges added and never get out. No one should ever be put in that position and make a decision against their own best interest with no attorney willing to do the right thing.

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LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

One after another, thoughts kept racing through Jamie’s head. What was going to happen to him? Life would never be the same. His court date was today and he didn’t have a clue what was going on. Didn’t he need an attorney? He couldn’t represent himself. How many years could they give him? He had no idea but he had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a good day.
     A black man like him, born and raised in Texas would get as many years as they could possibly give him. Racism is alive and well and Texas ranked with some of the worst. They would lock him up whether he deserved it or not.
     Depending on your race, the same crime gets different sentencing. Looking around the room at the dozens of three tier bunks lined up across the floor it was easy to see there was more black skin than white. Maybe white men didn’t commit as many crimes in Harris county. That was a laugh.
     Jamie needed someone to talk to. Somebody on his side who would listen and help. He wanted to explain he did not go out that night with his friends so he could rob a club. He wasn’t the one who had a gun in his back pack. He didn’t even know the guy had a gun until he talked about it in the car. It sounded like he was joking. He didn’t think the dude was serious. If only he did something to stop him things would be different right now.
    Morgan wrote him a while back and said she tried to get him a lawyer but it didn’t come through. She sent money to his brother who had a friend who knew an attorney who would take a deposit. Payments could be made on the balance.
     It sounded kinda hokey to him but it was the only thing he had to hope for. Trust him or do nothing. They should have done nothing because the money disappeared. Morgan lost money she could have used herself for the kids.
     He knew his mom didn’t have any money to help him. Morgan sent money she made working at her mom’s store. He knew he was on his own. He would feel better if he could at least see her, but that wasn’t going to happen. She was too far away.
     Jamie’s life was falling apart. How could he control what was happening? He was never going to see his son be born. He wanted go be a father but he could kiss that goodbye. There would be no holding him or being the kind of dad he never had. The cycle of being raised without a father wasn’t going to be broken.
     Life wasn’t supposed to be fair all the time, but he felt his life had never been fair from the time he was born. He grew up being told to believe in God. Have a blessed day and all that. There was no reason not to believe, but he didn’t think God had done much to bless him lately. He prayed desperately since this happened but it didn’t do much good. Tears began to well up in his eyes, threatening to spill down his cheeks.
   “Choke it down, Jamie,” he told himself. “Don’t let it show.” If he started to cry he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to stop.
     “If anyone saw you they would think you weak,” he whispered under his breath. They would gang up on him to make him their whipping boy. He wasn’t about to let that happen.
     Today was supposed to be his day in court but nobody talked to him about it. He was scared. Hs heart was beating in his head and it echoed in his ears.

      Jamie leaned against the grate covering the window and hooked his fingers into the metal and stared outside, watching the day as the seconds and minutes of his life passed by. Everything outside looked normal. He could see people coming and going.
     Clouds were creeping across the blue sky as if today were a normal day like all the rest. It wasn’t normal for him. He wanted so bad to leave the building and walk out into that day and be free. Could he change what was happening? Not likely. It took all his willpower not to scream.
     “Cummings, you have a visitor.”
    Jamie was lost in his thoughts. He didn’t hear what was said. The guard raised his voice. “Cummings, wake up.” He almost yelled when he repeated it.
     Startled, Jamie whirled around to face him. He had a visitor? His first thought was of Morgan. Was she here?
     “Your attorney is here. You have to come with me.”
     “What attorney? Jamie shot back. “I don’t have no attorney.”
     “You do now.”
    Jamie was apprehensive. His mind began to race. Nobody told him someone was coming. Shouldn’t he have been told? How would he have time to help him now? There wasn’t time. He had been in here waiting for months. Why was he only coming to see him at the last minute? He hesitated before he began walking toward the guard.
    “We don’t have all day.” The guard insisted. ” Get a move on it.” Jamie turned around and let the guard cuff his wrists. There was no going anywhere outside this cell without cuffs. There were some men who would try to hurt the guard or anyone else on staff just for the fun of it.
He half stumbled when the guard gave him a small shove to start him walking. Down the hallway past three closed doors, the door to a small windowless room was standing open. When they walked inside, a man in a suit was waiting bedside a metal table bolted to the floor. Jamie didn’t remember seeing him before.
     He was a skinny man with acne scars spread across his cheeks. He glared at Jamie with contempt in his eyes. His thinning hair combed over the top of his bald head was a poor attempt at pretending he had hair. Poor dude. Jamie was sure he the public defender assigned to him. Maybe this was the only lawyer job he could get. He didn’t seem too happy to be here.
     Jamie needed someone who could help him, but this man didn’t seem like he enjoyed his job very much. He swept his arm in a gesture over the table which told Jamie to sit down.
    The man continued to stand and glare at him with his arms crossed over his chest with a ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude. It was a power move to show he was the authority in the room.
    The guard removed his cuffs. Jamie sat and waited for the man to talk. He was uncomfortable but he wasn’t going to let it show. The attorney took his time, letting his gaze slowly wander from his head to his hands as if he expected Jamie to jump up real quick and attack him.
It wasn’t the first time a white man looked at him like that, assuming he would be violent if given the chance. Jamie wasn’t a little man, but that didn’t mean he went around attacking people.
     “You’re in deep trouble, son,” the attorney began his practiced spiel.”You don’t have many options.” Son? He called him son? Was that his way of sounding superior?”
    How many times had this man repeated the same line, Jamie thought. Before he could continue, Jamie tried to talk. “I want to explain what happened. I didn’t . . .”
      That was all he managed to get out before this man, put both fists on the table, leaned over and looked him dead in the eyes.
      “I’m not interested in hearing your story. I don’t care what you did or didn’t do.
       “I need to . . .”
      “You don’t need to do anything. I said . . .” He hesitated for a few seconds, “I’m not interested. Tell your story to someone else. All you need to know is, the District Attorney has a case against you and your only option is to plead guilty.”
    He paused for a moment as he drilled that statement into Jamie’s head. He broke eye contact to take a few papers out of his brief case and lay them on the table.
     “You need to sign these papers admitting to guilt. I’m here on behalf of the DA who is offering you a plea deal of forty years. I advise you to take it.”
     Jamie stared him, stunned. What the hell? He was trying to scare him and it was working, Was he serious? Forty years? No way would he agree to that.
     “They have you dead to5th right, running out of a club after robbing it,” the attorney emphasized, rapping his knuckles on the table several times.
     “The money was found on your friend, in the car you were driving. There is nothing to defend.”
     Jamie stood. He could feel his anger rising. He was being railroaded. One case finished, on to the next sucker who couldn’t afford to pay for an attorney?
     “I’m not going to agree to that. I didn’t do it. I might have been there, but I didn’t have anything to do with what my friend did.” He knew it didn’t matter. Being there made him an accomplice. But he couldn’t go down without a fight. Forty years was beyond anything he thought could happen. “I want to go in front of the judge. No way am I pleasing guilty.”
     “Have it your way.” He put the unsigned papers back in his briefcase and closed it. Picking it up, he walked out.
     Jamie stared after him, speechless. “Now what?” he asked the guard who was leaning against the wall watching this while thing go down.
He shrugged. He didn’t make a move to take him back to the cell so Jamie sat down, waiting to see where this was going. There was no point in trying to talk to the guard. Twenty minutes later the attorney walked back in. 

