Sometimes it is hard to tell. I know he wants to show me he is doing okay so I don’t worry, but I don’t know how would fare having to live in circumstances like his. How would you feel if you were never told anything and if you were you’d have to question if it was a lie or if he was just being given bull shit. How many years have I been dong this?
I know in April he comes up for parole again and he wants to be optimistic but nothing encouraging has happened. He actually has an uncle who is a parole officer in Huntsville, but I don’t think he has been in touch with him. So let me tell you what Jamie wrote.
Before I begin, I want to post an earlier piece – in case you might have missed it.
Good evening to you,
. . . .It is good to know you are still so much into your music. Not many people follow their passion. I can’t wait to hear the pieces you have made for me. I’m very thankful, not just for the music but for everything.
I know how things are on the outside with how bad it has gotten for black people just going into businesses and living their lives and white people calling the cops on them for stupid reasons. It is us who should be afraid of them, not them be afraid of us. They are the ones who are trying to kill us every chance they get. I hear it on the radio and read it in the newspapers that float around here at times.
When and if I ever get parole I know my family was trying to decide where I’m going and my brother said he would, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think I should try to go to a half way house. My family doesn’t know me anymore and hasn’t wanted to know how I’m doing and I don’t to be told what I have to do or be pressured. They don’t understand and there is too much that could go wrong if I’m not in the right situation. I have to make decisions for myself.
Thanksgiving, since I moved prisons again was different. Well, everything was the same but the chicken patty shocked me. Would you call Allred Unit and ask when they are going to send my property? I don’t have anything. You mentioned sending books so if you could, having something to read would be really good. I’m not going anywhere.
I’ll be here at Hughes Unit until I finish this program. After that I don’t know. I told Jamie jr. to never start something he can’t finish. This program is based on life and goals in life. Ho to deal with stress and depression and how deal with interaction after being seg for so long. But I have talked with the group yet. My case worker comes to my door to check up on me and talks to me about short term goals and long term goals. That is all I have done for four weeks now. There are four phases to the program and each phase is seven weeks long.
I can’t wait to hear back from you. It’s late so I better wrap this up. My love goes out to you like always.
As hard as this has been for him, and I have been there through some pretty bad times and he through mine. I can only hope that having me there has helped him cope and gain wisdom about ho to deal with his life. But ultimately it has been responsibility to carry on with a positive attitude. I think he is doing that.
I got everything you sent to me. Thank you very much. I love those summer sausages and turkey bites you sent. Those were good. You asked me about the special diet I was on. It’s a low salt diet. It is another way they are messing with me by not bringing the right food. There are certain things we are allowed to request, like Jewish people asking for a kosher diet or diabetics requesting low sugar. It doesn’t mean they will do it.
There is too much salt in the regular diet of prison food and the salt will swell my legs and feet up. You may not believe me but I rinse a lot of my food off with water. Crazy, huh? The food I get on the special diet is baked. Everything. There is no getting around being fed pork unless I requested pork-free. Then they will give me two slices of cheese, a spoon of shredded cheese or a spoon of peanut butter. The main course will be beans – all the time.
Happy Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is out and the sky is filled with puffy white clouds. It’s a beautiful day all the way around. I want to fill you in on how Thanksgiving was. Well, as far as the food anyway. For starters we get the same thing every year. We are given two trays for the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. We get chicken or BBQ on MLK Day and Spanish food on May 5th.
Anyway, Thanksgiving we get a hot tray and and cold tray. On the hot tray there was a ham roll, dressing with brown gravy, sweet potato, green beans and two cheese biscuits. On the cold tray was four different kinds of dessert – two oatmeal cookies, pumpkin pie, carrot cake and what they call a peach empanada. Then there was something that was supposed to be coleslaw, but it was nowhere near it. Pickles and jalapeno pepper slices. They usually give olives and onions but not this year. Last but not least was the coldest, driest piece of sliced turkey I ever ate – or tried to eat. I ate half. I was scared to eat the other half. It was BLACK. It had a piece of sliced cheese over it, I guess to hide it. I pulled the cheese off and cut around it.
