I like to look at the map of the world I have on this site where the flag counter is located under each post, which tells me how many hits and how many countries have tapped into my blog on any given day, week, month or year. In the past week it was 26 countries, some from places I really didn’t know existed. Overall, at last count if was a total of 135+ countries. Today I see that it is only Greenland and interior Africa that are the only places that haven’t come to my blog. I don’t get hundreds of hits a day like some blogs do. Maybe if this blog was all I was doing and devoted every day to it, it would be more. Most people who come here are not other bloggers, it is from Google searches for information that they find me.
People all over the world are looking for information that connects to prisons – largely the US prisons. Why? Because what we do affects people everywhere. We set a standard for others to follow and unfortunately that standard is a bad one. Will we ever learn to do the right thing? It is doubtful. Greed is much more powerful than the desire to do the right thing.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t punish people when they do something wrong, but it is wrong to give a black man 20 years in prison for stealing food if his family is hungry, especially when a white man would probably get a year of probation, maybe. We over-punish and we do it based on race. Or look at it this way; what would twenty years in prison do that one year wouldn’t do, especially since now his entire family is being punished. Or was that the intention? Destroy the family. Make them all suffer and unable to rise up out of extreme poverty. Take away any chance of survival. Our criminal justice system is really screwed up.
I don’t know a lot about the prisons in these other countries. I’m sure some are better or worse, but they don’t use them for corporate profit the way we do, making prisoners a commodity for individual stock market growth.
“A sure bet,” they say. “Just keep the prisons full of people.” “No problem” our government says. Laws are abused to make sure 1 in 3 black males will do prison time.
“Let’s reinstate stop and frisk,” says Jeff Sessions, even though it never worked and locked up many more people who couldn’t afford to bond out, and they sit for years in jail never being charged. That will make the corporations lots of money. They could build more jails – provide more jobs. Who cares who it hurts.
For more than ten years I have researched this as I have struggled to understand not only what they have done to Jamie in the prisons they have sent him to, but to try to predict what the effect will be when he gets out. It takes so much more than wanting to have a good life, especially when he has been hogtied in the worst way to keep him from being able to learn how to survive when he gets out. Keeping him in a solitary cell, not allowing him to get any education at all, then setting him free with no life skills. There iss no education for an inmate in adseg or solitary, so they refuse to let him out. They say he is a danger to the rest of the general population inmates. That is the reason they give him. No one can survive that, especially when family isn’t there for you. He has me. Just me, and I am not in the best of health and 30 years his senior. I’m doing all I can.
When I think of the long journey I have been on – helping what used to be a young man who never had a future. It was taken away when he was still 16. He is 35 now. He has been in the prison system far too long to hang in there with promises of a better future that doesn’t begin until the brink of middle age. Taking on that 17 year sentence with him, promising to be there for him is almost the length of time it takes to raise a child until high school graduation, and trying to be responsible for the nurturing of that person almost completely through letters and a visit every year or two. I can’t even touch his hand during those visits.
I’d do it again – because it also taught me a lot about myself. We weren’t blood related between he and I, but we are connected through my grandson. I have been through so much during these years – marking it along the way with crisis we both have had. Life puts you exactly here you need to be to grow as a human being, hopefully affecting other lives in a positive way. I can’t imagine my life without this.
That is all I wanted to say. I appreciate, more than you know, the people who have supported me in this effort – reading, sharing, listening. The book and music have taken far longer than I had thought but if the effort is going to be made it has to be to the best of my abilities, and sometime that means I have to rewrite part of it as I learn. I am confident there is a reason for doing it. I keep the end result in my head. We are what we think. But without other people – you – it couldn’t happen. I’m excited about what the future could bring for Jamie, his son, and yes, my daughter as they are the parents of their young twelve year old boy. My grandson deserves to know both parents. His life has to heal, too.
I wrote back about what I’ve learned through the research I’ve done into many areas concerning our prison injustice system. The things I didn’t know scared me. My only knowledge came from TV shows like Prison Break or Orange is the New Black. Since those shows are for entertainment purposes it doesn’t come close to telling you the truth. The attitude our country has about our inmates and how our justice system combined with the Prison Industrial Complex, which leads to how the lives of the inmates are impacted needs to change. I learned that people and organizations have being working to change this system but the government has created a monster it doesn’t know how to put down, and many unnecessary people have to pay the price for that.
