Many people have read some or all of the chapters I’ve published for my book “Inside The Forbidden Outside.” This chapter is a game changer. If you don’t read to the end the next chapter will confuse the heck out of you because you won’t know what happened.
I’ve been waiting to get to this part of the rewrite. Did you watch the music video “Ghost in My Head”? You can find it at sonniquick.net. That is title of the next chapter.
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THE DEATH TRAP
“What’s it like here?” Jamie asked his new cell mate, Ollie. “Are the guards jerks?”
Taking his small bag over to the locker assigned to him, he squatted down and opened it. There wasn’t much to put inside. They’ll send the bulk of his property later on, maybe in a month or so. Meanwhile, he had no books, pictures or old letters to keep him company. “The guards are jerks no matter what prison they send you to,” Ollie finally answered with a pissed off look on his face.” He paused for a few seconds. “They’re worse than some of the men,” he said shaking his head back and forth. “Real lowlifes.” “They aggravate the men so they can set up fights to bet on. “They push and push until you get angry and push back.” Ollie looked away, thinking – remembering. “Then they have you.” “Watching men beat the crap out of each other is their way of having fun,” he sighed. “Why else would they work in this hellhole?” “This place has more deaths from inmates killing each other than any other prison,” he added. “They do that to you?” Jamie asked quickly, not sure if he wanted to know the answer. Ollie didn’t say one way or the other. He did say, “If someone don’t wanna fight, the other men will make their life miserable . . . for a long time. So you’re better off gettin’ up and takin’ your licks. Your gonna end up fightin’ anyway, whether you want to or not.” Ollie stopped and looked over at Jamie. “I hope you know how to fight.” He waited to hear Jamie’s answer. “I can take care of myself.”
Standing next to the door of his cell, Jamie leaned his back against the wall. He stared at a cockroach walking across the floor, seemingly without a care in the world. He wondered what its plan was. Where was it going? He read somewhere that roaches had been around since the dinosaurs. The world could blow up from a nuclear bomb and the roaches would be the only living creatures that survived. He used to smash them for having the nerve to walk over his body, but there really was no point in doing that. There were a million more where that one came from. He felt the same way about the guards. They were like cockroaches. They crawled out of the cracks in the walls looking for someone to walk on. What was the point of hating one and wanting to get even for the way they treated the inmates, when there was an endless supply of new guards getting younger and younger every year, replacing the ones who got burnt out and quit. Some of them were barely eighteen, right out of school. They got maybe six weeks training trailing older guards around the prison before they were released to do whatever damage they could do on their own. They were put up against men in cells who were two- three times their age who had years of experience dealing asshole guards. These young ones thought being a smartass was part of the job. The trouble was, they had a lot to learn. The men here had ways of getting even with guards who disrespect them for no reason. One day there was an arrogant, new guard. A tough kid who today was helping bring lunch trays to the cells. Couldn’t be more than nineteen. He thought he would show off and spit on Jamie’s food before putting it through the open slot. He laughed after he did it, with an expression of “eat that, sucker.” That was one meal Jamie didn’t eat. It pissed him off. This wasn’t the first time a guard intentionally ruined his meal and it probably wouldn’t be the last, and if this kid was doing the same thing to food trays of other men, he’ll learn his lesson the hard way. He’d seen it enough times. The men will collect piss and shit. On a certain day and time they’ll catch this guard in the hall and shower him with the waste they had saved up. Even some women guards got nailed. Man, you should hear the screams as all the stink landed on them. They couldn’t get away. Going back or forward, someone was gonna nail ’em. Jamie shook his head and gave a little chuckle at what the men have to do for a little amusement around here. The free-for-all stink bombs did make for some heavy duty, eye-watering fumes in the unit, and inmates had to clean up the mess, but how exactly were the guards going to punish men who were already in 24/7 lock-up? They could take away their personal property for awhile, but it was worth it. In defense, the kid tried to keep up his shitty attitude on his face to show he didn’t care, but it couldn’t keep the embarrassment from showing through pink skin as each man going down the corridor laughed at him. The young guard also learned that day not be so blatantly stupid. Some of the men locked up in here weren’t wound too tight. Maybe they kept them in adseg too long. Some cracked and couldn’t take it anymore. There wasn’t enough mental health people to take care of them. They needed the right meds they weren’t getting. You really had to have your shit together to not lose it. Too much isolation was hard, but no one who worked here gave a damn if it was right or wrong. Inmates became punching bags. Most everybody got out of here sooner or later but some didn’t leave being able to survive on the outside and ended up coming back from no family or friends to help them. Most of the teenage guards the prison hired were hyped up with making steady money but most didn’t make it past a year before they were fed up with the working conditions and quit. More took their place.