     “I have another option for you and I advise you to take it,” the attorney instructed impatiently. He began tapping the toe of his shoe on the floor. “There won’t be another one.”
     It was obvious he wanted this signed and done. He didn’t want to waste any more of his day on Jamie.
     “You’re lucky.” He continued. “The DA must have a soft spot for you.”
Sarcasm dripped from his words. Jamie wondered what he did to make him dislike him so bad. He obviously didn’t want to defend him even thought it was his job. How many other people had he already said this to today?
     “Seventeen years,” the attorney paused to let it sink in. “If you don’t take it, and insist on going to court and wasting everyone’s time, they will slap on extra charges. You’ll end up doing fifty to ninety-nine.”
    “What charges?” Jamie demanded. He slammed his hands down o.k. the table. The attorney ignored him. “What about wasting years of my life?” he added.
     “I need time to think about this,” Jamie told him. How could he agree to give up the rest of his youth without a fight? He didn’t plan what his friend did at the club. Why should have to pay for it with so many years of his life? What would that prove?
      There were four of them that went out to the club that night. He had no idea what they were going through. Were they offered the same deal? He needed answers but there was no one who was going to give them to him.

     The dude who had the gun had been to prison before. He had a record so they probably went harder on him. Why did he go out that night? Why? If only he had stayed home.
     “You have five minutes.” the attorney told him. I’ll be back for your answer.”
<<< >>>
How was Jamie supposed to know what to do in five minutes? This was wrong. He didn’t know how to fight it. This man was the only attorney he had and it was obvious, defending him in court was something he had no interest in doing. Why? Isn’t he supposed to defend him? Wasn’t that his job? He guessed not when the DA wanted it to end another way.
     Right and wrong didn’t matter. There was no such thing as justice. Another body to fill a prison bed. The only thing that mattered was locking up as many people as they could. Not just any people – black people. They went after Hispanics and other minorities, too.
     The government wanted to fill the prisons with poor people who couldn’t afford to protect themselves or pay for a real attorney. Racism toward blacks keeps growing. Why? Because they think black people wanted to knock white people off their pedestal of superiority? But most blacks and minorities only wanted to survive and raise their families. They wanted equality. They weren’t going to get it.
     Jamie didn’t understand it? He didn’t know all the history. He did know what he witnessed, though, and he heard the stories people told about why they were in jail.
     There was no way for him to come out on top of this. He was screwed no matter what he did. If he fights he loses.
     Jamie started to stand up but the guard glared at him with a look that said, “Don’t even try.” He sat back down and waited for the attorney to return. His brain was going a hundred miles an hour. How long would seventeen years feel. It was almost as long as his whole life up till now. He was only twenty- one.
     Should he take a chance and go to court? Possibly give up his entire life? He didn’t know what other charges they could add. They could make up anything they wanted.
     He closed his eyes and put his head back. He had no choice. His unborn son had no choice, either. He wouldn’t have a father. He would be giving up ask thought of raising his son. If he did all seventeen years he would be almost out of high school. They wouldn’t know each other.
     Morgan would have to go on and find someone else. It killed him to think about that. The pain ripped him in two. He couldn’t expect her to wait. Maybe he could get out early. Maybe he could get parole.
     So many unanswered questions running through his head at the same time. His five minutes are over. He heard the door handle click when it unlocked. The attorney stepped back into the room.
     “What’s your answer?” Jamie looked down, reached out his hand and signaled with his fingers for the papers.

 

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Looking Into the Crystal Ball – new music video

 

Yesterday I completed Looking Into the Crystal Ball. It is the second music video I have completed for Inside the Forbidden Outside the book I’m writing  about the life of Jamie Cummings, from childhood through juvenile detention, the school to prison pipeline, to where he is now – the Allred Unit, the largest prison in Texas with over 3,500 inmates. He has five years yet on his sentence. The third video is completed too, but won’t be put up for two weeks. I’m trying to work ahead so I don’t get so behind when I travel.

Jamie still has hope that one day he will be paroled. Finishing this project I started for him is more important than ever.  I have to keep plugging away at it. What began as a book of his letters, because they expressed so much pain of the loss of his life, as well as the truth about our prison system in America. It became a book that required more writing ability than I had at the time. (Writing a book is not the same as writing a blog post, and even that took practice and experience)

After writing the first draft of over 90,000 words, I read through it and realized it wasn’t quite right.  It read like a book of blog posts.  You could read any chapter separately.  The story didn’t connect.  Then I started studying how to write and taking writing classes. I learned to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.  I had to learn how to write dialogue the same way people speak it.  That is not as easy as it seems.  Again more practice. I began the second writing of the book using parts of what I had already written and learned to write between the lines.  I am still learning. I know what a badly written book reads like when it is not edited correctly. I wanted it to be professional.

It is the music that began to tie it all together. That is why emotional movies have music soundtracks. Without it, a movie would not be able to create the same emotion. Music swells the emotions.  It makes you feel. Hearing the music again brings back memories of the movie. All people associate music from their past to memories of that time whenever they hear it. Without music, when a movie is over, it is over.  Why not create music that can be listened to while you read a book? Why not create something that is more than just a book? And for quite a few chapters/music I have also written poetry. It spills out of me like opening a vein. I grab paper and catch it before it disappears.

Most writers would not have the ability to do that. Your mind has to be open in a creative space that spills into everything.  It can’t be put in a box. You also can’t be like that because you want to.  Most people have had their creativity stomped out of them by adults who told them to grow up and get a real job. I may have had a crazy life but it sure beat selling cars for 35 years and then “retire” so I can get old. I refused to be that kind of “normal.”

If you hired someone to write music for you there would be no real connection between what you read and the music you hear. This has turned it into a project that has taken “years” to pull together. I sincerely hope I can finish it by the end of this year. Jamie still has years on his sentence so I have the time to complete it. And then the time to sell it. I am so very happy I am doing this.  (maybe I can get a movie deal out of it! Gotta think big!) You can only accomplish what you see.  Otherwise dreams just float away.

Play the video again. close your eyes and just listen to it.  Do you feel the emotion?  Do you see a story in your mind, even if it is about your life instead?

Many years ago I read a very long, thick novel titled, Michel Michel. The Beatles tune, “Hey Jude” had recently been released.  I played it over and over while I read. It became the soundtrack for the book.  Whenever I hear it I instantly think of that book.  Otherwise, I would have forgotten about it, I’m sure.

I have been creating and writing music for a long time. I don’t have to think about the right notes or figure out what to do.  It’s innate, like the abc’s. But this music was different from anything I had written earlier.  I had to reach far down inside to spontaneously play what I was feeling, not “try” to compose, but instead let my fingers express what I felt.  When I am in the mental place I need to be when I write about Jamie – for Jamie – it is an overwhelming sad place.  When I try to feel what he is going through, I don’t know he does it, although I know he has no choice. When he tells me he is depressed it is a state of mind I think would scare me very much.

At times like this I get angry at the people who have forsaken him – thrown him away – blamed him, for what, I don’t know.  Being young and never taught his life had value? Being a follower instead of a leader and wanting friends and being swayed by the wrong ones? Didn’t many of us go through that when we were young? I did.

Jamie didn’t have the freedom to grow up through his teens and 20’s without having cuffs on his wrists and chains around his ankles. But I didn’t have to pay for my mistakes with 21 years of my life with a family who didn’t care enough to say, “No matter what, Jamie, we love you and we will be there for you no matter what.”

There are criminals and then there are people who grew up without a positive male influence.  Did he deserve to lose a couple decades of his life because of it? No. He was just another black boy who couldn’t afford an attorney. ALL of them go to prison.

That is unrealistic, I guess. Even I don’t have a family who loved me no matter what and were there for me when I needed them the most. But Jamie was there when I needed him and I have been there for him.  Everything happens for a reason.  Jamie gave a reason to play music again after a long illness and I wrote music for him.  We were each other’s reason to survive.

