Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

So I’ve finally finished watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. It has taken me longer than some because of the difficult nature of some of the themes. I had to pace myself with the intake because this is one of those things that makes you feel, no matter who you are, and I already feel a lot on the subject matter. I needed to moderate the intensity for the sake of my mental health.
I will try to get through this without any real spoilers, but if you are thay concerned, maybe don’t read until after you’ve watched or read it already yourself. 

I think it’s incredibly important in this day and age for us to ensure we are still warm blooded, emotion feeling creatures, because we are so prone to becoming desensitized with all the excess stimuli we are flooded with at the speed of information. Furthermore, this show also makes it personal. Whether it’s someone you know, or a few more degrees of separation in between, you can still relate to this on some level. It’s important to say to begin with that sexual violence wasn’t used gratuitously in this show. At the same time though, it also wasn’t diluted. 

Teens all know about the struggles and hardships of navigating social life in high school, while still wrestling with a means of self-discovery and identity. Parents and adults in general forget all too quickly about these things… This show will make you feel closer to your teenaged child than you’ve felt in years. It will give you a glimpse into their life, it will help you understand some of their behaviors and it will explain the tether to their electronics. If for no other reason, you need to watch this show with your child for that.

The harder lessons… It touches on the uglier aspects of this world of ours, from substance abuse to sexual violence, mental illness, and yes, even suicide. These are not nice topics. They are not meant to be nice. They are supposed to make you uncomfortable. That discomfort signifies how human you are. 

As always, it strikes me as utterly tragic that something terrible has to happen before people will start treating each other with respect and consideration. It is ever the tragedy but, fortunately, at least this time the loss is a fictional one, however symbolic she may have been. I think it’s so important for all of us, from teens to parents from poor homes and affluent ones, to victims and survivors of rape, to families and friends of those suffering from depression, to even those who suffer from mental illness themselves, if for no other reason than to understand how not alone they are. This show is so uniquely poised to teach lessons across so many social demographics…it is my professional opinion, as a survivor, an advocate for mental illness, someone who made it out of high school alive, as well as someone working towards being a better counselor than Mr. Porter, that everyone should watch this show, at whatever pace they themselves can muster, because it will change them, and it will grow them, and it will strengthen the connections they have with the people in their lives. Isn’t it those connections, after all, that keep us grounded?

As an aside, I think it is SO important to also watch Beyond the Reasons. It provides some exceptional insight into the spirit behind the book, as well as the show itself, and it also helps process some of the tougher themes in the show. We are told here some of why some of the mechanics were used the way they were.. victims of sexual assault have a very hard time talking about what happened to them. It’s clouded with so many feelings of shame, of anger, of disbelief, of guilt, and a myriad of other things. Victims can’t process easily themselves, let alone explain to someone else. 

This is a paper I wrote for ENGL 1302; the third & final paper of the semester, written in MLA format.

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Justice, the American Way.

Mass incarceration is the name given to the practice of locking up a notably large number of people. The United States is home to only five percent of the world’s population, and yet it is home to twenty-five percent of the world’s inmates. The US housed an estimated 1,561,500 inmates at the end of 2014 (“Prisoners”), spread across the country between both state and federal custodies. In recent years, a combination of the war on drugs, tough on crime political campaigns and emphasis on illegal immigration have assured a near endless stream of bodies, and as that number grows, so, too, do the demand for beds in which to house those bodies. Naturally, in the last two decades, corporate America has recognized this need, and has risen to the occasion, birthing the true face of corporate greed: the private prison industry. This industry represents all that is wrong with capitalism, with its unethical, borderline unlawful practices, which negatively affect the American people, should be banned.

