Posts Tagged ‘inmate wife’

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

*************

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.

Advertisements

So I have been in my head a little bit recently, with all the goings on in the news and just a lot of reality being a little too real for my taste. 

Sooooo I’ve decided to acknowledge myself for a minute, and have a quiet little celebration of self, because I always say the little victories are really big victories, but I don’t always practice what I preach. 

I saw a post about sobriety in one of the groups I’m a part of on Facebook, and it reminded me of this poem. The poem chills me to my core but sharing it always feels like something of a public service announcement because if you don’t know first hand how evil the shit is, the poem paints a pretty accurate picture. 

I’m proud to say it’s been 28 months since the last time I touched the stuff. There have been a few bumps in the road but nothing that could push me hard enough to make me take a step backwards and for that, I am proud. 

I have also leveled up somewhat with regards to counseling. We are meeting approximately once a month now, as I am functioning and coping with the stress in my life on my own. I no longer feel like anxiety rules my life, and PTSD isn’t driving anymore. I don’t feel like rape girl anymore. It’s really a stellar feeling. I still have my issues and scars, but they aren’t all there is of me. I am so much more.

I’m close to buying a home for when my husband comes home next year. I will have earned my Associate’s of Science by the end of 2016, and come the spring of 2017, I will have begun work towards my BS in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology. 

It’s a little bit overwhelming when I consider just how much has happened in such a relatively short period of time. But truth be told, I’m okay with that pressure because I did that. I refused to be a statistic and I accomplished that. I continue to embody that. 

I guess the moral of the story is, no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve been through, don’t give up. There will always be those who are critical or judgmental but they don’t have any authority over you unless you hand it to them. Hold on. If you’re going through it, don’t stop and don’t lose momentum. You will make it through to the other side and you will be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you too, for what it’s worth.

nye

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.

So I’ve been pretty negligent of… everything but school and work really, over the course of the holidays. I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. I struggled a bit through the holidays. I mostly resolved myself that it was just another day of the week, because this was the first holiday I really had to face without him. Last year he was gone, sure, but I went home for Christmas, and didn’t feel the sting of his absence as much as I did this year. That’s okay though; onward & upward. Hopefully he’ll see parole review in the next week or so, and if, God willing, they grant it, he’ll have just over a year left before coming home. I’m pretty certain the waiting and wondering is the worst part, at least for me. I’ve long since adjusted to life without him here physically. I don’t like it, but I’m used to it. What I haven’t really been able to adjust to is the hurry up & wait policy of the bureaucratic red tape. Patience has never been my virtue and this has been a test unlike any other I’ve encountered before. I’m really not a big fan of it. But who asked me, right?

I’ve been plugging away the last few days at the wintermester history class I took to help fill my time. I’ve been a little stir crazy since the fall semester ended, because I got pretty used to juggling my three classes and full time job, as well as familial obligations and visitation. It was hectic, but it was healthier than I’d been otherwise since this nightmare began. While this one class is pretty heavy in that it involves A LOT of reading and whatnot, the assignments themselves really don’t take a lot of time at all, except for the couple of papers I’ve needed to write. It has been a bit of a learning curve for me though… hell, a lot of a learning curve for me. All of my grade school & high school education was in Canada. There are some elements of US History that I had vague familiarity with, but no where near what I’ve learned in the last few weeks. It’s been extremely sobering and in a lot of ways really disheartening. I can’t change the past, but I can try to not participate in the residual elements of the ugly truths still present today.
image

I feel I’ve been pretty productive today though.. all but one mandatory paper and my final done, and those will be finished in short order this week. I may also get to feeling froggy and get one or more of the extra credit assignments done. We’ll see how that goes. Back to work this week for a full week, dinner plans with a favorite family member on Tuesday and counseling on Wednesday for the first time in three weeks. I’ll also formally meet my new counselor starting this week as well… I’ve met him before but never in a formal session. I’m sorry to see the current one go, but I do understand life happens to everyone. I’m hopeful that she will stay in touch.

