Friday, May 4, 2007

update and a letter

Hi everyone.
I created this listserv yesterday b/c when I tried to send this brief sequence of events, half of them came back and my email account was disabled per a breach of contract on bulk mail. Oops! So I am sorry to those of you who have been waiting for news. Below is that message from Cynthia who talked to Tina yesterday morning. I have not received any updates since. Following is one of Tina's letters that I received this week.

This is the most current info on Tina that I have. She got sick from food poisoning on Tuesday night.

This might be rather scattered and disjointed because Tina
talked fast and time was running out on the phone to say all or wait till
I wrote everything she said. At any rate, Tina wanted you to put this
out on the blog, or whatever you do, so people know what goes on inside a
prison ... (in our country this is). The following is what I quickly
wrote but had no time to clarify with her. My impression is that most of this has already been said in some
way...but it's difficult not to do what she feels is important.

9-12midnight Tuesday --- she vomited and subsequently was very weak.
1am ---went to Medical Surge...was handed a bowl to throw up in
Waited 30 minutes
had fever---nurse said no she didn't have a fever---then "yes, a little
She got two regular Tylenol
Went to bed---had to report at work at 4:30am
Medical did not give her any paper regarding her condition so the
supervisor said "If I don't have word from Medical, you are not sick."
At 6:30 am she was sent to Med Surge again climbing 4 flights of stairs,
stopping often---no one was on duty.
Returned by elevator to work; was told to leave by supervisor; returned
to her compound (where she sleeps) still with no papers. {papers are
essential otherwise guards on duty do not believe the person's word or
Went by wheelchair to Med Surge--- to PA on second floor, to Unit
officer far away---her blood pressure was low
Got a day off---went to bed
Next day---up at 4am---begged to go to sick call again, etc., etc.

"There is cruelty and bullying in here."

April 26, 2007
Dear Friends,
At mail call I get so much mail people think I am some celebrity. I tell them I am just lucky and that so many people who are praying for me, are also praying for all of them too.

Some folks wanted to know what this place is are little details...The locks on every door but none on the inmate bathrooms are Monster locks which are opened with ENORMOUS keys. Each "officer" has a set of huge keys on a chain which is attached to a chain that goes around their waist. You can hear a guard coming for miles. It is the way you know to scatter if you are someplace you are not supposed to be. Of course I am NEVER where I'm not supposta be, right!?!

Small things here like there is NEVER soap in bathrooms. When I complained about how unsanitary this is, I got a smartalec remark from the staff. And I have learned in the first week if you find a bathroom with toilet paper, (these too are rare) you'd better take some extra b/c there is usually never TP when you really need it. I am now used to using TP only when I need it! Sorry if I grossed you out.

Then there are the lines...OMG the lines...they are long and often schedules conflict so if you are supposed to get soap and you are waiting by the laundry well, they may or may n ot open and if they do, it will be late. TYhis will cause you to weigh if it is better to WAIT or miss soap to go to a call-out (prison talk for an appt.).

There are three washers and dryers on our unit for over (we just got new people) 250 women. My wash time is 12:00 midnight on Monday. I have 45 min. to get it finished. I have only 3 bras and 6 underwear, 3 pants and 4 somethings HAVE to be worn and worn. I do stink! I try to air things out. I only have time for ONE load of wash so when I HAVE to do sheets and blanket (I think I will wait till they stand up on their own) I will not be able to do clothes that week unless I can get some friends to put some of my clothes with theirs...

The thing that ABSOLUTELY breaks my heart...the elderly here and the sick. Very old women behind the fence! I think to myself, there is NOTHING they could have done to warrant this treatment! I think the "prison industry" is greedy! I know this is a medical facility but it is sooo very much a prison where comfort, compassion, care is so short.

