Sunday, January 29, 2017

Call to Action-Mom

UPDATE:  I have been in touch with Representative Amber Mariano and she will set up a meeting for anyone with concerns about their incarcerated loved ones.

Senator Keith Perry went to Lowell on Wednesday and made a tour of the prison.  Of course, he never talked to any inmates.  The compound spent days cleaning up before his visit and showed him the nicest areas.

I talked to his aide and we can email Perry (perry.keith@flsenate.gov) with any concerns we have about our incarcerated loved ones in Florida.  I would suggest if you email him, you only address serious matters like officer abuse, retaliation, food and so forth so that he takes it seriously.  As soon as I am better I am going to meet with the local representatives in my area,  Jack Latvala (R) and Amber Mariano (R) who is only 21 years old.  If anyone would like to join me, please message me.  Their offices are in Clearwater.

A woman guard is harassing my daughter Sadie again calling her a whore and looking for anything to have her put in jail.  My daughter is afraid to file a grievance for fear of retaliation and because this new admin does not seem particularly interested in grievances so I am holding off for now in contacting the higher ups.

If you have a loved one incarcerated in Florida, I beg you to email Perry, Latvala and Mariano to address your concerns.  You do not have to give your loved one's name if you don't feel comfortable.  If you are a former inmate, you need to email them about your experience.  The politicians need to start addressing the inhumanity and lack of rehabilitation and nothing is going to change unless we speak up.

Appeal, Medical and More

 Mom-I have been recuperating from hip replacement surgery so trying to get back on track with blog.

The compound is in it's own little world-officers yelling, inmates yelling.  I am waiting for the answer to the appeal of my 3850 (ineffective counsel).  I pray every day-not for the right answer but for my greatest good.  Me and my higher self got me here for my greatest good-to grow, to learn, to face my demons and to become Sadie and for that I am grateful.  But 20 years I did not deserve but who knows what my Higher Self and Higher Power have in mind.  It's not about "getting out of here" (tho that would be nice).  It is more about continuing life in the free world with an entirely new outlook.  I have never been more clear about what it is to LIVE than I am now.  I get beside myself just imagining all of the accomplishments I want to make and to do it all with the peace I have found within-something I have never experienced before.  My life does and will have a new perspective and meaning.  I spent most all of my life trying to end it one way or another whether it was drugs, alcohol or suicide.  Now I truly want to live my life and, of course, to help others. 

I finally get it.  Human life.  And honestly, it doesn't even matter if I leave prison to live the way life is meant to be lived.  It is about the journey within.  It doesn't matter where you are geographically.  It matters who you are and who you are becoming.  I just want to feel life on the outside again with this whole new feeling and clarity.  It is going to be an entirely new world for me.  My gratitude factor is through the roof.  I cannot wait to smell things again, flowers, dirt, trees, babies, puppy breath, the ocean.  Like food cooking or real coffee brewing, the smell of rain.  All the things we take for granted.

Today has been difficult as my head and neck have been hurting all day.  They finally did an ultrasound on my heart a couple of weeks ago but I have not heard the results.  Medical here is a joke.  It is where people die.  I would tell you about the deaths here but I would probably get put in confinement.  I talk to friends here that have been orderlies in medical for years and I could tell you some serious shit.  So today I have been feeling out of sorts.  I don't like feeling not on point.  The last thing I want is for DOC to take care of me. 

Oh, I can hear them passing mail.  That is the best part of our day sometimes is mail call.  It sort of lets you know that you are loved and cared about.  There is no worse feeling then feeling like you have been forgotten about by the world.  Once again: out of sight, out of mind.  So, if any of you know someone incarcerated, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, send them a card, pictures, a postcard or even better a magazine subscription.  Everyone loves to hear their name called.  There are women here who never get their name called.  More than sad.

Next blog will be about prison rumors and gossip.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Things I Miss, Recycling and How It Used To Be

Today was a great day!  Very cold for Florida.  I love the cold tho; it reminds me of home (west coast).  Yes, I am a west coast girl.  I have to argue that there is no comparison between the west and the east coast.  West coast is by far a totally different world!  The west coast people recycle-keep the earth healthy and green.  They are environmentally conscious and much more open and liberal.  There are mountains, rivers, fresh water lakes, snowboarding, skiing, surfing, mountain biking, dune buggies, camping etc.  It is so beautiful and has a million things to do.  You can actually grow a vegetable garden in your backyard.  Boy, do I miss the smell of real dirt, of the forest, moss and blossoms-being in the woods.  Sorry east coast, no offense, but the beach and sun with no changing seasons gets old. 