Now the book I am writing also has a sound track, and those sound tracks are getting videos.  I can only do one thing at a time, including writing these blog posts with the necessary social media to promote everything, so when it is done, hopefully people will pay attention. My plans for promotion go far beyond a facebook post.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe below to ITFO News. Not only does it have news necessary to incarceration, it is a way to keep up on how far I am with the book – and you can share it on your own social media! (hint hint)  I don’t have time to publish more than about once a month so I don’t crowd your inbox. I personally hate when a subscription does that. But I am honestly trying to build a mailing list so I can tell people when it goes for sale.

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

My personal music website  – sonniquick.net

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

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

Chapter – Waiting . . . Too Long

 

Last Note 2 sm

(Sonni’s note: This is another random chapter in the book I’m writing that is based on Jamie Cumming’s life. Some scenes have been enhanced.  This did happen, but exact conversations and actions are fictionalized for the sake of the story. Chapters are still being rewritten and music recorded. Publishing date not established yet)

WAITING . . . TOO LONG

Twelve years was a long time. It was hard for him to believe he had been here for so many years. A huge chunk of his life was flushed down the toilet. What a waste. He had been waiting . . . too long. Waiting for it to be over. Waiting to see his son. Waiting for someone to look him in the eye and realize he shouldn’t be here. It was a mistake. He wasn’t a danger to society. All he was doing was waiting, locked up in a cell by himself with no one to talk to.
     Jamie had been bused around to quite a few prisons during the years. Some prisons make you work the field tending acres of vegetables. Some raised pigs and other farm animals. They want to utilize the free labor as much as they can. If he went back to the beginning and counted how many prisons he’d been in, this was the eighth one. He had been in Allred Unit for three years now after being shuffled all over the state.
     The first prison he was sent to was in West Texas, a two day drive across the hottest, driest part of the state. Then he was sent to South Texas near Brownsville. He was also in a unit in Huntsville in the middle of the state, and two more north of Houston. Now he was in northern part of the state, near Wichita Falls. There were a couple more prisons scattered somewhere in between.
     The last six years he was close enough to his family for them to visit, just an hour or two away, but only his mom came to see him a couple times. Some dudes in here had no family. Maybe it was better that way. They wouldn’t be disappointed because no one showed up.
     He was trying to let it go. It was hard. He couldn’t change it. He would get depressed thinking about it. His mom wouldn’t help him. She would tell him she would, but she never did. No one in his family cared enough to do a damn thing. It was hard to wrap his head around it, realizing this was the family he grew up with. After all this time. . .
     “Oh, stop it, Jamie,” he said out loud, talking to himself.
     “If they don’t want to see you, they don’t want to see you. You can’t do anything about it,”
     “Be patient,” he said to himself as he opened his locker and went through his books to see if there was something he could distract him.
     “This won’t last forever.” He found a book he had only read twice and settled on his bed to read the rest of the day away. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine a life outside these walls.
     Whenever he tried to put these issues out of his head they crept back up his neck and sneaked into his brain when he wasn’t paying attention.
     He read for a couple hours and fell asleep with the book open on his chest. Even when he slept he couldn’t get away from his thoughts. He woke thinking about Morgan. The thought of her being in his life sometime in the future was long past. But she will always be his son’s mother and he would always love her for that. They were so naive back then. Things don’t work out if you don’t plan for the right things to happen. Relying on luck wasn’t a good plan. Getting pregnant so fast before they knew each other probably wasn’t a good idea. He needed to know he could take care of a family and that meant going to school first so he could get a good job.
     Morgan went on with her life. That was okay. He wanted her to be happy. It made him sad but he couldn’t blame her for that. She ended up angry at him, though, because he wasn’t there to help her. A lot changed in twelve years.

<<<>>>

Jamie had countless hours to think every day. That was almost the only thing he did except sleep, or read. He loved it when Sonni sent new books. Sometimes he got ahold of a newspaper and found out what was happening in the free world. There was a lot of ‘not so good’ stuff going on out there that was affecting a lot of people.
     He heard about other prisons from some of the other dudes down the hall who had been bounced around like he was. They were all bad – corrupt. He knew deep down there was a bigger reason why a lot of them were locked up with long sentences. Destroying the lives of people like him also destroyed their families. That’s what the government wanted to do. He only had to look around to understand that. There was much he had learned since he came here. He wasn’t a young immature boy anymore.
     He wanted to forget what had happened. He preferred to close his eyes and think about a happier time. Maybe he couldn’t change where he was but these people didn’t have control over what he thought about. It saved his sanity more than once.

