Prison Life and Gen Pop

phonecallFor the past couple weeks Jamie and I have been able to talk by phone, which is a new thing for us. It’s been great. I waited nine years to do that. I think the newness hasn’t worn off so he’s been calling me fairly often. How much we take for granted when we’re able to pick up the phone and talk to someone whenever we want. He’s been alone for so long, craving the sound of another voice.

(update 1/7/16 – these privileges only lasted a few weeks. Long enough to get a visit from his mother on his 32 birthday that wasn’t behind glass. He had never had a visit where he could touch his family. It breaks my heart.  When guards have a vendetta and you are a target they will make sure they cut you down to size. They have control. They don’t like people who stand their ground our report those who treat others badly. Most people are not aware of the prison guard brutality inflicted on inmates. An inmate can’t win. They are set up to lose every time. If he could keep his mouth shut it would be better – but how do you tell someone to allow abuse? How do you stay quiet when you witness crimes that are only legal because they are inside a prison. He is in ad seg – again – and probably will be for a long time.  But as awful as that is it is safer.  Lonely and depressing – but safer.)

Getting out of Ad Seg was great.(administrative segregation) It sounded better than the words, solitary confinement. There is a link on the right under the heading “solitary confinement and mass incarceration” It’s an animated video, 5 minutes long and explains the effect of that kind of intense deprivation. You can also find it in the actual post I wrote in the category heading on the right for ‘solitary confinement.’ Now Jamie is level G2 which is ‘gen pop’ or general population. Inmates have to learn to live together or stay out of each others way.

I was worried when he got out of Ad Seg and needing to adjust to being around people again after so long. Even though he had been alone, he was safe from other inmates who have nothing to lose and can easily be violent just by looking at them wrong. In Ad seg he was mostly safe from the guards, too, who get off on pushing your buttons to make you react so they have more reason to kick you around and show off that they have power over you, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. I know there are two sides to every story and there have been many guards who have been seriously hurt by inmates, too. Many guards, have a hard time dealing with the emotional stress of working in a prison. Some inmates are not strong mentally and some guards aren’t either.

I recently began what will be a series about the relationship between guards and inmates. You can read the first installment, located at the top of the website, “Looking from the Other Side of the Prison Cell Door”.

But today, since all the newest things from Jamie didn’t come in a letter,  I thought I’d write about our conversation instead .

“You have a collect called from an inmate at the Wynne Unit at Huntsville Prison.” I then heard Jamie’s voice saying, “James Cummings”. To accept this call, please press #1. If you don’t want to accept this call press #2,” from the automated, mechanical voice at the other end of the line. I have his name programmed into that number so I know it’s him before I pick up the phone.

“I just got off work and boy am I tired.” Hearing him even say the words, ‘just got off work’ shows how much has changed in this short amount of time. He’s had no time to be depressed. He’s working and sleeping. If he

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Prison Visit – With One Year Update

(Sonni’s note: I posted this a year ago. One January 24, 2014. It is one of the first posts when I began this website. I wanted to post this again because it is almost a year later. Jamie was still in Solitary confinement when he wrote this letter.  He writes about the cold and seeing snow.  Yesterday in a phone call, which he wasn’t allowed to make a year ago, he told me that he has never been in real snow and he’d like to do that someday.  There wasn’t much standing between and his sanity. Depression is one of the hardest things to face when you are by yourself.  You think about every single thing you have done wrong in your life, over and over and over with no one to talk to.  You feel those four walls closing in on you and it’s hard to imagine a life without them. He had no one, except for the letters from me, telling him that things would get better. He needed to keep fighting for that.

One year later and he still hasn’t set eyes on his son again. Hopefully soon.  One year later and he now out of solitary. He went to G4 level a few months ago and was allowed in limited ways to be around people again. Now he has his G2 and he can have contact visits make phone calls to people on his calling list and he has a job. Texas doesn’t pay inmates a penny. They say they ‘good time’ instead. Jamie said he hasn’t seen anyone get any good time so he thinks that is bullshit. But aside from that he loves is job. He loves being able to do something besides sit in a cell and try to look out a grimy window.)

prison windowIt’s really cold.  I think it maybe snowed but I can’t tell for sure because I can’t see out a window anymore.  I never get any sun at all.  In my last cell there was a window and I could see outside.  I would pretend I was out there.  If you’ve never been locked up you wouldn’t know how it feels to have no control over anything you do.  You can’t make anything change.  There is so much space in my head.  I try hard to fill it up with things but sooner or later I give up and go to sleep.

