The Felonious PhD.

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

Happy New Year!………………YAY! 2015 From the Prison Camp

     I am experiencing conflicted emotions today. There is a huge part of me that is so intensely excited about entering the New Year, and another part that is a little lonely and sad about being absent from my son, family and friends.

        The atmosphere here at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville, California is similar to how it was during Christmas. The anxiety levels are high, it’s  noisy and the emotions are heightened. Then there are those of us who are beyond excited that we will be “FREE” this year. We will be able to say, “we are going home this year”. Whenever I think about the concept of “Doing time” and how in my current way of being it is directly related to my being “physically free,” it just all seems so extremely surreal. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about wishing your life away, lololol, in other words, wanting time to progress as quickly as possible. This is so unreal and mind boggling at times!

Outside of my daily writing I have no clear or concise attachment to the past 15 months. Once a day is done, I have left it right were it belongs, behind me.  I have little to no memory of it. That could be a sign of my being “middle-aged” (lol), or just my innate resilient, coping skill to endure any emotional crisis and rise above. I am not sure what it is but I can BREATHE!  And I mean I can BREATHE deeply…….that is life for me. That reminds me that I am completely “FREE” no matter where I am or what I am going through.

I will also be glad to re-enter my son’s life after being away from him for two years. It is amazing to think that this entire ordeal began for us when he was 10 years old. He is now 15 years old and in my eyes has not skipped a beat in being himself. I am so proud of the young man he has become and how he has managed to process and endure and work past this part of his own journey and remain himself. But it will be wonderful to get home and get him prepared for college and his next chapter. That is going to be my focus for the next two years. I miss my son tremendously and I want those mothers who find themselves separated from their children through any crisis to know that, they will be fine! I am excited to return to him later this year.

But today, this New Year’s Eve,  is about being here at the Federal Prison Camp. The women are preparing their New Years Day snacks and arranging their seats in the tv rooms to view the ball dropping and I will be sitting in the sports t.v. room enjoying a day filled with college football.

Honestly, these past years have not been the favorite chapters in my life, but I have accepted that those trtemendously challenging years being involved in the Federal Criminal Justice System are a part of my being. For obvious reasons I would rather have a different story to tell. This one just seems so extreme and dramatic. But still I have to admit, my life is so worth living!!!!

Happy New Years!!! Enjoy and love each other.

Felonious PhD. 2014

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Pack Out! Camp Out! and Walk Out!……….To Be Free!!

Over the past 14 months I have attempted to capture how many of the other women here at the Victorville Federal Prison Camp feel, react and finally Walk Out of the Federal Prison Camp.

There are three essential administrative processes that we as a collective are a part of for each other during this part of the journey. There are many others but those typical are handle on an individual basis. So I have focused on the three that I have personally been a part of and identified as pieces of this puzzle that affects me and many of the other women on some level. Those three pieces are “packing out”, being on the call out to “camp out” and finally “walking out”.

The pack out day which occurs 24 to 72 hours prior to your release, entails you packing all of your earthly camp possessions in a box, garbage bag or home made crotchet bag, putting them on the grey cart with wheels, that you borrow from the orderlies, and then take them to the R & D office where you were processed into the camp. The R & D staff will keep your possessions, search them and document them in preparation for you to leave the next day or so. As I watch the women roll their possessions to the R & D office I could just see the happiness, joy in their eyes. It is the moment where they are not experiencing any immediate anxiety or fears just happy that they are progressing further in this long, tiring, frustrating process.

Twenty-four hours prior to leaving the camp your name is listed on the Camp daily posted calendar of appointments referred to as the “Call-Out”. Every woman no matter how long they have been here rushes daily to look at that “call-out” and proceed to the back page to see if someone’s name has the those liberating two words “Camp-Out” next to their name. Daily we count the number of women who are fortunate enough to be leaving. The most I have seen in a day on that list has been four lucky women. Once they see their names on the list they get the biggest, most inspiring smile on their faces. That is proof that it is now official after enduring the monotonous process of leaving, they have finally reached having their names listed on the “call out”. Now their stay consists of just a “wake-up” and then they will be on their way home.

The next morning is filled with disposing of your ugly green men close and taking the thin sheets and itchy blanket off of your bed, bag them up or just happily carry them to the laundry and dump them in the huge laundry bin. “Whew, I can not wait!”. The early morning is complete with anxiety and nervousness for some and for others it is pure joy. This typically consists of saying your goodbyes to those who were not at your goodbye party the night before and with getting your hair and make-up done. Around 8:30 am, the R & D staff will call the names of all of the women whose names are on the “call-out” to report to R & D. You can hear the cheers and excitement each and every time it is announced. This occurs whether you know the person or not, it is always a wonderful thing to witness someone leaving the camp. Those women who were close to the soon to be free woman will walk her out, carrying the rest of her things and bid her a farewell. It is truly a moment that I have extreme difficulty explaining. Your reaction is that of joy because someone is about to walk out of here. Your next thought is sadness, because you are still here. it is such a strange way of being. To not have access to your freedom and look upon another’s with happiness but selfishly feel jealous at the same time. I have endured all of those emotions and make no excuses for having them. In the end having women walk out of this non productive, dehumanizing, dehumanizing, paternalistic, environment feels me daily with HOPE!.

