Inside Prison What Is Life Without A Dream?

The Country Kitchen, Melvin Harris
Melvin Harris and his restaurant, The Country Kitchen in Onalaska, Tex

Melvin, the man in southern Texas who goes to visit Jamie every 4-6 weeks, tried to see him today and was turned away.  This has been the only man who committed himself to be there for him like a father figure. He has also been able to get information to me about things that are happening.  He told me today that Jamie was put back in solitary confinement and they also took away his visiting privileges. I doubt Jamie even knows he tried to see him.

The abuse never stops.  In my last letter he said the guards were harassing him so bad he stopped going to chow.  It was safer to take his meals in his cell.  So what happened?  I haven’t gotten a letter from him in two weeks and when that happens it always concerns me. Sometimes they even take away all of his possessions, including his mattress. The worst thing about all of this is that it will used against him when his next parole hearing comes up in Oct 2016.

The parole board will ask,”What have you done to improves yourself?” they will ask. “Nothing? And you think we should let you out?” or “Oh, you don’t even have a GED? You’ll never get a job. Request denied.” Chances for parole are very slim.

He has told me, “They don’t give black dudes parole. They keep them until they time out.” Inmates that stay until the last day of their sentence just get put out. They don’t get the counseling or therapy to help them integrate into society. But he has me, and will do everything I can for him to be okay.

This is why I’m writing the book, “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. I haven’t posted anything new lately. I’m doing a lot of editing and reorganizing and will then hire a real editor to make sure it is done right. I’d like to sell enough copies to give him a nest egg to help get him started. At least that is my dream and even inside prison what is life without a dream?

I talked to my grandson and asked him if there was anything I could tell his daddy for him. He said, “Just tell him I love him.” That will pick up his spirits and give him a reason to keep going. Keeping that connection alive is important. Someday, when his son gets older, if he has any doubt that his father has loved him this entire time, he can read this blog. He can get to know him here. It must be hard to have a father and know you can’t see him. For a variety of reasons no one takes him. I am too far away. His son could be 17 by the time he gets out and Jamie would be close to 40. If he makes it out.

I will just have to wait to hear from him. It’s so premature to even think about when he gets out.

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Sonni Quick piano music complete list

In The Beginning I thought He was Safe in The Hole – Part 2

prison guard brutality
source credit:
a.w.i.p.com

PART TWO

by Sonni Quick

Still, in the beginning at least, I thought he was safe there. But he wasn’t, and the treatment this time in G5 is a lot worse than it was before. Either that or he just didn’t tell me everything so I wouldn’t worry. This is torture. This violent abuse. You get treated in ways no human being should ever treat another human being. When your captors get away with grinding your face into the floor, jamming you headfirst into a wall and split your head open, jump on you and beat you while your hands are cuffed behind your back, you know you have no place where it is safe. These are prison guard brutality is real yet there is no punishment. Why this kind of behavior is not only allowed, but also condoned, makes me very angry. It makes me feel helpless because I know there is nothing I can do to help him. Why is this allowed!?

Some of the guards exhibit worse, insanely criminal minds than many of the inmates, yet they are allowed to leave the building at the end of their shifts and go home. To their wives? To their girlfriends? Do they tell them the brutal things they did to other human beings while they work? Can they go home and say, “Hi, honey I’m home”, and then go outside and play with their kids? Or are their own heads so screwed up by the violence they perpetrate that they instead end up in a bar trying to drink their memories away? Because I know, from some of things I’ve read, only someone who is psychotic would enjoy the things they do to inmates, when the inmates can’t do anything about it.They say they are breaking prison rules. They will get ganged up on by five guys at a time, in armor, who’s sole purpose is to spray them with gas, rip them apart and make sure they are way beyond hurt. Prison politics have their own set of rules that have nothing to do with what is considered breaking the law in the land of the free.