Some years back, before you got sick , you wrote and  told me to imagine we were outside riding bikes and we would ride to the top of a hill, meet there, and have a picnic.  We could do that together at the same time.  It would be a way for me to escape.  It was really the first time I talked about how powerful the mind is and how important it is to have hope.  You told me over and over how important my life is.  I don’t understand what you saw in me,  but I’m glad you did.   It’s like my family washed their hands of me.  It wasn’t important to let me know they still loved me.  It was like I died or something.  You kept me from disappearing or at the least become like so many people in here who have no hope.   This place has a way of making you feel really small and you took hold of me and taught me how to keep it together.

I’ve been thinking about my son a lot.  I was so happy to see him in October when Megan came.  I wanted to see him so bad.  He’s all I have.  He’s the only thing I have that makes life worth living.  He’s the only real thing that proves I lived.  I don’t think Megan really understands how important he is to me.  The thought of him keeps me trying.  I didn’t want to feel sure Megan would really bring him to see me.  I didn’t even know for sure if they were coming.  You told me she was trying to make sure she would make it.  Megan kept saying she would but something always got in the way.  Really, I about gave up because the disappointment was too hard to bear.  She said she’d come before and then couldn’t.  But this time, when the officer came to my cell and told me I had visitors, well all I can say is that this big feeling of happiness came over me and I smiled so big.  I was finally going to see Megan and my son.  She had her two other sons with her, Alex and Cosmo ( short for Benjamin).

Before that day, it was hard knowing he was out there and I couldn’t see him.  I wondered  if he was going to be angry with me when he grew up for not being there.  Maybe he would be ashamed for anyone to know his dad was in prison.  I’m so sorry I can’t be there for him right now.  I know I can’t expect Megan to stay by herself till I get out.  She’ll have another man in her life but it would rip me up if my son called some other man dad.  Or if some man tried to come between me and my son.

I’m missing all of these years with him I can never get back.  When I saw him he was really shy.  It was hard to get him to talk to me.  I can’t blame him for that. He was probably scared.  He was hardly more than a baby the last time he saw me.   I want so badly to be able to give him a hug and tell him how much I love him.  More than anything he is the one thing in my life that gives me the reason to want to get out of here and have a good life. I want to be a good father.  Having him is the only thing I have done right.  He’s the only good thing I have.

Megan doesn’t write to me very often.  I’ve begged her to so many times.  think she would if she really wanted to.  Instead of telling me the truth she gives me all of these excuses like she wrote a bunch of letters but her boyfriend or whoever found them and threw them away every single time she wrote one.  It was one excuse after the other.  I think if someone wanted to write a letter they would find a way to get it into the mailbox without getting caught. She shouldn’t need to sneak. Nothing anyone can do will make me not exist.  I will always be his father.  She should be able to write a letter and tell me about my boy without getting into trouble.  So that doesn’t make sense.

Why doesn’t hardly send me any pictures?  Sometimes I get out all the pictures I have and I go over them one by one and think of all the memories I have.  I just stare at them and make them part of my day and pretend I am in the picture instead of being here.

There’s No place For a Fish Out of Water

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Ok, first I want to thank you for the way you broke everything down about Nichiren Buddhism for a better understanding. Because you’re right, there are religions that that promise people a great many things that will help them with their lives. To promise someone life after death is too much. How does this person know there’s life after death? They don’t. So why promise someone something when you can’t give it to them? I just never really understood the Bible in the way it contradicts itself in so many ways. Or why people would feel a book written by man thousands of years ago would be a nice way to live their life today by telling them how to live it. And then to have man rewrite it and add and take away things what was written is crazy. And it’s crazy and all how much sin went on at that time as well. I always had a hard time believing the Bible and Jesus. I read part of the Bible and even the Quran. I’ve been told the Quran is the only religious book that hasn’t been rewritten. I don’t believe it because I don’t know. The way you have broken down part of Buddhism, it shows it not to be a religion but a way of life. All causes and effects are a part of life. I do learn from what you send me. I also share it with my cellies and others. Oh yes, Megan taught me how to say the words and how to chant when she came to visit me before even though she stopped doing it. I know she used to do it everyday until she got around her dad’s family and they wouldn’t have accepted her doing any chanting, and she was around it when she a was little. She needed to be accepted.

