Incarcerating The Innocent- Prison is big business

amendment-clipart-6166831

Prison is big business. There is lots of money to be made by prison slavery. If you think it is anything but that you are sadly mistaken or uneducated about our justice system. You believe the garbage put out by the news that black people are dangerous and Hispanics are rapists and murders. Who did we hear that from? And the attorney general wants to increase the prisons and make new crimes. 

What does it matter if the person arrested is innocent or guilty? Incarcerating the innocent? Locking up the mentally ill? Sentencing young children as adults? All of that is worth big bucks to the corporations who run the prisons as well as the American companies who make the products consumers buy.  They want the free labor, unless you think .10 – .22 is actually a wage. Do you? Seriously, do you?  Does it bother you at all?

Do you want to know which of the products you buy was made by the free labor of a prison inmate? As a consumer how much did you pay for that piece of Victoria Secret’s Lingerie? Prisons make more items than you realize, as well as a lot of the gear used by the military, the police and even the servers at fast food chains. Dentures, computer parts and furniture. How much is it worth to a company to not have high labor costs, workman’s comp, sick leave, maternity leave, overtime or vacation pay? Companies bid for prison labor. Do you think these companies want prisons to close down or should America  build more?  Do you think they care if the people inside are guilty or innocent? Absolutely not.  They think of their bottom line.

I have been writing about these issues for more than a few years, but I have reading, researching and learning about problems in prisons for a lot longer than that. It floors me that prisons are allowed to severely mistreat people inside and no one stops them. They are fed poorly. Only those inmates at the top level of minimum security – G2 – are allowed to take any educational classes. The lowest population of people are in G2. The rest are in G4, G5, adseg and solitary. They make sure people stay in those levels even if they have to file false cases to keep them there. If they do make it out of prison they don’t have anyway to get a job because they don’t have a GED. Some people put comments at My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison saying these people deserve every bad thing that happens to them because they are criminals, without knowing if they are guilty or if they were incarcerated as innocent. Many were kept from a jury trial because they couldn’t pay an attorney. Do say they had a public defender because they work for the DA and there job is to scare them into taking a plea or more charges would be added. What would you do if the choice was fifteen years or fifty? Would you take the plea – even if you were innocent?

How can that be? Now we have a president and an attorney general who wants to make it worse for inmates plus create new crimes to lock up even more people, especially those who aren’t white. Why would they want to do that? There was only four reasons I could think of. Money Racism Money and Money. Or they have serious mental issues. People at the top who have always had the ability to do something about it must be profiting from it in some way. Obama was finally “beginning” to do something, but this new administration hates him so much they want to undo anything he did.

Beginning of mass incarceration
The beginning of mass incarceration of Blacks

This has been going on for longer than Obama. Let’s go back to Nixon who began the war on drugs for the sole purpose of locking up black people. Politicians get campaign money from the Prison Industrial Complex to vote for laws to their benefit while entertainment licensed stations like Fox News convinced oppressors that black people are inferior, with a lower IQ and are born with a criminal gene – and white people actually believed it. Of course, white people were superior! I’m white, and I’d be embarrassed if I had to say I believed that.

Who are the people who have have money invested in the prison corporations? CoreCivic (prepare yourself for pure propaganda) – aka CCA- stock rose when Trump was elected because he was heavily promoting locking up more people and increasing mandatory minimums. Prison corporations probably had a party to celebrate.  Or maybe we have too many KKK affiliates in our government. But today people are dumping their stock is dropping because of what is happening in this administration. Why do we have so many people in power who don’t care if innocent people are locked up? Those of us with loved ones inside – we understand what is happening. We know the truth. But the truth doesn’t matter. Only profit does.

I never thought much about prisons before I met Jamie in 2005 shortly before he was arrested. I was ignorant. I only knew what I saw in movies or TV series like Prison Break. I didn’t question anything. It didn’t affect my life before this. When I started researching I thought, could this be true? Was it really happening? Why didn’t I know about it?

How about the series, Orange is the New Black? A fifteen month sentence and it’s been on what – five or six seasons? Their guards are like comedians. The inmates talk about awful food, but I saw what they serve at there nice little buffet in their once room cafeteria. This is what people watch to find truth about the prison system? The information can be found if they stopped watching TV. But then they are watching it to be entertained, not to learn something.

It’s a joke. It looks like a joke. It’s no wonder people think what they do. Unless you know someone inside or do some serious searching, prison looks like a great place to be. Free education, except you have to be on the top level if you want to study for your GED or learn a trade, and trust me, if you are black or a minority they have no qualms filing false cases to make sure you stay on the lower levels. 12 years Jamie has been locked and never has there been a GED class in sight for him.

I’m not going to take the time today to go through everything I know to be true, just understand that I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t. I have a few trolls who like to leave comments calling me names and telling me how stupid I am. They say all people are in prison because they ARE GUILTY! They deserve to be abused. If you do the crime you have to do the time. Yes, there are many people in prison who are guilty, and some are guilty of very bad things, but I am talking about the ones who are not. Being guilty or not guilty is rarely the reason one goes to prison. It comes down to this – do you have the money to pay for an attorney? If you don’t, you usually have to accept a plea deal. Plead guilty and you’ll get less years. Plead innocent and they will tack on extra charges. Either way, you now have a felony record. When you get out it will be nearly impossible to rent an apartment and if you find a job it will likely pay  less because they know you are a desperate for a job and will take anything In addition – you can’t vote.

Crime is down, so how can Trump and Sessions talk about there being a rise in crime when the courts have put so many innocent people in prison? In addition, the mandatory minimum sentencing is far to long to make any sense. How can I know this? Because I read about so many people, mostly black and Hispanic men who fight for decades to prove their innocence – and they get out. Even with proof the DA tries their damnedest to keep them locked up. Why? To save face? Because they can’t admit they were wrong? Or because when the prisons are full, our government doesn’t have to pay the Prison Industrial Complex for empty beds? The government is on the hook to keep the prisons full any way they can. They don’t care if people are innocent or guilty – only that they fill a prison bed. The system is corrupt. It is a slave system that imprisons citizens.

