The Felonious PhD.

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

A Message from the Federal Prison Camp…….HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

As I siit here at the Federal Prison Camp, on my bunk bed, (OMG!!! lol) I can not help but reflect on all of the men I have in my life. I have been very fortunate, and I know that is a strange statement to make as I sit imprisoned in the Federal Prison System, but it is the truth. I have witnessed my, stepsons, my foster sons, and my nephews and many other young people transition from boyhood, to young adulthood to become the wonderful Men/Fathers that they are today. I have seen them as they struggled to define their manhood in reflection of the women who were in their lives without many male role models or a guidebook as they found their way. I am PROUD! I am proud because I know how challenging it was/is for them as boys to define themselves as Men/Fathers in our Society. As a woman/Mother/Aunt/Friend, I do not think there could ever be any greater joy than to be a part of that process.

     The one thing I know to be true is that, as a woman who has raised many boys, who are now Men/fathers, I want them to be loving, caring souls. I know I can NOT teach them how to be a MAN/Father that is something they have to define on their own. To all of my Foster sons, my Steps sons, my Nephews, I want to say that you have the foundation, it has been laid, you know your truth as a Man/Father and no matter what anyone may say or feel about you the one thing you can do without any constraints is LOVE your children, give them all that you have to give. I am proud of the Men/Fathers I have in my life. I am not just proud of you all today but everyday.

I am thankful for the Men/fathers in life. I love you all!!!! Please have a wonderful Father’s Day and I will see you all soon!!!!!!

HAPPY FATHERS DAY!!!

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My Own Quietly Explosive Here Part 4…………………………………….”We don’t care what she does with the kids!”

Today, it will be five-years that “Ujima Youth Services” has been closed.  I told myself that once I left the Federal Prison Camp, I was going to cease commemorating May 20th, which is the date that my Nevada Medicaid Contract was terminated.  It was also the last official day that I would be able to have foster youth in my programs.  I think it is important for me to end my obsession (just a little one, lol) with how I was closed, my kids, (yes, my kids regardless of what those people say!) were immediately displaced, family and friends were harassed, and my life as I knew it changed forever.  Being able to mindfully and peacefully move onward will allow me to focus my efforts on providing a wonderful, descriptive narrative on how incredible and transformative Ujima was for all involved.  I will never claim that we were perfect, but to its core it was built on the promise of “unconditional love” and  even though it may have been imperfect, I feel its purpose and promise was delivered until its end.

The moment I heard these words as I sat in a conference call hearing with Nevada Medicaid and Attorney General personnel, “We don’t care what she does with the kids” I felt the air slowly seethe out of my soul.  That was the beginning of my depressive self and the end of my dream of a community that provided unconditional love to all that was tethered to me.  I had an incredible time as I embarked on my journey with Ujima Youth Services.  It was much more than I had dreamed.  I will be very conscience in my efforts to not romanticize my experience, because it was extremely challenging operating within the constructs of the Child Welfare System, that is governed by the limiting policies and procedural bureaucracy of the Department of Health and Human Services.  More importantly being forced to adhere to Medicaid fiscal policies and procedures to manage youth in long term foster care by utilizing a Medical Model Modality was a very unnatural way of parenting young souls in foster care.   Being a Medicaid Provider and not a State level contractor made it very difficult to provide the youth in foster care with the opportunity to live in an environment that enhanced their well-being and encouraged personal development so that they (too) could grow into productive and purposeful adults.  Those entities forced us, Providers, families and youth in care, to endure convoluted and on-going obscure policy changes that quite frankly were not conducive to those it was established to serve.  But that is another conversation for another time (lol).

I continue to have contact with many of my older kids, well they are adults now.  I will always be their mother figure and for that I am grateful.   My heart just continues to go out to those youth that were cast away and sent to places that closely resemble the prison setting I am currently trapped within.   For those youth, I will forever feel anger and pain.   There were alternative that could have been exercised by the Federal Criminal Justice System, the Attorney General Office, Nevada Medicaid, Social Services and Health and Human Services, but none were considered.  I just think of that Government representatives statement, “We don’t care what she does with the kids!” and sitting here it is so very apparent to me that Government level Social Systems don’t really care or have the capacity to care about those they are intended to serve.  I completely understand why youth in care, young citizens and many adult citizens don’t care either!  The reality is that to make lasting changes and build a loving community someone has to care, or the cycle continues!