Tell me about your Thanksgiving. What was cooked? You said Mike does the cooking for this meal so you can just relax and be waited on. You deserve it. I know you stress yourself with everything you are doing. Have patience. Everything takes time. I know it seemed like we got a lot of food, but getting enough to eat only a couple times a year doesn’t make up for the rest of the meals. Even though it is supposed to be a hot tray and a cold tray, everything is cold. Those that can go to chow get hot food. When they let me out of adseg hopefully in March I will be able to go to chow for my meals.
Thank you for the food box and money you sent through Texas Eccom. It’s good to have something different to eat that tastes good, especially when the food is really bad. I’m lucky. I love you for that. You didn’t cut out on me in all these years ago like my family did. So many men don’t have anyone, especially those who have been here a long time. I better get this ready to send because they will be picking up soon.
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To begin this post, I’ve been out of commission this month and had surgery to make me a bionic woman! I have a healing brand new titanium shoulder, or rather the ball on the top of the arm bone that goes into the shoulder joint, and a great deal of metal holding my elbow together. Very painful process.Thank goodness it wasn’t my dominant arm, although typing with one finger on my Nook is rather frustrating. I’ve slowly been catching up with myself and my blogs and all else with life. Yesterday I wrote the post below as I gather my recent letters from Jamie for my next post. He really is an amazing man, fighting to keep his sanity together while living in the bowels of the prison where they keep the mentally insane and the ones they have driven insane. But he is fighting to survive. I wonder if I would have made it if I had been through the abuse he’s taken. I do know he would not have made it alone. People need people. No one deserves what they have done to him and many others. Fighting the corporate profit machine will never get easy. People know it is happening but there aren’t many who try to do anything about it. I understand. At least pass on information and help educate others.
Twice a year inmates are fed better. Maybe not the dinner you’d feed your family, but it’s better. More food. I remember one year Jamie was offered a second meal if he agreed to not be taken down for his shower. He said it was the first time in a long time he felt full.The prison he is at now raises pigs so the serve a lot of pork – undercooked, pink and rubbery. He won’t eat it.
No one likes confinement or solitude. Sitting alone during holidays is probably the hardest. Not being remembered during holidays, birthdays and Father’s Day is the worst. Experiencing it endlessly for years makesyou doubt your value to your family. I understand how that feels and I can see it in the mood of his handwriting.
When we, on the outside go down and we find ourselves confined, it is usually illness or other medical conditions that put us down. It is bearable when we have someone in our lives who loves us and is willing to do our bidding we still hate to lose our precious freedom and have to ask someone to help us. We get bored and usually glad to be up and around. We usually know our confinement has a finite end. It could be days, weeks, months or possibly years depending on how fast we mend. Sometimes the situation is permanent, but if we aren’t alone we can often find a way to rework our lives so we feel we have purpose. We haven’t lost everything. We have hope. At least most of us do. I’ve been confined to bed for 1 1/2 months because my arm needs to heal right. Lately I’ve carefully gotten up with my husband’s assistance. I walked around the livingroom and sat at the piano for a few minutes and played with my good arm. I’m ready for the confinement to be over.
It is easy to tell someone else, “I understand,” even when you have absolutely no idea what you do and don’t understand about being imprisoned, no matter how much you want to. But those of us who have a heart – we try. We want to understand. We bring all the hurt inside and try to hold it for awhile to ease another’s pain.
For almost eleven years now I’ve been writing to Jamie and visiting when at all possible; not as often as I wish I could, but my money is scarce while making ends meet on a disability check. I live in fear of a car repair on my well worn, somewhat banged up fifteen year old Mitzubishi. It can be a tough road when illness takes you from making money and owning a business to being one of “them”, the lazy welfare queens the Republicans say don’t want to work and would rather suck off government benefits than make my own money, so I can buy new tires, fix the heater in my car and be able to put the driver’s side window up when it rains. It angers me sometimes to hear politicians blame people for ruining this once great country instead of putting the blame where it really should good – the profiteers. The corporations who put profit before people and don’t care one iota if they destroy them in the meantime.
