Why Am I In Prison? Christianity vs Buddhism

Lotus flower. flower of Buddhism

“Jamie” by Sonni Quick copyright 2014
Sept 9,2013

Incarcerated since late 2005

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you it is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own problems. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions. It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in it but they all say they are bright and everyone else is wrong. The Chaplain in here doesn’t like you if you aren’t a Christian.

SGI World Tribune ,Nichiren Buddhist
Nichiren Buddhist weekly newspaper. This is what has helped him stay sane and have hope.

Mom,I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of the magazine, Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.

Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about what happens next.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me? I’ve wasted more than seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one. Ill try chanting “nam myoho renge kyo”. Maybe it well help change things. I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU.  Please give me some time to think.
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(Sonni’s note:  It has taken awhile for Jamie to understand his life has value. He still slumps into that space that makes him want to give up – thinking they will never let him go. It’s not uncommon for any of us to have days like that, but inside prison, they way you are treated is intended to break you. You are at their mercy, and mercy is something that has no meaning in prison.

It is hard for him to remember there is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father. What he is learning because of this will change his direction. It is painful He can’t see it now but he will later. Nothing happens by accident. Everything that happens is the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is.

During the first year after this letter was written he began studying the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism. His attitude about his life improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and a determination to succeed; a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. He wanted to understand what propelled him the direction that led to prison. Buddhism puts responsibility for your life squarely on your own shoulders. No plan laid out for you by an entity who loves and punishes you. Only the effects of the causes you made yourself are what You are in the driver’s seat.

It does not mean life is smooth sailing and everything is a bed of roses. Try to change, and the obstacles increase andbtest your determination. But Jamie now is getting a better understanding of why things happen to him, and he is learning to make better decisions in his life. He is seeing how his emotions govern how he feels about his life, especially anger. Regardless, if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy. But it is always two steps forward and one step back.)

Inside the Forbidden outside – chapter “Fantasy Crime”

Inside the forbidden outside, fantasy crime, Jamie Cummings, prison injustice
Fantasy Crimes

It’s been nine years now, give or take a few months. Nine very long years. Nine years alone living with the fantasies of a few short months with a woman. Nine years with only myself to talk to most of time. In and out of solitary for years at a time. A revolving door of being let out knowing it would only be a matter of time before they found a way to lock me up again. Other men were always coming and going, in and out of lockup. They want to make sure you know they own you. They think they can even own your mind. he was locked up for a fantasy crime. They wanedt me to feel humiliated. They let me know I can’t win.

It was real obvious the guards enjoyed locking me up this time. It’s not the first time and it probably won’t be the last. It’s what they do to all the dudes in here. They had a real good time laughing at me. I knew that as sure as I knew anything. No way was I going to let it show that it bothered me. They knew I didn’t do anything they haven’t done themselves a thousand times. It wasn’t necessary to write up a case on me for that. What did I need to be disciplined for? I’m a man. I have needs just like everyone else. I’ve been without a woman for 9 years, and even then I only had a short time with Morgan for less than a year, when I got out of Juvy when I turned 21. It’s the only memories I have. She was a beautiful and loving woman and I fell hard for her, so when I think of a woman I think of her and the way I wanted our life to be. But life had other plans for us and it planned they we wouldn’t be together. But I still have my memories and that is the only thing I have to keep me company when I’m lonely.

People were made for having sex. Some guys, when they knew they’d be locked up for maybe the rest of their life, or at least for a very long time, they would do things they wouldn’t do on the outside. But when you didn’t have any other choice it can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do and take advantage of the only thing that was there. There were guys that were into that. Some guys didn’t want to but they were made to anyway. Not him, though. He’d never let himself be put in a place mentally where it would be okay to be with another man. Not a chance. He didn’t care how hard up he was. He had a gay cellie once and he let it be known he was willing. he set him straight right off. He better not wake up and catch him trying to do things.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t human. He’s a grown man who still had needs. Being in prison didn’t make that go away. Just because he was locked up in here didn’t mean he no longer had any desire for woman. So here he was, minding his own business, and not being able to have any, so all he was doing was thinking about it and touching himself, just the same way everybody else does. He wasn’t doing anything to anyone. He wasn’t putting it in anyone’s face.

