The day that I was sitting in my mom’s living room and found out that my appeal was denied, I said to her, “Mom, I’m ready for this to be over”. I couldn’t take the weight of the shadow hanging over my head anymore. Enough was enough. When, I stepped on the grounds at SCI Muncy, I started to prepare to leave. I told my one friend, “I will not call home and tell my children and my family that I got in trouble over something dumb and might not come home on time.” I wasn’t going to let them break me, and I wasn’t going to let it happen. Finally, the day came when I was on the call out sheet to go have my one-on-one meeting with parole. I had my folder put together that contained all of my certificates, I had about 10 letters of support, I had my freedom plan, my re-entry plan, my mental health plan, and I also included my resume. I had my inmate version of what happened and had that reviewed by the re-entry parole agent. She only had one suggestion and that involved a statement I included regarding my husband and me. She had me rephrase it to where I still took responsibility, while including him in the narrative. She was also impressed how I included a paragraph about how I now could see what else could have happened. The morning came, I got up and made sure that my clothing was clean. In order to press our clothing, we put them under our mattresses at night. So, I was clean and pressed. I had my hair fixed, and I had on a small amount of makeup. We were able to buy eyeshadow, lipstick, mascara and eyeliner. I didn’t want to overdo it, but I had enough on to look like I was going to a job interview. I already knew going in that I received that institutional vote. That meant that my housing manager, my counselor, and other higher ups, including to superintendent all felt that I deserved to go home. That is an important vote to get because it sets the tone for the upcoming parole meetings. Although, I did hear of cases where people didn’t receive the institutions vote and were paroled. So, you just never know. (I must digress here in saying that the one instance that I knew of this happening, was actually a friend of mine. She had PTSD from something that had to do with men. I didn’t really ask, and she didn’t elaborate. Well, when she went to her staffing meeting which is when it’s decided if you get the institutional vote or not, she started to panic. She was forced to be alone in a room with the housing manager and her counselor who were both men. During this time, she started to have a panic attack and the meeting didn’t go well. The good thing is, she had gone to a lot of therapy classes and had the support of other staff showing that she made a lot of progress. So, in the end I believe the board members could tell that this event shouldn’t have been handled the way that it had been). Anyway, as I walked to my meeting I talked to the Lord. I said, “Lord, I already know that my meeting is going to go well. You’ve told me several times that I was going home. I know that you have already gone ahead of me and prepared the way. The Bible tells me that, and I believe it to be true.” When I arrived at the building, I told the officer I was there for my one-on-one meeting with parole. He told me to have a seat and they would call me. As I sat there waiting, I started singing a song in my head in tongues. I don’t know what I was actually singing, but it must have been something that I couldn’t express except that the Holy Spirit needed me to relay it this way to the Lord. I didn’t wait long, then I heard my name being called down the steps. I walked up to meet a man who appeared to be in his 60’s. He guided me to his office, and we walked to his desk and a chair beside it where I sat. He asked me a few “warm up questions”, about my family. He asked me if I had any siblings, he asked about my parents. He asked me about my husband and my sons, about friends we had, my prior jobs. He asked me about activities I participated in while there, things I enjoyed doing on the outside, plans I had when I left, how I was going to achieve them. Then he asked me the question about what happened. No matter how many times I prepared for this question, it never gets any easier repeating it. I went a lot better than I could’ve hoped. He asked me if I had anything that I wanted to provide to the board to review. I handed him the papers that I brought with me. The entire meeting took less than a half an hour. He walked me out, stopped by the conference room to show me where I would be having my meeting with the actual board members. Once I returned to my dorm, everyone wanted to know how it went. Even my family wanted to know how it went. I left feeling that it went pretty well. Everyone says that they pretty much make their decision based on how this meeting goes. I can understand that, since this meeting is the one where you as an inmate get to show them who you really are. Now we wait again. We wait for at least another month.