While the industry in corporate form is relatively new, the principle behind the practices are as old as the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States, when slavery was abolished, except in context of “a sentence of ‘confinement at hard labor’ comprised the core of the penal system” (Fraser). In layman’s terms, slavery is illegal and unconstitutional unless you are sentenced to perform labor as a punishment for committing a crime. This is the origins of chain gangs, which are very much still utilized throughout many states. Now that CCA and Geo are at the table, however, slavery has evolved with the times. Companies such as Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T and IBM all utilize the inmate for labor services provided by the corporate giants. They lease inmate labor for manufacturing jobs, call centers, agricultural work and slaughter houses, and are compensated little to nothing: $0.93-$4.73/day (Fraser). In addition to these uncivilized (and, one might think, un-American) working conditions, CCA ran facilities are consistently failing to meet regulations in terms of occupancy, medical care and basic human rights (Wessler). The deeper one digs into the CCA’s closet, the more acutely aware one becomes of just how political the for-profit industry is. There are several crossover employment strings one can observe, between the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and CCA. “In 2011, for example, just a year before the riot, Harley Lappin, who had served as the bureau’s director for eight years, left to join CCA as executive vice president. Last year, he earned more than $1.6 million” (Wessler). There is much evidence of the BOP being complicit in sweeping cost cutting measures taken by CCA under the rug, instances where BOP failed to enforce the breach of contract penalties included in their contracts with the corporation.

But what, some might say, does this have to do with me? I’m not a criminal, I am not in prison and I don’t work for any of these companies or agencies. There are a few that might not be impacted as heavily by the system as it is: approximately 1% of the population. The other 99%, however, who pay taxes, who go to work every day in an effort to make it, to support their families, they are affected by it directly. CCA and companies like it initially offer overflow services to overcrowded state and federal run facilities. They offer to buy prisons outright and run them contractually for a 20-year period, all for the measly sum of $250M. “The $250 million proposal, circulated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America to prison officials in 48 states, has been blasted by some state officials who suggest such a program could pressure criminal justice officials to seek harsher sentences to maintain the contractually required occupancy rates” (Johnson). Different states have different contracted capacities, [which] “range between 70 percent in a California facility to 100 percent in an Arizona facility, with most contracts requiring a 90 percent occupancy. In Ohio, a 20-year deal with CCA to privately operate the Lake Erie Correctional Institution includes a 90 percent quota; cost-cutting measures in the facility have also led to significant growth in violence, gang activity, and drug use” (Fischer). Just to be clear, this means that the state incurs harsh penalties if any of these facilities fall short of 70, 80, 90 percent occupancy. We have to keep those beds full, regardless of whether there are enough legitimate criminals convicted to fill them. Does that sound like justice and lawful policy to you? These companies cut serious corners in order to convey the illusion of savings to the governments they offer to do dealings with. “Typically, [private prison companies] can site and build a facility within two years compared with between three and seven years for a publicly controlled one, according to Manav Patnaik, an analyst at Barclays Capital. The private sector’s construction cost per “bed” is as much as 50% cheaper, too. Running costs per inmate are also lower” (Denning). As crime rates fall in different areas around the country, the challenge to maintain these quotas grows. The only way to avoid paying penalties for failing to keep the beds full (which, mind you, are paid by tax dollars) is to keep those beds full, which means harsher sentencing for low level, non-violent offenders. A report from In The Public Interest (ITPI) notes, “When entering a contract to operate a prison, a private company should be required to take on some risk. Private prison beds were intended to be a safety valve to address demand that exceeded public capacity. It was never intended that taxpayers would be the safety valve to ensure private prison companies’ profits.” Yet this is the reality we face. Either thousands of our citizens are consistently occupying the space in these facilities, or the government is paying large sums of money to make up for the lack of volume.

