Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Updates and Unnecessary Death

Well, it's been awhile since writing.  I have been extremely busy being an activist and advocate for incarcerated women.  Always trying to rally the troops. Eventually we are going to organize a March for Incarcerated Women.

Nothing has changed at Lowell, the prison where Sadie is.  Lowell is the largest women's prison in the country.  It continues to be fraught with abuse, medical neglect and at times the harshest of conditions when the air goes out, the hot water goes out for weeks and now they have decreased visitation to bi-monthly.  There are many petitions and letters to Tally protesting this.  They say it is due to contraband from visitors when, in reality, we all know that most of the contraband comes in from the guards.

A young girl died their recently due to medical neglect and Lowell trying to cover it up.  Many women die at Lowell but you never know because there are no obits, no newspaper articles and no oversight.  Almost every incarcerated woman has seen a friend die from medical neglect at all the women's prisons in Florida.  I am inserting a letter from an inmate about the death of the young girl who died.  They told the family she died in her sleep.  The inmates have another story.

Sadie is doing well.  She still works canteen and is a beacon of light and hope for other inmates.  She always walks a fine line.  In prison you can go to jail on a whim and lose your gain time just because a guard may be having a bad day so you can never truly relax.  All the women I have talked to that have been out for years still suffer from PTSD.  One women recently likened it to being in battle.  She said your sleeping soundly and then your bed is kicked hard, lights come on and someone is throwing everything you own (which is not much) around.  They all say the clinking of keys causes them anxiety, having a police car drive behind them sends them into a panic.  Loud noises scare them.  And it goes on and on.  No human being should be treated like an animal robbed of dignity, self-worth and hope.

Please watch the videos on my website www.inmateslivesmatter.net because no one tells their stories better than former inmates.

So recently a former federal PD and I have done a couple small public venues with statistics and information about inmate abuse.  People are always shocked and appalled.  Inmates truly are the lost and forgotten yet most of them will all get out someday and possibly be your neighbor.  They pay for the rest of their lives.  We shun them, judge them and don't allow them jobs or housing.  And yet we consider ourselves compassionate, empathetic and forgiving human beings.  If it's not your loved one in the abyss of hell not your problem-right?

We can learn a lot about ourselves when we look at the way we treat fellow human beings who made mistakes-just as we all have.  ALL OF US.  Until it happens to your loved one you will never understand unless you are a person of compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

About her death:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Videos of Former Inmates and Families of the Currently Incarcerated

Things have been very busy.  Sadie has been busy working canteen every day and hasn't had much time to write for the blog but she is working on it.  I started a new project called Prison Stories and there is my story and other stories at www.inmateslivesmatter.net.


Monday, October 9, 2017

My Experience As A Mom with an Incarcerated Daughter

I thought that as time went on things would get easier but it never does.  To know that your daughter is in an environment where she is just "inmate" and there is such disregard for her as a human being wears on you even when you think it's not, or try to be positive.

I am also astonished and disheartened at the general public's response to the incarcerated-"they deserve bad food and to be treated badly", "they should not have gotten themselves in there", "they should have made better choices" and on and on.  God forbid that anyone of them ever made a mistake or a bad choice.  Believe me everyone is a bad choice away from being incarcerated with all the laws we have today.  Most are in for drug issues, mental health issues.  And the way the rules are you can be charged with a violent crime even though there was no violence.  I know many women, esp young women, in my daughter's prison who are "guilty by association".  They either did not know a crime was being committed or they knew and were afraid to tell but did not participate in the crime.  They are serving life sentences.  My daughter said that these are the women they need to let out.  So, that's how easy it is to get into the criminal justice system.  And if anyone thinks it cannot happen to them or someone they love, think again.  There are many many people who are incarcerated who are innocent because of prosecutorial misconduct, an uninformed jury and basically a broken criminal justice system. 

And then your sentence depends on the mood of the judge.  He or she could be having a bad day and you will receive a harsher sentence.  And then there are mandatory minimums for drug offenses that can be 10 years for a first time offense.

If my daughter was in an environment that was positive and focused on rehabilitation and helping these broken women make better choices and if they had programs that build self-esteem and self-worth and that continued upon their release I would be so much less worried.  Instead they are talked to with great disrespect, humiliated, degraded and then expected to be your wonderful, well-adjusted neighbor.

I could go on and on but I won't because I'm tired and at this point feeling pretty hopeless that anything will really change.  The women go in damaged and they come out more damaged and why we are not all outraged is beyond me. 

They shackle women during childbirth.  There is no compassion or empathy for women who are ill.  The medical in prison does as much as they can possibly get away with to not treat the women-"do no harm" does not apply to inmates that is for sure. 

