Eyes In The Back of My Head – ITFO Chapter

last-note-2-sm

 

Eyes in The Back of My Head

 

There was a murder in the shower. A dude was stabbed twenty-seven times by his cellmate. Jamie was blown away. It was going too far. This could happen to anyone in here if they got on the wrong side of someone else. Punishment was dished out the way anyone thought it should be. Lots of these dudes had been screwed by the justice system, so they were going to give justice the way they saw fit.
     There was so much violence in this prison. No prison is a good prison but he heard dudes talk about this prison being one of the worst. The guards were corrupt and in business with the gangs. They make the inmates fight each other and bet on who will be left standing. He should be getting used to this by now, but he wasn’t. He didn’t want to get mixed up in it but they don’t let that happen. He was a big guy and he knew how to fight. He tried to stay by himself as much as possible. The last thing he wanted was to get more time added to his sentence, and they would do that in a heart beat if the wrong person saw a fight going down.
     Eyes in the back of his head were what he needed. He couldn’t trust nobody to have his back. More than half the dudes in here had some sort of weapon and they wouldn’t hesitate to use it if they felt threatened.
     Drugs were involved in everything. It’s how money was made on both sides of the fence. The quantity and variety of drugs coming through here was crazy. Pills, weed, heroin; you name it, it’s in here. There was more drugs in here than a crack house on a street corner, and just as easy to get – if you have the money. If you don’t, and you don’t pay up, that could get you killed.
     It comes in packed along with supplies and the staff that worked in the kitchen or handled other supplies for the prison made sure it got to the right people. That wasn’t the only way it came in. Visitors smuggled it in, too. Some got caught and some didn’t. It’s not worth the risk. If you were an addict you’d probably think different.
     On top of that, some of the men made their own wine. Five dudes recently got caught who were stupid drunk on their assess. Getting drunk wasn’t worth the possibility of getting caught with it, trying to escape reality. Whether inside or out when you didn’t like your life, drugs and alcohol gave you a false sense of a better world for a short time. Then you come down and you’re still living in the same screwed up place. People die of overdosing in here the same as on the street. He wasn’t tempted to do drugs, at least chemical ones that mixed with his seizure meds. That was dangerous. He didn’t mind a little weed, though, but in here you don’t know what you’re getting and there is some bad shit going around that really messes you up. The dude who killed his cellie in the shower was drunk when he did it. What happened that he needed to kill him over it? This wasn’t like the free world. No one thought about consequences. They reacted to what happened right that minute and didn’t care because they were already locked up.
     Without a courtroom the men acted as the judge, jury and executioner in a much worse way than the courts could impose. It took very little for someone to decide you needed to die and you ended up with a knife across your throat. He wanted to be transferred somewhere else, but he didn’t see that coming anytime soon. In the meantime he needed to be careful.

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Jamie was lucky. He had a window in this cell. sometimes he didn’t and never what time of day it was. It was suffocating. Sometimes he went a long time without breathing any fresh air. He couldn’t see much of anything out the window. He doubted if it had ever been cleaned. Still, when he closed his eyes he could feel light on his face when he closed his eyes and he could pretend he was anywhere but where he was.
     Summer would be on them really quick. Right now it was the time of year when it wasn’t to hot or too cold. It wouldn’t last. In Texas the summers were killers, and every year more people died. There was always talk about how that needed to be fixed, usually around an election time, but nothing was ever done about it. They weren’t going to spend money they would rather put in their pockets.
     It was going to be hard. There was nothing he could do but try to get through it. He dreaded this time of year. He had lived in Texas his whole life so he should be used to it. The difference was he couldn’t step through a door into air conditioning and find relief, except if he had to go to the medical unit.
     Things weren’t looking up for him. He feels like he’s in a no-win situation between a few of the guards and inmates. If he wasn’t careful it could get him getting killed in the shower, too.
     He had reason to be scared because these guards will let the inmates beat you up, or beat you up themselves. There was a fine line between guards and criminals that was crossed all the time. So it was really not guaranteed he would someday go home. He tried not to think about that, but it could happen.
     Wanting to be with his family was the only thing that got him through the day. He promised himself he would never give up, even though he was hurting inside. There were a lot of corners to turn and hills to climb but that it was part of his life now and he had to find a way to get through it.

