The Felonious PhD.

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

Diary of an Imprisoned Soul Part 5……………… “We were never meant to survive!”

I have met several incredible women, mothers, here at the Victorville Federal Prison Camp. Recently I had a wonderful discussion with one of the women I love to talk and laugh with. She was sharing with a small group of us how horrific and challenging her journey has been within the Federal Criminal Justice System. Like myself, Ms. Y.C. is a Black woman, mother, sister, non-violent, first time, white collar offender who worked hard to pave a way for herself and her family and struggled to find solace in how the U.S. Government Criminal Justice System worked diligently to create a narrative that was completely opposite of her reality.

During one of our many discussions, Ms. Y.C. shared with us how she and her family explained her absence from her younger children and her teenaged son, who is autistic. She spoke passionately about her reservations about merging her two worlds by allowing the children to visit within a system that had treated her with such disrespect and disdain. As she explained her reluctance I completely understood how a mother bear would do whatever had to be done to protect her cubs. Well the same is true for an imprisoned mother soul, who has endured and experienced how easily it is for a prison staff (also a human soul) to completely disconnect from another soul and simply choose to be mean-spirited and callous at any moment in time, because they feel they legally can! So, the thought of allowing her children and family into this space was nerve wracking to say the least.

As time went, on Ms. Y.C. ran out of excuses and allowed her children and family to visit, which proved to be very therapeutic for all of them. My favorite part of this story is how she and her sister chose to tell the younger children and her teenaged son, who is autistic, that she was simply away at “FAT CAMP” (lol). OMG! we all laughed and laughed at her description of the story. She then proceeded to tell us that her teenaged son, who was sitting next to her, gently patted her on top of her head and kindly stated, “Sheeeesh mom, it is not working! you must try harder.” That interaction immediately did two things for me. First, it provided me the opportunity to laugh and laugh, a wonderful, deep heart felt, soulful laugh at a soulful, loving story as I stood in the bunk area in a cold, barren warehouse. It felt so good! Second, it solidified my insistence that we must tell our stories. We imprisoned, women, sister, grandmother and friendly souls have to leave a deep, passionate, purposeful and powerful imprint on this process by speaking our truths FEARLESSLY!

I am dedicating my next chapter to making sure I tell all that I can squeeze out of myself. As I have sat here in the Prison Industrial Complex, a systemically oppressive environment, it has been the lives, words, and stories of incredible women that have pushed me through and given me the strength to move onward whole and sane. Once again I have relied on the loving words of Dr. Maya Angelou, the powerful words of June Jordan, the womanist prose of Alice walker, the pain and triumph of Mary J. Blige, the peace and soul of India.arie, the authenticity of Tracy Chapman, the intellect and graceful story telling of Toni Morrison, the real deal of Iyanla Van Zant, the courage of Melissa Harris Perry, and the spirit and power of Oprah Winfrey. Those and many other incredible women have assisted me with being purposeful and mindful in this journey.
Ms. Y.C. will be ending her 3 1/2 years of incarceration in about a week. We have discussed the importance of speaking the truth regarding this process. I remind her as much as I can to PLEASE tell her story, give others the real narrative. To use her sharp sense of humor and keen, aware intellect to tell her truth boldly and with the prideful spirit that she embodies. Our stories are very powerful and necessary as we understand the state of our Criminal Justice System and every other Structural Oppressive entity in our society. We must provide others with a clear and precise narrative that awakens and encourages others to not just empathize but take action in their own lives. We have to tell them over and over, again and again as long as it takes to get our Nation, Communities and Politicians to understand that the system is broken, but we can fix it. There has to be some credible, courageous and honest women at the table telling the truth about this process.

Through it all, I know that I may not be able to save the World, like I once so naively thought, but I can provide a prescription to those close to me or near me that will give them some hope and promise for their own tomorrow. I clearly understand, as I have stated numerous times, that our Country was not structured with us in mind (us- being all human souls who reside on the fringes) and essentially, “We were never meant to survive, but we do!”.

I am thankful for my many conversations with Ms. Y.C. and I am truly going to miss her. I am going to miss our passionate discussions about race, class, democracy, prison, capitalism and the elusive American Dream. My hope is that our paths will cross again, after probation, of course!. At which time we could continue to laugh like hell and have a couple drinks, well maybe more than a couple after this ordeal, lol. Thanks to Ms. Y.C. …..Always, and I mean Always do you!
I am also thankful that my time here is nearly over. I am beginning to see the rainbow after enduring this tornado. I have labeled myself as being “Beyond Resilient” because this journey has far surpassed simply being in a storm. And that is my own consciousness of truth!

The journey continues…………………………………felonious phd 4/2015

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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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The First Sunday…

October 20, 2013

Sundays here are no different from Sundays all over the country.  The camp chapel offers every religious service possible.  There is a Catholic service, Latter Day Saints services, Buddhist, and Christian services.  Every spiritual-at least religious-need can be met.

As I sit under the shade covering my familiar table listening to the birds chirp and the chatter from the other women within earshot who are grouped together to discuss God and His Word, I almost forget that I am in a Federal Prison Camp.  That is, until I hear over the loud-speaker, “Inmate number _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , please report to the education department.”  That is when I am abruptly reminded….I AM IN PRISON CAMP!!

The campus is very peaceful though, so I sit and watch a group of women play a card game called Golf.  I was told that soon, I too, will be playing cards, knitting, and crocheting to pass the time.  These day, I am a little afraid to say what I would never do or what will never happen to me.  I won’t even put any of those thoughts into the universe anymore.  Shit, I am here, a federal prisoner in a federal prison camp. A felon!  I never, ever thought that would happen.  So, I will just say, “Time will tell!” For right now, I like spending my ample free time writing, walking the track, and talking to the ladies here.  Their stories are engaging, they are PEOPLE, and while hearing the ridiculousness of some of their experiences doesn’t make me feel any more hopeful, and frankly more disheartened about our punitive system, for the moment, it’s far better than crocheting!

Just stay tuned…

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