Jamie’s Backstory For New Readers

Lately I have been getting questions about why Jamie is in prison and what happened. There are so many posts on this site it is hard to find the ones that explain his story. I fyou read the earliest posts by going to the archive you will find more of his early letters as he is trying to figure out how he is going to  make it through 17 years. So I thought I would write a synopsis that tells his story n a nutshell.  Thank you for reading. I have been writing this blog for him for nearly 4 years.

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earlyjamie
Last moments of being free

I met Jamie Cummings in November 2005 when I went to Texas to visit my daughter and her two children. She brought Jamie to meet me. We talked that evening and again the following morning when I took everyone to breakfast. A quiet, shy man who was very polite. The following month he was arrested and that started the incarceration he is completing now. He has been inside so far for 12 1/2  very hard years. Most of it has been spent in adseg, which is another name for solitary confinement. It has been over 5 years since I received a phone call.  I try to see him every year now, but it isn’t always possible because of the expense.

Jamie is the stereotype of a majority of those incarcerated. Black, no father – might be in prison himself. No communication with him. He lived in the lower income section of town in East Texas with a hardworking mother raising four children. No woman can be a mother and a father. I know that from raising my own children who had a deadbeat dad.

Black children and teenagers are harassed by the police just about everywhere in this country. Black children are more often suspended from school and have teachers who treat them differently than white kids.  More black kids than white kids are sent to juvenile detention for the same offenses in schoool. Jamie went through a typical time of many teenagers getting into minor trouble and pushing the limits. He also had to deal with having epilepsy. In 9th grade he spent a year living with an uncle because he was given probation for something – I don’t know what. He went back home to start 10th grade.

That year he and his older brother got into a fight outside his home which their mother broke up and made them go inside. Someone called the police and they ended up on their doorstep. When their mother answered the door she told the police (2) everything was under control and he could see the boys sitting on the couch. He insisted on going into the house. There was no probably cause. The boys had done nothing wrong. There was no crime. When she said again that everything was under control he pushed his way into the house, knocked her down and her wrist broke when she fell. The oldest boy made a move toward the police and got pepper sprayed. Jamie and his sister went to aid their mother. The little brother, a child, picked up a broom and swung it at one of the cops on the arm with the straw end and scratched it. The only thing he know was this cop had hurt his mother and he was going to defend her. Now, there was no longer an issue of illegal entry and causing a broken bone – it was now assaulting an officer of the law. Now the cops had a reason to arrest someone.

Jamie was the only one who went to jail. His older brother was over 18 and no crime was committed to charge him with. The little boy was too young and his sister was pregnant. Jamie was the only one left they could pin anything on, even though he had not done anything. In court the attorney asked Jamie to do his brothers time in juvenile detention. He could take care of himself. It was a 9 month sentence and the attorney promised him he’d be out and could go back to school. Jamie agreed to do it. But after nine months they wouldn’t let him go – for four years. Jamie became a very angry young man. When he was finally released, he was only home for a few hours and when returning home from a cousins house, he was arrested for walking and because he looked suspicious. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Three days later he was taken in front of the judge – who was the attorney who had told him he only had to do 9 months. He had been given a judgeship. He didn’t know Jamie had never been let out.  He dismissed the current charges.

A few months later he met my daughter. She became pregnant. One night he went out with friends to party, normal for a 21 year old man. He didn’t choose his friends wisely. One of them had a gun in his backpack and robbed the club they had gone to.  Jamie ran, but not fast enough.  He said, “Friends don’t leave friends,” although I’m sure he feels differently today. There is much wisdom he didn’t learn being locked up during his teen years.                                                                                                                                                                      It doesn’t matter if you are the one who commits the crime.  If you are there then you are associated with it and will get the same charges. He never saw these friends again.

My daughter went on with her life raising their son. For a variety of reasons she didn’t take their son to see his father except in the beginning. No one else took his son in to see him, either. It’s been years since anyone in his family has gone to see him   except when I fly to Texas. On a rare occasion he’ll get a letter from someone, but no one answers the letters he sends.

This is not uncommon.  Just like someone who is housebound dude to illness or disability, people don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. Although he has no way of getting any money to buy what he needs at the commissary – hygiene products, stamps, underwear or shoes or even paying the yearly medical fee of $100 that Texas demands. Because of his medical issues he needs to be under a dr’s care but the care he gets is a joke. They often withhold his seizure medication.