Tag: #Prison Reform #Criminal justice reform #Kim Kardashian prison reform #First Step Act
Meeting Katie Souza
As the months came closer to seeing parole, I was still full throttle into studying my Bible and writing in my journals. A roommate of mine introduced me and another roommate to a writer and female evangelist named Katie Souza. The books I ended up reading was from her “Captivity Series, The Key to your expected end and Healing your wounded soul.” She actually sent them to us for free. After reading these books, they brought a profound revelation to me that I never realized before. Katie was facing serious time in federal prison on drug charges. She was mad at the world and mad at God. After acting up and acting out she got thrown in the hole. One of the only books she was able to read while in there was The Bible. As she read chapter by chapter, she started to see a theme. The Israelites were in captivity coming out of Egypt and this story carried throughout almost most of the Old Testament. Joseph was in captivity before being put in charge, Daniel was in captivity. Katie pointed out a very famous verse that many of us have seen. Jeremiah 29:11 say, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and to give you hope and a future.” As many times as I read this verse, I never read what was after it. I truly feel that the Lord wants us to see things in the Bible as we need to see them. I’ve read the Bible many times, so I know I’ve actually read this but at that time it didn’t mean the same thing. Also, during this time I was still waiting to see the parole board and praying to the Lord for strength. When I read Katie’s book, that’s when the Lord led me to read verses 12-14, which says, “12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. [a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” I read this and the hairs on my arms stood up! I was shouting Amen! Amen! Amen! Over and over, the Lord was telling me that he was sending me home. The Lord also had sent Katie Souza home sooner than she was originally sentenced. The Lord makes all things possible!
Our eyes are the windows to our soul
DISCLAIMER: Some content may not be appropriate for all readers. Reader discretion is advised.
When your incarcerated there are many things that you can’t “unsee”. Therefore, sometimes it’s better to just mind your own business and not look. I obtained an education I wasn’t looking for while I was there. I grew up in a small town. The biggest cities were Harrisburg, Baltimore, which are both about 50 miles in either direction. The school I went to, had an FFA club (Future Farmers of America, and they would bring kids from other districts in to participate in the classes. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so I wasn’t ignorant to things going on in the world. I also wasn’t someone who went out looking for it either. My first morning in jail, I woke up and saw a guy walking around the dorm. Full beard, flat chested. I couldn’t figure out why he was there. I didn’t see him come in, and so I thought well maybe they brought him over to do something in the dorm. Then it dawned on me that he was transgender. I had never seen anyone like this before and if I did, I wouldn’t have known it nor asked. This happened again when I moved over to the general population dorm. A transgender individual came in with full facial hair named Jason. We had to close down the bathroom when he showered because he was in the process of transforming but not quite. Again, I learned more than I thought I would. I didn’t understand how you could be almost transformed. The other male had his breasts removed but still had female genitalia. Jason however, had no breasts and was being prepped for the reassignment surgery. This entails taking medications that make your clitoris grow enlarged. (If you want to read more, here’s a link: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/21668-metoidioplasty). Jason was in this process and therefore it was not in his or our best interest to see this. Believe me, when people are in jail for short periods of time or longer periods, they turn into crazy horny animals. Some of what you see on tv regarding this aspect of prison is accurate. I have walked in the bathrooms numerous times seeing people making out, two people in one stall, seen people go to the hole for having sex and being caught. When I arrived in Muncy and started having contact visits. My husband and boys came to see me often. During our first visit, my older son tapped me on the arm and said, “Mom, I thought only women were here?”