Jamie decided to stay in his cell today. He had little to do except have conversations with himself. He was doing his best to stay away from trouble but it managed to find him if he left his cell. He didn’t have anything to read he hadn’t read countless times already. He was restless. Sitting on his bunk he leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes. Maybe he could go to sleep for awhile and kill some time.
     “It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it?” Jamie kept his eyes closed and smiled. He was starting to like this. It was good timing, he needed someone to talk to.
     He cocked his head to the right and opened his eyes.
     “I can only take so much,” he said, answering her question.
     Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail that went almost to her waist. It looked good on her. She stood there looking at him, wearing jeans and her hands were on  her hips. She was smiling. He never realized before how valuable a smile was ’cause he sure didn’t get many. She might be Morgan’s mom but they sure didn’t look anything alike. They were both beautiful in their own way.
     Suddenly he realized, if he was making all this up in his head he sure did have a good imagination, didn’t he? In a way he wished others could see her, to prove he wasn’t nuts, but maybe it was better this way.
     Jamie thought about the three years they had been writing.  He never really understood why she started writing to him after he had been inside almost two years, but he was glad she did. When he asked her, she said he was family, but after getting to know her she knew no one else was writing to him, so she did.
     She sent books, a little money, and their friendship grew from there. He hated to ask her for money, but she was the only one who would help him. She didn’t make him feel like he was begging. He was grateful for everything she did, but he didn’t want anyone to think he was using her, especially Morgan. She told him not to feel like that. She helped him out because she wanted to. She sends what she can when she can.
     Her letters kept him going. She was his connection to the outside world. He didn’t know if he would make it if she stopped writing. He knew people had their own lives and were busy surviving. He didn’t blame them for not having time for him. He didn’t need anyone to write all the time. The occasional letter he did get was about what was happening to whom, but no one asked him how he was doing or if he needed anything. If you don’t ask you don’t know. Gradually even those letters faded away .
     Jamie needed her, and she knew it. When she wrote it was like a conversation back and forth. She cared how he was doing. Apart from the mental need, if she didn’t help him get things like stamps and hygiene he’d have to find some other way to get them. He might end up owing someone and maybe that would not end too good. In addition, she was a sight for sore eyes, even if she wasn’t real.
     “I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to handle the situations I have on my hands right now and what to do about it.” Jamie told her.
     “What’s the problem?” she asked.
     “I can’t sit in my cell 24/7. In fact, I’m not going to,” he said, making up his mind.
     “Why do you think you need to stay in your cell?” not understanding the problem.
     “If I can’t talk to these dudes about the problem we’re having then there’s only one solution.
     She wasn’t going to like this. “I hate to go back down that road but I might have to. I’ve had two fights already and the way things are going there could be plenty more to come.”
     “That’s what they do in here – fight,” he told her.
She paused for a few seconds and frowned.
     “That’s the way karma works,” she began.
     “Causes made in the past come into play today, or in your future,” she gently explained. “When a cause is made there is going to an effect at some point, for all the good and all the bad that has happened. The same is true for everyone. No one – gets away – with anything.”
     Jamie got up and went to his locker. He sorted through a stack of letters until he found the one he was looking for.
     Taking it out of the envelope and reading through it, he stopped and looked at her, “It’s true what you said,” he paused.

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My Son Has Only One Father – Me. Boyfriends Don’t Count

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

I wish I had a newer picture to use to show you of Jamie and his son, but when we visited they weren’t taking pictures that day.  They only do it the first weekend of each month. The trade-off is that we were there for father’s day and that meant a lot to Jamie. He told me, “You live so far away yet you are the only one who cared enough to bring see my son to see me.  I’ll never forget that.”

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

Dear mom,                                                                                                                               July 25, 2016    

       Here it is yet another day, after another day. Will they bring me pancakes again today?  We’ve already had pancakes four times this week. Sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes with applesauce and sometimes with shaved pineapple along with oatmeal.