In this department, too, I find the small things are all I can do and so vital. For example, if I hold the door, or say hello or ask someone how they are, these seem like HUGE miracles..It is the little acts of kindness that seem to catch people by surprise and I can only hope and pray it lifts someone's spirit and in turn they spread some kindness which ripples out all over this hellish place. Honestly, here kindness, love and faith live side by side with despair, pain, loneliness and suffering. I see it everyday. Faith in God is all most of these women have. When I say that, here is what I mean...Imagine you are poor or lower middle can't afford a lawyer so you have to settle for a public defender who, in many cases, does the bare minimum to fulfill his/her obligations. They don't tell you options or appeals and heck, most of us, no matter what our socioeconomic class, don't know the law. So you get sentenced to 10 years or 5 years or 20 years or more. YOu come to Carswell, where strip searches are common, degrading attitude of the staff is the norm. You are "trouble," a "bother." You are told as I was told..."All questions are DUMB so don't ask any." (I am not lying). YOu are always "guilty," "faking," "a pain," you always wear khaki brown or at night sweats. YOu follow a myriad of picky rules and if you violate ONE, just one, you can go to the SHU (security housing unit--like solitary confinement, punishment). You live behind two fences topped with razor wire and rolls of razor wire in between. YOu work hard each day for 12 cents an hour while the "supervisor" stands over you to make sure you "Do your job." And you do this over and over and over again for 10, 20, 30 years of your life. Meanwhile. your children grow and do all those "first" things you dream about seeing...the baseball games, prom, driver's license, graduation, first boy or girlfriend...and the list goes on. In essence, life goes on without you while you sit in a place where the red tape bars you from the smallest of pleasures, where you wear "borrowed" clothes...where you are told what you can buy, where your mail, both in coming and out going along with your phone calls are listened to, read, and censored.. For 10 or 20 or 30 years or LIFE!!! Do you get the picture? YOur life is in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. room you share with 3 other women, your clothes, and all items are in a tiny locker or a grey box under your bed. Honestly we take turns getting dressed unless I get dressed in my top bunk. For 2 months, three months, six months, you might be able to do this with hope...but for 10 or 20 or 30 years!?!? My heart aches here! It aches so much. One woman said, "Don't ever forget those you leave behind." OMG, how could I? I am #92944-020 an I live with #05467-140 and #48621-046...One week seemed like months, 10 days and I feel as if I am forgetting what the "outside," the "free world" as it is called, looks like. Do people really get to drive wherever they want? Oh yes, that did happen once.

Even scraps of tape used to reseal envelopes get reused. It is reused to tape pictures in the lockers, but God help you if you tape them on the outside of the locker door, they are gone and NOT returned. So for some, like the man born blind in the Gospels, Jesus is all the women at Carswell have. They are the condemned of our society...They have the extraordinary faith b/c it is all they have to give hope in the midst of despair. Jesus asks them, in the monotony of the day by day, month by month, year by year sameness, "What is it I can do for you?" And so many with ALL OUT humility say, "God, give me hope, keep me from despair." I tell you I am HUMBLED. I shake the hand, stand in lines, walk the "track" with SAINTS everyday. I am so blessed to be with them. Yes there are angry women here, fakes, liers, frauds, and cheats...But I have found if I show any kindness, the smallest kindness, like holding the door, it is returned to me a hundred fold. Honestly, I do not fear any woman here...and this is a total mix..violent and nonviolent, innocent and guilty.

I so want to put up on my wall by my bunk Gustavo Guttierez's words "The least human being has ABSOLUTE value and hence an ABSOLUTE right to be loved, whatever the price may be." I know I would be yelled at to take it down.

Many of you have asked what I need?? Well, I go through stamps and phone money like water, but I have money or can get it sent...what I need most is you all to hold us up to the light. TO hold to the light those who are suffering here. For the elderly in wheelchairs. But most of all, please pray the "Free Public" Americans who are not behind the fence, that they come to understand and care. THat we understand how human beings are being used to make profits for the "prison industry." Yes, prisons are big business. Conspiracy laws and mandatory minimum equal profits fo this "industry."

I am think about Negro spirituals. During slavery times, they gave hope to people, many just like prisoners my head one runs just now...
"My life goes on in endless song, above earth's lamentations. i hear the real though far off hymn, that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that ROCK I'm clinging. Since love is Lord of Heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

With much love, Tina

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