The Felonious PhD.

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

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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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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A Mother’s Tears…..Incontrovertible Love

This process requires a tremendous amount of courage and an intense sense of self-worth, self-dignity, self-determination and self-love.  I know that over the last 9 months I have developed a sense of love for myself that I will never ever be able to clearly explain for others, so I won’t try.  I will provide a visual model for how we mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and friends can and should participate in activities that increase our own financial, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.  That I am promising!

Today, as I sit in this desolate, windy, barren, dirt and ant-infested Federal Prison Camp, I am admittedly having some of the most profound experiences and interactions with women who are, for a lack of a better term, at their most vulnerable.  That, in itself, is inescapably a unique and very sticky position for me to be in as I am determined to focus on myself, not get involved in any of the surrounding drama, and refusing to be a free clinician for this oppressive, ill-equipped system.

There is one woman here that I have allowed myself to become close to.  She received a 10 year sentence (120 months).  That is an inexplicably arduous task for a woman who was a hard-working, single mother of two (now adult) sons.

For the past few months, Ms. W. and i have discussed our cases, our resilience and drive to work hard and strive for the “American Dream.”  My path to the dream was through education and child welfare, while hers was through real estate investment.  She opened her own company and named her eldest son as the CEO.  ms. W. is an energetic New Yorker who  has the capacity for dreaming but the ability to attack that dream with fervor and tenacity.  She does not say how incredible was, but if she is here, that means she earned a good living by WORKING  HARD.  When she does talk about her company she speaks about how loved closing deals and seeing people get excited once a deal was closed.

The other day, during our discussion, it just came out.  I said to her, without and hesitation, “Well, when this is over you have to find a way to forgive yourself.”  I have thought it over and over again during previous conversations, but this day it just came out from behind my whispers.  Immediately her eyes began to tear up.  You must know that she and I are similar in that we try to refuse to cry in here.  but, just as i impulsively spoke those words to her, she began tearing up and said, “That is going to be hard.”  You see, because of one bad real estate deal which was negotiated by/with another broker, Ms. W. and her eldest son, whom she proudly made CEO, were indicted.

This story is truly heartbreaking and life changing in so many ways.  This single mother has always prided herself in raising intelligent, capable, wonderfully law-abiding, loving men.  Now, because of an obscure real estate laws, government power, over-reach, and coercion, her CEO-son whom she appointed was sentenced to 18 months in Federal Prison.  As a mother, I could not imagine, I don’t want to image.  But for Ms. W., I made myself sit in her shoes.  There are not many scenarios that leave me without words, but, at the end of our conversation, I did manage to say to her that she has to remember that her pain is her story, not his.  She corresponds with her son and he assures her that he is fine.  He is due to be released this month and for that, she is thankful.

As i have discussed many times, there are many instances where i can say “I just don’t get it!”  I know many people who hear the testimony or stories about people convicted of white-collar crime are often unsympathetic because the truth is that there ARE people who intentionally lie, cheat, and steal.  I am just amazed at the extent to which our system will go in order to preserve big banks, bankers, and Wall Street while destroying, dehumanizing, and incarcerating the average citizen who made an honest, or ill-advised, mistake.

In this prison camp, I have seen families of these non-violent, first time offender, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend being paralyzed and terrorized by any means necessary by our government.  We are LOW HANGING FRUIT! The easy targets.  All we have once our government declares war on us is our family and our soul. And for some, both of those are fractured and scarred beyond recognition.

The incredible thing about Ms. W. is that she has a wonderful soul.  She is resilient; a true loving mother and she will recover from this experience.  As a mother, I think that there will always be some residue from this torturing experience and yet, even that will become less apparent as time gives some space between this experience and the next.

There is nothing more emotional than a mother’s tears! I just cannot wait for this entire process to be over.  it was a difficult conversation, but i am thankful that those words slipped out of my mouth.

Life is worth living!

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I Have Never Been or Felt So Helpless……Until Now….

Surrender!

That is the only fundamental principle I have control of in my life at this time.  I cannot parent my child, or console my siblings.  I can’t laugh with friends or manage an of the adult things in my life that need to be tended to.  I have to surrender.