I can’t begin to explain in a paragraph the treatment he has gotten and the abuse he has taken. Being kept in adseg means she can’t go to school or use the library. He is in cell 23/7 and often 24/7.

I am the only person who has consistently been there for him trying to provide the necessary things he needed along with books. I have paid legal fees to have papers drawn up to get them to stop messing with his medication by getting a medical POA designed for the prisons. Here is where it gets tricky. I have only a disability check of $1009 a month because of a series of difficult medical issues.  I have worked hard in my life and working harder to get my life back.

This is why I am writing a book about Jamie’s life and his growth as a human being. It is why I write the music I do to go with the book, determined to make this successful. He is worth the effort.  Unfortunately I don’t have the money to take care of somethings that could make his life better.  50% of the profit will go to help him build his life – and to help mine as well. Jamie gave me a reason to fight for my life. Now he gives me a reason to write music. I get up every day thinking of what I will do to affect the lives around me in a better way.

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I had T-shirts made hoping that sales would help me provide for him. Thank you to those who have purchased. I need help to help him from people who are able to, who have followed Jamie’s story, or maybe read some of the chapters I’ve posted or listened to the music. I know how much this has encouraged him – and I know how much it has encouraged me to continue on.

In addition to the merchandise there is a donation button where you can donate from $1 and can change the donation to anything with the up and down arrows next to it. I don’t know how I can say thank you enough for any help you can give.

 

 

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Kids or Criminals? Growing up and getting out – a very important entry!

Young offender, kids in prison, juvenile incarcerationThe saddest casualties of this rush to throw as many people in prison as possible, are the children. Yes, children often do serious crimes. Many of these kids were thrown away by abusive, neglectful, or addicted parents. Many were raised by the state and the only mentoring they could get was from other, often young, people in their same shoes. They were ” at risk kids” for a long and no one paid attention. Kids with no wisdom, no real understanding of what they were doing to their lives. So so sad. It rips my heart out.

When they were delinquent at school no one cared. When they were taken to juvenile court no one cared. Many were moved from one abusive foster parent to another. When they started doing petty crimes no one cared. When they ended back in juvenile court, the courts were too swamped and probation officers never checked on them to see if they were in school. They were sent to home probation. No one cared.

Only their friends cared. Their barrio, their homies protected each other. They survived. No one taught them right from wrong and no one punished them. The courts often did nothing.  There was no time or resources to get these kids the help they needed. There are too many of them. The crime rate by children soared. Then one day the child finally did something really bad and they noticed. Now the court said,

You are a horrible child, you’ve been in trouble for years. We told you to stay in school and you didn’t. You can’t be helped. We’re going to send you over to adult court and they can deal with you.

22 States certify children as young as 7 to be tried in adult court. By now their lives are lost. They often become habitual offendersrs. They know no other life. They have no idea what a life is like being loved and cared for and raised to be the best they can be. 70% of all foster children end up in prison and female foster children are 600x more likely to have a baby they struggle to raise.

Although this is a different issue – pro lifers, abortion abolitionists have no concern for a baby after it is born. They only want it born. Life is sacred they say. But when these babies are discarded because they can’t be cared for their life is not so sacred anymore. Now they want them thrown in the trash.  We did this. Many of these children didn’t have to turn out this way. These babies often end up as one of these children and it is a goddamn crying shame.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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Juvenile Detention – A Cry For Help

Armando Macias artwork

Unless you have a child – or know a child who is “at-risk” you don’t give it much thought. We read a lot about gangs and the violence that comes from it be we don’t understand why it happens or about the kids that get caught up in in it. The violence has increased so much over the years and the court system that is supposed to take care of it – can’t – it so the easiest thing to do is to either look the other way, or lock them up and get them off the street. What they don’t do is get them the help they need at a time where some of them can be saved. Juvenile courts are too chaotic. The don’t have the manpower or the resources adult courts have. Many crimes can’t be proven. Witnesses don’t show up. The reschedule court dates so often the people involved give up and don’t show up. When that happens the case is dismissed. Finally the kids are old enough to push over to adult court and have them tried there. So many of these kids are crying out for help and no one gives a crap. Case loads are so heavy they don’t have time.

