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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

We're Back!

Hi everyone,

I took the summer off and will begin to resume posting.