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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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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Missing My Son……..Not a Moment Goes By

I honestly have no powerful words to clearly express how deeply my heart and soul are impacted by being separated from my son. Once again, I must say I understand how we, Americans, feel compelled to stand by our laws, regulations, policies. And I understand how we feel we must stand by those who we have chosen to oversee those laws and policies accordingly, to maintain some form of order and control. I get it!! But what I have a distinct problem with is how some individuals or corporations are privy to the flexibility and empathy of OUR laws, policies and regulations and others like myself are NOT.

I miss my son.  I feel that there is no greater job or responsibility in the world than that of a parent or mother. I have always taken my role seriously. I don’t just miss presence, I miss advising him, nagging him, hugging him, encouraging him, laughing with him, and imploring him to be the best him possible in academics and athletics. I just miss him.

As I sit here at the Federal Camp and witness on the news and in the newspapers as ALL of the Banks and Wall Street forces have been literally excused from all of their indiscretion by simply paying out monies and not having to admit to any wrong doing, I began to seriously question OUR fair system. How did my erroneous billing of $82, 000 cause such a danger to my community and encourage those in charge to basically destroy my career, tarnish my credibility, and most of all separate me from my son for 33 months.

I am not saying I was perfect and assume no accountability for billing mistakes, but what I do want to know is why was INCARCERATION of a NON-VIOLENT, LOW-LEVEL, FIRST TIME OFFENDER, WOMAN, MOTHER, the 1st and only option that was chosen for me. Am I NOT an American who has just as much value to OUR Systemic wealth and well-being as the Wall Street professionals and the Banks? That is essentially the question.

I miss my son, I miss him every moment. Not one goes by that I don’t think about him as I sit here in this empty space doing nothing and stuck in a process that literally has nothing to offer me. I never dreamed I would be here and still I am adamant that I do not belong here. BUT! here is where I am and all I can continue to do is remind my son that I love him. I will also be persistent with telling him that this experience does not define me as a woman, professional, mother, or as a loving, caring and giving HUMAN BEING!

I am thankful and grateful that my son is who he is because, like me, he wont let this period deter him from being successful in the future. I love you Son-Keep being you.

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Recurring Dream…..of FREEDOM!

I often wake up abruptly from happy, joyous, and peaceful dreams of being home.  Last night I had another one of my recurring dreams.  I dreamed I was home in my kitchen, listening to my iPod through my wireless speaker, as India Arie sang through bringing smiles to my heart!  I love the “Beautiful Day” song!

I have experienced spotty flashes of being “Free” and it hurts my soul to even acknowledge that I am, at present, fundamentally enslaved to the criminal justice process.  No matter how mindful I am to remind myself that this is a temporary state of being, I cannot help but accept that, historically, the process of enslavement (and I mean legal enslavement and captivity of any sort) leaves a residue on a soulful, free-thinking human heart.

The recurring dreams I have often include being with my son.  Currently, I miss everything that being his mother involves.  I am particularly missing the opportunity to have an impact on his life as he is transitioning from being a boy to a being a young man.  There are certain things that a son needs to learn from his mother.  i am missing the chance to wear his jersey #74 (he’s so proud it’s the same as Michael Oher’s) at his football games.

I know many would say and feel the same as the rest of the legal system does, “We must make an example of you,” to show others that it does not pay to f@#k with the government.  This is a very scary, fear-based perspective that leaves out so many human factors and perspectives.

I have always dreamed of being a productive force in creating a word that was loving, peaceful, and inclusive.  Now, I write this we an extreme amount of intense love, I dream of FREEDOM!  I feel like my life has come full circle.  As a young girl, growing up in the ghetto, desperately wanting to achieve more, I knew what I was looking to be free from.  Today, I find myself in mid-life (fabulously 50) in prison, separated from my son, grand kids, family and friends, stuck in an environment that has nothing to offer me.  Trapped and contained as a punishment!  Once again I dream of FREEDOM!

I ache and long for the day I will not only walk out of here, but also for the day that I will be completely free from the scrutiny of the Department of “Justice.”  Today, the process has me completely shackled, in a very humbling, depressing, ridiculous and unnecessary experience.  But each night, at 9:45 pm, when I close my eyes as I lay on the bottom bunk with my mp3 music blasting in my ears, I dream of FREEDOM!

I am thankful for the ability to dream.   Through this nightmare, I still dream in rainbows and butterflies, and in color.  Reminding myself that life is always worth living, and when tomorrow comes, it will have wonderful possibilities!

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A year down, 12 months, 365 days…………….What I’ve learned!

Today marks a year since I silently, fearlessly and with much internal resistance walked into the Victorville Federal Prison Camp. As an educator, professional, foster mom, sister, aunt, grandmother, friend and mother, I have always tried to use every life experience I have participated in as a learning and teaching guide. Thus far, I have to honestly admit, I have come to the realization that this experience itself, meaning being incarcerated, which in turn is supposed to lead to some form of redemption for me and the others who are also in prison, is nothing more than an empty space which time passes through.  I have had to find a way to inhabit the space and empty time to create my own lesson.

Creating my own lessons is not much different than any other experience I have encountered in my life;  except, here I am forced to wear ugly green men’s clothes, cotton granny panties, and used green sports bras that forcefully suppress all of my womanhood. Oh, and let me now forget the heavy steel-toed combat boots, whew!!!!