       Well, just so you know, I did write to my uncle, the parole officer in Dallas that I stayed with a long time ago when I was teenager, the year I was in 9th grade. My mom thought I would do better out there. I started the letter off doing something I never did before. I thanked him and his wife for wanting to give me a chance at a new start in life, even though I turned down his offer to stay and went home after I did the year. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I had stayed there and not gone back to Nacogdoches. I should have stayed. But as you have said, karma is karma.  There are causes we have made in the past that have to have their effects.  I understand that more. I asked him for addresses of family and asked how everyone was doing. I gave him the info about where I was and told him to give it to my mother. Maybe she doesn’t know where I am and that is why I haven’t heard from her. I always want to give excuses because I don’t want to believe reality.

      I told him about our visit and you bringing my son to see me. I told him how much I enjoyed it. I also sent him an up to date picture of Jamie. It angers me that Jamie don’t get to see more of my family. Anyway, I almost got mad just thinking about it. Come to think about it, that’s what happens most of the time when I write Megan. I  get mad and  just go off. I would ask her why the hell I couldn’t see my son? I would just start speaking my mind to her about her not bringing him. It hasn’t been fair. He’s my son, too. She didn’t make him by herself.

       She promised me a long time ago she’d be there and bring him and she broke her promise. She wrote back and said to stop talking shit. Yes, I would talk shit. He is my son! He is not her boyfriend’s son. He is not my son’s father and never will be. I know she’s telling him to call her boyfriend dad but Jamie knows who is father is. My son loves me and he has a father who loves him but has to go through hell and back because his mother is selfish and doesn’t think of that. I have tried in the past to be positive but it just gets to me. I think I have a right to let it get to me. All I ever got were excuses why she couldn’t come.

        I’m sorry about that. I got carried away. It hurts. And it hurts because he never gets to see any of my family. But they haven’t tried to see him, either. I wish Megan and my family talked. I know she talked to my brother but I know my brother doesn’t care about me.  He made that clear.

       I only have 4 stamps. I’ve been selling my lunch trays. I’m going to write my grandmother and my cousin. Hopefully, I can go to commissary at the end of August. We’re still on lockdown, but they let some other dudes go, so maybe I can go.

       Right now I’m a level three.  I am only allowed to by hygiene and stamps, paper and pen at the commissary.  No food. If you could send me an ecomm box with bags of coffee; they are $2.15 and fruit and mint sticks that are .10 each, I can trade them for stamps.  The dudes in here sure do like their sweets.  I can get a stamp for just 2 sticks. Less than the price of a stamp in the commissary. Also soap if you can.  I can trade for things with soap.  I also need deodorant and toothpaste and some chips and soup if you can. I have to pay the inmate worker in stamps for him to get it for me.  Stamps are currency.  But it is how we get the things we need if we can’t go to commissary or if they won’t let us buy it.

      (Sonni’s note: Jamie is allowed again to get what is called an ecomm box.  Four times a year he can get a box worth $60.  It can be spread over several months if he wants. I can send food he can keep in his cell for times the unit is put on lockdown or he is unable to go to the commissary.)

       I must say you are the busiest person I know with all the things you do.  I don’t know how you do it.  Your birthday is coming up.  I hope you and Mike go out and do something nice for yourselves.  Take a walk. Enjoy the air.  Do the things I can’t do.  Say hello to your mom and tell her I am chanting for her, too. You are good to your mom, especially after her stroke.  I know it is going to add more work to your day when she comes home and you are willing to be there. That is the way kids should treat their mom, but no everyone does.  I know your told me about how your one sister treats her and she should be ashamed. You should never disrespect your mom. How you treat people comes back at you.  I knew that even before Buddhism but I didn’t know how to understand it. It is the way I would like to treat my mom, but I never see her and she doesn’t care how I’m doing.  That is really messed up. But for Jamie, when I get out I will be the best dad I can be and no one can stop me.

        I was a boy when I came in here, but I’m not a boy anymore.  I will be there for him.

       Lots of love to you, too, for being there for me when I needed you.  Anyone would be lucky to have you for a mom – Jamie

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Chapter – The Last Freedom Day

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

CHAPTER

THE LAST FREEDOM DAY

       I have had so many hours to sit and think; my life playing over and over in my head like a loop that doesn’t know how to stop. I keep trying to make sense of what happened. It’s easy to look back and think; What if I did things differently? I know I can’t go back and do that, but I hope I’ve learned I can do things different in the future.  I need to remember to think things through.  How do I want this to turn out?  Do people do that? How often do people take responsibility for their actions or do they blame others for  what happens?  Do they cry,  “I’m just a victim!  It’s not my fault.” I only know, If I don’t learn to think before I act, then life will keep slapping me in the face.  Hopefully I have learned that lesson.