l remember her visit just like it was yesterday. I chant. It’s just that I am very easily distracted. But I do chant. ( Nam Myo Renge Kyo ) Sometimes when I chant I find I won’t be saying anything because I find myself zoned out. I’ll catch myself staring at the wall or out the window at the sky. I feel my life has been a real waste. I sometimes feel there’s no place for me here. You know, like the way land is no place for a fish out of water. I feel like I’m a waste and out of place at times. I do my best to keep my head above water, but I can only swim for so long. Life goes on is what makes it worse.

Different Rules of Right and Wrong For Prison Guards

This is a repost from 2014. Nothing has changed. There is a different set of rules between right and wrong than there is in the free world.

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My focus has been the injustice that has been shown to Jamie, and to all other prisoners as well. It’s about the injustice shown when he was a teenager, locked up for nine months that became 4 years.  They finally had to let him go because he turned 21 and they couldn’t hold him any longer. It is also about the injustice shown him when he was picked up for the charge of ‘aggravated assault’ because he was with someone who decided to use his gun to rob a place and he tried to run away, and the injustice of never having any justice at all because his woefully inadequate public defender, who is in the pocket of the district attorney knew it was his job to scare him to death so he would take a plea of 17 years insteadof going to court and possibly getting up to 99 years. What would you do if you were faced with that? You’d probably take the plea, too.

The years spent in solitary confinement, being treated as a subhuman being not deserving of human rights, is now hoping against hope that nothing will stop him from being allowed to make his very first phone call to his son since the day he was born. That is a lot of injustices, isn’t it? That has been my focus of this post.

There is another side of the story. The prison system is genuinely, very corrupt, filled with people and corporations looking to make a buck any way they can, even if it means hurting people. The security guards are to blame for the inhumane way they treat inmates. They are allowed to do this. The prison officers look the other way. The prison industrial complex sets the tone for this while taking advantage of prisoners. The security guards aren’t the ones who line the pockets of the government agencies and politicians so that the vote goes for the corporations and against the people. Corporations have been getting their way for a long time and there hasn’t been a whole lot anyone has been able to do to stop it. Money goes a long way in keeping information about their abuses from getting into the wrong hands and used against them, but even if it does and they have to pay off the lawsuits, they still made more money off the backs of the people than what it costs them to pay up, so I guess it’s worth it to them.

I could go into a long tirade against the corporations that cheat the inmates by not providing the care they so proudly proclaim they do on their websites, cheat the government and cheat people out of years of their lives all for the sake of a buck, but that isn’t my focus today. I want to focus on the prison guard himself. What kind of man or woman becomes a prison guard and what kind of nature does a person have to have that allows him to justify his actions and tell himself that what he/she is doing is ok? The prison says it’s ok if they torture inmates, so why not? But how do they live with themselves when they have participated in inhumane treatment of human beings? How can they do it and go home to their friends and family and tell them about their day? Who were they when they started and who did they become? Was that nature there all along and all it needed was a shove in the right direction? But still. I know that not everyone who works in a prison is like this. There have to be some good people who work there, too.

There are some careers where you have to turn off your emotions. If you are affected by the environment you work in, it could take you into a very dark place. If you got too involved, how could you turn it off at the end of the day? Is being a prison guard a role you play that gets put into the locker at the end of the day the way an exotic dancer puts her costumes in her suitcase and walks out the door at the end of a shift? Is a prison guard always a prison guard? When does it become an identity instead of a job? Another profession that abuses the right to hurt people are the very people who are supposed to protect and serve the people of our communities. (I won’t call them by name since this article is not about them. ) We know who they are. We read the news. We watch it on TV. We aren’t surprised any more when we hear of one more case where the bounds of the law were stepped over and yet another person was needlessly taken advantage of or hurt in some way. We would be shocked if it all stopped and the law was actually used to help us instead of control us. The days of Andy of Mayberry are long over.