Jamie has worked his way up the levels to reach certain benefits more than once. It never lasts for long. Jamie has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. He expects if someone makes him a promise to do something they should be accountable to that promise. When that doesn’t happen he gets angry and lets them they are wrong. The more he insists on trying to right that wrong the harder he gets punished. What does that teach him? How is he to learn to trust someone when they use the words, “I promise” yet that promise means nothing? He is constantly judged to be right or wrong so expects other people to behave accordingly, especially when the words, “I promise” are being used. Even through these situations he is expected to remain calm and not get angry? Because if he does get angry it is the excuse to make him feel  more pain and suffering.

Next up the ladder is level G4. On this level you get to leave your cell to go to chow and you get a little time in rec to watch TV. It isn’t much, but it is better than having your food put through a slot in the door. You don’t have to eat so many meals of biscuits and peanut butter, or two pancakes and peanut butter. When you can go to chow the food is at least a little better. Not by much, most of it still look like slop, but you can get a hot meal and there is more food.

I don’t think there is G3, at least not that I’ve heard of. When you make it to G2 you are allowed to make phone calls and you can have contact visits sitting at a table

prison jobs, prison janitor
photo source:
photgraphersdirect.com

instead of sitting behind glass talking on a phone. You can also get a job, perhaps in the laundry or as a janitor to clean the showers. Prison labor is very important to the profit margin of the corporations that own the prison. There is no pay in Texas, but at least you get out of your cell and do something productive, something physical that makes you tired enough to go to sleep at night. Jamie has only made it to G2 once in the years we’ve been writing, and that lasted only a few weeks. He could call me for twenty very short minutes. I was the only person to register my phone. Being able to make phone calls in prison is their lifeline.  Taking that away breaks their ties with their family and they may not get that back.  No one else. No family. I honestly don’t understand how family can just pretend you don’t exist, but it seems to happen frequently to inmates.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I think they will throw him a party when he gets out and then go back to their separate corners and let him figure out what to do next with no help from them.  There is no help now so why would that change later?

It doesn’t take much to get knocked back down to G5 again, A guard can file a case on you for anything they want, real or imagined. Another guard will always verify it is true. It snowballs from there. Inmates aren’t always allowed in the prison courtroom (UCC) when their fate is decided. The guard who filed the case doesn’t even have to be there. Another guard can stand in for him and swear it is true. Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. It doesn’t matter what the issue is.

When Jamie reached G2 he applied to take a course to study for his GED and also to learn a trade. He wasn’t at that level long enough for it to take place. He has been in prison for nearly ten years and he has never been at a level to complete one program that would show the parole board in October of 2016, they should let him out. Without that they will most likely turn him down because without even a GED, and with at least that he has no chance of getting any kind of job anywhere. I understand that, but if they don’t allow him take any classes doesn’t that seem pretty deliberate? He’s not a hardened criminal. He wasn’t a gang member. He had no other convictions on his record. He was guilty of being black more than anything – and not being able to afford a real attorney. Is he guiltless? No. Does he deserve what they have done to him? Again, no.

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Prison Sentences Are Just As Long For The Children

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Hiraeth by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

(Sonni’s note: I am reposting part of this from a post July 2012. Nothing has changed from then except that two more years have gone by, so there is at least that. October 2016 he comes up for parole again and I want things to be different this time around. They never give parole the first time around and they have made it very difficult for him this time coming up by not letting him have any education. He has to be so careful now. But even being careful doesn’t help when they use any excuse to file a case against you, real or false. The picture of his son is two years old, so I am adding one that is newer. His son is his reason for being. The one thing that gives value to his life. His one accomplishment. At least 3 months before a parole hearing, a parole packet should be sent to the parole board to read. It’s important because it tells them what kind of support an inamte has. The chances of going back in, recidivism, is higher for those who don’t have family support. They want to see  there is a system in place to help him get back on his feet. The adjustment back into society is no always possible. When an inmate has no one, he has to figure out himself how to get his life together. He may not have those life skills. So many inmates don’t. Jamie has never had the opportunity to live on his own to gain the experiences needed to live. There is much we take for granted; how to turn on utilities, how to open a bank account, how to do laundry. These are things we find easy. He doesn’t know how. He is going to need help and guidance to figure out all he’ll need to do to survive. One of the reasons I am writing his story as a book is to have it ready before his parole hearing.  I don’t know if is a good idea to present it to the parole board so that will take some thought first)

