Sharp Turn to the Left – Interview

SHARP TURN TO THE LEFT

Things happen in our lives that have the potential to change everything. We have the opportunity to make these turns or we can ignore them. Either decision makes a different cause that has a different effect and can send our life down a road that has a great impact on us. Some people are afraid of change, afraid of where it will send them and choose to not move. But some people relish the change and leap into the abyss, confident that wherever it goes they will be glad they went.

That is my life and it definitely has been interesting. There is a motto I’ve lived my life by. “If you don’t like what I’m doing, don’t watch me do it.” I’ve made choices the average person wouldn’t because they care too much about what other people would think, even though most people don’t care what you do because they are too busy trying to live their own lives. It gives people a reason from taking risks. My greatest fear was waking up and finding out I was a dental assistant, or some other “job” for an hourly wage, living in a planned cookie cutter community. That type of security may work for some, but not for me.

WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?

I started writing songs and song lyrics when I was about 18, in the early 70’s. Lyrics flowed easy for me. I still write a lot of poetry that has music to play behind it, but not sung to the music. Being young has many good points, but if you are creative it gets better with age and experience.

I started keeping a journal when I was in my 20’s, long before there were computers for blogging. What turned out to be the greatest values in keeping those journals was being able to sit and read about myself decades later, reliving my life and watching myself grow up; wincing at immature decisions and reliving my children when they were young. It’s quite an experience. Decades from now when I’m gone, my life will still be there to read. Jamie’s blog and letters will also be there for his son to read and learn about his life in prison. Without a doubt he will know how much he was loved. A child with a father who is gone for any reason needs to know that.  If the father is alive and coming back one day it is even more important.

Jamie Cummings
Jamie and his son July 7, 2013

I met Jamie before he went to prison, and writing to him happened more by chance than for the reason of writing to an inmate. I had never thought about writing to an inmate because I never knew anyone inside and nothing in my life put me anywhere near a prison. After years of writing these letters I saw Jamie’s life emerge through the words. I don’t think he ever had anyone who had shown much interest in what he thought, or how he felt. No one told him he could choose where his life could go instead of letting it slap him around. No one told him his life had value. He just went through each day as it came. His mother worked hard and raised her children by working two jobs. There was little guidance about having a future. He rarely has contact with her now. Her choice, not his. She makes no attempt to be there for him or help him with anything he might need. His family dumped him, as harsh as that sounds.

Jamie has been studying Nichiren Buddhism for the last 6 years, which is hard when you have no support inside and you are in a place that only wants to keep you down. Nichiren Buddhism is not Zen or Tibetan or anything to do with the Dalai Lama which are the only things most people think of when they hear the word Buddhism.. This isn’t the time to go into a lengthy explanation of what Buddhism means. It is simply the law of cause and effect. It is the same as the phrase, you reap what you sow, except we take that phrase very seriously. We are where we are because of the causes we make. To make a difference we have to change the causes we make. That takes a deeper understanding of your nature than you have now.

It took years of conversations and study for him to begin to understand himself. It is a fascinating process when you realize it is you, not an outside source, that controls what happens to your life. It can also be a painful process when you realize what you are going through is entirely because of the things you have done and not something that has been done to you.  It is always two steps forward and one, maybe two steps back as you take responsibility for your life. It takes perseverance to work through the obstacles that keep you down.

It was at this point that he began to leave the boy behind and the man began to emerge. Obstacles never stop, but he is learning to deal with them in a different way. It is a fight, with yourself, to not react to life the way you always have in the past. This will carry over when he gets out of prison. This is why so many people who get of prison end up back inside.  They want to change.  They want to do things in a different way but they don’t know how to do that consistently.

Being out will be harder, in a different way, than being inside because he’ll be walking into a different world he doesn’t know, needing products and services he has never heard of before. Because his family has had zero interest in how he is doing, I expect there will be little interest after he gets out. Besides, they have done enough damage.

In the beginning it took time to develop trust. He had been hurt by people he loved. Even now there are things that are very hard for him to talk about, such as his experience with epilepsy. He thought of himself as damaged. I had to learn this was very painful for him to write about. I didn’t understand it wasn’t just a medical condition. It affected how he was treated by others. He was lonely as a child which also caused fear and depression. Epilepsy is something you can’t fix, at least not yet.

It is easy for someone else to judge another person based on their own experiences. Sometimes I would write a letter and he would tell me what I wrote hurt him and at times made him cry because of the pain of having to live through it again in his mind. It made me feel bad for being insensitive.

He blames himself so thoroughly for not having the wisdom to make better choices in his life, but that would have taken wisdom he didn’t have. Everything happens for a reason, he has learned, and it is up to him now to put that wisdom to good use. Prison is teaching him something his life probably could not have taught him on it’s own on the outside. It’s up to him now to use that wisdom.

 WHY DID YOU START THE BLOG, “MY NAME IS JAMIE. MY LIFE IN PRISON”

We started writing letters in 2006 but it wasn’t until much later that I started the blog, when I realized he had a story to tell others needed to hear. There are millions of people incarcerated and many who are in the same situation as he is – without his family.  There are many millions of people; wives, mothers, husbands, partners and children whose lives are all affected. Losing a member of a family has long range affects, especially on the children who most often grow up in poor households run by mothers who don’t make enough to support a family and be both mother and father.  Sadly, many of these people were targeted because they were black, not because they were guilty.  If guilty, many were given sentences way out of proportion to whatever crime was committed.  This made a lot of money for the prison industrial corporation in an up to date slavery system.

I started  the blog My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison  in mid 2014. If you want to understand Jamie go to the pages at the top of the website and the earliest posts listed by the month under the bottom of the post.

He is my grandson’s father.  We met six weeks before he was arrested when I went to Tx to visit my daughter. He wrote to me once before He was sentenced. But it was write awhile before I sent him a card. He was surprised to hear from me. That was the beginning of our letters. When I realized his family wasn’t there for him, I reached inside his head and grabbed hold. He wasn’t doing very well on his own.  He needed someone to be there, and he needed someone to care about as well.

I researched and read everything I could find about prisons. I was horrified about what I read. I had no idea. I was like many of the people who read something I wrote and have a sarcastic comment about him deserving every rotten thing they do to inmates, yet they have no idea about what they are thinking beyond the propaganda put out by the media. Our prison system is a very ugly part of our civilization. Surely this country didn’t treat it’s citizens like this, some people think . The amount of innocent people the government locked up, predominantly black, had to be wrong. But it wasn’t. I was so naive.

I had been like everyone else. My knowledge came from TV and movies, not realizing I only knew what I was allowed to know. The underbelly of the prison system, the involvement of our government and prison corporations shocked me. How could I live all these years and not know this?

There are many people like Jamie. His case isn’t special. The fact it is ordinary is frightening. He could be anyone; a member of your own family. The response people have had to this blog helped him realize the picture the media puts out of black people he is just a poor, black, uneducated man who is going nowhere, who some believe was born with the genetic inclination to be a criminal; the false picture many people believe about the black race, was not the picture he had to believe of himself. He is his own individual person. Jamie became real to many people all over the world in the past couple years. Many people have written to me about their own experiences, or experiences of people they care about who were also stuck in the profit motivated circumstance of prison.

For the first time in his life Jamie realized he did have value. His family still has very little contact with him, but he has made a few friends through the blog who write to him and have been very supportive of him – and me, too.

His family really don’t know him anymore. Jamie the man is different from Jamie the boy. For so long he was not important to anyone and it crushed him.  But he is important to me. I became his friend, his teacher and his mom; someonewho showed him love and caring. His family never noticed when he matured from a boy to a man – a man with a voice.