The government has insisted that we don’t torture inmates.  How can they say that and who believes them? On Nov. 12 and 13, the practice of holding incarcerated people in prolonged isolation will come under international scrutiny when the U.S. government goes before the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

http://solitarywatch.com/2014/10/14/u-s-government-tells-un-committee-on-torture-there-is-no-systematic-use-of-solitary-confinement-in-the-united-states/

It’s part of a periodic review to assess if this country has been compliant concerning the guidelines of the Convention Against Torture and the first U.S. review under Obama’s administration. I think we know the answer to that. But I think anything said will just be lip service and they will continue to do things exactly the way they have been doing it.

But I’m getting off the subject. I want to find out who the people are who actually enforce the rules of behavior that says it’s ok to treat people so badly that they sometimes die from the abuse. What kind of prison guard can stand by and watch that happen? Apparently quite a few. So here begins my new focus. Look for more to come.

Little Green Bars of Lye Soap

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Hello Mom.

How are you?  In the best of health as always I hope.  Mom, if you can, I need some hygiene.  I only have enough toothpaste for a few weeks and enough deodorant for about a week.  I have no soap.  I’m using little green bars of lye soap  ( Sonni’s note: that the prisons make, and you really don’t want to use it on your body.  It’s really made of lard and lye and you feel dirtier after you use it than you were before.  It’s all the prison will give you for free and you’re supposed to use it to wash your hair and body and use it to shave with. )  that is 1 inch by
1 1/2″.  If you can’t, I understand.  I will still love ya.

(Sonni’s note: I wonder how his family thinks he is surviving? Does they ever wonder how he is supposed to get the personal items that would make a difference in his day?  Do they even think about it?  Are they so sure that someone else will do the things they won’t.  Family should support family, but I know that isn’t always the case.  It’s the little things that make you feel human.  The things we take for granted.  Why is it so hard for family to remember that a family member is locked up? how hard is it to send a card and say a few lines just to say you are thinking of them? I’m shaking my head. As the years go by it is common for the connection to the outside to get stretched thin to the breaking point. It happens at a time when the communication is needed the most.  So I will continue to send him what money I can to help him through, along with a few books and magazine subscriptions. It’s not nearly enough but at least he can get some of the personal items he needs.)

It’s cold down here.  It’s only 50, but there’s no heat and the windows are broke out.  I sleep in all my clothes, even my jacket and blanket but it’s no good. There’s too many broken windows.

I’ve taken a lot of shit so I can get my G2 and be able to hold my son.  You know, I sit in this place so depressed, all because of my actions true. But never did I think that the ones who said they loved me would leave me high and dry.  However, there is no pain like the pain one gets from family.  They have a life, true indeed, but what mother or family member wouldn’t want to know how her son or brother was doing?  Just the other day I had another seizure.  They don’t care.  They know I have them, but they don’t know how I’m doing afterwards. There have been times I have just sat and cried because I know one day my temper will get the best of me.  I be so mad at times I just keep this negative force around me.  That’s my problem.  It’s the negative reaction I have when I’m depressed and mad.

It’s late and I’m tired but before I go I want you to know this.  I’m no Muslim.  There are many goals but only one path.  I’ve been reading and studying on everything.  I can’t speak about something I don’t know.  Religion is a BIG subject.

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and other news of injustice around the world.

My Window

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This was first published on March 31, 2014 when he was still in solitary confinement

I was told that I could maybe be moved up to G4 in a few months. I don’t know if I want to do that. I have a window. A nice big window. I look at the sky a lot. I like to stand and look at the sky. At night I can look up at the moon. It’s beautiful. It’s been a long time since I could just stand and see outside and see the sky. With this Buddhism I have been reading about, there is this guidance I read about the moon:

“As you make your way home tonight may you pause for a moment to gaze up at the night sky and let your heart communicate with the moon in wordless dialogue. Perhaps you might compose a poem and set it down in your journal tonight. How good to have such a poetic spirit!” ( Sonni’s note: This is a guidance I sent Jamie from Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI-USA Int’l, the lay organization for Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.  it is these guidances that have helped him keep his head straight and have hope for his future.)