If you live in a city that has a lot of gang activity, the kids who don’t have parents who end up in foster care also end up getting sucked into the life of a gang because at least now they have people in their life who care about them. Many of these people came from the same broken homes. They know how that feels. This cycle keeps churning out people who have to survive somehow. They don’t have educations. They can’t get good jobs. So, for them, crime pays. They start making regular visits to juvenile court, but there is no help. If they had been helped their life could have been different. ‘

States have gone back and forth over when it is okay to try kids as adults, especially when they do adult type crimes. Finally they have released the harm it causes to keep them in solitary confinement. Why anyone thinks it isn’t harmful to adults is beyond me. Maybe because by that time most of them have lives that are already ruined. To ruin someone so young with isolation gives that minor no chance. It’s such a shame that it had to take Kalief Browder committing suicide when he got out, to wake “them” up from the outcry from the public. America won’t even admit we keep keep adults in solitary for the decades we do. We don’t torture inmates they say.

It is easy to see that the way we deal minors only makes certain that when they get out, they will be full fledged criminals because they have no concept of how to live. They have more than likely never experienced anything close to having a normal life. I say “more than likely” because there has been a greater trend toward children coming from “good” homes and still deciding that the life of a “gangsta” has more appeal and excitement. But just like the sentences given out to older criminals, those children are looked at as having more promise and worth rehabilitating and get more breaks within the system. What helps is they have family support who show up at court hearings and typically hire real attorneys who have gone over their cases and planned a strategy so they don’t end up in prison at 16. Most juvenile offenders don’t get to see their attorney until the are sitting at a desk in front of the judge who will decide whether they stay in the juvenile system or proceed to prison.

If they go to prison they are subject to the same system as adults, which means, no rehabilitation and being subjected to adult predators. They come out with a felony record they will never escape from. Education becomes extremely hard to get and their spiral down happens quickly. The law isn’t set up to benefit minors. Juvenile courts are not allowed to consider why the child is there. What is his background? They can only look at the offense. But where do these kids come from? Why did it get to the point wher3e it became hopeless? Why wasn’t the child helped when there was plenty of time to do it, but feet were dragged and nothing was done?

These kids became a lost society, kept out of view. They eventually became found a home in prison with the same people they were with on the outside; friends back with friends. They never had anyone who cared so they gravitated to the only people who loved them, people like themselves. Of course there are exceptions. There are kids that just seem determined ruin any chance they had. They go against what their parents tried to provide for them who don’t understand what they did wrong or couldn’t see in time to fix. Maybe there was nothing that could be done. But I want to talk about those who had no choice. Those who were born into a life that pushed them into a life of crime because it was all they knew.

I write to several inmates about their life and how they feel about where they are. I want to tell you about one who recently confided in me:

“I want to explain the way culture and the environment I lived in all my life formed my outlook. Blacks are not the only ones being racially targeted.  Growing up I remember if white people in cop cars saw you they were going to stop you.  I remember that no matter what, you would be searched.  Driving, they’d pull you over.   It didn’t matter if there was a reason to pull you over. If you ran and they caught you they’d beat you, so you ran faster and you didn’t get caught. Staying there to find out meant you would probably go to jail. Innocence is not a factor.  Never was, and it still isn’t.

I’m from the ghetto.  There were foothills nearby.  At times we’d see the KKK burning crosses in front of black people’s houses.  That stopped in the 80’s.  In 1992 there were the LA riots because Rodney King was beat up by cops.  Only when I received my first prison sentence and reached my 20’s did I learn about the laws.  They weren’t even supposed to be allowed to stop and search us for no reason, but the law never seems to apply to the police.

In prison, on paper, they say there are rehabilitation programs.  They say that, but in reality there aren’t any.  I wanted to go to school.  I wanted to learn a better of living but I soon learned that it didn’t mean me.  There was no rehabilitation for people like me.

There is a mentality you learn growing up and living like that. The chances of people escaping that life is small.  Most don’t.  I’m one of the ones who didn’t escape.  all those programs for “at-risk” kids never existed back then. I don’t know many kids benefit from them today.  Everyone went to jail.  Punks went to jail.  I accepted that mentality.  It was all I knew. It didn’t scare me.  In fact, jail was a vacation from an abusive home.  Violence was normal to me, so gangbanging was no biggy.