We need to support people who are tying hard to not get convicted for something they didn’t do, and to find an attorney who will take their case. Only 3% of those arrested get to see a judge to present evidence. They never make it court except to plead guilty and agree to go to prison. They don’t care when they make someone plead guilty when they aren’t?

I have talked to a fair amount of people who weren’t guilty. Some are out now, and some are still working on their cases. This must be stopped! The point of prison is to punish the guilty, not make corporations rich. A sentence should be equal to the crime and rehabilitation needs to be there to help them become productive citizens. The point of prison is not to destroy people so they can’t live. It also destroys the lives of the guards who have to live with the things they have done to these people.

Can it be stopped?

The Prison to Poverty Pipeline

americancivilwar-com-f-douglas
source credit: american civilwar.com

Frederick Douglass, a slave in Maryland who became an abolitionist and journalist said, “It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”

“To make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken the moral and mental vision and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.”

How often have you heard: Black people are stupid.  Genetically they don’t have the abilities of white people. Genetically they are predisposed to be criminals. If you hear anything enough you start regarding it as truth.  Many white people thoroughly believe they are a higher cut of human being.

In July, Bill O’Reilly making an extremely stupid remark on air at Fox News, commenting on Michele Obama’s comment that slaves built the Whitehouse said, “Those slaves werewell fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. 

women prison labor
photo credit: popularresistance.org

Most people do not realize how many of the products they purchase off the shelf and on online sites are products made by slaves in the prisons for as little as .29 an hour.  From Eddie Bauer’s jeans to Victoria Secret’s lingerie to military ammunition and supplies our police force needs to needlessly subdue anyone they choose to stop and harass. These products made by prison inmates are used against themselves. Inmates who are paid a ‘wage’, when released are presented with a bill for room and board which puts those released in high debt in a society where it is nearly impossible to rent an apartment or find a job.  It is important to keep the prisons full, and no politician shooting off his or her mouth about reducing prison populations will be able to accomplish more than a small amount to make it look as if something positive is happening.

How do they keep the prisons full? They start with the children and separate them from their family intent on ruining their chances of getting ahead.  Are their children who are uncontrollable.  Yes, but you have to go back to the beginning of their lives. How many of them have parents in prison?  How many of the men in their families have been to prison, because the odds for a black man is one in three.  The odds for Hispanics: one in six. A black man with a high school education has a 70% chance of going to prison.  So, logically, keep a black man out of school and there is a greater likelihood of filling the prisons because – no education means no job.

When Jamie gets out of prison when he is 40, and so far they have kept him at a level where he is allowed no phone, no job and no education. The property manager at the prison physically took his GED book and 18 other books from him – for no reason, when he was transferred .  I can only conclude that she didn’t want him to self-educate.  One of his greatest worries is wondering what will become of him when he gets out, because although he knows I am here, I will be pushing 70 when he gets out and my health is not the best.

Most people have heard of the ‘school to prison pipeline’, but it is more than that. It is also the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’, the ‘poverty to prison pipeline’ and the ‘prison to poverty pipeline’. Why is there a funnel that keeps a never ending supply of children being forced through it knowing it will irrevocably alter the course of their lives. Sadly, many, or perhaps most of these children won’t have a chance to build a positive life.  They can never play catch up because they are too far behind the eight ball. They will have to support themselves anyway they can find to do so. Legal or illegal because you have to eat.  The prisons bank on the revolving back doors of the prisons.  It is the least costly way of keeping the prisons full.

If these men and women had a support structure in the beginning, there is a good chance it isn’t there any more. Their life experiences and what they learn living in a biased justice system that doesn’t supply them with the experiences and subsequent wisdom they need, or the courage and confidence to have a life filled with love and hope. These are broken men – and women. The odds are completely stacked against them unless they are lucky enough to find an organization that guides them into the right direction.

I have read, if a prisoner is paroled they have a step down program that counsels them on re-entering society and helping them find at least a half-way house. Prisons do not have any programs for those that do their entire time. They are simply put out the door with 30 days of medications, a bus ticket, a few bucks and they are on their own if there is no one to pick them up. There are some programs if they can find them after they are released. If they had been in solitary confinement – they go from their cell to the street.  I can’t even imagine how horrifying that is.

What we learn as children sets the stage for how we make decisions in our lives when we become adults. If a person comes from a dysfunctional or broken family who had children without knowing themselves what it means to parent children, how are they able to learn what behavior and control is needed in society. They may end up in foster care bounced from home to home until they drop out.  What do they have the time to learn if their education has been totally disrupted and no one cares one iota if they succeed or fail?

Not every child who has been suspended from school came from a family such as this. Some just had the misfortune of having a teacher with the tendency to suspend more black children than white. Teachers often have more tolerance and leniency toward white children. They suspend 4x more black children than white. Without realizing it these teachers when they were children may have learned their bias from the adults around them. They may never say it aloud, but they can’t help but believe and expect their black students to be trouble makers.

When I was a child going through middle school in the 60’s not one child was handcuffed

kids in handcuff
photo course: bordc.org

by the police and put in the back of a police car. Not one. Not a single solitary one. But then, the first black classmate I had was in 5th grade and he was the only one. Through 6th grade black students were segregated simply because they lived in the black neighborhoods.  I never went into those neighborhoods.  I was too scared. Why? Why did I feel that way? What did I hear, and when, to make me afraid to go where they lived?  I couldn’t tell you. Not one school had a cop – a trained and sometimes brutally physical cop, who sometimes slammed kids to the ground, the way they do now. There were no cops on school premises every hour the school was open. What the hell happened? Children haven’t changed. Parents and parenting changed. Adults, coming from the baby boomer age wanted to be friends with their kids, gave them more freedom, didn’t teach them to respect the generation that raised them. Parents lost control.