GOALS FOR THE BLOG

 

The first draft of the book on Jamie’s life is done, “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” There is still a lot of work to do.  I found out there was a lot I didn’t know about writing a book, too. One of those things is I need a mailing list.  Books that are listed at Amazon or Barnes and Noble and others don’t sell themselves. That is another skill set that needs to be learned if I want it to be successful.  I started a monthly publication called ITFO Newsletter. There is an update on the book and snippets of chapters to gain interest. The newsletter has a variety of articles about the prison system. People who subscribe will have the opportunity to downloading the ebook version for free when it is published.

There is a Facebook page, Jamie Life In Prison,   twitter and others. When the book is published my goal is to speak – at schools and communities to start, and when I get my feet wet I want to work as a paid speaker. It’s important to dream big.  Reach for the stars.  This way if you fall short you will at least land on the moon!

This book is only part one. Jamie will not be out of prison yet when I’m done. Groundwork must be laid for him to have a life. How does the book end? Part two will be awhile coming. It will be about what happens from here, the process of getting out and what happens when he does. A lot can happen in six years. He will not be going out into a welcoming society. In between I will write another book and am mulling over some different ideas.  Possibly a book of short stories of actual inmates or break away to a different idea?

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR FIRST TIME AUTHOR’S?

Where do I begin to answer that since I am also a first time author?  I can pass along the things I have learned up until now. A person says to himself, “I have a great idea for a book.” Not too many years ago it was almost impossible to publish a book unless you were already known or very lucky. But book publishing went the same way as music publishing. You don’t need a record contract to get your music out there anymore. There are ways through social media of gathering a following. There are many good musicians and many good authors that never had an alternative. Now there is.

A book publisher who offers you a contract owns your book and can change it, including the title, any way they see fit. It will then take another two years to see the light of day. You get less profit per book because the publisher needs their money, too. Also, they won’t touch a book without an agent, who also gets a cut of the sale. There is little or zero up front money unless you are a well known author and you are still expected to market your own book. Many good editors lost their jobs because the industry changed.

Self publishing companies began springing up all over the web and many ads also started appearing to teach people the ropes. If you ever click on one of these ads be prepared to have every book publishing business follow you around the internet forever. Be careful of these companies. They are like snake oil salesmen. If an author doesn’t do their homework they are going to pay through the noise and likely be disappointed with the product. They also realize they haven’t laid the groundwork to market their book and feel overwhelmed. They may not have the skills to learn the marketing that is required our they are tired and need a break. I’ve talked with people who at this point just took what sales they could get and crossed their fingers. The average self published book sells less than 100 copies

Many people who write a book get scammed by one of these companies who take your money, tell you how great your book is, then puts out a sub par product with lousy editing, charges you for things you don’t need, and when it’s done and you find problems, they won’t answer your calls. I talked to many of these salesmen and they are very convincing. There were several I wanted to go with because they sounded so good.  I researched them and was glad my internal scam meter was going off at full tilt.

This is the best piece of advice I can offer: Pay an editor; one for content (story) and a copy editor for grammar, phrasing and much more.. You can not edit your own writing no matter how good you think you are with the English language. There are things we can’t see in our own writing but other people will. Sometimes we make the same mistake over and over. I read a lot of samples at Amazon from self published and well known authors. Study what works and what doesn’t work. Find out what feels wrong when you read and don’t repeat it. It is a free way to study writing. Poorly edited books will only sell to people who love you and the rest you’ll give away for free.

WHAT PART DOES MUSIC PLAY IN MY LIFE?

I am first a piano player.  Not a pianist, because I equate that with classical. My dream from very early childhood was to compose the most beautiful music in the world. A childish dream but I one I have never forgotten. I didn’t play well at the age of 7, but I could hear it inside me. I didn’t know how to get it out. Even as an adult, through years of playing professionally and practicing every day it still wasn’t there yet. I have stacks of songs I’ve written with lyrics and piano arrangements but it still wasn’t what I heard inside.

white piano

Then I lost it all. I thought I was done. I ruined my vocal cords. My ego wouldn’t let me be someone’s side man. If I wasn’t gigging I had no reason to write music. I had nowhere to play it. No one to hear it. My piano gathered dust for 12 years except for a few students. I lost my identity. At least I thought I did. I didn’t know who I was. I had always known, “I am a musician.” If anyone asked what I did I felt I had lost the right to call myself a musician. A part of me had been amputated and it was a painful blow to my life.

Then Jamie entered my life – the man in prison I write about at My Name is Jamie.My Life in prison. Through years of knowing him, his pain struck a deep nerve inside me. In 2012 I nearly died in need of a liver transplant. That pain was like none I’d ever felt before. The recovery was very long and some of the damage done is repairable. Pain and I are good friends. It lets me know every morning I didn’t die in my sleep.

Something changed inside me. I needed a way to express the pain. I feel emotions deeply. Not only what I was feeling about me, but the pain I carried for Jamie – his pain and his loss. It was palpable. No one who should have been there for him treated him like a human being, recognizing his pain. It is a horrible pain when you realize the people who should be caring about you – don’t, and you are left to rot.

Without any love at all you begin to die inside. Family told him, “I don’t write to you because it hurts ME so much that you are in there.” That doesn’t make any more sense today than it did the first time I heard it. He and I understood each other. Even through the hell he lived in, he worried more about me than about himself. Where does a friend like that come from? How could I let him down, no matter what people thought?

It made me want to play music again. I can’t it explain, but instead of creating music from the outside by developing a chord structure and building a melody around it, I crawled inside the music and let it play itself. My fingers know what to do like a typist knows a keyboard. I knew what I was feeling so I mentally get out of the way and let my fingers express what I felt. Because what I feel is pain, physically and emotionally, there is pain in the music. I don’t listen while I play. I just play. I hear it in the background like it comes from somewhere else. I record everything. I sometimes don’t listen back for days so I can hear it as a stranger. I can never replay anything because it is all free style – I improvise. After that it is gone.

When I listen to music I recorded two years ago and those recorded recently, I can hear a change and it is getting closer to what is inside. I’m know I’m not done yet. Where is it going? I don’t know. The process and progress is exciting. There ARE advantages to aging – experience and wisdom. The more I immerse myself in the emotion I want to convey, the more that feeling emerges. Yes, there is, technically, an occasional wrong note – but are they really wrong notes or part of the process?

I enjoy sharing my music. You can find all of it at  Sound Cloud. There are a couple hours of recorded music.  Leave a comment. Add a like. Stats are the name of the game for anything online. Who says a 62 year old woman is too old to keep creating something new? I’ve had about 10,000 pieces listened to. If it went no farther I’d be happy, but I don’t think I’m done.

My favorite way to play is in a completely dark room or even blindfolded. When you listen, dim the lights and close your eyes. Put your head back. This is dream music. What does it make you feel? Play it again. Where does it take you? What do you hear? I have asked people these questions. Strangely, I often get the same answers. What do you hear? These two pieces are two of my favorites and completely different. Picking up Broken Pieces Brings Tears to my eyes. A newer piece is K’lee written for a man whose words affected my Life. On my other blog watchandwhirl.com is a post, “Talking to my Younger Self.” It was written because of him.

ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE MYSELF

I thought about this question and saved it for last. That one word for me is “passionate.” I do everything intensely. I often push myself through a wall of pain that is there every day. I could give in to it, but no one could ever understand what it means anyway. But it helps me see and understand the pain in others and it allows me to be there for them. That requires passion.

Some people want to leave a legacy when they are gone so they aren’t forgotten. They want to do something great or pass on a lot of money. But a true legacy is how you have affected other lives. Because of you, did you change someone’s life in a positive way, and then they, too, have affected other lives? This is how you live on. This is the only way we can truly change the world. If people can’t manage that on a small scale we will never see great change.

“The change in a single human being can change the world”

Can Anybody Hear Me?

I  originally posted this on my other blog, Watch and Whirl. It is about much more than you can see here.  Some people have to live in an unwelcoming society. That behavior often brings unintended consequences.  Please – follow the link and then pass it on)

CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?   by Sonni Quick   copyright 2016 You can add comments about the music under the wave form. You can see the comment I left to show you where. Written in support of all trans pe…

Source: Can Anybody Hear Me?