Overall, 2014 proved to be a lot better than 2013… I’m hopeful that things will keep going in that direction. Cheers to that. Onward & upward, y’all. Here’s to a phenomenal 2015. The best is yet to come!

Well here I am in the parking lot at counseling a little early again with a few thoughts to express here real quick. With the holidays being here, it’s been pretty crazy. I’m becoming more and more involved in my inmate wife support groups and am even an administrator on one! That’s pretty cool but the thing that strikes me the most is just generally how much better I have been feeling since making connections with more folks in the same boat as me. I feel more optimistic than ever before and also significantly less isolated which is a pretty huge deal for me. I’m officially a member of TIFA (Texas Inmate Fsmilies Association) and through them I have been able to send some Christmas cards to inmates who have no one and that has made me feel really good too. I helped coordinate a Christmas card exchange between the wives and girlfriends in one of my groups and am just feeling incredibly in the holiday spirit because of the sense of community and belonging I feel. Some of the wonderful ladies praise me for my support and I’m grateful for the accolades but keep telling them that I am the one who is blessed by having found them and the opportunity to know them! As a survivor, it gets pretty lonely in my little world and I feel so much more liberated than I have felt in a long time.

I’ll be attending TIFA’s monthly meeting this evening and will have the opportunity to meet some of these women in the flesh as well as share some more holiday cheer with Texas inmates via our Christmas card initiative. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!

I guess to summarize, I am feeling more than fortunate this season, despite our present predicament with him being gone and my ongoing hunt for new icing arrangements. I feel more equipped to handle the normal curveballs of life and that is a sensation that money simply cannot buy.

So thank you, everyone. Old friends and new, and even those of you I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting: thank you for being you and for making this world a better place simply by being. I am grateful beyond words for you and consider you to be a blessing of the truest and purest kind.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you. May this season bring as much fortune and blessings as it has brought me!

image

A finely tuned, carefully honed plan is one of my strongest addictions. I feel damn near omnipotent when I marvel at the finely crafted fruit of my labors. Whether it be time management, budgeting or work flow, I like to have an order of operations for everything. I feel like I am in control and sitting in the driver’s seat with a plan, and I also feel better equipped to handle curve balls and unforeseen variables that inevitably arise in every facet of life, whether it be an urgent matter at the office that needs attending, or a slow leak in a tire that needs patching before it grows into a bigger problem. When I have a plan in place, these things are almost anticipated, though the form they will take is not usually known to me before it happens.

One such plan was my living arrangements. In May 2014, I was approved for my first lease since moving state side. I signed on the dotted line and initialed at least two dozen pages and moved into what I call home that weekend. I was new to Dallas, and my new home was just a short commute to my place of employment. It isn’t the best neighborhood, but it definitely isn’t the worst either. It would definitely suit my needs, at the very least for the 9 month term of my lease.

We are now in December of 2014, and I have received multiple notices regarding the quick approach of renewal time. The first had increased rates that steadily decreased as the length of the terms increased. Last week, I received a “holiday special” notice suggesting that if I renewed my lease for any term by 12/15, my rate would remain the same. I was planning on renewing, but I wanted to find out about the policy on upgrading to the next size up whenever one became available either on my floor or above me, and whether that would be a breech of contract or whether they would work with me etc. My husband had also suggested that I offer to sign the longest lease they have if they give me the bigger unit at my current rate. I was going to discuss all of this with them this coming Monday or Tuesday, as I have those days booked off from work for my finals anyway, and would be around during their business hours. In fact, I was in the leasing office on Monday this week to pick up a package that had been too big for the mail man to put in my mail slot, and while there, I advised the manager that I wasn’t ignoring them, and that I would be in to speak with them next week regarding my renewal. (Unbeknownst to them, I had also planned to discuss the possibility of my husband paroling to this address in the future. If that were to happen, they’d be getting $600+/month from us for the foreseeable future. Steady income is steady income, amirite?)