 I am thankful that like I have said prior and will continue to say, I have a date to exit. It is not the date I feel I should have because I surely should leave early to have access to Re-entry services, but none the less I have a date of November 27, 2015 if my paperwork is completed in a timely fashion. I am also thankful that I will be able to walk out of here with my head high, my heart open, hopeful, full of possibilities and my loving peaceful soul, FREE!

Felonious Little Ph.D. 2014

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Merry Christmas…….From the Federal Prison Camp

Merry Xmas! This is my last Christmas being incarcerated here at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California. I have to admit to myself and everyone else that I have plenty to be grateful for on this day and everyday and I am truly aware of those things more and more.

The atmosphere here at the camp is a bit heightened but mellow for the most part. The women who have been incarcerated for a while have created means and ways to enjoy the holiday and keep their spirits high, by exchanging gifts that were purchased at the commissary, sharing specially made microwave meals, and by singing and laughing throughout the day. The women who are experiencing this process for the first time and separated from their families for the first time are tearful, anxious, emotional and walking around in a fog. They are just trying to do what they need to do to get through. The constant trips to the phones or the emails to see if someone has reached out to remind them that they are loved has been the routine. The women who are in the similar position like I am and this is their last Christmas being incarcerated are only excited for this holiday to be -OVER!!!!!

I plan to spend Christmas watching the triple header NBA games. A real hoop junkies dream. The sounds of the tennis shoes squeaking, the referees whistles and the bouncing of the basketball will definitely get me through. Once again basketball will serve as my therapy, yes!

I am thankful that this is my last Christmas here. I am ready to spend these precious moments doing the things I love and being around the people I adore. To my peeps I just want to say enjoy each other and love on each other. I love you all!!!

Thanks to my bunkie who gave me a cute xmas present. Life is good!!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 

Felonious Little Ph. D.

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A Critical Analysis of Re-Entry……..

 

Beginning in January 2015 I will began my official emotional, mental and professional preparation for re-entering my community, my family, my friends, well essentially my entire life. All of this transformative action will be done without any assistance from this system.   Not that I require any assistance from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but there are many women in here that do need assistance with transitioning from an environment that is proficient at telling you how little you actually matter as a felon, and how low you are on society’s heirarchy. The label “FELON” alone carries a lifetime of shame, disenfranchisement, and one can be self-deprecating if your capcity to understand that no man or system has the right nor the ability to define who you are and your place in the world is not well-developed.

I will spend the next eleven months reminding myself that I am Felonious. As the Felonious Ph.D.,  I have to take ownership of a label that someone else gave me and redefine it in an effort to once again be successful in the United States of America. It is very humorous to me when I think about it.  That happens often in this space. I am not very concerned about my ability to successfully re-enter into society, because I honestly know what it takes and I am well practiced at overcoming barriers in order to achieve the goals and possibilities I have for myself and my son. My biggest challenge and that of other women like myself has been reconciling the fact that this has happened to us, and being able to work with my Ego self and not from my Ego self. A difficult concept to explain but those of us who have endured this process and feel that it was and unnecessary and extreme outcome are stuck with the curse of forever questioning “why” and battle with motivating ourselves to once again becoming a hard-working, active members of a professional community.

I know my next is not going to be easy but my past was not a bowl of cherries either and through it all I am still my loving, caring beautiful self. The true issue at hand here, in regards to re-entry and the many Prison reform discussions and policies, is that there has to be a critical look at how a system such as Federal Bureau of Prisons can be made responsible for my being successful in re-entering when its whole existence is to imprison me? One of my favorite writers, Aurde Lorde wrote, “You can not use the MASTERS tools to dismantle the MASTERS house!”. The issues of Re-entry have to be addressed at the legislative level and not be placed on the FBOP. There has to be mechanisms and organizations at the grass roots level to make sure that re-entry is a priority. The FBOP is a system that systemically feeds itself. I see it so clearly now. And I honestly do not blame FBOP they are doing what they are being paid to do, and that is to warehouse individuals who were deemed unsafe to be free in society….and they’re doing it for a WHOLE LOT of money. We truly have to rethink this process, and now that there are many financial motivations for United States to do so, I hope that many advocacy groups and individuals are preparing to address the many issues that will assist with successful re-entry and reduced recidivism. Otherwise the system will continue to fund the FBOP when honestly many of us could be home working, taking care of our children, and serving our communities.

