Jamie’s Son Jamie

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I couldn’t resist putting up this picture of my grandson. Jamie’s son was 12 this past July. It’s been hard on him having a father in prison. The hardest part is not really knowing who he is. It wasn’t as if he knew before it happened. They will have to work that out when he gets out.

One of the hardest things for me is knowing he will have to face the racists who feel black people don’t deserve to share the same space they are in. It isn’t a matter of “if” it will happen but “when” and how often it will happen. I write to help people better understand the reality of an unequal society and the higher percentage that get locked up because of it. I devote a large percentage of my day working to make a change. Talking to people, answering their “What do I do now?” questions.

The T-shirt my grandson is wearing is for sale. It helps to cover the cost of providing what Jamie needs to survive. He has no help from his family. I wish I didn’t have to write that.

After Christmas I want to take a trip to The to go to the prison. It’s been almost a year. I hope to take his son with me.

This link – right here – will take you to the page where the t-shirt and tote bag are for sale. Or you can donate any amount of money from $1 up. Anything would be appreciated.

tote bag with Jamie's picture

One more thing. I sent his son a tote bag. He’s hanging out on his wall and using it as a place to keep his father’s letters and cards. Keeping them together is important to me.

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It’s Hard to Walk Away From a Prison Visit

 

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It’s hard to walk away from a prison visit not knowing when another visit might be possible. Visits with Jamie will be behind glass until he is classified G2. To get to the visitors area I first had to go through a metal detector – remove everything, like at an airport, and go through a thorough pat down. They even checked my pockets and the cuffs on my pants to feel if anything was sewn inside. A woman behind glass took down his ID number, checked my DL and wrote down identification of my car. She called ahead to see if she could send me through.

This was my third and last visit. Visiting hours are only on the weekend. The adseg cubicles were full so I was given a card with a number and told to go back to my car, move to a different parking lot and wait – for about 1 1/2 hours. This visit was a regular visit – two hours. The previous two visits were special visits that had to be approved by the warden. On the Monday before I had to call at 8 am and submit my name and where I was traveling from because special visits are only granted for people coming long distances. They only reserve 5 cubicles (for 3,500 inmates) so there is no promise you’ll get approved. On Thursday you call back at 2 pm to see if the warden approved the visit. The weekend before I was approved. It was a two hour drive, then a four hour visit and two hours back. Two days in a row. This last visit was a regular visit for two hours. They close at five. As I sat in the parking lot waiting, I was afraid this delay would cut my visit short. He might think I wasn’t coming if it got too late.

I had to rent a car this time instead of using my daughter’s car and they didn’t open until 11 am. I couldn’t get on the road as early as I did the weekend before. I sat in my car and watched a series episode on Netflix to pass the time until I saw a staff car pull beside my car and wave me over. It took a little less than they thought. Someone must have left early. I was relieved. If it had taken as long as they said my visit would only be an hour. I knew by now he thought I wasn’t coming and he would have been so disappointed. I couldn’t get word to him for at least a couple days using JPay.com to send an email.

I went back through the metal detector and pat down and they waved me through. There is a decent length walkway outside leading to the main building. I stood and looked up at the layers of razor wire and guard tower. It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny. Under a tree was a bench with a flower pot. There was a plaque indicating it was a memorial to “fallen guards”. I wondered if there was a memorial somewhere for all the prisoners who died from “natural” causes. I gave a little laugh under my breath knowing it was a stupid thought.

I thought about the visit I was going to have, knowing he would be disappointed because his son wasn’t with me. His son, Jamie, was going through his own issues with his father locked up and dealing with limited communication. He wouldn’t come with me to the prison this year. It’s hard on both of them, because they have never had time together to bond. They have never touched.

Letters are hard. Jamie can’t talk about his life in prison. There is no way to explain to a 12 year old what he’s going through. How often can he ask how he’s doing in school? He has started many letters he didn’t know his to finish. Little Jamie only knows he doesn’t have his father. He has only his mother’s live-in relationship, who he calls dad at his mother’s suggestion. This man has been good to him and has provided a good home, but it is still not his dad. Someday Jamie will get out of prison when his son is nearly out of school. He will have missed his entire childhood. But your children are your children long after childhood. Hopefully they will find a way to come together and understand each other.