But one thing that is not so good because the water coming out of my faucet is a muddy brown. Maybe it’s from rust? It’s the only thing I have to drink. It’s probably not even safe to drink. How can they get away with this? Why is there no one who says, you can’t do this? You can’t treat people like this.  It’s not right.

I think about my life a lot. I have a lot of time to think. I’m trying so hard to do my best to turn my life around. I need to do this for me and for the kids. I’m trying to come home, I really am. But with everything that has happened it really hurts me. I read what you sent me of this blog and it hurt me. I cried because reading it was like reliving my past and I didn’t like it at all.

Growing up, yes things were hard on me. It was because I didn’t have a father. No one ever knew how I felt about anything because I never tried to talk to anyone about it. You are the only person I have opened up to like this. I never asked my mom questions about my father. I just went on with my life.

I used to try and follow my older brother around, but we all know how that goes. Older brothers don’t want to be around their younger brothers. Again, I just went on about my life. Things fell apart as I did that. I hung around the wrong people, picked up a few bad habits and ran with it. I sold drugs here and there. But then I started stealing. I’m sure you’re wondering where my mom was while I was doing this. Well, I would wait while she went to work or sleep at night. I would even go to school and then leave after two periods. I got into a lot of trouble with my mom when she found out, because there were times I got caught stealing and skipping school. My mom never knew about the drugs. But she knew about a gun I had. She told me to get rid of it before I got in trouble. She was right about that. Look where I am now. Still hanging with the wrong people!

I used to leave the house when my mother was asleep. It would be about 10 PM. I was young, maybe 14 or 15 years old. It’s not my mom’s fault at all. I would leave to do what I wanted every change I could. I felt free. I hung around older dudes in the neighborhood. I felt cool. My mom always told us we had to be in the house before the street lights came on. We had to eat, clean up and bathe, and be in bed by 9:30. I didn’t like it because it was more fun staying out at night. Sometimes I would stay away from home for 2 or 3 days at a time. I knew I had it coming when I got home. So I would wait til my mom went to work to go home and get something to eat, take a bath, and then leave again. However, I would get tired and just wanted to lay down and sleep. So I would go home knowing that the belt was waiting for me.

Now, I would love to see and hear from her more often. Same with Megan and Jamie. All I can do is ask. I can’t make them do it. So I sit and wait and hope I get a visit. I get discouraged when all I do is sit and wait and nobody comes. I gave my mom a hard time growing up.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.

A Prison Cell is a Lonely Place To Be

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(Sonni’s note: This post was originally printed in April 2014. Yesterday, when I sat down at my piano I say there looking at the keys. Before I started playing my fingers started moving from the little finger to the forefinger kind of like a finger wave. It was like my fingers were thinking. I had just finished with a piano student and I wasn’t ready to move away from the piano.  I wanted to play but I didn’t know what I’d play. For me that is what I enjoy the most. Just playing something off the top of my head. Being able to do that after all these years is life’s gift to me. Recording it on my tablet and waiting until later to really listen to the music that came out is worth the wait. I used to play professionally in piano bars and a variety of different groups playing everything from pop to country to rock and roll. I also sang until I developed calluses on my vocal chords. That was a long time time. I no longer play music that belongs to others. I only play what comes out of me. I experience an emotion and I put it to music. Much of my music for Jamie is melancholy because what I often feel is sadness. Because I record music through from beginning to end, with no idea of what I’m going to play, you will hear an occasional wrong note. There is no point in correcting it because I wouldn’t play the same thing two times in a row. I’d just make a mistake in another place.)

It’s ok. Don’t worry about me. I tell myself, don’t be discouraged. That is only downing myself. Always keep your confidence and you will succeed. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I don’t want anyone to feel as though I’m begging or even asking too much. I’m sorry. Please, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. This is what I get for breaking the law. Please, I just need help seeing my son. That’s all. I want nothing else. And I will chant for you, too, I promise I will.

I ask myself over and over, why won’t Megan come and bring my son? I do deserve to see my son. He is all I have. However, Megan, I guess, feels different. Maybe I should try to get moved to another unit. I would probably have to get in trouble, though, to do that. That wouldn’t be good. But if I was moved father away from home then everyone would be able to use excuses like, “It’s too far away” or “I can’t afford the gas”. Then it would be easier for them to let themselves off the hook. Maybe Megan just wants to keep me from him. I hate to think that but it’s hard not to.