At school it became  easier to suspend students than to work with them. Many schools no longer have on site guidance counselors or nurses. (This article should make you cry or get very angry) There have always been mischievous kids – pranksters – kids who picked on other kids and kids who would get into physical fights. They were sent to the principal’s office and he meted out punishment. Maybe the paddle, which I admit to getting, and it was never considered abuse. I deserved it, I’m sure. Or we got detention or a meeting with parents would happen, but never was a child handcuffed and taken away – until it became profitable. Then the child would have to see a judge and often, most often, if you were black you went to juvenile detention. Why? Why is there zero tolerance for young children doing what children do? Why did it become so necessary to ruin so many young lives?

This funnel was called the “school to prison pipeline” because so many children who were forced through it could never get their lives on track. Juvenile detention changed them. Many became angry. Many were sexually abused. Until just this year juvenile facilities used solitary confinement as punishment if they ‘broke a rule’. Now children cannot be put in solitary, but it took one boy committing suicide to make the change. If adult brains can be permanently scarred, what would it do to a child? It is heartbreaking. I’m not talking about children who have committed a serious crime, I’m talking about a child who had a teacher who couldn’t, wouldn’t take the time to help  because perhaps they had too many kids in their classroom, so it was easier to call the on-site cop who feeds him into the system.

It is quite odd and very disturbing that the majority of the children fed into this pipeline are black. Teachers who were interviewed admitted they are more likely to kick a black child out of class than a white child. Hispanics are in the middle. What does it say about us as nation, supposedly a Christian nation, some people think, yet our dislike and fear of black people even extends down to children, who are also supposedly children of God, if you believe in that sort of thing. Why are black children treated as though it is in their genes to be criminals, which is impossible. The state system, quite frankly, took away their realization that they, too, have just as much to offer as white children. Many have been set on the road for failure because the new definition of slavery lives in the prisons.

It is drilled into them that they don’t fit into a white man’s privileged society. I know we have many successful people color. I am talking about the ones the juvenile justice system got hold of and created a revolving door class of uneducated children who grew up and couldn’t get on their feet and landed in prison quite often convicted erroneously.

This blog is dedicated to Jamie Cummings who spent far more years in juvenile detention than what he was sentenced. He should not have been sentenced in the first place.  It is appalling what they did to him. No crime was committed. A cop who had harassed him earlier illegally kicked his way into his house with no probable cause and no warrant. His mother was badly hurt. Since Jamie was a minor they gave him 9 months in juvenile detention because he was the only one they could “punish”.  His brother was over eighteen and there was nothing they could charge him with.  His other brother was just a young boy and his sister was pregnant. So Jamie was it.  There needed to be some reason why the cop kicked the door in. But they didn’t let him out in nine months. He was in for more than four years, until he turned 21. By then he was seriously depressed in a juvenile facility for kids with mental issues. He did three stints in solitary confinement which they called Behavior Modification Programs or BMP. The day he got out, walking home from visiting a cousin he was arrested again for only walking and someone thought he looked suspicious. You can read this story in more detail. What do you think happened to his education?

Jamie didn’t need to be sacrificed for the Prison Industrial Complex as someone to increase the profit of their bottom line. The possibilities of his life was shattered. But would he have had a successful life coming from the poor section of small town in east Texas where job opportunities were slim? We’ll never know. He has grown up while being locked up, a total now of more than 14 1/2 years with 6 1/2 to go.

How many more children have suffered the sadness of having their lives stolen from them for profit. So many of these children end up getting in more trouble and ending up back inside. What else do they know?

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

 

download
ITFO Newsletter

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni’s Pinterest
If you haven’t “liked” Jamie’s facebook page yet you can do so in the info under this post.

You can also follow the blog by email so you don’t miss any posts. That, too, is in the info beneath the post

Inside The Forbidden Outside – The Hardest Lesson to Learn

This chapter is broken into two segments to make it easier to read in one sitting.  The first part is my words, and part two are letters from Jamie.  Part two was already published as the chapter, “I’ll Love You Always, Daddy”  It was expanded because of other letters I found.

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE     by Sonni Quick  COPYRIGHT 2016

See the SoundCloud link below to go to the rest of the music.  As with all web based media, all stats, likes and shares helps to spread the word as I try to get this off the ground.  it would be appreciated more than you know.

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

THE HARDEST LESSON TO LEARN

       The hardest lesson to learn in life is the one where you realize, no matter what you do, there is nothing you can do to change it. You can’t make it better on the outside, because you can no longer control it. But you can learn to pay attention to things you do now, because there are effects to every cause we make, good and bad. These causes send our life in directions we often later regret. We can’t go back and do things over, but we can do other things that effect our future in a better way.
        Through the book there are times when both Jamie and I speak because our stories became intertwined during these years. At the moment I am reading through hundreds of letters Jamie has written to me over these years. He has, in reality, grown up while being locked up. He has been locked up since before he turned sixteen, except for a brief period when he met my daughter after he was released from juvenile detention and they now have a son. Today, in 2016, he is thirty three. That is a lot of life to lose, and unless there are things learned that will make the rest of his life better than it would have been had he not gone in, then that is a high price to pay for wisdom.      

       In a way, I have watched him grow and mature from a boy into a man. He had to decide which lessons he needed to learn so he would be able to figure things out for himself. That hasn’t been an easy road.  There is only so much you can understand unless you were taught. We learn wisdom by our life experiences. What do you do when you don’t have the practical experiences needed to acquire wisdom? What happens when the things you do learn are not the right things for life on the outside?

