The Felonious PhD.

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

HAVE NO FEAR!………….A Message of Solace from the Camp

As I enter my 17th month of incarceration at the Federal Prison Camp, there are a few things that I have just become accustomed to for the sake of my maintaining peace of mind for my soulful self. Then there are instances where I am caught off guard and my soul is touched at its CORE.

I have become accustomed to wearing the ugly, green, men’s uniform that is accessorized with the heavy, steel-toed high top boots. I am even accustomed to the oppressive, used green sports bra. I have become accustomed to the fact that this environment has incompetent, irreverent, depressed and often mean-spirited staff that work here. And out of pure survival I have even become accustomed to walking daily, round and round and round in circles on a rocky track. So boring!.

However, I have not become accustomed to how our United States Government Criminal Justice System continues to incarcerate, non-violent, low level offending, frail, elderly women. I know we as a Nation thrive on punishing those who have “done wrong” in the eyes of law. I am also aware of the fact that we have to maintain some level of order as a civilized society. I completely understand all of those concepts, believes and constructs. But what happens when a system is so extremely “FLAWED” and we as a Nation simply continue to ride the “SLIPPERY SLOPE” of mass incarceration without any hesitation or critical analysis into the inhumanness or the ineffectiveness of the process? How can we not act with a sense of urgency when it is apparent that our Criminal Justice system is broken? That sense of complacency is something I can never become accustom to as long as I live.

Today, as I sat in the library, reading and writing about how there are some signs of change on the horizon and how critical and urgent those changes are needed, we get an announcement over the loud speaker that says, “Golf South Mentor come to R&D”. That announcement is a request for one of the women who is a volunteer mentor for new arrivals to come the the R& D office and meet the new arrivals. It also alerts every other woman on the camp that new people are here. Typically, the mentors will take the new arrivals on a tour of the camp before showing them to their bunk area. When the mentor and the new woman arrived to the library, as they walked in I noticed that the Latina woman was “ELDERLY” and that she was trembling like a tree. As the mentor spoke to her and tried to console her she sat down at the table in the middle of the library, put her head down and whispered as her lips trembled, “I AM SO AFRAID!”. O M G! my heart stopped, for a few seconds I was at a complete loss for words. I looked over to the mentor and the other woman that was in the library and they were both standing there with their mouths open and speechless. My immediate reaction was to go give her a hug, but I could sense the complete “FEAR” in her at that moment. I gathered myself and told her softly, “You are very safe here, I promise no one is going to hurt you!”. I asked her if she was thirsty and she nodded yes, I went into the desk drawer and handed her a generic diet soda. I reassured her that the hard part was over. Being here is the easiest part of the Federal Criminal Justice process. Whew!! That was all I could do to not scream or burst out in tears. I am sure that would have scared her to death! After a few minutes she opened the soda took a sip and the other two women began consoling her and talking. I took the opportunity to gather my thing to walk back to the unit. Walking my usual path back to the unit I was trying desperately to find a way to switch emotional gears from pure anger to “March Madness” (lol).

Those are the moments that bring my anger to the surface. Because my own consciousness of truth is that I am forever angered by this process, but these types of days force me to be present in my anger. There is absolutely no way anyone will ever be able to convince me that as United States of America we do not have any other option other than to incarcerate, non violent, low level, women, elderly offenders or anyone who is not a safety risk. I just do not get it! or maybe I get it too well! I have forced myself to succumb and surrender to many things as I progress through my journey. But I will never ever accept how easily it is for our Government officials (fellow citizens), to skillfully and willfully destroy another persons soul with passion and fervor in the name of justice, corrections and rehabilitation. I will also never forget how easily we (Americans) allow these things to happen.

If you are a woman, sister, grandmother, aunt or mother who finds herself pending incarceration at a Federal Prison Camp, I want you to know that “YOU WILL BE SAFE”. Don’t get caught up in shows like “Lock Up” that are televised to brainwash US citizens into thinking we need prisons. Or believe everything about “Orange is the New Black” which is entertainment first and is very creative. The women here at the camp are people you know. “We are all people you know!” So trust me when I say you have nothing to fear in here.

I am so thankful that my time here at the Federal Prison Camp is almost over. It is a challenge everyday to wake up and renew my passion for being a loving, caring, soulful Black American Woman Mother. I am also thankful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any and every given moment!

The Journey continues…………………………felonious phd-3/201

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Ujima: A Woman’s Work………An Unplanned Journey Part 3

Today as I sat in the library at the Federal Prison Camp in Victorville California. I began thinking back to how all of this began. The essence of time is truly a mystical force that we live with and internally construct as a means to give our existence here on earth some order and meaning. Today I have realized that my former agency, Ujima Youth Services, was  closed down in Reno, Nevada nearly 5-years ago. Honestly when I wake up in this space and realize at the precise moment that my eyes open, that I am still laying here in an ugly, cold-ass warehouse with over a hundred women, it feels like everything  just happened to me yesterday.