<<<>>>

A special memory was the first time he saw Morgan. It was a place he often went in his head to get out of here. Back then, in 2005, he had just gotten out of juvenile detention after four years. He had no idea what he was going to do with his life. He guessed his family was glad he was out but after a couple days the novelty of him being home had worn off. Everyone was busy with their own life and their own problems. They didn’t have time to help him with his.
     Since he had been gone for the rest of his teens years and then some, he had no experience living on his own and taking care of himself. He was twenty-one and that legally made him an adult so he should be able to figure it out. He was fixin’ to get a job somewhere, somehow, but he didn’t know what he could do.
     He didn’t have a clue how to get his life together so he started hanging out at an apartment complex known as “Little New York.” It catered to people who didn’t have their shit together. It was so scattered they couldn’t find it if they went looking for it. Low level drug dealers, users and prostitutes – people trying to survive in a day to day struggle, most of them losing. Still, it was someplace to go hang out. His shit wasn’t together, either.
     It was at that apartment complex where he saw Morgan for the first time. He thought that was his turning point and life was finally going to be good. After they got together he felt like he had a purpose. He had a family to take care of. He couldn’t believe how badly he screwed that up. Maybe that was why his family didn’t answer his letters. Maybe they thought he was a loser and didn’t want to bother with him. He wasn’t a loser, though. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that was all.
     The time he spent with Morgan was the only time in his life where it felt like he had possibilities for the future. He used to think maybe he’d be lucky when he finished these years in prison and he and Morgan could get back together. He didn’t want to give up. He needed to believe it wasn’t over or he wouldn’t be able to survive this place.           Thinking about her was the only thing that kept him going. Maybe if there were no more cases filed against him he would be able to get out early. He stopped thinking that a long time ago. They weren’t the same people anymore.
     When Jamie closed his eyes he could picture her in his head. He was attracted to her the instant he saw her. She was at the other side of the parking lot that day. He had never seen her before.
     The day was hot and humid. Texas summers re brutal. Leaning against a car, she was in a heated argument with some dude. He looked familiar but he didn’t think they had met. He said something that pissed her off. She looked mad enough to hit him. He could tell she wanted to, but she didn’t. She bowed up to him, though, like she was daring him to hit her. He watched them go back and forth for about five minutes wondering if he should walk over there. Maybe it would stop the argument. He could walk casually by the car like he wasn’t paying any attention to them.
     Jamie wondered where she came from. She didn’t grow up here. He didn’t remember seeing her around town. Did she live here? He started walking toward the car. He was determined to find out who she was before she she had a chance to take off.
     As he walked across the parking lot the man stomped off with his hands shoved in his pockets. He had an angry scowl on his face. Jamie wondered what was up between them because they sure didn’t look like a happy couple. As he closed the distance, she opened the car door and plopped down on the seat.
     “Goddamn asshole,” she said, loud enough for Jamie to hear. Both legs were out the door, one foot on the ground. She lifted her right leg and dangled it over the other knee. She turned and reached over to the radio with her right hand and turned on the music. Country. Her foot started moving with the beat.
     “Hi, you okay?” Jamie said as he walked up to the car door.
He couldn’t think of anything clever to say. Startled, she looked up at him, ready to cut him off from butting into her business. A couple seconds later the pissed off look on her face turned into a smile.
This might be interesting, Jamie thought. That was okay. He didn’t want to look like he wanted anything from her.
     “My boyfriend, or rather, my ex-boyfriend,” she emphasized, “as of right this minute needs to find a way out of town.
     “I’m Jamie,” he offered. “You live here?
     “My name’s Morgan,” she answered back.
     “You live here?” she asked.
     “At these apartments?” He shook his head no.            “Na. I come over here most times to hang with my friends. You?”
     She glanced around in the direction her boyfriend went. It looked like she was waiting for this dude to come back to the car any minute. He didn’t want to lose his chance to find out how he could see her again.
     “We rented an apartment here not long ago but it’s not working out.” She volunteered on her own, letting him know she would soon be available.
     She continued, “Getting a job hasn’t been on his list of things to do and I’m not going to support his ass.” Morgan added under her breath,”I didn’t want him here in the first place.”
     Jamie caught that and smiled a little.
     “Where did you come from?” He wanted to keep her talking. He found out later she used to live in California and met there. She broke up with him and moved to Texas to be near family and he followed her. He just showed up uninvited. She wasn’t happy about it but he had no place to go and had no money. What was she supposed to do? She had enough of his mooching off her, she had to kids to take care of.
     Before she could answer she glanced to the right and saw her boyfriend – ex-boyfriend – walking back to the car. Jamie decided that was his cue to leave. He didn’t want to blow it. He would see her again. He was sure of that.
     “I’ll see ya around.” He turned and started walking back to his friends. Halfway there he glanced over his shoulder to see if she was watching. She was. That put a smile on his face. She sure was pretty.
     It didn’t take long before her boyfriend was out of the picture. He claimed he couldn’t leave town because he didn’t he didn’t have no money, so Morgan bought him a bus ticket just to get rid of him. She went to the bus station to make sure he got on it, and waited until the bus left so she knew he didn’t sneak off. The next bus stop was too far away to walk back.
     Morgan and Jamie were good together. For the first time since he got out of juvy he was happy. His future had possibilities. Morgan had a boy and a girl. It made him feel like they were a family.
They weren’t always careful about having protected sex so it didn’t take long before Morgan was late with her period. She didn’t take a test but she was pretty certain after a few days. She was regular. But now she had a problem. Her mom was coming to visit.
     “How do we tell your mom?” Jamie wanted to know. “Will she be angry?”
     “She’ll kill me,” she told Jamie. “I can’t tell her right now.”
     “Because I’m black?” Jamie asked.
     “No, because I wasn’t careful.” Morgan said.              “She’ll say it’s hard enough raising two kids. What was I thinking? Besides, she doesn’t know about you yet. It would be kinda hard to lay all that on her at once.”
     After a five second pause,”I think she should meet you first.” Morgan added. “We’ll tell her later, after she goes home.”
     Her mom stayed for a week and he had a chance to meet with her twice. Her name was Sonni. She came with her husband from Key West. She helped Morgan rent an apartment because by then she was living at her grandmother’s house. After she left she didn’t know Jamie moved in, too.
     They never got around to telling her about the baby before Jamie got arrested. Morgan didn’t call her mom then, either. She had to figure things out. Could she get through the pregnancy on her own? She wanted to stay near Jamie so she could visit him at the jail. He was still waiting to be charged. There was no telling how long that would take. It could be months.
     Morgan had no car now and no way to get another one. Jamie had been driving it when he was arrested and it was impounded. The fines piled up fast before she could get the money together to pay it. How was she going to get to her doctor appointments, or anywhere else? 
     Her father’s family lived in town. They wouldn’t give her the help she needed. Between the kids and the pregnancy she needed more than they’d be willing to give.
     Now Morgan had no choice, she had to call her mom. She wasn’t just hoping her mom would be okay knowing she was pregnant again, she was hoping she would let her come to Key West and live with her and help her through the pregnancy.
She briefly thought about asking Jamie’s mom to help her but they didn’t know each other very well. She needed someone who could take her to her doctor appointments and help with her other two children. The longer she waited the harder it became.
     Finally, when she was almost five months along she called her mom and told her.
     “Mom, Jamie was arrested and I’m pregnant,” she said in a rush to get it out at once. There was dead silence on the other end of the call. Morgan told her the story about what happened. She didn’t come down on her. What was done was done. Her mom had always been there for her. All she said was, “Do you want to come here?”
     Bus tickets were purchased for her and the kids. Her grandmother helped her pack enough food for a two day bus trip. A very tired and worn out trio got off the bus at the greyhound terminal. Fifteen minutes later she was in the small, separate, two story dollhouse apartment attached to the back of her mother’s house, and the prologue of the story begins.

<<<>>>

Jamie opened his eyes. That part of his life seemed so long ago. Now the baby is twelve years old and he knew so little about him. What started out so happy came crashing down in a few short months. Was that the way his life was going to go, never working out? That caused him such pain.
     Morgan had been a good mom. He knew his son was well cared for. He hoped he would waiting for him to get out. His son was his reason for living – for making it through this.
     Back then Morgan talked about going back to school at Angelina Jr. College in Lufkin. She already had the certification to be a CNA – a certified nursing assistant. He could get his GED and go to college, too. It sounded so perfect.
     He thought they had a good relationship. At least for the few months they knew each other. What they didn’t have was time to get to know each other and have a strong enough bond to last. They did have a son that would tie them together no matter what.
     He didn’t think he would make it this far. Sometimes he wanted to give up. Sonni told him not to. She kept telling him he had value. He wasn’t sure about that, but it made a difference knowing someone cared.
     Jamie had wrestled with depression since he was a kid. It was hard having epilepsy and being different from the other kids. In prison, if you weren’t depressed when you got here you’d be depressed soon after. He was finally over halfway through his sentence. Only someone who had been inside could understand what that was like.
     Everyone was so aware of time in here. Everything was about time. Life was on a schedule that never changed. Everyone’s day evolved around how much time you had until you got out – or how much time you had to live because you were never getting out. Parole could still be possible. He needed to keep that dream alive in his head.
     Jamie had been keeping it alive since he walked in the door. He never got tired of playing these scenes in his head, over and over. He replayed every conversation he could remember, every nuance. He never got tired of reliving the first day he met Morgan. Things might not be good between them now but it want always like that.
     When he was waiting at the jail after he was sentenced he didn’t know what to expect. How long would they keep him? Was prison like jail? He had such anger and frustration. It often got him into trouble. He was tired of always having to pay the price for things he didn’t do. How long would they keep him in this limbo? He didn’t know what to do. His memories were all he had left.

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Lockdown 24 Hours a Day

24 hour lockdown
source credit:
urbangifts.co.uk

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

 <<< >>>

 

Hello mom,                                                                                          April 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you always

<<< >>>

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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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The Waking Hour

 

THE SHARP LEFT TURN

 

sad_man(Chapter – Inside the Forbidden Outside)

“You stole the stereo outa my car, didn’t ja? Jamie’s older brother Danton screamed, the veins in his neck popping out. “I know you did it.” He cornered him against the back of the car, fist raised, ready to beat the crap out of him. Jamie had never seen his brother so angry. He wasn’t trying to steal it. Honest. He was only showing it to a friend and left it there. When he went back to get it, it was gone. He took off with it. Why did he do stupid stuff like that? 