If I knew people cared as they say they do, it would be a lot easier on me. Without you I would know nothing. Megan has kept me blind for so long on how little Jamie is doing. That hurts like hell! Why? Why would she want to hurt me like that? Oh, forget I asked that question. There have been many times I have wanted to give up. There are lots of people with lots on their plate and they still manage to find the time and come to see the person they say they love. Life is full of unanswered questions.

I’ve written letters to my mother. A lot of the time I get them back. She moves around a lot. The last address I got was my grandmother’s. My (biological) mom came to visited me last year. First time in at least 6 years. It’s not her fault, though. I was in a couple units that were far away. Clear across Texas. Too far to make it there and back in a day. A few days maybe. I’m closer now so maybe I’ll get to see her more often. She said she was going to come visit me more often. I told her twice a month would be great. I waited and waited, hoping each weekend that she’d come. Five months went by. She never came back until a couple weeks ago. I was really glad to see her.

It would be good if I could get Megan to take Jamie to my mom’s house and then she could bring Jamie. Then we could take some pictures together. But they aren’t getting along too good right now. The person who misses out the most is Jamie. He needs all of his family. I’m just asking a favor for me and my son. I wish I could see my grandmother, too. Maybe she could come with my mom sometime if she’s well enough. Oh, I guess that’s enough about all of this. It gets me depressed just thinking about.

Lost inside of Me

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(Sonni’s note: Jamie and I have written many letters to each other about our families and the hurt they can cause.  I think most people don’t really think about how their actions, or lack of actions, affect the people they say they love.  They love you as long as you don’t ask anything of them that takes them out of their comfort zone.  It hurts when people are selfish and don’t think about how their actions affect you.  Most of the time they don’t even realize they hurt you.  Jamie has been so supportive of me during the bad times I’ve gone through with my liver transplant, and lack of interest of my own family about how I was doing.  It breaks my heart knowing the pain he has gone through waiting for family, and waiting for Megan, who don’t answer letters or visit. Megan went on with her life.  Jamie couldn’t go on with his, and his family, I guess, had their own busy lives.  I understand that.  Each person has their own priority list and sometimes we’re at the bottom of that list.  Maybe it’s ‘out of sight out of mind’.  I waited for the mail each day hoping there was a letter from him. Sometimes all it takes to get through something unpleasant is knowing that someone, out there, cares about you.  I speak for myself, as well, when I write that.

This letter was written a couple years ago. The time frame doesn’t matter.  Not a lot has changed.  But through the effort of reaching out to people, I know he has had more people lately to hold him up.  Other people have written to him.

This is the main reason why I reached out to him.  I wanted him to know that someone cared.  In the early years of writing I believe I got to know a man that few people took the time to know.  You can know your family for decades but that doesn’t mean you really know each other. In my opinion, he was “written off”.  But he had also spent the ages of 17-21 in juvy, so he had left them long ago.  I became someone he could write to.  He could dump the feelings of loneliness and despair on me. I listened.

There is no physical contact when you are locked away in a box. It strangles the heart.  The craving to touch another human being is overwelming.  I became his family.  This is why I became “Mom”.  How can I adequately explain the desire in me to wrap myself around him and keep him safe, relieve the feeling of being so alone, if even for a little while?  He IS family.  He is my grandson’s father.  We are connected by blood.  So many of his family gave up on him the same way my family in my home state gave up on me when I moved to Pa for my transplant, and except for my husband, I had no one. No one who knew me growing up cared enough to send a get well card. They were too busy resenting me for coming home  That was a real eye opener. Jamie and I were both wounded people. I understand the need to keep trying to belong to the family who looked like caring people on the outside but were selfish and judgmental on the inside. We had each other.)

So how are things with you, mom? Are you feeling any better? I sure hope so. I know you can’t wait to get things on the road. Well that makes two of us. The times you aren’t feeling well, I’m not either. I sit and worry and stress when I don’t hear from you. I got a letter from my older brother. I was saving my last stamp to write a letter to Megan, but I wrote him back instead. I wrote to him about what was happening with me and about how I feel. I told him not to worry about nothing because I was going to give everyone their space and not write again.