As I embark on the next phase of this journey as a felonious soul (a systemically given life sentence of disenfranchisement) I will remain tethered to those many kids I have worked with and remind myself of how they too were confronted with a life time of disenfranchisement because of their label as FOSTER CHILD (an untethered soul in a community that is forced to rely on and trust in a community of human souls for love, support and guidance) and I will remember how I always encouraged, begged and often demanded that they be the very best they can be despite their circumstances in life.  I miss my Ujima life.  But I am excited to actively participate in achieving my new AMERICAN DREAM (whew!!).

I am completely thankful that I can continue to DREAM and that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any given time.   I am also grateful for all of the young people who allowed me to be a part of their lives.

The journey continues………………………………………………felonious phd. 5/2015

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One Month Down…

November 14, 2013

As I sit in the library writing this blog, I cannot help but think, “What the hell??!!”  Then I remind myself that I must continue to look forward.

Over the past month, I have met and conversed with several women and there are many more who  I’m sure will come into my path and want to share their story.  Up until now, there is a theme that runs through every story, no matter the sentence or the offense.  That theme is the shared sense of loss of families, friends, careers…..lives.  No matter if the surface conversation is about the justice system, the food, the three secure men’s prisons that surround this camp, the recreation schedule, t.v. room, and limited commissary list, especially when they are out of yarn, the aching for home and the familiar underlies everything.

On the other hand, I have had very limited discussions about what is next.  I mean, I am, and always have been, a planner.  Whether all of the plans ever completely come to fruition or not is not the issue.  I am in a constant state of planning.  What I am finding in here though, through the few conversations I have had on this topic, is that people in here, especially if they have a long sentence, only plan to fight to get out or have their sentence reduced.  If they have a short sentence, they are only worried about getting out.  Period.  If they are like me and have a middle of the road sentence, they are vacationing.  Not all, but some, have just stated that it is, “In God’s hands.”  I truly do not see my train of thought as particularly faithless or spiritually void, I just see that I will be 51 years old when I am released, my son will be 16, the system has destroyed my organization, revoked my license to practice in the health  field AT ALL, locked me up, and then will set me free!  So, I have to plan.

I feel that I have another good 15 to 17 years of mind-boggling energy to give somewhere.  I must plan.  I plan to stay politically aware, even though we get no news and our newspapers are days late; I plan to keep my mind and body sharp even though I feel this system is one that creates dependency and mediocrity.  I plan to never allow this experience to break or define me.  Even though everywhere I turn I am called by my last name,  number, or simply “inmate.”  I plan to remain loving, caring, and peaceful even though the environment is over crowded, loud, and commands distrust and silence.

The last month has provided no “lesson” to be learned.  I have and will continue to be extremely inconvenient and wasteful in so many ways.  After hearing some of the other’s stories, particularly two that I heard yesterday which were very similar to mine, I am thankful but I feel so angry and frustrated with this process.  They are also health care providers and were given 12 years.  What is the point in that punishment?

With one month down, the initial shock is over.  I am no longer a “newbie.”  With one month down, I am getting closer to leaving this camp and once again contributing to the lives of those I love and care for.  With one month down, I am on my way to putting this experience behind me.

I will now have to endure the holiday season without my son.  I want the system to know that this so-called justice is spiritually mean, financially draining on itself, and ineffective at creating societal change.  As an African-American woman, it is all too familiar and I have overcome it before.  This past month has validated that for me.

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Around and Around…

November 9, 2013

I awoke, as usual, at 5:30 am.  There is an uncomfortable silence from the desert we’re surrounded by that penetrates the walls of this multi-purpose room in an oppressive way on Saturdays when everyone can sleep later than usual.  I decided to get up and take my shower.  Early morning or late night showers are the best here because the water is hotter and more importantly, the shower stall is a little oasis of peace, privacy, and it soothes my soul.  I take as much time as I possibly can in the shower.  Mom’s know how that is!  A few moments of peace in the shower with the door locked is like being transported to a resort experience……until the sound of “Moooom!” makes its way under the door.  Nobody rushes you here, and there is no time limit, but I do wish it was the sound of my sonny’s voice that broke the silence in my private oasis instead of voices over the loud speaker or other commotion that comes with living with hundreds of women.