       Because he really needed one, I became mom, although he is much more than that to me. His biological mother seldom made a step into his world and he was left with no support, emotionally or financially.  One of my worries was how does he not become institutionalized? I have seen the effects of that with other people who were not able to adjust when they got out. Where does he direct the anger he has over the way people have treated him? Anger is one way to cover up pain, and that pain, at times, becomes unbearable, especially when it involves his son.
        Because Jamie is in prison, does that make him a bad person? Should one of his consequences be people looking at him through the lens of “once a loser, always a loser?” Many people on the outside have only one view, and that is to look at convicts as always being criminals. It’s hard to pay the complete price and not be judged as a loser. There is no mid ground. They can never finish paying their dues. People may say inmates deserve a second chance, but only as long as they do not live near them and not in their neighborhood. Inmates are judged harshly by non perfect people who don’t think of the things they might have done in their own past, but didn’t get caught. Haven’t we all done things we aren’t proud of, or did something that was at least on the edge of being against the law? Haven’t we all been blamed for something we didn’t do, yet no one believed us?
        I often read comments like this about black people that were left at the end of articles. Many of these people are white and consider black people as having crime in their genes along with not being overly bright. A stigma is attached to being black. White privilege is usually dripping with sarcasm about what they think they deserve over black people, simply because they were born white. Blacks can never be good enough in the eyes of many white people who still think of themselves as being privileged. That is the way our justice system works.
I now have two half black grandsons. In my opinion, from what I’ve seen, boys have it harder than girls, when being harassed by the police, although I know it’s been hard on the females as well. Racism has entered my home. I know now what it is like to be frightened for my family. It is easy to say you aren’t racist when you are white, when you don’t have to worry about your family. But as long as the percentage of black to white remains the way it is in the prisons, I have reason to fear for my family as any other black grandmother does.

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

       The negative way many people see black people has intentionally been driven into the heads of white people by our government over the last thirty years to support their ‘War on Drugs.’ Tell a lie long enough and people will believe it. The government is largely responsible for the intense racism still going on in America to support the bottom line profit of the corporations that own and operate a large percentage of the state prisons. to make a profit there needs to be an endless supply of people being incarcerated. Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities fill those quotas.
        There are four kinds of incarcerated people. One: People who should never be allowed to roam free among people because their crimes have proven they have no idea what the difference is between right and wrong. Two: There is nowhere to house the mentally ill. They don’t get the treatment they desperately need and are instead put in solitary confinement cells and neglected until their insanity is complete. These people often die in prison from neglect. Three: There are those that made a stupid mistake. They aren’t a danger to society and want another chance to prove it. Four: The innocent, and there are quite a few of them if you take the time to read the pleas of help from people who are supporting people who have been charged with crimes they didn’t commit.
        Judging from the number of people who are set free from prison, often after being incarcerated for decades, because they were finally proven innocent, shows you how deliberate the judicial system has been in locking up as many blacks and minorities as possible. These incarcerated people are valuable to the the corporations who want them for free labor just as plantations owners were in the past who needed slaves. In addition, there are many supplies needed for these millions of people and companies bid on the contracts to be the ones to supply them. Prison is big business. To stop this way of doing business will be fought by those corporations.
        The blacks and minorities are often forced to take pleas offered to them by public defenders who work for the District Attorney, not the people they are supposed to be defending. These people either take the plea deal, or they are threatened with having more charges added. This is what happened to Jamie. He wanted to go to court. He wanted to explain his side of the story, but he would never get that chance. He finally had to accept the seventeen year plea deal or he was threatened with  up to ninety-nine years if he insisted on going to court. They intended to scare him and they succeeded. He had no one on his side he could get advice from. He was more alone than he had ever been in his life. He knew he was screwed.
        Jamie became the next person to help fill quota the Prison Industrial Complex had been promised by our government with twenty year contracts.. The corporations were promised the prisons would be kept full or they would be paid for each empty bed. No one cared what happened to the people who got sucked into this system. He was a criminal. He didn’t deserve consideration. He was no longer a human being. He was a number. #1368189.
        Year after year Jamie sits in his prison cell and tries to live through the grief of his ruined life. The letters he wrote to me are a diary of his time inside and the inhumane way he was treated.  After years of writing, I learned for the first time, why our prisons are continuously being built. At the time, though, I didn’t know anything. I never gave one thought about the prisons. They didn’t exist in my life. It never made it into the news. The only people who understood what was happening was the black community, but if anything at all was said, it was to instill in the minds of white people that black people were dangerous and far less intelligent. They were told blacks were lazy and didn’t want to work. They grew to believe black people kept having more kids to get bigger welfare checks. The people who did do that were just as white as they were black. It wasn’t decided by skin color.