As I walked toward the double doors for the next ID check I looked over my shoulder. The sun was shining and flowers were planted along the walkway. Pumpkins were set out for Halloween. It gave a false sense of normalcy to a place that was anything but normal. I mused, how nice it would if Jamie could take a walk outside. Just walk, in a stride the length of his legs instead of having a chain connecting his ankles forcing him to take short steps. He’d swing his arms in rhythm with his walk instead of being cuffed behind him. We often take for granted the little things we do without thinking

I looked over at one of the buildings. I was sure I was looking at prison cells because Jamie had described the windows. There were three floors of windows/slats in the wall. They werr about seven inches high and two feet long. Too high to look out but it would let light in. He drew me a picture of his cell. 5′ wide by 10′ long. Just big enough for his bunk, toilet and a place to sit and write. Storage was under the bunk. At an earlier prison he had bars at one end so anyone could see in. There was no privacy. His cell now has a steel door so unless the guard opens it he sees nothing.

During each of our visits I bought food for him from the vending machines. Barely edible sandwiches, snacks and sodas. It was like buying dinner at a gas station. Even when I buy him a food box and have it sent there is little real food to choose. 

I was assigned to seg 7. I sat down in front of the booth and waited. It had been 1 1/2 years. June ’16. The only good thing is that he was a little closer to the end. When they brought Jamie in they first uncuffed his ankles on the other side of the door, let him in and locked the door. He has to squat down facing me and put his hands back through a small opening so they coulf remove the cuffs on his wrists. You can see it in the picture.

There are 3 types of seating. An open room where inmates can sit with their visitors at a round table. There were quite a few kids. Everyone seemed happy. They were allowed to hold hands. The microwave was constantly busy heating up sandwiches. The inmates seated here were classified G2, the least restrictive. They could take classes and get certifications, make phone calls and work an unpaid job.

In the middle was an area for G4 and G5. The inmates are in a plexi-glass enclosure with about 12 chairs. Visitors sit on the other side in front of them with with short panels separating each one to give a little privacy. One inmate had eight visitors. 4 adults and 4 children. He was one of the lucky ones to have so much support from family.

There were 8 locked cubicles like the one I was sitting in front of. The phone was terrible. Distortion. I had to talk loudly. I would have asked to be moved but the rest were full. The past weekend I was at #3 and the phone was better. The folding chair I had to sit on was so low the counter hit me mid chest. The metal phone cord wasn’t very long and it killed my shoulder holding the phone to my ear. I suppose they don’t want anyone to get too comfortable.

The prison had been on lockdown for about 1 1/2 months. An inmate in gen pop (general population) committed suicide – hung himself. The entire prison went on lock down while they did an investigation to see if it was suicide or gang (or guard) related. “What more can they take away from you?” I asked him. “My one hour of rec.” In a solitary cage. If he was G4 he could go to the yard – play basketball and talk to people, which is also dangerous because guards have pet inmates who do their dirty work for privileges. He is never safe. Every time he has gotten out of seg something happened and he was put back. A guard can file a false case. One time he was sent to adseg for a couple years because a homemade knife “appeared” on his sink during a cell search. It doesn’t leave him with much hope when he gets out of adseg this time – sometime – that he’ll be able to stay out, but he has to try.

Jamie has been in 8 prisons. When they let him out it’s possible he could be moved to another prison. He has already been as far west and south in Texas as possible. It’s is a big state. He could be moved too far away for his son to travel to see him because no one will take him. I might be able visit and take him if he is a two day drive away.

My daughter hates that Jamie and I have been writing. After all, he was her old boyfriend. I had sent him a card many years ago asking how he was. If I had never met him maybe I wouldn’t have. He wrote back. Over time I learned I was the only one writing to him – even his family wouldn’t write – was I supposed to stop? When the writing continues for more than a decade was I not supposed to care about him? We’ve both been through our fair share of personal crisis. I’ve been there for him and he’s been there for me. No one else was willing to help him get simple necessities. Not having someone on the outside makes it easy to for the prison to break them. Depression takes hold when no one cares. Knowing him prompted my writing, my music and research for the truth. I wanted to help him and it would help myself. Give him dreams to hang on to. My daughter thinks it’s inappropriate. Too much has been said in front of their boy that would be hard for him to process.