       I don’t think I could have kept this from happening.  Maybe I could have escaped this exact thing by not going out that night, but the cause had already been made for something like this to happen and there was no escaping it. My karma would it have caught up with me one way or another. Karma is karma and it is what it is. If a cause is made there will be an effect. I didn’t know about any of this back then. It is like gravity. There is no escaping it. If I jump off a cliff, I’m going splat on the ground. This is what happened here. My life went splat and I landed in a prison cell. I have to go through this to learn what I need to learn about life.

       What would have happened if I didn’t go out that night? Four years in juvenile detention should have taught me more than it did. I knew my friend was bad news. He had been in and out of trouble his whole life. Just being around him was taking a chance. I knew that; of course I did, but I never really thought about it because some things you can’t know without being taught. I had no one to teach me. I don’t know if I would have listened if someone tried. The young think they already know enough.

       I didn’t know what it meant to have priorities. I didn’t know how to set goals. Who did I know who had goals? I lived my life day by day and hoped the future would work itself out. I’m a good person. What did I do to have such a screwed up life? I began to feel trapped and up against a wall. I had to make some money. Morgan kept telling me I had to find a way to bring money home. But how was I supposed to do that? I didn’t even have a high school diploma. How was I supposed to support a family with five people? It was a lot of pressure knowing I was going to be a dad and needed to do things things I didn’t have a clue how I to do.

       Who was going to give me a job? I can’t even get a drivers license because I have epilepsy. I have no job resume or references. I’ve been locked up since I was in the tenth grade. I would have to tell an employer I had epilepsy. The chances of having a seizure on the job would always be a possibility. I couldn’t work at a fast food place. If I had a seizure I could really get hurt in a kitchen or cause others to get hurt.  No, there would be all kinds of excuses why they wouldn’t hire me. They weren’t supposed to discriminate, but they would anyway, knowing you weren’t going to file charges against a job that was only going to minimum wage. It’s not worth the trouble.  I didn’t have many options except maybe manual labor.  Stress and heat bring on seizures.  Besides I wanted to do more with my life.

       The night this went down, I went out to party with a friend; shoot some pool and have fun. I had lost my teen years from late sixteen to twenty-one to juvy.  I met Morgan a few months before, soon after I got out. I fell in love with her the first time I laid eyes on her. I didn’t have a chance to get an education so I could at make decent money. Looking back, it was easy to see we should have put more thought into having a baby until we had better plans in place. Having a baby and figure out later how to make it work was not a good plan. But it is what it is.

        I knew it was stupid going out that night. This dude was bad news. He was fun to hang out with, but he had been and out of trouble since he was a kid. It was only a matter of time before he got locked up for good. I was no angel growing up.  I got in some trouble as a kid. A lot of boys do. But I was no criminal. Not like what you see on TV.

       If I hadn’t locked me up for four years before this in juvy, maybe things would be different. All because a cop was determined to get me. I was only supposed to be there for nine months but they lied.  If he hadn’t illegally shoved his way into our house and made my mama fall and break her wrist, I would have gone on to finish high school. I had problems with this cop before. Racism in the police is a common thing in Texas.  They harass the blacks a lot.  I’m not stupid. I know what it feels like to have racism directed at my face.  Living in the south, black is not the right color to be, and I know I’m not the first person to say this.

       I hold myself up and remember there are things I can do with my life when I get out and have another chance. I want to travel and see more of the country. I’ve never traveled outside of Texas. There is a whole world out there to see. I used to want to be a long distance truck driver so I could travel around and see it. That’s probably not possible because of my epilepsy, but I think about it a lot. I also want to help other kids; teach them not to ruin their lives and use my own life as an example. I want to do good with my life and I want my son to be proud of his dad.