We are now Wednesday, and I have been to my weekly counseling appointment, and would ordinarily be in class now, however I finished all my course work for my first class this evening, and am not due in my second class until 7. I opted to come home, relax, shower, etc. Well, much to my annoyance I arrived home to find a piece of paper stuck in my door. This piece of paper says there will be mandatory inspections of the units randomly selected by the inspectors tomorrow, and to please have my unit available. Of the 4 doors on my floor, mine was the only one with this paper stuck in it.

Let me step back for a moment and explain why this is an issue for me:

Approximately six weeks ago, we all received a similar notice, citing some bullshit about the city requiring annual inspections. This one, however, said all units would be inspected over the next 72 hours. Now, I have two small dogs, and I live 60 miles away from all my family in the area. Making arrangements for my dogs is easier said than done, especially during the week as I work full time and attend class almost full time as well. I called the rental office first thing the next morning and advised them of my situation and said that I would be more than happy to come home and handle my animals if they would just give me an hour or so notice. The reply to this was “we are not able to schedule time, and the inspectors are out already and may have already hit your unit.” …. Hit my unit? Did I miss a memo where I was mixed up in a fucking heist movie? Furthermore, I am a trauma survivor. I suffer from PTSD and acute anxiety. The prospect of anyone entering my sanctuary, with all my things and my dogs, unescorted, sent me into full blown panic mode. So much so that the following day I was home with a migraine. I called the office first thing in the morning and told them I was there and asked if they would please come do the inspection, since I was here and could take care of the dogs. I told them I would be home until 2pm, before I had to go to my appointment. I spoke with them repeatedly throughout the day, and each time she told me they’d be along, and then when I called (at her request) before I left for my appointment, I was placed on hold for several moments before she came back on the line, advised me that they were finished with the inspections and had everything they needed, as well as thanked me for my cooperation. …. Mandatory inspection, by the city, of all units eh? Well, I guess I’m special. Or they were just trying to get into specific units. Whatever.

So now, back to the topic at hand. I feel like I have been singled out for this inspection and after the fiasco before, I’m not inclined to bend over backwards for these people. My dogs will remain loose and I will leave a note with my number. They can call me if they want in here. Otherwise, I cordially invite them to piss off.

Furthermore, as a result of this one piece of paper stuck in my door, the absolute best they can hope for is a six month renewal. If the stars align and allow, I will give my 30 days notice at the end of this month and be gone before February. If the stars don’t align, I will sign a 6 month lease renewal, and then be gone at income tax return time next year. They can shove the larger unit up their asses and they can have this little one back in relatively short order.

Aside from all of this shit and the personal elements, let me tell you why else this pisses me off. I mentioned this was not the nicest part of town. It’s cleaned up a lot in recent years, I’m told, but it still has a long way to go. In this complex specifically, I guestimate that roughly one third to one half of the residents get up and take our asses to work every day. The rest are here all day long and basically leech off the system. That being said… why in the FUCK are you going to harass and alienate one of your tenants that doesn’t party, that doesn’t have people over, that pays rent on time every time, and that doesn’t cause problems?? And for what? Probably nothing. I will never understand the logic (or lack there of) of some people.

IMG_0159.JPG

Whatever, it’s their loss. No skin off my back. I’ll be taking my little caravan shit show someplace else. Thank you and have a nice day.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Fair warning… this post was written to kill time before counseling and I am exhausted. Three cheers for insomnia!!

***

I think it’s kind of funny how the older we get and the more we experience, the more our priorities and elements of stress change. There was a time really not that long ago when the biggest worry I had was whether I was going to be able to make an appearance at more than one social event, or what to wear or even whether our guild raid was going to be successful in new content or not. I didn’t really care about bills and if I didn’t make good grades it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next semester. Nothing really was that urgent. On the flip side of this concept, our motivation changes so drastically too.