And hardly anyone recycles here.  I tried to get recycling started in the prison-what a joke.  They say they do recycle-pallets and metal.  Where?  What pallets and what metal?  My mom researched it for me and called waste management and they said it was up to the prison.  I have been trying to get paper, plastic and aluminum recycling here but no one cares.  We have 6 canteens with a revenue of approximately 40,000 a week and everything we buy is cans, plastic and paper.  It all goes in the trash.  The prison creates a lot of trash.  We could implement a recycling program like other prisons have and use the money for recreational supplies and rehab.  I don't understand why this prison won't do that.  Actually, I don't understand anything DOC does.

I saw this picture of a girl here 30 years ago.  She has been here since she was 18 .  She recently shared pictures of her over the years and I started crying.  I did not recognize the young girl as the woman she is today-for many reasons.  Prison back then let women wear dresses and short heels.  Her hair was done with a curling iron and she was standing next to a real Christmas tree.  She looked so bright.  As the pictures went on you could see the change-in her and in the prison.  DOC has taken everything away.  They used to have blow dryers, curling irons, families could send real hygiene.  They had real food on the canteen like fruit, juices and real meat.  They had crafts like knitting, crocheting and art classes.  They had movies and meditation classes and they had mentors from the outside that were allowed to come to the prison and mentor the inmates.  They had softball teams and tournaments.  They had kind of a real life.  Now we are lucky if we get to go outside for a couple hours a day and some days not at all.  They took away everything that might help a person feel good and get a little pleasure out of life.  How is that right?  How is that Christian?  Is that what Jesus would do or Buddha? 

Surgery

I am having hip replacement surgery tomorrow so I will begin the blog again in a few days.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Relationships in Prison

When women come to prison most are not gay-AT ALL.  Soon you will see these "not gay at all" women with a girlfriend-usually the ones who look like boys (and some look so much like boys you really can hardly tell the difference).  There are all kinds of reasons why not gay women get into relationships.  Many women need the attention the same way they did on the outside.  Some don't know who they are unless they are in a relationship and some really act like they are in a boy/girl relationship and call the "boy" a he.  Long-timers and lifers will almost always come to the point where they yearn for companionship; someone they can share life with.  I know women here who have been companions for years.  They never have sex but the love they have for each other is the same as any relationship.  I believe that any relationship is okay as long as it is positive, supportive, loving and encourages each other to grow.  UNFORTUNATELY, that isn't even close to the typical prison relationship.  The typical prison relationship is about drama and control with two people coming together with major issues.  These relationships consist of physically fighting each other.  There are literally days when all the couples are literally fist fighting in each room.  It is overwhelming.  Rarely do you see a healthy relationship.  It is just like in the real world.  If you are constantly berated and treated without respect and regard by the prison system but cannot speak up for yourself or you will get put in confinement, who do you think you are going to take it out on?  The "boys" here equate being masculine with control.  All that being said let's not forget a shout out for the women who skip all that and go straight for an officer but we will save that for another time.

In prison there are levels of relationships.  First it is "vibin" which means you are attracted to each other, hang out here and there but you are allowed to be "vibin" with other people also.  Then it is "talkin".  This means you have narrowed down that you might like a girl and want to spend time with her, but most still keep a roaming eye.  Then there is "girlfriends".  You have decided to be in an exclusive relationship-exclusive unless one decides to "slide" with someone else behind your back which happens often with the boys.

Prison seeps into you.  It numbs you.  You become numb to the fighting; the violence and almost think it is normal.  If one woman is getting beat up by her significant other, no one interferes.  It is an unwritten rule.  Plus, no one wants the possibility of confinement so you turn a blind eye and some women get really beat up badly.

Today is supply day.  Every Wednesday night we get passed out our 1 toilet paper roll (thin sheets) and 1 hotel sized bar of soap for the week.  The only products prison provides is weekly TP and a bar of soap.  They do not provide shampoo or lotion or any other hygiene products.  Oh yes, they do provide 12 sanitary pads a month (cheap).  If you have a family who can put money on your account for hygiene and canteen your prison life is way less stressful.  Indigent women struggle, especially if they have no hustle.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dawn's Story

My name is Dawn Ruff-Hickerson inmate 154123.  I am 39 years old and I was sentenced to life in prison without parole.  I have now served 15 years for the murder of my husband.