. I said, “they are”. He kept, asking me and I finally looked at him and said, “there is only women here”. That time I gave him this look that he knew what I meant. It was during my jail time that I learned the word, “boy girl”. This is someone that during my time growing up might have been considered a tom boy. They like to dress like a boy, act like a boy, however in this case they like girls. They aren’t feminine. I never heard them called anything else, and no other derogatory word that I recalled hearing when I grew up. I also saw a lot of people embrace being, “gay for the stay”. This was normally someone who came in and used someone else while they were there. They may use them in many different ways, but a lot of times it was for commissary. They then became a “commissary whore”. When we used to be able to go to church as an entire campus, a lot of the girls would go to church to meet up with their girlfriends. I can’t tell you the number of times that Rev. Nettie had to stop a service because she saw someone messing around under the tables. (This was known as finger poppin). The pavilion outside at yard was coined “The finger hut”. This is why I didn’t go outside and didn’t want to go outside. Again, you can’t unsee this mess! You learn to just mind your own business because the less you see, the less you can say you saw. In blues, our cell door was open because my roommate went to get her evening meds. I was sitting at the desk listening to music and coloring. Someone must have come by and threw something in the doorway for her. I didn’t see it. The next thing I knew, they officer in the bubble buzzed our room asking what was thrown into the cell. I told her I didn’t know because I wasn’t paying attention. We were located at the top of the steps and a lot of traffic moved in front of our door at this time. They called my roommate down to question her. Then they called me to go down and sit with her so they could inspect our cell. Apparently, the dummy asked someone for sweetener, and they threw the packets in the room to give to her. Then they carted her off to drug test her because by this time she looked higher than a kite. We tried to explain to them that she just took her evening meds, of which one was Seroquel. I honestly think they did this to try to scare her so she wouldn’t do it again. Especially when we moved to general population. Unfortunately, this scare didn’t faze her because she ended up in trouble a few times. I just minded my own business that day and didn’t pay attention to what she had going on. Most times when people would get in trouble in there it was over something that had to do with a girl or girlfriend. I still can’t understand it. I would not jeopardize my freedom for someone in jail that I just met! The things you learn, the things you see, things you end up having to do to just survive from one day to the next still makes me shake my head. You end up becoming a McGyver of all things turning everything into something useful. In county, I learned how to take pads and turn them into tampons. (See video example here: https://youtu.be/AAfG01em09c). I became so good at it that people would refer others to me to either make them or show them how to do it. We didn’t get tampons in county. In state prison you get pads, tampons and panty liners. You also get pad bags, but those we used to spit sunflower seed shells in. Pads are great to make hot and stick in a used rice bag for a heating pad. You can also use an empty shampoo bottle with hot water for one too. Especially if you get bad cramps. We had microwave to cook, but if the guards felt like being mean they would say we couldn’t use them. Sometimes the lines were too long to wait to use them. I always knew someone who had a stinger. Another thing that was seen, known but never discussed. (If you want to see how to make one, here’s a link: https://youtu.be/-1tMLzdGGPc). We came up with some pretty good recipes, and many times they were just as good as things we’d have at home. I saw pizzas made out of saltine crackers that would make a local pizza shop ask for the recipe. I used to make Stromboli out of ritz crackers. Cooking was a big thing in jail. If you were good at making something, especially no bake cheesecakes people would come to you and hit you up to make them one. There’s always a hustle in there. My hustle became crocheting blankets and flat animals. We weren’t allowed to have 3D items, so any animals were flat. There’s a lot to see in jail, it just depends on what you set your eyes on to take in. Our eyes are the windows to our soul and my soul belongs to the Lord.
You need a new lawyer!