The quotas aren’t the only conniving means by which companies like CCA profit from American citizens via the states in which they reside. I believe as well that this is the foremost misunderstood element of incarceration in this country. These people may have committed crimes, and they are paying for their crimes, however incarceration doesn’t somehow reduce the humanity of these people. They are still human beings and, at least for many of them, they are still American citizens, which whether we like it or not, entitles them to humane living conditions, and medical attention. “Under Supreme Court rulings citing the Eighth Amendment, prisons are required to provide inmates with adequate health care. Yet CCA has found ways to minimize its obligations. At the out-of-state prisons where California ships some of its inmates, CCA will not accept prisoners who are over 65 years old, have mental health issues, or have serious conditions like HIV. The company’s Idaho prison contract specified that the “primary criteria” for screening incoming offenders was “no chronic mental health or health care issues.” The contracts of some CCA prisons in Tennessee and Hawaii stipulate that the states will bear the cost of HIV treatment. Such exemptions allow CCA to tout its cost-efficiency while taxpayers assume the medical expenses for the inmates the company won’t take or treat” (Bauer). There is the other foot. Not only can CCA force local law enforcement agencies to keep their facilities full, they can also be selective about which inmates they accept, or barring that, they can force the taxpayers to foot the bill again. Where is the justice in this? How does this curb costs for the state? For the people? It doesn’t. These unethical practices are purely for the benefit of CCA and no one else.

No one is forcing the government to enter into these contracts with CCA and other such companies, some might say. It’s just an option that they can consider when evaluating budgetary allocation. This is certainly true, at the surface. However, “it took seven years for the bureau to release its studies on the BOP’s first privatized facility, in central California. One study found that any cost savings were eclipsed by the financial burdens of oversight; another took up the question of quality and found a litany of deficiencies, including health services that had barely met standards for nearly two years” (Wessler). As the bottom line is the priority for these companies, the net effect is it is the inmates and their families who suffer. ‘”Profit is still a motive and it’s structured into the way these prisons are operated,” says Judy Greene, a justice-policy analyst for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit studying prison-sentencing issues and problems. “Just because the system has expanded doesn’t mean there is evidence that conditions have improved”’ (Chen). Conditions improve only as much as they have to in order to appease the scrutiny of external groups and agencies. “The [Louisiana Department of Corrections,] which has ultimate authority over all prisons in the state, has been taking a closer look at Winn’s day-to-day operations. (According to DOC documents […] later obtained, the department had just written to CCA about “contract compliance” and areas where Winn’s “basic correctional practices” needed improvement.) Wardens from publicly run state prisons have appeared out of nowhere, watching over COs as they work, asking them questions. The newer guards fret about losing their jobs. Old-timers shrug it off—they say they’ve seen Winn weather tough times before” (Bauer). Corners are cut constantly in the name of upping that bottom line. Private prisons house 7% of state inmates, 19% of federal inmates, 62% of immigration detainees and 31% of juvenile detainees. Combined, these numbers make for a lot of human beings that are no different than chattel in the eyes of CCA.

Rehabilitation is a misnomer in this day and age. Low crime rates and low recidivism are not priorities for politically driven entities amongst the 1%. Incarceration is no longer a punishment but a commodity, packaged and sold to the highest bidder. It represents everything that is wrong with this great nation. We have a responsibility to treat people like people, to punish the crime with a sentence that is fitting of the crime. We deserve to live in a world where Justice isn’t just a fancy ideal, and where unethical practices aren’t allowable when the price is right. For-profit prison industry is a mar upon the face of America, and it should be altogether banned.

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So here we are, on the brink of the new year and I’m feeling very introspective. I’ve seriously slacked in maintaining this blog in 2015, and for that, I’m a little sorry. Truth be told, this blog has served as a coping mechanism for me. It has been a means of expressing myself and fleshing out my thoughts in a meaningful way that allows me to make sense of them. 2015 has taught me that I don’t always require or have the steam for this particular mechanism. The writer in me laments this fact, while the survivor in me understands that it isn’t a horrible thing. I truthfully hope that I manage to be more attentive to this means of expression in 2016, and I have every intention of making every effort to make it happen. Time will tell.