Jamie and his little brother Ben
Jamie with his little half brother Benjamin

I’m just lonely and it hurts. I miss everyone so much. It seems as if no one cares at all how I’m doing. And it bothers me that the woman I care so much for isn’t worried about my health or well being. No one stays in touch with me at all. It hurts that Megan is treating me as if I’m not Jamie’s dad. What I mean is, she don’t tell me nothing about how he’s doing. Everything I know comes from you. I’m very thankful for that. I would love to hear from Megan once or twice a month. What’s so hard about that? I get mad and try to write her to let her know I’m mad but I end up throwing the letter away. I tell myself it’s all my fault I’m here. Then again, it’s no reason for her to not stay in touch. If not for her then for the kids. I do love them and miss them so much.

It hurts so much not being there for Jamie. I’ve missed out on so much. I’m trying. I’m staying clear of trouble. I come up for parole on July 27, 2014. That’s one reason why I try to stay in touch with everyone. If these people decided to give me parole and they can’t get in touch with nobody I will have to wait for them to find me a half way house. I’m being treated like an unknown person by them.

So, if it stays like this, why should I try? My son is young and he has dyslexia. It’s hard for him to write. But still, Megan could give him some paper and let him color a picture for me. EVERY little thing touches my heart. I miss him so much. I sit here trying to read and my mind wanders thinking of everyone, from the night me and Megan met, even to the day I met Megan’s dad, to the day I first met my son. That was the most wonderful moment in my life. Please talk to Megan for me. Ask her what’s wrong. Why don’t she write to me? Tell her all she has to do is let me know. I can’t put up too much of an argument here. I just want the truth, that’s all. I’m going to close this letter. Take it easy, okay? Take one day at a time. The pain will be over soon and things will be just as beautiful as before. I love you mom

(Sonni’s note: Jamie’s  heart is big. He wrote this six weeks after I had a liver transplant. The healing had been very painful. He has always shown concern for me. He has kept my spirit up while I try to keep him going, too. Two wounded people living through the consequences of our own making. Cause and effect is very strict. Long ago I began calling him son, and he began calling me mom. He needed someone to hold him up during the times he couldn’t do it himself. I felt honored.)

Reading this letter again brings tears to my eyes. His pain pours out through his words. He has always expressed so much caring to me about these things that are important to him. There are so many children of inmates who are separated by at least one of their parents.  They accept it.  It is common.  Most all their friends only have a mom, or they are raised by their grandmothers, like Jamies neices and nephews have been raised by his mom.  How do they grow up and understand what a family should be? Knowing how many dad’s are in prison, what do these little boys think about themselves when they grow up?  That is an interesting angle to pursue.

My First Parole Hearing in Huntsville Prison

texas
Sonni’s note: This was originally written on Sept 1st 2013, as Jamie was waiting for his first parole hearing. He told me, in Huntsville prison no one makes parole with their first meeting. It’s so discouraging. He was in Ad Seg at the time (solitary confinement or G5 or administrative segregation. It’s all the same thing) One way they can keep you down is to not let you be able to do anything to show you’ve done something to better yourself. Trying to deal with prison politics is a joke, and the joke is on the prison inmates themselves. Since he shouldn’t have been locked up again for another two years in ad seg in the first place. The parole hearing is a joke. He got jumped. Even a guard testified he had no choice but to defend himself, but it didn’t do any good. They sent him back, anyway. And now they’ve they sent him back for the third time. They have their thumb on you and you can’t do anything about it.