       Now it is 2016.  I’ve been locked up in prison for more than ten years and my son is almost ten.  These are years I can’t get back, so I have to believe I can change my life for the better so it isn’t wasted time.  I am going to have a good life.  I know I will do things better when I get out.  Most dudes say that, but they get sucked back in.  They don’t know how to do things any different.  Not me; life is going to get better for me.  I can feel it. I have to keep the big picture in my head.  I have a son to take care of, and he is not going to end up in this place, even though the odds are against him and the cops are still racist when they see the color black. Has that changed since he was arrested?  No, but I will make sure my son will not become part of the system.

        It is not any of the guard’s fault I am in here.  It was my own actions that put me here. But even though it is my fault, it doesn’t mean we have to live the way they make us live.  There are things that need to change.  Too many people are getting physically and mentally hurt because no one cares what happens to us.  They think we deserve being treated like animals.  The law wouldn’t like people treat animals the way they treat us.  We are human beings. Our sentences do not include abuse. These guards, who treat us badly, will have consequences in their own lives for what they do to us. They think they are getting away with it, but they aren’t.

       If I only ever learned one thing from my study of Buddhism, it is this: What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. The law of cause end effect. You get back what you dish out. It is all the same thing. No one gets away with anything. I’m paying for what I did and they will pay for what they do, too. I am learning how to change the negative things in my life to positive things. It’s hard, but I’m learning. The positive side of this lesson is it applies to all the good things you do, too. So the more positive things I do, the better my life will be.

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

       I want to go back to that night, the one that set this all in motion. On January 26, 2006, around 9:30-10:00 at night, a friend came over and suggested we go out and party at a club in a nearby town. That night was not supposed to turn into anything illegal in any way, except that gaming halls themselves are illegal because gambling was still illegal in Texas. I don’t know if it still is. We were only going to do a little gambling and that’s it. We were smoking a little weed and jammin’ to the music. He made a statement about robbing the place but I didn’t take it seriously. He was always saying crazy things like that. Well, he ended up doing it. It shocked me.  He had a gun in his backpack.  I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t do it.  He was my friend.  Friends don’t leave each other.

        It didn’t work out for him.  He didn’t rob the place but he did take out the gun.  That is when I knew I needed to get out of there.  He ran after me and jumped in the car as I tried to leave.  As we left the place it was really crazy.  It was dark and we were on a back road. I was driving like a bat out of hell to get away. As I passed a road he yelled at me to turn around because I missed a turn.  I didn’t care about no turn. I was trying to get as far away as I could.  He kept yelling so I turned around.

       As I made it back to the turn, POW! The Sheriff was stopped at the stop sign. I looked in the rear view mirror and sure enough, he was doing a U-turn. He followed us as I drove. The next thing I knew there were cop cars everywhere.

       So I told my “then” friend, “I’m fixing to pull over.” He was pissed, telling me not to.

       I told him, “Fuck that, I’m not going to have a wreck.” The Sheriff was behind us. I pulled over. We sat there for about two long minutes.

       The Sheriff called out to me. “Stick both hands out the window.” They all had their guns pointed at the car. I did what I was told.

       “Take your left hand and turn off the car.”  I did. 

       “Take your right hand and open the door.”  After I opened the door he said,  “Hold both hands out and keep them out in the air.” I did everything he said to do exactly as he said it.

       “Stretch out in the road and if you move I will shoot you.” He was serious. I believed every word he said. We were on a back road.  He could have done anything he wanted and no one would know anything different.

       They did the same thing to my friend. We were searched and taken to the county. When we got to the jail they asked us why we did it.

       I said, “Man, I was just gambling.” He asked me again. I gave him the same answer.

       “All I was doing was gambling. Nothing else.”  I was placed in a holding cell and I could see out the window. The next morning I saw Morgan. Another time I saw my mama. I was told nothing. Then they placed me in another cell for a few days and fed me TV dinners. Then they sent me to Newton, Tx to a holdover jail. When I got there it was a lot different from where I was before. They had tanks instead of cells. A tank is a big area with a lot of bunks. The biggest tanks hold almost sixty people. The one I was in had twenty-five to thirty people. There were a few tables, a TV, two shower stalls and two toilets. They kept a broom and mops in the tank for us to clean with. My bunk was all the way in the back by the toilets.

