The Felonious PhD.

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

Ujima: A Woman’s Work………An Unplanned Journey Part 3

Today as I sat in the library at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California. I began thinking back to how all of this began. The essence of time is truly a mystical force that we live with and internally construct as a means to give our existence here on earth some order and meaning. Today I have realized that my former agency, Ujima Youth Services, was  closed down in Reno, Nevada nearly 5-years ago. Honestly when I wake up in this space and realize at the precise moment that my eyes open, that I am still laying here in an ugly, cold-ass warehouse with over a hundred women, it feels like everything  just happened to me yesterday.

It has been nearly 5-years since my heart was broken. Ujima was my life’s work and dream. It was a lifestyle that just about embodied all that I had visualized in regards to providing unconditional love to at risk kids and families in foster care. The word Ujima derives from a Kwanzaa term that is defined as “working together as a community to solve problems.” I wanted to create something that not only had a meaningful purpose but was also an entity that transformed the precious lives of youth by utilizing an “It takes a Village” modality for kids in foster care. For Ujima, that entailed working primarily with youth who were teens, boys of color, with high medical needs, or severe mental health. I loved each and every one of them and continue to love and have contact with many of the older ones whom I raised. I was not just the CEO of Ujima I was the mother for many of them.

After Ujima closed, I began questioning my purpose. Ujima was not closed because I harmed a child or a family. It was closed because of policies and procedures and bureaucratic red tape that create barriers to providers, clinicians, people who worked directly with the youth and other stakeholders to create real opportunities for youth in care and give them an authentic chance to be successful. I was closed because of money!

I was a CEO who loved her job and all of the crises, emotions and daily surprises that arose because of the job. My main goal was always to put the youth and families first and at the center of the program and its decisions. I demanded that they be treated with love and respect. I am not being naive in speaking of Child Welfare. It is one of the most difficult systemic organizations to work in and be a part of, similar to that of the Judicial System. Both systems are structured with an invisible glass ceiling attached to them which limits all possibilities for those involved unless there are people who are willing to create and fight for alternatives to those structures. I was one of those creative, bold and brave people. But I did not have the capital available to me to clearly follow through on my dream. I now understand that by accepting Government funding you are also accepting their mode of functioning. That is all that I am going to say about that!!!

Alice Walker made a comment in regards to how the work, life, and essence of Winnie Mandela was challenged. She was isolated, ostracized, slandered, abused, imprisoned over and over, tortured and lied about in her community. She brilliantly stated that in reference to how others viewed Minnie because of how the press depicted her, she poignantly stated that, “A Woman’s Work is her Signature”. Once I read that over and over and over and I mean nearly a hundred times since I have been incarcerated, it empowers me to continue being my powerful, brave, beautifully passionate self. My work over the past 27 years in Child Welfare literally “speaks for itself”.

Through Ujima I learned that I have the power to embrace anyone and any point in their lives and encourage them to be all that they can be no matter what their circumstances are. Ujima gave me my wings and a platform to grow and learn about the developmental task of youth in reference to being in crisis and trauma. Through Ujima I learned that unconditional love is transformative, which is why I truly believe that through love we can conquer all. I have lived and seen it first hand happen. I have some rich and wonderful stories about the youth I have had the pleasure to share that part of my life with. I can not wait to share many of those stories with others and give some of those youth who are now adults the acknowledgement they deserve.

Today I am grateful, that I have the capacity to understand how powerful “forgiving” and “letting go” is in my life and for others. If you find yourself imprisoned not only physically but by emotionally holding on to your pain or a negative situation, simply “let go”. Also “forgive” all that are involved in your letting go. I promise you will feel so much lighter and prepared to move onward towards another dream or just simply live peacefully and lovingly. I am thankful!!!

Felonious Ph.D. 1/2015

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A Critical Analysis of Re-Entry & Recidivism Pt. 2………Prison Industrial Complex-Pipeline to Self

As a “Welfare Offspring”-someone who grew up as a young child on welfare and dependent on a systemic structure that had the power to limit your food, shelter and basic needs as well as intrinsically warranted and encouraged a mindset that insisted that one acquiesce to living with shame, poverty and self hate in order to receive Government assistance to stay alive – I am now, as I sit in the “belly of the beast” of the Federal Criminal Justice System, with a tremnedous amount irreverence, admitting that once again I am in familiar territory. I am speaking with an authentic level of expertise when I say the “Prison Industrial Complex” is like welfare, a systemic structure that creates a pipeline that leads directly back to itself!