When you see very few people you know not go to jail and many of them die, it become normal.  When I got out of jail the first time all my good intentions faded in a second.  I got out wanting to do good, but when you encounter a hugh problem, who you really are comes out. Your intentions disappear.  It’s engraved in you.

So you ask, why did I go back to prison?  Why is it that if I knew the consequences, why am I here?  Because that is how it was. I had no place else to go.  It is the only experience I knew.”

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This man was raised in a violent home where he got beat every day.  There was violence all around him.  He didn’t have parents who made sure he had good food every day and went to school.  There was no Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny.  There were no family Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties.  The kids I grew up with all had these things.  We had families that cared.  I’m sure violence existed but it never entered in my life.  If you had his life what would you do?  You would bond with other kids who had a life who could relate to yours.  They were your family.  You never really knew there was any other kind of life you could experience.  There was no choice.  You would end up in prison.

There many kids who don’t have families.  Maybe the state took them away because of drugs and neglect.  Many of the parents died and there was no place for the kids to go.  We have all heard horror stories.  The juvenile system is overloaded with kids who have no place to go.  They get shifted between multiple foster home which are also rife with drug abuse and violence. There aren’t enough case workers who can take the time to care even if they wanted to.  Nothing is done in a timely manner.  Even when there is someone who is willing to take these kids in, the paperwork is insurmountable.  The kids get lost in the system.  They find themselves in and out of court until eventually they get old enough to prosecute.  One more person locked up. Another one to take his place.

80% of those incarcerated went through the foster care system.  Those are scary numbers.  Doesn’t that tell you that if there were a better way of dealing with these throw away kids the prison population would go down?  Isn’t it time something better should be done? Haven’t we had enough generations of throwaway kids?

Here is an excellent article about what happens to kids we lock up. Why Do We Still Put Kids In Shackles When They Go To Trial

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

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Prison, We Must Do Better for At-Risk Teens

Jamie started in the school to prison pipeline at the age of sixteen because a cop had a vendetta against his family. He literally pushed his way into their home, knocked his mother down and broke her wrist. Jamie defended his mother. Was that enough reason to put him in juvenile detention until he was 21, unable to get even a GED? What kind of job was he supposed to get. He might have legally been an adult, but he had no experience to draw on. He had also spent extended time in solitary confinement. In Juvy it was called “Behavior Modification Program” or BMP.

teens a risk, school to prison pipelineI recently started reading a book that was published in 1997. The title is, “No Matter How Loud I Shout -A Year In The Life Of Juvenile Court” – by Edward Humes. It takes place in juvenile courts in LA. The courts then, and now have no idea how to handle children criminals. Some are hardened criminals while still in their early teens and some get mixed up in something and learn their lesson. Some come from the streets and some come from the middle and upper middle income families where they have every opportunity a child could want. The conflict is when to prosecute them as adults. There can’t be one rule that covers everything that changes at an exact moment yet this is what they try to do. Are kids responsible for their actions and at one age. Some get their lives ruined and some get let go until the next crime they commit. It’s a tough call.

During this time this book was written I lived in LA until my children were teens. I went through rough times with my kids. When my son and daughter were 15 and 18 we moved away. I had to get them away. Educating them in public schools was impossible. I pulled them out of bad schools and put them in other bad schools hoping they would be better. But the writing was on the wall if we stayed. We loved north to a small town. My son got his act together and started working hard. My daughter got pregnant and had her first baby at 16.

When I read today about the juvenile courts in LA in the 90’s, knowing how easily it could have been my children I was reading about, it is scary. Today they are 35 and 38 and they have their own teenagers to worry about. It is much worse it today than it was in the 90’s. Kids have less and less respect for teachers or anyone in a position of authority. So many have less respect for themselves as well. They were never taught respect in their homes. Many parents wanted to be “friends” with their children instead of parents. These teenagers I am reading about in this book are in their 30’s now. Are they alive? Are they in prison?

As parents we want to say it won’t happen to our children. It does, and when they grab hold of your child, or your grandchildren, the system doesn’t plan on letting go until they have sucked every possible way of making money from them.  Look at Jamie. He is now 32. He STILL doesn’t have a GED. Without that, how can he take other educational courses? How can he learn about something he is interested in when he doesn’t even know what that is?