I am not just another inmate who claims to be innocent.  I am a former Marine; a disabled vet.  During my trial my time in the Marines was used against me.  I am not the one who committed the murder for which I was found guilty.  However, the prosecutor convinced the jury that I could train someone to wield a knife.  Anyone familiar with the way women are trained in the military to use a bayonet knows we don't get any real hands on experience except to stick the center of a fake torso to avoid further engagement.

The prosecutor tried to prove, successfully, that I asked someone to kill him for me.  They used the disgruntled murmurings of an unhappily married woman to show that I was trying to get someone to do it for me; using hearsay to prove their case and it worked.  The jury found me guilty after two and one half hours.

After my trial was complete, the man who did commit the murder of my husband went on trial.  His trial last less than 4 days and he was found guilty in less than 15 minutes.

When he was escorted out by the bailiff after the conviction, he confessed to the bailiff that I was innocent.

When I heard about what my co-defendant confessed to I thought that now they will have no choice but to let me go.  Boy was I mistaken.

I have filed several motions all of which were denied predominately because I had to rely on prison law clerks and could not obtain proof of what I needed.

Eventually, I was able to get in touch with my uncle who is also retired military and with his help I was able to obtain legal counsel in order to find and get affidavits from the bailiff and the person who murdered my husband.  However, no matter how hard my attorney tried, the judge still denied everything we put before him.

Now we are having to not only find another attorney for an appeal, but figure out how to afford one.

It is hard for me to understand that the very system I served to protect is the very one that is keeping an innocent person locked away with no hope of getting out.

I could have been your sister, your mother, your neighbor or a co-worker.  I am currently serving natural life for a murder I did not commit.  The man who murdered my husband has submitted an affidavit confirming my innocence.  An officer of the court has likewise submitted an affidavit attesting to this.  To date my attempts to have my conviction overturned have been futile.  I have spent 15 years in prison.  I have lost my sons and everything I had.

If you know of a lawyer who would be willing to do a pro bono, please contact me.  We are trying to raise money for an appellate attorney.  Please help correct this travesty of justice.

Morgan's Story

Hello, my name is Morgan Leppert.  I am 24 years old.  My life was taken from me when I was 14.  Here is a brief story of what happened:

At 14 I fell in love with a man who was 7 years older than me.  I thought he was the only thing that mattered in my world.  I thought it was love and he turned out to be a monster.  I put him before my own family.  Well, I ended up running away with him and while on the run he robbed and killed someone.  We were found a week and a half later in El Paso, TX.  We were charged with 1st degree murder, armed robbery and burglary with assault.  We were sent to prison with 3 life sentences.  My life was gone, my dreams were shattered.  I came to prison when I was 15.  It was the hardest thing for me and my family.  I went to boot camp until I was 21 then sent to general population.  I have learned so much about responsibility, structure, obedience, discipline and so much more.  I have been a mentor for a lot of the young ones coming in and I have met so many amazing people who have made a major impact on my life.  I ended up giving myself to God and when I did everything started turning around for me.  I use to have no hope; no faith.  Now you can't tell me anything different.  I went from being the youngest female inmate with a life sentence in the state of Florida to a woman of God with a release date.  Believe me, I have had hard times in prison but it had gotten better in due time.  Miracles are being done left and right.  In the last couple of months the Supreme Court picked up my case, got in touch with my lawyer and granted me a re-sentencing hearing for the third time.  Thank God.  I already have a hearing set for February.  It may sound crazy but it could have been worse.  Coming to prison saved my life.  It showed me how valuable life is and how you cannot take anything for granted because it can be taken from you in the blink of an eye.  Words of advice!  The time you do is up to you and how you want your life to be.  Don't ever give up because God gives blessings in disguise.

Michelle's Story

My name is Michelle, currently known as Inmate Y57648.  I started writing a short summary about myself like how I am 28, was raised in a small town called Milford, PA and am the youngest of three girls.  I graduated from high school, was a cheerleader and was raised with morals and value in a loving home.  In the end I under appreciated everything by getting wrapped up in a world that, at one point, seemed impossible to stray from.

You see I thought I was invincible.  "It could never happen to me".  As a young adult I struggled with self-esteem issues, stubbornness, two extremely co-dependent relationships and being the product of divorced parents.  I thought I was in control.  Little did I know that the dysfunctional elements of my life would inevitably fuel me to become a statistic in the ever growing epidemic of prescription pills, which were never prescribed.

