You wanted to know more about my life before I ended up in juvy. It was the last part of my teenage life I could still make my own choices. I had to leave Nacogdoches for awhile. I had gotten into some trouble in the tenth grade. I guess you could say this next year was going to be the last formal schooling I really had. I have an uncle who lives in Mesquite, Tx. I went to go stay with him for a year while I was on juvy probation.
My uncle was a good man I must say. He’s a parole officer for adults and over the years he worked his way up the system. He has a son that got 20 years. I’ll explain that to you one day. I lived with him and went to school, but he wouldn’t trust me to go anywhere. I remember I went outside across the street to the neighbors house. They had two boys about my age. I went over and we talked and played basketball then I went back home to my uncle’s house. My uncle questioned me about where I was and told me not to go over there anymore. We didn’t do anything wrong. I was bored and it was fun to have someone to spend some time with. I guess he didn’t trust that I wouldn’t get in any trouble since he was responsible for me. He was never home when I got home from school because he had home visits to do for his job. I was supposed to come home and just stay in the house or the yard. When it came time for me to report to my probation officer I had to walk or ride my cousin’s bike. Man, it was far away. It was the only time I got away from having to be home all the time except when i went to school, so I began to really like the ride. I was getting to see more of the city, too..
I also started to do community service at the Boys and Girl’s Club. One night my little cousin was with me, and we were riding our bikes home. It was a good distance between the house and the club. One evening when we were leaving to start riding home it was beginning to get dark. We were riding on the sidewalk going down a hill when this dude in a truck pulled out of the driveway of an apartment complex. He didn’t have his headlights on so he couldn’t see me. when he pulled out in front of me I hit the front side of his truck, flew over it, breaking my left leg. I remember hearing my cousin screaming and myself yelling I didn’t want to get into trouble. After that I woke up in the hospital. I had a cast on my leg from my ankle up to my thigh. After I left the hospital and went back to my uncle’s house I called my cousin to check up on him. He came over when I called, but he stopped a good distance away from me and just looked at me. That was strange. He wouldn’t say anything or come anywhere close to me after that.
I completed my probation. My uncle asked me if I wanted to stay or go home. I told him I wanted to go home, but to this day I ask myself why I didn’t stay. I feel my life might have come out a lot better than what it is now. I tell myself I would have finished school, too. Look at my age now, thirty-two, and I still haven’t been able to finish school. We never know at the time that each time we make a decision it is going to take us in a different direction.
I want to start a new section that is about the stories of other people who have been through this. Justified, Not justified. Guilty or not guilty. This isn’t a place to pass judgement, just a place to let people know what you know about these things I write about. This is space to air how you feel and maybe talk with other people who understand. Write to me and tell me if you’d like me to tell your story.
It could be a story of life before prison, prison life or life after prison and everything in between. I invite any other prison bloggers to add their story here as well.
Many people have followed me, Sonni Quick, on this journey I’m taking, writing about the life of Jamie Cummings. “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. chapter one which had the previous title of “Inside Out”. You’ve encouraged me and told me to keep writing. Some of you have given me guidance and writing tips as a new book author. You told me it was a story that should be told. Some of you have told me you cried tears. You had no idea what being in prison really meant, because only knowing what TV and movies portray is not the whole story. Only people who have been where Jamie is will know for sure that what I say here is the truth.
Tears weren’t cried because Jamie is in prison. Tears were cried because his anguish was felt; his loneliness and depression. The loss of his family and his son from his life, with no one making the effort to bring him to visit. It is easy to see what he is going through through in his head, trying to understand what happened to his life that brought it to a screeching halt inside the thick prison walls.
Over the nine years I’ve known him, trying to hold him up, made me want to reach through the prison bars and wrap myself around him and hold him him, telling him it would be over someday. Reading and knowing about the stripping away of human dignity is hard to read.
There are many different reasons why people are put in prison. The reasons for what they did, and having those reasons used for corporate gain has put millions of dollars into many people’s pockets. Now American private prisons are spreading outside our borders and we are teaching other countries how they,too, can exploit their citizens the same way we do.
Imagine yourself in his circumstances. You can’t say it will never happen to you, because it can, easily, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These are the things you seldom read or hear about in the media. The government has to justify why there is no money for education, yet hundreds of millions of dollars are available to build new prisons to satisfy the unending thirst of American corporations that want to use prison labor to manufacture their products. Lower taxes for the rich will not create jobs for the people, but it will provide more prisons to house more inmates to manufacture items that are available on our store shelves. Inmates also produce a great many items our police force and military needs to continue to do what they do. A subject to explore at a later time.