Jamie had just finished his breakfast of three small, cold pancakes with a spoon of peanut butter, cold coffee and an apple. It was still dark outside. Another long day stretched ahead of him He tried, sometimes to put a schedule together of things to do to fill the day. It was hard to keep to it. He had never developed the discipline to keep to a schedule. Keep it loose, but keep the day going. The workout room, where there were weights and equipment was off- limits to him. All he could do was what he could mange in his tiny space, like push ups, sit ups and squats. He had to tire himself out or he laid awake at night. The guards constantly woke them up all night anyway, making sure they didn’t escape, which was a joke. It was just another form of torture. If the guards had to be awake and miserable, so did they. Two weeks earlier he got his property back. Having all your things taken away really messes with your head. There was so little he could call his own that reminded him that being an inmate here was his only identity. Not having his pictures to look at or old letters to read again made him feel more alone than he was, if that were possible. These things, along with books and magazines made him feel human, and a human being had things, as few as they were. Did the prison want him to feel grateful for getting back these few personal items? It worked. Being able to see his son’s face, Morgan and his family made him feel less lonely, but it also made him feel depressed because he was away from them. “Okay,” he said out loud. “Don’t let it suck you in or it won’t let you go all day.” There have been enough days like that and they were miserable, “Get a grip.” Shaking it off, he went through the titles of his books, running his hands over the covers. When they take your stuff you don’t always get it back, or what used to work, like a fan, might be replaced with one not working. All his books on Islam were there. Guess nobody wanted those, so he tried to do some studying, and his prayers. He needed a way to focus on the positive parts of his life and trying to do these prayers every day would help him learn discipline. Five times a day, though, was hard. An hour later, looking through the slots in the wall that passed for a window, he could tell it was morning. He didn’t think the sun was out and it was already hot enough to know he would really be sweating in a couple hours. Summer was almost over according to the calendar, and he was glad about that, but Texas in the summer lasted a lot longer than it did in other states. It wouldn’t start cooling down until mid October. These thick walls trapped the heat and turned it into an oven. He kept himself busy by doing a little cell cleaning. It would make him feel better. Being moved around to different pods on different floors he found most cells were so filthy you didn’t want to touch anything. The little bars of lye soap the prison gave him each month had to do all of his cleaning including his body, the cell and his clothing. He kept his space as clean as he could. If he had a little money in his account that Sonni sent he could buy a bar of soap but mostly he used it for stamps, hygiene and food. It was time for lunch so he didn’t pay much attention to the noises he heard in the hall until they were at his door. He was on his hands and knees, looked up and saw it was the sergeant, with two guards. This man didn’t usually come unless it was something important. Was he in more trouble he didn’t know about? Again, he was trying to keep his nose clean of any problems, but that didn’t mean anything here. Trouble found him easy enough no matter what he did. “James Cummings?” The officer asked, glancing around the cell. “Yes, sir,” he answered with suspicion in his voice and got to his feet. Jamie’s eyebrows knit together. Standing up he walked closer to the door, but not too close. This man knew who he was. He didn’t have to ask. There was a clipboard in his left hand. He glanced at it and let it hang by his side. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead. The sergeant hated – hated coming into the adseg pods of the unit, especially in the summer. They smelled like an open sewer covered up in Lysol, which it was. Jamie could tell this was an official visit of some sort. “You’re being transferred.” Jamie lit up. “Transferred?” Maybe he’d be moved closer to home. “Where to?” He didn’t want to show his excitement. “McConnell Unit,” the sergeant answered. “in Beeville.” “Contact your family if you want to.” Then he turned away and walked toward the end of the hall with the two guards walking behind him.
Jamie walked over and sat down on his bunk. Putting his elbows on his knees and the palms of his hands together in a picture of prayer, he sat there tapping his fingers against his chin. He had to think. Why were they moving him? He hadn’t ask to be moved. He had thought about putting in for a medical transfer but he hadn’t done anything about it. They were moving him clear back across the state, way south, near Brownsville which was near the Mexican border. He would still be too far away for anyone to visit in one day so he’d be in the same boat he was in right now. And it would be just as stinking hot, if not more so. He was sure if he were close enough his family would come to see him regularly, or at least sometimes. They shouldn’t move people so far away from family. It makes it worse for them. Wasn’t locking them up enough punishment? Did they have to keep family away, too? He knew about McConnell Unit. He talked to a dude in the day room a while back who used to be there. He had nothing good to say about it, but was there anything good to say about any prison? A lot of inmates died there. He would do as best as always to stay out of trouble if he could. Going back across the state would be just as long and boring as it was getting here a few years ago. He was naive back then and thought if he were good he could get out early. Now he just wanted to get out in one piece. The trip will be several uncomfortable days on the road, but he’d be out of here. He’ll be able to look out the window and see life, sky and birds. Cars on the road passing others who were going places. They probably didn’t understand how precious their life was and how easily it could be taken from you. This was another sharp turn to the left. Where would this take him?
ITFO news is a variety of things. Published about once month unless I get too far behind or traveling and skip a month. I don’t inundate you inbox, I only like to keep you informed on how the writing, music and videos are coming alone.
I sometimes publish someone’s story that needs telling or other news in the prison industry that I didn’t put at Jamie’s Facebook page. It’s a way to keep you in the loop. You can follow my music and videos at my website. You have a wonderful day.
Jamie’s New Merchandise
I am raising much needed funds. For two main reasons. Jamie has some legal expenses that are connected to the lack of medical care he isn’t receiving for epilepsy that has caused him to have more seizures I am using legal means to force the issue. My second reason is the funds needed to keep the ball rolling in producing the book/music I am writing. I want to do a good job. The proceeds from this will help him get his life started when he gets out.
50% of the profit from initial sales will be used for jamie’s personal needs such as stamps, hygiene and items he can get at the commissary. This is the first time I have for outside help from anyone who can. I survive on a disability check and trying to take care of these things has become more difficult as expenses have risen.
Four years ago. Four very long years. But at least they are past. Unless paroled, he has five to go. I would like to be optimistic for him but the odds are not on his side. Not having a supportive family or a place to go provided, the book and music I am writing would need to be widely successful to make enough money to help him get started. Have you ever known when you just had to do something and it was the most important thing in your life to do? Everything you learned up to this point was so you could take care of that very thing? That is how I feel about my writing and my music or I could never spend the hours I do every day to do it.