Female guards are supposed to announce themselves when they come on a unit. Someone could be changing clothes. But she didn’t announce herself, that was the issue. She caught him with his hand on himself. Finding a tiny bit of pleasure. She lied about that and they both knew it. But it didn’t matter. Guards can say anything they want. Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. That’s the way prison justice works, or rather, it’s the way prison injustice works. That’s why they get away with doing whatever they want to the inmates. Their superiors actually encourage it. Prison injustice is more like it.

There’s a whole lot else going on around here and everyone knows it. Sex in prison is so common. He wasn’t doing anything to anyone else so how come he gets put in lockup for it? That was an offense to be put in solitary for? He wasn’t allowed to even fantasize about sex? He couldn’t be a human being with all the same urges of any other human being without being put back into a 5X8 foot cell, deprived of everything? Take away his job. Take away going to commissary. Take away his time in the yard. Take away the few friends he had made. Take away the progress he made so he’ll have to start all over? Take away his hope? Turn him into a person who will end up right back in in here like so many of them do when they succeed in making him nuts? They even took away his books and left him with only his paper and a pen.

What was wrong with thinking about sex? He needed to at least fantasize he had sex with someone. A seventeen year sentence is a long time. This also will make it harder to make parole in Oct of 2016. Yeah, how do you answer the question when they say, “What have you done to improve your life? Oh, you got thrown in the hole again? How many times is it now? It seems like you can’t stay out of trouble. You have a problem with authority, Cummings. You’re not ready to get out.” That’s what they’ll say. It’s all a racket. They do this to keep you down.

He thought about Morgan. She was the only woman he had been with. He knew it was over between them, and he told her to move on. It was too long to wait and he wasn’t upset, but he had spent so many years loving her and that was the only memory he had of a woman. He was remembering her the way he wanted to remember her. What was there, a few memories of making love to a woman who for so long and he wanted to believe she loved him as much as he loved her. Hoping against hope that one day when he got out and she met him again face to face, she would still want him. . .

He knew, though, that this was not the real reason they locked him up this time. It was just an excuse. A guard with a grudge. The real reason was to dehumanize him. Make him feel as though he had no value. Taking away the most basic of human feelings and emotions and making it into something to be punished for. It was a way to make him worthless. He wasn’t really a man. There was no way to act like a man. They want to control even what few good times he had that were locked in his head. He wasn’t going to let them have that.

“They aren’t going to do this to me.” He spoke out loud to his reflection in the stainless mirror above the sink

“I’m not going to let them get to me again.” He repeated with even more determination.

“They can lock up my body, but they can’t lock up my mind.”

What he didn’t know is they weren’t done with him yet. They were just getting started . . .

.

F**k it. I’m Tired of Starting Over

prison letters,inmate letters,ad seg,level G4
Jamie Cummings letter 2010

( Sonni’s note: This is not the letter below, but is instead the next letter I’ll post.  Jamie is from Nacogdoches, Tx and this prison is all the way across to the other side.  Texas is a big state.  For Megan with the kids and his mother to visit  it would take 3 days.  It seems quite often as though the prison system tries to separate the inmates from their family. It’s like another way to make it harder on them. I have read many times of this being done.  Mothers separated from their sons and daughters and husbands from wives.  Considering there are 110 prisons at last count in Texas. Quite a lot don’t you think? After a few years in that prison he was sent back across Texas, but to prison  far south, in Beeville.  After a few years there they sent him closer to home,  forty five minutes from his mother and a two hours away from his son, but still, visits have been minimal.  He hasn’t seen his son in a year and a half, but his mom did go visit him on his birthday in January. An SGI member -Melvin – from a Buddhist organization, visits every couple months to keep him encouraged to have a positive attitude and plan for is future.  I have hundreds of these letters.  They have been his life line, but my lifeline as well.  When I was so sick for a few years I always knew he cared, and it gave him someone to care about. Both of us were in prisons of our making.  Effects of causes we made.  It was time to make better causes – better choices.

