Category Archives: Topics I Love

Letting Go

A blast of prose from my past…going through my files.

I woke up this morning thinking about what my dead cat looked like when I discovered her lying on my bathroom floor three years ago. My female calico of 14 years, with long hair and eyes that looked like they had been lined in kohl, was stretched out ridged as an ironing board, with her blue eyes open, staring blankly. At the time, what struck me was she was now dead. To put it dramatically, I was looking at the face of death. There was no light in her eyes, no movement, no energy, no dance, no play, no expression. Wow – it made me think, death is pretty lifeless, not much going on. Shocking, in fact. Perhaps taking life for granted, and the adage, “Life is a bitch and then we die,” is a bit too cynical. Perhaps, that look my dog gives me when he has not seen me for a few hours, is actually precious and tied to a force more powerful than gravity. Maybe the force is love.

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Collage by Kartika

I contemplated what it would be like to be faced with death each day, forced to face the absence of light in the faces of the bombed or butchered. If I lived in Palestine or Iraq or somewhere one cannot escape the faces of the dead, where the dead are not taken away in the middle of night and sanitized by undertakers, placed in $5,000 velvet-lined coffins, and placed in immaculately manicured cemeteries, then grieved over by the well-dressed and well-fed still living, would I become desensitized? Or, would that spark that animates trees and waves and wild horses become even more precious? Would the miracle of seeing your grandmother live to be 100 seem even more miraculous?

But, I live in a world where I don’t see many dead people, and so, seeing Cinnamon my cat, stretched out, was a shock. I didn’t understand my tears. After all, she was old and had been ill for a very short while, and her death was merciful and natural, but I still cried looking into the face of death and felt the loss of her. And then it took me over – that we are all made of more than our miraculous flesh and bone. We are animated by that abstract something we call life, that mysterious energy that puts light into faces, and makes our eyes shine with love and hate, and makes our bodies climb mountains, and makes fish jump in the water, and the flowers bloom. And, it hit me like a gentle yet forceful wind that without life, the moon would not shine and the sun would lose its heat, and the planets would collapse, and the wind would cease, and the tides would no longer hypnotize lovers, and the stars would lose their mystery.

Perhaps I should let go of being pissed at life for its brutal blows and heartbreaks, at least for long enough to consider the possibility that our pain is part of the mysterious spirit we call life, and cannot be removed from that to which it is intimately connected.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen

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The Facts: What’s Broken in Our Juvenile Justice System and How to Fix It

Kids in the system

An excellent visual analysis of what is wrong with our juvenile justice system and how to make it right from Youth Transition Funders Group.

http://ytfg.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Blueprint_Infographic_RGB1.jpg

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You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners

Excellent work and a very informative piece of writing!

Mephitic's BS Ramblings

“You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners”.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The last executions in the UK took place in 1964, with capital punishment for murder being abolished in 1969 (1973 in NI)  subsequently it was abolished in all circumstances in 1998. Since 2004 the UK has been prohibited from restoring capital punishment as long as it is party to the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite this, recent opinion polls suggest that the majority of the British population remain in favour of capital punishment.

In stark contrast, the death penalty in a majority of US states is flourishing, as of January 1st 2012 there were 3189 people on death row.  Matthew B. Robinson, PhD Professor of Government & Justice Studies of the Appalachian State University offers an explanation as to why:

  • History & Culture: The US has a long history & culture of violence…

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Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

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Source: Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

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Open Letter: Assault in Solitary Confinement

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
Nelson Mandela

December 31, 2015

Dear Readers,

I would have liked to follow up on the last letter I wrote, but something happened last night, or rather, early this morning that has prompted me to write this letter to you. I want to disclose in this letter something I’ve seen many times over. What I am about to describe will give you a glimpse of what inmates throughout the United States must endure on a daily basis.

At around 5:00 a.m. this morning, an inmate from General Population was brought and placed into an empty cell two doors from mine. The correctional officers who escorted this young man to the Segregation building in which I am housed, are as follows: the two highest ranking officials—a Lieutenant and Shift Supervisor, a Sergeant, and three low ranking officers.

The inmate, whose name I will withhold, was handcuffed with his hands behind his back. He was place in that cell by these officers, ranking officials included, and assaulted without remorse. The officers are the same officers who are there to ensure our safety, not to jeopardize it. As I stood at my cell door feeling angry, helpless, vulnerable, and a little frightened for the safety of my peer and myself, I couldn’t help but kick my cell door while at the same time, yelling “GET OFF THAT MAN!” over and over again.

The assault of my peer seemed to go on forever as the seconds ticked by. The assault lasted for about two minutes, but they were the longest two minutes of my day. As the assault concluded, all five correctional officers approached my cell door and the Sergeant asked me, “Do you want some too, Bitch?” As he began to produce a pair of hand cuffs from his back pocket. “You know that shit was wrong Man!” I could not help but respond. A small slot on my cell door which opens to give inmates their trays and also to handcuff inmates before opening the cell door was then opened. I was ordered to stick my hands out. “Stick your hands out inmate!” As the anger got the best of me, as well as knowing what to expect, I responded “…I ain’t doing shit! If you want to smash on me too, you gonna have to come in like that!”