The only thing that changed, is three years ago Jamie was moved from Wynne Unit in Huntsville to Allred Unit in Iowa Park. Both in Texas. He was physically abused and beat in Wynne Unit. They had put him in solitary for a bogus reason I won’t get into now. They took everything away from him including his mattress and he had staples in his head because they ran it into a wall. After talking to the warden, who told me the guards had filed thirteen sexual harassment cases against him, and his guards wouldn’t lie (choke), Jamie knew he needed to find a way to get transferred out of Wynne.
One step up from solitary confinement is Adseg. The added privilege is being taken to the commissary once a month. They had no open cells in G5 (which is another name for adseg) So he threatened a guard. It was the only way to get moved. I talked to Allred after he was moved because he didn’t get his property for a couple months. The woman I talked to said she understood he was moved for his safety and he will get his property when there are other inmates who need things moved, too. Some things were replaced with broken items or were missing entirely. Who was he going to complain to? Because he had to be moved, they said he would have to do one year in adseg – in a cell by himself where food is brought to you and it is rare to get out of your cell. Three years have gone by and he is still in adseg, always told twice a year he had to do another six months. In March there is another assessment. Will he get moved up? ———————————————————————–
Mom, They are starving us. I don’t know how they get away with this but they do. We can’t do anything about it. They put us all on lockdown again. Not because we did anything but because they want to toss our cells looking for weapons and drugs. One time they planted a weapon in my cell. They put a homemade knife on the sink. I was really surprised and mad when they “found” it. Even if I had made the knife, would I have been stupid enough to leave it out on the sink when I knew they were going to toss my cell looking for weapons? It had to be a guard. They try to get you in trouble and keep you down. It doesn’t matter if you are guilty of doing something in here, they will make sure you are guilty. It’s your word against theirs, and you can’t win.
We’re on our second week of lockdown. This is the hardest one I’ve gone through. By law they are supposed to feed you a hot meal every three days but they do what they want to anyone in a white suit, which is us. They are feeding us what they call a peanut butter sandwich which is a half spoon of peanut butter on bread. They only give us a half spoon because they are trying to stretch it out to last longer. It saves them money. They stretch it more by adding some really nasty soup or applesauce that makes me gag. But I have no choice. I have to eat it or I get nothing. I’ve heard that it costs $40,000 a year for each inmate, to keep us here. Where does the money go because it sure isn’t spent on us. Once in a while we get a meat sandwich or cornbread. Sometimes prunes or raisins. In the morning we get two biscuits with a half spoon of peanut butter or maybe two pancakes.
This system is built for the inmates to lose. If we think we’re being treated wrong by the officers and they write up a case against us ( make up a case against us is more like it ), they tell us to write up an appeal. First they take away any privileges, like going to the commissary or rec,for 30-45 days. Guess how long it takes for the answer to the appeal to come back? 30 days. It’s crazy. The appeal will always be denied, too. It’s all for nothing. I lose my comm privileges for nothing. I get punished because I appealed the false charges against me. I lose because I tried to stand up to the bullshit. There is no way around the system. All the officer has to do is lie and the next one will back it up or say he didn’t see anything.
But I know now there are effects for every cause that is made. All the good ones and all the bad ones. These guards in here don’t get away with the things they do. It’s written into their own lives. They will have to face the effects of so many lies. They don’t get away with the things they do to other human beings. They may get off treating us like dogs, but we aren’t dogs. They may talk to each other about the things they do to us and laugh, thinking they are getting away with it. But we are people. I will do my best to change the part of me that caused this to happen to my life. I will find a way to make a difference. I will become a better person. I will someday leave here a better person. I will have hope.
It’s a new year and I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble. I never try to make trouble. It’s always someone else who comes up to fight me. But no more fighting. Nothing. But when you don’t fight back then everyone feels they can run over you. But I’m not going to fight. I want to focus on coming home. I have to raise my level before they will consider me for parole. I’m level 3. I need to be level 1 before it’s even possible. Even then they could still turn me down. They well give me something called a set-off, which means I have to wait another five years before I can see the parole board again unless they want to bring me back up again. This system is built for our downfall. They don’t want us to survive in here. There is no justice for inmates at all.
I got everything you sent to me. Thank you very much. I love those summer sausages and turkey bites you sent. Those were good. You asked me about the special diet I was on. It’s a low salt diet. It is another way they are messing with me by not bringing the right food. There are certain things we are allowed to request, like Jewish people asking for a kosher diet or diabetics requesting low sugar. It doesn’t mean they will do it.
There is too much salt in the regular diet of prison food and the salt will swell my legs and feet up. You may not believe me but I rinse a lot of my food off with water. Crazy, huh? The food I get on the special diet is baked. Everything. There is no getting around being fed pork unless I requested pork-free. Then they will give me two slices of cheese, a spoon of shredded cheese or a spoon of peanut butter. The main course will be beans – all the time.
Happy Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is out and the sky is filled with puffy white clouds. It’s a beautiful day all the way around. I want to fill you in on how Thanksgiving was. Well, as far as the food anyway. For starters we get the same thing every year. We are given two trays for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. We get chicken or BBQ on MLK Day and Spanish food on May 5th.
Anyway, Thanksgiving we get a hot tray and and cold tray. On the hot tray there was a ham roll, dressing with brown gravy, sweet potato, green beans and two cheese biscuits. On the cold tray was four different kinds of dessert – two oatmeal cookies, pumpkin pie, carrot cake and what they call a peach empanada. Then there was something that was supposed to be coleslaw, but it was nowhere near it. Pickles and jalapeno pepper slices. They usually give olives and onions but not this year. Last but not least was the coldest, driest piece of sliced turkey I ever ate – or tried to eat. I ate half. I was scared to eat the other half. It was BLACK. It had a piece of sliced cheese over it, I guess to hide it. I pulled the cheese off and cut around it.