That's all for now.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Response to My Email

Ms. Carlin,

Thank you very much for your email and for the opportunity to respond.  Your recommendations are not taken lightly.  We frequently discuss similar topics and how staff/inmate interaction significantly impacts behavior.  We have several pilots lined up to evaluate this further and to place inmates willing to change, in environments designed to maximize their potential, both while incarcerated, and upon their release.    

Thank you again for your email.

We Have Been Busy and My Email

We are still trying to get into the blogger rhythm again.  Sadie is starting to write again to send it to me.  I have joined Fl-Cure, a prison reform organization.  Here is a copy of an email I sent yesterday to the warden and the higher-ups in Tallahassee.  I have sent about 300 emails since my daughter has been incarcerated (finally counted them).  Nothing has changed that much because, in reality, the guards are the problem and the lack of relevant rehabilitation programs..  There are a few nice ones, but most are not.  Below is the email and the link is at the bottom.

I am assuming DOC wants to reduce the high recidivism rates and to give inmates the opportunity to do well once they are released.

The article below lists all the reasons why former inmates do not tend to do well on the outside especially without a good support system.

My first question is why do the officers address the inmates as inmate instead of by their last name or at least ma'am and sir.  What is the rationale behind that.  That practice alone is demoralizing, psychologically damaging and in truth psychological abuse.  It gives the message that you are worthless and that you don't matter which gives the officers permission to treat inmates accordingly with verbal abuse and a lack of civility, empathy and compassion.  How is that conducive to rehabilitation and the reduction of recidivism? This may seem like a minor issue, but it is, in actuality, a huge issue.  Have someone call us by a derogatory term day in and day out and see how that effects us. 

I know I have sent articles about the prison system in Germany where they have a humane and rehabilitative approach to incarceration where the officers are well-trained, are mentors who mingle with the inmates and dine with them.  They have officers who are trained in how to calm situations down without violence or aggression.  So, it can be done.  And if Germany is able to do it, there is no reason on earth that we cannot begin to follow suite.

The only reason we are here on this planet is because of Love-to learn to love ourselves and each other.  We all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them.  Inmates are redeemable and most of them are good human beings who made bad decisions mostly due to addiction issues or mental health issues. Their situation gives us the opportunity to practice empathy, compassion and forgiveness-attributes the prison system is lacking and that has to change if we truly want the recidivism rate to go down.  My personal feeling is after talking with other families and former inmates is that until the guards are trained better, are held accountable for their behavior and the inmates are not afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation or being placed in confinement, nothing is going to change.  

I know I must sound airy-fairy but I am speaking to the heart of each of you.  How would you want your loved one to be treated under these circumstances?  These are our brothers and sisters and we are all on a journey towards our Creator.  Life is short and our job is to make life better for each other which includes the inmates.  I have met a lot of former inmates and I am impressed by what good-hearted and decent human beings they truly are.  There are always those who will never learn or change but they still deserve out love and support.

And we need funding to actually create the relevant programs that will build their self-worth and self-esteem so they are confident in their abilities when they transition out.  We also need better pay and a higher standard for officers.


Kathy Carlin

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Written by a Mom after Hurricane Irma