I have noticed that Saturday mornings are the time when many of the older women are in the t.v. rooms crocheting or knitting.  (Nope…still not crocheting or knitting! I have my limits!)  I already feel conditioned to get on the big track and walk continuously, going nowhere, in a circle.  Little J has refused to return for these walks after her one and only trip.  Every now and then I reverse the direction I walk, just to mix it up.  I’m not sure why it has an effect on me, but it does.  When I am sitting under a tree writing these blogs, or journaling, I look out towards the track full of women of all races, age groups and reasons for being here, I get sad.  it is truly a feeling of being trapped, like a herd of sheep being forced in a circle by a herder (system) that could care less.  Oh, boy!  I tell you, everything is political to me so it’s hard to even enjoy a walk without it becoming a metaphor!  Also, I am fully aware that most of the women are on that horrible, circular track of pain to relieve some of their worries.  Walking in circles is like falling asleep to white noise, at least that is their goal, to be lulled into numbness by the mundane to just avoid the emotions.

Every time I go for a walk, someone starts telling me their story.  I am up to five laps now, which is about two miles, before I am ready to scream out of sheer boredom.  The other day I was walking with a grandma who walks 10 to 12 laps a day.  She puts me to shame.  She is counting down the time until she can get to her grandkids.  She speaks adamantly about her disgust with the system as she is in here for something to do with illegal immigrants.  I try to keep the conversation geared toward her grandkids and her return home because her disposition turns far more rosy when she talks about that.

On this Saturday morning, I walked early and alone.  Now I am going to go practice shooting so I will be somewhat loose for the “Around the World” basketball contest that is usually only for the 45 and under ! Yes, all of the weekend activities and competitions are organized by age.   I get to be an exception.  Otherwise I’d be expected to play with the older group who plays boring games that involve sitting at a table for long time.  Not my style!

Am I in one of my group homes?

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As The Sun Comes Up…

November 5, 2013

6:25 am

I woke up this morning and looked around the room at my fellow bunkees.  Today, I am going to attempt to give you a visual of everyone in here, or at least a small introduction.

In the two beds to my right, there are three Hispanic, twenty-somethings who are very respectful and seem to accept responsibility for their actions.  From what I have witnessed, they are eager and ready to participate in any educational opportunities that are available.

In the far bunk, up against the window, there is a forty-something Hispanic woman and a 40ish Italian woman, Ms. Y.  The woman on the bottom bunk usually speaks Spanish and is very maternal with the younger girls.  They are always cooking meals-incredible mexican dishes-on the weekends.  Ms Y., who is presently in the top bunk but is very excited to be going home to her kids and family soon, is always ready for a conversation and told me she both laughed and cried when she read Black Butterfly Blues.  Little J and I sit in the unit and laugh with Ms. Y, quite often.

To my left is Ms. L.  She has declared herself to be my bodyguard.  Ms. L is a forty-something hispanic female who is hard-core, but has a very soft heart.  We often laugh and joke around with one another.  She reminds me that she has been incarcerated for so long that she has become used to it.  No tears, no worrying about the outside world, just existing in this limited environment.  Neither she nor I currently have a top bunk-mate, but I am learning that this revolving door system is about to bring a plane load (Con-Air style)  this week.  So neither of us will be without a bunk-mate for much longer, I assume.

To the far left of me, near the door, is Ms. M.  She is a fifty-something caucasian woman who has found her worth on the camp grounds by winning almost every competitive game that is offered on the weekend.  Yes…to keep us busy, they have card games, board games, sports, and ongoing competitions where the big prize for the winner is a goody bag filled with junk food that is not sold in the commissary.  Yes, Mrs. M received all seven of her winner’s goodie bags yesterday!  She was the most popular person in the unit! It was very cute and equally enlightening for me.  It validated my belief that all people truly need and desire is to be loved, accepted, to belong.  She finds value in her game winning skill and has found where she belongs here!

On the next row, in front of me on the far right bunk, is one of my favorite young people, Ms. L, a young hispanic woman who is here on a parole violation and leaves in less than two weeks.  Below her is Ms. C.  Ms. C is a 71 years old, African-American woman who reminds me of my grandmother and who humbles me daily when I wake up cursing the system for doing this to me.  Ms. C is a veteran of the Marines, the first black person in her unit and has the pictures to prove it.  She is a gospel singer and promoter….a God-fearing woman.  Every day after she reads her Bible I try to go talk to her.  She makes no bones about being angry at Obama and the system that she says has done her so wrong.  I wish I could help her, but unfortunately we are wearing the same green uniforms, stuck in the same dysfunctional system, so all I can do is listen.

In the next bunk, there is my counterpart, Ms. LittleJ.  She is a 40-something, Native American female who keeps reminding people she is not black.  We laugh continuously and even though she may be the loudest, most potty-mouthed person in here, at times she is the biggest softy.  She will cry at the blink of an eye just because she feels like it.  She is here for a year and a day, so she will leave before I do.  She is free of a bunk-mate as well…..for now.