My brother sent me back a letter and said, they didn’t put me in here so stop trying to make everyone feel bad. All I wanted was to hear from my family. I wrote and told him that I know nobody else put me here in prison. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. I speak what I feel. Most of the stuff I feel, mom, I don’t speak about. You see, being on lockdown 23-24 hours a day will make you want to harm yourself. I’ve written plenty of letters wanting to tell everyone how I feel. However, I don’t want to hurt the ones I love. So many say they love me but really they don’t care. So, I will write the letters and get it off my chest and then flush them down the toilet. I guess you can say it’s a stress reliever. I have sat and thought about how I’ve messed up. I’ve even cried about it. I know I’ve let my families down. My mom, brothers and sister, my neices and nephew as well as Megan and the kids. I know how to accept that, but not my family. I know it’s hard for them to accept it. However, life goes on and if they can’t accept it there is nothing I can do about it as of now. I’ve accepted it. I have no other choice. But when I get out of here I’m going to have another choice. I don’t know where I’m going to go but it will be the hell away from my home town.

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The Shower is Under the Prison!

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I have good news! Remember I told you about not getting my G4 because of that dude? I said I would write him up for what he did, refusing to let me go to UCC. The guard actually told me I wasn’t on the list so they didn’t take me. I have been giving them my best without getting a case but they will do anything to lie and keep you down. Well, I wrote him up. I also wrote to the warden, the major and the ICC case manager. So they brought me back up to see UCC on Monday 6/9/14. I stood up for myself. I spoke with the major and the case manager. They gave me my G4 back! It’s only one step above ad seg but it’s a start. I have a few privileges.

It’s okay over here.  I don’t really do much talking. I go to chow, rec and the day room and then back to my cell.  Oh, I have to tell you this.  The showers are UNDER the prison!  They let out all four rows at one time.  They send us to the shower that is two flights of stairs under the prison.  It’s a huge area.  It looks like it would hold 20-25 cars.  It’s big! This is the crazy part.  These dudes talk to each while they’re naked!  Standing next to each other! Not me,  I shower and get the hell out.  Here’s another crazy thing.  In the day room they have a pisser.  I don’t know what these people were thinking when they built this place.  Oh, it gets crazier at rec.  I played two games of basketball.  Others lift weight and play handball.  Tell me why there were fools naked in the yard? Lol.  They were taking wash offs.  The wing I’m on has older me, some with canes.  About half the people are really up in age.

This unit is old, from the 1800′s. They showed me the room where they used to hang people by the wrists to the wall for punishment. There are four blocks. B1-4. Each block has four rows with 25 cells on each row. There is no AC. They have two big fans on each end of the run on every floor. It blows around nothing but dust and hot air. Each fan is bolted to the floor. The cells are small. I can sit up on my bunk, open my arms and touch my psalms to both walls. I don’t have a cellie. It’s just me. If I did have a cellie only one of us could be up at the same time. There are bars on the cells, like the Green Mile, but they welded something like chicken wire over the bars. There’s a food slot on the door and six shelves above the top bunk and the door. They for me and the for the cellie if I had one. No matter what cell I get moved to I will always be registered on the bottom bunk. If I were to lay with my head away from the door I would be looking right at the toilet seat. Bummer. There is no table in the cell. I have to write my letters on the bunk.

The food is always cooked in population. They bring it  to the small kitchen. That’s where they fix the trays. All the food is in big pans. After they fix the trays they put them in carriers. About 5 or 6 of them. Each one holds 7 trays. Before they feed us they pass out water or tea. I don’t drink this tea. They also have KoolAid but from what I read it can give you cancer later in life so I don’t drink it. They have a sign in the chow saying this. And I really don’t like to drink the water but I get ice water sometime.

When they serve the food they always go to the back and work their way up all the floors. The three months I’ve been here they’ve been working on the day room to turn it into a little chow hall. Each block will have their own. They put tables in them and they will serve the food in there. No one else will have this I don’t think. But the way they serve us is not cool. When they feed us with the carriers it’s 2 in 2 out which means that 2 carriers will be sitting at the bottom of the stairs unattended on whatever row they’re feeding until they empty the other two. Bad. Bad. This place has roaches bad. They’re everywhere. Sometimes the food sits for five minutes or more, but you either eat it or you don’t eat at all.