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL34287.pdf 

This is an article by NICIC. National Institute of corrections.  I added this article as a link on the left if you wanted to point someone else to it to find it easily.   It has the statistics of offender reentry back into the world.  The percentages of inmates that stay out, according to crimes they committed.  So much depends on education, housing and community support.  I also believe it highly depends on their belief system.  The numbers are for those that had been arrested  up to 4x and then higher.  Jamie has one conviction, and he wasn’t the one who actually committed the crime.  The parole board doesn’t see it that way when they determine whether to give parole, nor does it take into consideration on whether there is a need to keep the prison full.  What is best for the inmate doesn’t actually come into the picture. )

Hi Mom,

I hope this letter finds you well. My first parole hearing is coming up in a few months. I’m trying to not think about it because I don’t have a chance of making it. Mom wrote a letter to the parole board. She sent me a copy of the letter. It won’t do no good but she says it won’t hurt for them to read about me from someone else. She says maybe it will make them feel better about me the next time. I know she would really want to be here but I’m not sure if they would even let her in for it. But I’d really like to see her again. We didn’t have enough time last time. I know I shouldn’t be complaining cause it seems as if I had a lot of visits, but they all happened in a one month. It was six years since the one visit I had before then. It would be great if I could have a visit from somebody once a month, but I doubt that would happen. It never has. Wishful thinking. These things are what gives me memories. I play them over and over in my head.

If you want to get parole you have to have an L1 rating and I’m an L3, so they’ll probably put off my next hearing for 3 years. That sucks. It stands for line class. You go up one number each year, if you’re lucky. They keep you knocked down and then they can keep you locked up. Also, when you’re in G5 you can’t take any classes or use the library. I would have to be in G2 for that. But in G4 I can go to the rec room where there’s a TV or they play cards and other stuff. The parole board will want to know what I’ve done to help myself when they know very well that I can’t do anything to help myself because they keep knocking me down to a level where I can’t do anything even if I wanted to, and there is nothing I can do about it. It’s just the way prison life is. But at least I have the books and magazines that Mom sends me.

At the parole hearing they’ll want three addresses and three phone numbers so they can call and talk about the area where I would get paroled to, but I don’t really know if they would call anyone. They want to keep us here. They make lots of money off us. Without prisons Texas is broke. There’s over a hundred prisons in Texas alone. This is supposed to be the land of the free but we have more people locked than any other country in the world. Is it because people here are commit more crimes? I don’t think so. A lot of big businesses make money off us, too, with all the things we need to buy and all the things they have to provide us, as little as it is. Prisons are big business. So if they can keep us in here then they all win and we all lose.

It’s really cold right now. They have no heat. I’m wearing all the clothing I own. It’s hard to sleep when you’re freezing. No heat in the winter and no AC in the summer. I think it’s another way to torture us. I don’t like this at all. Too cold.

( Sonni’s note: Nov 25, 2014. He is now in G4. He gets out one hour a day to go to a cage not much bigger than his cell so he can walk or pace or exercise by himself. He’s still cold and winter is just getting started. I sent him some money to buy long johns. They have them in the commissary which they’re allowed to go to twice a month. He was right, though, there was no chance of making parole. He said to me once, ” The parole board don’t like to parole Blacks”. He’s seen a lot of men get turned down. Gotta keep those prisons full. He made G2 in December and they knocked him down to the bottom again mid February. They’ve knocked him down twice to solitary for a total of about 4 years. He’s in G4 now, not G5, He’ll have to work his way back up to g2 to get his privileges back. He managed to find a GED book and he’s studying. He said he wants to be ready to start taking classes when he gets out when he gets back to G2, except he has no idea when that will be. He’ll be able to go to the library then, too. I asked him what his favorite subject is. He said it was math. Hmmm. . . . There are careers he could study for if he has an aptitude for math. I was able to get my cell phone in the system for “Friends and Family” which is a way for inmates to make calls. The process was not easy, and now they have taken it away from him. he was able to make calls for two weeks. These are all positive things that will give him a better chance of making parole sometime in the next 8 years. ( I’m not smiling) (added: march 1, 2015. He goes up for parole hearing again in October, 2016)

