Bill Seeks to End Solitary Confinement for Youths in California

Youth in solitary confinement
Photo credit :
socialworkblog.org

Treating children by putting them in solitary confinement inside a juvenile detention institution, even if they have committed a crime, makes it nearly impossible for them to end up well adjusted, functioning adults when what they learned as children is how to treat the world with the same anger and lack of compassion that was shown them. Any hope of it being a positive experience that could lead to a life of promise is rarely possible. They will never be able to wipe away the childhood years spent doing time in an environment that thinks nothing of treating them inhumanely and with abuse, physical and sexual.

The school to prison pipeline, with the intent of keeping the prisons full starts in juvenile detention and it often only takes truancy, an afternoon fight or a childish prank for a child to get sucked into the system. There is little recourse for a parent to keep them out of it, unless of course, you are a parent who has the money to buy their way out. Of course, the children the system goes after are going to be Blacks and minorities, and it is evident by the percentage of different races who find themselves locked up, the majority are going to be Black, then Hispanic and in much, much smaller quantities are White youth.

The media, or rather the corporations who own the media, has done a good job of convincing the public that Black men – and women – commit more crimes than White people. They are also led to also Blacks do more drugs. So naturally, it is the children of Blacks and minorities who find themselves locked up in greater percentages than White children in the juvy system as well. Are they less intelligent? Then Why? Because predominately they don’t have white privilege, they don’t get a white education and they have a higher likelihood of having two parents making enough money for a good lawyer. Lastly, police officers don’t patrol white neighborhoods with the same determined focus, pulling over, harassing, searching and arresting the youth from the white neighborhoods. They also don’t pull out their guns and accidentally shoot white youth because they are afraid for their lives

Minnesota has just experienced three consecutive years of double digit prison (investment) growth. Hennepin county arrested 44% of its black adult male population in 2001. Nationally, 13% of Black men can’t vote because they are felons. The racial disparity is clear to some of us. California now has a perfect prison feeder system. Nationwide, about 25% of America’s youth are being tried in adult courts today. Once these youth are treated as adults in our court systems, they rarely leave the system. Juveniles are more likely to be raped and brutalized, and suicidal, than adults within the system (they are just more vulnerable). See more at: Failed third grade reading scores

Test scores of 3rd graders are used to determine how many adult beds in prison will be needed, because they determine if a child is not being educated, in schools lacking the money to buy books and hire good teachers, they will turn to crime to make money. Although the very idea of that is sick, it probably isn’t to far off from the truth. There is always money in the state coffers to build brand new prisons and never enough money to provide good schools, since so many of them have been closed or have deteriorated. Enrichment classes like music and art have been eliminated. There are few school nurses or psychologist to help children who need the help. They are written off, they drop out and they are lost.

So kids, of all races, are prime targets when they are a little older, for keeping the prisons well stocked with inmates to satisfy the American corporation’s need for cheap prison labor. Plantation slavery never died, it just changed it’s face a little. Inmates, like slaves, are provided with the same substandard housing, clothing, food and medical care. The are brutalized and murdered and the people doing it get away with it. The injustice system is also a pro at splitting up families and shipping them far away making it difficult, and expensive to see them or talk to them on the phone. And it all starts with the kids.

Once they end up in juvenile detention, “breaking any rule” can have them put into solitary confinement. Racism from the staff is just as prevalent there as it is in adult prison. Kids they get angry. They fight back. Many are already broken by the life they have had up until that point. If you are a black child, the chance that one of your parents is, or has been in prison is about 50%. There are so many black boys with no father. That was the case for Jamie and his siblings, and now Jamie’s son doesn’t have his father, either. They had a mother who worked two jobs to be able to care for her children. His son’s mother has often worked two jobs to support her children, too. Jamie also had a hard time as a child due to epilepsy which made it hard for him to do things like boys his own age. Many children fight for survival any way they can.

