Archive for the ‘jail’ Category

rail

There are many angels among us. The underground railroad still exits. It’s primary use is salvaging women from the men who hurt them, beat them, kill them and exploit them. Jane is on the run, scared and only knows to go to her pimp. After all, it’s what she was raised to do.

Only 3 people knew where the shelter was and Robert was not one of them. He would call his mother and set up a time and place for the woman to arrive. She would be whisked away and no one knew where. Getting the woman was only a small part of the process. Once she was put in a car, she would be driven to several points in which, each time, she was moved to another car for a minimum of 5 stops. Not one of the drivers knew anything other than where to pick the woman up and where to drop her off. Disposable cell phones were used and the route changed frequently. Before getting into the first car, the woman handed over her cell phone. The battery was taken out and the phone disposed of. She wasn’t just running from an abusive man; she was running from and leaving behind her life.

Now he had to call her and tell her Jane had run. She would be upset and somewhat angry at him even though it wasn’t his fault.

He sighed and dialed her number.

“Robert, where is she?” she asked. She didn’t even bother with “Hello.”

“Mom, I’m sorry, but she ran,” he said. He was a grown man but now felt like a petulant child that his mom was scolding. “I made sure she had cab fare and the sergeant had the address to give the cab driver, but she wouldn’t listen.”

“What do you mean the sergeant had the address? Why didn’t you make sure she got in the cab? I had someone waiting for her all afternoon. Not until the sun began to set did I have her leave the coffee shop. What was so important that you couldn’t talk to her yourself?”

Robert couldn’t help but chuckle. After all these years, his mother still believed that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. She had instilled in him that failure wasn’t an option or a choice. She also didn’t understand that a judge cannot be talking with defendant’s or becoming too familiar with them.

“Well, Mom, it’s a bit of a long story…”

“Robert, it always is. You know damn well how skittish and scared these women are. Promise me the next time, you get her to me.”

“Yes, ma’am, I will,” he said because chances were, Jane would be back in a courtroom again. They always came back unless they died. From what he had seen of her, she would surely be dead soon. He prayed that she offended again and he could get her to safety before her pimp or the streets murdered her. It was a waiting game of which would happen first.

The rest of the chapter continues on my Patreon site. I do hope you’ll join in. It’s $2.00 a month. An amazing deal! https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis

 

 

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As I continue to write my book and publish it online (check it out and follow along at: https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis), I am struck by how natural and easy it is for me to talk to people and conversely, how difficult it is for so many other people.

Why is this?

Short of someone actually physically assaulting you, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

They insult you? So what. You’ve insulted plenty in your life.

They make fun of you? Yeah…again…so what? You’ve done that too.

They scare you? Walk away then.

They disagree with you? OH MY GOD! HOW HORRIBLE! Lock them up and throw away the key.

I remember when I was doing extensive work in the criminal justice system. One thing I needed was help and 99% of the time I’d hear “Yes, I’ll help you but don’t make me go with you in there. I’ll help with mailings or phone calls or even a few bucks, but…no…not…them.”

I’d sort of pause for a moment and look at them.

“Why? What are you afraid of? Another human being? You’re perfectly safe. In fact, you’re safer in there than out here, so what’s the problem? Looking at a student scares you?”

No one could ever really answer my question, so I began to realize it wasn’t the environment (though it is different). It was the fact that they would have to look at another person and take responsibility for them.

Holy hell, what was I thinking?

Well, I’ll tell you what I was thinking and it’s this – that it would be fun, different and I could learn and see “the other side” of things and maybe…just maybe…make a difference.

That I would get out of my comfortable and boring life and stretch my wings and abilities and DO something.
DO something. Not talk about it. I couldn’t handle another conversation about the latest TV show or how difficult someone’s life was because they couldn’t afford to take another vacation or buy the latest phone or car or whatever crap they were worried about.

So I went and now I’m writing about it. I’m remembering as much as I can and I see that on some level, I miss these women. I’m finally at the part of the book where I’m introducing some of them to my readers. I’m struggling with how to describe them so the reader feels they know them and are standing in my shoes.

What did these broken and horrible people do for me?

Well, that’s pretty much what the book is about, but in a nutshell, I can tell you that I learned as much from they as they did from me.

Last I heard, my program was pretty damn successful. 5 years after completing my stint, I heard back that not one of the them was a repeat offender. All of them got out, went back into society and behaved themselves.

The secret?

First of all, I had some great data and help to give them. You can’t get anything done without the correct tools.