 

The irony of my life or the absurdity of my life is as such- here I am again trapped in the trenches of a system that I despise for more reasons than one, but, and I say but enthusiastically, I feel empowered in knowing that as an educated Black Woman, with a Doctorate Degree, ability to pull myself up, and a love of self that is limitless, it is more apparent and real to me that, “I was born and raised to be who and where I am”. There can not be any other explanation for my being imprisoned in such an oppressive structure  that I ran from my entire life and still feel FREE!

I consciously and mindfully constructed and orchestrated a life that was totally opposite of my present reality. It definitely was not made to lead to my life in the pipeline to the Federal Criminal Justice System. As I sit here as a reluctant participant in this system, I have gained a level of awareness in regards to Recidivism and Re-entry and the issues of The Prison Industrial Complex. My Birdseye view of this system far surpasses that of many Politicians, Academics and Reform Advocates. I am speaking as someone who has studied, endured and survived systemic oppression on many levels and now to be a part of The Federal Criminal Justice System I have to say I have seen enough!

First and foremost, I do not believe that Prison Reform is going to solve or rectify the de-humanizing effects of Incarceration. Like, slavery, incarceration has to be abolished. There is no fixing this process which is founded on the very premise of slavery. It carries all of its ills and ill effects on the human heart and soul. I am speaking in reference to the inmates as well as the employees. There must be a paradigm shift on all levels of our Criminal justice System and the shift has to be brave enough to highlight the human needs and fiscal rewards for De-carceration. Because let us be honest, it is all about MONEY! As an educated, business minded woman, I can clearly see that for financial and political reasons the Prison Industrial Complex is going to be difficult to destroy or exterminate. For the same reasons we upheld the inindiscretions of Wall Street, we refuse to tackle the many humane challenges that incarceration put on our society. I get it!!!!

So in knowing that the Prison Industrial Complex will not meet its fate soon enough, I see the need as a human and a newly labeled Felon, to increase awareness for how the industry, our American Prison Industrial Complex, is destroying the souls and limiting our wills as citizens and in turn creates a blood line that leads directly to itself. An incredible business model, that can be fixed on the lowest levels immediately if voting citizens, legislators and our community leaders are truly invested in creating a system that allows people like myself and others, low-level offenders, and non-violent at least the opportunity to re-enter our communities and families successfully,humanely and with dignity.

The Prison Industrial Complex and the Criminal Justice System has a structure that has given someone like me a lifetime sentence. There truly is no way to start a new chapter in my life as a Felon. Even I, with all of my work experience, education and determination have a direct line back to this Prison Industrial Complex. It is clearly a system that is structured to continue to feed itself. Currently I am being told that I do not need any re-entry services. I am not sure what that means being that I have lost everything, and if one part of the Criminal Justice System felt the need to put me here I feel that the other should be compelled to help me leave as efficiently as possible. Then it hits me again. This system is a business hence-The Prison Industrial Complex. It is not personal but I am a monetary number to this structure. So not until there is a financial motivation implemented at the Legislative level to motivate the Bureau of Prisons, Jails and the other integral players in the Criminal Justice System, they will not be moved to make sure individuals exit this system successfully and expeditiously without being set-up to return.

As a Welfare Offspring I have internally, mindfully and consciously decided that as a middle-aged educated, strong, willful, resilient, empowered beautifully loving woman, I will once again liberate myself. In doing so I plan to share my story with others and serve as “Living Proof” that no matter where our journey may lead us we are never ever without ourselves! The power is knowing that all that is good, loving and real is internal.

I am thankful that I am now coming out of the “White Collar Woman Fog.” I am now knowing that I can and will reach well beyond possibilities as long as I am fearless and lovingly myself. I will also be doing this without any assistance from the Prison Industrial Complex. I am also thankful that I now know what makes me peaceful and happy. I am determined to not be any part of the blood in the veins of the Prison Industrial Complex once I leave. I am “FREE” internally and soulfully and I am imploring all who are in this system or any structure that is imprisoning them to “Free” themselves too!!!!

Felonious Ph.D. 12/2014

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