As an adult, I’ve always been a little anxious. My performance and punctuality at work have been a high priority for me. I’ve also been very neurotic about paying bills on time every time and just generally making sure all the little moving parts of my calendar day, month or year were attended to at any given time. I would get a little too worked up if I missed something.

Now, since I’ve been through trauma which, as a domino effect, destroyed my credit, my values and outlook are similar in some ways but drastically different in others. I still need to keep my schedule and I still need to get my bills paid, but I’m not motivated by a clean credit score so much as by the simple success of remembering everything. Having sustained a head injury, to say that I am forgetful is the understatement of the century. Any month where I don’t receive a past due notification is cause for relatively tame celebration. I don’t party at all anymore. I’d already grown out of it for the most part but after the events of last year, the only substances I partake in are nicotine and caffeine. I suppose I’ve evolved into an all or nothing kind of girl, in the grand scheme of things.

I still care about keeping my performance and punctuality up between both work and school but I think I’ve passed the point of relating to high school kids or true college freshmen in that I have no “there’s always next semester” mentality. I don’t like kill myself over deadlines but they matter to me. I keep a detailed electronic calendar to ensure I am apprised of all of my obligations and due dates. I really don’t remember a time where I didn’t care if I passed or failed, and my professors have commented that their evening classes and day time classes are as different as they can be. The noon time students cut class and miss deadlines with much more frequency than the evening students. It blows my mind to think about, considering college isn’t free in this country. Somebody is paying for them to be there. Why bother if it doesn’t matter to them?

I’m motivated to do the best I can in all of my classes because it tells me I am not permanently damaged. It tells me I am capable of not only performing, but performing well. I don’t think I would like it if I had to repeat a class.

I’m also motivated by the thought of life after prison. I’m not so naive that I think it is going to be easy, but I do see the potential for it to be good and worth the wait. I take pride in the lifestyle I have worked so hard for that is blessedly drug free and having accomplished this much on my own, I have faith that my man will be able to follow suit. I know he is proud of me for how far I have come in this last 18 months. I really can’t wait for him to become an active factor in this new, positive life.

Having gone without, in part due to my own choices but also due to lack of choice on my part, I find that there is so much in life that I am thankful for. Every ugly thing that has happened in my life has taught me over and over to varying degrees to not take anything for granted, especially the little things. This last is a topic for another post once I am more rested and possessing more coherent thoughts.

All in all, I’m in a pretty good place and while I worry somewhat about exams next week, I feel positive that I’ll make the grades I want. That’ll be another notch or two on the ‘I did that’ list. I’ll take it!!

image

This is another paper I wrote for my English composition class. I share now because the topic of recidivism and addiction came up today. This paper was also written in MLA format.

—————-

A disease, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “an illness that affects a person, animal, or plant; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally” (p1). Additionally, addiction, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p7). The link between the two words is plain to see. Yet America, as a nation, does not treat addiction as a disease. Instead, it is punished, swiftly and indiscriminately, as a crime. The symptoms of the disease are simply suppressed by the system. Drug offences alone were accountable for over half of the population in federal prisons in this country in 2013, per the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics Bulletin (15). For the sake of perspective, the Federal Correctional system housed 193,775 prisoners, serving sentences longer than one year, and 98,200 of those were for drug convictions alone. (16).

How does that look at the state level? According to the same source, of the 1,314,900 inmates sentenced at the state level in 2013, only 16% of those were sentenced for drug convictions. (Table 13, page 15.) The stark contrast here has to do with some states softening the penalties for low-level drug offenses, while others are somewhat more lenient with regards to parole violations (i.e. they do not necessarily get sent straight back to prison upon their first violation, depending on the nature of it.) Nevertheless, it is incredibly alarming as to why there is such a massive difference between the federal correctional system and the state systems within the same country. How can this be explained?