Can Someone Be Happy on Death Row?

Mando-August-4-2013-001-2

I have written posts and pages about a man who lives on Death Row. I use the term “lives” because he has a life. It might not be the life he wants, or one you and I could tolerate, but it is the life he has and he is trying to make it the best life he can.  He has spent years studying to understand life to a greater extent than most people do. He had to go back to the earliest part of his life to understand and learn to appreciate it.

Most people float through their lives from day to day without much thought about why we are the way we are, or why we ended up with the life we have.  We often don’t take responsibility for making the causes we have, to end up where we are. I began writing to him a couple years ago because he intrigued me. I had gone to a pen pal site for inmates, not looking for someone to write to, because I was writing to Jamie, but because I thought this site might a place to put his info and acquire a pen pal or two for him.

Then I saw this post about an inmate named Armando Macias who was on death row, and he was a Buddhist. Since I am a Buddhist as well, I found that intriguing.  I doubted he was a Buddhist before he was sentenced to death row, and how does someone find that practice inside? There aren’t Buddhist monks in prison like there are chaplins. What has his study and practice changed his life to enable him to have quality in his life while living in a tiny bathroom sized cement box. We have had wonderful letters discussing the teachings of Buddhism while getting to know each other.

A member of my family, not understanding, even asked why why I would even want to have him for a friend?  Why would I even want to write to him/  He murdered someone!  He didn’t deserve to be a friend of mine. He no longer qualified to be a human being.  He was going to hell, I was told. Even though he understood what he did was wrong he didn’t deserve to be treated with kindness ever again for the rest of his life.  Because none of us are perfect and do things that are wrong does that mean we should be shunned?

I’m writing about him today because something a little strange happened two days ago. Most of my posts, no matter when they were written still get views. I think that is fairly normal on blogs that aren’t time sensitive, like news. He sent me something to me near the end of 2014 he had written. I broke it down into The parts and it can be found at the top of the site where all the pages are. It is called The Inhumane Society

I still get views every month on the entire series of three posts.  I was quite shocked the first time i read it because it was quite degrading. So far it has been read over 500 times.  That’s not bad because I was a fairly new blogger when I posted it. It showed me it was something people were interested in finding it out more about. People are realizing they have been lied to a great many things and they are tired of being lied to.  We need to insist even stronger we aren’t going to take it anymore. The days of being manipulated are coming to a fast close.

The other day, in the space of two hours, 62 people read this post. Read it yourself.  What do you think?  These were unique viewers.  My blog won’t register a viewer as “unique” if a person logs into the same post within 24 hours. What was bringing here? It wasn’t a new post, I’ve had a few take off and have had 800 to 5000 views over a couple weeks, but not when it had already been out for 1 1/2 years. Was it the subject and was was happening now to get a lot of traffic?  Why was it being quickly shared?  Mind you I’m not complaining.  Anyone who writes wants to have their words reads.

DEATH ROW AND THE DEATH PENALTY

There have been more articles written about the death row and the death penalty than there ever has been.  People want it changed and it has gone back and forth over the years.  The fact that it has been proven that we murdered innocent people and it is too late to give them their lives back.  to have that on your conscious is hard., I would think. Many people aren’t guilty and are used to falsely fill the prisons for the sake of the profit of the prisons.

Yes, there are some really bad people inside, but they are the minority, not the majority, and the length of sentences are often beyond reason. If they aren’t as bad as they have been out to be, simply to fill “for profit” prisons, that means the people in this country were taught to have no moral compass..

This brings me to the second problem I realized. America wants to insist this is a Christian Nation. If this were true – if this country was founded on Christianity, what the hell happened? Why does this piece of dirt that holds 5% of the world’s population have 25% of all the prisoners in the world? Do you see what I’m getting at? Either there is something ineffective about the teachings or there aren’t as many people really and truly “practicing” the teachings, living their lives as if the teachings make a difference. There is so much hate and so many hate crimes, and people think they have a right to do them. People either have no idea what the term”you reap what you sow” means, or they think it doesn’t apply to them.

I recently read a article on a Christian website. The preacher was teaching a lesson. He said to his followers, “You don’t have to worry about the phrase, you reap what you sow. Jesus died for your sins.” What??? It doesn’t matter what you do or who you hurt. You are saved and going to heaven.. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work like that.  You get back the effect of every bad -and good – thing you do. If you aren’t happy, it is for a reason. It also applies if you are happy. You have no one else but yourself that is responsible for your life. Even if you were taught differently, it doesn’t make it so.

This country should be overstuffed with happy Christians. Where are they? They are all out there proudly toting their guns In case their neighbor tries to shoot up the grocery store while they are in it.  A Christian country wanting to terrorize lgbt people because they say Good doesn’t like it. They terrorize Muslims because they say every single one of them wants to kill you in your sleep. And damn those Mexicans raping and killing our women. Then they teach this to a new generation of kids? Is this our Christian nation? It’s shameful.

Armando Macias studied all religions to find the truth about his life.  He did do something bad. But through this bad thing, with the teachings of Buddhism, which is doubtful you know anything about, he learned what it meant to truly be a human being. He is more free in that prison than most Americans are carrying they guns around because that is their god given freedom to protect themselves – from what?

NICHIREN BUDDHISM

It is Nichiren Buddhism I teach Jamie, so he will truly learn his value as human being. Praising an entity does not replace the work we need to do on ourselves that make us better people. We can’t say “Praise the Lord”, and then do as we damn well please and think we won’t have to pay the price for our actions.

This is my opinion. Please understand i am not lumping all Christians into this category.  You can believe what you want. Each of us to come to terms with our own life.  You can be angry or you can think about it. I’m not saying you should stop being a Christian. But understand why you are.  Was it told to you ha

I think it is hard to not try to analyze it, but that doesn’t change anything. So how does one change something that causes unhappiness? Let’s take a hard situation, since I mostly write about the prison system. Today I wore about juvenile detention and the artwork is from a man on death row. He committed a contract killing. Not his first offense. Read what he wrote about what happened the first time he was released. He wanted a better life. His karma was too strong. What is karma? The effect of causes made. If you want to know what causes you made in the past look at your life today. How do you want you future to be? Make the right causes. Otherwise life just slaps you around and if you really think life isn’t being fair it is easy to play victim and say it is not your fault – it was done to you by something outside your control. At that point many people would pray to God to fix it and when that doesn’t work they’d say it was part of God’s plan for them to suffer. So nothing changes and no responsibility is taken. Amen. Praise the lord!

How does someone change the fact they are on death row? or Ad Seg like Jamie? Physically, right now it won’t change. What changes is attitude and life Condition. You could call it moods. depending on your mood, when something happens you will react differently. If you are angry and a guard treated you badly, you’ll get pissed which will start a chain of events that could end up with you getting very hurt. If you have a higher life condition you might blow it off and the guard would  just walk away. You could have a higher life condition and instead, genuinely smile him.  After all, he has to work in this 100 degree weather with more clothes on than you and tempers are flaring. Now that he isn’t angry and you weren’t condescending to him maybe you’ll be the first one he takes to the shower and you thank him. Different causes. Different effects. This is all of life. This is how karma is made.

Everything you think, say or do creates karma. Even in a prison cell he can be happy. There are many kinds of prison cells. To escape unhappiness you have to understand the causes of your life. When you are in rhythm with the universe you will bring to you what you need, and when you try to change, your life will throw up obstacles to keep you down. Resistance to change. This is a life long battle. How do you get in rhythm? By chanting “nam myoho renge kyo” The law the cause and effect through sound and vibration.