I want to be an active participant in some, well, many of these discussions. Mainly because if we can get a hold on this system I am sure that we can also assist with minimizing the number of young people that are in foster care. The issues of re-entry go far beyond a place to live and a job. We are talking about how to renew individuals who have endured this process and have lost their human dignity, human possibilities and their human worth.

I am thankful that at 50 years old I can still Dream of a World, and I can also see my next and all of its possibilities. I also know that no one can define who I am and they never will. I just want to find a way to assist others in my position to feel the same way.  That is truly the only way I will completely be FREE!!! It is not all just about me, I have always felt that way but over the past 14 months if I have not learned anything else, I have become aware of my own true PURPOSE and I am thankful for that.

Felonious Ph.D. 12/2014

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An Unplanned Journey……..Part 1

Over the past three months I have spent a good amount of my time reading memoirs, and several books that are somewhat synonymous with my own  journey. Most of the books that I have chosen are non-fiction genre explicitly tell the story of women who have overcome, excelled and lived to tell about their journeys through the written word.

One of my favorites, of course, is “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. Her journey, by far, most closely resembles mine.  Not only because she was a black woman, writer, and mother, but also because her journey,like mine, and many others was “unplanned”. There was no road map, no safety net, no financial security, or guarantee of anything. Maya’s journey, like mine, was purely based on stepping out on faith and pure resilience and love.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is the most prolific self help book that I could ever read as a black woman . Its prose is filled with words of empowerment, courage and fearlessness. It just signifies for me the importance of giving truth to our realities so that those behind us will have an authentic testimony of all of the experiences we may encounter as women. This is why I am determined to present this journey and write, share and speak the truth of my journey for others who may find themselves in circumstances that truly question all that you are and forces you to look deep inside yourself for strength and realize that it is there.

As I sit here imprisoned and shackled, not physically but intrinsically, I can not help but feel compelled to fight for my own liberation, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In doing so I hope to provide a written means for anyone in need to find peace in my words and let my story serve as a mirror to their own journey. This part of my legal journey has forced me to question my ability and passion for wanting to live a life where I can love all unconditionally and forgive without question. The “unplanned journey” is one that has shaken my soul and at times brought me to tears. At the same time, as I sit in the stillness and silence of this library filled with the smell of stale books, I think to myself, “I could never plan this isolation, solitude and silence.” I think out loud that I have to do something with this “disgusting gift,” the gift of time filled with nothingness and void of responsibility.

Then I read the LA Times and in the Calendar section there is a story on the movies coming to theaters soon. One of the movies is called “Wild” a movie from the Memoir of Cheryl Straub. I read the book and connected, not particularly with the planned part of her journey which entailed hiking the Pacific Coast trail, no way, but I connected with all of the unplanned experiences that occurred to her throughout her planned trip. Seeing that article validated my feelings that I must find a way to tell my story, give a clear picture of my complete journey, not just my incarceration. I was not afforded the opportunity to plan a journey that would provide me a foundation for my transformation, exploration of self, and liberation. I am imprisoned in this visceral and dehumanizing Federal Prison Camp setting for another 11 months. But! I do have complete access to a pen and paper and determination as well as the will of a bull to overcome, overachieve and excel beyond my dreams.

My resiliency is affording me the opportunity to think beyond making lemonade out of lemons. I am encouraged to move myself and others from an imprisoned self to a felon self to “FREE SELF”. My “unplanned journey” will be my liberation from imprisonment of all forms. I will write myself FREE!

I am thankful for the brave, courageous and resilient women who have told their stories. I am equally thankful for the organizations, publishers, agents and editors that gave them the chance to share their truths. Now I have to find someone willing to assist me with “SHARING MINE!”. It must be told.
Felonious Ph.D. 12/2014

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It’s That Time Again…….Holiday Season at the Camp

As I progress through my second Christmas being incarcerated here at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California, I find myself moving through this holiday a bit easier than my first one. Knowing that this is my last Christmas here (if I am released on time!), I am not particularly concerned about Christmas per se. Yes,  it is definitely apparent that it is Christmas here at the camp. The dining hall is decorated thoroughly with white shimmery snowflakes that spin while hanging from the ceiling. The windows are covered with several red and green traditional Christmas decorations, and the menu bulletin boards are now entertaining us with holiday colors and reminders. There is even an artificial tree in the window that  the women decorated beautifully. The unit (aka warehouse) where we live is also representing the holiday spirit. The ceremonial 3 foot crocheted Christmas tree has finally made its appearance as it did last year. It still remains spectacular  to those women who are new and can not believe someone took the time the crotchet a tree.