Tell me about your Thanksgiving. What was cooked? You said Mike does the cooking for this meal so you can just relax and be waited on. You deserve it. I know you stress yourself with everything you are doing. Have patience. Everything takes time. I know it seemed like we got a lot of food, but getting enough to eat only a couple times a year doesn’t make up for the rest of the meals. Even though it is supposed to be a hot tray and a cold tray, everything is cold. Those that can go to chow get hot food. When they let me out of adseg hopefully in March I will be able to go to chow for my meals.
Thank you for the food box and money you sent through Texas Eccom. It’s good to have something different to eat that tastes good, especially when the food is really bad. I’m lucky. I love you for that. You didn’t cut out on me in all these years ago like my family did. So many men don’t have anyone, especially those who have been here a long time. I better get this ready to send because they will be picking up soon.
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Dear mom or rather, Hello beautiful, It was so good to hear from you and to know you are starting to feel a little better from surgery. I must say, reading your letter about your pain complications really hurt me. Yes, it hurt me so much. Having to go to your juglar just to find a vein? I know how that feels. I’ve been stuck with needles all my life because of the epilepsy. Ever since I was a baby. I hate IVs. They hurt like hell. As I read over your letter it gave my stomach such a bad feeling. I’m glad you are okay. I’m very sorry you had to go through this.
(Sonni’s note: Do you ever wonder why certain people end up in your life? Why some people come into your life and walk out five minutes later and why some people stay and change your life profoundly? Jamie is one of those people who changed my life, and I changed his. There are parallels between his family and mine that allows us to understand the pain family can cause. We both have a medical history that has affected our quality of life. Our lives clicked on so many levels that I know had we not met, our lives would be drastically different and I doubt they would be better.
There was a reason I needed to learn about the issues with our prison system and learn to care about the people inside- yes, the people being abused by mentally sick people working in the prisons, either because they enjoy inflicted abuse, or they are making profit off them on a grander scale.
That doesn’t mean that all guards are like this, just like not all cops are bad cops. But the bad ones should be kicked out of the profession since it doesn’t look they will get prosecuted. This is what makes people angry. I have talked to quite a few inmates. They all say the same thing about guards. When a guard does something harmful to an inmates there should be consequences. If they cause a death they shouldn’t just be moved to another prison to continue abusing people just because they are wearing a uniform. It’s like Catholic priests that molest young boys. They get moved to another parish. Why can’t they be convicted when they break the law? Are inmates less human? Have they lost the right to live? The people inside are more than convicts, felons or inmates. They are more than whatever happened to put them there.
Sentences don’t fit the crime, if there even was a crime. After many of them are destroyed by the abuse they receive and then are let back out into society without the skills to cope, knowing the revolving door will push a majority of them back inside so the profit machine can suck up the rest of their life. What a way to Make America Great. )
I got my copy of the GED book and the dictionary. Thank you. It is good to have that to work with. I’ve skipped around reading it. I’ve read US History, US govt, world history and more. I just read about Indian Civilization. Also, I didn’t know India was the birth place of Buddhism. Just so you know I have been chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo x 1000 for you.
I got two letters from my family. That’s a first in a long time. One from my brother and and one from my grandmother. Indeed I was surprised when I got his letter and when I opened it there were four photos. He said he had a lot on his place but never asked how I was doing and said nothing about any help in any way. A My family knows you have been the only one helping me all these years and all he talks about is own full plate. He asked if he was still on my visitation list. No, not after 10 years of waiting for him to come see me. He let me know I have a new 3 month old niece. Nobody ever tells me anything. Better late than never, I guess. He sent photos. It’s the only way I feel I’ll get to see her. He has a son a year younger than my son, however I never met him. He did send an up to date photo saying he thinks he’s tough. I do appreciate the photos. I’ll write him back. He said my mom is sick again. So did my grandmother, but I haven’t heard a word from my mom herself. I never hear about anything until it’s way after.
(Sonni’s note: It’s not uncommon for family to gradually forget about a someone inside. I guess it’s out of sight, out of mind. The longer they are in the less they see them. In Jamie’s case, no one was ever there for him, right from the beginning. I tried to get his older brother to write to him about a year and a half ago. I called him. Family can make all the difference in the world. Depression is so common, and when someone is prone to depression it’s even harder. I can always tell what shape Jamie is in by his handwriting. He has quite a family neglect f family few different styles of penmanship and each one is a different mood.
In the last eleven years had his family bothered at all to write to him and find out how he is, it would have helped him – a lot. But no one could be bothered. No one had a stamp. He’s never heard anything from his younger brother, and his sister? Who knows. she has had her own set of problems. When I asked his brother to write to him his reply was, “It’s not my fault he’s in there. My life didn’t stop” as if someone has had blamed him. He told me, “It’s not your concern.” Well then who the hell’s concern is it? Nobody else has given a rat’s ass how he’s been. You can’t go back and undo that no matter how many letters you write now. Eleven years? I would have a hard time forgiving them. Can you tell this upsets me? But it doesn’t matter if they are forgiven or not. You reap what you sow. You get back what you dish out. What goes around comes around and most of all – there is an effect for every single cause you make and no amount of forgiving wipes that away. I wrote a post in February 2016 and sent it to his brother. I never heard back so I don’t know if he read it.