The nature of drug crimes insofar as convictions are concerned, can be broken down into subcategories: possession, delivery/trafficking and manufacturing. Each carries varying degrees of severity, depending on the specific details of each case. What the typical census fails to consider is the drug related element of non-drug convictions. As mentioned earlier, addiction describes compulsive need for a substance. Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse within the National Institute of Health describes it perfectly:

“Drug craving and the other compulsive behaviors are the essence of addiction. They are extremely difficult to control, much more difficult than any physical dependence. They are the principal target symptoms for most drug treatment programs. For an addict, there is no motivation more powerful than a drug craving. As the movie “Trainspotting” showed us so well, the addict’s entire life becomes centered on getting and using the drug. Virtually nothing seems to outweigh drug craving as a motivator. People have committed all kinds of crimes and even abandoned their children just to get drugs.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p8.)

The science behind this has been performed. It is a widely accepted fact that addiction is a disease. Upon further consideration, it is clear to see that if America as a country was more widely inclined to address the illness itself, rather than the current method of staunching the symptoms, there is a very real and attainable possibility that crime of all kinds will decrease.

America is certainly on the trailing edge of implementing these findings. The Netherlands, for example, has systems in place where soft drugs such as marijuana are accessible in a safe, legal environment, where the users of such substances (young or infrequent especially) are not necessarily exposed to the harder, more volatile drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, in various European countries, there are safe rooms in place where addicts of hard drugs are free to go and use their drugs in peace, with medical supervision and clean needles. (“Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users a Safe Haven. P6.” This carries multiple social benefits: these addicts are not littering public streets with refuse and dirty needles, and the Netherlands has all but eliminated HIV transmission through drug injection while also boasting the lowest rate of problem drug use in all of Europe. (“…Look to the Dutch. P11.) There is more to it still: the coffee shops where the marijuana can be purchased, generate a staggering amount of revenue annually while the citizens are not strapped with criminal records for non-violent, minor drug offences, since fewer arrests are made. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P4.) The end result is a much cleaner, much more prosperous society. Some believe more lenient law enforcement would lead to an increase in drug use. For the Netherlands, this was not the case. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P5.)

Ultimately, the mentality behind policy in the Netherlands is that different substances carry different risks, the contrary of America’s stance, wherein all drugs are equally as hazardous and criminal. The pros most certainly outweigh the cons, and there are so many examples made overseas that America should follow. More leniency with low level offences has the potential to reduce recidivism, in that minor offenders would not be subject to felonies that make it exponentially more difficult to attain gainful employment, which contributes in and of itself to the alarming prison overcrowding issue in the United States. If we were to delve further into the issue, and take steps to identify those in the ranks of America’s incarcerated, who are addicted to hard drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and all the incarnations thereof, and take steps to treat their conditions as the disease it is, crime rates would drop exponentially. The addict mind drives otherwise good and decent people to alarming lengths to feed their addiction. Breaking and entering, theft, robbery, grand theft, and even some of the more violent crimes, are examples of some of the radical lengths an addict will go to in order to pacify his or her demons.

Imagine then if, as a society, we took steps to exorcise those particular demons. What, then, is left? The human condition dictates that there will always be some crime. The alarming numbers of men and women that fill both state and federal penitentiaries would dramatically decrease if, as a people, we took one of the more common variables off the table. Progress is progress. Consider as well, how many families living below the poverty line might have a fighting chance if their finances were not dictated by the need for a fix. Though times are still hard, in light of the recession, the black mark of a felony conviction on the background of non-violent men and women make it that much more difficult to find gainful employment. It is a vicious cycle: addiction, crime, incarceration, release without treatment for the disease, struggle to reintegrate back into the free world, inability to find work, relapse under stress or necessity of subsidizing income, crime, incarceration. This is the reality for an unacceptably large number of Americans.

The system is broken, but it is not beyond repair. The United States of America should follow the lead of more progressive countries like The Netherlands and treat the disease. Without the disease rampant and out of control, the symptoms will become irrelevant. Treat the disease; stop suppressing the symptoms.