My story basically goes like this:  I was young and na├»ve.  I had no understanding of who Michelle was so I decided to become what everyone else wanted her to be while simultaneously being nothing at all.  I got introduced to pain killers and that was the beginning of the end.  Addiction is a vicious cycle; one that creates constant battles between my conscience and my desire to ignore and forget.  I ran from my problems, but even miles away in Florida, I was stuck within myself.  The rollercoaster life of addiction had me at many highs and lows.  During one of my lows I was witness to an armed burglary where two people got shot.  I was unarmed and unaware of the events that transpired.  I was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years.  Fortunately there were no deaths in my case; however many broken hearts.  It was a hard pill to swallow; yet one of the sad ugly truths is it took my addicting growing completely out of control, my life becoming a shit show and me getting arrested and life behind bars to realize who Michelle is and to appreciate the gift God gave me.

I don't want to mislead you.  I was crushed when reality set in and my freedom was taken away from me.  However, time is a funny thing and it gave me the opportunity to explore my past, present and future; my interests, dreams and goals.  Although, I became caged in, God set me free.  For the first time I was able to selflessly be selfish.  While focusing just on myself I realized that life isn't about materialistic things or superficial things.  I started to see a glimpse of who Michelle is.

Three years later, I feel guilt and remorse; not only for the circumstances behind my arrest but for the many mistakes and poor decisions I made throughout my life and the people I have hurt; including myself.  But it does not consume me .  I am not paralyzed by all the feelings I once used drugs to erase.  I  have learned that God created me to use these challenges, this specific opposition I've faced and to the many still to come for a purpose.  My relationship with God is just ONE of many blessings time has given me and my goal is to be a positive influence in the lives of many by using my experience and strength and hope with God's Word and understanding to provide others with a testimony of where life can take you and where you are actually meant to be. 

Today I refuse to allow my past to define my future.  With perseverance and God's Grace I have won my appeal and am waiting to be resentenced.  My hope is that God will provide me a second chance which allows me to fulfill the purpose He created me for: empowering and encouraging others to find themselves also.  If He has got me, He has got you too.

Food Revisited and More

This is probably a subject that will sound unreal but it's all true.  For one, I do not usually eat the chow hall food.  It is mostly unidentifiable or just gross. 

The menu is the same over and over again.  We have names like "yakasobi" which is cabbage and it is used for everything and ground mystery meat with a flavor added.  You will always have 2 slices of bread (plain), cabbage salad (?) or coleslaw, beans or carrots (raw) and that is pretty much it.  The portions wouldn't be enough for a child.  This is served on trays that are not washed-just rinsed.  You can see residue of old food on them.  Then you have "cabbage casserole", which is cabbage and ground mystery meat.  I just realized that "yakasobi" and cabbage casserole are about the same trying to give us the illusion of variety.  The food has no flavoring and your lucky if you get salt and pepper and even luckier if you get a napkin.

The "patties" like Double Salty Patty" (both meals have patties on Saturday).  The patties are part ground chicken, except it is everything but the real mean of the chicken, and 2 parts TPV (a meat filler substitute).   Sound yummy?  These patties are not like anything I have seen on the outside.  They are so hard it is like eating jerky.  Sometimes these come with sliced uncooked potatoes.  There is "BBQ" meat which isn't barbecue anything but TPV with liquid smoke or something.  We also have hotdogs which are not cooked and made of the ground institutional chicken?  The best days are Tuesday's and Thursdays.  Tuesday's we get chicken on a bone and Thursday's we get a patty that is real ground meat.  It is the only time the food is identifiable and it is the only time I might ever eat at chow. 

Oh, the desserts!  We get them only on week-days at dinner and they are either yellow cake, cookie or bread pudding.  The cake, cookie and bread pudding are the same every time.  They do not vary in flavor, texture or look.  They are not like eating dessert on the outside-very bland.

I have heard too many stories about how they don't wash, bleach or rotate containers and food.  I have heard the roaches and the mice are bad and the flies are insane.  I just can't hear anymore and it is so unfortunate because indigent women have to eat this unsavory and unhealthy food.  No wonder there are so many health issues in prison.

I am on the religious diet so every day I get a vegie, protein, fiber and fruit. 

I am sorry to tell you this but no one in the free-world would ever eat our food unless it was out of desperation or starvation.  No joke.

This is why we all try to eat from canteen which isn't much healthier but at least you know what you are eating.  They probably serve awful food on purpose so they can make money on canteen.  So, Top Ramen is 1.08, a small bag of Doritos is 1.08, Tuna (2Tblsp) 2.50, tortillas 2.70, soda 1.05 and coffee is 6.00 (instant).  It all adds up and that does not include hygiene's, pads, tampons, paper, pen, stamps, shower stuff, bowls, spoons and everything else.