This year I have learned that I still hold the ability to operate as myself – a loving, caring, happy, peaceful woman.  As I have done through much of my life, I can create my own bliss in what I consider to be Hell. I am proud of myself.  Creating bliss was easy to do as a child and an adolescent who fought her way through the depths of depression, sadness and despair, because I had no reference as to  how hard it would be.  I had a certain amount of naivety that just allowed me to utilize my bullish will and my heartfelt charm and fearlessness to strive for my dream of graduating college and helping my family. Those are all checked off my list now. Dream achieved. I sit here NOW, looking back on the year I have spent wondering what in the hell is this about and critically debating internally and with friends the purpose of a system that seeks to destroy you and then demands that you leave with a desire to once again participate in this mess, I have come to a conclusion. I have decided that this is not new!!! This madness has always existed and I was able to not only operate more than resiliently….. I was successful and happy.

I have also learned that everyone who is tethered to me and vice versa has the ability to care for and live their lives without my controlling, directing, and giving all of myself to their cause. Even my 15 year old son is doing what he has learned for years and without my physical presence he is using his foundation to continue what we started. I am so proud of him and I appreciate the lessons he is indirectly teaching me.

I have learned a lot more, but none of it is useful in the “OUTS” lololololol. The ridiculousness of this structure and our Criminal Justice system will give me years and years of writing material and jokes. I plan to write my little heart out once I am out of this Camp.

Another year or so to go and this phase of my journey will be over. I hate to say time has gone by fast but it has. A lot of things in my life stopped when my imprisonment began, but thankfully time is constant and it is constantly on the move. For that I am FOREVER THANKFUL!!!!

Life truly is worth living!–Felonious Little PhD 10/14

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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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I Still Cannot Believe I Am In Prison…..10 Months Later!

I still wake up every day in complete shock!  Well, not really a traumatic type of shock, but the kind of shock where I look around and the fog, my “White Collar Female Fog,” is not yet armed and loaded to get me through the day.  I mindfully will myself into that fog in an effort to keep my analytic mind in neutral.  But when I first open my eyes and gaze up at the exposed pipes, for a moment I am still dazed and confused.

Today, I have a sense of humor about my current state of affairs.  I am in prison and I didn’t even have the opportunity to be a “real felon” and “enjoy” the life that financial crime would have  involved.    No planned business deal where I was conniving and deceitful and living a glamorous life with all the money I supposedly swindled.  I mean, no drug dependency or periods of selling drugs. No murder or aggravated assault.  Truly, it hardly seems fair for someone like me to be called a felon and carry all of the ramifications of being disenfranchised and discriminated against and get NO  “street cred” at all!!  A nerdy felon! So dumb!  Even my criminal story is so boring that I don’t even repeat it anymore because people get a dazed look that says, “You are LYING!”

I have thought about just creating a good criminal history and story to tell when others are talking about why they are here.  But, once again, I do not want to put that type of energy out in the universe.  Then I think, “Heck!  What could happen to me?  I AM IN PRISON!”  Yea, it is a camp!  But the fundamental principles of lost freedom and the burden of a life-long “felon” label will follow this nerdy, peaceful, foster-mom, PhD, forever.

After 10 months, I have surrendered to the fact that I am here.  By surrendering, I mean that instead of daily emotional breakdowns, disgust, and anger, I have infrequent bouts of, “What in the hell is wrong with my country?”  I will never belong here, but like many of the other women here, I will survive and proceed onward to excel somehow.  After everything I have been through in my life, this can’t be the climax of my story!  Whew….at least I hope it is not!

I am thankful for my friend who continues to give me a voice and reminds me to go back into the “fog” on the days that I wake up in shock and struggle to extricate myself from my ever-present disbelief.

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James Baldwin’s Eyes…………………………. 90 years old!

Those eyes-I can see what you feel

and I feel the same

Attempting with all that I am to utilize

the power of words

to liberate my crying soul.

 

Those eyes-Will never allow me to relinquish my power

as an artist

They bestow on me the promise

to dispell my truths

good and bad

at whatever cost

to my self.

 

Those eyes-Are familiar eyes

the ones that I saw as a child

that spoke without speaking

and searched without seeking

only having to stop, listen and be true

to self.

 

Those eyes-Captivate, motivate,

stimulate and galvanize

my inner being

to move past these atrocious moments with

grace, dignity and an intellectual

soul.

 

Those eyes-Articulate excactly what I am enduring

and

provide me with a road map to

securing my own

freedom.

 

Those eyes-embody the power to extract

every last drop

of this experience

no matter if it is

bitter or sweet.

 

James Bladwin’s eyes-Are my mirror, my hope, my dreams,

my history, my present, my future

My Destiny!

 

Aug 2014

the felonious phd.

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Other People Matter…..Thanks Coach!

It’s not too often that I am caught emotionally off guard.  But as I was sitting in the visiting room listening to my college basketball coach, Coach King, update me on what has been going on with him over the past month, it hit me!  This man has been part of my life for about 30 years!  Oh My Gosh!!

Being my ornery, prideful self, I have not stopped to think that people are going to feel differently about me since I am now a “felon.”  I am quick to write others off and I do it in a loving manner, but just as i was talking to Coach about my visit with my son, mother, and Deb, I realized that I may not have had my parents in my life as I was growing up, but I have been surrounded by some incredible loving and kind people.  Immediately, I felt a sense of relief about Aaron not having me in his life for about 23 months.  He has some incredible people surrounding him as well.  

I would never with this experience on anyone.  I do, however, want to tell people who are unfortunate enough to be involved in the criminal justice system that our children will be fine.  As long as they have the love and support of others, and know that we are okay, they can and will excel.  

Coach King has played many roles in my life….. well shoot, for many of the young women he has raised on and off the court.  I am not happy about him having to visit me in this environment.  It is far from ideal!  But, no matter how tough I am, and how grown I become, I still love the fact that he takes time out of his day to come and simply say Hello!  Thanks Coach!  I hope you realize that WE all love you!  

I am forever thankful for the wonderful people I have in my life.  Not just those that visit, but also those that pray, those that write, those that help with my son and everyone that loves and respects me.  Thank you!!

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