At the end of your own day, how would you feel if there was no one who cared?  No one you could write to or call about your day?  Getting to know this man through these letters and knowing his mind is not that of a criminal, and knowing that someone has to be there to help him develop a life for himself, inside and outside, because when he gets out, society will not be waiting with open arms, ready to give him a second chance.  Quite the opposite.  And that effects their survival rate on the outside. 71% of all parolees end up back in prison within 5 years because they have no way to take care of themselves.  They never learned a new way to live and even though most parolees are determine it is going too be different when they get out they don’t have a way to make that work. No one wants to hire them or rent to them, so they resort to old habits to live.  they are looked at as worthless or dangerous, even if they weren’t inside for a violent crime. This is our fault.  The prison’s fault.  If an inmate serves his time he should be able to begin a life and not looked down on.  We do that – society This is why I am writing a book (first chapter)about him based on these letters.  The original title was “InsideOut” and recently changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside.”  Please follow this blog to find out how he’s doing and/or  fill out the contact sheet below for the email list to only get posts about new chapters and to find out when it will be published. There is a media file on some posts that have original, improvised piano recordings of music I’ve composed for Jamie that I hope to have included with the book.)

Written 6/18/2013

Hello Mom,
Good morning.  How are you? Fine I hope.  As for me, Well, so far things are Okay.  Sorry it’s taken so long to write back. I’ve been moved to a different pod. I got my G4 so I’m waiting to be moved again to where the other G4’s are. I also had to find some paper.  I got this from an officer.  I was waiting on the paper you were going to send. Could you send me two pads of paper so it will last me for a while?

(Sonni’s note: Jamie did get a 12 pack of writing pads I sent before he was moved to another prison and an officer stole it from his belongings, along with books, letters and pictures.  He said there was no point in filing a claim because not only was he in a different prison, there was no proof he had these things in the first place.)

I read your letter a few times cause I wanted to understand everything. Yes, a lot of things happen in life. But who said we’re perfect?  We make mistakes.  It’s a part of life.  Learning from those mistakes is what counts. No, no one has a perfect life, but all we can do is try our best. A lot of people feel they have are supposed to have a perfect life only to find out later they don’t. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life they want. but life, as some of us know is what hurt and kills them.  Challenges, we should try to overcome them.  Some do and some don’t.

When I found out about you being in the hospital I did something I really don’t do.  I prayed, but I didn’t know to who.  I was just doing it.  At the same time, I knew things would come out fine.  For you, and you are woman of faith.  Your faith in the teachings of Buddhism.  So yes, I worried,  just as the rest of the family did. The outcome of your surgery came out fine.  Don’t get me wrong, I chanted as well. Nam myoho renge kyo. Strange words but I try to understand the best I can what it means to practice with magazine and newspapers that come all the time. ( the World Tribune and Living Buddhism)  Try to keep faith. There’s a lot of people care and that’s what is good.  It hurts to know so many peoples lives are at stake because they have to wait a long time on a liver transplant.  It hurts to know so many people die, especially kids.  It’s not right.  You said you needed the confidence. Confidence comes from within., even during the surgery.  I wish I was out at that time.  I would have made sure to be there.  Everyone has challenges we all have to overcome.  This just happens to be your challenge.  This happens to be mine.

I haven’t overcome my challenges because I’m going up and down with my problems.  I’m waiting on the pieces in my life to come together.  You say, sometimes we really want something and it will make us happy.  I know if I can see my family, better yet, be with them, I’ll be happy.  But for some reason, I can’t have that.  I understand your situation.  Yes, it would be better if you only needed the transplant.  It hurts to know you are going through so much afterward.  The device sounds good if it will help with the pain. I know you are strong and independent as well. But I’ll do my best to stay away from the trouble.  I promise you.

Okay, here’s the difference between ad seg and G4.  In ad seg everything comes to you, like food.  You only come out of your cell for one hour a day or for medical, and you’re in hand cuffs everywhere you

chow in prison. Sanitary hair nets around food
Sanitary hair nets around food in the prisons

go.  In G4 they let us out to watch TV and go to rec with each other.  Say about 84 people. We get to walk to the chow hall, which is what I need to stretch my legs.  That’s really it, but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’m going to go.  There’s this lady feeding chow.  She’s mad cause I told her she needs to have a hair net on because it’s policy.  So, to cover her ass she told the Stg I threatened her.  So I might not go to chow.  But fuck it, I’m tired anyway.  I’m tired of starting over.

