The Felonious PhD.

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

The Unplanned Journey Part 8………………………………… A Long hard Five years, an even harder 20 months! Life goes on.

As of today I have been physically imprisoned for 20 months! The entire legal ordeal within the Federal Criminal Justice System has taken a lot out of me emotionally. It has seriously been a long hard 5 years, and remarkably, I still have more years to go. The main thing that keeps me motivated towards developing goals and achieving them at a high level is my will and my desire to model for my sons, my friends, and my family, that we all encompass the ability to overcome any and every barrier we may encounter in our lives. I also want to live my life and serve as living proof to other Imprisoned Souls that they can still live a purposeful, loving, peaceful and productive life by simply operating Beyond Resilient. I am also cognizant of the fact that my story is not a special one or unique but it definitely is significant considering how our American Federal Justice System continues to imprison soulful non-violent beings at an alarming rate.

It is clear to me that the next chapter in my life is more about not allowing this part of my colorful journey to represent my entire life story. It truly is a few chapters to be honest. It may be the most depressing, challenging and life changing part, but still it does not complete my life story in its entirety. This stage of my journey has made me stronger and forced me to truly understand and clearly define the American Dream for myself, so that I can authentically share with the youth in my family that with education, Passion, Perseverance, Purpose, a Plan and the belief that all Possibilities are available, you can and will do and be anything you want to be no matter what happens to you. I will continue to tell all of the young people I encounter, love and tethered to that they are loved and capable of infinite possibilities. My hope for a wonderful life has not been stymied but my experience within the Federal Criminal Justice System, it has most definitely been paused, but it has reminded me that we as a Nation has a long, long, long way to go to become the greatest Country on earth.
Today, I am thankful that I am nearly done with the incarceration portion of my journey. I will never understand its purpose, or accept that it was the only option for non violent, non-intending, 1st time offender, loving caring soul. I am grateful that my teenaged son has moved through this process with the care, love and support of family and friends. I am truly thankful that I was born and raised to be who and where I am at any given moment. Life truly is GOOD.

The journey continues…………………………..felonious phd 6/2015

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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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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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Happy 15th Birthday……..Sonny!!!

I have never missed one of my son’s birthdays until now. It is truly one of the most difficult moments for me to think that he will celebrate, take pictures, create wonderful memories, and I will be absent. Prior to self-surrendering to Victorville Federal Prison Camp, I sat with my Public Defender while she calculated the period she thought I would be gone. Her calculations with “good time” and 6 months “halfway house” services came to 22 months. In calculating my time away from my son I began categorizing the events that are important in his life that I was going to be absent from during my incarceration. I knew that along with his entire sophomore school and football year I would be missing his 15th birthday.

Mothers at the camp do many things to get through the regular days here, and they also find ways to get through the holidays and birthdays in here. I know it is a day I will not get back and I also know that it will pass; but as I sit in this visceral, non-productive, irreverent, paternalistic environment doing absolutely nothing of value for myself, my community, or my son, I can not help but continue to question the motivation of our US Judicial System. I am missing my son’s birthday and I am acutely aware of the fact that most people think, “If you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime.” To that I respond that regardless of the “truth,” our wonderful, resourceful Country has many alternatives to incarcerating, non-violent, low-level, first time offending women, mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters.

There is no real intellectual reason for me to be absent from my son’s birthday or any other important parental responsibility that I have always attended to throughout his life. I mean, if a man can punch his wife, render her unconscious and still be free to harm again, that begs me to question why am I here? We all should be asking these questions. Who is privileged to get second chances and why?

The wonderful thing is that my son will have a great birthday even without me. He has an incredible support system and people who love him. We are very fortunate. Now as I approach the second half of this unreal journey in prison, I will have to beg, pray, and attempt to convince the staff here that I need halfway house services so that I can re-enter my community and my son’s life sooner than later.