Today I was looking for something unrelated to the post I was going to make today. I have been trying to look up ways to promote my cookbook that I wrote. (Check out this link here: https://amzn.to/3Qeb5dM) I stumbled upon a post that a friend of mine made, whom I’ve been friends with since middle school. The post was my address and inmate number for the county jail where I was staying. She had asked people to send me cards, letters, etc. to cheer me up! I didn’t know this, but even today it made me smile. The responses were even more heart-warming, as they were from some folks, I didn’t know at all. Other comments were from folks that I’ve known just as long. if not longer. The comments weren’t about the request, but instead asking first who I was. Once people realized who I was and put two and two together they immediately said they felt “I didn’t have a good lawyer”. A few things that I learned through this entire process was that you don’t hire a lawyer from the same county as your crime. That statement I heard from several folks while in county jail. I suppose if you want to know who a good lawyer is, ask someone who’s familiar with the process. Most people feel that by hiring a lawyer from the same county is a conflict of interest because they are all part of the same “boys club”, country club, social club, etc. They also have to face each other day in and day out in the court room. It’s believed that they save their “favors” to ask the prosecution for when they need to really cash them in. While I like to think that’s not the case, you can witness for yourself the joking and laughing going on in between court sessions. It’s a job to them and at the end of the day, they can go home and rest regardless. I found myself very frustrated by the entire court/justice system process. Again, “innocent before being proved guilty” isn’t quite true. It’s more like quality until you prove otherwise and good luck with that! When you are charged with a crime part of the process is to receive discovery from the DA’s office. As I received this information, I immediately started coming up with information for my lawyer to address that didn’t jibe. Some of the photos included weren’t from our home, the cell phone records were from only one person. I constantly asked for a subpoena to be done to request the cell records of another person involved. The account that we did have info from was a shared account and the info provided was cherry picked by the co-owner of the account. That part was at least addressed in a motion to the court; however, nothing was ever said about it. I knew for a fact that many records were deleted, and some were only part of the entire text (I had the entire text to bring the conversation into full context, that I provided). I could also never understand how all of the witnesses were allowed to continue to converse, even during the court proceedings. They all sat together, shared testimony, etc. I wasn’t allowed to have contact with any of them, but I didn’t understand how they were allowed to exchange what they said before the other testified. How is that right? Many of the witnesses changed their original story from the time they were interviewed by police, to the preliminary hearing and then eventually the main court hearing. We had text messages, and information that we weren’t allowed to present because it was considered hearsay. The reason it was hearsay was because they weren’t there to put into context what was said, yet the people who received the message were there and knew what the conversation was about. We had written documents stating by 3 offices that they didn’t know who was driving and yet the people who wrote the reports weren’t questioned as to why they testified differently. There were so many things that weren’t brought up or included that I could make this post longer than it should be. The point was, I did feel that my lawyer wasn’t as aggressive as he could have been. To his defense, I believe he was afraid to push too much because of coming across as bullying the victims. I can agree with that to a point; however, you have a person’s freedom on the line. Lawyers make mistakes and they are only human as the rest of us are. We can all look back and say we could have done this or that. I can even look back and say, “had I never allowed this or that, this would never have occurred to begin with”. They say that hindsight is 20/20. As much as all of this really sucked, and as much as I wish I could turn back time and change everything, I can’t. The Bible has a lot to say about perseverance under trial:
John 1:12: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Romans 5:3-5: More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Revelation 2:10: Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
So, as you can see it was extremely important to me as a Christian to press on no matter what happened. I knew that in all of this that my Lord and Savior was with me. God had a plan! He continues to have a plan on my life. During my prayer times, I told him that I would use this for his good because he was good to me through all of it. I don’t know if I am helping someone else avoid the mistakes that I did, if I’m helping someone dealing with the same thing I went through, I don’t know if you need to become more mature in your faith. God knows what each of us need and sees to it that he nourishes us daily in some way. We often think that things are coincidence, but I believe there is no coincidence. God intervenes and puts people, places and things in our lives when we need them. Pay attention to these little ques each day and make sure that in all things tell him thank you for your current blessings and your blessings you haven’t received yet.
I totally lost it!