A couple days later – I went to the UCC today and talked to the warden.  He asked what happened and I told him.  He said he was going to give me another chance. Inmates are always wrong in every case.  There is no justice in prison. I thanked him and walked out.  It’s okay, as of right now I’m not in any trouble.  I’ll do my best to stay away from it. But as you know, I’m around a lot of other people (gangs).  From what I was told the officers trip about any small thing. Shoes not tied right.  Anything.

epileptic seisures,prison medical care, injustice system,prison letters
Epileptic seisures

I went to the doctor today. ( Sonni”s note:  I pay $100 a year for him to be able to see a doctor when he needs to, especially because of his epilepsy.  The quality of that medical is substandard.  I read of one doctor who wouldn’t get within 5 feet of any inmate for fear of “catching” something.  How can you diagnose anything with actually feeling the area that causes the symptom.  The remedy for chest pains is to drink more water.  medical care is costly and the more they spend on it the less money there is for the corporation supplying the care.  There are many lawsuits against these corporations like Corizon who owns many of the prissons across the country, but I suppose paying the lawsuit is less than what the care would have What little I can send him for commissary, they take half of it until it’s paid for. His family has never helped.) 

It’s my left leg and knee.  It swell up big.  It’s an up and down kinda thing.  The doctor says it’s my joints, Arthritis.  Would arthritis make my leg swell up, too? It hurts bad.  But I guess it’s just something I have to deal with.

Well, till next time, I love you.  Love always, Son

Matters of the Heart

 

matters-of-the-heart

(Sonni’s note: I received this letter four weeks before my liver transplant surgery in July 2012.  I was very sick.  I wasn’t capable of writing anymore letters because I couldn’t make a connection between my brain and my hand.  I was playing the waiting game.   I was at the point where I didn’t have a whole lot of time left.   I was told  later that I had come as close as possible to death without dying.   Jamie and I were in our own prisons. He was alone and yet his thoughts were for me. He was sitting in ad seg, solitary confinement, and I was confined to my bed.)

Hello mom, sorry this letter has taken so long to get to you. I pray that as this paper touches your hands it’s as soft as a dove and that you are in the best of health. I pray that this letter brings a smile to your face, and it takes a lot of pain and stress away. I know that things are hard on you right now. But hey, if there’s one thing I know about the women I love and care so much for, you, Megan and my mom, is that you the are strong women. I know the pain is hard to bare. I also know that you will pull through. So everything is going to be fine. It’s nice that several members of the SGI have come to visit you and keep you encouraged but I know you already have the courage.

I understand about bad choices. You aren’t the only one who’s made a bad choice in life. We’ve all made one or two or maybe even three! Look at me. I’ve made lots of mistakes. We all make them. It’s part of life. Some of us turn our life around and some don’t. I wish I could have turned mine around.

I read the World Tribune newspaper and the magazine, Living Buddhism, that you got me. I understand some of it and some I don’t. I try to do the chanting. I do my best and it helps me when I’m mad. So there, I pray for you and everyone I love the only way I’ve known how. I pray for me and Megan’s happiness. But the more I think about it, I know she’s tired.

 

MATTERS-OF-THE-HEART

I was going through my letters and ran across the first few that you wrote me. I’m not trying to make you feel bad or nothing. I just feel it’s the truth, but it just took a little time for me to understand. You stated that Megan would move on and find someone else. It hurt at that time and it really still hurts at just the thought. I have so much hurt inside sometimes I wonder if I should leave this place. Because as time passed I asked myself, why go home? Family showed they really don’t much care. The woman I love has hurt me as well. I know that by me getting locked up that I hurt her. But never would I have stopped my love for her. Never. If the shoe was on the other foot I would have never done anything like that. Why? Because when you find the love you know you have, you don’t. I have never found anyone to love me like Megan. I know she loved me more than most of my family. However, I see that when someone is not around, the love isn’t either. It’s lost. I have some deep scars, just like you mom.

I’m going to let you in on something I never understood. Why is it that you wanted to help me? 670px-Cope-With-Holiday-Stress-and-Depression-in-Prison-Step-05I never understood, although I am very thankful and always will be. We didn’t really get much of a chance to know each other in person except those couple times. However, we have learned a lot about each other over the years. I’m glad to have someone like you and Megan, even though she hardly writes, but I promise you, the day I’ve had enough, everyone will know.