       People believe what they read in the news and when anything is said often enough, it is believed as truth. Trying to change that perception today is hard. They don’t want to believe that their hatred and fear wasn’t warranted. There had to be a reason why cops were killing black people left and right and the police were giving excuses for killing black boys and men by saying they were were afraid for their lives, even if the person they killed had no weapon. We’ve all read the stories.
        When I growing up I was scared to death of black people. There was a line down the middle of our town and the blacks lived on the other side and whites on the other. I remember wanting to touch their skin to see if it felt different. I wasn’t racist – until I got into my teens, but that is another story for another time.
        Later in life I thought, like everyone else, the purpose of our prisons was to lock up bad people so our country would be safe for everyone else. The government, during the Nixon administration, manufactured the war on crime and the war on drugs. I thought it was true. I learned the prisons were full of extremely bad people. But when a closer look is taken, it seems that in the 1980’s and 90’s our country spawned a very large number of black people we needed to be protected from.
        New prisons were being built at a fast rate and still are. The news was full of stories about crack cocaine and heroin. It was a problem. It still is, but we were told over and over we needed to be afraid of black people, not white people. They made us afraid to walk on the same side of the street with black people because they were going to rob us. Walk on the other side of the street, we were warned. Be afraid, be very afraid of anyone wearing a sweatshirt with a hoodie, as if the sweatshirt alone turned them into thugs. Black people couldn’t help it, we were taught. They were born that way. It was in their genes.
        White people were rarely associated with these drugs.  In reality, the use of drugs is  evenly split between black and white. But the government needed people to believe the problem was because of the blacks, to support the war of drugs, to support the building of endless prisons, and to support the corporations who were in it for profit. They won. The plantations of the south simply moved inside the prisons and business continued as usual. Can we undo the damage that has been done to the black race? It will be hard because it spawned a new generation of racists right on down through the police and the justice system.
        Jamie is not in prison for drugs, but everything that was happening also affected how the two races, as well as Hispanics and other minorities, were sentenced. The sentence of Life without parole is handed down to all non whites much more often. White offenders were given much lighter sentences straight across the board. You need only look at the prison population to see this. There are also many more black not guilty inmates. When an inmate is finally set free who isn’t guilty that inmate is usually black and has served on average of 20-30 years of his life for no valid reason.
        How come we have so many more dangerous people in America who need to be locked up for the rest of their lives than there are in other countries? How could we have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of all the prisoners? What was wrong with the United States that there were so many more bad people living here who didn’t need to be locked up before, but they do now? Why did the concentrate black people to arrest?  Why were so many more black people given LWOP – life without parole?  The average person never knew this. They didn’t even know it was a question they should be asking because it wasn’t reported in the news  the way it is now. Most people supported Bill Clinton’s ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ law, because we were ill informed of the reality of the prisons or the gradual takeover of the prisons by the Prison Industrial Complex. Prisons are big business. The people believed the fallacy that they were supporting the curtailing of crime being perpetrated by black people.
      It has only been only in recent years that we have been able to look back and see what has happened since the “War of Drugs” began. To make it worse, there were 6 times more black people locked up than white people, even though 77% of our population is white and 13% is black as of the census report in 2014. It hasn’t changed. The percentage is still the same. One out of every three black men can expect to spend time in prison during their life time.
      The government, the media and the people who own the prison corporations have done a hatchet job on the black population in America. The black race was expendable simply because they weren’t good enough to be white. They needed to fill the prisons with someone. The white population would have never tolerated it if there were more whites locked up than blacks. Authorities were picking people off the street and jailing them for no other reason than they were walking down the street in colored skin; any color other than white. Now people know the truth, but changing their hearts is next to impossible

end part one . . .

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

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

Chapter List:
A Message From Someone Who Cares (forward)
First two chapters:
Everyday Dreams
Jamie’s Story

I have begun a newsletter on different aspects of the prison industry as well as updates on the progress of the book. I’m looking for a reasonable cost publishing house that can also include CD’s of the piano music found at http://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick, most of which was written for the book.Fill out the contact form to be put on the mailing list which will only go out monthly. (You won’t get bombarded like some businesses do!)

Good Wouldn’t Exist Without Bad

. . . I have written about Alonza before. I don’t want him to disappear. The abuse he suffered in prison should have never happened. The justice system used him as a poster boy. Google him and hear his story on Nightline.

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

Sonni Quick

Alonza Thomas

Alonza Thomas

It was a stormy winter night on the streets of New Orleans

A fortune teller told me that she could see me in her dreams

She said, there’s a part of me that evil overtook

Plus the devil has my heart, and my name is in his book.

I cried, i cried.

I’m a mixed drink, combined with good and bad.

The image I’ve portrayed became my truth, I chose my path.

I look myself in the mirror and i wish that I would die. Then I heard the Lord whisper, he said, believe that your mine. Believe that your mine!

My mind beats my heart, my emotions are second nature.

The result of realizing my mind was never basic.

My heart tells lies. My heart is self destructive.

I do right for the good, and well being of the structure.

Trust is not the issue, really it…

View original post 78 more words

Sonni’s Side of The Story – part two

INSIDE THE FORBIDDEN OUTSIDE

SONNI’S SIDE OF THE STORY – part two

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Daisaku Ikeda

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

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

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

Please fill out this form to receive a monthly newsletter about info on the book, and other articles and info not currently in the blog or on facebook. L

You Can’t Have Both – Reduced Prison Population AND Build New Prisonsl

My my it seems as though both sides of the political fence is scrambling to see who can proclaim the loudest that prison populations need to be reduced. The public seems to finally be noticing there is something wrong with the percentage of black men locked up in prisons compared to white men and are realizing they’ve been sold a bill of goods making them believe black men are born with a stronger criminal streak than white men. Black men invoke such fear in the white man for his safety. Where did that fear come from? After the white men could no longer use them as slaves they had to come up with another way and that was through our prisons. Hundreds and hundreds of newly built prisons.

wynne unit,Huntsville Prison,solitary confinement,mass incarceration
Prison unit Jamie is in
photo source; brokenchains.us

The ego streak in many white people who still feel they are better than black people goes back a long way. There is a lot of guilt for what we did to another nation of people. How could we possible accept them as equals after what we did to them? Continuing to enslave them and telling the people they have higher criminal tendencies, over and over until people believed them. They made their family’s lives as difficult as possible and rounded up every black man they could find and doled out the longest sentences they could – to protect everyone else, of course. And now they have a change of heart? Really?
Is this a bunch of hoopla in the year before an election where politicians promise everything they think the people want, but when the returns are in they just go about their usual business of catering to the corporations and the issues that make them money? Each political side blames the other. But why is it that this is the first election where both sides are trying to look like they give a rats ass about the inmates inside the prisons who are brutalized, underfed and are given insufficient healthcare because the prisons don’t want to pay for it? The families of the inmates have screamed for a long time about the mistreatment yet no one cared enough to ever make it an issue. So why now?
Everyone is now saying to we need to reduce the prison population but I don’t hear anything about what they will do with these released prisoners. They are under-educated. They won’t be given jobs because they are felons. They won’t be able to make money. Their families on the outside are usually poor because they have tried to raise their families without the men in their lives. If they live in subsidized housing, the fathers won’t be able to live with them or they will all be kicked out. They won’t be able to get government services like food stamps so they can eat. So how will they be able to survive without resorting to some kind of crime? Then, when they are arrested again, the media will scream that a mistake was made letting them go. They were given a second chance but they blew it. Yes, they were given a second chance but with their arms and legs still shackled. So what are these politicians, who are jumping on the band wagon now, and saying inmates should be released going to do to help them be successful? They couldn’t even get a job at a fast food joint. We know how difficult it is to take care of yourself or a family with that kind of pay.
They will be setting them up to fail.
What do they do with the prison corporations who have 20 year contracts with the government and have promises that the prisons will be kept 80-100% full – or the government will have to pay them for empty beds? It will cost millions of dollars of taxpayer revenue to let these inmates go. In addition to that, these corporations have paid these politicians a shit load in campaign contributions so they can continue to rake in the money they do on the backs of these inmates. Do you think they are going to easily let their fountain of income disappear without a major fight? In addition to the prison corporations that make this money, there is a very long list of American companies who use inmate slave labor to make the products they sell to us. This list of companies would drop your jaw. They have contracts with the prisons. Do you think they are going to just back off and start paying decent wages to Americans who need jobs when they can get it for pennies inside the prison?
There is something wrong with this picture and I am not hearing solutions to any of it. All I hear are politicians who want to get elected, joining in with everyone else who is saying they are going to be the one who is going to take care of this problem, and I say it is a bunch of bull. Do you think the building of new prisons for more inmates has stopped? Really?

