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Letters to Our Family (May 2016)

Dear Family,

I write to you with humbleness in my heart, and quilt on my conscience. I have fallen, hard. Once again I am in a hospital because I tried to kill myself. This is my 5th suicide attempt since my incarceration in April 2000. I get overwhelmed by my emotions and I don’t know what to do. I can’t get the help I need and want in prison because of the officers and other tainted staff. Mentally I’m a wreck, emotionally I’m worse. I want people to understand that being sent to a short-term program, such as CHCF-Stockton, can’t begin to unravel the issues that I have to deal with. It’s extremely difficult to advocate for myself when I’m locked in a room most of the time. Grant it that I’m getting more treatment than any other patient currently here, but this is only because I had to do a lot of explaining. Depression & sadness are ruining my life. I really don’t feel like I will ever be able to live a normal life. And on top of being Black, a convict, & bi-sexual I now have to add mentally disordered to the long list. My biological family gives me absolutely no support. This really hurts me, and is a part of my problem. The majority of my outside support comes from my pen-pal M.J. who I met through Black & Pink in 2012. He has become my rock. I don’t know where I’d be without my M.J. From where I’m at now, I will try to go back to Atascadero State Hospital. I parole in 2023, and if I’m going to have any chance at staying out, I need to get all of the help I can. This is why I’m writing. Embarrassment and shame kept me at bay. Now I’m asking my true family for help and support. Any thing you girls and guys can give me on what else I can do, please let me know. Thank you. Before I go, I want to apologize for not giving you guys a chance a long time ago. Please forgive me for being so stupid.

With love,
A.J. O. CA

 

Hey, fellow cell dwellers!

I wanted to add some of my thoughts on PREA, since it’s been talked about lately.

In some ways, PREA has given LGBT inmates a tool for legitimate protection. In my state of Florida, prison staff take anything PREA-related super seriously, almost to a paranoid level. If you make a rape allegation, you’re going straight into administrative confinement and you WILL be transferred. No longer does it all depend on how well you’re able to prove anything.

On the other hand, the above is exactly why people fail to report PREA violations. The victim is treated like an offender. Because even if you don’t want or need to be put in confinement, it happens anyway. And let’s face it, confinement is punishment regardless of why you’re in there. Since you have no job, you lose gain time. You lose lots of privileges like phone, visitation, full canteen, recreation, attendance at religious services, full library access, TV, most of your property (what the didn’t confiscate or throw away), and so much more. As the victim, YOU are put in “the box” and shipped out. Meanwhile, the actual offender may or may not go to confinement, and may or may not be transferred once you’re gone.

Can you imagine if things were handled like this on the outside by the police?

And of great concern is that the guards seem to be attempting to apply the idea of PREA to instances of consensual sex among inmates, in a sense using it as a weapon against us. They fail to comprehend that PREA is the Prison RAPE Elimination Act, and not the Prison SEX Elimination Act.

Some inmates are capitalizing on the guaranteed transfer part in cases such as having borrowed too much money or just not liking the prison they’re at. A false PREA allegation meets their needs, although sadly the allegations often target some other random inmate.

Allegations against guards are almost never made. In Florida anytime a prison staff member has sex, even consensual, with an inmate, it’s treated like rape and is a felony for the staff member. An inmate who alleges having had any sexual contact with a guard and demands to press charges with the state attorney’s office can very well land that guard in the county jail. Followed through all the way, that can put the (former) guard in DOC themselves. So don’t forget that PREA applies to prison staff as well.

Knowledge is POWER. Understand what you’re dealing with in these types of situations. LGBT inmates will likely end up in some situation where PREA comes into consideration. How you handle it, and whether you report it or not, is up to you. I’ve personally let things go simply because I didn’t want to be transferred. Prison administrators know this happens and it reduces their statistics. Sexual violations that aren’t reported never happened. I plan to lobby prison officials to lock up and transfer the offender rather than the victim in a PREA case unless the victim requests placement in confinement and/or transfer.

Hope this helps someone. Let us know what’s going on in your prison system!

Ryan in Florida

 

To My Black&Pink Family,

I’m writing to you today cause I want to express my feelings and thoughts. I hope that some of you will be able to relate to some of my views and if not at least be able to understand them. First let me say that being a transwoman the first thing I learned is that before you can expect others to accept you, you must accept yourself. It took me a long time to understand that. I didn’t always take the easy road either. My entire 20s was sex work, drug abuse, and I was hurting myself more than others. Again no lesson easily learned after spending most of my twenties in jail. I learned that this isn’t what I wanted for myself. Today I keep a journal daily of all my feelings and thoughts. One thing I want to share with you is a quote from my journal. This quote comes from an entry I wrote one morning after Jason came to visit me in jail. “I don’t want my actions to make me different, I want my actions to make a difference.” I believe that if we all think that way we could make a difference and a difference and a change is much needed in todays world. Together we can make that change. I just finished reading a book by Janet Mock, “Redefining Realness,” If you’re a trans woman it’s a must. Please believe me. At age 30- this book helped me learn so much about myself that I wish I learned at a younger age. bell hooks once said, “sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and don’t want it to exist.” With that being said I want you to remember that as long as you have a voice you have power. Being incarcerated has taught me that even though they can take away a lot from me they cannot take my voice which is my power and I won’t give it to them or anybody else. Your thoughts, beliefs, and ideas can be so powerful and influential whether you voice it through pen and paper or verbally. It’s a powerful tool to be able to think for yourself, one tool you must never lose. I could go on forever but I don’t want you to lose interest in what I’ve said. So be strong and remember that as long as we have each other to count on and be supportive things will be alright. Keep your heads up, voice loud, beliefs strong, and believe in yourself.
Love always,

Lexi T. MA

 

Dear Black and Pink Fam,

Now I’ve heard some injustices in my life time hell I’m going through one now with the charge that I’m on. But when I read the May 2015 issue and read about Michael Johnson and he was facing life it compelled me to write something. Now I’m a trans woman and I’ve been HIV Positive for the last eight years. And I’ve heard of the HIV laws around, some of them people can live with, most are down right outragous. I hope for the sake of us people living with the disease that some of these laws change. Instead of criminalizing the virus the states need to put money in to treat the virus. The states need to treat it for what it is and not treat it like it’s a crime. We need to come together and tell our government that these laws are not right. We need to tell them that yes HIV is still a problem but we need to focus more on testing and treatment versus locking people up and creating more of the problem.

Kenisha, Louisiana

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