So it’s 10:30 pm CST and I’m vegging out following a much needed shower after putting in two really long days at work. Since my husband’s arrest in 2013, I have found holidays to be the most difficult to contend with. I absolutely don’t begrudge anyone else their happiness and their companionship and celebration on these occasions but I’ve found time & again that I don’t really have a place in them. It’s awkward more than anything, and it’s just easier for me to separate myself from it as best I can. In doing so, however, the cue to maintain caution for another reason sounds. I’m 20 months clean now, and most of the time, getting high isn’t even an afterthought. It’s not even at the forefront of my mind in any sense of the word. When I’m alone though, and unoccupied, my mind wanders to places I haven’t voluntarily visited in quite some time. This is why I immerse myself so enthusiastically in my schooling and my work. Much like idle hands are dangerous so, too, is an idle mind.

I’ve made a lot of progress this year though, in spite of the conflicts inherent with adulthood. I’m in a transitional period now as I try to get situated and get a home, and that has been a little stressful for me. A lot of this scenario resembles some factors of the calamity in 2013. I try not to look directly at it for just that reason. The busier, the better.

I was inducted into two honor societies this year, and am hopeful for some scholarships through them to continue my education after the federal aid dries up. I’ve started a small business, promoting health & beauty products that I really believe in, and it is slow going but it is exciting just to consider the potential it carries. I hope to grow that business substantially in the coming year, and (though I hesitate to even say it out loud,) regain some semblance of financial freedom. Oh to be debt-free again. There is so much potential that it just makes me weak in the knees. I’m not a greedy woman, but I am no stranger to stress and I create more than enough of it myself without the added burdens of responsibility.

On the note of stress & anxiety, I dropped from weekly counseling sessions for 17 months to every other week in the forth quarter of 2015. I feel that denotes some semblance of progress on my part. I’m less prone to post-nuclear meltdown, which is nice. I still have bad days but they are less frequent & I blessedly perceive fewer boogeymen than I have since I was assaulted in 2013. It is a massive relief on a scale I’m not altogether prepared to express. One such development in counseling has been survivor panels. I spoke at three of them in 2015. These panels are an avenue for advocates at the crisis hotline provided by my counseling agency who answer those calls to speak directly to survivors and to get a better idea of what victims need from them. These panels have been incredibly empowering for me and have been pivotal in my own healing process. I’m happy to say that I am already scheduled to speak at one in the first quarter of 2016. I’m looking forward to it more than you know.

April 2016 also has the potential to carry happy news concerning my husband’s incarceration. He is up for parole again and, should the state grant it, he will then only have 14 months to serve in a federal facility before coming home to me. I’m trying very hard to not get my hopes up, as last year’s denial was soul crushing. If not for the amazing people in my life, I might have relapsed. I’ve resolved myself to hope for the best, but brace for the worst this year.

I am on track to finish my Associate’s Degree in 2016, and transfer to continue work on my Bachelor’s Degree. All in all, I am cautiously optimistic about all the potential I see in 2016. I’m eager to see what it brings, and hopeful that it will prove to be the fruition that the transitional period of 2015 brings.

I wish you all a safe & Happy New Year and that 2016 finds all you’ve been working towards and hoping for.

The Next Big Adventure!

Posted: November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

Hello friends,

I’m embarrassed to acknowledge how negligent I’ve been this year in regards to my blog here… It has been a year of change and progress, to say the least!

The biggest development is my new business! I have started my own business with It Works and am on my way to achieving financial freedom! I’m very excited about this and and working hard to realize my dreams!

Kelsey’s New Business!!

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Your Pit Bull

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

This almost brought tears to my eyes. People, animals… it doesn’t matter. Stop drawing lines. Stop discriminating.

The Dad Letters

Dear River,

I want to tell you a story about your dog, Zoe. We found her cowering at the pound. She wasn’t barking like the other dogs. She was simply laying there, looking up at us. The tag said, “lab mix” and she was slated to be killed in a week. We fell for it, thinking we were buying a lab.