No One Knows What Happens When You Die

I don’t understand much about Christians. I really don’t plan on digging too deep because the Bible repeats itself. Also because it talks about sin, yet it has a lot of sin it. It tells you is ok to do things concerning your kids and your wife that are just plain wrong. Now a days people just pick the parts of it they want to believe in and forget the stuff they know is wrong. So why is part of it right and part of it wrong? Then they say that God says this or that when he didn’t. They try to figure out what God was really saying and it’s just  what they think it means. It’s screwed up.  So I feel this is something I will pass and not rack my brain on why this was allowed and that wasn’t. How so many people have been brain washed I just don’t understand. I’ve never understood. It’s not common sense.  They want you to believe stories actually happened that science says is impossible. They just want to say is a miracle. No, I can’t wrap my brain around that. I’ve tried but something always comes up. There are a lot of questions that could be asked but you won’t get an answer to all of your questions, of you’ll get the same answer but with different wording. Crazy. The Bible has too much sin in it for me to believe it. I don’t pay attention to what the Bible says is a sin.

When I got arrested there was no way I could blame anything on my cousin, the one who had the gun. I have my own mind so whatever was going on it is my fault. No ifs, ands, or buts.  A lot of people don’t want to be responsible for their own unhappiness. They don’t want it to be their own fault. Especially in here. They want what happened to be someone else’s fault. Many people don’t care about the actions that brought them unhappiness. They don’t take responsibility. My cellie tells me it’s all part of “God’s Plan”. Like God planned for him to be here. He’s 50 and he’s been here since he was 22. I don’t know what is wrong with this nut. Maybe it’s the only way he can deal with it.

No one knows what happens after you die. I’m not afraid of dying. But it hurts me to think that when I know that I don’t know my son yet and he don’t know me, either. It’s hard for me to understand when I speak to others about different religions.  It’s because each religion is different but they have some of the same people in their books.

photo-88_20140907231203244

I got my first two issues of the SGI-USA newspaper, The World Tribune and an issue of Living Buddhism.  Maybe they will help me with some of the questions I have about my life. Thank you. Everyone should treat people the way they want to be treated.  Christianity talks about that but I don’t see people really trying to live that way.  In this Buddhism you talk about it seems they take it more seriously. They tell you why you should treat people the way you wanted to be treated.  They don’t just tell you that you should do it. And no one thinks about when they are doing something.  They get caught up in trying to show off.  It’s always that this person or that person isn’t cool so let’s do something to them. They don’t think about what happens when they do that.  It’s  just like living for the moment and not caring about the outcome.

A lot of people are suffering in many ways.  Yes, I help others, but what about me?  I’ve wasted seven years of my life.  To be truthful, I don’t know anything.  Yes, obstacles. I understand that they keep you down.  Things happen that try to keep you from being happy. How do we get away from that?  I guess I got a long way to go.  There is a lot I need to accept.  Starting with the fact that me and Jamie will never have a real bond.  I have to accept that, which is why I let him live his life.  He’s happy, so good.  Writing won’t do no good.  You and I both know this.  I have come to learn to accept everything.  As I said before, my life is a waste, always has been.  So tonight I’ve learned to accept it all from day one.  I’ve learned a lot from you.  You’ve cared for me.  But I finally snapped and realized I’m not ready.  I’m not coming home no time soon.  I LOVE YOU SON.  Please give me some time to think.

(Sonni’s note 9/9/14:  It has taken  awhile for him to understand that his life has value.  There is a reason why he is going through this and that reason will make him a better man and father.  Nothing happens by accident.  It is always the effect of a cause. This past year has seen him make many improvements and come to a better understanding of who he is. His life is important. During the year after this letter was written, as he has studied the philosophy of life called Nichiren Buddhism, his attitude about his life has improved and he has gained a sense of his self worth and has determination to succeed, a desire to have a good life and be a father to his son. That does not mean that the obstacles stop and everything is a bed of roses.  What it means is that he has a better understanding of why things happen to him and is learning to make better decisions in his life so that the obstacles don’t govern how he feels about his life. Regardless if he is in prison, he still has the right and the ability to be happy.  I’m glad he came into my life. He will always be my family.)