Do you remember the song, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother? This is the link to the post. The youtube video is in the post. It makes me cry every time I hear it now because I think of all hurt his family caused him and all the hurt of others in the same situation. You can read it if you like.
Thanksgiving was terrible. The food was bad. The only thing worth eating was the dessert. The dressing was too dry. Everything else was what we normally eat everyday – green beans etc. I don’t have an extra food to eat. Do you think you could send an Ecomm box? Leah, your friend who writes to me sent me some money for Christmas. I need to buy a new hot pot to heat things up in.
(Sonni’s note: Each yearly quarter I can order $60 worth of items from the commissary they can keep in their locker. It doesn’t affect any money in their acct. Coffee, cookies and crackers, Raman noodles, squeeze cheese. Like the kind of food you’d buy in a $1 store Cheap and not very healthy but it fills the hole and gives them goodies they might not buy. They probably trade some of it for stamps, which I can’ t buy for him, or he can trade it for other things he wants. Commissary is like money. Maybe someone draws greeting cards they can personalize. They have to get creative if they don’t have anyone to help support them. Inmates can also get pretty creative making dishes with commissary food. They can make cakes out of crushed cookies. It would be interesting to eat some of their recipes. But it isn’t just the food itself, it’s what they have to fashion to cook it in. They don’t have pans or a burner. They can buy a flimsy hot pot but it doesn’t get hot enough to boil water. But somehow they manage)
Time to go to bed. It’s late. Thank you so much for everything. I’ll be thinking of you. Get some rest and give yourself time to heal. Don’t rush it or you might hurt it.
Love you, Jamie
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( 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
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. )
Last moments of being free
Today with my son Jamie jr.
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 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.
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.
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.The 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.
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.
I received your last two letters. It’s been a bumpy road for me and I’m doing what I can to control myself. However to tell you the truth I have developed a bad temper in this place. I try to control it but it gets the best of me. I win over it at times at keeping it under control, but I’m being provoked a lot – because of my temper. I’ve been trying hard to stay in control of myself. I’m going to stop going to chow just so I won’t have to interact in any way with the officers. I will eat in my cell. I’ve been in a few situations with officers to where I have written them up. It’s the route I’m taking so these people will see I am trying to handle things differently.
Thank you for the photos you sent of the boys. It put a smile on my face to know they were both doing something for a good cause. What is my son eating? He has gotten so big!
I’m sure you’re wanting to know about my trip to the hospital again. I spoke to the doctor. I do have around my heart. They never did do the MRI. They did an EKG and an ultra sound. They took pictures of my heart. The doctor told me he was going to give me something for the inflammation, however I was told it wasn’t in the paperwork so I haven’t been getting anything. I spoke with the doctor here on the unit and he said I have another appointment at the hospital in two months. So sometime next month I’ll be going back. I’m okay so don’t worry. I just have these off and on chest pains. I’ll be fine so don’t worry yourself.
I got into a fight with a dude, an inmate. He works in the kitchen with food. My cell is right in front of the kitchen. I can watch them do everything. Well one day I watched him put his bare hands on all the cornbread. We had a verbal conflict. Then I said, “Man have to eat that. Don’t nobody want to eat nothing you’re putting your nasty hands on.” I called a Stg. She gets on him about it. Well this dude goes around telling everyone I snitched on him. But he didn’t tell everybody that he put his hands all over everybody’s food. He just said I was snitching. So I told him he’s playing a dirty game and I was ginning to beat his ass when I caught up with him. It just so happened we bumped into each other when I was coming back from the hospital. It’s nothin so don’t worry about it. I was just locked down for a few days. Sorry, but things like that you can’t let fly. If I did, I’d have more than a lot of problems come my way. (There are no judges here)
I have to get this in the mail now. They will pick up soon. Could you send me some books? Thank you.
Love you, Son
(Sonni’s note: One of the best reasons to deny parole are the cases that are filed against inmates for disciplinary reasons, even though it is the Guards who push and provoke the inmates into reacting – and they know it. It is a rare human being who can continually turn away and ignore someone who mistreats and humiliates you. Keeping an inmate in the lower levels of restriction also keeps him from education – another reason to deny parole. Institutionalizing a man severely lessons his chances from making it on the outside after he finishes his extremely long and abusive sentence. I’m not talking about the seriously sick criminal. I’m talking about the man who pushed through the system and sentenced beyond common sense and used as slave labor.
What do you do when necessary medication is kept from these inmates, when life sustaining medication is withheld for a higher profit margin. The prison system gets away with mistreatment. Even if an inmate or x-inmate manages to file suit against the prison staff, the court will do everything it can to keep the prison from having to take responsibility. At the most, maybe they will buy off the inmate. But it is rare that the abusers have to take responsibility.
Inmates are in prison because it was deemed that their crime demanded that they be locked up, often for decades. Why? Because they are supposed to be a danger to society. Many are – but not all. We all know the reasons now for our over full racist prisons and how it came about. Only someone fairly ignorant would actually believe anymore that black men are more dangerous. That is the white man’s propaganda. So where is the punishment for the legal criminals? Do you think these guards, who abuse prisoners, and get a kick out of it, change into different, respectful, compassionate people who go home and play with their kids and have loving relationships with their wives and friends? Can they forget their abuse of another human being who often does not deserve what was done to him. Can they just go on as if they did nothing? Does it matter if they use the excuse that the officer above him condones what he did? No. It doesn’t. Ultimately he doesn’t get away with it. The law of cause and effect or you reap what you sow – whatever you call it – is strict. These guards are damaged goods. They are criminals and they think their actions are okay. They are a danger to society. They. Are. Sick. And they get no help because they aren’t held accountable for their actions. This is not every guard, just like not every inmate is guilty or innocent. But there has been enough reported incidents of prison guard abuse and brutality to know it is a serious problem. It is not a guard’s job to abuse whenever they feel like it. When an inmate dies because of abuse it is to late to change it for him. These murders don’t seem to count. Inmates don’t seem to have viable lives. When they die from lack of medical care it is still murder. I have heard the public sarcastically proclaim that inmates get 3 squares a day and free medical, because they believe the propaganda the media puts out. We could stop that guard from sadistically abusing another man, and we could stop the prison from allowing it to happen – but we don’t.