She is not a lab. She is a pit bull.

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As Zoe grew, we came to realize the pound had lied. I was scared. I felt irresponsible for letting this type of dog into my home. All of the stereotypes, preconceptions and worries filled my mind. Should I take her back? What would people think of us?

She is the definition of disenfranchised. When first time guests visit we lock her in her cage, not because she is dangerous, but because of unspoken fears. She receives wary glances from strangers as…

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Why? Why not?

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I had a chat with a new friend of mine earlier today and the topic went to dreams and aspirations, and the elements of our lives that gave birth to those dreams and aspirations. It got me to thinking about how sadly rare it is to see people make something good out of something awful. It was with this thought that it finally dawned on me: that is the difference between a victim and a survivor.

Those that know me know that I have strong feelings of resentment towards the victim label. Yes, awful things have happened to me and in my life in recent history. I feel that the term “victim” implies that those things are what define me, and I simply cannot abide by that. Sure, I used to think all the time “why me? Why are these things happening to me?” The cold reality of it though is ‘why not me?’ I don’t feel that I am more or less fortunate than anyone else. I don’t feel that anyone is more deserving of atrocities than anyone else. The fact of the matter is: life is a lengthy series of poker games. Sometimes we get dealt killer hands that allow us to clean house on the table. Other times, though, we get the shittiest hands that we possibly could. I’m of the opinion though that a shitty hand doesn’t mean you should quit playing. Don’t go all in on it, by any means, but don’t bow out at the first sign of adversity because if you do, then what? The most current standing you will have is whatever hand you bowed out with. If it were a less than ideal hand, why on earth would you stop at that? I can think of no logical, sane reason to settle for that.

I choose to take the adversities that arise in my life and mold them into motivation. I don’t like the way things are sometimes, so I figure out what steps I need to take to fix it. It is never easy. I’ve been hard up financially for more days in my life than not, and I’ve had to go without a lot of things as a result. It happens a lot. I have no sense of entitlement. I don’t think I deserve more or less than I have at any given time. A victim does. A victim allows his or herself to be defined by the ugly reality they face. They expect others to sympathize or pity them and they expect other people to take up for them and make it better. Victims can keep their mentality. I don’t want it. Anything I have, I have worked for. I have cried, sweated and bled for everything. I will continue to do so because that is how I will earn a better hand. That is how I will become more than what I am.

If you don’t like where you’re at, stop just sitting there and complaining about it. Complaining will change nothing. Go out and do something about it. If something upsets you, get mad, keep your cool, and change it. Do not settle for what is, because I guarantee you the World does not care. It will not lose sleep or stop spinning even for a second. It will continue as it always has and always will. It is up to you to carve your lot out. It is up to you to build on it and create the life you want to live.

The title here is a double entendre. ‘Why me? Why are these things happening to me?’ These things are happening to you because you are asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is ‘Why aren’t these things happening to me?’ Once you answer that question, you will be in control and you will find the path to the life you have want. You still have to move your feet though. You still have to do the work and you still have to make the sacrifices and learn the lessons. There is not a thing in this world that is free. There are some things, however, that are a pleasure to pay for. When you pay the price for those things, you are left with a sense of accomplishment and victory that money simply cannot buy.

 

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One of the wonderful women in one of the Inmate Wife support groups I am a member of posted this and I was very moved by it. I asked her if I could repost it on my blog here. Again, this is credited to miss Sherrie Montgomery – I did not write this. Thanks so much for sharing, lady. This is really a wonderful piece.

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The Prison Wife
Who is she??

She is around you more than you may ever realize. She is the girl in line at the grocery store. She is the girl sitting next to you at work. She is the girl on the other end of the phone when you call customer service. She is the girl standing at the mailbox just waiting and hoping there is a letter, amongst all of the bills, with his name in the top left corner. She is the girl jumping up and down when she hears his ringtone every day. She is the girl searching everywhere to find new perfume to spray on his letters. She is the girl laying alone at night…thinking of how it will feel to have his skin on hers all night long as they sleep. She is the girl crying tears because he is so far away…but do you know that is what the tears are for??