In theory, it all sounds so easy and a bit refreshing when you think about how wearily women trudge trough life as we grow older.  But, trying to surrender to this process is what constantly brings me back to asking “WHY?”   There is absolutely no reason for me and many other women to be here.  We don’t need rehab, we don’t require monitoring (we are kept here by the yellow line), we don’t need meds (well, not yet anyway), so what is the purpose??

Right now, I am sitting under a picnic area staring out at the desolate desert with a beautiful mountain back drop.  I would much rather be at home, if I had one, with my son, helping him prepare for finals and registering for his sophomore school year (which i will be completely absent for) as I sit here as inmate 47078048.

Seriously, what is the point?  How does an intelligent, hard-working, loving mother, aunt, sister, friend, surrender peacefully to this helplessness?  From a government system that continues to incarcerate women at an alarming rate and report differently.  I am an eye witness!

I only have 14 to 15 months (hopefully) left to serve.  So, while I may have a difficult time surrendering to this environment and criminal justice system that creates the truth it wants told, I am truly relieved that no matter what our government does, it cannot make time stand still.

Today I will just sit in this feeling of helplessness.  Like everything else in my life, I will fearlessly work through this feeling.  I am thankful for my strong resolve and my ability to understand that no matter what happens to me, it will pass.  I don’t have to like it, agree with it, or accept it.  I will RISE above it!

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Should I Feel Lucky?……

As I was standing in yet another line waiting for the commissary to open, a woman who has been here a while began talking to me and asked me a couple of questions regarding the Sentencing Reform bills that are pending approval.  I learned quickly to never assume I know the answers to any legal questions or policy issues, so I don’t offer them when approached for answers.  Our legal system is so confusing and many of the people who have been incarcerated by the Federal System for a long time get very anxious about pending or new legislation.  So, it can be a slippery slope for anyone, especially an inmate, to give any feedback to an inmate regarding laws.

The woman, who happens to be in her late 50’s, was an administrator for a company that billed Medicare and Medicaid.  She went on to clarify her legal case and discussed how her indictment was built on the prosecutor and investigators summary and testimony that she INTENDED to defraud the government.  They then refused to bring to light that she had passed a lie detector test and quite frankly was not in the position to even bill for the services that they alleged she billed in their discovery.  When it was all said and done, she was sentenced to 152 months….yes, over 14 years.  This sentence was based on her intent to conduct fraudulent activities.

I know that many Americans say, well everyone always says they are innocent!  I have not spoken to anyone here who has said they have  not made a mistake, but most of the White collar Women in here, like myself, had no intent to commit the crimes they’re serving time for.  The issues could have easily been remedied without tax payers spending thousands and thousands of dollars for legal costs as well as the $28,000 to $54,o00 a year that it costs per person to house a Federal inmate.

When I hear about these long sentences that have been given to non-violent, law abiding, hard working, first time offending women, I silently ask myself, “Should I feel lucky?”  My 33 month sentence was the end of a loooooong heart-wrenching process.  I think at this point, I only feel lucky that I have survived.

I am thankful that some of the reform bills may assist people who were given outrageous sentences.  The pending reform bills are the only opportunity that some of the non-violent, first-time offenders will have for being free before they are senior citizens.

Please read up on these reform bills and press upon your government officials to act to pass these reforms.  Also, take some time to look at the Federal Government laws that may affect your life and your business dealings.  Some of the new legislation is requiring that the government list all of the laws and codes on their websites for citizens to have access.  I would hate for anyone else to unknowingly break a law that would lead to the destruction of their career, personal life, and finances and ultimately land them in Federal Prison.  It’s not as far-fetched as people think….I’m proof of that!

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A Grown Woman and a Bunk Bed….

Where does a 49-year-old woman begin when discussing the perils of sleeping in a bunk bed?