After several moves, my friend Jodie and I finally became roommates. Our other roommate Heather, Jodie and I all became pretty close. It was just the 3 of us for quite a while, which didn’t bother us one bit. They made moves on Wednesdays and Fridays for the most part, however one day a new roommate showed up at the door. The poor girl thought we weren’t excited to see her because we sat up and told Heather, “We got a new cellie”. We finally explained to her that it wasn’t that she became our new roommate, but that we weren’t expecting someone until possibly later in the week. I still laugh because here she wasn’t even supposed to be in our room. She got confused and was supposed to go further down the hall to the other section. I find that this wasn’t a mistake at all, but that the Lord intervened and brought us all together. She came in and introduced herself as Kim, (a nod back to the street names I referenced before). Once we finally knew her real name, it took me forever to call her that. I’d go back and forth, in the end we finally combined both. That was our new nickname for her. The time had come for Jodie to go see the parole board. I was just as nervous as she was because I was coming up not long after. She went to her one-on-one meeting, which many say is more important than seeing the actual board. I can understand why they feel that way, since this is technically the only time that you get to talk and sell yourself. This is the most important interview I ever would have in my life! She went to this meeting and felt that things went pretty well. It’s hard to tell because they won’t comment or say one way or another. You go in and answer questions, then come back to your room and wait to show up on the call out sheet to have an appointment with the actual board. Her day finally came, and she was a nervous wreck. You can offer as much support as possible, but this a meeting that holds your freedom in the palm of its hands. If you remember back to Phoenix, they told us that we were pretty much guaranteed parole because we had been part of this stellar program (even though it closed, it was still supposed to look good). Even the counselors at Cambridge gave us the same impression based on this fact and that she had never been in trouble or had any write ups. She completed everything she needed to complete, and this was her first time in prison. Her crime was also considered non-violent. All of these factors were to be positive. I have no way of knowing what she said or didn’t say during her one-on-one meeting. I can only tell you that she came back feeling extremely confident. After she met with the actual board, and she only needed to meet with one person, she felt that meeting went well too. All of the anxiety and stress that these meetings create, the actual time you are in there is about a 1/2 hour or less. I want to say that maybe 2 days later, possibly 3 she was on the call out again to go see the parole agent to give her the determination. She came back and she told us they denied her. She couldn’t go back to see them for another 9 months. I lost it. I cried like it was my decision. It made me even more afraid of what my outcome was going to be. They listed reasons on her paperwork of which none of it made any sense. We were upset because it seemed to us that they shouldn’t have been able to put the reasons they did because everything in her file contradicted it. The counselors told her that her Judge was the one who requested that she serve more time, that the time she had served to that point wasn’t enough. Now this really made no sense! Let me explain a few things to give you context. In Pennsylvania, parole is a privilege and not a right. You receive a minimum sentence date and a maximum date. The minimum date is the earliest that you are eligible to see the board. It doesn’t guarantee parole. The max date is the longest they can keep you. (Sometimes people will “max” out, so they don’t have to leave and be on parole after leaving. This normally doesn’t happen unless you are a parole violator and don’t have much time left). Our question started to then become, “if the Judge felt that she didn’t serve enough time, then why didn’t they sentence her longer to begin with?” The answer to this question is probably a simple one. Also, in PA there are sentencing guidelines. She was probably sentenced according to those guidelines, and if you as a Judge go too far outside of them it could be a reason to file for an appeal of your sentence. When you come up for parole, the Judge, DA, and any victims get to weigh in on how they feel about you being released. I can see both sides of this coin, but from being on this side of it, this isn’t right! This is again why there needs to be a re-evaluation of the justice system. Here is my take on this based on this situation and others similar I saw over and over again while incarcerated.:
You are arrested and charged with a crime. It’s then your decision after speaking with your attorney on whether or not you want to plead guilty or go to trial. Going to trial costs a lot of money. It costs you to pay your lawyer money and it costs the county a lot of money. Many times, people who can’t afford to go to trial will plead guilty-regardless of if they are at fault or not. (The innocent until proven guilty speech isn’t quite true, because once you are charged with something everyone treats you like a criminal). The other thing is that people who are familiar with how the system works, know that if they plead guilty and save the county money a lot of times, they’ll end up with lessor charges. (Regardless of if a plea deal is offered or not). The plea deal is a whole other way that they get you, because they entice you into taking the deal otherwise “you could be facing serious time”. So, you feel pressured into taking a deal knowing what you’ll get rather than rolling the dice. I don’t know about other states, but in PA we have sentencing guidelines. They take into account everything from the charges, your criminal history, and any other mitigating factors. The guide tells the courts that this is the least amount of time or fine you can give, and it tells what the maximum amount that should be given. The Judges are given a lot of discretion, however. So, in my friend’s case, since they