 

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni Quick piano music complete list

Yep, Slavery is Still Legal – The 13th Amendment

13th amendment

 

Stop slavery

Jamie’s last letter also has a newspaper article included with that title. Parts of the article resonated with him and he underlined those places. Because he is living through what this newspaper is writing about it must have resonated fairly strongly with him. He carefully tore out the article to send to me.  I think it came from a USA Today by Jim Liske, the president of Prison Fellowship.  I don’t know the date except that it is fairly recent.

“13th AMENDMENT – Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted shall exist within the United states, or any other place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Black vs White death penaltyWhen slavery was abolished there were many ways it could be worked around by increasing what was a crime for black people. The most glaring was the death penalty. There was only one crime that would send a white man to death row – Murder. Not so for the black man. There were dozens of crimes that would get him hanged. When we look at our prisons today and see the percentage of white vs black not much has changed.

A compilation of newspaper articles of glaring racial discrimination startingin 1961, which still exists today in the form of “white privilege”.  An interesting read by the Equal Justice Initiative – A History of Racial Injustice –  http://racialinjustice.eji.org

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/race-and-death-penalty

“On Sept 15, 1963, the bomb that killed four girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala, showed America just how far we had to go to fulfill the promise of justice and equality for all, even a century after the 13th amendment ended slavery. Half a century after the bombing, the struggle is not over, in part because language in that same amendment still undermines the equal humanity of more than 7 million Americans who have been convicted of a crime

Ratified at the end of the Civil War, the amendment abolished slavery with one critical exception: Slavery and involuntary servitude actually remain lawful “as a punishment for crime”. In other words, according to this punishment clause, with the wrong controlled substance in your trunk,  there is nothing in the 13th amendment to ensure you won’t be considered a slave of the state. The language was ambiguous enough to be grossly abused. Son the clause was being used to reinstate slavery under another guise.

In 1866, just a year after the Civil War, a black man convicted of theft in Maryland was advertised for sale in the newspaper as punishment. The word “vagrancy” was code for being young, black and unemployed -could yield similar results.

Decades later famed abolitionist Frederick Douglas described how the widespread “convict lease system” exploited the punishment clause “States claim to be too poor to maintain state convicts within prison walls, Hence the convicts are leased out to work for railway contractors, mining companies and those with LARGE FARMING PLANTATIONS.” These companies assume control of the convicts, work them as cheap labor and pay the states a handsome revenue for their labor. Nine-tenths of these convicts are negroes.” So many blacks were behind bars because law enforcement tended to target them.

Importantly, Supreme Court decisions ensured no one today is sentenced to actual “slavery” as a form of capital punishment but Douglass’ critique still rings true. Black men are incarcerated six times the rate of white men, thanks in part to uneven enforcement and sentencing in the “war on drugs”. While drug use rates vary little among the races, people of color stand a much better chance of being searched, prosecuted and convicted than whites and government studies have shown they serve longer sentences.”

Whenever corporations have taken over any institution and it became “for profit”, quality went down and prices went up. Two other good examples of this is education and medical care. The prisons became an excellent source for free, or nearly free labor. There are so many American corporations as well as foreign corporations who benefit from this. There is a lot of talk on the internet about lowering the prison population. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. I don’t believe it will amount to much. All corporations have stockholders to appease. Arrests may go down but sentences will go up. Our government has 20 year contracts with the corporations that run the prisons. That contract demands 90-100% capacity or they will have to pay the corporations money per empty bed that could amount to millions of dollars.

Slavery never ended. It’s time we do something about it. It is an ugly side of America.

Black and white hands

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Juvenile Detention – A Cry For Help

Armando Macias artwork

Unless you have a child – or know a child who is “at-risk” you don’t give it much thought. We read a lot about gangs and the violence that comes from it be we don’t understand why it happens or about the kids that get caught up in in it. The violence has increased so much over the years and the court system that is supposed to take care of it – can’t – it so the easiest thing to do is to either look the other way, or lock them up and get them off the street. What they don’t do is get them the help they need at a time where some of them can be saved. Juvenile courts are too chaotic. The don’t have the manpower or the resources adult courts have. Many crimes can’t be proven. Witnesses don’t show up. The reschedule court dates so often the people involved give up and don’t show up. When that happens the case is dismissed. Finally the kids are old enough to push over to adult court and have them tried there. So many of these kids are crying out for help and no one gives a crap. Case loads are so heavy they don’t have time.