Quite often I find myself cracking up at how uncomplicated, neurotic and comical my life is right now.  A few nights ago, I decided I was going to climb on top of my bed and listen to my music and read.  Yes! I said climb up to my top bunk!  As I was sitting up there in my BOP shorts, BOP t-shirt, and BOP men’s socks that are way to big, oh, and my green beanie because it’s cold up there, I looked over to Ms. B.B. and said, “Look at me!!”  I was swinging my short legs over the side of my top bunk looking like a 12-year-old boy!  We cracked up!

As much as this experience is frustrating and disheartening, it is equally funny as heck!  At time, this experience is so unreal and ridiculous!  I just keep reminding myself that I have been through worse, or at least that is what I tell myself.  Then, I remind myself of how so many of my foster kids, and kids who didn’t come to me, have endured and overcome similar and even worse experiences.  Then I channel my inner Cynthia, Adrian, Max, Johnny, Daniella, Eddie, Todd, Davonne, Brandon, Richy, and Nick and all the others.  I embrace the PTSD and chaos that my nephew Dee overcame, and I think of his sister and brother.  I honestly incorporate everything I have told them over the years about no whining and blaming others because nobody cares.  I remind myself that I have to define my experience and share it in a way that will encourage and uplift others.  As I have used with them in the past, I will definitely rely on my sense of humor because sometimes laughter is the only healthy alternative.

I am so thankful for my kids.  They have shown me that I have to practice what I have preached!

So, every  night, after 9:30 pm count, I climb my grown woman butt up to the top bunk and say thank you that another day has ended!

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Should I File a Motion with the Judge?….

On almost a daily basis, there are small groups of women discussing their cases, unfair sentences, and disbelief about being stuck in such a non-penetrable system.  I entered this camp prepared to endure my 33 month sentence and all that comes with it.  After bearing witness to what a system could do to me, I just surrendered to being treated unfairly and told myself that I would create a space where I could voice my truth and provide a forum for others who are going through the same traumatic experience as I.

As i listen closely and attentively to these white-collar women’s concerns and questions about how they were treated unfairly, I am beginning to formulate a theory that after they have had an opportunity to come out from the fog of Governmental abuse, they are waking up and saying “HEY!” something is wrong.

Recently a case was heard in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court that is very similar to my case.  The physicians were charged with fraud because they did not physically see the clients, but they did attend care meetings, discussed treatments, goals, and plans.  Actually, that has been general practice up until Medicaid/Medicare changed the rules.  Along with that, the prosecutor based their sentencing on relevant conduct which, in my mind, is Constitutionally wrong.  It says that if you billed one client this way, then every single patient/client billing in that practice/agency has been fraudulent throughout the entire period for which the indictment applies.  Additionally, they can just assign an arbitrary number of dollars which is used to determine a sentence.  Even though they could not prove anything, they can scare and bully people into lying to get a lower sentence.  Well, the ninth circuit vacated the sentence and sent it back for re-sentencing, but realistic numbers have to be used.  So much money wasted by our government!

Now, the question is, should I file a motion to vacate my 33 month sentence?  Many of my Federal Prison Camp “attorneys” say yes I should!  I am going to observe and see what occurs at the sentencing hearing of this particular case and consider the outcome.

If you are interested in the case, the link is located at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/UNITED_STATE_of_AMERICA_Plaintiffapealee_V_ALEXANDER_POPOV_DEFE.

I am so thankful for my Federal Camp “Attorney’s!”  They sure keep life humorous and interesting.  And, they keep me aware!!

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Unemployment in the United States….

As I sit in the t.v. room, here at the camp, watching the news and listening to the correspondents speak about President Obama’s plans for solving the unemployment issues in our country, I am silently saying to myself, “Who is going to hire me?”  I know that I am a minuscule part of this  huge crisis we have in our country today.  But because I am no labelled a felon, charged with health care fraud and money laundering, I am going to face a huge challenge when it comes to securing employment.  I have always put myself in a position that makes it difficult for an agency or organization to say “no” to me.  I made sure I had sufficient education, unshakable work ethic, and honed interpersonal skills.  Barriers were there for me to overcome.