probably couldn’t sentence her more, the other way was to then bulk when she came up for parole. The issue however is that once you are sent to the DOC, you are now in their care, custody and control. You have employed them with not only housing and feeding an inmate but evaluating their needs. This evaluation includes your attitude while there, your willingness to participate in classes, your rehabilitation, and your behavior. It’s the staff’s job, which is your housing unit manager, the counselors and your block reports (which are completed by the housing officers) all have a say in your parole process. These are men and women that are again, employed to do a job. A major part of that job is to again, evaluate you because they see you every day and know better than anyone else who you are and if you are ready to be released. These recommendations then go to the Superintendent of the DOC (aka as The Warden). If the staff feels that you are ready (you have to meet with them too as part of your parole process) then you will receive the institutional vote. My friend received this vote. They felt so sure that she was ready, that they sent her (and I) to Phoenix which required major changes in our classifications. They sent our files to Harrisburg to be changed to reflect that we not only should have the privilege to work outside the gates but to live outside them as well. There is then another code that you can receive that says you can do both of these w/o supervisions. Eventually, Jodie also received that code. That’s how serious the staff was in trying to help her be paroled. So, when someone who already had their chance to sentence you comes back and says your time served wasn’t enough-it bites hard! Not only are you saying that you are questioning your own decision, but that now you don’t trust the staff that was hired to do a job. The sad part is, when you see a staff member almost in tears because they too think that this was an overreach. When you serve your time and do nothing but great things while you’re there-what else do you then need to do to be released. I understand them asking the victims or their families. Even then however, will they ever want someone to see the light of day-no! If you are released at your minimum date, that means that you’ll then serve the remainder of your time on supervision. If you mess up and don’t follow the rules, then you end up going back. This is a small glimpse into a greater picture on why people like Van Jones, Kim Kardashian and others are trying to so hard for reform. There has to be a solution to this madness. My prayer is that healthy discussions can come and be productive. I would never have known any of this had I not found myself in this situation that I put myself in. I also hope that you don’t mind that I share these experiences with you, so that maybe you can help shine a light on this mess. Thank you for letting me get on my soapbox!
Covid, the election and the news
As difficult as it was for everyone to get adjusted to a new way of life during a pandemic, it wasn’t any easier for those already locked up. We had access to the news and any newspaper that someone may have had a subscription to. Most of the news however came from phone calls, emails and letters from family, friends and also the staff. The only 24/7 type news we had was CNN. The rest came during the segmented times the news would come on regularly. There were times when the DOC would decide to block channels so we couldn’t watch certain things. There was a lot going on it seemed like all at once. We had the news of covid coming in, then we had the election and post-election madness. We also had the insurrection of the capitol building, and then there was the killing of George Floyd and Ahmad Arbury. We saw the trials of the police officer who killed George Floyd, the trial of the father/son who killed Ahmad. The trial of the officer who shot a man instead of using her taser. During the George Floyd incident they blocked the channel for a while not allowing us access to that news. They then, said we weren’t allowed to draw on or decorate our masks. Anyone who amended their face mask would be subject to disciplinary action. Our guess is that people were writing, “I can’t breathe” on them. it was kind of unfortunate because there were a lot of really pretty masks that people created. I could also see the reason behind the new rule, as there could have been some problems stemming from someone being offended. Things remained quiet for the most part during these times. If anyone had an opinion about the events, they were shared respectfully and without incident. The only major incident that actually occurred was from a staff member being suspended after kneeling and making reference to the Floyd situation. He was suspended for quite a while without pay we presumed and then brought back without incident. He was actually a decent officer, and just made a bad choice in poor taste. It seemed to me that most of the inmates respected him and vice versa. As the trials simmered down and the vaccines came out, things started to approach a new normal. We saw several officers being sent to prison for a long time and being held accountable. The election steal rhetoric was over, and now we were being told it was imperative we get vaccinated. As a Christian, all of the things going on just resonated with me as part of the end of times. Everyone was coming to me and other fellow believers asking if the vaccine was the mark of the beast. Constantly, we were pointing to the verses in the Bible that said that the vaccine was not the mark of the beast. We were told that whether you got the vaccine was up to you and that there wouldn’t be any repercussions if you chose not to take it. After being at the DOC for the time that I had been up to this point I knew that probably wasn’t true! There are times when they treated us like kids, only telling us what we wanted to hear at the time to avoid hearing any whining about it. They enticed everyone to get the vaccine by paying us $25 and giving us a goody bag. I decided to get the shot because we were still holding out hope that Phoenix would reopen. Those of us waiting for that to occur figured they’d say that you would have to be vaccinated in order to go. (Again, they never reopened the