Jamie Cummings is the man this blog is about, a man who’s life started in juvy at the age of 16, not because of a crime, but because he defended his mother because a cop, who had previously harassed his family, literally forced his way into their home, after Jamie and his brother had a fight outside the house. Even though the fight was over and they were in the house, and it involved no one else but them, the cop insisted on coming into their home even when his mother said it wasn’t necessary because everything was under control, he pushed his way in, knocked her down and breaking her wrist. In anger, both sons went toward the cop to defend their mother. He maced the older brother, over 18, and Jamie hit the cop with a broom. Is that an offense to go to juvy for? I guess it’s against the law to protect your mother from the man who hurt her because he’s a cop? An ambulance was called for her and she later filed charges and went to court because of his assault on her. I don’t know the outcome of that court appearance. It still didn’t stop the cop from filing assault charges on Jamie and sending this 16 year old to juvenile detention – because they can. They let the older brother go because he didn’t do anything where charges could stick, but a juvenile doesn’t have to commit a crime. There doesn’t have to be a valid reason.

That incident started him on the path that led to him not only being able to get a GED in all this time, because you can’t take classes when you are kept in the lowest levels of prison; solitary confinement, ad seg and G5 – all the same thing with different names. Only when you reach the level of G2 can you apply to study for you GED and he only made it to that level for a few weeks until they found a way to send him back to lock up. Guards have a vengance and they can do no wrong. How can you work with no GED and no training? This is what being sent to Juvy 16 years ago has done to him and many, many other youths. They system counts on you coming back to prison through the back door – parole violation. Well, they can’t have him.

In juvy it also made him an angry youth, not only sent far away from his family, so no one could visit, but also because he was kept there until he turned 21, not the nine months he was sentenced to. He spent extended stays in solitary confinement that added to the bitterness that led to severe depression. His last institution was in another state and he was sent there because he had given up hope and had sunk into depression. Missing his family was unbearable. He had no support. He gave up.

The very day he made it home he visited a friend and while leaving the apartment complex he was stopped by security guards. The police were called and he was taken to jail and they tried to charge him with trespassing. He had really only committed the crime of walking while black. It took 2 days to get him out. He had to go to court. The judge he was in front of was the very person who was his attorney when they locked him up when he was 16. He was let go, but the writing was on the wall. Living in a very prejudiced state, not being able to afford a good attorney, the options are few for young black boys and men. There are plenty of facts to support that. Having no life skills it wasn’t long before he decided to hang with a cousin who had a record and who wanted to hold up a club. He got scared and ran, but people in the club recognized him as being with the man who pulled out a gun and tried to rob the place. Guilty for being there. Black men also get much longer sentences than white men and he ended up in adult prison because of being with the wrong people at the wrong time. He had also met my daughter during this time and they had a baby he has never been able to spend time with. The few times she visited he was behind glass. That boy, who will be 9 in July is his reason for living. His goal to be the father he never had. And he has me, and I’m writing a book that hopefully will provide enough proceeds for him to live on while he decides what to do with his life to create value. Multiply Jamie’s life thousands and thousands of times. Not everyone has someone to help insure his success back into a world that is much changed and very unwelcome.

This is the effect of juvenile detention. It needs to be changed. Jamie still sits in prison today. Hopefully it will soon and he will make bail the end of next year. This is why I passionately write this book about his life. “Inside the Forbidden Outside”. Four of the chapters are posted on this site. Fill out the contact form on the bottom to be on the mailing list for more information as it get closer to completion.

Juvy destroys our young people. They can’t cope with the things they do to them inside. Yes, there are many youth who have committed serious crimes, usually coming from very dysfunctional families and violent communities. The way they are treated once they get into these institutions makes it unlikely they will go on to to have “normal” lives. Most end up in prison. Many of the crimes committed by youth is because they have no other way of dealing with life as it slaps them across the face. There is little guidance from the adults around them. But the youth are our leaders of tomorrow and we need to handle them with care and nurture them.

Thank you.

On the right side of the blog there are many links that will tell you much more about the lives of youth who are locked up and who are in solitary confinement. Until we find a better way of teaching kids how to live their lives, and instill in the value they have as a human being, they will continue to lash out. The adults in their lives disappoint them and don’t teach them the value of respect, for themselves or for others.

