The Felonious PhD.

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

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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Black History Month…..Whew!

Where does an intelligent black woman start when discussing black history month while incarcerated?

I have been approached several times to participate in the Black History Month activities here at the camp.  I have refrained from stating my true feelings about how strongly I feel about participating in any such activities while wearing BOP green and being defined by a number.  My response to why I am not participating has been, “I am not participating in activities such as dancing, entertaining, or plays because I simply do not want to give any part of myself to this process.”  People just look at me crazy, and I keep it moving.

I am keeping in mind that the women that are interested in organizing the activities are young and just want to have some fun; a nice distraction.  So, I am respectful of their needs also.  Honestly, as I pass through the halls and see the signs advertising for participants for the talent show and other productions, it hits me like someone scratching their fingers across a chalkboard.

For the past three weeks, I have tried to process why I am so strongly against celebrating.  The only answer I have come up with is that fundamentally I feel enslaved within this process.  Although I know in my heart it is a temporary physical imprisonment, this process has impacted me emotionally in a way that may or may not be temporary.  That remains to be seen.  It has not taken my ability to hope for a better tomorrow, but it has taught me that I can only live in the now.  And right now, I am not happy about being here!  This environment is not uplifting, encouraging, or conducive to my well-being.  I am not going to pretend that I feel free and happy because February is Black History Month.  Actually, I feel the total opposite.

I am not going to sit in prison, wear prison clothes, and be proud to be here.  Black History is about pride for oneself, a history of overcoming and succeeding.  A history of pain, struggle and slaver.  Well, today as I sit in prison, it does not feel like the past to me.  It is my present and I do not feel the need to celebrate.  I feel the need to be free from the BOP shackles of shame and ignorance.

I am thankful for Black History Month for reminding me that as Audre Lorde has said, “We were never meant to survive.”  And through struggle there will always be a reason to celebrate!

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A look back: The Day Nelson Mandela Died……

The day Nelson Mandela died, November 6, 2013, I, a middle-aged black woman, was sitting in a prison camp feeling angry about my 33 month sentence for, what they found a way to characterize as, health care fraud and money laundering.  I was desperately trying to find some news about his passing and the plans for his memorial and also found myself wandering the camp looking for someone to discuss this extraordinary man’s  life, long and tense two decade imprisonment, and better yet, his incredible feat of becoming president of South Africa after suffering that imprisonment.

Mr. Mandela’s passing and life story helped me put my own imprisonment in perspective.  My concerns about losing my license, career, and possessions seem small and futile when I think critically about them.  My struggle with what to do next, after being labelled a felon, seems like a small challenge.  Being held captive for over 20 years and having every aspect of your life controlled by those who have labelled you their enemy, is one’s worst nightmare.  Most men and women would have taken their own lives or lost their minds.Mr. Mandela became president.

I will do the duration of my 33 month Federal sentence knowing that if you control a person’s mind, you will always be able to control their actions.   My mind will always be my responsibility!  I am thankful for Mr. Nelson Mandela for demonstrating that to the world and for the legacy he left.

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Am I a Republican or Democrat?…

I was waiting to speak to someone in the education department about my creative writing class census when I observed a flyer entitled, “How To Get Your Voting Rights Back.”  Although I have thought about the ramifications that being labeled a felon would have on my present and future, I have not consciously given my new status as a second class citizen,  a second thought in reference to my voting rights.  I immediately became angry and thought, “I’ll be damned if I have to fight for my right to vote, too!”  I could now be justified in my ambivalence and apathy toward politics and politicians.  I will no longer participate in discussions about the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer.  I will be free from attempting to decipher innumerable lies that politicians tell in order to get elected.  I will purchase a t-shirt that says, “I am a felon,” so NO, I am not registered and I cannot vote!

The pathology that occurs when one who is a fighter is told that they are told “NO, you can’t!” can lead to an internal battle, in retrospect, is very humorous.  In that split second, my other thought was, “No one is going to tell me I’m not going to be able to exercise a fundamental right that my ancestors fought diligently for!  I am no longer a third of a person and these are not slavery days!”  Honestly, that entire conversation took place in my head and played out in a matter of 5 minutes or less.

Once the education coordinator arrived, I proceeded to complete my paperwork for the class and as I turned to walk out of the small office, I stubbornly snatched up the brochure and walked out the door.

As I read the brochure which detailed the qualification and procedures for reinstating voting rights, I was struck by two things.  First, once again, here is the criminal justice system trying to find a way to correct itself.  That gives me hope because even as our country continues to over-criminalize its citizens, the term felon will be added to the list of once shameful terminology which has recently become commonplace and includes words like bankruptcy, foreclosure, and unemployed.

Next,  I thought about how the few frustrating and  inconvenient steps that are necessary to reinstate my voting rights do not compare to what those before me had to do to pave the way for me to have ever had a right to vote.  Needless to say, I will be fighting to reinstate my right to vote.  I can not promise that I will converse rationally about political issues, and I know I will never declare myself to be a Republican or Democrat, but I will find a way to voice my opinion.