You want to talk conspiracy theories-forget Trump and Hillary.  You should hear the girls begging their families for money just to get basic necessities-prison forces you to do it.  Many families are poor or don't understand the real needs of a prisoner.  It is heartbreaking to hear them on the phone.  All we have is our family and a lot of women here don't have anyone.  Lost and forgotten.

Inmates are afraid to get treated at medical because of the horror stories, afraid to eat the food and afraid to speak up so they don't end up in confinement.  The women will get back at each other by getting someone put into confinement. 

Prison is an experience that I cannot believe people actually forget.  How could they forget?  They come back.  A girl showed back up with an H on her tag which means she has been back nine times.  What that tells me is she had no support on the outside and was not rehabilitated on the inside. 

I sit next to a woman who retaliated against her abusive husband and hit him with an axe 16 times and killed him and she got 30 years.  An abused wife kills her husband after he knocked two of her teeth out.  I don't even think they should have gotten 30 years because of being battered wives.  I jumped into a car; running from someone, never asked for car keys or money, the car went nowhere (I did shout at the driver to drive and drop me off down the road to get away from my drug dealer whom I owed money to), no one got hurt and I got 20 years.  Is that fair?  I start thinking about this and it is so upsetting.  I am not saying that I did not deserve some time but 20 years.  I really thought that if I told my side of the story at trial that I would not get prison time at all and when the judge said 20 years and said I was "a danger to society", my whole world crumbled right then and there. 

I promise there is an upside to this as awful as it has been-a spiritual side.  I have just been trying to get through the grit of prison first because I am not going to make you all feel good and snow you over-prison sucks, but we get ourselves here and that is just the truth.  What we do with this time is what is important.  If you want to focus on smoking, drugs, hustling" and doing dirt than that is your life here and the prison is conducive to that.  If you want to find out who you are, learn to overcome adversity and be the best person you can be in this lifetime then prison is one of the greatest opportunities for that. It is all about perception.  And that perception is up to you and your beliefs and sometimes we have to figure that out first.  What am I going to do with this time?  I can tell you it is the hardest for the ones who are never leaving here-ever.  I am leaving here one day.  I will one day take that real shower.  I will one day eat healthy food.  I will see scenery other than prison grounds.  I will put my feet up on a coffee table and sink into a soft couch.  I will take my dog for a walk.  I will feel freedom again and I will appreciate life more than I can imagine it right now.  Respect and love the women who will never be able to do that.  There are so many women here with life sentences who do not deserve it because they knew, had knowledge or were even accidentally with the perpetrators usually boyfriends-young, young women who are definitely redeemable.  It does not take 20 years or a lifetime to realize and make amends for your crime.  Once your off drugs and your mind is clear again, you carry that burden always.  The average age of the lifers here is under 25.  A girl just left her after 4 years.  She came in at 15.  I pray they find their way and all I can do is try to be an example of what is possible.

What does that mean to be an example?  To know who I am.  To love who I am.  To walk my talk.  To share my love and experience with others and try to be an inspiration to others so they also can learn to love themselves and find who they are. 

Prison is a struggle everyday to not let it beat you down, define who you are and to maintain your self-worth and integrity.  I, like everyone, do have some dark days but I just keep on doing what I need to do and the Creator gives me so much Grace and my spiritual life overcomes the situation that I have found myself in.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Sadie's Attitude-Mom

I just wanted to say that 90% of the time that I talk to Sadie she is positive and upbeat.  I am learning more from her blog than I knew so very informative for me also.  I know she has bad days but rarely does she share them with me unless she has tried everything-like with medical-and nothing is helping.

On the other side, I could be having the worst day in the world, but I would never let Sadie know that though I have had a couple of mental breakdowns where I just could not stop crying for a few days but that was more when she was first incarcerated.  I don't need to make her time worse.

As a mom with a daughter in prison, it is a daily challenge to not let it get the best of me and to live my life, but I cannot help but worry every day-not because of Sadie, but because of the lack of kindness and compassion of the prison system.  It breaks my heart to think that another human being has treated her less than human and there is nothing I can do.  I think that is the worst part-the helplessness that you cannot protect her.  If she has to do all of her time minus her good behavior (would be 17 years), I will be 80 years old.  I cannot even imagine doing this until I am 80.  I cannot imagine Sadie doing it.  But we will because that is the hand we were dealt and somehow you have to rise above it all and focus on being happy regardless.  Neither of us can let prison define our happiness.  My heart goes out to all the families who are dealing with this.  There has to be a better way.

