The Felonious PhD.

White Collar Female PhD. Felon, Prison Camp, Re-Entry, Criminal Justice Reform. Women, Lesbian

The Full Moon…

I have to begin by saying that I love the moon.  I mean, I love how it looks when it is at its fullest.  Tonight, as I gazed right at it and took a deep breath, the thought that ran through my mind was that no matter where you are or what your situation, some things are still beautiful.  I think after consistently making reference to how wonderful and illuminating the moon is, I have definitely solidified my title as NERD!  I can’t help it though.  I even had my buddy, LittleJ, go for a walk with me so she could marvel at its beauty.  She was a wonderful sport because her shoes have not come in yet so she walked the track with me in her combat boots.  Hahaha! And at each turn, as the moon got brighter and brighter, I just kept saying to myself that life is good!  It dang sure could be better, but it is GOOD!

I have always appreciated and loved the full moon season!  I miss calling my sister and asking her, “Hey, what does this moon mean?” I think I will email her right now and ask her.  I did ask a woman here who is an astrologer also, and she said it is a Scorpio moon.  But being my stubborn self, I want to hear it from my Sissy.

Tonight, I am thankful for the familiar, beautiful full moon!

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my family and friends near and far. I miss you all deeply, but am focused on the future and know that this is temporary!  Enjoy your day together and eat some turkey and sweet potato pie for me!

I am thankful for you all!

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Writing for the Soul…

November 17, 2013

I have facilitated two of the creative writing classes.  The first week was just spent explaining my vision for the class and clarifying for several of the women that I was not an English major, and could NOT teach them how to write and speak.  I did explain to the class of 17 people who I am capable of providing and encouraging an environment that would empower each of them to identify, enhance, and use their own powerful voices.  As I thought to myself, “Damn, I’m good,” I could see in many of their eyes that they did not have a clue what I was saying.

I recited a poem that I wrote years ago called “Prisons” which is posted in the Inspiration link of this blog.   Then the tone changed.  It was no longer about a period, comma, or grammar, but about how the precise use of words can move us in many ways, and each of us in different ways.  The class consists primarily of older women, with the exception of one young woman who I like and forced to take my class.  Turns out, she is an incredible writer.  I will talk more about her in an upcoming blog.

I ended that class by reading a short essay by Alice Walker about her mother’s blue bowl.  After the first class, many of the women had questions about the structure and rules.  I promised to give them more details in the next class, but reminded them that my number one rules is that there are no rules.

Prior to the second class, a few women approached me about wanting to join the class.  They heard about the class and went to the education department to see if they could start a waiting list.  I agreed to increase the class size which brought the class to 17.

I was encouraged to hear that there was positive review of the class making their way around the camp.  Because every moment here for me is political, and I had questioned myself about agreeing to teach anything here for the “man,” I was glad that I had done it.  Of course my rational mind had prevailed when my rational mind reminded me that this would be good for the women and an opportunity for me to keep doing what I do best, which is sharing what I know and giving of myself.

I will keep a record of the creative writing class and will share it with you after the ten week session is up.  I have already been asked if I am going to do it again after this session, but I have not decided yet.  It is very difficult to plan ahead in this environment.  There is no consistency (that’s all I’ll say on that topic for now).

I am so very thankful for my strong mind and open loving heart.  They get me through every day here.

 

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One Month Down…

November 14, 2013

As I sit in the library writing this blog, I cannot help but think, “What the hell??!!”  Then I remind myself that I must continue to look forward.

Over the past month, I have met and conversed with several women and there are many more who  I’m sure will come into my path and want to share their story.  Up until now, there is a theme that runs through every story, no matter the sentence or the offense.  That theme is the shared sense of loss of families, friends, careers…..lives.  No matter if the surface conversation is about the justice system, the food, the three secure men’s prisons that surround this camp, the recreation schedule, t.v. room, and limited commissary list, especially when they are out of yarn, the aching for home and the familiar underlies everything.