Prison is a society unlike any other society and it changes you. It makes it nearly impossible to have a “normal” life because you have acquired no life experience that is needed to live in the “Free World”. How to survive in prison is all an inmate learns, which is why so many end up back inside. He can’t be expected to know things he has never done. The world has changed. Society as a while makes it hard. Anyone who has been in prison has to be dangerous.

Because of trauma, letters become emotional when pain and frustration boils over. I feel his loneliness, dispair and anger at not being able to change what happens. He is supposed to have rights, but he has no rights. It’s a farce. I am the only left to fight for him. I pour these emotions into my writing, music, poetry and letters. It’s all I can do to give him a feeling of self worth and to know he hasn’t been forgotten – because everyone else has. I do care. I can’t deny that. I have to see this through because to do anything less makes me just like everyone else.  I won’t do that.

If he does all of his time he gets out early 2023. About 5 years. That seems like a long time but he’s done more than 2/3 of his time. He wants to make get parol buthe doesn’t have his GED yet or a trained skill, a place to live and family who writes letters of support. These are needed. I have a lot to do to help make life possible on the outside. I’ll be 69 and my health isn’t great. I need to finish the book, develop a business around a brand, write this blog, work on my music business and build a mailing list to let people know. 

If you aren’t on the mailing list please subscribe below to get the ITFO NEWS. It is one way you can keep up with what is happening. It helps. You can share what I write. It does make a difference. I reach out to many people affected by the prisons. We are learning there is strength in numbers. We can use that strength to help the many people inside and their families.

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Finally Going To The Prison To See Jamie!

There is a letter below I wrote to Jamie some time ago. It isn’t dated, but it was within the last two years. I was going through documents. For those of you who have read his letters or even some of the ones I posted that are mine, have commented on our relationship. You can’t write such personal letters to someone for this many years and not care about them. When the only communication you can have is the written word you learn a lot about each other.

This coming Wednesday I am finally taking a trip to Texas and I will be taking Jamie’s son to see him. He hasn’t seen him in almost 3 years – the last time I visited. He probably got my letter today where I told him I’m coming down. I wish I could have been there when he got the letter just to see the happiness on his face! I was hoping I could get new pictures but they only have a photographer one day in a month and it won’t be when I am there.

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Dear Jamie,
You and I – all these years behind us – our writing was never based on sex. It has always been been about friendship and being there for you because your family never was. You have always been behind bars. So we never had a fight or a break up and get back together the way every other relationship does. We haven’t hurt each other. We haven’t been judgemental. It was very rare to even see each other – only one time. But I know Jamie, as much as I have ever known anything, that I do love you, because you can’t write to someone for that long and not care. We have had these years of writing and getting to know each other. It was never about sex and romance.  It has been about two people who have been there for each other when we needed it. We both knew what it felt like to be abandoned by the very people you would expect to care and that is hard to deal with.

You in prison and me out here – it doesn’t matter what we look like. It doesn’t matter how old we are. It doesn’t matter that I am 9 years older than your mother. I know you – the man. I know your hurts. I know your desires. You can be honest with me about anything. You can tell me when you fail. You can tell me when you win, because underlying the whole thing is that I care very much that you succeed. I want you to get out of there and have a life you enjoy and are proud of. And I know that is going to be very hard because you won’t know what to do. It will be like getting out and no one speaks English and no one understands what you are saying. It will be very frustrating – and angering – because you will want respect and people are not going to want to give it to you. I understand because it is the same thing I go through with my family and it hurts. But it won’t put me in prison. You? It could, if you are not very very careful. But how can you know what to do when you don’t know what to do? It’s a vicious circle. This is why I stress that you have to be working on this now – not when you get out, or that swinging door will hit you in the ass and knock you back inside. Beyond baking you a cake, your family will not help you.