Now, about the showers. Some units have 12 showers and the others have 8. Those with 12 have 2 shifts and those with 8 have 3 shifts. The first two rows will shower in the morning and the other two rows will shower in the evening. They rotate the next day. We have to go the showers in handcuffs.
They call rec every day for two hours. You go in a cage with a basketball hoop and a pull bar. Ten people in each cage. When we get pulled out for rec we aren’t put into handcuffs. Crazy. No sense. But things are better for me than what they were. It needs to keep going in this direction.

Things are fine, though. I’m just a little tired. I’ve been like that for awhile. I sit up all night thinking. I think about Jamie a lot. I hoped I might get a visit on father’s day but I know I’m not. His birthday is coming up soon. Maybe he could come and see me then. That’s just a hope and wish.

I Hate Being Back in Ad Seg

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(Sonni’s note: This is a compilation of things he write about in several letters that were written in 2012.  So you understand, Ad Seg is about as low as you can go.  It’s also called G5, administrative segregation and solitary confinement.  It’s the hole.  It’s a place where you have no privileges. You never touch another human being.  You will be treated as though you are worthless.  People will want to hurt you if you give them the opportunity. You are alone. Really alone with yourself. If you don’t have anyone who cares, or if you don’t like yourself very much, you’re going to have a hard time making it. Jamie knew, when they threw him back in there, all because of the lie from a guard who wanted to prove he could mess with him, that it was going to take at least another couple years before they’d let him out.

The only good thing about solitary is that he was safe from other people. In addition to the guards, you have to be careful, there are people who have nothing to lose who are going to try to mess with your life. How do you deal with that when someone comes up and puts themselves in your face and challenges? They claim that your space belongs to them and they will try to take it from you. If they get away with it and you don’t try to stop them you are going to be in a whole different world of hurt from other inmates.)

No matter what I do, they always find a way to send me back. It took a couple years to get up to G4 the last time when I could to go to rec and watch TV and go to chow. But being allowed out of here means there’s gonna to be people, even guards who want to mess with me. But being allowed out of my cell is a kind of freedom. I can’t get out of here if I don’t get into a program.

It is so hard sitting in my cell day after day, trying to find ways to make the hours go by. I write letters but mostly I throw them away. It’s how I get my feelings out. But hardly anyone writes back but you. Once in awhile I get a letter from my sister or my cousin but not my mom. When I make it to G2 I can have contact visit. I can hug my son. At G2 I can make a phone call and I’ve never been able to make one. I would be able to take classes and learn things. I can be with people. I don’t think they want me to be able to do that. I will never be able to make parole unless I can show I’ve taken classes. But they won’t let me do that now. They don’t like to give black people parole. The longer they keep me here the more they make off me. They don’t care one bit if I am ever “rehabilitated”. Use ’em up, throw ’em out and pick ’em up again. You’re never free.

The last time I only made it to G4 for a short time. It took years to get that far. I was jumped and the officer even saw it, but I still caught a case for it. She even wrote that she saw the other dude hit me first, but there is a rule that if you swing at all, even if it is defending yourself, you get a case. I tried to avoid him twice but he was right on me and I was next to the fence and had nowhere to go. He was coming from breakfast really early one day and I had a chance to get him back, but I let it go. I wrote an appeal to try and get the case turned over and get my G4 rating back again, but I never heard anything back. So I’m playing the waiting game again. I wanted to cry. I have been going through this for so long it just hurts. Maybe in six months to a year I can get it back. ( Sonni’s note: It took until August 2014 to get out of solitary confinement, Ad Seg, G5)

But it doesn’t matter how hard I try. There is always something waiting to drag me back down again. I know that’s gonna happen. I have to see it and not react. I have to try harder not to let anyone make me do something I know will get me in trouble. I have a temper. Push me enough and I lose control. But I don’t have anything to prove to these people. I don’t have to prove I’m tough. If I don’t fight back next time it doesn’t mean that I’m a pussy. It means I have more to lose than they do. I have to do what is good for me. I have to remember that the next time someone gets in my face.