Prison itself, in the solitary units, has created so many mentally ill people, who were functioning human beings when they first set foot into a solitary. Sometimes it is the infraction of a rule or the guard doesn’t like you and creates a case against you. Sometimes it is for “your own protection”, like a teenager certified as an adult and is preyed on by men who want to abuse them. That teenager could spend years alone in that cell – for his own good, of course. Solitary cells ruin people. It is over used and abused. They are left inside for too long and it destroys their mind. They usually end up hurting themselves by cutting open their veins, trying to bleed out, trying to commit suicide. Staff take them out of their cell, sends other inmates into the cells to clean up the blood from cut arteries, they sew them up the hurt inmate, put them back in their cell and double their sentence. They do it over and over. A three month sentence can easily turn into a year or two or ten. When that person is eventually released back into society, and most of them are if they don’t die inside, they are completely unable to take care of themselves and if they do have family they are often unrecognizable. They don’t know them anymore. Brothers and sisters are strangers. I strongly urge you to watch this: The Stickup Kid I have gotten to know this young man and we speak on a daily basis. He has a facebook page you can fain by searching his name. He is in bad need of friends to talk to. Also, he write powerful poetry explaining his life.
It has been determined that 15 days is all person can take without probable psychological damage. When they finally get out they often end up trying to kill someone else. They are nuts. So where do they put the mentally ill person they created? Back into a solitary cell. There are many of these cases of these people who are put down like dogs by guards, with the prison looking the other way, making excuses and defending the guards who do it. The harshest punishment for prison guard brutality is possibly getting fired, or sent to another prison unit. No real repercussion. The crimes guards commit have no consequences, yet these guards would have to be mentally. They are let out of the prison after every shift and allowed to live among the people. He could be your neighbor. Would you want him near you/ near your family? Do the guards have family? What do they say when they get home or talk to their friends? “Oh, today I murdered a person by putting him in a shower and turned on scalding hot water for hours, listened to him scream and scream until he died and his skin peeled off his body. True story. Another inmate was sent clean up the shower and he knew what he was looking at was the dead man’s skin. His file said he died of a heart attack. No crime was committed. The prison needs to protect themselves. Examples of three murders can be found at: Looking From The Other Side of The Prison Cell door – part two
Jamie has spent about 4 years in solitary confinement, which is also called Ad Seg. Two times of two years each, not far apart, and each one was a lie from a guard. One was a guard finding a knife on his sink when they were shaking down cells. A knife the guard put there. Even if Jamie had a knife, would you leave it on the sink when you know they are shaking down cells? The second time was because a big fat ugly female guard said he blew her a Kiss, and that is a crime because you are trying to consort with a guard. He was standing lion for his medications when he was looking around and saw the guard. Period. The he gets slapped with a case. What inmate in his right mind would blow a guard a kiss? I saw this guard when I visited with him in Oct 2013. You would not have blown her a kiss.
On another note, I am putting together an email to send to Jamie right now and putting in comments people have made. I have told him there are people who care. We have the ability to leave our house and talk to people. We still might not have anyone who cared how our day went, and those people become depressed and lonely and probably drink or take pills to get through their day. But Jamie knows there are people whose hearts have been touched. People who care. He is a good man. I want people to know him. People who care if he’s okay. That goes a long way in keeping his depression away. The post I wrote, In Prison Who Do You Have to Care About Your Day? is very real. How would you feel if you thought there was no one who cared about you, you saw no one, talked to no one, or had communication from anyone? What if no one even cared if you alive or dead? On the outside we have people I’d like for him to answer these comments so I can add them to the comment section.
You can send any words of encouragement to him at email@example.com and I will send it to him. Each and every comment is a bright spot in his day.
There are so many people who have a misconception about prison and think they are only there to lock up bad people. That is only one reason. Our government needs to keep the prisons full, (while telling the public they are try to reduce their arrests) because of the huge demand in the public sector, the American companies who bid on prison labor, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. So there may be fewer arrest this year but the sentences will be longer and the percentage of those paroled are fewer. Once in awhile a good thing happens and people cheer, but they really don’t know what is going on. A great many prison are owned privately through companies like Corcoran and CCA – there are more. The Prison Industrial Complex. They offer to help the states with their budget problems and if they take over the prison they will have more money for roads and education BUT they have to keep the prisons 90-100% full or the government has to pay them for the empty beds. This is why the US has the highest prison population in the world 500 out of every 100,000 people, and since approximately 65% of those are black people, there are entire towns that have 50% of there town locked up – for “walking while black”. But the media portrays it as though black people do more crimes, which they don’t. Black neighborhoods are patrolled for people to arrest. Are many of those arrest legitimate? Of course. But many of them aren’t. White people can be picked up doing the very same crime, yet they don’t end up in prison because of it.