I posted a two minute video recently. It is not of Jamie, but it is of a man who spent 18 1/2 years in a solitary cell not unlike the cell Jamie has spent years of his own life. Jamie’s sentence is 17 years and he has done more than 9 so far. Not all of it has been in an ad seg unit (administrative segregation), but it has been determined the human mind can only safely stay in deprivation like that for 15 days before there are possible alterations in the mind. There was a politician about a year ago who voluntarily went into a solitary cell for ONE DAY and wrote about how horrible it is. I say, stay in for 15 days. Maybe then some laws will change. Keep him there for a month, not even
years which is so common, and he will be screaming to be let out just like all the others.
Even though I believe what happened to Jamie’s life, beginning at a young age, was unfair, coming to life through racial inequalities, life isn’t fair. I also believe if he had not been with this particular group of friends that got busted that night, which you can read about in Jamie’s Prison or read the post Juvy to Prison. Something else would have happened to produce the same result. He didn’t learn the life skills he needed. He needed to “belong”, and was easily swayed by the wrong people.
So, what to do about all of this now? How do we make something positive from something negative? The change in the life of a single human being can change the world. Because there are 10 strikes against any person getting out of prison, beginning with of the lack of acceptance by society, it is extremely difficult for them to survive and create a life of value. No one wants to employ an ex-offender and no one wants to rent an apartment to them, either. Many of these people, men and women, have families they love and need to take care of. They paid their price to society and have earned the right, at the very least, to gain their self respect. Society wants to keep punishing them for the rest of their lives. Ask yourself why? For this reason many ex-felons have to resort to other ways to make money, because they have no other way. Our prisons didn’t teach any way. Do you understand the dichotomy of the situation?
What happens to an x-offender, who, from his teen years has not been able to get an education? When he is finally released in his mid to late 30’s, or older, and has no work history, but wants to work, where is he going to find that job in a unwelcoming society who is afraid of him simply because he has been to prison? God forbid, he could be dangerous!There are many people who have never been to prison who can’t find work. If they have a hard time, how does an ex-offender find work? Many of these people, who haven’t been incarcerated apply for government assistance, live in public housing or section 8 housing, get disability, or use WIC (Women, Infants and Children) or food stamps to help supplement the rising cost of food. Most people don’t go to the government for help because they are lazy, but because they have no other choice, as the media would like you to believe. NONE of these options are even available for an ex-offender. Jamie won’t even be able to apply for disability because of epilepsy until he has been out for one year. How does he survive that year?
Jamie is black. I am white. We are connected by the blood of his son, my grandson. He is part of my family. he calls me ‘mom’. Because I have taken the time to be his family andf because he let me inside his head to feel the pain as he tries to understand the causes he made for his life to produce the sharp left turns that led to prison.
What should he and I do with this knowledge? I believe it can and should be used to help people. Help kids understand what the end of the path leads to if they choose to go down the wrong one. Young people have no wisdom to draw on. They can’t understand something no one has taught them. There are many ‘Jamies’ out there. His life story can also help educate people so they can have a better understanding of our prison system and why America has only 5% of the world’s population but imprisons 25% of the world’s inmates. His life story can also help inmates who want to do better, to understand their lives have value. It’s all about choices. Cause and effect. Not all inmates are inherently broken. Some just made a bad choice and have paid for that mistake. Many deserve a second chance and need our help, even if that help is only having a better understanding and acceptance of their value as a human being.
This is what I need from you that would help me in my quest. Please, go to different posts and pages on this website http://mynameisjamie.net and post them to your own social media. Go to posts that talk about the book and send them out. The category still says “Insideout” for now uieven though the title has changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. Encourage people to fill out the contact form to be on the mailing list for the book. If you don’t use social medial there is a tab where you can send out emails.
I have a dream. That dream is watching Jamie have the kind of life he can be proud of and being a father to his son. Will you help me help Jamie? My dream is that this book will sell, but I can’t do it by myself. It will be book sales that will enable Jamie to survive in this society he will hopefully, someday, in the near future, enter into. Inside the Forbidden Outside is still being written. There is still a lot of work to be done, but when you self publish writing and promoting have to go hand in hand.
I know I’m asking a lot from you, You have my sincere appreciation.