Danton tackled him to the ground. Next thing, mama was outside ordering them inside. Now. “What are you, stupid?” She swatted a book at them to get them inside. “Y’all want some know-it-all troublemaker neighbor to call the cops?” She was angry. Real angry. Belt swatting angry and she wasn’t afraid to use it. There was no ‘spare the rod’ in her house.

As she closed the door she peaked through the living room blinds and saw the flashing lights of two blue and white cop cars stopping in front of their house. 

“Damn,” she said under breath. “Damn fool kids carrying on like that outside for everyone t’see.”

She had a tough enough time without tongues waggin’ an  gossip flyin’. She closed her eyes and sighed. This was gonna to be trouble. Jamie had problems with this cop before. Always fixin’ to harass the kids in the neighborhood every chance he got. 

They stomped heavy on the porch and one officer knocked on the door. Mama opened it a few inches. “What do you want Officer?” she asked in her most respectful Texas drawl.

“Heard there was a fight outside.”

“You know how boys are.” she said, shaking her head in a knowing gesture. 

“Teenagers. Always fightin’ over somethin’. Everything’s under control officer.”

“I want to come inside and talk to them.” Through the opening in the door he could see them sitting on the couch.

“That won’t be necessary officer. As I said, I have everything under . . .”

Before she could finish speaking the cop kicked in the door. As he slammed his foot into the wood the force pushed her back a step. She half-turned, lost her balance and fell, breaking her wrist as she tried to break her fall.

Chaos broke out as her children rushed to her defense. As Danton jumped up from the couch and jumped toward the cop he was sprayed in the face with pepper spray by the other cop, who was waiting for the kids to try something. He backed away yelping in pain from burning eyes. Jamie ran to help his mother along with his older, quite pregnant sister. 

No one noticed when the youngest brother grabbed a broom by the handle that was propped up against the wall. In anger for hurtin’ his mama, he whacked that cop with all the might his young arms had. The straw end created angry scratches on his arm. He didn’t know assaulting a cop was a crime. He was just a kid defending his mama.  In this neighborhood you had to learn to defend the ones you loved.

The situation changed at break-neck speed from illegal entry and causing injury to a mother who did nothing wrong, to a chargeable offense of assaulting an officer – by a kid, which didn’t matter. Assault is assault, except when done illegally by an officer of the law. The charge should have been dropped. The cop shouldn’t have busted in the door.  When you have to say ‘should’ it’s too late. Hanging black kids out to dry is their job.

Danton was put in the back of one police car and promptly kicked out the back window. Jamie and his younger brother were put in the back of the other car and their mother and sister were whisked away in an ambulance.  

At the end of the day everyone went home but Jamie. Someone had to take the fall and be charged with something. The cop would never get charged no matter what he did. This was 1999. Cops got away with anything. Jamie’s life took a sharp left turn that day, forever changed.

A deal was made.  His younger brother could have been sent to juvenile detention for hitting the cop, but he’d get beaten up in there, or worse. Bad things happened to young boys.  A lawyer in the courthouse told Jamie to take the fall for him.  Jamie was sixteen, almost seventeen. He was better able to take care of himself if trouble found him.

Jamie was told, “If you plead guilty for hitting the cop with the broom you’ll only do nine months. No more. Nine months and you’re out and your juvenile record will be sealed.”  

That’s why it had to be him and not Danton. He was older. Not a juvenile any more. He’d miss a year of high school but he could take classes inside.  Would he do that for his little brother?  

Jamie thought about it. Could he do it? His brother wouldn’t last a day in there before he was ganged up on. It wasn’t fair. He only defended his mama. This was wrong. Asking him to take the punishment. What’s the point? Why punish him when he didn’t do nothin’? Wasn’t the person supposed to learn a lesson? What was this teaching him?  That there’s no justice? There should have been no sentence for anyone, but mama didn’t have no extra money to pay a lawyer who would be on their side. She already worked too hard  taking care of them.

He agreed. He did the time. He hated it. The staff kept trying to get in his face. Called him nigger this, nigger that, when no one was looking. But still, he did everything he was supposed to do. He went to school and attended Groups. He waited and waited until the time passed.  Finally, the day came for him to go home. He was packed and ready when they told him, “You can’t go home.”

“What?” He didn’t believe them. “Why? I did the nine months.” 

“You didn’t make level four. You can’t go home,” just as plain and matter of fact as you can get.

“I don’t know nothin’ about needing no level four.” There was something very wrong happening. 

“The lawyer didn’t tell me or my mom about any of this. You never intended to let me go did you?” Silent pause.

With satisfaction they told him again he wasn’t going anywhere.

He ran back to his room and slammed the door. He sat on his bed and cried. He was angry. He was so angry. He wanted to go home. He did what he agreed to. He started kicking the door and walls. He wasn’t going to listen to them ever again. He was lied to. Lied to. for no reason except to hurt him. He had so much anger inside. He started throwing his stuff around and destroying the room.

An officer came to his room, cuffed him, and took him to 23 hour lock up in security. It’s like they planned this. They were ready. Solitary confinement with the fancy name Behavior Modification Program. BMP. Just as bad as adult solitary except kids can’t handle it. Some commit suicide in those cells. Three months they kept him in there.

After that everything went down hill. He caused all kinds of problems any chance he got. He got into fights. He was sent to solitary three times for three months. They brought him school work every day as if that made it better.

Jamie suffered from depression as a young child because of epilepsy and it hit him hard. He curled up into a ball. Much later he was sent to a facility for kids with mental problems. He wouldn’t eat. He laid on the bed and slept all the time. He didn’t hear from any family. One day a woman came to see him and they talked about things. Just things.  She came back later that day and said, “You can go home now.” He had turned twenty-one.

# # # #

His mother picked him up the next day. It was a long drive. Not much of anything important was said while they drove through the state.  Their talk touched on different people in the family and what they were doing, to catch him up on things. Everyone had a life that went on living. Only his had stopped. He could count how many letters he had got in four years on one hand.

No one could ever understand what he’d been through. They wouldn’t even want to hear. It was too close to home for them. Each of them lived life not knowing if it was going to be their turn someday.

Anyway, that was yesterday. Sweep it under the rug and move on. It would be a downer if they realized they could have helped him make it through. Write a letter maybe? Asked how he was. Showed they cared. That didn’t matter. They would show him now with a party. It was quickly planned for his homecoming but they arrived home too late. Most had already gone home. 

A cousin asked, “Do you wanna walk over to my place? Show you where I live?” It was late but Jamie was keyed up from the day. 

“Sure, why not.” He stayed awhile then begged off that he was tired and started walking home, cutting through the parking lot and walking past a security guard standing outside his little office of importance. Rent-a-cop.  A puffed up ego in an official looking uniform.

Hey boy. What are you doing here?”

“Visiting my cousin. I’m on my way home.”

“Yeah, right. Come over here. I wanna to talk to you.”

Jamie had done nothing wrong so he walked over and went into the security office. He didn’t know the guard had called the cops after seeing a black man  suspiciously walking through the parking lot.  He thought later, what do you do to act suspicious? He was only walking, hands in his pockets.

The cops showed up. No one wanted to listen or believe he was only walking home. Surely he was looking for a crime to commit. Someone to rip off. someone to hurt. With a gun pointed at him he was cuffed, put in the back of the cop car and taken to the police station.

Welcome home Jamie, he thought to himself. It was unfortunate for him that it was Friday night. He had to sit in jail for three days before he could go in front of a judge. Charged with what? Breathing?

