The Felonious PhD.

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

Veggie Patrol

November 18, 2013

7:40am

Okay, for those who do not know, there was an inmate murdered by another inmate in the United States Penitentiary, Victorville, which surrounds the camp where I am living.  No worries! We are safe as there are barbed, electric fences that are very high and powerful which keep those prisoners in.  That type of violence stays within those walls.

From what I understand, this is not the first incident of that sort here in Victorville.  But I told myself when I arrived here that I would only talk here about what I have witnessed or experienced first hand, so I will stop there.

Where there is an incident in one of the men’s facilities, they are all put on lockdown.  I’m not sure what that entails for them, but it sounds like they are placed in their living quarters and unable to move around the buildings and grounds where they are housed.  What I have learned, though, is that what the men do directly affects what happens here at camp where we “passive, rule abiding” women are housed.  We receive fewer services.  Our staff is sent to assist at the other facilities and we are placed on veggie patrol.

I guess when the men are locked down, meal time, which holds major importance in our routine, is handled differently and the men to not go to the cafeteria and are given pre-made meals.  They big job that we have when this happens is putting bags of Federally regulated veggies together for the men.  Now, I know I see everything from a political point of view, but hell! Women continue to be used and forced to comply even in the worst of times.

The last time this happened, I was told that over 50% of the veggie bags that were prepared were thrown in the trash by the men.  The ironic twist of the story is that we would love some fresh veggies!  Not only do we not have the privilege of getting as much food as the men get,  we are punished if we are caught with an onion.  No lie!  There is so much more to this story that will just have to wait til I am free and able to write it in it entirety.  But for now, until the lockdown for the men is over, we are on call for veggie patrol.  I have never, in my life, been thankful for a fresh crunchy carrot, but I will be after I am done with this place.

I really could use a nice salmon salad right now!

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All of the Inmates are Male or Drug Dealers or Users…

There has been a lot of discussion about amending the laws that require mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for drug offenders.  I am not sure if anyone is noticing that there is little to no discussion about the increasing incarceration of females who pleaded guilty or plea-bargained to get reduced sentences for white collar crimes.  Yes it is important to me because I am in that category.

There are a percentage of us that are going unnoticed, we are invisible.  We are the first time offenders of non-violent, victimless crimes.  We’ve been convicted of crimes that were classified as fraud according to the convoluted government policies (see The Indictment of My Soul).  We are mothers, aunts, sisters, and friends.  Sitting her posing no threat to anyone, and truly never have.

As I write this blog sitting in the library with several other women, I just wish someone would hear our voices and understand that this is not going to solve any problems.  It only creates more problems for our system.

As I read the statements from the Director of the Board of Prisons from some type of recent Congressional hearing, I realize that once again, I am part of an invisible population and I know all too well how that works out.

I am not a male inmate or a druggie of any kind-dealer or user.  I am a professional woman who is educated, loving, caring, dependable, black, and should not be here.  I am once again a minority.

Life is so funny sometimes!  Whew!

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Town Hall Meeting…

November 10, 2013

8:30 am

I knew it was going to be one of those days.  Two female guards entered the unit and informed all 130 of us, give or take a few, that we would be having an emergency meeting immediately.   As the women who were present gathered toward the front of the unit,  others were rushing to get out of the showers.  After a small verbal conflict in the shower area was resolved,  everyone was eventually present and attentively listening to the guards’ concerns.

Are you ready for this?

We were informed that if we touched or altered the emergency lights again that things like the t.v. rooms and beauty salon will be taken away from us. Also, we  could be locked down in the unit.  I will refrain from further discussion on this issue until I am free, but I just had to share my Sunday morning experience with my bloggies.  One day, I will reread these posts and hopefully by then I will have found a way to make sense of this childish,  embarrassing,  time-wasting experience!

 

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A Reason to Fight

Under the link, “Justice Reform,” I have shared a link with you to a website called FAMM.org.  I know many of you have visited, but I would love for more people to be driven to their site so that the hearts and actions of those who have been negatively and, in many cases, unjustly affected by Mandatory Sentencing and the punitive, all-powerful DOJ can be united and therefore more likely heard as this message of reform is shared with a public that is for the most part, I believe, unaware.

