The Felonious PhD.

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

Chasing Rainbows…

I am always ecstatic when I hear good, positive, and comforting news from my loved ones.  Being an eternal optimist, I am cognizant of the fact that often when it rains, a rainbow will follow.  so, I am always chasing rainbows.

Recently, I learned that my niece obtained a job that she has been wanting. I phoned my family and my son was being his sarcastic self and harassing everyone around him and being a normal teenager.  One or my younger nieces finally signed up for full-time classes, something that I have pushed her to do FOREVER!  (Good job Unique!)  My baby sister is finally being brave…..making life choices without fear of failure.  Just going for it!  Whew!  Life is good!

ALL I have ever wished and dreamed for when I think about those I love is that they come to recognize, be open to, and take every opportunity to chase their own rainbows.

As I sit in the library today, writing and mindful of the present, I am able to see how many that I love have chased my rainbow with me.  That was a wonderful experience, but there is no fulfillment or joy greater that one can experience than reaching a dream that is your own and is about defining your own purpose.

I am thankful for my ability to chase rainbows.  I am also thankful that those I love are chasing theirs!

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Black History Month…..Whew!

Where does an intelligent black woman start when discussing black history month while incarcerated?

I have been approached several times to participate in the Black History Month activities here at the camp.  I have refrained from stating my true feelings about how strongly I feel about participating in any such activities while wearing BOP green and being defined by a number.  My response to why I am not participating has been, “I am not participating in activities such as dancing, entertaining, or plays because I simply do not want to give any part of myself to this process.”  People just look at me crazy, and I keep it moving.

I am keeping in mind that the women that are interested in organizing the activities are young and just want to have some fun; a nice distraction.  So, I am respectful of their needs also.  Honestly, as I pass through the halls and see the signs advertising for participants for the talent show and other productions, it hits me like someone scratching their fingers across a chalkboard.

For the past three weeks, I have tried to process why I am so strongly against celebrating.  The only answer I have come up with is that fundamentally I feel enslaved within this process.  Although I know in my heart it is a temporary physical imprisonment, this process has impacted me emotionally in a way that may or may not be temporary.  That remains to be seen.  It has not taken my ability to hope for a better tomorrow, but it has taught me that I can only live in the now.  And right now, I am not happy about being here!  This environment is not uplifting, encouraging, or conducive to my well-being.  I am not going to pretend that I feel free and happy because February is Black History Month.  Actually, I feel the total opposite.

I am not going to sit in prison, wear prison clothes, and be proud to be here.  Black History is about pride for oneself, a history of overcoming and succeeding.  A history of pain, struggle and slaver.  Well, today as I sit in prison, it does not feel like the past to me.  It is my present and I do not feel the need to celebrate.  I feel the need to be free from the BOP shackles of shame and ignorance.

I am thankful for Black History Month for reminding me that as Audre Lorde has said, “We were never meant to survive.”  And through struggle there will always be a reason to celebrate!

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State of the Union……Dream Killers

This year I will turn 50 years old.  It gives me chills to see that number written on this paper.  As an adult, I have always been attentive to politics, the rhetoric, as well as the players.  My interests mainly revolve around the political decisions that effected me and the vulnerable population with whom I was working.

Today, as I try to find cause to ask the t.v. queens if they are going to watch the State of the Union address, I overheard many saying that politicians don’t care about us.  Ironically, I have always felt that way.  This is not a new ideology or paradigm for me.  But, I have always lived by the  premise that i would rather be aware of how my “enemy” feels so that I am prepared.  I have felt the same way not matter if there was a Republican or a Democrat in office.  Where are the real leaders?  Where are the Dream believers?

Naturally, the rhetoric is surrounding how the American Dream is a bust!  I am living proof that the American Dream is possible, but is America prepared to allow it to be sustained?  As I sit in prison for a financial crime where I shared my EARNINGS and where there were NO victims, I have to say an emphatic, NO!  For some reason, our government began panicking when the balance of wealth was being achieved and shared.  The distribution of wealth is not a goal for the wealthy, who truly run our Government.  I have witnessed and participated in how sharing wealth can transform lives, communities, and our society.  Even though it was on a small scale that I was able to accomplish it, it was easy to do!

So, what is the real definition of the American Dream?