Monday afternoon Jamie was led into the courtroom. He looked at the judge, startled. It was the attorney who had convinced him he would only do nine months in juvenile detention. He promised him. How ironic, he sighed, emotions flooding through every nerve path. Of all people he could be brought in front of after getting out after doing four years, it had to be this man. Life has a funny way of slapping you upside your head when you least expect it.

“James Cummings,” his name was called. The judge had yet to notice him. He stood, straight and respectful, head held high. He looked his old attorney dead in the eye. The judge looked back. He leaned his head forward slightly as if to see better, eyebrows knitting together as he stared at him. There was long, silent pause. They stayed like that until the judge looked away.

Chin in the air, with an official white man’s superior gaze, he looked down his nose and said, “I know you.” 

“Yes. You do.” Jamie paused for a few seconds to let his words sink in.  “I was the teenager you promised would only do a nine month sentence in juvenile detention four years ago after you convinced me to take the fall for my younger brother.” Lets get it out in the open.

“Ah yes, I remember now.” the judge relaxed back in his chair. 

“I thought I recognized the name.How did that work out?”

He clearly didn’t know. Never checked up on his handiwork. Out of sight, out of mind. His life wasn’t important. He was on to screw the next black kid with no thought about what his actions might do. It was mostly black kids who were yanked through the system, as corrupt as it was.

“I just got out three days ago . . . sir. I was home only a couple hours, visiting with family I hadn’t seen in a long time, who grew up while I was away, paying – with strong emphasis – for my crime, when I was arrested simply for walking home, as if I had done ‘another crime‘ I needed to pay for.” Jamie’s words were slow and measured. Eyeball to eyeball his gaze never faltered from this man who had changed his life unfairly.

The judge broke eye contact and looked down at his hands. A long uncomfortable silence followed. Thoughts bombarded the judge’s mind, the least of which was what he had done to this young man. 

His face snapped up. Defending himself in his head he thought, “I was only doing my job.”

“It was the best option for the family,” he tried to make himself believe.  He now did the only thing he could do.

“Case dismissed.”

 

ITFO Book – In The Beginning

Jamie's letters

First there was a prologue added to the new beginning.  Now there is a prologue to the prologue. As I was sorting Jamie’s letters by the different prisons he had been moved around to during these years, with the next step putting them in order, I found a letter I didn’t remember receiving. It was dated quite some time before our back and forth letters began. Before he was sentenced. Before his son was born. The pain he was in made me want to cry.

The editor I’m working with, after I gave her this letter to read, told me, “This is the beginning of your book.  Everything else comes after it. This is why you started writing to him that led to writing this book.”  It also gave me a chance to tell where I was when it started, because after all, I am the one who is writing it.

The post before this – the prologue – is ten years after this. so the title of that chapter is changed to Ten Years Later . . . The next chapter will jump back to his beginning 34 years earlier and then go linear. What do you think? Give me some input. Whether you know me and have followed along or reading about it for the first time.  Would you keep reading? Since I don’t have experience writing books, and I’m self publishing this, I am trying to learn to write the best book I can, anything helpful would be appreciated.  If you sign up for the newsletter below and follow along you’ll have a chance to download the finished product for free when it is done.

I added my newest piece of music to this post because it blew me away when I was done. It about knocked me down draining my emotions. A piece doesn’t often affect me that intensely. I usually wait 2 days to listen back so I can hear it clean, but I couldn’t wait this time to hear what I played. I hope you enjoy.  If you do, leave a comment at soundcloud. To a musician, those stats are important, too.

In The Beginning

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 realy sorry about the phone calls to. I’m realy 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

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

My very pregnant daughter Morgan arrived at my home by bus a couple months ago, with her two other children. No doctor in Key West would accept her as a patient this late in her pregnancy. She was already in the latter part of the second trimester. No doctor wanted to be responsible for her care and delivery, especially a doctor accepting Medicaid for insurance.

     It didn’t help her second pregnancy had problems they needed to know about when we called. After days of phone calls, we found a doctor in Miami. Every exhausting eight hour roundtrip drive, the bigger the baby grew, I could hear Morgan grunt with every bump and swerve the car made on that narrow road through the Keys.

     The closer she got to her delivery date the more frequent her appointments. It was worth the drive. While in labor she did have a problem delivery and if she had gone to the Lower Keys Hospital they would have life-flighted her to the mainland. She might not have made it on time because the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck three times. She would not have had this doctor who saved the baby, and I would not have been there for the birth. When baby Jamie was delivered by c-section I would have still been driving crazy, over the speed limit, up that same narrow road through the keys.

     The day of this doctor appointment was a normal, hot humid summer day in Key West. Coming home, after driving around the block a few times trying to park close to the house, I dropped her off in front and parked two blocks down the street. Parking spaces were always a premium. It was easier to get around town on a bicycle or moped. Everything was so close on this tiny island. I was lucky I found a parking place that close.

     Walking down Whitehead Street toward my house I passed the Hemingway House, home of the late writer Ernest Hemmingway, which still had a line of people waiting outside for the last tour of the day. As I glanced in through the gate, six toed cats were walking lazily around the property as usual. Feral cats were a problem on Key West. I had at least twenty living under the house. They ate the eggs of all the chickens that lived in the hedges. Roosters crowed all day and all night.

     The front gate to my house made a metallic grind when it opened. I grabbed the mail as I walked down the two foot wide walkway between houses to get to my entrance in the back. It was a typical Key West house nestled in the charm of Old Town, built close together because of hurricanes. Morgan was already laying down on her daybed in the guest house. I plopped down on my bed with a loud sigh of exhaustion and began sorting the mail.

     There was a letter addressed to me from Jamie. That was odd. He had never written to me. I briefly talked to him on the phone a few times to ask how he was, but I never tried to use up his minutes and would quickly go get Morgan. Those minutes were precious to both of them.

     James Cummings is the father of Morgan’s baby. A little over 6’1”, and a little overweight, he had a pleasant face and perfect manners. He was nice. I liked him and they seemed happy.

     Unfortunately, Jamie was arrested one night a few months before when he was at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person and was arrested with him. He was still waiting at the jail for an attorney to talk to. He didn’t know yet what was going to happen to him. He knew all he had was a public defender. They are not known for being on the side of the defendant. At least not in Texas. They do the bidding of the District Attorney. He heard about that from other men at the jail, so he’s worried. Having a pregnant girlfriend made it worse.

     Nerve racking isn’t a good enough word to explain how he felt. He and Morgan were both anxious. All I could do is give her emotional support when she needed it and help with the kids when I could.

     Being black is only the first strike against him. Being poor was the second. Money buys justice and when you don’t have any, luck doesn’t fall on your side. He has no police record but Texas doesn’t much like poor black people. It didn’t look good for him because if there is no money for an attorney, would a public defender make the effort to help him the way he needed? Probably not.

     Morgan scraped money together from the paychecks she earned working for me at my store, Touched By The Sun, at the Westin Hotel. It was a busy little store right where cruise ships dock. She sent the money to Jamie’s brother, who knew somebody, who knew an attorney, who would take a down payment and pay the rest over time. He would start working to get him out.

     I don’t know what happened, but it all went up in smoke and the money disappeared with it. Jamie was stuck with the public defender who had no interest in the truth about that night. He was royally screwed, as most people are when they can’t afford to pay an attorney. There can be no justice when there is no truth. The justice system is often not interested in the truth, it is interested in filling prison beds.