Over the past 11 months I have learned that the system has no motivation to encourage or enhance mine or any of the women’s ability to re-enter successfully. That will be bad for business, so to speak. There is no fiscal motivation for decarcerating us, there is only monetary motivation for keeping us incarcerated as long as possible, we are numbers and bodies. So re-entry and recidivism will never be a real priority until the Government re-thinks and restructures its financial incentives to the BOP.

Today, I am thankful that I have a son who is intelligent, caring and resilient. He has not lost himself in this crisis and I have to make sure I follow his lead. Happy 15th Birthday, Son. I am so lucky to be your mom.

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Labor Day….5 Chicken Wings and Two Corn Dogs!

For a a brief moment, I was excited!  Honestly, I heard from a very reliable source that we were going to have a special meal for Labor Day.  Most imortantly, I heard it was going to be….drum roll…..my all time favorite….CHICKEN WINGS!!! Now, I am one of the most stubborn, prideful people I know, and I often resist any and every moment requiring me to feel somewhat “okay” with being here. My friends and family can attest to my love for the small chicken delicacy, so when I heard the words, “Chicken Wings,” I have to admit I got a little excited, for a brief (very brief) moment!

If you have been fortunate enough to have never had to interface with the Federal system, you are lucky because everything about the system entails standing in a loooooong line.  I mean as a youth, I clearly remember standing in welfare lines and government cheese lines. So my motivation for striving to remove myself from that system, the same system that I am ironically imprisoned by, was high!  I seriously have to laugh out loud at my journey.  None the less, I usually wait for the correctional officer to call, “Last call!” over the loud speaker before I venture out to the noisy and long, hot, line.  Today, no way!  I did not want to chance them running out of wings.  Shortage of some foods is common  around here, so I made sure I was in that long, hot, government line with the rest of the women.

When we got to the area where they hand you your tray with the featured meat on it, I suddenly felt a kind of disappointment that I don’t recall every having felt as an adult.  We were given FIVE, yes 5, of the smallest chicken wings I have ever seen.  Oh my gosh!!  I honestly cracked up!  What the hell??!!  I am sure that in order to make up for the lack of chicken wings, we were given two corn dogs.  All I could think was how my family would crack up!  So, I took my tray with my five little wings, two corn dogs, and  “apple turnover” and sat down.

As I ate each little, miniature wing, I just told myself to be grateful and thankful even though those wings were just a tease.  I gave my corn dogs away and returned to my bottom bunk bed.

I don’t know if I will remember most of my experiences through this journey, but I am sure that I will be more thankful and careful with my freedom and I will completely enjoy the opportunity to eat what I choose.  I will have some decent chicken wings immediately upon my release.

I am thankful today for my sense of humor and for almost being halfway through this imprisonment.  And I was grateful for those five little wings, believe it or not!

 

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Who Cares?……..I Get It!

Many of the women in the Federal Prison Camp do not care very much about the news.  I seriously get their reluctance to listen to the ills of our communities and society.  For me, I just feel the need to remain connected to the pain of our society.  Although I am acutely aware of the limitations that our televised news has in what is truthful, fully, or accurately reported.

Often, after watching the morning news here in Federal Prison Camp, I feel an intense need to formulate a plan to help those who seem so lost and disenfranchised.  I know that sounds crazy coming from an inmate, felon, ugly green man uniform, woman who is trapped by her government; but it is my truth.  I can’t help it!  My anguish with sitting here is that as I sit and watch while young people are killing or being killed…..I know I can help.  I know I cannot perform miracles but damn it, I know I can make a difference in a few young people’s lives.   I know, because I did, with no scheme or plan for financial gain.

As I listen to “grown folks” discuss the incidents and tragedies that involve young people, I heat the blaming, cruelty, disgust, disdain, and irreverence.  My first thought is, “Well, hell, now I know where they learn it.”

I watch the news every morning for two hours after my daily two-mile walk.  The news is not informative to me.  It is actually a catalyst for validating my next plan!  Even as I sit in this hell, it is clear to me that I have to re-enter my community being more of my loving self.  I have to create an environment that encourages self-love, love for others, humanity, happiness, peace, and mindful freedom for young people.