I think the definition and model of the American Dream needs to be revamped.  To start, we need to reassess how the government distributes money and create policies & laws to get the results they want.  The American Dream for many hard-working Americans is going to continue to be difficult to maintain, achieve, or define.  I have decided that I will not allow the Government the opportunity to tell me what the American Dream is any longer.  The Dream Killers have far too much power and control as it is.  They cannot have control over my dreams, too.  I am starting over.  I am going to dream like I am 05 years old instead of 50 years old.  Things will be less complicated and more fun that way.

As I sit, incarcerated by the Federal Government with many women like myself, I feel angry, frustrated, and disheartened with our country.  Those women who feel that the state of the union address or politicians do not affect us inmates directly, may be right.  Being an eternal optimist, I like to think differently.  Regardless, I know it is an opportune time to be a spectator.  I have to be here anyways, so as the Government pays to take care of all of my basic needs, I will relax and see what direction our nation goes in the next 19 months.

I am thankful for my ability to forgive my country.  Whew!

Dream Killers

I had a dream

One that consisted of

Providing a space a

Place a

Community full

Of love

Free of poverty, pain

And dismay

Supportive of education

High on motivation and

True to the belief

Of allocation of wealth

Health!

I had a dream

One that believed in

The power of community

Open to diversity

Free from racism

Sexism, homophobia

And ever ism

Ever created

I had a dream

That every person

Could feel love

Give love and

Achieve because

Of love

Dream Killers

Lost in the clouds

Fighting through the

Smoke

Creating invisible

Barriers

Placing limits that can’t

Be overcome

Leaving No options

To pursue a

Breath at

Any cost

Overbearing lost

No gain

Weight on the

Shoulders

Sweat, hot

Worn down

Pain

After the rain

No rainbow

Just floods

Dream killers

Give no hope!

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A look back: The Day Nelson Mandela Died……

The day Nelson Mandela died, November 6, 2013, I, a middle-aged black woman, was sitting in a prison camp feeling angry about my 33 month sentence for, what they found a way to characterize as, health care fraud and money laundering.  I was desperately trying to find some news about his passing and the plans for his memorial and also found myself wandering the camp looking for someone to discuss this extraordinary man’s  life, long and tense two decade imprisonment, and better yet, his incredible feat of becoming president of South Africa after suffering that imprisonment.

Mr. Mandela’s passing and life story helped me put my own imprisonment in perspective.  My concerns about losing my license, career, and possessions seem small and futile when I think critically about them.  My struggle with what to do next, after being labelled a felon, seems like a small challenge.  Being held captive for over 20 years and having every aspect of your life controlled by those who have labelled you their enemy, is one’s worst nightmare.  Most men and women would have taken their own lives or lost their minds.Mr. Mandela became president.

I will do the duration of my 33 month Federal sentence knowing that if you control a person’s mind, you will always be able to control their actions.   My mind will always be my responsibility!  I am thankful for Mr. Nelson Mandela for demonstrating that to the world and for the legacy he left.

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Am I a Republican or Democrat?…

I was waiting to speak to someone in the education department about my creative writing class census when I observed a flyer entitled, “How To Get Your Voting Rights Back.”  Although I have thought about the ramifications that being labeled a felon would have on my present and future, I have not consciously given my new status as a second class citizen,  a second thought in reference to my voting rights.  I immediately became angry and thought, “I’ll be damned if I have to fight for my right to vote, too!”  I could now be justified in my ambivalence and apathy toward politics and politicians.  I will no longer participate in discussions about the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.  I will be free from attempting to decipher innumerable lies that politicians tell in order to get elected.  I will purchase a t-shirt that says, “I am a felon,” so NO, I am not registered and I cannot vote!

The pathology that occurs when one who is a fighter is told that they are told “NO, you can’t!” can lead to an internal battle, in retrospect, is very humorous.  In that split second, my other thought was, “No one is going to tell me I’m not going to be able to exercise a fundamental right that my ancestors fought diligently for!  I am no longer a third of a person and these are not slavery days!”  Honestly, that entire conversation took place in my head and played out in a matter of 5 minutes or less.

Once the education coordinator arrived, I proceeded to complete my paperwork for the class and as I turned to walk out of the small office, I stubbornly snatched up the brochure and walked out the door.

As I read the brochure which detailed the qualification and procedures for reinstating voting rights, I was struck by two things.  First, once again, here is the criminal justice system trying to find a way to correct itself.  That gives me hope because even as our country continues to over-criminalize its citizens, the term felon will be added to the list of once shameful terminology which has recently become commonplace and includes words like bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployed.