If you live in a city that has a lot of gang activity, the kids who don’t have parents who end up in foster care also end up getting sucked into the life of a gang because at least now they have people in their life who care about them. Many of these people came from the same broken homes. They know how that feels. This cycle keeps churning out people who have to survive somehow. They don’t have educations. They can’t get good jobs. So, for them, crime pays. They start making regular visits to juvenile court, but there is no help. If they had been helped their life could have been different. ‘

States have gone back and forth over when it is okay to try kids as adults, especially when they do adult type crimes. Finally they have released the harm it causes to keep them in solitary confinement. Why anyone thinks it isn’t harmful to adults is beyond me. Maybe because by that time most of them have lives that are already ruined. To ruin someone so young with isolation gives that minor no chance. It’s such a shame that it had to take Kalief Browder committing suicide when he got out, to wake “them” up from the outcry from the public. America won’t even admit we keep keep adults in solitary for the decades we do. We don’t torture inmates they say.

It is easy to see that the way we deal minors only makes certain that when they get out, they will be full fledged criminals because they have no concept of how to live. They have more than likely never experienced anything close to having a normal life. I say “more than likely” because there has been a greater trend toward children coming from “good” homes and still deciding that the life of a “gangsta” has more appeal and excitement. But just like the sentences given out to older criminals, those children are looked at as having more promise and worth rehabilitating and get more breaks within the system. What helps is they have family support who show up at court hearings and typically hire real attorneys who have gone over their cases and planned a strategy so they don’t end up in prison at 16. Most juvenile offenders don’t get to see their attorney until the are sitting at a desk in front of the judge who will decide whether they stay in the juvenile system or proceed to prison.

If they go to prison they are subject to the same system as adults, which means, no rehabilitation and being subjected to adult predators. They come out with a felony record they will never escape from. Education becomes extremely hard to get and their spiral down happens quickly. The law isn’t set up to benefit minors. Juvenile courts are not allowed to consider why the child is there. What is his background? They can only look at the offense. But where do these kids come from? Why did it get to the point wher3e it became hopeless? Why wasn’t the child helped when there was plenty of time to do it, but feet were dragged and nothing was done?

These kids became a lost society, kept out of view. They eventually became found a home in prison with the same people they were with on the outside; friends back with friends. They never had anyone who cared so they gravitated to the only people who loved them, people like themselves. Of course there are exceptions. There are kids that just seem determined ruin any chance they had. They go against what their parents tried to provide for them who don’t understand what they did wrong or couldn’t see in time to fix. Maybe there was nothing that could be done. But I want to talk about those who had no choice. Those who were born into a life that pushed them into a life of crime because it was all they knew.

I write to several inmates about their life and how they feel about where they are. I want to tell you about one who recently confided in me:

“I want to explain the way culture and the environment I lived in all my life formed my outlook. Blacks are not the only ones being racially targeted.  Growing up I remember if white people in cop cars saw you they were going to stop you.  I remember that no matter what, you would be searched.  Driving, they’d pull you over.   It didn’t matter if there was a reason to pull you over. If you ran and they caught you they’d beat you, so you ran faster and you didn’t get caught. Staying there to find out meant you would probably go to jail. Innocence is not a factor.  Never was, and it still isn’t.

I’m from the ghetto.  There were foothills nearby.  At times we’d see the KKK burning crosses in front of black people’s houses.  That stopped in the 80’s.  In 1992 there were the LA riots because Rodney King was beat up by cops.  Only when I received my first prison sentence and reached my 20’s did I learn about the laws.  They weren’t even supposed to be allowed to stop and search us for no reason, but the law never seems to apply to the police.

In prison, on paper, they say there are rehabilitation programs.  They say that, but in reality there aren’t any.  I wanted to go to school.  I wanted to learn a better of living but I soon learned that it didn’t mean me.  There was no rehabilitation for people like me.

There is a mentality you learn growing up and living like that. The chances of people escaping that life is small.  Most don’t.  I’m one of the ones who didn’t escape.  all those programs for “at-risk” kids never existed back then. I don’t know many kids benefit from them today.  Everyone went to jail.  Punks went to jail.  I accepted that mentality.  It was all I knew. It didn’t scare me.  In fact, jail was a vacation from an abusive home.  Violence was normal to me, so gangbanging was no biggy.

When you see very few people you know not go to jail and many of them die, it become normal.  When I got out of jail the first time all my good intentions faded in a second.  I got out wanting to do good, but when you encounter a hugh problem, who you really are comes out. Your intentions disappear.  It’s engraved in you.

So you ask, why did I go back to prison?  Why is it that if I knew the consequences, why am I here?  Because that is how it was. I had no place else to go.  It is the only experience I knew.”

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

This man was raised in a violent home where he got beat every day.  There was violence all around him.  He didn’t have parents who made sure he had good food every day and went to school.  There was no Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny.  There were no family Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties.  The kids I grew up with all had these things.  We had families that cared.  I’m sure violence existed but it never entered in my life.  If you had his life what would you do?  You would bond with other kids who had a life who could relate to yours.  They were your family.  You never really knew there was any other kind of life you could experience.  There was no choice.  You would end up in prison.

There many kids who don’t have families.  Maybe the state took them away because of drugs and neglect.  Many of the parents died and there was no place for the kids to go.  We have all heard horror stories.  The juvenile system is overloaded with kids who have no place to go.  They get shifted between multiple foster home which are also rife with drug abuse and violence. There aren’t enough case workers who can take the time to care even if they wanted to.  Nothing is done in a timely manner.  Even when there is someone who is willing to take these kids in, the paperwork is insurmountable.  The kids get lost in the system.  They find themselves in and out of court until eventually they get old enough to prosecute.  One more person locked up. Another one to take his place.

80% of those incarcerated went through the foster care system.  Those are scary numbers.  Doesn’t that tell you that if there were a better way of dealing with these throw away kids the prison population would go down?  Isn’t it time something better should be done? Haven’t we had enough generations of throwaway kids?