Secondly, and I think the most important, is I listened to them. I did not try to change them. I sat down and heard every word they said. I did not coddle them. I did not allow them to be victims. I pointed them in a better direction and let them make their own decisions.

Thirdly, I pulled no punches. I ran a very tight ship, made the rules clear and never let anyone abuse those barriers. I even brought in a whistle to use if they stopped listening to me.

Sitting with the broken is tricky. You cannot allow yourself to get pulled into their crap, which they created, and sympathize and go along with their justifications. We are the ones who build our own traps and we’re the only ones that can unbuild them. Kind of cool and kind of sucks.

You’re the only one that can fix you but it’s almost impossible to do it alone. I tried and it almost killed me emotionally.

We all want everyone to listen and understand us, but how often do you do that for another? Huh? When was the last time you took the time to just sit and listen to someone and not judge them or tell them what they did wrong?
If you want to fix you, first go help fix someone else. Trust me, you’ll find that you’re really not that broken.

You just think you are.

Here’s Chapter 3 of the book. I hope you are enjoying what you’ve read and will come over and read the rest of the story. I’m up to Chapter 15 and it’s going quite well.

Judge Robert Ulysses James leaned back in his chair behind his desk. His middle name was in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, whom his mother and grandmother considered a saint. This was carved in stone on his mother’s side of the family. Robert had been told the story of his family being former slaves at least a thousand times during his childhood. They would have named his brother Abraham if he had had one. He was the only child and felt that their heritage now rested on his shoulders. He often wished he had a sibling to help share the burden, but he accepted his fate gladly.

He was in his chambers and relaxing after a short lunch and getting ready to go back into his courtroom. His courtroom. Even after all these years on the bench, the thought of having his own courtroom still seemed a tad unreal, as if it was all a joke and soon someone would walk in and tell him so. That was nonsense. He knew that. But he always had that stray thought in the back of his mind. It never left him and never would. It kept him honest and on his toes. Every day was another day that he worked to fulfill his promise to himself to make things right, to better the condition of his fellow African-Americans and everyone else, and to never forget where he came from.

His was not the usual and often used cliche of a poor black child growing up in poverty without a father. That stereotype bothered him more than the “Amos and Andy” or “Super Fly” droll that passed as fact amongst most people, black and white alike, as the usual life of a black man in America.

He was familiar with the “Shuck ‘n Jive” routine of his ancestors and friends growing up in Oakland. To downplay it whilst being hassled by a white police officer was the best way to go. Not necessarily being stupid, but acting it. Keep your mouth shut, nod your head, offer no resistance, and he could usually walk away unscathed. Well, unscathed physically but not emotionally. It did no good to get upset. It was best to agree, be courteous, and offer no information unless asked. The few times he was stopped for being in the wrong part of Oakland, he would politely hand over his ID, mention his father’s name and wait. Always with a smile and always with patience while the officers checked and then double-checked his ID, asking questions and trying to trip him up. He learned to give quick and concise answers and to not elaborate. That lesson served him well as an attorney and later as a judge. “Rule your life with intelligence and not emotion” was his motto.

The officers were always surprised to learn who his father was. Robert did not fit the stereotype “Negro” of most bigots. He came from a good family, his father was a well known and respected attorney in San Francisco for a prestigious law firm, made good money and lived in Piedmont, the nicest area in Oakland. They owned their home, drove nice cars, kept the yard clean and tidy, and ate food other than fried chicken and watermelon.  He spoke proper English and his mother was constantly correcting his grammar. Any type of street or ghetto talk was not allowed. He was taught to speak properly, enunciate his words, and to hold his head up high.

Robert learned of racism not from his family but from simply walking down the streets of Oakland as a young child. He was aware of the different colors of people, but he was born in 1945 when Oakland was a place for hard working people who were harmonious with each other. Racial tension was rare.

Founded in 1852, Oakland quickly expanded due to the railroads. In 1906, the number of refugees and homeless people doubled as they made their way from San Francisco after the devastating earthquake. General Motor’s opened a plant in 1916, followed by Chrysler in 1929. Oakland soon became home of many manufacturing plants, canneries, metal factories, bakeries, manufacturer of the internal combustion engine, cars, and ship building. It was known as the “Detroit of the West.” It was prosperous and expanding. After WWII started, thousands of poor and rural African-Americans migrated from the Deep South to work in the shipyards.

After WWII, the black population began to expand as the shipping and automotive industries disappeared. Harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the 1950’s, the population was becoming poorer and poorer. Between 1950 and 1960, 100,000 property owners left to live further north. It was known as the “White Flight.”