Works Cited:

Carson, E. Ann, Ph.D. “Prisoners in 2013.” U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Sept. 2014. Web PDF. 12 Oct. 2014.

Leshner, Alan I. Ph.D. “The Essence of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. March, 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Malinowska-Sempruch, Kasia. “For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch.” Global Drug Policy Program. Open Society Foundations. July 16, 2013. Web.

Merriam-Webster. An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Web. 12 Oct 2014.

Overgaard, Sidsel. “Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users A Safe Haven.” Parrallels: Many Stories, One World. 16 Dec 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Featured image

It’s not typically my nature to try and throw myself into the middle of a very heated, very volatile topic such as this one, but based on conversations I’ve had over the last couple of days, I truly feel the need to speak up here. Whether anyone chooses to hear what I have to say or not is completely up to them.

For the sake of context, I was raised in Canada. I was raised in a community that was basically colorblind. I was raised in a virtual multicultural mosaic. I was taught that ethnicity did not define a person; action did. Composure did. Character did. In 2012, I moved to Texas. While the social values may be different down here, mine are not. I am still the same person I was. I still judge people based on what they do and what they say, not on how they look or who they love.

Furthermore, I must also point out, again for the sake of context, that I am white. I am a pretty average North American. I’m not privileged. I live in what some would call a ghetto on the road to recovery. I interact with all manner of people on a daily basis.

In July 2013, I was the victim of a violent crime. I was kidnapped, raped and beaten. Following those 4 days I spent in hell, it took me seven weeks to file a police report. I systematically went to six different police agencies with my case, photographs of my injuries, copies of the medical records from when I took myself to the ER, as well as a clear paper trail and pictures identifying my assailant. In the first two weeks of this effort, you could still clearly see the trauma on my body. My face was bruised, I had burns on my neck and finger print bruising on my bicep. Those are just the marks that were visible at a glance. There was significantly more marks of my trauma covered by my clothing. But again, I had photographs of them all. Five independent police agencies basically told me “Not my jurisdiction, not my problem, sorry about your luck.” One officer did his due diligence and made the effort to at least provide me with GPS coordinates to take with me to the next agency. The rest of them couldn’t be bothered with the prospect of paperwork that wasn’t even in their jurisdiction for sure.

At the end of the seven weeks, and at the sixth law enforcement agency, I finally got a police report filed. The deputy was really kind to me, and praised the effort I went to to assemble what appeared to be a solid case. He said that I had made his job too easy. I felt relief, and cautious optimism that I would see some semblance of justice. A couple of months after that, I found out that my assailant had been picked up in a neighboring county and was being held on charges separate from mine. I thought that a little strange, but was just relieved to know he was off the street.

Fast forward another 3 months, into spring 2014. I was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in the county that had filed my police report to testify against my assailant. I didn’t know what to expect, but was once again feeling a sense of relief that maybe now was the time for justice. Maybe now was the time for someone to say that what had been done to me was not okay. How wrong I was.

I appeared before the grand jury, as per my subpoena. I was dressed professionally, and though nervous, I did my best to answer their questions. I had sustained a head injury in my trauma, and a lot of the specific details were blurry, but it wasn’t those details they seemed interested in anyway. These people attacked me. They spoke to me as if I was the criminal. They asked me things like ‘why didn’t you call out for help?’ ‘why didn’t any of the officers you spoke to ask for your financial records?’ ‘why didn’t you run away?’ These are all ridiculous questions. When a man twice your size has a weapon on you, and is threatening people you love, and takes you places away from where you are familiar, your survival depends on not doing anything to further antagonize him. Furthermore, how would I know why the police didn’t ask for my records? If memory serves, I am not the detective. I am not the one trained to build cases against bad guys. I realize it is the prosecutor’s job to find holes in the case that the defense could take advantage of, but nevertheless. I left that hearing feeling like I had once again been violated. I felt like these people were angry at me, and blaming me for what had been done to me. I was hysterical, and in tears. Surprisingly, or really not so much after what I had endured, I called up to the court house the following day to find out that the grand jury had no billed the charges of Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Sexual Assault, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. I was distraught as I could be. Ultimately though, my assailant ended up in federal prison on unrelated charges, and will not be a threat to me until fall 2017. While it isn’t justice, at least it’s something.