Laying in my bed with a bulky sling on my left arm, trying to balance my Nook on my right thigh, I think of Jamie and the hardship he goes through every day in prison. In the state of Texas, one of the worst states to be incarcerated, it is worse than most of the other states, although none are someplace you’d choose to be. They keep him in the pit of hell; the part of the prison where they keep the completely insane they have already ruined. I write him and tell him to hold on – he can do it! Keep your mind on the future. Don’t react when they push and push trying to make you react. He’s only human. How many people could ignore what the guards do as they push every button a person has, just to make them angry so they can justify some kind of abuse. Laughably, look at Trump. He can’t handle ANY criticism of any kind and reacts with immaturity and threatens to sue people left and right, yet inmates who are beaten, starved with rotten food and given inadequate medical care are just supposed to ignore it and say, “Have a nice day.”
His cell is in a hallway of cutters and those who not only throw shit and piss around, the inmates have a game they play where they make darts with razor blades from disposable razors and shoot them at each other and one man asked if Jamie wanted to “play”. “Are you nuts?” he replied. I tell him over and over, “Hang in there. Hang in there”.
He has no where to turn. I’m all he has. He trusts me when I tell him I’m here, but still gets afraid he has said something wrong and I’m mad at him if I wait to long to answer a letter – insecure and thinking I’ve gone away. He’s scared of the life that will await him one day on the outside. He doesn’t know that world. There is no option. I can’t let him down. I told him he can count on me to be there and I don’t even know what that means. I have to heal my broken bones to finish his book. I need to keep his name out there so people will want to know his story and but his book. I was just scouting piano bars in restaurants to play gigs again, for my own survival and to make money to see him and take his son with me.
These are obstacles. Nothing good is easy to accomplish. Everyone has obstacles but this will be a middle age man with medical problems and no life experience and no job experience. Change is hard. Changing everything about your life is impossible for most. I’ve told him over and over, there is something important he is to do and he needs to discover what that is.
I just sent him his fourth GED book. The first was stolen by an inmate. The second was stolen by the property mgr at a prison. The third one he didn’t receive and it was sent back to Amazon. I’m now waiting to hear if he received this last one. I ordered the same book for myself so I can help him study. If you’ve never seen a GED book, I hadn’t, it is not easy cramming all of high school into one book. It is very comprehensive. If I study with him it would help keep him on track and even fun to make quizzes for him or maybe explain things he doesn’t understand. I hope he gets this book.
Part of Jamie’s problem is that he is a black and 6’3″, a pretty big guy. Out on the streets when cops are shooting black men after they pull them over, a normal cop’s excuse, whether they mean it or not is, “I was afraid for my life,” Even if the man never took his hands of the steering wheel. This fictionalized reality was started decades ago when the media portrayed black men as dangerous and uneducated and how they want to kill you. It was used over and over as the justification for why cops shoot first; why they verbally say, “Stop resisting arrest”, even if the man is unconscious, so they can get away with murder. These biases carry over to the prisons.
So I write and I write and I keep him from going crazy as best I can. I make sure he knows he is wanted. He has value. His son needs his father. We have come too far to give up. He still has six years to go out of 17. It is still a long time and a lot can happen during that time. If you’d like to, you could write to him. He would appreciate any communication. Don’t use stick on address levels or colored envelopes. They would be returned. Thank you for reading.
James Cummings#1368189/Allred Unit/2101 FM 369 N/ Iowa Park/Tx 76367
The focus of the next newsletter going out early in December is on the issues of female inmates and their families. If you know someone this topic is of interest to please have them sign up for the ITFO newsletter or share it with them. If someone has a story they want told leave me a msg and a way to contact you.