Now in the present, I feel like public enemy #1.  I am an African-American woman and now a FELON!  Whew!  My loved ones feel confident that i will find a way to reinvent myself.  Actually, at the end of my sentencing hearing even the judge made reference to my resiliency, personality, professional skills, and education by trying to assure me that I will find a way to have a productive life after this travesty!

Although in my heart I know I will find a way, because I have the will, I sure want to say I am nearly 50 years old, worked in the same profession for 27 years, built myself from scratch, and I should not have to start over!  I took my grandfather’s words to heart when he said, “To pull yourself up by your boot straps, a feller has to own a pair of boots.”  I worked hard for my boots!

A lot has been taken from me.  And to my grandpa I will say, “Grandpa, I will have my boots.”  So I guess I will have to start there!  If you have a job opportunity for me, I will be knocking on your door in the next 18 months!

I am thankful for my strength, love for life, and my family history!

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This Time In My Life…

There are many things to cope with when moving through this process; as I navigate my way through it I am always thinking, theoretically speaking, about how I can intellectually and socially make a difference even though I’m stuck here.  Being in the midst of mid-life, a period when most people are contemplating what regrets they have, or what remains on their bucket list, I am asking myself what do I want to do when I grow up?

I become very apprehensive when I begin thinking about the array of problems that plague this system and all of the subsystems related to it.  These problems also plague women’s vision of themselves as a result of being part of it.  Similar to being a champion for change in the child welfare cause, it would take an inordinate amount of vigilance to ever scratch the surface and bring about change or rectify all of the problems in this system.  I have thought so far as…..I should run for office.  I have nothing to hide!  Being a voice is not enough though; you have to be at the table, sit right in front of people with similar level of power.  This I know for sure!  Then I immediately remember how BEING the change I desired to see in child welfare only opened me up to scrutiny, other people’s jealousy and weakness, and now prison.

There has to be a social movement.  Not an individual desire to make change “stick.”  As I sit in this camp and watch the news, or eaves drop on conversations, I see that we are far from a social movement.  We are so afraid, and I get that. Whew…do I get that!  Because one of my biggest fears throughout my life was the fear of getting into trouble.  So I avoided trouble, didn’t do anything that would get me in trouble…..what a joke!  I now know that doing the safe thing does not protect you, and I am living proof of that.

My next phase of life will be spent living fearlessly.  What more can be done to me?

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Ten Year Ban…

I received a notice from the Office of The Inspector general stating that I have been officially excluded from participating in any Federal Health Care programs for a minimum of 10 years.  There are many things that are going through my head as I read and re-read this letter over and over again.  My immediate thoughts, I have to admit, are not pure.  I have already been told that I cannot be a licensed social worker for 5 years, and now I am being told I cannot work in the health-care field for 10 years.  One would think that I murdered a patient, abused a child or some heinous thing of that nature.  But the truth is there was nobody harmed by my actions or my unintentional financial oversight.  Much to the contrary.

The government’s over-zealous, misguided, and unnecessary use of tax payers dollars forced them to formulate a summary to justify trying me for well over three years with the end result being that there was erroneous billing of $82,000.  Which, if I was left to operate and take care of my kids (remember, the kids nobody else wanted or was able to take care of) would have been repaid without all of this chaotic havoc.  But, that just seems to have made too much sense.

As I sit here in the Federal Camp, I want to know, “Why do I have to pay anything back to the government and be jailed also?” As a United States citizen, I can honestly say that being here for 22-28 months should make us even.  I have lost my license, career, home, and the stability of my family.  I feel like the Government truly owes me!  This is overkill.  The crack using politician has not received half of the criticism, legal problems, or persecution that I, as a sober, non-drug user, self-made, law-abiding, loving woman has endured.  Where is the justification for such a biased system.  I wish I could speak to Eric Holder.  I want to see him here at the camp with women who not only look like myself but like all of society, who also want to know what they did so bad to their country to deserve this extreme punishment.

In regards to my 10 year exclusion I say, “Oh well.”  It truly is a loss to the profession and the people I would have served. I am an incredible professional, have facilitated change in hundreds of lives.  There is only one ME!

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