Not A Good Day

Today was not a good day for women in prison.  Prison can have good days.  We are allowed to be happy-that is a basic human right.  We committed crimes-some worse than others.  The only consistent thing about DOC is prisoners are all treated the same; less than human.  Prison is the punishment but that is not good enough.  Let's make their lives as miserable as possible.  We make the best of it but it is very difficult.

I personally have found my own way through.  I have found a balance; a routine.  Still, it is very difficult for someone like me who does not make waves here and walks the straight and narrow.  Positive support from admin and staff would help.  No, really dig prison into them.

We become numb then we are released back into society-institutionalized.  I promise my mom, my daughter and all of you and God that I will never let anyone make me believe that I am not worthy or that I have no value.  I am a wonderful woman, a loving mother, a loving sister and I am a loved and valued daughter.  I AM NOT AN INMATE.  I AM A HUMAN BEING.

Jobs and Dreds

New rules:  removing inmates from their jobs if they have been in it for 6 months.  Really?  So, a long-timer or lifer would finish all jobs in less then 5 years.  Let's pretend that corrections is loosely based on rehabilitation-why would you remove someone from their job after 6 months because you are in fear of getting too familiar with staff?  We live here.  We spend all day with staff.  They are here for 12 hour shifts.  How could we not know them? 

The long-timers need jobs.  The staff is upset because once they find an inmate they have trained, who does their job well and is trustworthy they want to keep them, but no more.  What happened to teaching work ethics and job stability, staying in a job through ups and downs.  Now everyone is paranoid and will not care about their job knowing they will be moved in 6 months.  And trust me it will give the inmates more reason to do "dirt". 

The new colonel came in and removed the yoga mats (escape paraphernalia!), our movies and our exercise bands.   How ridiculous.  They focus on the wrong things.  I am so upset about this.  Remove all the things that make our day a little easier and what do we have left-nothing.  Shopping, smoking and fighting.  That's all they do-there is nothing else to focus on.  There are not enough jobs to go around (1500 inmates), no real job training except for HVAC and Cosmos (which is a joke).  This compound is baron of any kind of real rehabilitation.  Now it's ACT RIGHT or go to jail.  Long-timers don't care about going to jail-30 days is nothing.

So admin has decided that all the black girls need to cut off their dreds that they have had for years and some all of their lives.   Most of the women eventually complied . The last one standing-we call her J-Baby was put in confinement a few days ago.  Her dreds are part of her Rastafarian religion.  The "cell extraction team" was called in.  We heard over the radio "she's gettin' hit with the shield".  This is no exaggeration-6 male officers all suited up in what looked like riot gear with a shield and clippers went into her cell, forced her down and shaved off all her hair.  They came out all puffed up and proud.  I can't even believe this is legal.

I know that people on the outside don't care about what we go through-we deserve it right?  Unless you have been incarcerated or have a loved one incarcerated we are just ghosts-reality TV.  I pray that someday people will care and we will get the help and rehab that we so desperately need.  I am a very strong person so I do what I can on my own to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally but most women in here need a lot of help to be able to transition back into society. 

Why is no one on the outside fighting for us?  Why does no one care?  Why is there no civilian group that comes in to make sure we get basic human living conditions and are treated with kindness and compassion.  What if it was your child?

Prison is hell-period.  It could be a place of human potential, personal growth and true rehabilitation.  We will almost all be your neighbor some day. 

Many women don't even deserve to be here-don't belong here.  Drug addiction and boyfriends changed their lives.  We need to give them hope.







Update on Sadie's Legal-Mom

Sadie's appeal was denied last year.  We then hired a lawyer to file a 3850 (Ineffective Counsel) which went to Sadie's sentencing judge and which the judge quickly denied.  So, now the lawyer is appealing that.  Best case scenario is that it would be approved and she would either get a new trial or a re-sentencing.  The re-sentencing is what we are hoping for. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

What We Learned From German Prisons

                                                        
The men serving time wore their own clothes, not prison uniforms. When entering their cells, they slipped out of their sneakers and into slippers. They lived one person per cell. Each cell was bright with natural light, decorated with personalized items such as wall hangings, plants, family photos and colorful linens brought from home. Each cell also had its own bathroom separate from the sleeping area and a phone to call home with. The men had access to communal kitchens, with the utensils a regular kitchen would have, where they could cook fresh food purchased with wages earned in vocational programs.  We hoped that we were getting a glimpse of what the future of the American criminal justice system could look like.
 