I am thankful for my ability to see past the madness of this debilitating system and that I forgive very easily…..but I don’t forget.

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Two Leave and Six More Come…

I am continuously baffled by the mindset of our legal system and also our government create and uphold the policies that give prosecutors, IRS agents, and fraud units the freedom to basically imprison anyone they see fit.  Over the past few months, I have witnessed how the court system throughout OUR country has deemed it necessary to hand out extreme sentences to some and inappropriate low sentences to others.  I have attempted to understand the formula, the rationale, and the purpose.

As a black woman my immediate response blamed racial preference.  Then, as I searched and searched, I came to the conclusion that outdated laws and mandates are what drives the system.  Once I quiet my mind and listen, watch, and feel, I see that the criminal justice and government systems are not much different from many other systems that are governed by small-minded, soulless and greedy humans.

Each day on the camp grounds a list is posted titled  “Call Out Sheet.”  This sheet informs all of the inmates if we have an appointment, a recreation class, an ACE class, a work detail, or most importantly, if someone is leaving camp, which is known as “camping out.”  I look at the call out sheet on a daily basis for my own information as well as to see how often people leave this place.  I have not performed a statistical analysis, but I can tell you that on the average, two inmates leave and 4 to 6 enter every week.

To an average unaware citizen, this may seem comforting since that’s generally viewed as the Government protecting society from criminals.  I say it is imperative for the average, middle-class, working American to take notice.  From my view on the “inside,” I am sitting next to medical professionals, CPA’s, Minister’s wives, senior citizens, secretaries, lawyers, and real estate brokers.  many who have admitted to making mistakes, but none who have murdered, maimed, or injured anyone except, in theory, the Government.

As the revolving door of justice continues and I continue to sit here as an eye-witness, I will continue to attempt to grasp the justification for such harsh sentences for non-violent individuals.  It makes me question the validity of calling this a democracy.  It sure feels more like a police state to me.  I’m just saying!  I will be physically confined to this space for another 19 months and while I’m here I plan to search for the truths and motivations within our legal system.

I am so thankful for the one freedom I currently have.  Freedom of speech.  I can only hope that I do not lose that by our government signing it away, or be punished by the government twisting the words I speak here to further their agenda of prosecutorial persecution.

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3 Months down….19 to go!

January 14, 2014

This past weekend I sat in the dining hall and ate dinner with two sisters who were sentenced to 33 months for a white-collar crime.  The stories never cease to amaze me.  Also, the need for those of us who truly feel wronged by the justice system to find a way to forgive and rebuild our hope is consistent.  Most of the white-collar women that I have spoken to were small business owners or independent contractors.  Every once in a while there will be a story from someone who had embezzled from a company that they worked for, but thus far, the stories have been about those of us who had our own visions and wanted to create our own businesses and serve our communities.  Also, as business oriented individuals, we wanted to be compensated as CEO’s for the businesses we operated.

The sisters, upon first glance, look like twins but are not. Over the past three months I have observed them doing everything together.  Their daily routine, phone calls, and any other  activity outside of the unit is done together.  As we talked about the ridiculousness of how a system can destroy one’s credibility, career, and desire to succeed, I heard them echo the same feelings of betrayal for attempting to achieve the dream that American’s propaganda has encouraged for centuries now.  They both feel like they are no longer safe here in America.  To be safe here would mean they will always have to explain their Felon label or be reminded that they are not extraordinary for being successful by in essence the total opposite, they are less than because they are now Felons.

When you are a highly driven woman and you have the education, skill level, and confidence to sit at anyone’s table, this process can drive you to insanity.  Our conversation included talk about how the government is not happy until they have laid you out on your back, paralyzed you with fear, butt naked and crazy as hell.  Then they move on to the next person.

Over the past 90 days, my struggle has not been one in which I try to remain sane.  My sanity is well in tact.  My challenge is trying to formulate a plan for myself that does not entail my having to leave the USA in order to live the loving and peaceful life I truly desire.  I figure if I can get that figured out over the course of the next 19 months, I will be okay.  I want to truly speak to others as a ‘Native Daughter.”  On who loves her country unconditionally and also be able to offer some hones, critical feedback about many of the atrocities that occur in our  criminal “injustice” system.  I want to do that from a loving place.

The past 90 days have been very difficult for me.  Not because I am in a Federal camp, but because I am away from those I love.  That will never get easier so I just allow myself to have that ache and longing for them.  I just keep in mind that “This too shall pass.”  Everything eventually has an end.  In the meantime, I will continue to be my loving and caring self despite my circumstances.

I am forever thankful for those who love me.  I want to say, I love you all back!!