Good evening little lady. ‘I had to go to the hospital on the 20th. I got a big cut on my foot. They gave me stitches. However they busted open and these folks won’t stitch it back up. They left it open. The 31st is the last day they’ll clean it. Then they’ll leave it open. I need you to call and talk to the head nurse and tell her I need correct medical attention. They don’t want to mess with it because they say it’s in a difficult position. It’s between two toes on my right foot. I’m in pain and I have to deal with it because medical closes at 6:00. Please call. I’ve gotten two cases written up trying to get them to treat me. The roaches are so bad. The run around everywhere. How can I walk around with an open cut?They got me on seven days of food loaf again. These people don’t care about nothing but their checks.
And you are getting ready for your surgery, too. Who am I Kidding? Hell yeah, you are. You know I’m here for you, so don’t worry okay.
On another matter, my visit with Melvin went pretty good. He ordered me a book on Rubin Hurricane Carter. It’s good as far as speaking on the law and the problems he had with them. The way he explains about the system and the officers and it’s pretty much the same as things are in here. He has another book I’d like to read called, “The Eye of The Hurricane. My Pain From Darkness To Freedom”. Also, the assassination of Fred Hampton. I’ve heard a lot of dudes talk about this man. It’s at http://lawrencehillbooks.com
I was hoping I’d get to see Jamie on his 9th birthday on the 12th, since it was also a Sunday, but as you know, nothing. I sent him something. I sent him a Spiderman board and it says Happy Birthday. Did anyone send you a photo it? I’m out of paper after this but I get to go to commissary on Thursday.
I gotta go for now. Be sure to get your rest. Love you always. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.
Most people don’t have a reason to think about our prison population so they don’t think it
affects them. But you do know people who had a hard time finding a job. There are many products the average consumer buys off the shelf that people are unaware are made by inmates. Clothing, furniture, uniforms worn by fast food workers, electronics, weapons used by our military and
police, and the list goes on and on. These are companies with familiar household names. If you owned stock in that company wouldn’t it be in your best interest to have the highest possible dividend paid? If that product could be made using free labor, or at the highest about $2 an hour for highly specialized work, wouldn’t you want to make sure the prisons were full?
Inmates should work. learning a trade helps when they are released back into society. But does that mean they should work for free or nearly free? The US has gone through a serious job shortage in the past six years. We all know that. We all know how hard it has been for many people not being able to find work. But why would these companies even want to pay minimum wage when their profit margin hinges on the number of people we have locked up? No one believes America has so many more criminals than any other country in the world, so think, what is the real reason behind this?
This is where the Prison Industrial Complex comes into play. So many states are having trouble balancing their budgets. Schools have closed, teachers have been laid off, roads are in disrepair, and that list goes on. The prison corporations, like CCA and Corizon, which handles medical are just two the many of the prison corporations with a long list of lawsuits. Five years CCA alone housed more than 60,000 inmates and was the 5th largest prison corporation in America. What are the numbers today? This is the corporation that controls the prison Jamie is at, so I know just how substandard their care can be. These corporations go to the state governments with a sweet deal. “Let us take over your prisons for you. We’ll take care of providing medical, food, and education. This will free up money you can use on education and infrastructure.We’ll save you money.” They pay heavy campaign contributions to get what they want. The devil is in the deal.
The only catch, they want 20 year contracts with the government signing on the dotted line promising the prisons will be kept 80-90-100% full. CCA used to only be in the south, but have now even spread to other countries who want to the US model of prisons. Yes, there are states that have to be kept 100% full – at all times – or the government has to pay them per head for the vacancies, which can amount to millions of dollars. If you read the news you hear that our government is trying to lower the incarcerations rate. It sounds as though times are changing, but is it? One thing is offset by another. Absurdly long prison sentences far beyond what the “crime” deserves. The injustice in our justice system is unlike any other country. People can be held in jail for years without being convicted for a crime simply because they can’t make bail. Since it is predominately lower income neighborhoods that are canvassed, with people pulled over and harassed for no other reason than they are walking down the street – and also for being black. Lower income people can’t come up with bail.
Once someone is on the inside of the walls they are dependent on corporate services to simply make a phone call that is many times more expensive than for anyone else in the country. Why should this be? There are people trying to change that, but corporations like Securus, who provides the phone service many inmates need to use to call loved ones are making the money are fighting them tooth and nail. It is the families who have to foot the bill. Then there are the corporations who have bid on the contracts to supply the commissary. Huge profit. Until 2 years I go I was able to buy paper and envelopes through Amazon and have it shipped to the prison for Jamie Cummings, the same way I send books. A corporation won the bid to supply those items and now they have to get it at the commissary at higher prices. But what happens when commissary privileges have been revoked. Being able to buy deodorant and soap is a privilege. Right now Jamie can only go to the commissary once a month so he is severely limited. There are corporations like Aramark who supply food. They have caused food strikes and lawsuits because of cutting portions down and serving substandard food.
