This chapter is broken into two segments to make it easier to read in one sitting. The first part is my words, and part two are letters from Jamie. Part two was already published as the chapter, “I’ll Love You Always, Daddy” It was expanded because of other letters I found.
INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE by Sonni Quick COPYRIGHT 2016
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THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN
The hardest lesson to learn in life is the one where you realize, no matter what you do, there is nothing you can do to change it. You can’t make it better on the outside, because you can no longer control it. But you can learn to pay attention to things you do now, because there are effects to every cause we make, good and bad. These causes send our life in directions we often later regret. We can’t go back and do things over, but we can do other things that effect our future in a better way.
Through the book there are times when both Jamie and I speak because our stories became intertwined during these years. At the moment I am reading through hundreds of letters Jamie has written to me over these years. He has, in reality, grown up while being locked up. He has been locked up since before he turned sixteen, except for a brief period when he met my daughter after he was released from juvenile detention and they now have a son. Today, in 2016, he is thirty three. That is a lot of life to lose, and unless there are things learned that will make the rest of his life better than it would have been had he not gone in, then that is a high price to pay for wisdom.
In a way, I have watched him grow and mature from a boy into a man. He had to decide which lessons he needed to learn so he would be able to figure things out for himself. That hasn’t been an easy road. There is only so much you can understand unless you were taught. We learn wisdom by our life experiences. What do you do when you don’t have the practical experiences needed to acquire wisdom? What happens when the things you do learn are not the right things for life on the outside?
Because he really needed one, I became mom, although he is much more than that to me. His biological mother seldom made a step into his world and he was left with no support, emotionally or financially. One of my worries was how does he not become institutionalized? I have seen the effects of that with other people who were not able to adjust when they got out. Where does he direct the anger he has over the way people have treated him? Anger is one way to cover up pain, and that pain, at times, becomes unbearable, especially when it involves his son.
Because Jamie is in prison, does that make him a bad person? Should one of his consequences be people looking at him through the lens of “once a loser, always a loser?” Many people on the outside have only one view, and that is to look at convicts as always being criminals. It’s hard to pay the complete price and not be judged as a loser. There is no mid ground. They can never finish paying their dues. People may say inmates deserve a second chance, but only as long as they do not live near them and not in their neighborhood. Inmates are judged harshly by non perfect people who don’t think of the things they might have done in their own past, but didn’t get caught. Haven’t we all done things we aren’t proud of, or did something that was at least on the edge of being against the law? Haven’t we all been blamed for something we didn’t do, yet no one believed us?
I often read comments like this about black people that were left at the end of articles. Many of these people are white and consider black people as having crime in their genes along with not being overly bright. A stigma is attached to being black. White privilege is usually dripping with sarcasm about what they think they deserve over black people, simply because they were born white. Blacks can never be good enough in the eyes of many white people who still think of themselves as being privileged. That is the way our justice system works.
I now have two half black grandsons. In my opinion, from what I’ve seen, boys have it harder than girls, when being harassed by the police, although I know it’s been hard on the females as well. Racism has entered my home. I know now what it is like to be frightened for my family. It is easy to say you aren’t racist when you are white, when you don’t have to worry about your family. But as long as the percentage of black to white remains the way it is in the prisons, I have reason to fear for my family as any other black grandmother does.
The negative way many people see black people has intentionally been driven into the heads of white people by our government over the last thirty years to support their ‘War on Drugs.’ Tell a lie long enough and people will believe it. The government is largely responsible for the intense racism still going on in America to support the bottom line profit of the corporations that own and operate a large percentage of the state prisons. to make a profit there needs to be an endless supply of people being incarcerated. Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities fill those quotas.
There are four kinds of incarcerated people. One: People who should never be allowed to roam free among people because their crimes have proven they have no idea what the difference is between right and wrong. Two: There is nowhere to house the mentally ill. They don’t get the treatment they desperately need and are instead put in solitary confinement cells and neglected until their insanity is complete. These people often die in prison from neglect. Three: There are those that made a stupid mistake. They aren’t a danger to society and want another chance to prove it. Four: The innocent, and there are quite a few of them if you take the time to read the pleas of help from people who are supporting people who have been charged with crimes they didn’t commit.
Judging from the number of people who are set free from prison, often after being incarcerated for decades, because they were finally proven innocent, shows you how deliberate the judicial system has been in locking up as many blacks and minorities as possible. These incarcerated people are valuable to the the corporations who want them for free labor just as plantations owners were in the past who needed slaves. In addition, there are many supplies needed for these millions of people and companies bid on the contracts to be the ones to supply them. Prison is big business. To stop this way of doing business will be fought by those corporations.