The Oakland police began to heavily recruit white officers from the Deep South in order to respond to the increasing population of the African-Americans. The stage was set for racial tensions and was escalated by the brutality that the blacks were dealt with. False arrests, planted evidence, excessive force, and falsified police documents became the norm rather than the unusual.

In 1966, there were 16 black officers and 661 white officers. “The Black Panther Party for Self-defense” was formed. They followed white officers on their rounds, documenting their actions and openly carrying guns. By 1970, gang controlled dealing of heroin and cocaine caused the murder rate of Oakland to be at least twice that of New York city or San Francisco.

On one spring morning as Robert played basketball with Jerome, they stopped as the cop car parked and two white officers approached them. They asked them the usual questions of who they were and what they were doing.

“Why are you asking us that?” Jerome asked. He was a foot taller than the two officers and was as lean and strong as Robert. At 16, they were immortal, young, and healthy.

One of the officers sneered at him. “It’s not your place to ask us any questions, boy,” he said. Robert felt Jerome’s hackles rise. He gently put his hand on Jerome’s arm to calm him down. Jerome pushed his hand away and stepped closer to the officer. Robert’s stomach tightened.

For the rest of the story, go here:

My Name Is Chantelle

 

Yep, sort of an odd thing to say. Mind you, it’s not that I ever talk to them about me. I don’t. They don’t know who I am or where I live. They only know me as a woman named “Susan” who grades their lessons and keeps them going.

Some correspond back with a letter attached to their lessons. Some just send the lessons back. It doesn’t matter as long as they are moving along.

Today, one sent me this and as I read it, I felt the universe settle down again and make a bit more sense.

On change – I’ve never met a person I didn’t care about or not care about what condition he/she was in. I could always see their possibilities. I don’t care how many may consider himself a failure. I believe in him for he can change what is wrong with his life. anytime you are ready and prepared to do it. Whenever he/she develops the desire, they can take away from their life the thing that is defeating it. The capacity for reformation and change lies within. Criminon has transformed my lief in every way. It’s barriers of study will help you understand who we are as individuals. Without these courses and the awesome instructor helping you change in the right way, it would be harder. So just go ahead and take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step. I did and it’s great! Thank you Criminon!” R.H. “Learning Skills for Life”

For you see, there’s only one thing I know when I work with an inmate – they are in jail.

The rest? It doesn’t matter because I know once someone is in the system, it’s designed to keep them there. Repeat customers are the cheapest way to keep the money flowing. It’s good business and make no mistake – the criminal justice system IS a business.

I have my own problems and the only way I know to deal with them and come out the other side is to help another.

I’ve got lots of these wonderful letters. If you want me to post them once in a while, let me know.

Got criminals?

Posted: June 22, 2015 in jail
Tags:
STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL DEMOCKER Tuesday, February 26, 2008 Marlin Gusman's tour of Orleans Parish Prison An inmate sleeps in his cell in the 10th floor psychiatric section of Orleans Parish Prison.

STAFF PHOTO BY MICHAEL DEMOCKER
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Marlin Gusman’s tour of Orleans Parish Prison
An inmate sleeps in his cell in the 10th floor psychiatric section of Orleans Parish Prison.

As many of you know, I work in rehabilitating inmates. Our program is available to anyone who wants it. But what you may not know is this – I can (and do) work with people BEFORE they get into trouble OR have recently been up before a judge.

In many cases, catching the offender and helping them before they go further can halt that path. Judges, parole/probation officers are often looking for a program to send the offender to.

We do offer that service. Many of my students have successfully completed our course and the documentation was sent to the court. This pleases the judge. This makes them happy and often times, they are more considerate of the sentencing.

If you know of someone that could use my service, or if you need it yourself, please contact me privately about the details. Your information will be held in the strictest of confidence, as always.

So before you give up on them, or yourself, it might be worth your time to talk to me.

Suicide

Posted: April 10, 2015 in jail
Tags: , ,

Her cuts were strong and deep. No hesitation marks. No second thoughts. Just clean, firm, and deep. The decision was made and she carried it out. Her room was clean and tidy. What few bills she had were paid. Her laundry was done and placed in bags. She didn’t have money for suitcases, but that didn’t matter. Everything was perfect. Her bed was made. She even fluffed the pillows and smoothed out the blankets

A note had been left to give all of her belongings to her daughter, but she didn’t know where she was or if she was even alive. She had given her up for adoption and never looked at her face. Her daughter was the result of rape, but there had been so many, there was no way to know who the sperm donor was, not that it mattered. She left her medical records next to her note, just to make it easier for everyone.