Some people mediate, but that is too passive. You physically have to do something. Yes, you can think about change but it isn’t the same. There are so many things I want to do. None of it will happen unless I make the cause for it to happen. We understand that on a basic level. Can you even imagine what you could do if you took control of how you’re life actually went? So whether it is changing violence, or anger or jealousy or lack of confidence, or a hateful coworker, or not wanting to be alone, anything – if you have complete confidence your mind will figure out a way. But we are human and it is always 2 steps forward and one step back That is life.There is nothing supernatural about it. No God up there who has the ability to love no matter how much people want it to be so. Common sense. This, was the intro to Nichiren Buddhism 101. You don’t have to believe it, but millions of other Nichiren Buddhists in this country to do, which is why this is not a Christian nation.  We have to have laws for all people not just a select person.  There is no fat happy Buddha, either, BTW.  We don’t worship the man, we try to live what he taught.

This was not meant to insult anyone and their faith, only to bring to the surface the people that don’t practice their faith as it was meant to be, but instead use it to judge others they think should practice what they believe in, and use hate and violence to push their agenda – no matter what faith they have.

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Sonni’s Side of The Story – part two

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

SONNI’S SIDE OF THE STORY – part two

 

     One day I asked Morgan for Jamie’s address. I wanted to send him a card. I don’t remember if it was a holiday or even why I wanted to do it.  He popped into my mind one day and hoped he was doing okay.

     Prisons were in a different world than anything I had experienced. I thought prisons were supposed to provide the essential things the prisoners needed. I was totally clueless about the US prison system. It didn’t take much research to find out how wrong I was.

     Not long after I sent the card I got an answer back. He was surprised to hear from me, but it was a welcome surprise. It started a relationship through letters that became much more than I thought it would when we started. For the most part, the art of letter writing all but died when sending emails became easier than finding an envelope and stamp. Reading a letter by hand says much more than just what the words say. Jamie has many different styles of handwriting and I can immediately sends his mood by the way he writes. My handwriting is the same as it was when I was twenty and is quite illegible, so I type and print out about half the letters I send.

      There is nothing interesting in the mail these days. It is all junk mail or bills. When I see I have a letter to read, I dump everything on the table and go get comfortable to read his letter, or other letters from other inmates I write to. When Jamie’s son gets older, if he wants his son to read the letters, he will get to know his father in ways he would never otherwise understand.  Over the years these letters made me realize he had a story that should be told.
      I not only learned about what kind of man he was, but I learned the true story about what happens in the prison system. When I have other inmates telling me the same thing it makes it hard to have respect for the system.  Finding out about how inmates are treated – abused- made me angry. I became frustrated because I wanted to do something to help him. 

      Because of propaganda, many people have the attitude of, “If you do the crime, you gotta do the time.” It’s not that easy to use that phrase in a general sense about all inmates. It’s not just about doing the time. It isn’t that cut and dried. Although there are many people locked up who should never be let out on the street, there are even more people being given sentences that don’t fit their crime, if they are even guilty in the first place. These people are valuable to the Prison Industrial Complex. They have a contract that stipulates their prison will be kept full, whether the people in it are guilty or not.
      Much of what is written about prisons in the media only tell a partial story. It doesn’t say enough about the extreme abuse prisoners have to endure, the same way it is hard to convict a cop. There is an image the system wants to preserve as cops and guards being people who uphold the law are in the right and have reasons to abuse people. If people believed otherwise they would lose control. Stories get twisted about how people were hurt to make people believe they only hurt people when it is justified. We know that isn’t true, but how many murder convictions have their been of cops and guards? Almost none. They are more likely to only get a short suspension, if even that, but they don’t end up in solitary confinement being treated the way they have treated others.
      There has been a lot of inhumane treatment and torture inside those walls for hundreds of years. The pain of knowing that, and personally knowing someone who was experiencing it started ripping me up inside, telling me I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. If you realize evil is taking place and you look in the other direction, you are condoning what is happening and that makes you guilty, too. From the warden on down, everyone who works in the prison knows what is happening, but there are seldom repercussions.

     Inmates can’t fight back against what is done to them. It took until mid 2013, after receiving hundreds of letters, to realize this was a story that needed to be told. Not just for Jamie’s sake, but for all people, men and women, who were given unjust sentences so the prison corporations could fill beds at ‘for profit’ prisons. I watched a video* of an auction of a new prison to the highest bidder when the auctioneer, as a selling point, explained there would be a never ending supply of inmates to fill it. This was a prison built to hold illegal immigrants coming over the border. Instead of deporting them, it was financially in their favor to lock them up, even though they had committed no crime other than trying to find a better life. They didn’t deserve prison if the only motivation was profit. The bidding started at five million. These were men who were in the business of buying people for profit, and then denying them medicine and medical for even now profit.

      Prisoners are a commodity; and they are expendable. They are just criminals, lower than the lowest. Drug companies us them to test new drugs, without their knowledge. Manufacturing companies bid on them as nearly free labor to make their products. Inmates purchase commissary items from companies who make a step profit selling to inmates. Prisons do not want to pay for medical tests and costly drugs unless they absolutely have no choice. There are different laws for inmates than there are for free people. I want to think the public wouldn’t tolerate it if they knew, but I’m not so sure anymore. But I do know there is an outrage if animals kept in cages are treated inhumanely so I have to have hope they would also be outraged if they knew what did to people.

     There seems to be an abundance of hate in the world in the world. The call for justice is dim in the background of the noise of people screaming about the injustice done to them. How are they supposed to care about injustice done to people they loathe; convicted criminals. There are fights against this injustice but it isn’t loud enough. It may never be loud enough. Corporations have the money resources to fight change and they won’t give up their profit easily.