     I first met Jamie last Thanksgiving, before his arrest. I had flown to Texas to visit my daughter and grandchildren. I met him the first night and he joined us for breakfast the next morning. It gave me a little time to talk with him. He was a polite young man who answered every question with, “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, ma’am.” He had a wonderful smile. It was more than obvious he loved Morgan and the kids. They hadn’t known each other very long. That’s probably why they didn’t tell me she was pregnant. I think they were worried I would be upset. It would be easier to tell me during a phone call.

     She was right. I was upset. Where was her brain? Jamie didn’t have a job. He was looking for one but availability in their area wasn’t good when you have no education. How would he support the family by himself when she became too pregnant to work? They had plans, but right now they were pipe dreams. Love doesn’t fix all, and pipe dreams don’t buy food.

     She struggled to take care of the children she already had. Her marriage fell apart and she received no child support. She knew I would worry because her last pregnancy had problems which could easily occur again.

     After Jamie was arrested, visiting him at the jail, they talked about calling me to see if she could come stay with me. Morgan knew she couldn’t do it alone. I put her on a bus and arranged the little guest house behind us for her and the kids. At least she was safe and he didn’t have to worry about her.

     During this time Morgan and Jamie needed to talk. There were promises of waiting til he got out and loving each other forever. There was such deep pain on both sides of the phone line. Their time together was cut short before it even had a chance to begin. Both were afraid about what would happen to their future together.

     The phone bill was escalating at an alarming rate. Calls from jail are expensive. Twenty-five dollars for fifteen minutes. I had to tell Jamie to cut back how often he called. Sometimes he called more than once day. I hated to do that but it was going to break me financially, and there were other added expenses getting her to and from Miami to the doctors.

     I understood, he was on the outside, worried and scared. His girlfriend was carrying his child and he couldn’t be with her. I felt bad for both of them. I didn’t want to make him feel even even more separated than he was.

     That separation was nothing compared to what was coming. It was a good thing he didn’t know.


 

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Subscribe to the newsletter on prison issues and inmate writings. As I build my mailing list for the book I’m writing about Jamie Cummings life, Inside The Forbidden Outside, keeping people informed along the way is important. Most of the information in the newsletter is not on this blog. We have a government now more gung-ho on locking up as many people as they can for even longer years.  It is going to affect even more people who will get knocked sideways when they find themselves behind a steel door. Staying informed helps you protect yourself. Yes, it can happen to you, too.

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

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My Last Day After 18 1/2 Years in Confinement

solitary confinement, fantasy crime, jamie cummings
photo source: turbosquid.com

There is much I could say here about solitary confinement, but you can find many other posts and pages on my blog that speak of it. I published this post before and it has been read and watched over 8500 times over more than two years. with a few updates it was worth published it again.  This is just as important now as it has ever been. There are links beneath the post when you click on it to take it out of the archive roll that can take you to other sites that will give you many more examples of it. The best one is Solitary Watch

Between the story of the man this blog is about, who has spent a number of years in ad seg and solitary confinement years largely in retaliation for standing up for his rights and the rights of other inmates; almost 11 years total in prison, first offense, with 6 years to go, and others like Armando Macias, who has become an interesting pen pal over the last couple years. He has 3 pages here that can be found at the top of the page in the white area of his writings about his experiences when he arrived on death row and the humiliations they put him through. I recently found out he just got married to his long ago love in his life. How do marriages work in prison? That is a topic for another post. I can only tell you now he is as happy as any other newly married man because he knows he is loved, regardless of his past. He has hope. I have learned more than I ever wish there was a need to know about prisons. It has opened up in a sense of compassion for people that most others would throw away as having no value. There are good and bad people in prison just as there are good and bad people in the population.

I sincerely hope you keep on reading while you are here, and return often. Jamie’s story is one that needs to be told. You probably came to this page from a social media site. If you go to the page that starts out with, “I want to encourage you . . .” You will find out the important places to start first reading that will give you a better understanding of the purpose of the blog. So often people do the wrong thing for the right reason but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. And it doesn’t mean he should lose so many years of his life because of it, unless there is financial motivation. During 9 years we have been writing it gave me a clear understanding of how necessary it was to help him. He mattered to me. This one human being, younger than my daughter, father to one of my grandsons, who wants to have another chance at life.

Prisons are kept full using the backdoor method – mostly parole violations, not new crimes, although they do exist. Actual rehabilitation is not really a high priority. The fact that Jamie also has epilepsy and has had a multitude of seizures while inside, will only make it that much harder to find work. The fact that he spent over 4 years in juvy on a bogus charge from late 16 to 21, and not able to get an education will also make it harder. Renting a place to live will be the hardest. He is worried and he has a good reason to be.

In addition to these things you will find music media files on some of the posts. I am an improvisational pianist and and play and record music that fits the emotion of how I feel when I write. I hope you enjoy them. Any one of those pieces will take you to SoundCloud where there are 29 pieces total.

I’m writing a book about Jamie’s experiences with the justice system and bad prison policy in general titled “Inside the Forbidden Outside” Publishing a book when you have never published one is a daunting task. I spend most of my day writing and learning about the business of writing.

I also put out a newsletter once a month about prison issues, stories of other inmates, updates on how the book is coming along, and other information. You can sign up below.

Thank you.

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Me, A Racist? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

Letter date – Aug 29th, 2016

Hello mom,

From reading your letter it looks like your hands have been full. You do so much on the computer and I have never messed around on it.  Of course, it was never like it is now. Back in the 90’s we had a computer but we didn’t have internet.

time-cover

I was just reading the new issue of Time magazine you got for me. On the cover was little furry monster with horns, a big grin and a laptop on his lap.  the article speaks about all different websites, what they are used for and so on.  However, the main topic was about the hate in the internet world. It’s everywhere and it’s crazy.  I thought about what you said about me being called a racist and that is why I had no visitors.  Someone had spread rumors about me to people and maybe that is why nobody wants anything to do with me. Could this be the excuse I get now when there is still no visit? Like you, even though I know I can’t change anything with my family I can’t help but still think about it.  it seems as thought there should be a reason I could understand. Maybe I don’t agree with what is said but I don’t have any way to prove that it is not the way I am.

Being accused of being a racist when you know you have never said anything that could be taken as a racist remark makes me very angry. I have no way to defend myself. I can be accused of anything and those stories can be spread. People will believe these stories I am not this young immature man anymore. I am a man who has been through a lot these past ten years.  I have had to take responsibility for my actions and also take responsibility for things I didn’t do and was accused of doing, but I will be damned if I am going to take responsibility for being a racist.

It’s bad enough to be in here in the first place with other “charges” being added to my time.

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

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The Prison to Poverty Pipeline

americancivilwar-com-f-douglas
source credit: american civilwar.com

Frederick Douglass, a slave in Maryland who became an abolitionist and journalist said, “It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

“To make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken the moral and mental vision and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”

How often have you heard: Black people are stupid.  Genetically they don’t have the abilities of white people. Genetically they are predisposed to be criminals. If you hear anything enough you start regarding it as truth.  Many white people thoroughly believe they are a higher cut of human being.

In July, Bill O’Reilly making an extremely stupid remark on air at Fox News, commenting on Michele Obama’s comment that slaves built the Whitehouse said, “Those slaves werewell fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. 

women prison labor
photo credit: popularresistance.org

Most people do not realize how many of the products they purchase off the shelf and on online sites are products made by slaves in the prisons for as little as .29 an hour.  From Eddie Bauer’s jeans to Victoria Secret’s lingerie to military ammunition and supplies our police force needs to needlessly subdue anyone they choose to stop and harass. These products made by prison inmates are used against themselves. Inmates who are paid a ‘wage’, when released are presented with a bill for room and board which puts those released in high debt in a society where it is nearly impossible to rent an apartment or find a job.  It is important to keep the prisons full, and no politician shooting off his or her mouth about reducing prison populations will be able to accomplish more than a small amount to make it look as if something positive is happening.