 

 

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Prisology.org

We are sharing this post from Prisology’s Facebook page hoping you will also pass this information on to everyone you know so the pressure remains on this committee to take action for these necessary reforms!
Prisology
Another delay, everyone. The Senate Judiciary Committee met today, voted on some judicial nominations, and then delayed a vote on the bills. We have received over 20,000 support letters thus far, and will continue to inundate the Committee with your voices. If you have not already done so, please encourage everyone you know to visitwww.prisology.org/action to show support for the reform effort!
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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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Movin’ On Up…

December 12, 2013

Two days ago, I was informed by the “head” of the unit (inmate unit orderly) that I would be moving into the “condos!”  Once one has reached condo status, they’re pretty much arrived, as far as the prison camp goes.  Initially, every starts off in the overflow, over-crowded multipurpose room which is now a makeshift type dorm room that I have described in previous blogs.  Because that area has become so crowded that they created two small areas that were once t.v. viewing rooms.  I was there for a week or so and enjoyed my brief stay because it was a pleasant change from the loud, crowded female filled multi.  The older women I was with in the small multi provided me with a tremendous amount of information and I hope to get one of them to eventually share her story with the blog.  I thoroughly enjoyed the way she has continued to work to embrace and save some part of “self” after receiving a 20 year sentence for conspiracy…whatever that means.  Anyway, every day she wakes up, does her hair, and puts on her makeup.  She says it makes her feel a little bit like herself.  That statement goes further than anyone on the outside of these walls would ever have the capacity to grasp.  I will attempt to address that issue in a future blog.

So, now I am in the next best place to being home.  (Wherever home will be for me that is)  The condos are home to two people.  An area similar to my dorm room minus the door or finished ceiling other than the roof of the building.  I am sharing the space with another African-American female who is a forward thinking, entrepreneurial, caring, intelligent woman who was imprisoned for eight years for a white-collar crime.  She is in the midst of telling her own powerful story, so I will be keeping an eye on her in the future.

The next step for me is to inhabit this space peacefully and lovingly and allow time to do its thing.  Today, I am thankful for Ms. L.W. for allowing me to share her space.

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Thanksgiving Morning……….at the camp

November 28, 2013

This is not my typical Thanksgiving morning.  That goes without saying, right?  Even though, because of the holiday angst that I have, for years, observed in the youth I have raised through my foster care agency, I planned my refuge from experiencing it here.  However, the atmosphere here is so weighted down with the sadness of the women I am surrounded by, it’s hard to escape it.  I deeply miss my family also, don’t get me wrong, but I have already looked past this day. I am refusing to give it more power than any other day that I am here….in THE MAN’S house!

I woke up this morning as scheduled and went for my daily walk around “The Track of Many Worries.” I’ve made that my personal nickname for the walk of circles that the other ladies travel.  For me, though it has become the track of renewal.  I love personal challenges and I am challenging myself to start running that track once I can get my knee in shape.  A lot of women are walking today, as usual.

I stopped and sat at one of the covered tables to take in the Thanksgiving scenery.  The snow-covered mountains are beautiful.  Too bad I am not a painter!  Just beyond the high security tower, at the U.S. Penitentiary, that group of snow-covered mountains are covered by white and grey pillowy clouds.  What a contrast to that high, secure, grey, scary building.  But, like anything that is unpleasant to any of my senses, I can see the beauty that obscures that ugly building.  Life is good!  And this morning, I am thankful that I have a very clear, peaceful, loving, and purposeful vision for what is next.

11:30 am

Thanksgiving Lunch/Dinner…

My first Thanksgiving supper proved to be a memorable one.  Not for the food, but for the memory of how many of the women were rushing and pushing to get in line for the dining hall.  It was as though we were all headed to a concert and had to jockey for the best position for the front row seats!  I was struck by how basic needs, or how we  view basic needs when some else is in control of meeting them for us.  Even adults, like youth, feel like they cannot trust anyone else to provide for them when they are vulnerable.  It is amazing to view life from the lens of this paradigm.  I never want to have the government in charge of meeting my needs.  Ironically, I have always felt that way, but now, as an adult, being held physically captive in a government system, it validates how structurally oppressive systems can be to others.  So, I am thankful that I can intrinsically redefine my basic needs so that I will never be imprisoned mentally.

Thanksgiving Dinner meal was ok.  I don’t eat much anyways.  The bagged “dinner,” I carry back to my bunk for later, is a reminder that what does not kill you will only make you stronger!

5:00

Thanksgiving Evening

Count is over, and everyone in the unit has dug out their bagged Thanksgiving dinners!  What the hell?  Some laugh at the mystery meat and others plan on how they are going to turn this crazy meal into something they could actually eat.  Across the way, some “01 6’s” who have been incarcerated for more than three years, are making some caramel popcorn balls.  I never hear them  complaining about anything.  One of them, “Nae” has the ability to turn any kind of jailhouse grub into a delicious dish that could be served on “Chopped.”  Actually, she should go on that show!  No ingredient would stop her groove!

As I sit here watching others prepare their dinners, I start laughing because I can never see myself trying to creatively conjure up a meal with some of this stuff.  But, I will try some of whatever they make.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had some good food in this unit, I just don’t have the energy to be creative with the food.  I am a newbie though, so I guess time will tell. For now, I will just go pop some popcorn in the microwave and go for a walk.  I am thankful that this day, my first Thanksgiving Day in Prison Camp, is almost over.

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