Next,  I thought about how the few frustrating and  inconvenient steps that are necessary to reinstate my voting rights do not compare to what those before me had to do to pave the way for me to have ever had a right to vote.  Needless to say, I will be fighting to reinstate my right to vote.  I can not promise that I will converse rationally about political issues, and I know I will never declare myself to be a Republican or Democrat, but I will find a way to voice my opinion.

I am thankful for my ability to see past the madness of this debilitating system and that I forgive very easily…..but I don’t forget.

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Ms. E…

My first week here, the young Asian woman who is allowing me to briefly share her story, gave me a lesson when she told me to, “Get over it!  This is jail!”  She was obviously joking, but that statement, from a woman who is my kids’ age, resonated with me for several reasons.  First, it will serve as a constant reminder that I am in a pseudo-environment that has its own nuances that will not translate into the real world that we inmates refer to as the “outs.”  Second, it hit my heart to hear that this bright, young, and personable woman has endured this experience during such a critical period in her life.  And no, her social and emotional development will be clearly effected by this sterile system.  But, knowing that she is strong and has overcome this phase of her life is a big plus.

Ms. E is in her 20’s and she was charged with drug trafficking and weapons charges and was sentenced to serve 58 months.  Through that sentence, she has served her time in four different facilities.  Ms. E is very honest and frank about how being incarcerated changed her life for the better.  Prior to being arrested, she states that she “ran the streets,” fearful of being caught and always looking over her shoulder.  She feels that her soul is free despite waking up every day in prison.  She feels that she is free from fear, drugs, gangs, weapons, and crime.  Ms. E. states that she is thankful.  Once she leaves the camp, she will have to serve 10 years on probation.  her goal is to find a job and eventually develop a career for herself.  My hope is that the government or probation department will connect Ms. E with a reentry program that will assist her with achieving her goals.  She is a young woman who knows that she has already overcome the though part of this process and now just needs an opportunity to succeed.

The toughest part of being incarcerated for Ms. E has been the period of time that she has been away from her family.  She states that her ultimate goal is to, “Live a life my Mom would be proud of.”

I honesty feel that Ms. E will find a way to make her mom proud.  That sense of accountability and family connection is a very good foundation.

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Two Leave and Six More Come…

I am continuously baffled by the mindset of our legal system and also our government create and uphold the policies that give prosecutors, IRS agents, and fraud units the freedom to basically imprison anyone they see fit.  Over the past few months, I have witnessed how the court system throughout OUR country has deemed it necessary to hand out extreme sentences to some and inappropriate low sentences to others.  I have attempted to understand the formula, the rationale, and the purpose.

As a black woman my immediate response blamed racial preference.  Then, as I searched and searched, I came to the conclusion that outdated laws and mandates are what drives the system.  Once I quiet my mind and listen, watch, and feel, I see that the criminal justice and government systems are not much different from many other systems that are governed by small-minded, soulless and greedy humans.

Each day on the camp grounds a list is posted titled  “Call Out Sheet.”  This sheet informs all of the inmates if we have an appointment, a recreation class, an ACE class, a work detail, or most importantly, if someone is leaving camp, which is known as “camping out.”  I look at the call out sheet on a daily basis for my own information as well as to see how often people leave this place.  I have not performed a statistical analysis, but I can tell you that on the average, two inmates leave and 4 to 6 enter every week.

To an average unaware citizen, this may seem comforting since that’s generally viewed as the Government protecting society from criminals.  I say it is imperative for the average, middle-class, working American to take notice.  From my view on the “inside,” I am sitting next to medical professionals, CPA’s, Minister’s wives, senior citizens, secretaries, lawyers, and real estate brokers.  many who have admitted to making mistakes, but none who have murdered, maimed, or injured anyone except, in theory, the Government.

As the revolving door of justice continues and I continue to sit here as an eye-witness, I will continue to attempt to grasp the justification for such harsh sentences for non-violent individuals.  It makes me question the validity of calling this a democracy.  It sure feels more like a police state to me.  I’m just saying!  I will be physically confined to this space for another 19 months and while I’m here I plan to search for the truths and motivations within our legal system.

I am so thankful for the one freedom I currently have.  Freedom of speech.  I can only hope that I do not lose that by our government signing it away, or be punished by the government twisting the words I speak here to further their agenda of prosecutorial persecution.

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