      I began to put my thoughts on paper, writing and rewriting, encouraging Jamie to write to me about what happened earlier in his life. I needed to see if there was something I could do to make a difference. First I started a blog and began publishing some of his letters. I wanted to do more and began writing this book.
      Our letter writing began in 2008 when little Jamie was about between 1 1/2. My only intention was to hopefully brighten his day and let him know someone was thinking about him. I knew letters were often the only communication an inmate has with the outside. What I didn’t know then – I was the only person writing to Jamie, except for an occasional letter and pictures from my daughter that soon slowed from a trickle to a barely existent drop.
      Morgan soon met another man, got married, and had another baby boy. After that she turned off the baby making machine. She didn’t stay with the fourth baby’s father, either, and life was hard. She was working two jobs was so tired all the time. I wished I was closer to her so I could help more and even though she rarely asked me for money, I sent it to her anyway because I knew she needed it.
    Jamie was hurt because no one in his family answered his letters. I couldn’t stop writing to him. He needed me. I told him I adopted him so should call me mom. He needed someone to know what was happening to him and he needed someone to write to he could encourage, too. The letters weren’t just about him, they were also about me when I needed to talk about my day. He wanted to hear about my life. We needed each other to talk to. I can’t understand how a mother could not want to know how her son is, knowing how hard it was for him. How can you go for years and not want to see how your son was? I could understand if he was far away, but he wasn’t. I think I was more upset about that than he was. He had already given up.
      He spent years in ad seg – which is short for administrative segregation – which means you were locked up in a cell 23 hours a day. If you were lucky and were taken for a shower or in the cage to exercise. The human mind can’t take that kind of deprivation and stay sane. I knew he was desperately unhappy. Right before this he spent four years in juvenile detention on a charge that should not have happened. He had spent very little time on the outside since he was sixteen years old.
      A few years after he went inside they started charging inmates $100 a year if they wanted to be able to call for medical help, even if it was only one time in the year. Inmates went without help when they needed it and infections spread easily. Many couldn’t afford it. They could still ask for medical help but they would often be ignored. I started paying his fee every year because some of his epileptic seizures were pretty bad. There were times he needed to be taken to the hospital. No one was going to help me pay it even though I asked his family for help. The question was ignored.
      When I realized there was no one else but me to keep him going, I mentally reached inside his cell, grabbed hold of him. He became my son. I would joke and say he took after his father because he is as black as I am white. On prison forums on the internet, like M.I.S.S. – Mom’s With Incarcerated Sons Society, it is a place for moms to talk with each other and get support. There were a few with daughters. Men in prison have mothers, wives, girlfriends and children and many of them stick by their loved one and want to talk to other women who are going through the same thing.  I told them he was my “adopted” son, but also told the truth and said he is the father of one of my grandsons.  Jamie desperately needed someone to care about him. I could have never stopped writing to him. It was too important. I wasn’t going to be another person who made him think he didn’t matter, because he did matter. He needed someone he talk to about Morgan and his son until he could find the right place to put it. He was grieving.
      Through the years I connected him with his son through pictures and stories Morgan would tell me. Morgan started resenting me because I would ask her to write to him. She didn’t want me to talk about him anymore. She had let him go and didn’t want me telling her she should write. She couldn’t understand why he was so important to me. I could understand that, but I wasn’t going to stop writing.
Jamie and I had each had each been given a prison sentence. We held each other up with encouragement and caring. I slowly began teaching him the life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. I knew how much benefit I gained from what I had learn over the years, and the wisdom I gained from many hours of chanting daimoku, which is the chantin of nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It got me through many crisis points in my life. I don’t think I would be alive today had I not made the continued effort to change the negative parts of my life.
      He needed to understand why his life was happening the way it was. Why him? What did he need to learn? Learning about the law of cause and effect and how the decisions we make in our lives affects our future, doesn’t allow us to stay in the victim mentality and think what happens to us is not our fault. We make the causes for our life to go in the direction it does. We can learn how to make different causes and gradually pull our life out of the tailspin we sometimes find ourselves in.
      Having so much alone time, sitting in a prison cell, is the perfect time to reflect about those causes we made in our life that put us where we are. We are the only ones who can change our destiny by making better causes and getting better effects. In Buddhism, prayers are not answered by someone or something outside yourself who has personal plans laid out for you. Only when you look inside yourself and change will it reflect in the outside world around you. Each person has the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to believe in. Does your faith show proof in your life, or is it blind faith with no results?
      I have tried to keep Jamie centered on being positive. Trying to stay on an even keel when there are other people trying to make him lose control of his anger isn’t easy. At times he has been ready to give up. I try to keep him thinking about his future. It wasn’t going to be successful unless he made the effort – the causes – for it to be that way. He needed know how to respond in a different way to his environment than with anger.
      Trying to keep his head together, while living in a single cell with no one to talk to, separated from humanity, is probably the hardest thing anyone could be expected to do. People are not meant for such solitude. It is why the percentage of inmates going insane and committing suicide is so high. It is living in hell. The fact that he has done as well as he has is incredible. It is not the same as telling some they need to have better behavior and expecting them to do it. There are so many other influences that make it hard to do. I try to keep him supplied with books and magazines, so he can imagine another world. It is the only way to escape reality.
      These years in prison he has endured so far is only the first half of his experience. Getting out and staying out is the second half. The recidivism percentage, the rate people end up back in prison is in the high 70%, so the chance of staying free is against you and not in your favor – especially if you don’t have emotional support. Almost every inmate wants to do better when he is free, but staying free does not happen by accident. He needs a plan and he has to have discipline. When he gets out and enters a society he doesn’t recognize, the going gets tough. This society won’t care if he makes it or not. Racism didn’t end while he’s been inside.
      Because we are human, we usually take two steps forward and one and a half steps back That makes it hard to see our progress. It’s been very hard, for both of us. It’s easy to get your legs yanked out from beneath you and react to things that cause even more negativity in your life, but if you learn how to get back up again and redetermine, there is hope. He is not a victim. He can change his life into a positive one. It can and will be a benefit to his life and will strengthen him as a human being, even if it is hard for him to see that right this minute.
      Everything happens for a reason. There is no such thing as luck and there are no miracles. There are only affects of causes, even if you don’t understand what they are. The phrases, “You reap what you sow”, “What goes around comes around.”, “You get back what you dish out”, holds true in all circumstances, not just once in awhile. Teaching someone in prison to understand this is difficult, but he has come a long way. Without understanding this he doesn’t have a chance of ever getting out of there and have his mind in one piece. If he understands this and puts it into practice he will turn this experience around to have a positive meaning in his life. There are those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, and they are both right. This will affect my grandson and what he teaches him about his life when he gets out. Black men have a one in three chance of ending up in prison because that is the way our justice system, through racism, has forced it to go. I have two half black grandsons and I fear for the racism that will come their way after they are not under the total control of the mother. White men don’t have to worry about prison the way black men does. White men aren’t accosted and harassed on the street just for being white.
      There are many people who live his story. There are many family members who are faced with this same thing when the men in their lives are locked up. Yes, some of it justified. Some of it is because neighborhoods have been so ground down they lost hope a long time ago. A prison sentence for one person is a prison sentence for the entire family and everyone suffers. Families don’t know how to help someone in prison and because most are low income they don’t have the money to visit, accept phone calls or hire attorneys who aren’t only trying to force a plea deal.
      Toward the end of 2013 I started his blog, mynameisjamie.net and began posting his letters. Slowly his story emerged. I also have copies of my letters to him. The responses I received kept me writing, and kept Jamie encouraged. today there are other people who write to him that let him know his life is important. There were even men who wrote to me and said his story made them cry. He began touching people’s hearts. I began searching for other blogs about people in prison, like I was doing, because I wanted to learn what was happening in other prisons.
      I started reading and learning. I began researching all aspects of the prison industry, from the juveniles to the elderly. What I learned was often shocking. I was appalled and angry. Some blogs or books published were about ex-gang members who turned their lives around. Other inmates were never going to get out and were trying to make sense of how they were going to survive a life sentence. Many went through years of searching, looking for answers. Some found God, some turned to the Muslim faith and some turned to Buddhism. And there are those who turned to negative ways of dealing with life such as white supremacy and other gangs to give them a sense of brotherhood.
      All Buddhism is not the same just like there are many sects of Christian religions, from Pentecostal to Jehovah Witness. Jamie is learning about Nichiren Buddhism. Most inmates join some kind of group, often for protection, and most stay within their own race. But Jamie has spent little time in the general population. He has spent years of his time in the lower levels * of prison, often in a cell by himself, locked up 23 hours a day. He is only let out to shower a few times a week and maybe to go to chow – maybe. No programs – no education – nothing in ten years. How would you be doing if you had to live like that?
      In 2015 I began to write this book with the hope of not only validating his life, but to also help people understand what this country has done to millions of people; how the combination of racism and greed flourished in the prisons. Nothing is going to change until people force it to change. We can’t continue to ignore what is happening. In order for anyone to say America is a great nation, it has to be earned. We have to care about the people, not just ‘say’ we care.
    I hope you learn something from this writing you can pass it on to someone else. This story is about creating an indomitable spirit that learns to never give up, no matter how bad it gets. You need to have no doubt you will get to the other side of whatever problem you face. There is something to learn from everything we go through. Jamie, today, at this moment is still sitting in a cell by himself, hopefully studying and planning for his future. Will he make parole someday? What will it take? It will depend on his determination. The parole board is not going to want to parole him, so it will be a fight. They do not like to parole black people. They usually get turned down, no matter what is recommended.
      Maybe, by the time I get to the end there will be better answers. Politicians are now saying they want to change the system and also release more people, but then why are they still building more prisons? The numbers don’t add up. It never will. It’s politics.

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

When your determination changes, everything will begin to move in the direction you desire. The moment you resolve to be victorious, every nerve and fiber in your being will immediately orient itself toward your success. On the other hand, if you think, “This is never going to work out,” then at that instant every cell in your being will be deflated and give up the fight.