I understand why many would rather not connect to the pain and sadness that is witnessed daily on the news, especially since we are trapped in a space where it takes every bit of yourself to smile or even wake up and put one foot in front of the other.  I GET IT!  I also get that without people like me, our communities and society will continue to fail at giving our young people hope, dreams, or options for how to operate mindfully in this world.  I believe in the concept of a village, and our village is failing!

I am thankful for the opportunity to plan for my next.  The clarity of purpose, energy, and time to love myself has made this experience worthwhile for me.  I will never own or respect the means by which others have treated me, defamed me, wrongly characterized my village/business, but I will always respect the journey!

 

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Eight Months in an Alternate Existence that I Will Never Understand…and That’s Okay!

Eight months gone; honestly, I have a difficult time saying where it went.  I think that because I have always marked my space in time with experiences that have traditionally been connected to my loved ones , it has been strange being untethered from my crew.  Mostly, I miss my son. I just do not feel in my heart and soul that a child should be separated from their mother for this nonsense.  That, I will never reconcile with, and I have to be okay with that too.  Other than my own personal turmoil about missing some of his young, precious life, I am okay!

For the past month, I have mindfully re-framed this process for myself.  It may be a coping skill I have perfected, but I want to consciously and authentically express how profoundly this experience affects the human soul-a good soul, a loving, caring, thoughtful, intelligent soul.  It gives me something cognitive to focus on and it also provides me an opportunity to share these feelings with all who care.  I am opening up my soul to this experience, fully vulnerable, alert, and actively asking myself the difficult questions as I move through the next few months.

My first question, which cracks me up, is “What in the world was I thinking when I voluntarily walked myself into this captivity?”  If this system views me as a criminal or a threat to my community, unlawful (Ha!), then why would they TRUST me to walk into the lion’s den?

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful I had the opportunity to walk in as I will be able to walk out (if the arthritic knee doesn’t worsen, haha) on my own! It is just that eight months into this ridiculousness, that just speaks again to the fact that our justice system has alternative means by which to make its point.  So why do we incarcerate so many people?  And once we are incarcerated, then what?  I am creating my own purpose in here, many don’t have that ability.

There are so many issues that can be discussed with our system and many have and still are on the forefront of championing legislative changes.  For me, someone who is currently trapped here at the Federal Prison Camp, I am concerned about how people exit from this environment.  How do we remain whole and sane and able to have access to the American Dream…..however that is defined anymore….

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I Have Never Been or Felt So Helpless……Until Now….

Surrender!

That is the only fundamental principle I have control of in my life at this time.  I cannot parent my child, or console my siblings.  I can’t laugh with friends or manage an of the adult things in my life that need to be tended to.  I have to surrender.

In theory, it all sounds so easy and a bit refreshing when you think about how wearily women trudge trough life as we grow older.  But, trying to surrender to this process is what constantly brings me back to asking “WHY?”   There is absolutely no reason for me and many other women to be here.  We don’t need rehab, we don’t require monitoring (we are kept here by the yellow line), we don’t need meds (well, not yet anyway), so what is the purpose??

Right now, I am sitting under a picnic area staring out at the desolate desert with a beautiful mountain back drop.  I would much rather be at home, if I had one, with my son, helping him prepare for finals and registering for his sophomore school year (which i will be completely absent for) as I sit here as inmate 47078048.

Seriously, what is the point?  How does an intelligent, hard-working, loving mother, aunt, sister, friend, surrender peacefully to this helplessness?  From a government system that continues to incarcerate women at an alarming rate and report differently.  I am an eye witness!

I only have 14 to 15 months (hopefully) left to serve.  So, while I may have a difficult time surrendering to this environment and criminal justice system that creates the truth it wants told, I am truly relieved that no matter what our government does, it cannot make time stand still.