Stay tuned to meet the rest of the characters…..

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The First Week Down….

October 21, 2013

Today  marks one week that I have been in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.  I have learned a lot in just one week.   Today I learned that if you don’t have an assigned job at the camp that you could spend a lot of time going in circles.  There are so many women here and at times there is not a lot for us to do.   The camp is a revolving door-some leave, more come, and some return.  Just in one week, I have witnessed all of those things happen.  Then there are the ones who feel like they will never leave.

Today a young woman left but she felt extremely nervous about the prospect of leaving.  I now understand why!  In the camp she is surrounded by support and connections.  The women in her circle encouraged her to be her best and she had that positive contact daily for the majority of her waking hours.  A lot of young women, and older ones too, really enjoy and feel safe with how they are treated by the ones with whom they’ve made connections while here.  I get it because that is how I felt when I was in college and shared space with people 24/7. Women can’t help but connect.  Those college connections are some of my longest and most lasting relationships.  But once you are a felon, I have learned that there is one big catch……while on probation, which most BOP women will be, you are not allowed to associate with another felon!! Where does that leave these women who have been bunkies or friends for months, even years?  Most will have to risk being violated or be out there alone to maneuver through the community that they no longer have a connection with.

I have always been a firm believer that the one thing that keeps us whole, happy, and alive is our need to feel like we are connected to someone and that we belong somewhere!  This system is counter productive in many ways.  I won’t spend my next 22+ months focusing on these dysfunctional systemic issues because I’d rather focus on the people for now.  Hopefully someone higher up will one day focus on our system.  I am too sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I will just tell the stories because they are the TRUTH!

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Fourteen Days and Counting Down!

Oh man, two weeks to go before I will be heading to Victorville to self-surrender.  I am  honestly ready to get this part of the journey started, experienced and completed.  Staying true to who I am and how my mind operates, I know there is always a beginning of a process or journey and then there is the middle where all of the action occurs and followed by the conclusion.  I will manage this chapter of my life the same way.  Tomorrow one of my sons and his family are coming to town from Ksnsas to see me before I leave.  I am excited to see them all it is going to be a good week.     

Today I am going to continue to take some of my little things to the storage.  I am trying to just keep the things I know I will need the next week. 

 My youngest son seems to be adjusted well at this point.  That makes me happy and hopeful.  I am planning to leave little notes for him reminding him that I love him and that he needs to continue to progress in school and athletics.  The plans for his life has not changed, they will just be monitored by other family members while I am gone.  

I am planning to call him often so that he continues to hear my nagging!! lol  

Friends have asked me if I was afraid.  And I honestly have to say no I am not.  I know that I will be meeting women who are just like me…  So there is no need to be afraid.  I am just anxious, I have the same feeling I used to get before a basketball game, big meeting, or any other situation where i will have to give of myself.  I would always prepared mentally and I think that is what I have done since I recieved my sentence.  

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Twenty-One days and Counting!

I woke up today and prepared myself to continue to check off my things to do list before I leave.  I always save going to the storage unit as one of my last tasks or make it one of the first tasks of the week.  I told myself this month that I was only going to deal with disconnecting, packing and preparing physically on the weekdays.  Weekends are for hanging with my son, family and friends.  And time to just sit in a peaceful space.  So the storage unit issue is one that has plagued me for the past three years.  See we had well over 6 group homes, 13 independent living condos, office and once we closed down we had to sell everything and what we did not sell we had to put in two large storage units.  I was so excited when we emptied the last unit a year or so ago.  So now when I return to my own personal unit and see my belonging stack, shoved and placed in a box it usually gets very emotional for me.  But today I had a different reaction.  I remember telling my oldest son when he helped  place the last of my things in the storage, shut the door and placed a lock on it, that I should just sell the whole damn storage unit and start over. lol  Of course, he did not agree with that idea and I get it.  Who wants to replace all of that stuff.  That is the thing though, these days I feel light!!  Yes there are times I miss my things but I have never been connected to stuff.  I feel like I did when I was in college and had to figure out what was next, where will I live and how will it look?  The only good thing is instead of starting over I will be starting in the middle.  I will be ready for next.  So my trip to the storage unit today was a productive one and not sad.  I am thankful for that!

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C.D. Little PhD., 49 year old African American Female

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My goal and motivation for the next 22 to 28 months.

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