— Daisaku Ikeda

I want to thank everyone who has been following this blog and those who have been reading the chapters of the book as I write and rewrite, finding my way.  Every time you share something on your own SM, you help me tremendously. Every new address on the mailing list gives me more credibility for publishing. I hope you continue to give me pushes in the right direction.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world
Sonni’s Pinterest boards

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares (forward)
Everyday Dreams
I Love You Always, Daddy
Jamie’s Story
The Nightmare
A Roof Over My Head, Three Squares a Day and Free Medical
Sometimes They’ll Give You Candy
There Is No Place Like Home – part one
There Is No Place Like Home – part two
Sonni’s Side of The Story – part one

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My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

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My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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Allred Unit- Prison #8

Early Jan 2016

Hello mom, I’m sorry it to so long for me to write. Things have really been crazy the last few weeks. I have through hell and back. But that’s in the past. I’m not in the Wynne Unit no more. I’m now in N. Texas.

(  Sonni’s note: This is the 8th prison Jamie has been in. IF you would like to write to him here is his new address: James Cummings #1368189  12-Fpod-84, Allred Unit, 2101 FM 369 North, Iowa Park, Tx 76367 for those who have written and had birthday cards returned because he was transferred. If they were delivered, they haven’t sent his property to him yet so he doesn’t have any addresses, stamps, paper or ID to get any at the commissary. Hopefully he’ll get it, but last time the guards took things. It’s normal to be moved all over the state. There are more than 110 prisons just in Texas. Going to N Texas is better than going south. Texas is hot in the summer all over. But the south is hotter)

lockdown,voice from insideI am in ad seg, but believe it or not it’s okay as of right now. I am so glad to be away from Wynne Unit. It took two days to get here and we went through a little snow storm.

(Sonni’s note: Jamie told me a long time ago that he’d never seen snow. He’s never been out of Texas. So he must have enjoyed seeing snow. I just sent him a letter through jpay.com and sent a picture of the snow storm we just had on the east coast. 33″ and add 2 more feet of drifts. I hate cold weather. I prefer the tropics so I am typing right now wrapped up in three blankets! I hibernate in the winter.)

So far I’m okay. I’m still having chests pains here and there but I’ll be seeing a Dr here soon. They’ll start taking my medical fee out of any money you send until it’s paid. If you hadn’t been paying it all these years and helping me I wouldn’t have anything. I hope the send me all the books you had just sent.

( I buy them by the foot. A variety of all kinds of used books that measure three feet when stacked. I already bought another 3 feet. If he gets the last shipment h, too, he’ll be set for a couple months! In his property is also a radio. I found a neat article about how a monk sets his day. I jokingly told him he is like a monk who also lives in a cell. It helps to have a routine and stick to it spending so much time doing each thing and keeping his mind occupied in a positive way.

Source: Timo Waltari on Flickr
photo source: wikipedia commons (also from previous article)))

If you haven’t yet, read the post before this one about solitary confinement in the UK.  It’s hard to read what this kind of solitary does to the mind. It causes depression and mental illness. Suicide in prison is high. Depression and paranoia. Human beings are not meant to never be touched or talked to. Most people can’t handle it. Jamie is no stranger to solitary confinement or ad seg. They are both 23 hr a day lock down. Every three months they lock you down further to toss cells. Commissary is suspended even though he can only go once a month anyway and food rations are cut. Being able to stock up on food from the commissary is important.

Jamie studies Nichiren Buddhism. I started teaching him about 6-7 years ago. It’s not an easy practice to do every day without support. Compare it to taking out a gym membership. After going for awhile most people gradually stop going and make excuses why they can’t exercise that day, but they’ll go tomorrow and when they don’t see results they quit.  Buddhism produces actual results. It isn’t like Christianity where you go to church once a week, ask forgiveness and all is okay and you treat the world around you the same. We look at life and death in a different way and don’t think it was created by a god. It is different than a religion where a god is at the center. Since there is no god in Buddhism to worship, we don’t pray to an entity outside of us to change things in our life. We pray for the wisdom to know what to do to be able to change the part pf your nature that ends up causing you unhappiness. When you are able to change something on the inside, it affects your environment on the outside. 

We cause our own problems and over time we see the effects in our life around us. We can’t expect our life to change without doing the work. It’s like praying to change something and then holding out our hand expecting the benefit of cookies. We have to learn how to make better causes so we can be happy. In the last year, when Jamie was knocked down from G2 status that allowed him phone calls and had also allowed him to have a job – cleaning the showers – that he had worked hard to reach, because of the vindictiveness of a guard, it was a major let down for him and slowly he allowed his anger to have more control over his actions than common sense. He’s human. We’re all human, and we do or say things we later regret. But in prison you also have to deal with the rule that guards are always right and inmates are always wrong and there is nothing you can do about it. This has happened a number of time over the years where he had privileges taken away because of someone else has power over him.

But still, it is the result of cause that were made that put him in this situation to begin with, and only by changing how he deals with it can he change it. Wanting to change it doesn’t work by itself. If it were that easy to change, people would be doing it all the time. But they don’t and many fall back on, “That’s just the way I am.”

This is why we practice Nichiren Buddhism – not Tibetan or Zen or any other because they are ass different as Pentecostals and Catholics.If your faith only tells you what you should to be happy, but doesn’t tell you how to do it, then you have only half a teaching. Praising a god or any religion is not how you change the problems in your life. I’ve gone into this explanation because it’s a very important part of how he will be able to have the life he wants.  It’s up to him and asking an entity in the universe to fix his problems won’t work.  Ask any inmate in solitary confinement how that method is working for him.  If that worked we wouldn’t have the prison system we have because I’m sure there are a lot of inmates who are trying that method.  I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s choice of faith.  I hadn’t intended this to be a post on faith, but it is a big part off how I keep his head above water.  I only know what works for me now and what hasn’t worked in the past. If anyone would like to know what this is go to http://sgi-usa.org.

So you had the chance to talk with the Warden when you called about my medications. The warden is just as bad as the guards. He’s the type of fool who tries to bone every female officer who works for him. When he can’t have his way he writes them up. This whole place is corrupt. I’ve had women who work here offer me sex. I would never have intercourse with them even if I wanted to. I’d be too scared because of HIV. A lot of these women have sex with these dudes and a lot of these dudes have sex with other dudes. So I have safe sex, with myself.

This seg is nothing like the last one. Officers here are respectful. I haven’t met them all yet but I’m going to do my best to be polite.

Do you think you can get Megan to bring little Jamie to see? If you are still planning on coming to Texas this spring I can’t wait to see you! I have to go for now. I only have one piece of paper and a stamp that I borrowed. I’ll write again as soon as I can. Please call Jamie. And tell him I love him.

Love you.

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

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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

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Guards Are Always Right. Inmates Are Always Wrong

black hands on cell door, prison guard brutality
source credit: pittsburgurbanmedia.com

Today I started reading through old letters I sent Jamie. This one is six months old and it was written at the time after he had just lost his new privileges of being able to make phone calls and have contact visits – for three weeks. It was devastating to be sent back to lock up again after it took him another two years to reach a level where it was allowed. It happened because of lies by guards and no one would listen to you. The guards are always right and the inmates are always wrong – every time. If a guard does not back up whatever another guard says he, himself, will be retaliated against. When that happens it is hard to keep your anger from making you lash out.

nmrk0731
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion, there what illness can be an obstacle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention daimoku which is a Nichiren Buddhist chant – Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.  Like meditation it allows you to have better control of your mind, your thoughts. Practicing Buddhism has been very good for Jamie.  It has been part of my life for a very long time.  I started teaching Jamie Buddhist concepts and how to apply them at least 6 years ago.  Being in prison is more difficult than you can imagine, knowing the years you lose, you will never get back, and the abuse you will have to take will be humiliating, because it is wrong and there is nothing you can do about it.