FTU yet the website says it’s open). After they held the vaccine clinic and evaluated how to move forward, they decided that anyone who didn’t receive the vaccine now had to move behind a door into a cell. You wouldn’t be allowed any contact visits, and you weren’t allowed to interact with other inmates. The staff gave you a final chance to obtain the vaccine, of which some decided to do so rather than move. Others, because of religious, health or personal reasons still didn’t get it. Once everyone was vaccinated, they slowly started to bring back programs, classes, activities and contact visits. They set up a system where you had to go in and make a reservation to be able to visit. They didn’t want people just showing up like it was pre-covid. My sister Pam and her husband were the first to make plans to come visit. They had confirmations in hand that they made the reservation. They drove 6 hours one way to see me. I was so excited! I was sitting in the visiting room and in walks my brother-in-law and not my sister. I love my brother-in-law and he’s a great guy, I was confused however why my sister wasn’t with him. Here, they would not let her in. She had proof she did what was required but the computer glitched and she wasn’t showing up on their list. They didn’t care how long they drove, that they were leaving to move out of state and couldn’t return. They made no allowances for a computer glitch because nothing was ever thought through. Anything the DOC does is based on reaction and not a plan. When the pandemic broke out, they acted like they didn’t know what to do. While this was new for everyone, it seemed to me that an institution that housed 1000’s of people would have had a disaster plan that included an outbreak. (Lice, TB, Scabies, the flu). It just confused me how they seemed so unprepared. They made stupid rules that made no sense to us. When we were able to go to activities, the library and commissary they had a 6′ social distancing rule. It was being imposed upon all of you on the outside, so it seemed to them to be a good idea for them to do on the inside. The funny thing was they had us moving by cohorts. This meant that we were only allowed to go places that with people that lived on the same unit with us. So, I could be standing in line at commissary with 2 of my roommates in front of and behind me. The staff would then yell at us that we weren’t socially distancing. Umm, excuse me but I live with these two and we’re barely inches apart sometimes in our room. Same thing if they weren’t our roommate. I could be on the kiosk next to someone I didn’t room with. The thing that made it so dumb was then they’d call us for chow. We would end up standing in line at the chow hall, with people in front of me I’d never seen before. from another unit. Yet we were to be separate by cohort to prevent an outbreak. So, it’s ok to be elbow to elbow with people I don’t live with, but you yell if I’m 2 feet from my roommate. These situations frustrated all of us and we would normally try to point out how it made no sense. Someone wasn’t using their head. When the booster shots came out, things really started to loosen up and soon they didn’t even care if the non-vaccinated folks were mixed in with us or not. Honestly, some of the decisions seemed to follow whatever you all were being told out here. This didn’t always apply to how things ran efficiently in prison, however. I know I keep harping on the Phoenix situation, but another unit is what the female’s need. (Actually, we need less incarceration). The over-crowding causes huge problems during these situations. When you try to move people around in a crowded space, it’s like re-arranging chairs in a closet. No one, at any given time should be made to live elbow to elbow. You’re only asking for it to become a breeding ground of disease and infestation. During this time the Governor enacted a temporary release plan that if you fit into a certain category, you were eligible for release due to the pandemic. The parameters were so small that barely anyone was released as a result of it. It was made to sound good, that’s about it. We’re approaching election time again. Our Lt. Governor is running for state senate along with Dr. Oz. (Yes, thee Dr. Oz). As part of the smear campaigns, Dr. Oz is using fear mongering to scare people away from voting for Mr. Fetterman. Mr. Fetterman is on the board of pardons and has been an advocate for second chances and inmates. I don’t find this to be a bad thing, when used properly. Every situation should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. I can tell you, after meeting some of the Lifer’s (they prefer to be called long-timers), there are some that I feel deserve to have their case reviewed again. Some of the law makers feel they are doing their constituents a favor by just voting “no”. I would like to think that everyone deserves to be heard, and at least given the chance to have their case re-evaluated. As time goes on, laws change and people who were charged today for similar acts aren’t being sentenced as harsh as a life sentence. They instead might be sentenced to 2nd-3rd degree murder or something else depending on their role. One major example that I saw often, was women that were abuse victims. They one day fought back, and things didn’t end up so good. Did they kill someone? Yes. There are resources today that weren’t available years ago. These are the types of cases now being reviewed again, to give people a possible second chance. So, I wouldn’t necessarily call someone like this a “violent murderer or violent criminal”. Yet, this is what the news/media will tell you. You won’t hear how they were tortured relentlessly. I saw a few ladies file for commutation while I was there. It’s a long and arduous process. Many of them have the total support of the DOC behind them. Staff that has watched them grow up and grow old. Who see them every day be nothing but kind and caring to others. I’ve also seen people who were meaner than a hornet and were set to come home. Not everyone in prison is violent or a terrible person. There are some good people who made bad choices. Some who were with the wrong people at the wrong time. I pray that the Lord will put it on the hearts and minds of the decision makers to bring positive change.