In Texas, no inmate makes any money for any work they do. Completely free labor. TDCJ – Texas Department of Criminal Justice says they give “good time”, but there are many ways any good time earned is taken away. If you are in the levels G4,G5 or adseg you are not allowed to work. Your value then is just to fill bed and spend money while they feed you slop and often deny necessary medical care.
Even though the media tells you incarcerations are down, more and more prisons are built and auctioned off to the highest bidder with the promise of a never ending supply of prisoners. Logically, why are they being built when the govt is showing concern and wants to free non violent crimes. Aren’t illegals crossing the border non violent crimes? Texas now has over 110 prisons. We no longer deport people caught trying to cross the border but instead imprison them, they have become another source of income for the prison corporations. People cross the border because their home situation is horrendous and they have the hope and misinformation that maybe it will be better here. The statement recently made by Donald Trump that Mexico is “sending” us their criminals and rapists is absurd. Hispanics are now added to the same slave status that many blacks live with. There are also businesses in Mexico who have shut down and relocated inside the walls of prisons here in the US. it is so much more cost effective for them to have the same people work for free. One problem the American people have is that many of them read headlines and hear news blurbs but never look to find the truth.
In many states, the prisoners have to pay room and board while they are incarcerated and it accrues throughout their time inside. They are presented with a bill after they leave. It is called a “pay to stay” fee. If they have to pay should they at least get enough food to eat, AC in the summer months, especially in the south, and heat in the winter? If it isn’t paid, they can be picked up and sent back to prison. Since rehabilitation is scarce and many parolees are literally dumped on the street, sometimes straight from solitary confinement, they have no way of getting their lives together. Inmates are a commodity. Nothing more, nothing less. Prison corporations have no vested interested in educating inmates and helping them transition into society. Education costs money. They put on a show on their websites about all the great things they do for inmates, but that is all it is – a show for the public. Many times, even if a parolee has family, they may have been gone so long that support and help is not an option. Old inmates, who have become a financial burden, often get dumped on the sidewalk. Many parolees are mentally destroyed by being kept in isolation for too long and there is no hope of them having a life that we, in the free world, would consider normal.
I’ve learned a lot in these years of writing to Jamie. Before this, I knew nothing about prisons. My knowledge came from TV shows, movies and occasional stories in the media, just like everyone else. I watched the series TV series, Prison Break, about a group of inmates who planned breaking out of prison. The show had you rooting for them to succeed. But this isn’t real life. The brutality found in TV prisons don’t come close to reality. The TV show, “Orange is the New Black” is meant to be entertainment, while throwing in a a tiny bit of reality. The warden, officers and guards don’t come close to portraying the real thing. People were glued to these shows week after week never about the real people in prison, and how they have to live. I constantly hear the line, “If you do the crime, you have to do the time”, yet people give no thought to what those crimes really were and was justice actually served? Who got punished and who didn’t get punished for the same crime?
Are there really bad people locked up who should never get out? Absolutely. They are now off the street and society is safe from them. Does that mean they should be continually tortured? No. Was the sentence perhaps “Life with no parole including getting beaten, starved. medications withheld, water shut off, food spit on with guards being to do anything they want including murdering them for fun?” I don’t think so.
2.4 million people who are locked up right now, or are still “on paper”. When someone is paroled, they are not free. If they are on probation they are not free. They are tethered to their prison sentence with the threat of being sucked back in if one small mistake was made. The smallest infraction of any rule, even missing a meeting with your parole officer or if you unknowingly spend time with an ex-felon, or someone carrying a gun, in a age where many thousands of people carry guns on their person, could get you put back in prison in a heartbeat with few questions asked. This is how the prisons are kept full without it costing the time and another of a conviction. They just sneak you in through the back door. The redivism rate is over 70%. Why? What broke down? Why can’t the parolees make it on the outside? Because they are set up to fail. If they can’t get a job or rent an apartment, how do they live? So even those with a clear determination to live a good live is often forced to find another way to eat. There aren’t enough halfway houses for the amount of people let go. Three out of four end up back inside because they can’t earn money and get started in life. They are left with few other options.
Unfortunately our society is not very welcoming of parolees or ex-felons. Getting job, being accepted at a school, renting an apartment or opening a bank account is not very easy when you have to check the box that asks you if you have ever been convicted of a crime. Fortunately there are organizations working on changing that so parolees have a better chance of integrating back into society, although it’s only in the process stage. There are many things we, on the outside, take for granted, but it is not something granted to those being released from prison after they have “repaid their debt to society”. If they can’t get a job, no matter how determined they are to have a better life, the walls society puts up can not be broken down by someone with a sentence.
Until things are changed and more is done for the people who have been deemed less worthy than the rest of society, it is a problem that is going to continue growing. No amount of dressing it up will make it look prettier than it is. We know many inmates need to be released. Will help be available for them? Keep inside the ones who really are seriously a problem, and let go the ones who have done enough time for their crimes. Let them go before we destroy the ones who want to live, with all their marbles intact. Let them work and get paid for working and keep the money going around the way it should.
Corporations should be paying people a real wage who do the job of make their products instead of lobbying and paying politicians to vote in their favor to continue using slave labor. Instead of money going to the prison industrial complex, let it be used where it is needed most, on the people. As long as corporations have a stranglehold on the people of this country to use and exploit, we will continue our slide downward. The US government tells the world we don’t use solitary confinement the way we do and they get away with it.
Slavery moved from outside in the fields to inside the prison walls is still slavery no matter what you call it.