Chanting, with the deep breathing you have to do, lowers your stress level.  High stress also makes his epileptic seizures  more frequent. This allows the person inside to shine. We have to understand the right thing to do, instead of responding emotionally.  But chanting doesn’t mean you will always do the right thing.  We are human.  We learn from our mistakes. Changing our habits and our reactions is a life long battle with ourselves. But I believe – asking someone or something outside ourselves to fix our problems that cause us unhappiness.  Change must come from within.  Chanting gives you time to think about your life and take responsibility for your actions.  It is about gaining the wisdom to make the right decisions to change your life – to see things in a different perspective.

Living in a prison is about as close to the concept as hell as you can get. Buddhism does not look at hell as a place you go to when you die, but rather a life condition you live in here on earth. What better describes that life condition than a maximum security prison.

This letter was sent using jpay.com, a system set up for most state prisons, not federal. I can type an email letter, or send money through them.  To send a letter costs one “stamp” per page.  To send a picture is one stamp.  Two pictures is two stamps.  The advantage is they get it faster, and my typing is easier to read than my handwriting!  I do write, though, because I know it is a more personal connection.

 
Date: 5/11/2015  5:18:10 PM
Sent To: JAMES CUMMINGS
Attachments:

Hello son,

Just a quick letter today. I wanted you to know that I did talk to Ms Johnson in classification. She said you had to go to the UCC (prison court) on May 12 for a case. She said she didn’t have anymore information. She said after that you would be released, but she didn’t say released to where. Jamie, you can’t fight them. I know this is so hard. You worked so hard and waited so long for your privileges but they always find a way to knock you down even if they have to lie to do it. I know they didn’t do you right. You need to keep the bigger picture in mind and put all the rest of the garbage out where it belongs – in the trash. I know it’s hard.

You probably won’t get this letter in time – but chant daimoku (Nichiren Buddhism) before you go to court.  Center your mind. Stay calm. You have grown so much and learned so much, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes sometimes. The harder we try to change, life throws curve balls at us to keep us down. But if you remember there is something to learn from everything, you will be okay. This will  be over one day. It will be behind you and you will have a chance to live again. Have faith in that. You will have a life and it will be a life you will be proud of. All of this  you are going through is making you the person you are. A person with compassion. A person who will always know what it is like when the chips are down. You are learning things through all of this. I will be chanting for you tomorrow to be strong. Have no doubt, Jamie. Keep your dreams in the front of your head.

You might find this a bit funny. You REALLY upset Bill (my egotistic brother-in-law who uses his knowledge of the Bible as a way to feel important, but doesn’t apply any teachings inside the covers to his own life) with that plastic Christian remark you called him. If the shoe fits, wear it. My sister and family had a field day ripping you and me to shreds because of how much he “helped” you, and you had the nerve to expect him to follow through with the things he said he could do for you,.  I should have known better. You bruised his inflated ego. If it weren’t true it wouldn’t have bothered him so much. He knows what he did – he just didn’t want anyone else to find out about it. He said were ungrateful. It must have made him feel good to rip apart our relationship. Well, I hope he enjoyed himself. After all he is such a sincere Christian. You are a much better man than he is. The law of cause and effect applies to him as well. Hearing those words, “Cause and effect” makes him go berserk with rage.  But isn’t it the same as, “You reap what you sow”?

reap what you sow

My mom wants to have a happy family. It ain’t gonna happen any time soon. I wouldn’t go to any family affairs if they invited me, which I doubt they will – because I don’t like to be around plastic people either. I have other people in my life who know who I am and care about me. After almost 5 years of trying to have a family since I moved here – I give up. I just can’t live life they way they do. I can’t pretend.  But remember – the best revenge against people like that is to have a good, happy life. Live with the principles you know to be true. Treat people the way you want to be treated.

On that note – write me asap and let me know what’s up. What a mess this all is. I love you. Never forget that.

Your mom

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list

What Has Happened Now? The Prison Cut Off My Emails.

I’m concerned. Two nights ago I started writing an email to Jamie. I have used http://Jpay.com to write to him for about 7 years. I can send him emails, money and pictures, which is easier than handwriting mail, and getting money orders, although I do send him other things – articles and cards. But when I logged into Jpay yesterday morning, the option to send mail had disappeared. I could only send money. That had never happened before in all the years I’ve been writing.

I called Jpay. The rep I talked to had not heard of this happening, either, and called her supervisor. She told me the prison must have stopped it as a way of disciplining him. To me that says they are out of things to take away from him. There isn’t much more they can take away from you when you are in ad seg. So his books must be gone as well as all belongings, probably his mattress as well. His little fan? In this godawful heat. His food -still on food loaf, which I think they make from garbage. They feed it to them three times a day.

food loaf

So what the hell happened that they would resort to stopping my emails. They would know I am the only one writing to him. Will a snail mail letter get through? Is it also directed at me for some reason because they didn’t like what they read?  I’m grasping at straws.  I just double checked again and it’s still blocked.  My concern is mostly for Jamie because most likely it is a punishment for something.

Melvin, the man in Texas who goes to the prison to visit with him every 4 to 6 weeks was recently there.  He said he was in good spirits.  The cut on his foot was still hurting but it was starting to heal.  They chanted together for awhile.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Jamie has been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for several years, a practice that is difficult to do on your own.  It’s easy to begin, like deciding to go to the gym, but it is hard to maintain with encouragement, because since it is a practice it is something you do every day.  He has been learning that we are the cause for own problems.  We make the causes.  We get the effects.  Learning how to respond to life a different way takes more than just thinking about it.  If you have an issue with anger there are things that are going to press your buttons and you are going to respond the same way no matter how many times you tell yourself not to.  Actually changing something inside yourself that reflects in your environment takes time.  You make baby steps.  The first step is understanding how you could have reacted in a different way.  We chant – deeply – to change that part of ourselves that causes us the most grief.  It is a life long process.  Most people understand there are benefits to meditation and chanting has the same benefits of that.  Deep breathing calms you and enables you to think.  Chanting is deeper that that.

The universe runs on a rhythm.  We see it easily in the tides.  All life is a cycle.  Birth, aging, sickness and death.  All of nature and all living beings. When you are able to join with that rhythm it brings into your life those things that help you and also those things you need to learn so you can change the things that cause you unhappiness.  When you try to change the things that hold you down the only way to do that is to confront the very things that cause you unhappiness. We never get rid of problems.  What we want is to deal with our problems in a different way that gets us a better result. This is not about asking something “out there” to change your life but instead looking inside yourself to change negative into positive.  Accepting responsibility that there is no one but yourself to blame for the plan you have for your life.  The plan wasn’t decided by something outside yourself.  We make the causes that affect us.  If we don’t change these things – especially an inmate – when he gets out he has little chance of doing things different and gravitates back to the life he had.

So I have to think – What has happened?  Most of these guards have such low life conditions.  We read about prison guard brutality more and more in the media. They have no problem hurting inmates just for the pleasure of being able to do it and get away with it. Did he react to something they did and that gave them the reason to want to hurt him?

All I can do is wait while I send him a snail mail.  Today is Saturday.  I tried to call the prison and no one is picking up the phone. Are they closed on Weekends?  That doesn’t make sense.  They have visiting hours today.  I’ll keep trying. On Monday I’ll try again . . .

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

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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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Protect yourself by having an attorney on call with an app on your phone. Stopped and given a ticket? harassed? Click on the link below and see why you need this. A friend has a brand new problem with a landlord.  She had just signed up for the service. She didn’t even think about Legal Shield until I reminded her. Call me, email me, msg me at fb. It’s that easy.   You can also contact me here:  Legal Shield

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Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

“Jamie” by Sonni Quick copyright 2014
Sept 9,2013

Incarcerated since late 2005

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you it is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions. It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in it but they all say they are bright and everyone else is wrong. The Chaplain in here doesn’t like you if you aren’t a Christian.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

Mom,I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of the magazine, Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about what happens next.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me? I’ve wasted more than seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one. Ill try chanting “nam myoho renge kyo”. Maybe it well help change things. I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU.  Please give me some time to think.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

It is hard for him to remember there is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father. What he is learning because of this will change his direction. It is painful He can’t see it now but he will later. Nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens is the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is.