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The call I never expected to get
When you are in jail/prison you have to try to disconnect yourself somewhat from what’s going on at home. You get to a place in your mind that “this is my temporary home” for now. This doesn’t mean that you forget about loved ones, or you don’t care. There are just certain things you can’t involve yourself in, otherwise you’ll go crazy. The only thing that I could do each day and each night was pray to God to ask him to protect me, my family, my friends, and everyone around me. I would ask for him to keep them safe and provide for them as much as possible. His mercy never failed to amaze me. I would call home often. They had a sign-up schedule that rotated on the block. That way, everyone had a chance to get different call times and for the most part you could get a second phone sign up. My priority was to call home to my husband and kids, then my parents. After that I would switch off to call my sisters, and my friends. I knew going into prison that my mom wasn’t doing well, but she was stable. She had been diagnosed with end stage COPD and was doing as well as she could. I just prayed that she wouldn’t catch a bad cold or a lung infection. Then, I called home and my husband says, “I have something to tell you. I don’t keep secrets from you, and I think you need to know.” He proceeds to then tell me, “Your mom is in the hospital and she’s not doing very well. He said it’s bad Jodie and she didn’t want you to know. ” Now, you all need to understand that my mom and I are close. She was trying to prevent me from having to deal with this somewhere that I couldn’t really deal it. Especially until she knew more. She didn’t blame my husband for telling me and understood why he did. I then called her to find out exactly what we were looking at and the other possibilities. I’m standing, at a phone, along a wall with 3 other people and a block full of people staring out their doors with thousands of eyes on me and I’m trying to hold it together. You know how when you want to cry so bad, but you’re shaking, and you can’t breathe. -it was that sort of cry. I am a lot different than many people I know. My only way to then take this all in was to go into prepare mod. I first messaged my counselor to find out if it was possible to get a furlough to go to a funeral. Well short of the long of it is, it would have cost over $2,000+ just an estimate I would have also needed to get a judge to approve it. I knew my mom would not want me or anyone else to spend that kind of money. To top it off, when you do go you can’t stay for the service. You’re handcuffed and shackled with the officers along with you. So, you don’t even get to properly grieve. The other option was through the chaplain’s office to either do a final goodbye video visit or have the funeral taped and I could watch it. I talked to my mom and sisters, and we came up with a plan that IF this would occur, they would come to visit with me. We would then have mom cremated per her wishes then we would have a celebration of life after I came home. It was the only thing at the time we could come up with that set well with everyone. Well, I’m happy to report that none of this mattered, because she is absolutely fine. God is good all the time! Here, they now think that she might have had covid before covid was known. Remember when they were saying that they think there were people really sick that prior December before in March we all knew about it? Well, they think she might have been one of those cases. Whatever it was, God had a different plan and knew she wasn’t ready for him yet. She celebrated her 70th birthday not long ago. To this day, her and I both pray Psalms 91. Here is a copy for you to enjoy!
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