“Hunkered Down in Hell-Weathering the Storm in Prison
  Most people have never thought about a loved one being stuck in a prison with an impending catastrophic storm coming. Quite frankly, I hadn’t thought about it either until now.
The weekend of Labor Day I wasn’t scheduled to visit my daughter, but I did. I knew the following weekend the Florida prisons would be on lockdown and who knows for how long. There was an impending Category 5 storm with winds of 185 MPH out there heading for the Caribbean Islands and Florida. Her name was Irma.
She was approximately 500 miles wide. To put that in perspective, Florida’s peninsula is only about 180 miles wide. I’m a native Floridian originally from south Florida where I spent most of my life until moving to central Florida three years ago, so I’m no stranger to hurricanes. I’ve experienced Hurricane Wilma and the outskirts of Hurricane Andrew and many close calls. The difference with Irma was her enormous size and the amount of time she stood strong as a Cat 5. She was coming to the Caribbean Islands and Florida with a vengeance. To look at her as a satellite image, she was perfect looking. Not perfect in a good way, but she was a perfect storm. She was an array of beautiful colors…red, yellow, green, black and purple. Her eye was strong and her bands resembled a beautiful Indian headdress. I’ve always found hurricanes scary, yet fascinating. She kept all of Florida waiting in apprehension of which path she’d take, and the reality is that she was so large she put the whole state in danger.
With all the past storms I’ve faced, I’ve always prepared for my family. This one I was preparing for was without my daughter. I did know that she would be fine because of her location and that the storm would die down by the time it reached her. There are approximately 97,000 people incarcerated in the state of Florida, and with the impending doom, approximately 12,000 inmates were successfully evacuated according to the FDC. My daughter was moved out of her dorm to make room for transferees. All prisons went into lockdown mode. Some were moved to locations the authorities thought best. One of the facilities in the very southern area of Florida was not. Perhaps they thought it was a strongly built facility? Whatever the case, there is no say so for your family’s safety. It was a feeling of helplessness from the family members with loved ones in that facility. They would be left to worry about each other separated by a world of its own, prison. Evacuations and disaster preparedness is not in your hands, and when you think about it, there’s only so many places they can shelter prisoners. We would like to think prisons are fortresses. They are not. They are old and dilapidated, and their upkeep is not treated as a priority.
The hurricane came through Cudjoe Key and then through Marco Island taking a westward track up through Florida. Us Floridians know that the NE side of the hurricane is the “dirty side”. This means tornadoes and flash floods. Would it flood into the prison and they get trapped? There would be nowhere to go. I couldn’t help but to wonder what they’d do in that case. I mean where would they go? I can’t say exactly what time it was, but in my area, it started Sunday night into Monday morning, September 10th and 11th, 2017. The lights went out followed by howling winds that rattled your roof and doors. Not many were sleeping in the state of Florida that night.
The next couple of days consisted of clean up, no electricity, and running water was on and off and on again. I figured I wouldn’t hear from my daughter right away, but that turned into four days. Then she finally called! I was glad to hear her voice and she was worried about us, so she was relieved too. Her facility was overcrowded but she was okay, and the rest of the transferees were transferring back to their prisons that day. I was grateful.
I checked in with my network of families who have loved ones in prison, and many had not heard from the southern-most women’s prison. We knew it was hit hard there, and it became very concerning. Then finally six days later they heard from them. Their loved ones were crying on the other end. They had part of the roof fly off while stuck in their dorms as they were flooding. Then no electricity, a/c or fans, and no windows to let a breeze come in. Some inmates were stealing food while in total darkness causing fights to break out. There were some in solitary confinement left in temperatures of over 100 degrees. They began to wonder if they were going to die from this storm. Even before the storm I could not believe that with such a major evacuation, this prison was left behind. They described this past week as a living Hell.
We are still in hurricane season. We will keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Written by an incarcerated woman in Florida

Under Siege
     The "Uprising" - a term used by a group or species that have been oppressed beyond their limitations that are prepared to rise above.  Prepared to go the distance for equality.
     This fear has permeated the FL DOC statewide and as I write this, the entire state of Florida prisons are on, at the very least, a Level II lockdown.  An entity held hostage by their fear of retribution for their participation in the violations of truth, justice and human dignity.
     Mass incarceration equates to a HATE CRIME affecting some 2.3 million people and their loved ones in the U.S.  The driving force for this is Corporate America colluding with our government-how far we have fallen as a nation founded on liberty to engage in such an atrocity as imprisoning its people for profit; but that is the cold hard truth of this business.  CEO's and corporate executives of the Prison Industrial Complex receive six, seven and eight figure salaries with stock options and bonuses all on the taxpayers dime for services provided to inmates.
     Does this make you feel safer?  Well it shouldn't because the lies perpetuated to enforce this crime against persons were slogans like "tough on crime", "clean up our streets", "make America safer" and the "war on drugs" which has undeniably been proven wrong.  The recidivism rate in Florida is 33% within three years and increases to 65% after five years.  And the more people you lock away, the more privileges, care and civil rights are stripped away as well.
     For some the winds of change are whispering, "there's nothing more I can lose" throughout a sub-culture of greed and power.  Because to witness the warehousing of people you need not look further than the approximate 3,000 sq. ft. of space shared by 86 people to sleep, gather, bathe and function.  The rural areas of Florida are peppered with entire compounds of these prisons to create jobs and stimulate the economy.  Where does a prison population of 100,000 or so find relief in this environment of too long and too harsh sentences and lack of real rehabilitation? 
     The Prison Industrial Complex aptly resonates what it has become for there is no rehabilitation, no structured discipline and no attitude of betterment or change.  There is, however, plenty of degradation, humiliation to accompany you throughout your prison stay.  Aren't we better than that? 
     There are no psychological exams or physical training required to become a correctional officer: a back door into law enforcement, filled with questionable motives as to why this field is a career choice.  With the requirements so minimal the keepers are often less trained, educated and experienced in life than the kept and who tout their authority with abandon which has led us to today with a society oppressed by ignorance, greed and power and on the verge of an UPRISING.