It has been nearly 5-years since my heart was broken. Ujima was my life’s work and dream. It was a lifestyle that just about embodied all that I had visualized in regards to providing unconditional love to at risk kids and families in foster care. The word Ujima derives from a Kwanzaa term that is defined as “working together as a community to solve problems.” I wanted to create something that not only had a meaningful purpose but was also an entity that transformed the precious lives of youth by utilizing an “It takes a Village” modality for kids in foster care. For Ujima, that entailed working primarily with youth who were teens, boys of color, with high medical needs, or severe mental health. I loved each and every one of them and continue to love and have contact with many of the older ones whom I raised. I was not just the CEO of Ujima I was the mother for many of them.

After Ujima closed, I began questioning my purpose. Ujima was not closed because I harmed a child or a family. It was closed because of policies and procedures and bureaucratic red tape that create barriers to providers, clinicians, people who worked directly with the youth and other stakeholders to create real opportunities for youth in care and give them an authentic chance to be successful. I was closed because of money!

I was a CEO who loved her job and all of the crises, emotions and daily surprises that arose because of the job. My main goal was always to put the youth and families first and at the center of the program and its decisions. I demanded that they be treated with love and respect. I am not being naive in speaking of Child Welfare. It is one of the most difficult systemic organizations to work in and be a part of, similar to that of the Judicial System. Both systems are structured with an invisible glass ceiling attached to them which limits all possibilities for those involved unless there are people who are willing to create and fight for alternatives to those structures. I was one of those creative, bold and brave people. But I did not have the capital available to me to clearly follow through on my dream. I now understand that by accepting Government funding you are also accepting their mode of functioning. That is all that I am going to say about that!!!

Alice Walker made a comment in regards to how the work, life, and essence of Winnie Mandela was challenged. She was isolated, ostracized, slandered, abused, imprisoned over and over, tortured and lied about in her community. She brilliantly stated that in reference to how others viewed Minnie because of how the press depicted her, she poignantly stated that, “A Woman’s Work is her Signature”. Once I read that over and over and over and I mean nearly a hundred times since I have been incarcerated, it empowers me to continue being my powerful, brave, beautifully passionate self. My work over the past 27 years in Child Welfare literally “speaks for itself”.

Through Ujima I learned that I have the power to embrace anyone and any point in their lives and encourage them to be all that they can be no matter what their circumstances are. Ujima gave me my wings and a platform to grow and learn about the developmental task of youth in reference to being in crisis and trauma. Through Ujima I learned that unconditional love is transformative, which is why I truly believe that through love we can conquer all. I have lived and seen it first hand happen. I have some rich and wonderful stories about the youth I have had the pleasure to share that part of my life with. I can not wait to share many of those stories with others and give some of those youth who are now adults the acknowledgement they deserve.

Today I am grateful, that I have the capacity to understand how powerful “forgiving” and “letting go” is in my life and for others. If you find yourself imprisoned not only physically but by emotionally holding on to your pain or a negative situation, simply “let go”. Also “forgive” all that are involved in your letting go. I promise you will feel so much lighter and prepared to move onward towards another dream or just simply live peacefully and lovingly. I am thankful!!!

Felonious Ph.D. 1/2015

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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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Life On Pause…..

Every Sunday I try to create a peaceful, positive, and cognizant space in my heart and mind so that I don’t lose sight of who I am and my intrinsic purpose.  I also try to prepare myself for another week that is completely out of my control.

Often, I have conversations with my bunkee who is also intelligent, driven, and a once successful business woman.  Her common theme during many of our conversations has been about how her life is on pause.  I gather that having some element of control over what happens to her in BOP custody  and utilizing the word “Pause” allows her some control over what is to come next.

For me, being on pause is a complete waste of time.  As I listen to how this single mother of two boys worked hard to achieve her dream, I become overwhelmed with questions of how can I help women like us once their lives are no longer on pause.

The theoretical formation of living a life on pause can be a bit debilitating.  I was looking at it as if I was viewing a movie and, like I have done many times, I hit the pause button.  Once I returned to viewing the show, was I more or less attentive?  Did I lose excitement after I had paused?  Or, did I just turn it off never to return to view it again?

Life on Pause has happened to many people in our country, not just inmates.  I just know that women who are here for white-collar crimes and who were driven and successful will face a unique situation when reentering their communities.

I want to, once again, be Living Proof that it can be done.  After living my Life on Pause phase, I want to be able to hit the play button and enjoy a happy climax to this story.  I know that if I start there, I can once again help others believe in themselves, even though they are Felons.  We are the new wave of Government Subjugation and we do not have the time to wait for them to once again correct their wrongs.

I am thankful for the hones, open, and sometimes heart-breaking conversations with the women here. It gives me an opportunity to be selfless and attentive to others with challenges and in pain.

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A Week and a Day (A Year and a Day)…

It is amazing to me how our system finds ways to correct its imperfections when it becomes clear that it has screwed up and caused a cluster for itself.  Over the past week I have met several women who are serving 12 months and a day.  Yes.  A year and a DAY.   When I finally asked what in the heck is with the one day, I was told that the extra day is added so that one can be eligible for reduced time for good behavior.   Apparently if the sentence is merely 12 months then they require every last day of that 12 months be served, but add one more and you can get time off.  So, by adding that day,  the judges themselves have found a way around the dysfunction of their own system.

My laughing partner, Little J, was sentenced to a year and a day.  When she started to complain about the length of time she was going to be away from home, I told her she better be quiet.  There are people in here who have been here longer and have longer sentences than both of us.  So now we try to whisper when we complain.

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