This is an encouraging moment for American advocates of criminal justice reform. After decades of callousness and complacency, the United States has finally started to take significant steps to reverse what a recent report by the National Research Council called a “historically unprecedented and internationally unique” experiment in mass incarceration. Congress, in a bipartisan effort, seems prepared to scale back draconian federal sentencing laws. Many states are making progress in reducing their prison populations. And President Obama, in a gesture of his commitment to this issue, last month became the first American president to visit a federal correctional facility.
   
The delegation that we took to Germany represented the emerging national consensus on this issue. It included a Democratic governor; corrections officials from across the political spectrum; chief prosecutors; formerly incarcerated individuals; a liberal scholar of race and criminal justice; and representatives from Right on Crime and the Charles Koch Institute, conservative groups that advocate reform, as well as the evangelical Christian group Prison Fellowship.  But for all the signs of progress, truly transformative change in the United States will require us to fundamentally rethink values. How do we move from a system whose core value is retribution to one that prioritizes accountability and rehabilitation? In Germany we saw a potential model: a system that is premised on the protection of human dignity and the idea that the aim of incarceration is to prepare prisoners to lead socially responsible lives, free of crime, upon release.
 
While the United States currently incarcerates 2.2 million people, Germany — whose population is one-fourth the size of ours — locks up only about 63,500, which translates to an incarceration rate that is one-tenth of ours. More than 80 percent of those convicted of crimes in Germany receive sentences of “day fines” (based on the offense and the offender’s ability to pay). Only 5 percent end up in prison. Of those who do, about 70 percent have sentences of less than two years, with few serving more than 15 years.  The incarcerated people that we saw had considerable freedom of movement around their facilities and were expected to exercise judgment about how they used their time. Many are allowed, a few times a year, to leave the prison for a few hours or overnight to visit friends and family. Others resided in “open” facilities in which they slept at night but left for work during the day. Solitary confinement is rare in Germany, and generally limited to no more than a few days, with four weeks being the outer extreme (as opposed to months or years in the United States).
 
The process of training and hiring corrections officers is more demanding in Germany. Whereas the American corrections leaders in our delegation described labor shortages and training regimes of just a few months, in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, less than 10 percent of those who applied to be corrections officers from 2011 to 2015 were accepted to the two-year training program. This seems to produce results: In one prison we visited, there were no recorded assaults between inmates or on staff members from 2013 to 2014.
 
Germans, like Americans, are greatly concerned with public safety. But they think about recidivism differently. During our visit, we heard prison professionals discussing failure in refreshingly unfamiliar terms: If, after release, an individual were to end up back in prison, that would be seen as a reason for the prison staff members to ask what they should have done better. When we told them stories of American politicians who closed a work-release or parole program after a single high-profile crime by a released inmate, they shook their heads in disbelief: Why would you close an otherwise effective program just because one client failed?
 
To be sure, there are significant differences between the two countries. Most notably, America’s criminal justice system was constructed in slavery’s long shadow and is sustained today by the persistent forces of racism. The American prison-building binge was fueled by a political environment in which “tough on crime” was a winning campaign strategy.  But the German context still provides a vision of a possible American future. The first article of the German Constitution reads, “Human dignity shall be inviolable.” Granted, our own Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment and protects individuals against excessive government intrusions. As was noted by the Supreme Court justice Anthony M. Kennedy in a landmark 2011 opinion ordering California to reduce its prison population: “Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment.”

These words hold much promise, but currently they have far too little impact on actual conditions in American prisons. In Germany, we found that respect for human dignity provides palpable guidance to those who run its prisons. Through court-imposed rules, staff training and a shared mission, dignity is more than legal abstraction.
 
The question to ask is whether we can learn something from a country that has learned from its own terrible legacy — the Holocaust — with an impressive commitment to promoting human dignity, especially for those in prison. This principle resonates, though still too dimly at the moment, with bedrock American values.

Lessons From European Prisons

 

 
A new report based on the group’s research suggests that European sentencing and penal practices may provide useful guidance in the growing effort to reform an American prison system buckling under its own weight.
 
The American and European systems differ in almost every imaginable way, beginning with their underlying rationale for incarceration. Under German law, the primary goal of prison is “to enable prisoners to lead a life of social responsibility free of crime upon release.” Public safety is ensured not simply by separating offenders from society, but by successfully reintegrating them.
To this end, inmates are given a remarkable level of control over their lives and their personal privacy. Some wear their own clothes and prepare their own meals. They interact with staff trained not only in prison security, but in educational theory and conflict management.
 