She had started out as a normal and happy child. Just like most of us, but she was snatched away by an insane and drug addicted mother when she was 5. She was often sold to men to pay for her mother’s addiction. Soon that beautiful child was turned into nothing more than a bartering tool. What humanity she had been born with was soon gone.

I remember her dead eyes and slouched shoulders. But that’s all I remember. She wasn’t anyone who stood out, who said anything, or did anything remarkable except one thing:

She learned how to disappear. I don’t know how she was able to do this, but often times, she would be sitting there and yet you never really saw her. You would forget she was taking up space. Your eyes would scan the room and yet you’d never see her.

On her last day of life, I imagine she may have smiled. I like to think she did. I can’t say what she did was right or wrong, though I wish she had stayed. I wish her life had turned around enough to give her hope. I wish she had called, but I’m not surprised she didn’t.

She was made into nothing at an early age.

She had disappeared years before she slit her wrists.

“I just want to go home!”

Posted: October 14, 2013 in jail
Tags: ,

“Yeah, well good luck with that,” I said as I stood over her and watched her sob with her head down on the table.

There wasn’t a person who was incarcerated who didn’t want to go home.

But go home to what? The life they decided on that got them here in the first place?

“Stop crying, wipe your face and quit your whining,” I said.

She proceeded to cry and slam her fist on the table. “It’s not fair!” she said.

“You either knock this off or I’m kicking your ass right out of here,” I said.

She thought about it for a moment. The other students waited quietly. They had never seen me talk so harshly and bluntly to a person before. I had told them all before, I was there to help but would not put up with any outbursts or blaming. They were here because THEY screwed up and it was time to step up to the plate and deal with it.

She kept her head down and continued to cry and protest.

I walked over to my purse, pulled out a whistle and stood behind her. I blew it as loud as I could. Everyone put their hands to their ears and winced. Her head shot up and she turned around and glared at me.

“What the…?”

Steve came around the corner and stood in the doorway. He looked at me. I smiled to let him know everything was OK. I knew he would give me an earful for doing it later. He put his hands on his hips, pointed his finger at me and smiled. He walked away without saying a word.

“Stop talking,” I said. I put the whistle back up to my lips. “Do I need to do that again?” I asked.

Everyone shouted “No!”

She remained sitting up and wiped her face. I held onto the whistle and looked down at her.

“What was one of the first things I told you when you arrived for this class?”

She thought for a moment.

“I’m waiting. I don’t have all night,” I said.

“You said a lot of things…”

“Do you not remember me telling you that I don’t want to hear any type of victim talk? Do you not recall that I said I would not tolerate any bad behavior and that all that was important was today? That the past is gone and what is done is done? Does any of that ring a bell?”

She nodded her head.

“But I’m just so home sick…”

I held up my hand. “Stop right there. I don’t care.”

“What? You don’t care?”

“Nope. Not in the least. You’re the one that decided to do drugs. You’re the one that made the decision to rob and steal. You’re the one that neglected your children and because of you, they’re in foster care and until you own up to the fact that YOU’RE the one that got yourself here, there’s nothing anyone can say or do to help you. And if that’s the case, once you get out, you’ll be right back.”

“But none of it was my fault!” she said and started crying again.

“Get out,” I said.

The room was as quiet as it had ever been.

Suddenly her tears stopped. She looked around. The other women stared at her.

“Your tears won’t work here,” Maggie said. I felt a slight smile cross my face.

“I have to leave?” she asked. Suddenly she was sweet as pie.

“Yep,” I said and motioned towards the door. “This isn’t the right program for you. This is only for women that want to be better people and that means taking responsibility for their actions. No blaming, no finger-pointing and no crying about things they can’t change.”

She stood up and wiped her face. “If I promise not to cry again, can I stay?”

“Nope. I’ve got limited time and resources and this is the 3rd time I’ve told you to knock it off. Three strikes and you’re out,” I said.

I watched her walk towards the door. When she got there, she turned around and glared at me. “You know what? You’re a real bitch!” she said.

Maggie started to stand up to confront her. I told her to sit down. She did so, reluctantly.

“I suppose all of this is my fault, right?” I asked her.

She started to say something but stopped as Maggie started to stand up again.

She stormed out of the room. After class, I wrote up my report about her and handed it to Steve. He read it.

“Some people just refuse to learn,” he said.

“Yes and thank God I’m not trying to save the world,” I said.

“Yeah, right Lewis. You keep telling yourself that,” he said and smiled.

Once she was gone, the class settled down and the fun returned.

Sometimes you have to make hard choices in life and one of the hardest is who to walk away from without looking back.