Before a decision could be made, the lieutenant spoke up to say it was time for a shift change. My slot was closed again and before the sergeant walked away from my door he told me, “I’ll be back. Count on it, bitch.” The shift change saved me from also being assaulted.

Even though assaults like this are the norm for inmates, I cannot help but ask,” Are these the repercussions we as inmates deserve for the crimes we have committed? Even after harsh sentences? Is this humane? Would people on the outside believe this treatment is justified? Will it help rehabilitate those who are incarcerated to be treated this way? Acts of violence like this occur throughout the system on a daily basis and we have no help to stop such injustices. I am committed to help raise public awareness on violence against the incarnated.

“To know and yet not to do, is in fact not to know.” – Wang Yang Ming

To me, this means that if humans know of any type of injustice done to another human, community, or even to the environment, and we do nothing, it is as if we did not know it in the first place. In other words, without action, there is no knowing. With that said, I would encourage anyone, whether or not they know someone who is incarcerated, to visit the following web site: www.justice.gov/gov/crt/about/spl, case number: 168-74-0. On behalf of inmates everywhere, I ask that the public not turn a blind eye to the reality of violence against the incarcerated.

More to come…Sincerely, Gilbert V.

More from Gilbert:

Open Letter from an Inmate

About Circle of Love:

Circle of Love Inside – Writing to Prisoners

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Open Letter from an Inmate

I would like to share with you this letter written by my Pen-pal, Gilbert V. who is incarcerated. I have connected with Gilbert through Circle of Love Inside, an organization established by Sri Mata Amritananandamayi Devi, or Amma, who is affectionately know as the hugging saint. Writing to inmates is an important facet of Amma’s outreach and humanitarian activities. Amma is a worldwide humanitarian and the recipient of numerous awards including the Gandhi-King Award for non-violence in 2002, presented to her by Jane Goodall, in recognition of her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence.

Circle of Love Inside

Collage Card by KartiArt

Open Letter from an Inmate

My name is Gilbert V. I’m twenty-seven years old and I’m incarcerated at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I have been an inmate for seven years, the last two of which I’ve spent in a cell that is 6” by 4” for twenty-three hours a day. I now spend twenty-two hours of the six days a week in a cell. I was born in prison and from an early age have been on a path that has led me to where I am today.

Most inmates wonder if those who are not in prison, or who do not have family members who are incarcerated, think of us as fully human. Do we have souls? Should we be locked up and forgotten? We have justifiably been labeled “criminals” by society because we have broken laws and committed crimes. And yet, because we are also human beings, do you believe we can be worth more than our worst crimes? Can we be rehabilitated or should we simple be punished? Do we have the capacity to love, to forgive, and to contribute our gifts to society at some point in time? Can we dare hope society will allow us the chance to be recognized as more than our worst actions, more than the mistakes we have made?

Are we different from all of you on the “outside?” How am I like you, you may wonder? I am a father. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a friend. I am a human being, who like all human beings, has made terrible mistakes in life. My mistakes have had devastating effects on others. I recognize I must pay for my crimes. I understand I have hurt my family and the families of others. I have come to feel true remorse for my crimes. And, I am learning each day to take responsibility for my actions. This is my story.

I will be honest. I was not always conscious of those around me and did not care how my actions affected others. But, since I’ve been incarcerated, I have grown. I have hope I will continue to grow into the person I want to be. I see the world from a different perspective. The realization of how my actions have been selfish, reckless, and wrong, has struck me like a freight train. I have come to the point where I want to change. I can finally admit I need help. I understand that I want to accept help. In fact, I know that I need help to change. Like you, I have dreams and goals. I want to share my life’s experiences with the youth from my community in hopes that I can help young people avoid the mistakes I have made–the mistakes that have led me to this place.

I will share more about myself soon. I welcome your comments.

A prose poem by Gilbert V.

I Know

You act careless and tough, when in reality you just want to be loved. I know because I’ve been there. You blame everything and everyone because nothing is fair. You hold it all in and just follow the herd. But, in reality, you just want to be heard. I know, because I’ve done that too. They call you cool, happy, and strong, but it’s not true. No one knows how you’ve really felt. How can they if you’ve never asked for help? Yes, I’ve been there too. No, you’re right—I am not you. But I know because I’ve been in the same prison full of hurt and fear because no one will listen. I used to think the same way until I received a letter from far away. The letter was filled with love and compassion. It held no judgment for any past action. Many months have passed and I’ve made a friend who I feel is heaven sent. Friendship has saved me from stormy weather. I now have hope that one day I will break free from my cage. So there’s hope for us. I know because I’m there.

– Gilbert Vasquez

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Tiny Homes destroyed by city 10 arrested

Source: Tiny Homes destroyed by city 10 arrested

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