Upon release, European inmates do not face the punitive consequences that American ex-prisoners do — from voting bans to restrictions on employment, housing and public assistance, all of which increase the likelihood of re-offending.
 
Direct comparisons between countries are hard to make, and some European practices would not be workable with violent prisoners. The report, issued by the Prison Law Office, a nonprofit group based in California, and the Vera Institute of Justice, recognizes this reality but emphasizes that many of the principles are applicable especially to lower-level, nonviolent offenders.
Several state prison systems are heading in this direction. Georgia has increased its investment in specialized drug and mental-health courts. Colorado, Maine and Mississippi are among those reforming solitary-confinement practices. As states continue to rethink outdated assumptions, they would be wise to pay close attention to European counterparts.

Sadie's Trial-Mom

The trial is really hard to talk about because it destroyed any faith at all I had in the justice system.

Sadie and I are not saying that she did not do things to land her in prison-she did.  What we are saying is that she never deserved 20 years and she deserved to have good representation which she did not.

In defense of the public defender, he had about 300 cases and was headed for retirement and told me that it wasn't too long after he became a public defender that he realized the system was rigged.  You could tell that he was just "doing his time" until retirement.  The judge treated him like a 2 year old and the public defender was very intimidated by her.  Sadie used to tell him, "you need to stand up for yourself".  It was obvious he never had.  He did a little better at sentencing but she was a force to be reckoned with.  At sentencing, when we all testified and the psychiatrist testified, she did not listen to one word.  She played with her items on her desk and looked impatient and bored.  No empathy-nothing.

Sadie went to trial because she said she was not going to plea to something she did not do.  She honestly thought if she told her side of the story that she would get very little time for occupying a car without permission (don't know the legal term).  If you are going to carjack someone, or kidnap someone, you don't go into their car with flip-flops and a slurpy and no weapon except the one the legal system designated-the crack pipe pusher she had on her.  So she got attempted kidnapping, attempted burglary and attempted car jacking with a deadly weapon (crack pipe pusher).  To know the whole story go to her blog, "How I Got Here".

When we hired an appeals attorney he was astonished and called her and apologized to her for the system failing her.  He said the most she would have gotten in his state is 5 years.

Not knowing much about public defenders we thought okay that's fine; not to mention the fact that I could not afford a lawyer.

Well, the public defender was a nice guy but not interested in defending my daughter.  Until I showed up on the scene (from Oregon to Florida), he took absolutely no interest in her case and when I walked into his office, the first thing he said is "she's guilty".  My daughter would call me crying saying mom he said he was going to come and see me and he hasn't.  The PD would promise to see her to work on her case but never show up and this happened several times.  I would call and email him and he would say "I'll see her tomorrow" and never show up.  He never prepared her for trial.  He never prepared for trial.  It was like learn as you go.  He never questioned the victim's conflicting statements or brought up inconsistencies that any normal person would have.  There was so much to work with to defend her.  He had not called witnesses in her defense, nor laid out the scene where you could actually see that there was tons of reasonable doubt.  It was the victim's word against a drug addict.  A couple weeks before the DA had upped the charges so that Sadie was looking at life in prison.  The PD put an emaciated, frightened person on the stand and never prepared her for that.  It did not go well.  The victim was a nurse, her husband was a sheriff and that was that.  The victim was found guilty of child abuse a few years before and had family members who were incarcerated. 

Sadie had asked to fire her public defender many times, but the judge refused and said she was getting good representation.  The judge should have recused herself because her husband was Sadie's lawyer a few years before in a child custody case and they ended on bad terms and the judge made it very obvious she did not like my daughter.  Sadie tried to recuse her but the PD did not file the paperwork in time.  The judge was the most unprofessional person I have ever seen.  She looked like she was trying out for Judge Judy.  She yelled and carried on at Sadie's sentencing and gave her 20 years.  At the sentencing hearing myself, her sister and a friend all testified to Sadie's addiction issues and bi-polar issues and her traumatic childhood.  The judge had already made up her mind and said so before we even spoke.  Also, a psychiatrist testified on Sadie's mental state (the PD got it a little more together when family showed up).  She yelled that my daughter was a "danger to society".  She sentenced a pedophile during Sadie's sentencing hearing and he got 18 months-go figure.

Sadie tried to hang herself in jail.  As time went on she made a conscious decision to make the best of the situation but there have been many difficult times as there are for all inmates.