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Project BMG – Picking Up Broken Pieces in Prison

August 22, 2016

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June 3rd, 2016

My Name is Jamie. Life in Prison   written by Sonni Quick – letters from Jamie Cummings
Hello mom,
I received your letter today and boy, that sure was one long letter. I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can. I will also give you my true thoughts. I’ve really been sitting and thinking about my future. So many things just pop into my head, even when I don’t want to think about it. Please know that I’m okay. Sometimes I just go into a shell to get away. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m fine, okay, so don’t worry.

(Sonni’s note: But I do worry. No matter how strong someone may think they are, if you spend time in solitary confinement for an extended period of time you can’t help but be affected by it. Sometimes you have a grip on your head when you’re alone and sometimes you don’t, and it gets to you. I have studied extensively the effects of solitary. Unless you have been there no one can know – including myself, what it is like to go weeks, months and years with no one but yourself to communicate with. No physical touch, no words except orders, no one to talk to about these things in your head.

I had a few rather callous conversations with people who don’t understand and are quick to place blame. “It’s his own fault. He put himself there.” Nobody blamed anyone else, so why are they so quick to make sure you know that. Strangers and family do that. They think, he is in prison, he shouldn’t be making any mistakes,he should be perfect, so it’s his fault. Don’t you think he knows that? Do you think he should have learned to behave 100% of the time and never give in to the emotions of abuse. The inmate must never forget they are always to blame. Prison guard abuse is okay? Really?

Jamie has had some very tough times this last ten plus years – for a variety of reasons – some are because of things he has done and some are because of retaliation from prison guards who have let their authority go to their heads and there are no repercussions for the things they do to inmates That cause anger. They think, even if he is being continually mistreated, he is supposed to remain calm and don’t contradict guards when they accuse him of doing things he didn’t do. Jamie fills out grievances that are never filed. That is against the law. He was carried down a flight of stairs face first with the guards hooking their arms through the cuffs on his wrists and ankles after having a seizure, because the guards are too lazy to get the board he is to be carried on, strapped on his side in case he has another seizure. . . . .

But he is not to get mad? He is supposed to stay in control and be polite no matter what prison guards do to him? But he is a human being. We all have emotions. Even with an animal, if you treat him bad often enough he is going to bite you. So here we have a human being – someone I know very well and he is expected to do something you yourself would not able to do. You might think you could, but you couldn’t.

Someone said to me, “But you would think by now, after ten years, he would have learned!” Does that mean, no matter what is done to him he is supposed to stand there and not react in any way, always staying polite. Never should he ever reach the point where he can’t take it anymore. Maybe he should crawl into his head so far that he can’t find his way to normalcy when he gets out? How is he supposed to interact with other people when it’s been driven into him that who he is, what he thinks and how he feels really has no importance.

I tell him constantly his life has value. He won’t have a clue what to do when he gets out, but no one who knows him will have much patience with that. They won’t help because they have no clue what solitary confinement is and they will expect that since he is a grown man he should know what to do. Honestly, no one gives a damn what happens to him. He is going to have to prove himself to them before they trust him enough to even be nice. Why should he have to do that?

If he had been a drug addict or a violent person who hurt someone or had a string of convictions that says this guy is trouble – stay away from him; I could understand their skepticism. Except for this, he has not one conviction on his record. Was he perfect? No, but then neither was I. I did things in my youth that could have gotten me prison time had I got caught. I know lots of things people who didn’t get caught for things they did. Have I made them prove themselves to me? I’d like to flush his family down the toilet.

When I read his letters there are times when I can tell he’s in trouble – not physically, but mentally. He tries to stay strong in his letters to me. But he will also apologize to me when he thinks something happened and he should have been in better control. It’s okay. tomorrow is another day. Start over and focus again on your future. Imagine where you’ll be and the
things you want to do. What have you learned that can help other people

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

I’ve been asked, “Why is he back in ad seg again. What did he do?” He probably reached the end of his rope one day and got angry. You aren’t allowed to get angry. Everyone single person has gotten angry and yelled at someone. What if you weren’t allowed to ever get angry and you had to push it down deep inside. Could you do it and NEVER fail? You would just quiet your mind and not react – month after month after month? No, you couldn’t, and then they would give you more time in adseg. It is a lose/lose situation
Many inmates spend years locked up alone. They never get out. How does the prison do it, because it is against the law now to punish someone with more than fifteen days of solitary? By creating more cases. It takes a long time to get out of the lower classifications of prison. Solitary, ad seg (G5) and often G4. If the guards can’t find a way to sentence you with more time, they will just make something up. Do you think they wouldn’t do that? The more people that are locked up like that, the less they have to do. If you were paid what guards were paid you wouldn’t want to do much, either. Besides, they have to endure heat, too. But they get to go home at the end of the day. Still, it’s s sucky job, so amuse yourself and go pick on some inmates. No one will care. Guards stick together just like cops.)
I got a letter from someone who reads your blog. She said her son just got 20 years. She asked me for some pointers. I told her that family support is very important. (something his own family will never understand) I also gave her some dos and don’ts to give to her son. She said she was thinking about getting him an attorney, one who used to be a felon. Bad move. I told her to be careful. Make sure he works for a firm so he is legit. Some are just out to get your money because you are vulnerable.

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

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Beware this picture is 30 years old!

So you want to play gigs again. Really! that sounds cool. I think you still have what it takes. I’m sure you are asking yourself, how could I say that? I’ve never heard you play. Passion. It’s because you have a lot of passion and I know that must be in your music. I know you can do it. Go ahead and start gigs again and do something for me while you do it. Enjoy yourself. That’s all for now. I’ll be waiting on you.

(Listen to this piece – really listen to it. Close your eyes. Put your head back . Tell me what it means to you. Can you tell me what I’m saying?.

I had quit writing music about twelve years ago. I had no more reason to write. I had convinced myself my years of playing professionally were over. I had also been sick for a long time and couldn’t sit up for long. I had nothing to write about. As I began this blog I wanted to play music again. Letters to Jamie had changed things.  I started playing again based on the emotion of the letters.  My entire thought process for writing had become something else. I stopped writing songs and crawled into the music. I don’t listen while I compose and record. It is all freestyle – improv. I just play and listen back days later.  The music is emotional. There is about 2 hours of music at Soundcloud if you want to listen to more. Going through these years of keeping Jamie above water brought something into my music that wasn’t there before.

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