       I went to court and they start talking about giving me forty-five years.  forty-five years?  Keep me looked up until I was sixty seven years for this? I don’t even have a record.  I’ve never been arrested for a crime and they want to take away my life?  Because I’m black and I don’t have a real attorney? I got angry. I turned them down. I didn’t do anything. I’m guilty of running because I was scared of what my friend did, but I never pulled a gun on anyone. I didn’t try to rob anyone of money. I’m only guilty of having a poor judgment of friends. I am NOT going to agree to forty-five years for that!

       A few days pass by and they take me back to court.  For the very first time I met the public defender who was supposed to be defending me, not railroading me.  But he wasn’t  interested in hearing what happened.  His only job is to scare me into taking a plea.  he didn’t care if I was guilty or not.  This attorney, whose name I can’t remember told the district attorney they had enhanced my case from 5 to 99 years, to 15 to 99.  

       “Who? I asked him. “Who enhanced it?  Are they charging me with things that didn’t happen?” All these thoughts are running around in my brain.

     So I asked him, “What are you talking about?”

       He looked at me with a bored expression on his face like I was taking up too much of his precious time.  “It’s because of your juvenile record.”

       I got confused.  What did my juvenile record have to do with anything?  Looking back, I know now that had to be a lie.  A juvenile record is closed  There is a reason for that and it’s so they can’t use something against someone for whatever happened while they were a kid.  They can’t just go and look at it without a court order.  They would be told it was inadmissible.  Besides, I wasn’t there because I committed a crime.  I hit a cop with a broom because he hurt my mother.  No judge would let them use that and give me forty seven or ninety nine years.  But I didn’t know then it was just a scare tactic. 

       Then he said, “The DA is offering 17 years and would go no lower.” They said if I didn’t take it they would take me to trial. It was a scare tactic. They were never going to let me go to trial, and they knew it.  But I had no one to talk to about this. By now I was ready to give up.  I couldn’t deal with it anymore and i didn’t know what to do.

       Believe it or not, I even told the PD I wanted to go to court, but he backtracked real quick and said the DA wouldn’t talk to me. The DA probably didn’t even know who I was, and they were just trying to make me believe he had said all this stuff. I wasn’t important enough for him to want to spend any time with. But what was I supposed to do when I didn’t have anyone on my side?  My life was a game to them. I think of these things later, but it’s too late.  They didn’t give me time to think.  They knew what they were doing.  It wasn’t until much later when I learned about the corporations, and how they have a deal with the government to keep the prisons full, that this all started to make sense.

       Since I didn’t have a real attorney, I knew I didn’t have anyone who would go to bat for me. I was screwed.  Public defenders get paid by the hour so all they want is for you to get scared and agree to everything.  That way they can get on to their next client they need to screw for a paycheck.  Most of these dudes couldn’t make it as a real attorney so $75 an hour sounds pretty good to them. How many people can they screw in one day?

       So  I said to myself, “Fuck it. Let me get this over with.”  I signed for the seventeen years and went back to the county jail in Newton.

       I called Morgan for the first time. How was i supposed to tell her this? I explained the situation as best I could.  I told her I understood she will want to get on with her life.  I asked her to make sure our baby knows me and my family.  That is all I asked of her. She went crazy on the phone and said she’s not going anywhere, and so on. We talked, but after our call I was still in a real fucked up mood.  I went to my bunk, sat down, and just went into space not thinking about anything. I zoned out.

       As I was sitting on my bunk, a white dude in his thirties came over to take a shit on the toilet beside my bunk.  He didn’t flush. I asked him to flush. He didn’t say anything. When he comes from behind the stall, he goes to get the push broom, takes the stick out and threatens me – over flushing the damn toilet! I’m tired. It’s 1 am.  I need sleep.  I am in no mood for this. He threatens me that he’ll have me eating through a straw. Long story short, I lost it and took everything out on him.  From the back of the tank to the front. He was no match for me at my age. The dude fell over a trash can, then shoved himself into it. Next thing I know he was ratting on me and ended up going to the hospital. It didn’t matter that he caused it and threatened me; I beat him up.  I ended up in lock up for two weeks. Then I was transferred to tdcj – Texas Department of Criminal Justice – to the Holiday Unit.  Now I was officially in my first prison unit instead of jail.  Anger is going to be one of my biggest challenges to overcome.

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