The link below is a small step in the right direction, and it is only one state. We have to fight for the the children. They are our only hope for the future. They are the leaders of tomorrow whether it is for the right things or the wrong things.

BILL SEEKS TO END SOLITARY CONFINEMENT OF YOUTHS IN CALIFORNIA.

Walking While Black

This is Jamie’s most recent letter. It was difficult for him to write and difficult for me to transcribe. Criminals need to be locked up. There is no question about that. There are some pretty screwed up people out there, but I also know there is a business structure to the prison system to make sure, once they have you, they plan on keeping you. Because sentences are incredibly long, far beyond the point of being necessary, it makes it impossible for 71% of parolees to assimilate back into society. Look at that percentage. After five years only 29% don’t go back. Quite often it is for breaking a rule, not for committing a crime. These 8 years I’ve been writing to Jamie, I have come to know his was a life, was a life unnecessarily destroyed – by many factors. Being black is the greatest factor. No father, little structure because it’s a single parent home, a cop the family had trouble with, who barges into their house when he was sixteen and hurt his mother, being sent to juvy for 9 months for hitting the cop with a broom, and not let out for 4 years. There are so many kids who are product of the community they are raised in, and when you are black, the odds against you and the odds that you will be put through this system is much greater than it is for white kids. That is a fact. Not an opinion. It set him on a course it was meant to go – to lead to prison. Jamie is guilty of being born black – walking while black – who had the possibility of an education taken away. He never knew we was allowed to have a dream for his future. Without having an education, what is the likelihood of working, especially being born with epilepsy? Where was his father? He is a retired cop who wanted nothing to do with him as a child. If he had helped to raise him could this story have turned out different? His mother and father are now married. It happened about a year ago. Jamie didn’t even know it happened when it did. He has reached out to his father and getting nothing in return. So now at age 32, the man Jamie is will have to be strong. Beat the system that is set up for him to fail. he went in a boy and has to come out a man, without having the benefit of life’s experiences to guide him – when he is paroled, whenever that is. This is why I write this blog and why I write the book, ‘inside out’. Type that in search and pull up the chapters I have posted. It will give you insight to solitary confinement. Is Jamie a bad man? Does he have the mind of a criminal? You judge for yourself.

Please comment, rate or leave your email information to know when “InsideOut” will be published

This is my new improvisation recorded march 22, 2015.  Title – “I’m Sorry”  by Sonni Quick  copyright 2015

walking while black, police brutality,Jamie Cummings,school to prison pipeline, juvy to prison, juvy
Walking While Black
photo credit: galleryhip.com

Hello mom,

Everything happens for a reason. What the reason is for I don’t know. Even me. Look at my situation. Look at the roads I have been down these last nine years. It’s just life. You’re right, I’m not alone. I’m not lonely either because I have you on my side ((smile)) We have helped each other out.

I sit in my cell and think about many things. I think about it so much and so many different things confuse me. Crazy huh? I ask myself a lot of the questions you ask me. About my son. About my family and most of all about how come my dad has been with my mom for almost a year and he has not tried to contact me? Even when I took the first step and reached out to him. Not in so many words. But I did let him know I wanted to get to know him. His birthday was this month. I sent him a card. Nothing yet. Why? Why don’t he write to me? I have questions I’ve asked myself for years.

I’ll try to answer your questions the best I can. But it really hurts, growing up without a dad. Then I never really had much of a young life. I mean, I had one, but not one a kid would like. I love my mother. Always will, but growing up knowing everybody’s dad, but mine. All for of us. We each had our own dad. Being home while they went to stay at their dad’s and dad’s family – it hurt. I’m the only child who never knew his dad or his family. Why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Question for you. Why did I have to lose my life? When I was 16 going on 17 I was sent to TYC. Texas Youth Commission. I was told I had to do 9 months. However, I was a young black male and was lied to by the courts. I ended up doing 4 years. While locked up I lost an aunt. I only had one visit from my mom due to the distance and miles from home. At times I got so angry I used to give the people problems. I would fight. Make them chase after me, spray me with pepper spray and even place me on suicide watch because of my depression. I was placed on two (BMPs), Behavior Management Programs. The first, because of being in so much trouble. The second was because I broke an officers nose. He poked and poked at me and kept calling me nigger. I finally lost control and hit him. I know I had a problem with anger, and but I a teenager who was already angry at being here in the first place. I could only take so much of him trying to make me come back at him. He pushed me because he eventually knew I’d fight back. So who’s fault was it? Was it all mine? Was I supposed to be the better person and ignore this asshole? And since there was nobody else that witnessed it, of course his story was different from mine. I just hauled off and hit him for no reason? But no one believed me because their staff don’t treat the boys like that. The officer filed charges on me. He knew what he was doing. I was handcuffed and taken to the county jail in Brownwood, Tx.