Today I will just sit in this feeling of helplessness.  Like everything else in my life, I will fearlessly work through this feeling.  I am thankful for my strong resolve and my ability to understand that no matter what happens to me, it will pass.  I don’t have to like it, agree with it, or accept it.  I will RISE above it!

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A Grown Woman and a Bunk Bed….

Where does a 49-year-old woman begin when discussing the perils of sleeping in a bunk bed?

Quite often I find myself cracking up at how uncomplicated, neurotic and comical my life is right now.  A few nights ago, I decided I was going to climb on top of my bed and listen to my music and read.  Yes! I said climb up to my top bunk!  As I was sitting up there in my BOP shorts, BOP t-shirt, and BOP men’s socks that are way to big, oh, and my green beanie because it’s cold up there, I looked over to Ms. B.B. and said, “Look at me!!”  I was swinging my short legs over the side of my top bunk looking like a 12-year-old boy!  We cracked up!

As much as this experience is frustrating and disheartening, it is equally funny as heck!  At time, this experience is so unreal and ridiculous!  I just keep reminding myself that I have been through worse, or at least that is what I tell myself.  Then, I remind myself of how so many of my foster kids, and kids who didn’t come to me, have endured and overcome similar and even worse experiences.  Then I channel my inner Cynthia, Adrian, Max, Johnny, Daniella, Eddie, Todd, Davonne, Brandon, Richy, and Nick and all the others.  I embrace the PTSD and chaos that my nephew Dee overcame, and I think of his sister and brother.  I honestly incorporate everything I have told them over the years about no whining and blaming others because nobody cares.  I remind myself that I have to define my experience and share it in a way that will encourage and uplift others.  As I have used with them in the past, I will definitely rely on my sense of humor because sometimes laughter is the only healthy alternative.

I am so thankful for my kids.  They have shown me that I have to practice what I have preached!

So, every  night, after 9:30 pm count, I climb my grown woman butt up to the top bunk and say thank you that another day has ended!

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Should I File a Motion with the Judge?….

On almost a daily basis, there are small groups of women discussing their cases, unfair sentences, and disbelief about being stuck in such a non-penetrable system.  I entered this camp prepared to endure my 33 month sentence and all that comes with it.  After bearing witness to what a system could do to me, I just surrendered to being treated unfairly and told myself that I would create a space where I could voice my truth and provide a forum for others who are going through the same traumatic experience as I.

As i listen closely and attentively to these white-collar women’s concerns and questions about how they were treated unfairly, I am beginning to formulate a theory that after they have had an opportunity to come out from the fog of Governmental abuse, they are waking up and saying “HEY!” something is wrong.

Recently a case was heard in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court that is very similar to my case.  The physicians were charged with fraud because they did not physically see the clients, but they did attend care meetings, discussed treatments, goals, and plans.  Actually, that has been general practice up until Medicaid/Medicare changed the rules.  Along with that, the prosecutor based their sentencing on relevant conduct which, in my mind, is Constitutionally wrong.  It says that if you billed one client this way, then every single patient/client billing in that practice/agency has been fraudulent throughout the entire period for which the indictment applies.  Additionally, they can just assign an arbitrary number of dollars which is used to determine a sentence.  Even though they could not prove anything, they can scare and bully people into lying to get a lower sentence.  Well, the ninth circuit vacated the sentence and sent it back for re-sentencing, but realistic numbers have to be used.  So much money wasted by our government!

Now, the question is, should I file a motion to vacate my 33 month sentence?  Many of my Federal Prison Camp “attorneys” say yes I should!  I am going to observe and see what occurs at the sentencing hearing of this particular case and consider the outcome.

If you are interested in the case, the link is located at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/UNITED_STATE_of_AMERICA_Plaintiffapealee_V_ALEXANDER_POPOV_DEFE.

I am so thankful for my Federal Camp “Attorney’s!”  They sure keep life humorous and interesting.  And, they keep me aware!!

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