The Felonious PhD.

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

Happy 15th Birthday……..Sonny!!!

I have never missed one of my son’s birthdays until now. It is truly one of the most difficult moments for me to think that he will celebrate, take pictures, create wonderful memories, and I will be absent. Prior to self-surrendering to Victorville Federal Prison Camp, I sat with my Public Defender while she calculated the period she thought I would be gone. Her calculations with “good time” and 6 months “halfway house” services came to 22 months. In calculating my time away from my son I began categorizing the events that are important in his life that I was going to be absent from during my incarceration. I knew that along with his entire sophomore school and football year I would be missing his 15th birthday.

Mothers at the camp do many things to get through the regular days here, and they also find ways to get through the holidays and birthdays in here. I know it is a day I will not get back and I also know that it will pass; but as I sit in this visceral, non-productive, irreverent, paternalistic environment doing absolutely nothing of value for myself, my community, or my son, I can not help but continue to question the motivation of our US Judicial System. I am missing my son’s birthday and I am acutely aware of the fact that most people think, “If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime.” To that I respond that regardless of the “truth,” our wonderful, resourceful Country has many alternatives to incarcerating, non-violent, low-level, first time offending women, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters.

There is no real intellectual reason for me to be absent from my son’s birthday or any other important parental responsibility that I have always attended to throughout his life. I mean, if a man can punch his wife, render her unconscious and still be free to harm again, that begs me to question why am I here? We all should be asking these questions. Who is privileged to get second chances and why?

The wonderful thing is that my son will have a great birthday even without me. He has an incredible support system and people who love him. We are very fortunate. Now as I approach the second half of this unreal journey in prison, I will have to beg, pray, and attempt to convince the staff here that I need halfway house services so that I can re-enter my community and my son’s life sooner than later.

Over the past 11 months I have learned that the system has no motivation to encourage or enhance mine or any of the women’s ability to re-enter successfully. That will be bad for business, so to speak. There is no fiscal motivation for decarcerating us, there is only monetary motivation for keeping us incarcerated as long as possible, we are numbers and bodies. So re-entry and recidivism will never be a real priority until the Government re-thinks and restructures its financial incentives to the BOP.

Today, I am thankful that I have a son who is intelligent, caring and resilient. He has not lost himself in this crisis and I have to make sure I follow his lead. Happy 15th Birthday, Son. I am so lucky to be your mom.

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Labor Day….5 Chicken Wings and Two Corn Dogs!

For a a brief moment, I was excited!  Honestly, I heard from a very reliable source that we were going to have a special meal for Labor Day.  Most imortantly, I heard it was going to be….drum roll…..my all time favorite….CHICKEN WINGS!!! Now, I am one of the most stubborn, prideful people I know, and I often resist any and every moment requiring me to feel somewhat “okay” with being here. My friends and family can attest to my love for the small chicken delicacy, so when I heard the words, “Chicken Wings,” I have to admit I got a little excited, for a brief (very brief) moment!

If you have been fortunate enough to have never had to interface with the Federal system, you are lucky because everything about the system entails standing in a loooooong line.  I mean as a youth, I clearly remember standing in welfare lines and government cheese lines. So my motivation for striving to remove myself from that system, the same system that I am ironically imprisoned by, was high!  I seriously have to laugh out loud at my journey.  None the less, I usually wait for the correctional officer to call, “Last call!” over the loud speaker before I venture out to the noisy and long, hot, line.  Today, no way!  I did not want to chance them running out of wings.  Shortage of some foods is common  around here, so I made sure I was in that long, hot, government line with the rest of the women.

When we got to the area where they hand you your tray with the featured meat on it, I suddenly felt a kind of disappointment that I don’t recall every having felt as an adult.  We were given FIVE, yes 5, of the smallest chicken wings I have ever seen.  Oh my gosh!!  I honestly cracked up!  What the hell??!!  I am sure that in order to make up for the lack of chicken wings, we were given two corn dogs.  All I could think was how my family would crack up!  So, I took my tray with my five little wings, two corn dogs, and  “apple turnover” and sat down.

As I ate each little, miniature wing, I just told myself to be grateful and thankful even though those wings were just a tease.  I gave my corn dogs away and returned to my bottom bunk bed.

I don’t know if I will remember most of my experiences through this journey, but I am sure that I will be more thankful and careful with my freedom and I will completely enjoy the opportunity to eat what I choose.  I will have some decent chicken wings immediately upon my release.

I am thankful today for my sense of humor and for almost being halfway through this imprisonment.  And I was grateful for those five little wings, believe it or not!

 

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