After being here for 14 months I have noticed that Christmas time seems to be the hardest for the women emotionally. It really is the time of the year that is focused on family. Typically we women, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters are at the center of all of the festivities and activities. So during this period the feelings of isolation and loneliness are heightened and are all too familiar to me. It is a vivid reminder of how all of my foster kids used to feel no matter how long they had been separated from their families. Unlike my agency, the Government does not see fit to address the emotional stress these times of the year place on an individual, so it is pretty much left up to the women to support, encourage and remind each other that this too shall pass. Most of the women here are truly phenomenal women existing under extraordinarily unordinary circumstances and so are our families.

I have always been a bit of a Scrooge and begrudgingly participated in the stress and angst of the season. I mainly enjoy the time spent with family and friends. I miss my kids and having my grandkids, nieces and nephews running through the house. I miss the “NOISE”. The noise of laughter and joy and everyone talking at the same time, whew!!!! I MISS MY LIFE! My family, friends and I have laughed and laughed through the worst of times. I have lots for us to laugh about when I return home.

The holiday season here at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California is truly just another day for me. It is not horrible or without any form of internal Joy. There are parties, some incredible microwave treats and food, games and even some laughter if you need some.

I continue to marvel at the absurdity of my current life of incarceration, (LOL) but I am thankful that the holiday season is here and I am closer to returning home. I am thankful that my son is happy, safe and loved. I miss him but will be home to him soon.

Happy Holidays to all of my Peeps!!! Love Each Other!!!!!

 

Felonious PhD 12/2014

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So Much For…….”You Can Indict a Cheese Sandwich”

Today, I am speaking as a United States Citizen who unfortunately happens to be experiencing the inequities of the United States Federal Criminal Justice System as an eyewitness from within the “belly of the beast.”  I sit in the Federal Prison Camp and watch the protests on the News after the non indictment verdict for the death of Eric Gardner.

Many will say and feel, well of course you have a slanted view of the Federal Judicial process, first, you are black; second, you are the mother of a big 15 years old “black boy”, who is swiftly transitioning into a “big black man” and lastly you are a criminal in the Federal system. I vehemently say yes to all of that and I am an individual who was indicted for creating a community based program with Federal dollars that reimbursed guardians for caring for their clinically and behavioral challenged youth as they participated in programs that would keep them out of foster care placements or higher levels of care. There were “no videos” of victims being harmed, “no one murdered” actually there were “no victims” at all. It was all about money that they felt I “intended to” falsely obtain from Medicaid. I still don’t understand the process. But still I was indicted. I was indicted on a narrative that every time, at least 200, I read it I said out loud “Who in the HELL are they talking about?!!!” I can laugh about it now but it is the truth it was a remarkably incredible story. The PROSECUTOR can say anything, produce anything, create anything to present to the Grand Jury to make his or her case. It is their world. If they were able to make me a Criminal with 38 counts of Healthcare Fraud and Money Laundering I am here to tell you they can do anything!! I honestly thought in my rational, intelligent mind that no one would ever believe this guys narrative of me. Not only is there no proof of that but it is totally not me. Well obviously I was wrong.

I wish I could say I am surprised by the non-indictment of the officer that murdered Eric Gardner, but I am not! The Federal Judicial System is structured to care of itself and its own. The average unaware, hardworking, voting, tax paying citizen, like myself are who those obscure laws and policies are constructed to indict and imprison at the discretion of the PROSECUTOR. As is indicative in the Eric Gardner case, as soon as one of their own is caught in the convoluted web of justice, THE PROSECUTOR changes the rules. He or she changes the game. I hope those of you who continue to have your rights to vote are awake and become aware of this process.

My attorney said two things to me during this process that will resonate with me forever. First, she said several times, “This is not about the truth it is about what they can prove!”. Second, “You can get an indictment on a cheese sandwich”. Well so much for that analogy. You can only get an indictment on a cheese sandwich if and only if the PROSECUTOR wants to indict that cheese sandwich. I just hope that Eric Gardner’s life serves as a magnifying glass to how we HAVE to make some constructive systemic changes to our US Justice System. Our system should work for everyone, it must work for everyone, not just those that are the “CHOSEN”.

I always remain hopeful that in our ever changing Country that “A Change is Gonna Come”. That has been a cry that Black Americans have cried for centuries and it still rings true in my heart today as I sit imprisoned by the system I worked my entire life to avoid. A change has to come not only because “Black Lives Matter”, but because “Human Lives Matter and we are all HUMAN FIRST!

I am thankful that we are critically analyzing our Federal Criminal Justice System, now we have to admit that it is broken and CAN be fixed.

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