Please take a minute to read Kevin Ring’s story.

A Reason to Fight.

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The Big Shakedown…

November 9, 2013

The day began as usual…uneventful and slow.  I spent most of the day in the library doing my best to prepare for my 10 week creative writing class.  Around 1:30, as I was heading back to the unit, I was met by a wave of green moving hurriedly, but not running, out towards the courtyard.  What a sight!  Through the hushed conversations, I finally made out that the unit was being evacuated.  My first SHAKEDOWN!  I joined the crowd and got some clarification on the exact nature of a shakedown.  It’s a search of inmates lockers and storage bins.  As speculation spread through the camp about who the identified person was, and who snitched them out, I could not help but feel like I was in a bad episode of CSI or Lock Up.

An hour went by and we, about 140 of us from the North side, continued to be locked out.  The word is that the North unit, where I live, is the low-key unit so the South side was happy that for once the shakedown wasn’t happening to them.  We watched with anticipation as administrators arrived at the unit.  To pass the time, I began reading a book while others started a game of Spades in preparation for the upcoming Spades tournament happening over the weekend.  Ha!

Finally, more than two hours later, we were let back into the unit.  One of the beds had been stripped and she has not been seen since.  According to inmate.com, someone told the powers that be that the woman had “stuff” in her possession that could be considered contraband.  I have never been one for gossip, so I won’t list the variety of items that she has been speculated to have had in her possession.  All I know for a fact is that she is no longer here with us on the North side.

Every day and every hour, well, every minute actually, I become more certain that I do not belong here.  While at the same time realizing that this is my reality for now and I have to find a way to use it for my future benefit.  Whew!

What a challenge!

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Creative Writing and the Resistance to the Creative Voice…

Last night was the first night of my creative writing class.  To my surprise, of the 16 students, only two of them were under the age of 30.  Well, I guess when I think about it I’m not actually very surprised at all.  Young people hear the word writing, and immediately become afraid.  One of the young women came because I recruited her, the other because she was assigned to assist an elderly woman for the time they are both incarcerated.  That is an issue I’ll discuss when I’m out!!

As I discussed the environment I wanted to develop and nurture, a few of the older women were more interested in knowing about writing structure, grammar, commas, and precise essay writing.  Whew!  I expected this so I began by telling them that if they were looking for a class that teaches grammar, etc…..this is NOT it.  Most of the audience laughed and breathed a sigh of relief.  I let them know that I would be providing them an opportunity to just write.  No pressure.  No barriers.  However, the only rule was that their writing had to be shared.  They must make their private, public.

The hour was up before I knew it.  Most of the women left with smiles and said that they were going to start journalling while they were still there in the classroom.

There is nothing like a captive audience! I really enjoyed engaging in a conversation about words, writing, and the power of voice.  Even though we are all in one of the most oppressive environments we have ever experienced, writing can still save our souls.  Writing in every form saves my life daily.  Dang it!!  I miss texting!

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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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Sunday Night…This Is Prison?

November 4, 2013

I am sitting in the unit and all around me there are women, positively interacting with each other.  To my right a group of Latinas are looking at pictures, laughing and talking about their lives and other things that an English-only speaking person is not privy to hearing.  To their right is a group of four women who have been playing spades, laughing, and having some fun competition.  Across the way a few other women are quietly crocheting and reading books.  This is Prison!!  As I sit here and absorb this whole experience, I can’t help but question this process…..again.

Honestly, we have not seen a C.O. since 4pm for count, a process I will discuss when I am free, for reasons that will be clear when that time comes.  I think to myself and say out loud that they would and could never manage 130 or more men in this manner.  Let our asses go home where we are more useful.  Really, I am just stating the truth.  Today the women had their visitors, went to church, practiced for the Christmas program, wrote letters, read, exercised, washed and ironed their clothes and to end the evening, many watched the daily movie, The Hunger Games, as the others watched “Black Girls Rock,” on BET.