She is the girl setting out to achieve her goals and earn a college degree so that life can be successful for him and for her when they are finally reunited…and she does it with so much love and appreciation for all that he does for her, even though things are limited for the moment. She is the girl that everyone does not feel sorry for because this is the life she chose…so when things get rough…all she hears is “well that is the road you chose to take” or “if you would just move on and find someone who could be here and support you”…you just don’t get it, do you??

She is the girl who has nobody to comfort and hold her when someone she loves passes away. She is the girl who must remain strong in the face of challenge. She is the girl with nobody to hold her hand and cry with her when she finds out that she has a medical problem. She is the girl that people look at with pity in their eyes because there is nothing they can do. He is the only man that can take this all away.

She is the girl that loves her man more than life itself. She is the girl that hurts when he tells her how worthless he is because he can’t provide for her. She is the girl that tells him he is wonderful when the cops make him feel like he has no value as a man…when the only difference between them and him is that he just got caught…the cops will someday too. She is the girl that would give anything to make him understand just how much he really is loved and valued in this life. She is the girl that he vents to when he is struggling. She is the girl left in the dark because he will not tell her what life on the inside is like…she is too precious to know all of this and he wants to keep her sacred and away from this hell that he calls home. She is the girl wondering if she is on his mind as much as he is on hers. She is the girl that is just as imprisoned as he is…sure she does not live in that world…but she is doing the time right along with him.

She is the girl running to the bank to make sure she has enough quarters to get through the whole 8 hour visit. She is the girl driving an hour, 4 hours, or 14 hours so that she can finally kiss the man that she is in love with and be able to feel close to him for the hours that they are together. She is the girl who can’t wait to see his face in person again. She is the girl going to “visit” her sweetheart…knowing that she will have to leave him again. She is the girl that hurts, knowing that any and all privacy that he has was gone the moment the cuffs were put on his wrists. She is the girl who wants to throw up when she thinks of the most incredible man that she has ever known, being shackled with chains around his stomach, his hands cuffed in front of him, his feet chained together…and chained to the person sitting next to him or walking in front of him. She is the girl that does not see the monster in him that they all think exists. She is the girl they call “naive” to the real world…she is not…she is sick of being classified like this just because she believes in people more than they believe in themselves.

She is the girl who lights up when she mentions his name or just thinks about him. She is the girl that gets butterflies in her stomach when he kisses her. She is the only person in this world that matters when he gives her a hug and tells her that he loves her. She is the girl counting down the days…waiting until he is free and there are no limits to how they express their love to each other for one another. She is the rock in his life…the solid foundation. She is his escape…especially when she is on the other end of the phone. She is the girl that he prays for. She is the girl that he fights for. She is the girl that he hopes is being faithful…but does he really trust her to be…and does he really believe her when she says she is?? She is the girl that does her very best in everything…inspite of the situation. She is his whole world…the letters she sends are priceless. He loves to smell her letters…it is refreshing from what he smells in there every day.

He is her whole world as well. He is on her mind 24/7/365. She is wondering what she can do to make him happy…she is limited…but she can change everything in his world for the better or for the worse…how is she going to decide to change it?? She is the greatest creation that God has ever made in his eyes. He is the most wonderful and incredible man on this earth in her eyes. The past is the past and that is just where it needs to stay. They pick up their lives…move toward one another…and create a whole new world inside of one another. When one gives, they receive. For everything she does for him to make him happy…he returns that to her. He showers her with unexpected gifts and amazing words written by his hand. He spoils her…and she spoils him. They fit…they always have…they always will. He loves her more than he could even try to describe…she loves him just the same…maybe more

Who is she?? She is me.

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