You might be asking yourself why I bring this up now. What does this have to do with current events? It has everything to do with current events. My point is, I’m tired of seeing the race card used constantly. I’m tired of minorities segregating themselves and then getting angry that they are segregated. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, so please don’t jump to that conclusion. As I said before, I am colorblind.

The moral of my story overall, however, is this: the justice system is fractured and broken. It is thoroughly, completely and totally screwed up. I’m a young white female and I was dropped through the cracks of justice the exact same way Brown was. People choose to see prejudice everywhere, and choose to use it to justify their actions. There is no context in which that is acceptable. If we are truly going to progress as a nation, everyone has got to stop pointing fingers, drawing lines, and playing the blame game. We are all at the mercy of the law that governs us all. That law is completely and totally twisted from what it was originally intended to be. We have a far better chance of changing that, of fixing that, by standing united in a cause than we do of lashing out and acting so shamefully as to riot and loot. Is that any way to honor that young man’s memory? Is that any way to honor his family? Surely not. That kind of behavior will bring about change, but it is not the progressive change this country, the system, and the people need. It will bring about regressive, backwards change.

I don’t know about any of you, but I have no desire to go backwards, potentially to a time mirroring some of those shameful marks on world history. I have no desire to live in an ugly world fitting ugly statistics. I have no desire to be an element of a statistic. Surely I am not alone in this.

I wrote the following narrative essay for my English Composition class. It was written in MLA format. I have received a lot of really great feedback, both professional and personal, on this piece, and so I wanted to share it here as well.

If it wasn’t already implied, I feel the need to express that nothing I write is seeking sympathy or pity, but simply understanding. I have since discovered that it makes my trials less daunting when I can affect and even help others with my experiences, or open eyes to the struggle of some among them. I share to do just that. If any who have been through some of the same trials as I read anything I write, it is my hope that they should draw solace from the fact that they are not alone, that they are not judged, and that I do stand by them, whether we know each other or not. I want to be a voice of support and kindness in the uglier parts of the world, because some folks trapped in those places are the ones who need it the most.

****************************

There are so many theories as to whether innocence is an element of human biology, or whether it is something of a fluke. Some believe children are born with it, and gradually, as the world gets them in its grips, they lose it. I do not believe we all completely lose our innocence. I believe we have an inherent capacity to maintain some amount of it, proportional to the amount of imagination and wonder we allow ourselves. Like everything else, I believe there are also exceptions to that rule.

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the spring of 1987. I would be lying if I said I could tell you much about that time. I was raised by a Canadian mother and an American father, in a fairly well rounded home. We were not without our happy level of dysfunction as any family is, but for the most part, it was unremarkable. I am privileged in that I hold dual citizenship. I can (and have) worked in both countries, and have grown a great deal as a person in both countries, as well. I moved to Texas in late spring of 2012 in pursuit of a fairy tale. The man I call my husband now, is one of my oldest friends. I knew him on-line at the tender age of twelve. He was my safe place, my confidante, my best friend. I recall I would hurry home after school, eager to chat with him. Once high speed internet became the norm, he would leave his webcam streaming for me, even while he was at work. He kept a salt-water fish tank, and I loved to look at it while I did my homework. The tank and the creatures who resided in it were so bright, so vivid – it is really a miracle I ever got any schoolwork done.