During the first year after this letter was written he began studying the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism. His attitude about his life improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and a determination to succeed; a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. He wanted to understand what propelled him the direction that led to prison. Buddhism puts responsibility for your life squarely on your own shoulders. No plan laid out for you by an entity who loves and punishes you. Only the effects of the causes you made yourself are what You are in the driver’s seat.

It does not mean life is smooth sailing and everything is a bed of roses. Try to change, and the obstacles increase andbtest your determination. But Jamie now is getting a better understanding of why things happen to him, and he is learning to make better decisions in his life. He is seeing how his emotions govern how he feels about his life, especially anger. Regardless, if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy. But it is always two steps forward and one step back.)

Another Day In Ad Seg – Unintended Consequences

unintended consequences
photo source:
genewhitehead.com

December 15, 2009

PURE PAIN      by Sonni Quick   copyright  2015

(Sonni’s note: Will Jamie be able to get out of prison some day and be able to put this experience behind him? Will he be able to adjust to a “normal” life he has never experienced? Will the damage be too great? Will he be able to adjust? Chances are not in his favor if he doesn’t have enough support. My thanks again to everyone who sent him a message at mynameisjamie2@gmail.com when I asked about a week go. I’ve sent off to him.)

Dear mom,

How are you? Blessed as well I pray.  As for me I’m doing okay. The property man brought me my things to me today. I have everything, except I still have no mattress. I’m sorry to have worried you, mom. It’s just things are hard in here. I’ve been stressing myself to a point. There’s a dude telling me I love Megan too much and that later down the line she will turn  on me. I don’t pay him no mind because of the stories he’s told me about how he’s treated women. However, this is what hurt mom. Later that day the deputy called me and gave me child support papers. So I’ve been stressing on that. Not hearing from Megan haven’t made it no better. I wrote to her grandmother’s address and asked why. Nothing, I’m still waiting. I’m just going to have to write again. All I can do is pay she writes back.

Then on top all that I just got a letter telling me my great grandmother passed. I’m holdin up but I was upset because my family hides  a lot of things from me. It’s like they don’t want to tell me anything until it’s all over. It hurts me that Megan isn’t writing me. I’m sure is because of this man she’s with. He’s the kind of man that uses a woman. I can tell. Me and him will cross one day. As for the new little one he’ll have a birthday in a few days. One year old. It’s good that you’re able to talk to little Jamie. I wish I could call and talk to the kids again. We had fun together at that one visit we had. I wish I could get a visit for Christmas our my birthday next month. Ill be 27 mom.

It’s hard to believe Megan got laid off. I couldn’t see it happening to her. It’s good she filled an appeal. Mom this is all my fault. Megan and the kids shouldn’t be going this. I blame myself for everything. I messed up her life and the kids lives by leYou're not to blameaving them alone. As for her anniversary, I didn’t know she was still married. She told me she had gotten a divorce. How can that be? The same goes for BJ. She choose to have a life with him, and that didn’t work. Now, if he’s not trying to have a relationship with his son then he’s no good. I remember you said you cried when she got pregnant again. Oh I know you love little Ben, but since it didn’t work out it was just so much harder for her.  I know one thing mom. Mine or not, Ill keep a relationship with them. I love them just like I love their mom. Even if they aren’t all mine.  So you see, it really worries me about not  hearing from her.  And I don’t understand the child support papers. It would have been different if she did that when I came home. Well, I guess there is a reason for everything.

I have to go for now. Take care, mom

Love you, your son

P.S. Thank you for the present you are sending Jamie for me. And Merry Christmas!

(When I think of my life and the many twists and turns I’ve gone through and I look at those same years Jamie has gone through I can almost interchange the dates of his prison letters no matter how many years apart they are. Nothing changed except Megan’s letters began to get further apart.  All he has is his memories because anything else is not something he wants to remember. All he can do is escape into his mind. He still loves a woman that in his mind never changed – never went on without him, although she is on her third or fourth “serious” relationship since he went in. She cried so sincerely she would wait for him. She meant it at the time but there was no way she could continue to raise her children by herself with her income potential. She went on with her life looking for elusive man who would be a good father for her children and good to her, as well.  She even got married again and she had another child. Four children with four fathers and another one is in San Quentin.

Jamie is not responsible for her happiness or her unhappiness. He should not be carrying the guilt by himself.  Megan’s life was set in motion long before she met Jamie, and so was his.  Their lives collided.  Because of the way they made their decisions is the reason for the outcome.  Many different choices could have been made along the way.  But when there is no thought of the consequences life just slaps you around and you spend more time running around picking up the pieces instead of moving forward. it doesn’t mean they would not have ended up in the same place.  It means another path would have gotten them there.  Megan would have met someone else to have a baby with, just like she met yet another man and did have a fourth child.  Her causes for her life were made long ago.  And Jamie, just because he might not have met Megan, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be in prison right now, but it could be for a different reason. 

Things don’t happen by accident.  But unless you have a way to learn these lessons about life you don’t realize the power you have to change the things that cause you unhappiness.  That is why, some years ago I started to teach him the principles of Nichiren Buddhism – the law of cause and effect.  Where you are today is the effect of previous causes and where you will be tomorrow comes from the causes you make today.  Simple.  A plan is not laid out for you for mysterious reasons – you make your own plan.  It’s just easier to think you didn’t make that plan.  God did. When you think like that, life just keeps knocking you sideways, until learn to make a different cause  This is why many people really don’t start searching for answers until their life is a mess and you are willing to listen.  For some people – inmates in this case – they find God.  There is chaplain in every prison.  There are many good things to learn through Christianity. This is not a slam on Christians.  I grew us in the church, but I didn’t see people living what they were being taught.  It was easy.  Do what you want and ask for forgiveness.  That didn’t work for me.  I wanted better answers, so decades ago I started searching.  Christianity does teach you how to be a good person and the reward is heaven.  If the lessons are applied they will be in a better place.  Buddhism teaches a lot of the same lessons, but it also explains the real consequences in your life today as you live it.  Some inmates find the Islamic faith, which Jamie tried for awhile.  That faith in prison teaches peace, not violence, but in the end it still didn’t have the answers he needed. He grew up knowing Christianity, but even that never explained the law of cause and effect even though it teaches – you reap what you sow – but it doesn’t teach why.

My purpose here is not to get into a religious discussion.. But what I see in society is a lot of very judgmental Christians who aren’t good people to people who don’t think like them.  I do NOT see that in the Buddhist community. I have used Buddhist teachings to show Jamie how to understand why his life is the way it is and to apply them to his life so it makes sense.  Then he can work on changing it.. What he knows now he didn’t know before.  Even so, it doesn’t make the struggles go away.  Things don’t change just because you want them to. And nothing “out there” is going to give you a benefit without you first making a cause for it – you reap what you sow – period.  Buddhism has helped him keep his head on straight and to be able to pick himself up when he falls.  There will always be obstacles – because that is how you learn and grow, All of us needs to respect others choice of faith.  That alone will make this world a better place to live.  Respect.

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Megan has been with someone now for a year and a half and so far she seems to be happy.  But she is still in the “getting to know you” phase.  The work hasn’t even started. But while Jamie still loves her like time stopped, she doesn’t care about him anymore and gets angry if I mention his name. She won’t take “their” son to see him so the last time was when I visited him at the prison 2 years ago. Some men don’t want to be a father. Jamie does. How will their son feel when he grows up knowing she could have made the 3 hour drive to the prison, but won’t. I can see the possible effect of that, but she isn’t thinking of that. I’m not saying it should be all the time, but maybe his dad’s birthday? Father’s Day? I think this will have unintended consequences – a word I tried to teach many times.)

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