On the other hand, I have had very limited discussions about what is next.  I mean, I am, and always have been, a planner.  Whether all of the plans ever completely come to fruition or not is not the issue.  I am in a constant state of planning.  What I am finding in here though, through the few conversations I have had on this topic, is that people in here, especially if they have a long sentence, only plan to fight to get out or have their sentence reduced.  If they have a short sentence, they are only worried about getting out.  Period.  If they are like me and have a middle of the road sentence, they are vacationing.  Not all, but some, have just stated that it is, “In God’s hands.”  I truly do not see my train of thought as particularly faithless or spiritually void, I just see that I will be 51 years old when I am released, my son will be 16, the system has destroyed my organization, revoked my license to practice in the health  field AT ALL, locked me up, and then will set me free!  So, I have to plan.

I feel that I have another good 15 to 17 years of mind-boggling energy to give somewhere.  I must plan.  I plan to stay politically aware, even though we get no news and our newspapers are days late; I plan to keep my mind and body sharp even though I feel this system is one that creates dependency and mediocrity.  I plan to never allow this experience to break or define me.  Even though everywhere I turn I am called by my last name,  number, or simply “inmate.”  I plan to remain loving, caring, and peaceful even though the environment is over crowded, loud, and commands distrust and silence.

The last month has provided no “lesson” to be learned.  I have and will continue to be extremely inconvenient and wasteful in so many ways.  After hearing some of the other’s stories, particularly two that I heard yesterday which were very similar to mine, I am thankful but I feel so angry and frustrated with this process.  They are also health care providers and were given 12 years.  What is the point in that punishment?

With one month down, the initial shock is over.  I am no longer a “newbie.”  With one month down, I am getting closer to leaving this camp and once again contributing to the lives of those I love and care for.  With one month down, I am on my way to putting this experience behind me.

I will now have to endure the holiday season without my son.  I want the system to know that this so-called justice is spiritually mean, financially draining on itself, and ineffective at creating societal change.  As an African-American woman, it is all too familiar and I have overcome it before.  This past month has validated that for me.

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“This Has Been the Best Thing for Me….”

November 14, 2013

Okay, I would not be me if I did not operate from a place of love and fairness.  Two wonderful women that I have met here at camp who have expressed how at the time of each of their arrests, their lives were spiraling downward due to meth addiction.  They have both been as honest, open, and remorseful for how their poor choices not only impacted their own lives, but also their kids’ and families’ lives.  They both have testified to me that there is no telling where they may have ended up if this 18 month intervention had not occurred for them.  Both, in their mid to late-forties, sober, thankful, and looking for a way to have a new beginning.  These women speak openly about their poor choices in “bad boys” and their lack of self-esteem that led them to ending up in their worst case scenarios.  This intervention is not one that they have defined by feeling trapped in a building, but as one that has provided them with the opportunity to slow down, not stress about day-to-day living, and primarily a means to become clean and sober.

I have grown to respect these two women and do not envy the challenges they are sure to face once they are released from this imposed rehab program.  Both women need a halfway house set up because they are otherwise homeless.  Their family connections have been impacted, as can be expected, they are labelled as felons, and other future issues which will pose barriers to their employment.

I do not feel that these two women will return to the system, but from the inside out, I completely understand why many others do, in fact, return….over and over.  No matter how these women are rehabilitated, the barriers to their future success are thick and difficult to penetrate!  Once a person is labelled with the scarlet letter “FELON,”  the odds are more than against us.  It takes a person being more than tough to overcome and conquer this craziness.

Once I am done here, I better have the anecdote!

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All of the Inmates are Male or Drug Dealers or Users…

There has been a lot of discussion about amending the laws that require mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for drug offenders.  I am not sure if anyone is noticing that there is little to no discussion about the increasing incarceration of females who pleaded guilty or plea-bargained to get reduced sentences for white collar crimes.  Yes it is important to me because I am in that category.

There are a percentage of us that are going unnoticed, we are invisible.  We are the first time offenders of non-violent, victimless crimes.  We’ve been convicted of crimes that were classified as fraud according to the convoluted government policies (see The Indictment of My Soul).  We are mothers, aunts, sisters, and friends.  Sitting her posing no threat to anyone, and truly never have.

As I write this blog sitting in the library with several other women, I just wish someone would hear our voices and understand that this is not going to solve any problems.  It only creates more problems for our system.

As I read the statements from the Director of the Board of Prisons from some type of recent Congressional hearing, I realize that once again, I am part of an invisible population and I know all too well how that works out.

I am not a male inmate or a druggie of any kind-dealer or user.  I am a professional woman who is educated, loving, caring, dependable, black, and should not be here.  I am once again a minority.