I got there and lost it cause I knew what was ahead of me. They was trying to send me here to prison. They ended up having me see a doctor because I stopped eating and was real depressed. The doctor spoke to the judge I guess because of instead of sending me to prison I went to a state hospital for depression. This was in 2004. I was 21. I stayed there maybe a month at the most. I didn’t like it. I’d been away from home for so long it was killing me.Then to be placed in a state hospital near Oklahoma really hurt. There was no way anybody could come visit me even if the wanted to. It was too far away. My life had been upside down for so long.

When I got out I went home. My family was waiting for us with a party for me. However the drive was so long, when my mom and cousin came to pick me up, they both needed to rest. We stopped in Dallas. We finally made it to Nacogdoches, my hometown, about 10:00. Everybody had just about had left. There was a few cousins and an old friend I went to school with. So much for a party. Everything was gone. I really didn’t care. I was home.

But get this, I went to my cousin’s house that same night. I visited for awhile and and then started walking home. In the apartment complex my cousin lived, they had guards after 10:00. So, I’m on my way home and the officer stops me. I explained that I was visiting my cousin and was on my way home. They asked me to step into the office. I did, and the next thing I knew I was in the back seat of a police car for trespassing. I was ‘walking while black’. I wasn’t even home one day, but I spent the next two days in jail. For what? My mom came and got me out.

I went to court for the case and guess who I seen? I seen the lawyer that was my lawyer four years ago. Now he was a judge. He did not know who I was at first. He ask me my name and I told him. He asked me who my mama was. It hit him. He ask how I was doing. I told him that I had just now come back from TYC. He looked at me crazy, as if he didn’t know that the 9 months I was sentenced to lasted 4 years. I told him he lied to me. He looked shocked. He asked what I was doing in front of him. I told him about visiting my cousin and he dropped the case.

I was home for one year. I met a beautiful woman who I fell hard for. I enjoyed spending time with her as well as her kids. Then later in our little relationship I was told I had a child on the way. I was excited because I was having my first child, yet worried because I had no job to support this child. The money I was getting I was getting illegal. Life is full of choices. Sometimes we don’t learn to think ahead about our choices. I made a bad choice by leaving the house that night. She didn’t want me to leave home the night that situation happened. That was a bad choice I made that night, but I didn’t realize it was a bad choice. Now I have a son who is almost 9 years old, who I’ve only seen a handful of times. What makes this so difficult is that this places his mother in a difficult place, too. It makes me worry about her and the kids.

I’m going to to end this. I’ve been going and going. This has been hard to write. It hurts to bring it up and think about it all over again.

Love always, Son

I forgot a few things. I’m going to try and remember as much as I can. I don’t like the past. I got the box you sent me you ordered from commissary. You also asked what I meant when I said I get snacks. A snack is a peanut butter sandwich or some kind of meat sandwich. I get because at night I wake up with terrible headaches and I’m dizzy. One day , when I had a seizure because of my epilepsy I came to know my sugar is low. Since I’m in lockup I had to tell them I’m supposed to get these snacks. One of the officers here is young, maybe 22 at the most. He just started working here. They pick up bad habits quick. Anyway, I’m talking to him and another comes up with my snack. This young dude takes the sandwich and pulls it apart and spits in it. All I could see was red. He talked shit but another inmate called to him and told him a few things about me. Let’s just say he seen me in action a few times. I have to be able to defend myself in here when I need to.

Till next time, Love you.