I Miss My Son

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I’m just lonely and it hurts.  I miss everyone so much.  It seems as if no one cares at all how I’m doing.  And it bothers me that the woman I care so much for isn’t worried about my health or well being.  No one stays in touch with me at all.  It hurts that Megan is treating me as if I’m not Jamie’s dad.  What I mean is, she don’t tell me nothing about how he’s doing.  Everything I know comes from you.  I’m very thankful for that.  I would love to hear from Megan once or twice a month.  What’s so hard about that?  I get mad and try to write her to let her know I’m mad but I end up throwing the letter away.  I tell myself it’s all my fault I’m here.  Then again, it’s no reason for her to not stay in touch. If not for her then for the kids. I do love them and miss them so much.

It hurts so much not being there for Jamie.  I’ve missed out on so much.  I’m trying.  I’m staying clear of trouble.  I come up for parole on July 27, 2014.  That’s one reason why I try to stay in touch with everyone.  If these people decided to give me parole and they can’t get in touch with nobody I will have to wait for them to find me a half way house.  I’m being treated like an unknown person by them.

(note from Sonni: at least 3 months before a parole hearing, a parole packet should be sent to the parole board to read. It’s important because it tells them what kind of support Jamie has.  The chances of going back in are higher for those who don’t have family support.  They want to see that there are people who will b help him get back on his feet. When an inmate has no one, he has to figure out himself how to get his life together. He may not have those life skills. So many inmates don’t. Jamie has never had the opportunity to live on his own to gain the experience he needs to live. There is much we take for granted; How to turn on utilities, how to open a bank account, how to do laundry. These are things we find easy. He doesn’t know how. He is going to need help and guidance to figure out all he’ll need to do to survive.

If there is no parole packet the parole board won’t know if there is support from the family, so his chance for getting paroled gets slim.  But if there were letters from family and friends, past teachers or people in the community who would write a letter on his behalf, and if the board knew he would get financial help till he could get a job, it would help. But getting a job will be difficult in his case. His epilepsy hinders him getting a job. He can’t get a driver’s license. He didn’t have a chance to get any training in his short time in the free world, but he was collecting disability because of having epilepsy. That in itself makes it hard to find a job.   These are all obstacles. But not impossible obstacles. Let’s call them challenges needing lots of determination.)

So, if it stays like this, why should I try?  My son is young and he has dyslexia.  It’s hard for him to write.  It shouldn’t be nothing for Megan to give him some paper and let him color a picture for me.  EVERY little thing touches my heart.  I miss him so much. I sit here trying to read and my mind wanders thinking of everyone, from the night me and Megan met, even to the day I met Megan’s dad, to the day I first met my son.  That was the most wonderful moment in my life.  Please talk to Megan for me.  Ask her what’s wrong.  Why don’t she write to me?  Tell her all she has to do is let me know.  I can’t put up too much of an argument here.  I just want the truth, that’s all.  I’m going to close this letter.  Take it easy, okay?  Take one day at a time. The pain will be over soon and things will be just as beautiful as before. I love you mom

(Sonni’s note: Reading this letter again brings tears to my eyes. His pain pours out through his words. He has always expressed so much caring to me about these things that are important to him.  It’s all he has that gives meaning to his life.  His heart is big.  He wrote this six weeks after I had a liver transplant. The healing had been very painful.  He has always shown concern for me.  He has kept my spirit up while I try to keep him going, too. Two wounded people living through the consequences of our own making.  Cause and effect is very strict. Long ago I began calling him son, and he began calling me mom. He needed someone to hold him up during the times he couldn’t do it himself. I felt honored.)