Are there bad kids out there? Absolutely. Bad parents in bad neighborhoods, and bad parents in good neighborhoods. Some parents don’t want to believe their child would do these things, but they do. There is a saying, “If you continue to do what you always done you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” Parents need to have a better perception of the life outside their children are exposed to. There is no one protecting them. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you are from or how much money you make. Some of the things my children tell me now they did 20 years ago had my jaw on the floor, similar to the things I told my parents long after the fact. We were lucky. Really lucky. Not everyone is.

In the past few years “The Law” has upped the ante. Now, instead of handling disciplinary issues that previously called for detention, being sent to the principle’s office or parents were called – now it is the police who called, who come and handcuff the children in the classroom and escort them out. Quite often the police are already located on school grounds replacing guidance counselors. They are also often taken into a courtroom in handcuffs, too. Why? Do the officers fear for their safety or is it for effect? Often the reason is not justified and does untold damage to the child’s self-esteem. Sadly, this affects black children more than it does white children and even Hispanic children. White children learn early in life that black is not as good as white and they carry that attitude into their adult lives and a new generation of racist attitudes is born.

An already bad situation with juvenile courts has been made worse. More adult criminals are cultivated. Black children learn their lives don’t have as much value. The juvenile courts are so overcrowded. There is no time for anyone to care. We need to do more to help in some way. Too many people are short in help and long in opinions and the children are thrown under the bus.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

 

CHILDREN IN SHADOW ::: CHILDREN IN WAR

Prison, We Must Do Better for At-Risk Teens

Guest Commentary

Published August 16, 2015

Since the late 1980s, at-risk teens have been subjugated to terrible injustices. Being socially labeled super-delinquents by politicians and media, legally tried as adults under get-tough legislation, and psychologically stunted by zero tolerance in schools and abuse in correctional facilities.

Today, you would imagine that America has found a better way to deal with juvenile delinquency and youth-gang crimes, but unfortunately, many states still implement outdated, misguided policies that continue to funnel teens into the juvenile justice system. This populates our prison systems. And to make matters worse, recidivism keeps increasing this rate—that is, teens become damaged goods after cycling through “the system” and often return to prison as adults.

According the Annie E. Casey Foundation, despite the good intentions and regulations in our system, teens do learn how to become better criminals from inmates, and…

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Watch – What Five Years in Solitary Can Do To a Man

I watched this several times trying to imagine myself in this same situation. It’s easy to empathize with this man and say, “What a horrible thing it was to have to go through this.” Now watch it and pretend it is you. Tell me – How would you feel, especially if you were locked up like this year after year with no hope in sight. You’re a forgotten piece, of humanity except to a couple people if you’re lucky. Try to imagine having to go back out into society after this. Now imagine you’ve been in there for decades. You’ve grown old. Your mental acuity is gone. Your health is shot. The prison no longer wants to “care” for you so they dump you out onto the streets with 50 bucks, and 30 days worth of meds, and you are supposed to pick the pieces of a life that no longer exists and much of it is nothing at all like the world you once knew. Think about this.

It has been determined that it only takes 15 days for your brain to start deteriorating from the isolation. Paranoia sets in. If you already have problems mentally in any form it is going to deteriorate fast. Depression sets in. Jamie was in solitary confinement for a total of about 4 years. We wrote letters constantly. I was the voice that told him to hang on and made sure he knew his life had value.

He’s out of solitary now, which is also called ad seg or G5. When they classify you as G5 it takes a lot of hard work to not let it get to you and keep your sanity and not let trouble find you. He is now in G2 and I am waiting patiently for my very first phone call.

I recently saw another YouTube video about the children locked up. 22 states in the US allow children as young as 7 to be tried in adult court and segregated in adult prisons, ‘for their their protection’
https://mynameisjamie.net/young-kids-hard-time/

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They took away any progress he made. He will have to work again to get any privileges back. He had applied to take his GED and now that hope is most likely gone. Somehow, to me, it seems deliberate. When he comes up for parole again in Oct, 2016, and he is unable to show he’s been able to better himself it gives reason to not grant it. But if is unable to learn anything what are his chances of survival? This is why I’m writing the book “Inside the Forbidden Outside”.

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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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