I am working hard to help you become the man you are inside that no one else sees.  I am working to make your life respectable and help you create a life inside this book I’m writing that will hopefully give you the support of people who will know who you are before you ever walk out those doors.reap what you sow

I am here for you to lean on so you don’t feel alone. This is the kind of love two people have when the desire for sex wears off – it always wears off. People start their relationship on how good the sex is but when they get bored they break up and find other people.  This happens because they didn’t take the time to learn how to communicate and be honest with each other.  I’m getting old and will be quite old when you get out. If I were younger it would be different. It’s really kind of a shame in some ways, but in a good way it doesn’t run through the negatives like jealousy and insecurity or wondering if the other person is cheating on them. It surpasses all that. I continue to use “mom” and “son” in my letters because people reading the blog would never be able to understand. I play the role of what a mother should be doing for you and isn’t. Your mother loves you because she gave birth to you – but she doesn’t know you nor does she understand how her lack of being there for you has affected you. This is why – all those years ago when I realized you had no one to count on – I jumped in there to fill that empty space. You had been through too much in your life and I was afraid you wouldn’t make it. Most everyone wondered, “Why do you even care?”  It’s because that is the way I am. If I were to describe my personality – I am a “fixer” with an addictive personality. That means when I do something – I do it completely, no matter what it is. I see things through to the end.

encouragement, grief, oevercoming obastacles

It was something about you. There was a reason that brought us into each others life and I believe it isn’t the first time. You and I are continuing on a path we’ve been on before or I wouldn’t have this intense desire/need to make sure you are okay. This need to help teach you what you need to know to change this path for yourself. This urgency to keep telling you that you have to take control and make your life go in the direction you want it to instead of letting life slap you around. That is love, Jamie. I want you to have a better life.  There is a positive inside every negative so even this time in prison has a positive inside it if you learn the meaning of why it happened to you.

Do you not think I have smiled and wished my life wasn’t going by as fast as it is – and inside my head I think I’m still 30. My brain thinks it but every day when I look in the mirror I go yuck – another wrinkle! My hair is starting to thin along my forehead. My skin is starting to get that crepe paper feel to it. I’m not 30 anymore. But the heart has no age. It gets bigger and it lets in more people. You can love someone and it doesn’t exclude another person and kick him out. You know, Mike and I have been married for quite a few years. We love each other. I know how much he loves me, because what we have now is far beyond the physical. We have friendship, the caring, the conversation, we have the same interests, I love to cook for him, and I know he loves me and I can count on him being there. What I want is for you to do -eventually – after you get your life together — find a woman and have a family – and if she did anything to hurt you she’d have to deal with me! lol. You deserve to have a full relationship with someone while you are still young enough to enjoy it

Mike is finally starting to understand my relationship with you. He watched a movie about a man in prison for life. This man, growing up, every day his father beat him and told him he did it because he loved him, so he learned that love was about how much pain he could make people feel. He grew up and become a very angry man. He killed a woman and child. In prison he was contacted by the woman’s mother and over time they developed a relationship. The man said, “For the first time I knew what love was. This woman should hate me for what I did. He cried”. He was speaking directly to the camera and cried.  I looked at Mike and said to him, “Do you understand now?” (meaning you) He said, “Yes, that is why I showed you this.” His attitude about prisoners – once a loser, always a loser – was wrong. He knows that now. You can’t automatically decide someone isn’t worth it just because they are sitting in a prison cell. You are human, and I couldn’t care less that you are in prison, as far as judging you as a person. It doesn’t affect how I feel about you. And Mike, my husband, is not worried about my relationship with you. Why – because he understands the value of our relationship – his and mine – and yours and mine.

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“A Person Can Have More Than One Mom,” His Mother Tells Me.

(Sonni’s note: before you get to the end of this letter you will see evidence of what I have been saying about the lack of decent medical care. Simple procedures for people in pain. They will not do anything they can get away with not doing – and that is medical among other things. It screws up their profit margin)

Nov, 29, 2010
Hello Mom, Good Evening,

So how are you doing? Fine I hope. As for me, well, I’m a lot better now that I’m out of lockdown. As for the trouble part. I’m in a cell by myself. I could be here for two or three months before I get moved. So I’m not worried about the trouble part right now, mom. Only when the time comes for me to move. However, I’m sure I’ll know how to handle the situation when it comes, mom.