Time passed as it always does, and we grew apart, as people often do. He was four years older than me, and so we were at different stages in our development. We fell out of touch, going our separate ways to make our separate mistakes and to learn our separate lessons. I would not learn the extent of those lessons until February of 2012. He crawled out of the woodwork, creating a profile on Facebook and adding me. It was an easy reconnection, as if we had never parted in the first place. I caught him up on my life since our last interaction, and he broke my heart catching me up on his. He had been incarcerated for nearly six years. He had just been released a week or two prior to making contact with me. I was stunned. In my youth, I had no idea that he was wrapped up in the ugly underbelly of the world. I had no idea he had fallen in behind his father and submitted to the siren call of drugs. He had gone out of his way to keep those elements of his life from me. It pained me to learn all of these things, but it also steeled my resolve. As a child, I did not have the independence and means to book a flight. At twenty four, however, I did. I flew into DFW the third week in March of 2012. I marveled at the weather. Canadian winters are often still going strong, well into the calendar spring. Texas boasted fair weather, if a little muddy. The grass was already becoming lush and green. It was a far cry from the blinding, desolate, winter wasteland I had flown out of mere hours before.

As all good things often do, my trip passed far too quickly. I was state side for twelve days. The time inevitably came for me to return home. We had decided between ourselves that it would be temporary. We were not quite sure what this was between us, but we were both determined to see it through. I would return home on April 1st, 2012, for the last time. Six weeks later, in the early morning hours of May 16th, 2012, I would load up my car, and I would depart Canada as a resident for the last time. I was terrified, not because I was unsure of where I was going, but because I have never been adventurous. It took 28 hours of driving and a lot of coffee, but I made the 1600 mile drive from end to end of the continental United States of America. I arrived in Sherman, Texas, mid-day on May 17th, 2012. I felt a sense of accomplishment, the likes of which I had never known. I made it. Life was great for the first year. I found work, we found our niche, and we thrived. We were closer than ever.

In the spring of 2013, the tone changed. I was so naïve. I did not know the signs. I did not fully understand my husband’s addiction until it was too late. He was out of control, and there was nothing I could do to alter the subsequent chain of events. He was arrested May 7th, 2013. For a long time I felt guilty for the sense of relief that I felt at knowing where he was, and that he was safe. I truly believe to this day, had he not been taken into custody at that time, he would not be alive today. The ‘drugs are bad’ theme is not the element of innocence lost I referred to earlier though. Less than eight weeks after he was arrested, one of the unsavory people my husband associated with would completely destroy my world as I knew it. Sure, my reality was pretty chaotic already. It was nothing compared to the days following the Fourth of July.

This man took me, took my car, took my money, and all but took my life. I was held against my will for four long, excruciating days. I was denied sleep, and I was sexually and physically assaulted. I was kept off the grid and far away from the people I loved, and the people who loved me. My husband was in county jail and could not come find me. I was not sure I was ever going to see him, or anyone, ever again.

Those days taught me anger. They taught me the potential danger in being too trusting of anyone. They taught me of the extreme evils in this world. The hard truth is that I survived. While I am still working on putting all the pieces back together, I am for the most part, victorious. I will never know innocence again. As if my ordeal was not enough, it would take me seven more weeks and soliciting six different police agencies, to even successfully file a police report, despite the visible signs of abuse on my face and body. Eventually the District Attorney of the county that finally listened, subpoenaed me to testify before the Grand Jury. I was hopeful that maybe justice would finally be served. I learned a great many things about the law, primarily among which is that the law does not like to gamble. It prefers to bet on a sure thing. The DA’s office no billed the charges against my assailant, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Not only was Johnny Law not concerned with what happened to me, he was also okay with it. He was perfectly content to turn that animal loose.

We teach our children that policemen are there to protect us and to keep us safe. That is the moral of this story. That is the innocence I will never again possess. I am still a happy, pleasant person. I have aspirations and hopes and dreams. I have conquered many adversities over this last year, and I am not finished, yet. The future is bright, and it will be mine. I am no stranger to hard work. My husband will be home eventually, and maybe then this will all be no more than a bad dream. Until then, I am motivated by my anger. I am motivated by injustice not only to survive, but to continue to grow, to become more than I once was. Whatever curve balls life has in store for me, I am ready. I will adapt. I will survive. Bring it on.