Pa recently announced the building of a brand new $400 million SHU – solitary housing unit. Only for solitary confinement. They are also closing many schools for lack of funding. Can you figure out why there is a lack of funding? The US has also made it very clear to the world they do not use solitary confinement like this – as torture. They intend on locking people up for years, decades. You read that in the media and believe it. You believe black people are more dangerous than white people. Black people do more drugs and commit more crimes. This is all hogwash. This is the media making you believe what they want you to believe. Thank goodness there are many people who are not blinded by this garbage and know what is going on. Many people and organizations trying to change this conception. I am one of those people.
@Manuchettan, I realize I have written much more than a reply! I get on a roll sometimes and the words spill out. I go on a rant and get intense. I think I will turn this reply into a post – “Up Front and Personal”
I can’t thank you enough for reading these posts. It means a lot to me, Sonni
Thank you for your words. It’s hard,though, to get an accurate picture of the US through Hollywood, as you have to do in India. I am going to look for the prison movie you talked about, “Death Warrant”. Then I can tell you if it accurate. The thing, though, that you are very right about is that the atrocities don’t stop. Because of the things they do to inmates, an inmate learns to be very subservient, because if they aren’t, they pay for it. But even if the inmate is very docile and does nothing to provoke the guard, it doesn’t stop them from writing up false cases on them or from doing things like spitting in their food, or not letting them shower. Humanistic things.
When a human being finally gets out of prison, they don’t know how to act around people again. One woman told me her son even asked if it was okay to go use the bathroom. going outside is too much stimulus for them. Go to the blog “Breaking Free”. http://breakingfree.com and read about the communication between a mother and a son.
Reintegration to society is hard if you don’t have someone guiding you. Sometimes that doesn’t even work. At the 5 year mark after parole 71% of parolees are back in prison. For a variety of reasons. My concentration with Jamie has been to build his self confidence, his value as a human being. Keeping him from slipping into depression or keep thoughts of suicide away, which he tried when it was unbearable, has taken much effort. If I hadn’t been there, I don’t know what state of mind he would have. When someone has spent the years he has locked up in a a cell 23 hours a day it makes most men mentally ill.
If you have read any of the chapters I posted about the book Inside The Forbidden Outside, here is a sample chapter. Inside The Forbidden Outside . Fill Out the contact form below if you want to be on the mailing list for updates or other chapters posted.
When I started writing to Jamie 8 years ago, after he had been in for a year, I knew I was taking on a lifetime responsibility with a willing heart. I was not going to be able to just say hi and ask how he was doing and then not continue to write. He has no one else who writes to him. If he ever hears from a family member, it is usually a catch up about what is going on in the family, not a letter of caring how he was doing. Never a question of, “Is there anything you need or anything I could do to help”. Not even from his own mother. I know she loves him. I talked to her once. She’s okay with him calling me mom and is glad I’m there for him – but she isn’t there for him.
If you’d like to find out what solitary confinement, go to http://solitarywatch.com. Armando is one of the most interesting men I’ve known. Solitary confinement actually rehabilitated him. It was a benefit for him. His transformation is nothing short of incredible. He will never be released, but he is fighting to have a better life inside the prison walls, based on his conduct inside his 5×8′ cell. He is still a human being. yes, he did a horrible crime. He is paying for it. His behavior deserves what they call “program”. where can do art, or take classes. Why would someone on death row want to continue to learn anything? Because he is alive and he is human. His major crime now is that he is Hispanic. They have a special way of dealing with Hispanics. If the prisons say the want the inmates to be rehabilitated, which they really don’t, then he should at least have his accomplishments come with a few benefits for that. There is no reason for inhumane treatment. Common decency rewards. He is in for a contract murder. Goggle his name and read the articles written about the murder. He grew up in a violent family and lived in a violent community. It was all he knew. He was never taught right from wrong. Never thought about the consequences of his actions. He lived in the moment with the rewards his crimes brought to him. In prison he had to start all over and learn what what right and wrong was. Through the study of Buddhism he found out who he was, and found out what his life meant and what he needed to to change. When someone is never taught these things and the people around them all behave in a certain way, how can you not follow what that teaches you? This arrest was not his first murder and it was at the end of many crimes. It was his life and he knew nothing else. That is not Armando Macias today. I hope someday I can actually meet him.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know it is long. Please comment about how you feel, even if it is criticism. I want to have a discussion with those who have something to say. Please