(Sonni’s note:More than a year later. I initially wrote this post on Feb,14,2014. One of the first ones, so I thought I’d post it again with a catch up. The letter I received from Jamie Cummings was actually written in September 2012.
What the guards did that day, planting a homemade knife, out in the open, on his sink, put him back in Ad Seg, which is short for administrative segregation or solitary confinement. Anything more than 15 days in that kind of complete isolation affects the brain. It can break even the strongest men and affect them so bad that even when (if) they get out, it is impossible for them to be around people. Many try to kill themselves. The suicide rate, and the attempt to commit suicide is off the charts. The first chapters of the book I’m writing take place while he is in ad seg.
There is much I didn’t know about prison those first years I was writing to him. I hadn’t started researching the issues I do now. I initially wrote him that first letter about a year after he was arrested because I wanted to see how he was doing. He was surprised I wrote to him out of the blue. I didn’t find out at first that he was alone in every way because no one writing to him. My daughter wrote to him at first, but went on with her life, met another man, got married and had another baby. His family went on with their lives and did pretty much nothing to help him. He had only one visit. My daughter and his bio mom came. They had sent him to a prison that was as far away as they could in Texas, from one side to the other so a prison visit was nearly impossible because it took 3 days, traveling with 3 children. But that should not have stopped everyone from writing.
At that time I only knew he was a lonely young man and my letters gave him something to do when he answered them. I had no idea at that time what deprivation in a solitary cell meant He had no books. He was indigent, meaning he didn’t have a nickle to buy even simple things like deodorant. Our relationship grew. I became “mom”. He was a pretty hefty guy when he went in. I had met him right before this happened, when I went to visit my daughter in Texas for Thanksgiving. He was arrested in December. He isn’t a hefty guy anymore, though. What a way to lose weight. Near starvation. If you have no commissary money put on your books by family, your up the crick without a paddle. Even if he was at the G2 level and was able to get a job, Texas doesn’t pay anything. Some states you can make between .23 to .49 an hour depending on the job.
I haven’t posted any of the early letters yet that are before 2010. They are packed up in box in my garage, but I will be publishing them. I want to read those early ones again very much. They were packed when I moved. When his son gets older he will be able to know who his father was during this time he has been away. When you read these letters he wrote to me to me, just remember, these letters were his only lifeline.)
Dear mom, I hope you are doing good.
Sorry for taking so long to write. They are starving us. I don’t know how they get away with this but they do. We can’t do anything about it. They put us all on lockdown again. Not because we did anything but because they want to toss our cells looking for weapons and drugs. One time they planted a weapon in my cell. They put a homemade knife on the sink.
I was really surprised and mad when they “found” it. Even if I had a homemade knife, would I have been stupid enough to leave it out on the sink when I knew they were going to toss my cell looking for weapons? It had to be a guard. They try to get you in trouble and keep you down. It doesn’t matter if you are guilty of doing something in here, they will make sure you are guilty. It’s your word against theirs, and you can’t win.
We’re on our second week of lockdown. This is the hardest one I’ve gone through. By law they are supposed to feed you a hot meal every three days but they do what they want to anyone in prison whites, which is us. They are feeding us what they call a peanut butter sandwich which is a half spoon of peanut butter on bread. They only give us a half spoon because they are trying to stretch it out to last longer. It saves them money. They serve nasty prison food. They stretch it more by also adding some really nasty soup or applesauce that makes me gag. But I have no choice. I have to eat it or I get nothing. I’ve heard that it costs $40,000 a year for each inmate, to keep us here. Where does the money go because it sure isn’t spent on food. Once in a while we get a meat sandwich or cornbread. Sometimes prunes or raisons. In the morning we get two biscuits with a half spoon of peanut butter or maybe two pancakes. That’s why I have lost so much weight. Food is worse when you are on lockdown.
This injustice system is built for the inmates to lose. If we think we’re being treated wrong by the officers and they write up a case against us ( make up a case is more like it ), they tell us to write up an appeal. First they take away privileges, like going to the commissary or rec, for 30-45 days. Guess how long it takes for the answer to the appeal to come back? 30 days. It’s crazy. The appeal will always be denied, too. It’s all for nothing. All inmate privileges taken away for everyone. I lose my comm privileges for nothing. I get punished because I appealed the false charges against me. I lose because I tried to stand up to the bullshit. There is no way around the system. All the officer has to do is lie and the next one will back it up or say he didn’t see anything.
But I’m learning there are effects for every cause that is made. All the good ones and all the bad ones. If I have to pay for the wrongs I did, so will they. I’ve been reading these magazines you got for me, the Living Buddhism and the World Tribune about Nichiren Buddhism so I know these guards in here don’t get away with the things they do. It’s now part of their own lives. They will have to face the effects of so much inhumanity to the inmates. They don’t get away with the things they do to other human beings. They may get off treating us like dogs, but we aren’t dogs. They may talk to each other about all the things they do to us and laugh about it, thinking they are getting away with it. But we are people. I will do my best to change the parts of me that caused this to happen to my life. I will find a way to make a difference. I will become a better person. I will someday leave here a better person. I do have hope.
It’s a new year and I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble. I never try to make trouble. It’s always someone else who comes up to fight me. But no more fighting. Nothing. But when you don’t fight back then everyone feels they can run over you. But I’m not going to fight. I want to focus on coming home. I have to raise my level before they will consider me for parole. I’m level 3. I need to be level 1 before it’s even possible. Even then they could still turn me down. They will give me something called a set-off, which means I have to wait another five years before I can see the parole board again unless they want to bring me back up again. This system is built for our downfall. They don’t want us to survive in here. There is no justice for inmates at all.