Here is an excellent article about what happens to kids we lock up. Why Do We Still Put Kids In Shackles When They Go To Trial

http://facebook.com/jamielifeinprison . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Sonni Quick piano music complete list

In Prison – Streaming Tears Like Blood From A Wound

December 3, 2009

Hello mom,

blood tearsI’m sorry it took so long for me to write back.  Things are not so good on my end right now.  I haven’t heard from Megan in like a month.  I’ve beat myself up about that and went downhill at the same time.  I don’t know what’s going on.  However, it’s not like her, mom.  The last time she went without writing, something was wrong.  I don’t know what it is but I feel like she’s losing her love for me.  In a way I kinda understand it.  Then again I don’t.  I guess because I don’t want to let go of her.  Mom, I promise you, your daughter is the only woman I have ever loved.  Not just because she and I treasure a son together.  We have that bond I feel that loves and respects each other.  To me that bond is so strong, taking it away would be like taking away half of me.  Why?  Because she is the other half of me, mom.

“Tears Like Blood From a Wound” – by Sonni Quick    copyright 2015


Sonni Quick piano music complete list

My eyes are always streaming tears, like blood from a wound that can never heal, just thinking about life without her and the kids.  I’m really hurting right now, because like I said mom, I’m downhill right now.  I’ve been in a fight.  This happened almost a month ago.  I’m on a 24 hour lockdown now for a year.  However it’s good because there really is nothing to do that can get me in trouble.  They don’t let us out the cell for any reason.  Everything comes to us unless we really need to go to medical.  If they take us we’re in cuffs.

Anyway, this is how I got into the fight.  Me and some of the officers have had our run ins.  Some of them have grudges and continue to hold it against me.  It just so happened there was an officer at the pill window the night this happened.  There was this dude in front of me calling out the officer’s name.  The officer came over to write me up.  I told him it wasn’t me.  He said he didn’t believe me so we went back and forth about it.  I didn’t tell him it was the dude in front of me.  People have been known for getting beat up bad for telling.  I’m trying to stay out of trouble. So I go to the dude and try to talk to him about it.  I end up getting punched in the mouth.  I was shocked for a minute because all I wanted to do was talk to him.  Anyway, I let my anger get the best of me and fought back.  The real reason I did that is because in here, if you don’t fight when it comes your way everyone looks at it.  Then it’s hell from then on if you know what I’m saying.  After they run court on us the the dude apologized and said he tried to take the case.  The rage in me wanted to jump on him. I felt he took a lot from me, mom.  I only had five months left to be able to get contact visits so I could hold my family.  He took that away from me.  Now I have to wait another eighteen months. No matter what I do there is always something there to take it away from me.

(Sonni’s note: This letter was written more than 5 1/2 years ago. If every woman could have a man love her as much as he loved Megan she would be very lucky. Lost love in prison. Time stood still for him. If put this in the past tense because he has had to find a way to continue on without her. When he says that she is the only woman he has loved he is right. She is the only woman who was in his life, and she was good to him. She loved him and she wrote for a long time, but life had to go on for her. He doesn’t blame her for that but it still hurts his heart. But from her point of view, being responsible for his happiness knowing she had to move on ended up making her resentful and angry. Promises to wait for 17 years were made without understanding it won’t be possible to keep the promise. So life went on for her and it stopped for him. All he has is memories of her and the life he they could have had. Was that life even possible? He spent four years in juvy, had no education and no real life experience. How could he possibly take care of a family of five with her two other kids? Love alone isn’t enough. She now resents my relationship with him. She thinks its weird. She doesn’t want me to ever mention his name again.

The fact remains that it isn’t just the two of them. There is a nine year old boy I know needs to have his father in his life as much as possible. When Jamie thinks of his future, it involves being able to be a father to his son. His son needs to understand there are consequences to actions. Being black means those consequences can be very severe. 1 out of 27 adults in Texas are locked up. And of those, there are six times more blacks than whites. The odds for a black man are not good. What this means is that ONE out of every THREE black men see the inside of a prison cell. Most of all, my grandsons need to understand how much racism there is in our police and our justice system and know that fairness doesn’t apply to them. Unfortunately they live in one of the most racist states. I have three grandchildren who are half black and two of them are boys. The youngest one is a couple years younger than Jamie. I also know that getting out of prison is only one battle. Reintegrating into society again and being able to survive is probably tougher than being inside. The term, being “institutionalized” is very real. Being free is not always a good feeling. This is why I work so hard to be there for him. He deserves another chance to be happy.

I have told this to many people, many times: “The only legacy you ever really leave behind when you die is the affect you have had on other people.” You live on through them.

If you would like to be on the email list for info about the book or to read any chapters I post please fill out the contact form below.

Follow Jamie’s Facebook page for more posts and articles about current events regarding the law – progress and abuses

George Stinney Jr was just 14 when he was sentenced to death for killing two young girls, but a judge said his confession was coerced

…I’m sure this won’t get many “likes” because it is a horrible thing they did to this child so long ago. The racism in this country hasn’t gotten much better and that is the horrible piece of knowledge we need to recognize. As these things get into the news more and more hopefully it will begin to change. But it takes people sharing this knowledge. Sadly there was another person who stood by and watched this boy be murdered and sadly, it was probably a white man who did it letting the racism take hold as white people probably cheered that they got rid of another black kid.  This needed to be posted here to remind us how cruel we can be to other people on many levels.  People who don’t believe our faith.  People who want to decide abortions for others.  People who spread hate because of sexual preference.  It’s nauseating.

CHILDREN IN SHADOW ::: CHILDREN IN WAR

Youngest person executed in US cleared of murder – 70 years after his death

George Stinney Jr was just 14 when he was sentenced to death for killing two young girls, but a judge said his confession was coerced

A teenage boy convicted of murdering two young girls has been exonerated – 70 years after he was executed for the crime.

George Stinney Jr was just 14 when he was sentenced to death over the killing of two white girls, aged 11 and seven.

He became the youngest person in the 20th Century to be executed in the US.

But 70 years on a US judge in South Carolina has thrown out the black teen’s conviction on the basis he was wronged by the justice system.

The ruling has been welcomed by Stinney Jr’s family and civil…

View original post 371 more words