As for the phone privileges, yes ma’am, it’s the one thing I pray we could get around to.It would mean a lot to me to be able to speak to you, Megan and the kids. They will only do land lines. Cell phones they won’t let us call ( Sonni:s note: That rule was changed recently and they do allow cell phones, perhaps because many people no longer have land lines. ) Well, it’s been over two years not this has been going on. The system is crazy. Officers bring in all kinds of stuff. Yes, even cell phones. Anyway, two years ago one of the inmates called the governor. They sent him and his family threats. It may seem like it has nothing to do with outgoing calls, However the lady said they can’t keep up with all the cell calls. I think it’s because not all of them are contract lines. They can’t keep up with the prepaid phones. So I’m sure they’re not going to let it happen. The only way for me to call to Pa is to put your mother on my list. I don’t want to put you through that trouble. Oh, you’re on my visitors list. Actually, you’ve been on it over a year now. I was hoping you was going to come to the prison and visit one day when you come to visit Megan and the kids. ( Sonni: note: it was exactly three more years before I was able to make that visit. I am hoping to go back this coming Sept, two years after that visit. )

Yes, it would be nice to get transferred closer to home. The weather, it gets chilly down here. It has snowed a few times as well. This prison has no heat.

it's okay to have more than one mom,Jamie Cummings, prison visits
photo credit: bing.com

Family, well nothing has changed. I wrote my brother and mom the same time I wrote you. Neither one have yet to write back. So much for help. I guess I need to give them more time. If they don’t write this week I know they probably aren’t going to. Sometimes I think they won’t write me because they don’t want me to ask for help. however, I know they will help me if they can. So I’m really trying to find out why they don’t write. Maybe I’ll find out later. Right now I have to concentrate on getting home.

( Sonni’s note: he’s still waiting for that help to come. After nine years, I don’t think it’s going to happen. On the spur of the moment, before I lost my nerve, and because I didn’t want to make it worse for him, two days ago I wrote to his mother. It was a nice text. I didn’t have her address. I talked to her one time recently about Jamie’s early life for the book I’m writing and it was a good conversation. We talked for two hours. So I wrote to her and told her I was having trouble paying the prison medical fee this year, $100, so he can call for a doctor when he needs it, because of his medical problems. medical is not free. Everyone has to pay that $100, and since many people can’t, they don’t don’t ask to see a doctor even when they are really sick because going even one time cost $100. Once it is paid then he can use it for the rest of the year. But if you have no one to pay it for you, you’re up the crick without a paddle. I’m sure he has already told her this, so I don’t know if my asking will do any good. It’s not a lot of money, except that I only have a disability check and I also send a little money for commissary and maybe a couple books. I have covered all the things he has needed by myself. I thought, what can she do? Get angry because I asked her if she would help pay for something for her son? Feel guilty for allowing me to take care of something family should at the very least help pay? This is why he calls me “Mom”. Because I took over the role of being his mother. She knows he calls me mom and said it’s okay. “A person can have more than one mom.” she says. At least I got past that hurdle. I didn’t know how she would take it knowing he called me mom. I guess he wrote to her and told her himself because she already knew. I wasn’t trying to alienate her. I’ve been trying to fill a very big hole. She will always be his mother and will love her no matter what. It’s just hard on me to hear him be so despondent at times because I know how much he wants to hear from her, and waits and waits and waits. Every child, no matter how old he gets, at times, wants his mother. He wants her to say that it’s going to be okay and it helps him get through another day. Severe depression in prison is very common. I haven’t heard anything back from her yet. yet.)

About commissary – yes, there are a lot of people who are like me. Also there are people who trade and sell hygiene products for goods. There are some whose family cares and some that don’t. I want to thank you personally for caring mom (thank you). No, I didn’t have nobody to help me with my attorney. I was talking to some dude about my case. They said I could try to get a time cut. As I was talking to them I remember my brother saying something about ten years. The thing is I was never told nothing about ten years. So I’m going to try and get a time cut. They will help me in the law library. Hopefully it would help. If not there’s nothing wrong with trying.

I feel it’s always been hard. Not just for blacks but for everyone. There’s a lot that makes it hard for everyone. Things like school, family, work and society. It’s the way life is hard. and stressful. Life isn’t easy, you’re right. We all go through struggles. We’ll make it through it. I’ve been riding it out for five years now. I pray that things will change.

About my knee. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. When it swells up it stays swollen for like a month and a half. It goes down and then swells back up. it’s crazy. Sharp pain over my knee cap. It’s both knees but I have more problem with my right. I stretch it all the time. I told the doctor it needs to be drained. SHE SAID,”THEY WON’T DO IT.” ( caps are Sonni’s) Well, I need to get this in the door before they pick up mail.

Love always, Son
P.S. Thank you Mom