Life is so funny sometimes!  Whew!

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Veterans Day…

November 11, 2013

Today, the holidays have officially begun.  Here at camp, the day wasn’t spent honoring veterans or in any other patriotic celebration.  We did have quite a few activities to occupy our time and keep our bodies moving.  The women organized a big softball game and seemed to enjoy the competition.  Today’s lunch was reportedly a special treat!  Women who have been here through past holiday seasons made sure I knew better than to miss the chicken wings!  The cafeteria line and all of the tables were packed today so that was enough for me to believe that this was a “not to be missed meal.”

The afternoon was filled with “Name That Tune” and a Yahtzee tournament.  To top off the holiday afternoon, I stood in line for at least 45 minutes for some freshly popped popcorn.  My only response is, “Is this real life?”

I am so thankful for my sense of humor because while standing in the line for chicken wings and then again for popcorn, I laughed A LOT!  I am not the only one here with a wonderful sense of humor.  No matter what, life is good!  That I know for sure.

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Town Hall Meeting…

November 10, 2013

8:30 am

I knew it was going to be one of those days.  Two female guards entered the unit and informed all 130 of us, give or take a few, that we would be having an emergency meeting immediately.   As the women who were present gathered toward the front of the unit,  others were rushing to get out of the showers.  After a small verbal conflict in the shower area was resolved,  everyone was eventually present and attentively listening to the guards’ concerns.

Are you ready for this?

We were informed that if we touched or altered the emergency lights again that things like the t.v. rooms and beauty salon will be taken away from us. Also, we  could be locked down in the unit.  I will refrain from further discussion on this issue until I am free, but I just had to share my Sunday morning experience with my bloggies.  One day, I will reread these posts and hopefully by then I will have found a way to make sense of this childish,  embarrassing,  time-wasting experience!

 

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A Renewal or A Thought About New Beginnings

November 10, 2013

7:00 am

Today is going to be one of those days…

I woke up feeling less than in the mood for this system!  I got up, followed my usual routine – minus the walk around the track.  At breakfast, I sat with a few of the women who, like me, are trying to grasp, make sense, or plain understand what the U.S. Justice system has done to them.  For me, I question the same thing, but in my life experience I have never seen the system as fair or just anyway.  So, I spent the next thirty minutes listening to how the system that they trusted, voted for, believed in whole-heartedly, has now treated them as an other-a criminal-and has labelled them as a felon.  Their tone continues to be one of total shock.  

They are hard-working, loving, caring, entrepreneurs. Like many middle-class women who wanted to be available for their husbands and children while still participating in achieving the American Dream, they loved the chance to be self-employed or to work in the real estate or finance field where one can work independently.  There are so many women, white women, who are here for white collar crime.  I am an African-American, highly educated, and I am a minority here.  It is interesting because these women immediately think that I will become uncomfortable and defensive if they speak about Obama or his policies.  My immediate reponse is, “I can’t give a damn about Obama racially; politically, his administration’s policies have directly affected me, my family, all of my employees, all of the foster kids and young adults I parented, and most importantly, my own 14 year old son.  I am as aware of that as I was during the prior administration.”  

My life as an educated, aware, African-American mother of a black male child, makes my whole life political.  From birth to death, politics will affect my life.  That is why I embrace the creative, compassionate, and resillient side of myself. I must in order to live a full, loving, life.  This is all nothing new, it is just different and extreme.

Being that they were wearing the same not-so-lovely green as me,  and aware that I am here for the same reasons they are…they got it!  They completely understood and empathized.  I have heard several people say over they past month, “I never would have known until now.”  

As I write this blog, I understand that there are many lessons that can and will be learned.  I just know that there has to be a better place to learn them! 

It is going to be one of those days!

 

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A Reason to Fight

Under the link, “Justice Reform,” I have shared a link with you to a website called FAMM.org.  I know many of you have visited, but I would love for more people to be driven to their site so that the hearts and actions of those who have been negatively and, in many cases, unjustly affected by Mandatory Sentencing and the punitive, all-powerful DOJ can be united and therefore more likely heard as this message of reform is shared with a public that is for the most part, I believe, unaware.

Please take a minute to read Kevin Ring’s story.

A Reason to Fight.

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