The blacks and minorities are often forced to take pleas offered to them by public defenders who work for the District Attorney, not the people they are supposed to be defending. These people either take the plea deal, or they are threatened with having more charges added. This is what happened to Jamie. He wanted to go to court. He wanted to explain his side of the story, but he would never get that chance. He finally had to accept the seventeen year plea deal or he was threatened with up to ninety-nine years if he insisted on going to court. They intended to scare him and they succeeded. He had no one on his side he could get advice from. He was more alone than he had ever been in his life. He knew he was screwed.
Jamie became the next person to help fill quota the Prison Industrial Complex had been promised by our government with twenty year contracts.. The corporations were promised the prisons would be kept full or they would be paid for each empty bed. No one cared what happened to the people who got sucked into this system. He was a criminal. He didn’t deserve consideration. He was no longer a human being. He was a number. #1368189.
Year after year Jamie sits in his prison cell and tries to live through the grief of his ruined life. The letters he wrote to me are a diary of his time inside and the inhumane way he was treated. After years of writing, I learned for the first time, why our prisons are continuously being built. At the time, though, I didn’t know anything. I never gave one thought about the prisons. They didn’t exist in my life. It never made it into the news. The only people who understood what was happening was the black community, but if anything at all was said, it was to instill in the minds of white people that black people were dangerous and far less intelligent. They were told blacks were lazy and didn’t want to work. They grew to believe black people kept having more kids to get bigger welfare checks. The people who did do that were just as white as they were black. It wasn’t decided by skin color.
People believe what they read in the news and when anything is said often enough, it is believed as truth. Trying to change that perception today is hard. They don’t want to believe that their hatred and fear wasn’t warranted. There had to be a reason why cops were killing black people left and right and the police were giving excuses for killing black boys and men by saying they were were afraid for their lives, even if the person they killed had no weapon. We’ve all read the stories.
When I growing up I was scared to death of black people. There was a line down the middle of our town and the blacks lived on the other side and whites on the other. I remember wanting to touch their skin to see if it felt different. I wasn’t racist – until I got into my teens, but that is another story for another time.
Later in life I thought, like everyone else, the purpose of our prisons was to lock up bad people so our country would be safe for everyone else. The government, during the Nixon administration, manufactured the war on crime and the war on drugs. I thought it was true. I learned the prisons were full of extremely bad people. But when a closer look is taken, it seems that in the 1980’s and 90’s our country spawned a very large number of black people we needed to be protected from.
New prisons were being built at a fast rate and still are. The news was full of stories about crack cocaine and heroin. It was a problem. It still is, but we were told over and over we needed to be afraid of black people, not white people. They made us afraid to walk on the same side of the street with black people because they were going to rob us. Walk on the other side of the street, we were warned. Be afraid, be very afraid of anyone wearing a sweatshirt with a hoodie, as if the sweatshirt alone turned them into thugs. Black people couldn’t help it, we were taught. They were born that way. It was in their genes.
White people were rarely associated with these drugs. In reality, the use of drugs is evenly split between black and white. But the government needed people to believe the problem was because of the blacks, to support the war of drugs, to support the building of endless prisons, and to support the corporations who were in it for profit. They won. The plantations of the south simply moved inside the prisons and business continued as usual. Can we undo the damage that has been done to the black race? It will be hard because it spawned a new generation of racists right on down through the police and the justice system.
Jamie is not in prison for drugs, but everything that was happening also affected how the two races, as well as Hispanics and other minorities, were sentenced. The sentence of Life without parole is handed down to all non whites much more often. White offenders were given much lighter sentences straight across the board. You need only look at the prison population to see this. There are also many more black not guilty inmates. When an inmate is finally set free who isn’t guilty that inmate is usually black and has served on average of 20-30 years of his life for no valid reason.
How come we have so many more dangerous people in America who need to be locked up for the rest of their lives than there are in other countries? How could we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of all the prisoners? What was wrong with the United States that there were so many more bad people living here who didn’t need to be locked up before, but they do now? Why did the concentrate black people to arrest? Why were so many more black people given LWOP – life without parole? The average person never knew this. They didn’t even know it was a question they should be asking because it wasn’t reported in the news the way it is now. Most people supported Bill Clinton’s ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ law, because we were ill informed of the reality of the prisons or the gradual takeover of the prisons by the Prison Industrial Complex. Prisons are big business. The people believed the fallacy that they were supporting the curtailing of crime being perpetrated by black people.
It has only been only in recent years that we have been able to look back and see what has happened since the “War of Drugs” began. To make it worse, there were 6 times more black people locked up than white people, even though 77% of our population is white and 13% is black as of the census report in 2014. It hasn’t changed. The percentage is still the same. One out of every three black men can expect to spend time in prison during their life time.
The government, the media and the people who own the prison corporations have done a hatchet job on the black population in America. The black race was expendable simply because they weren’t good enough to be white. They needed to fill the prisons with someone. The white population would have never tolerated it if there were more whites locked up than blacks. Authorities were picking people off the street and jailing them for no other reason than they were walking down the street in colored skin; any color other than white. Now people know the truth, but changing their hearts is next to impossible
end part one . . .
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