On a normal night, when I felt tired and ready to go to bed, I would just go.  But here, that cannot happen until there is a count. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want this place to be anybody’s hard time, but it’s just surreal.  There just has to be a more effective way to create the accountability and rehabilitation that the government wants.

The reality remains….this is prison

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Saturdays at the Camp…

I will do my best to give a clear description of my Saturday at camp.  I woke up at 6am, washed my face, changed into sweats, and went to breakfast.  I am not one for breakfast, but I did get a cup of coffe and returned to the unit to change out of my crocs, yes crocs, into my tennis shoes (that were given to me).  As I walked out of the unit door, I glanced up at the smooth blue pillowy sky, took a nice deep breath and continued on the concrete path that leads to the recreation department.  Saturday morning at 7am and the track was full of women doing their morning circular walk.  I, on the other hand, enjoy walking in the evening when the sun goes down. 

I entered the recreation department and on the left-hand side of the room there is a bulletin board that lists various recreational classes one could sign up to take.  It almost made me feel like I was at “Fitness Connection,” where I had a membership prior to self-surrendering.  I walked through the door and the t.v. on the wall was showing the movie of the day.  And like most gyms there is a line of treadmills and stationary bikes facing the television. 

I wanted to do some ab work, so I past the row of walking and riding nowhere machines into one of the private rooms with my partner, the ball, and worked out for 45 minutes.  It felt good!  I mean it was not fun, but it felt good

I returned to the unit, headed toward my bed, and was asked by “K,” one of the women who has been here for a while, if I wanted a pedicure.  Well, HELL yeah! I wanted a pedicure.  Honestly, in our unit we have a salon.  Now, I’m not trying to make this sound like the place to be, by any means, but since I have no choice, I won’t complain about the availability of “pampering” services.  In ther salon, there were other women washing, drying, braiding, and twisting their hair, laughing and telling stories, just like we were in a downtown salon in Yourtown, USA.  I do love the strength of the human spirit.  I sat in the corner where “K” does her pedicures and put my fee in a bucket of warm water.  I had a wonderful pedicure and had my toenails painted with a nice bright shade of purple.  It is not my idea of luxury, believe me when I say that, but I will make the best out of any situation I face. 

Life is truly to be lived to the fullest.  I will always do my very best to do it my way.  Today, I am thankful to “K.”  Hopefully I can get her to share her story on the blog soon.

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Report to Counselor ___________ Please…..

October 31, 2013

2:50pm

Today has been one of the most emotional days I have experienced since coming to this camp.  The emotional responses of some of the women who have been summoned to the counselor’s office have ranged from pure joy, because their release date is drawing near, or extreme sadness expressed thru inconsolable crying after officially hearing for the first time that she will be separated from here family for the ftwo years. There seems to be something about seeing that for the first time after youve gotten here that strikes a different blow than the abstract knowledge of it before arriving.

I know my unit meeting is swiftly approaching and I too will hear,”Report to counselor __________, please!” Over the past week, I have atatempted to gather some of the information for myself so that I won’t faint or completely come unraveled when I hear them tell me I will be here until a specific date. I like to have the chance to process things on my own so that I can fully participate in the discussion because, over the last three years, listening to the Feds talk usually leaves me puzzled, confused, and just plain pissed. Experience has taught me that I need to prepare myself the unexpected when engaging with the system, because it takes more than just being tough to endure it.

I truky understand how individuals are able to qualify for disability after being here. It would be easy for anyone who is not strong-minded to exhibit anxiety disorder and PTSD symptoms. Those who are not traumatized,  just use camp for a resting place by returning here after resuming their criminalized behavior. I have only met a few, out of the hundreds here, who fall into that  category.

Today I am feeling thankful though. I am thankful that I have support and love on the outside of this camp.  I am truly grateful that my strength and power have been tested and I am assured that my foundation is strong.

I am ready for my unit meeting.

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