How do they keep the prisons full? They start with the children and separate them from their family intent on ruining their chances of getting ahead.  Are their children who are uncontrollable.  Yes, but you have to go back to the beginning of their lives. How many of them have parents in prison?  How many of the men in their families have been to prison, because the odds for a black man is one in three.  The odds for Hispanics: one in six. A black man with a high school education has a 70% chance of going to prison.  So, logically, keep a black man out of school and there is a greater likelihood of filling the prisons because – no education means no job.

When Jamie gets out of prison when he is 40, and so far they have kept him at a level where he is allowed no phone, no job and no education. The property manager at the prison physically took his GED book and 18 other books from him – for no reason, when he was transferred .  I can only conclude that she didn’t want him to self-educate.  One of his greatest worries is wondering what will become of him when he gets out, because although he knows I am here, I will be pushing 70 when he gets out and my health is not the best.

Most people have heard of the ‘school to prison pipeline’, but it is more than that. It is also the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’, the ‘poverty to prison pipeline’ and the ‘prison to poverty pipeline’. Why is there a funnel that keeps a never ending supply of children being forced through it knowing it will irrevocably alter the course of their lives. Sadly, many, or perhaps most of these children won’t have a chance to build a positive life.  They can never play catch up because they are too far behind the eight ball. They will have to support themselves anyway they can find to do so. Legal or illegal because you have to eat.  The prisons bank on the revolving back doors of the prisons.  It is the least costly way of keeping the prisons full.

If these men and women had a support structure in the beginning, there is a good chance it isn’t there any more. Their life experiences and what they learn living in a biased justice system that doesn’t supply them with the experiences and subsequent wisdom they need, or the courage and confidence to have a life filled with love and hope. These are broken men – and women. The odds are completely stacked against them unless they are lucky enough to find an organization that guides them into the right direction.

I have read, if a prisoner is paroled they have a step down program that counsels them on re-entering society and helping them find at least a half-way house. Prisons do not have any programs for those that do their entire time. They are simply put out the door with 30 days of medications, a bus ticket, a few bucks and they are on their own if there is no one to pick them up. There are some programs if they can find them after they are released. If they had been in solitary confinement – they go from their cell to the street.  I can’t even imagine how horrifying that is.

What we learn as children sets the stage for how we make decisions in our lives when we become adults. If a person comes from a dysfunctional or broken family who had children without knowing themselves what it means to parent children, how are they able to learn what behavior and control is needed in society. They may end up in foster care bounced from home to home until they drop out.  What do they have the time to learn if their education has been totally disrupted and no one cares one iota if they succeed or fail?

Not every child who has been suspended from school came from a family such as this. Some just had the misfortune of having a teacher with the tendency to suspend more black children than white. Teachers often have more tolerance and leniency toward white children. They suspend 4x more black children than white. Without realizing it these teachers when they were children may have learned their bias from the adults around them. They may never say it aloud, but they can’t help but believe and expect their black students to be trouble makers.

When I was a child going through middle school in the 60’s not one child was handcuffed

kids in handcuff
photo course: bordc.org

by the police and put in the back of a police car. Not one. Not a single solitary one. But then, the first black classmate I had was in 5th grade and he was the only one. Through 6th grade black students were segregated simply because they lived in the black neighborhoods.  I never went into those neighborhoods.  I was too scared. Why? Why did I feel that way? What did I hear, and when, to make me afraid to go where they lived?  I couldn’t tell you. Not one school had a cop – a trained and sometimes brutally physical cop, who sometimes slammed kids to the ground, the way they do now. There were no cops on school premises every hour the school was open. What the hell happened? Children haven’t changed. Parents and parenting changed. Adults, coming from the baby boomer age wanted to be friends with their kids, gave them more freedom, didn’t teach them to respect the generation that raised them. Parents lost control.

At school it became  easier to suspend students than to work with them. Many schools no longer have on site guidance counselors or nurses. (This article should make you cry or get very angry) There have always been mischievous kids – pranksters – kids who picked on other kids and kids who would get into physical fights. They were sent to the principal’s office and he meted out punishment. Maybe the paddle, which I admit to getting, and it was never considered abuse. I deserved it, I’m sure. Or we got detention or a meeting with parents would happen, but never was a child handcuffed and taken away – until it became profitable. Then the child would have to see a judge and often, most often, if you were black you went to juvenile detention. Why? Why is there zero tolerance for young children doing what children do? Why did it become so necessary to ruin so many young lives?

This funnel was called the “school to prison pipeline” because so many children who were forced through it could never get their lives on track. Juvenile detention changed them. Many became angry. Many were sexually abused. Until just this year juvenile facilities used solitary confinement as punishment if they ‘broke a rule’. Now children cannot be put in solitary, but it took one boy committing suicide to make the change. If adult brains can be permanently scarred, what would it do to a child? It is heartbreaking. I’m not talking about children who have committed a serious crime, I’m talking about a child who had a teacher who couldn’t, wouldn’t take the time to help  because perhaps they had too many kids in their classroom, so it was easier to call the on-site cop who feeds him into the system.

It is quite odd and very disturbing that the majority of the children fed into this pipeline are black. Teachers who were interviewed admitted they are more likely to kick a black child out of class than a white child. Hispanics are in the middle. What does it say about us as nation, supposedly a Christian nation, some people think, yet our dislike and fear of black people even extends down to children, who are also supposedly children of God, if you believe in that sort of thing. Why are black children treated as though it is in their genes to be criminals, which is impossible. The state system, quite frankly, took away their realization that they, too, have just as much to offer as white children. Many have been set on the road for failure because the new definition of slavery lives in the prisons.

It is drilled into them that they don’t fit into a white man’s privileged society. I know we have many successful people color. I am talking about the ones the juvenile justice system got hold of and created a revolving door class of uneducated children who grew up and couldn’t get on their feet and landed in prison quite often convicted erroneously.

This blog is dedicated to Jamie Cummings who spent far more years in juvenile detention than what he was sentenced. He should not have been sentenced in the first place.  It is appalling what they did to him. No crime was committed. A cop who had harassed him earlier illegally kicked his way into his house with no probable cause and no warrant. His mother was badly hurt. Since Jamie was a minor they gave him 9 months in juvenile detention because he was the only one they could “punish”.  His brother was over eighteen and there was nothing they could charge him with.  His other brother was just a young boy and his sister was pregnant. So Jamie was it.  There needed to be some reason why the cop kicked the door in. But they didn’t let him out in nine months. He was in for more than four years, until he turned 21. By then he was seriously depressed in a juvenile facility for kids with mental issues. He did three stints in solitary confinement which they called Behavior Modification Programs or BMP. The day he got out, walking home from visiting a cousin he was arrested again for only walking and someone thought he looked suspicious. You can read this story in more detail. What do you think happened to his education?

Jamie didn’t need to be sacrificed for the Prison Industrial Complex as someone to increase the profit of their bottom line. The possibilities of his life was shattered. But would he have had a successful life coming from the poor section of small town in east Texas where job opportunities were slim? We’ll never know. He has grown up while being locked up, a total now of more than 14 1/2 years with 6 1/2 to go.

How many more children have suffered the sadness of having their lives stolen from them for profit. So many of these children end up getting in more trouble and ending up back inside. What else do they know?

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

 

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If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

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