The Uncaged Voice
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2nd QTR, 2014
Dear Family of Friends,
As Mother‘s Day approaches at the time of writing this edition of the newsletter, there are many emotions in the air here at the Central California Women‘s Facility. Looking around, there are mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Those of us who never had children are somebody‘s child, and therefore, we, too, feel a loss as the holiday nears. It is a day of celebration, but also one of reflection. We are each given the opportunity to reflect on the fact that we didn‘t have to be here instead of at home. It sort of has a way of making you appreciate all the more that mother-daughter bond in your life.
I‘ve asked other inmates to share their own thoughts and feelings on this subject for this issue. A few stepped forward, willing to express themselves.
In another article, a juvenile offender that was sentenced as an adult offered to write about her personal perspective on her experience in the system. As an individual woman, she wanted to join our voices with her own thoughts and be heard.
I‘m happy to report that Michele Garfinkel, the attorney appointed to me at my last parole hearing, has joined our team. She will have her own column on parole issues that specifically affect lifers, as this is her specialty. It is a privilege to have a true professional join our quarterly publication.
We thank you again and again, for not only reading our Uncaged Voices, but for sharing it with others. Please, as always, feel free to photocopy, post on social media, or have others join the e-mail list to begin receiving it themselves. Our goal afer all, is to reach as many people as possible. Your efforts to help achieve that are greatly appreciated.
TC & Mama P
LEGAL LINES – ASK AN INMATE ATTORNEY
By Michele Garfinkel, Esq.
My name is Michele Garfinkel. I had the privilege of representing TC at her last Board hearing. I instantly felt connected to her and her mother after hearing their story. During our conversations, TC asked me to contribute to The Uncaged Voice. I am honored to do so and would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself.
I have been representing inmates for almost a decade. Due to injustices I witnessed growing up, I went to law school with the intent to make a difference. I have found my calling in working with life inmates and have decided to devote my practice to lifers. Being able to witness the rehabilitative process has been the most fulfilling work I have done to date.
The purpose of my column in The Uncaged Voice is to answer your questions and address the issues you find most important. I will be accepting questions and/or requests for topics via mail or email. I will also do my best to keep you up to date on new developments in the parole process as the process is currently going through many changes. The goal of my column is not to give legal advice, but to assist you and your loved ones in better understanding the journey before you. Please use the email designated below so as not overwhelm our hard working editor.
I look forward to being a part of The Uncaged Voice family.
Michele Garfinkel, Esq.
11310 Prospect Drive
Suite 10 PMB 53
Jackson, CA 95642
Once a Year – by Connie (Huerta)
Some people say that Mother‘s Day isn‘t a real holiday but more of a commercial event. Whether they are individuals without children or don‘t have a healthy relationship with their own mother, or both, I do not know. The only thing that I can say for sure is that for myself, it is a day of both joy and heartache.
I have been incarcerated for over a decade and in all that time I‘ve seen my children once a year for the past ten years, and only on Mother‘s Day weekend. My own mother‘s health has declined with age and diabetes. My father has been gone for a good part of my life; it‘s almost like he was never there at all. I have one sibling, a sister who judges me, saying she‘d never have committed the crime that I did. That is easy to say when you‘re not the one being beaten and raped. She puts herself above me and believes that I have forfeited my parental rights to see my children, given that I killed their father. I guess it‘s easier to condemn shoes you have no clue how to walk in.
I‘m fortunate to have an aunt who knows a thing or two about domestic violence and Intimate Partner Battering. She volunteers at a women‘s shelter. Since my mother could no longer travel here – the middle of nowhere – given her health, my aunt began bringing my son and daughter on Mother‘s Day weekend five years ago. My son turns 18 two weeks after our next visit. He‘ll be able to bring his sister on his own once that happens.
It is not easy being a mother in prison, watching your children grow up in pictures. Our choices are our own but we‘re not the only ones suffering the consequences. Unlike many others here, I have a release date in four years. I am so blessed to not be a lifer, and I learned quickly that in the blink of an eye, anyone could be, with one bad decision. It has been very difficult not being able to see my children more often, but by the grace of God, I do see them. There are far too many who do not.
Mother‘s Day is not about cards, flowers and gifts. Not to all of us, at least. For women like me who learn just how easily parental rights can turn into parental privileges, Mother‘s Day is a day of merciful reunification. It is a celebration of love and a special bond between a mother and her childen. It‘s most certinly not just another day. As a matter of fact, it is everything. After experiencing it behind these walls, you can appreciate it with a new perspective upon your release. At least I know that is true for me. It is both joyful and heartbreaking … and precious. Oh, so precious indeed.
Jeremy – A Letter from Your Mother
I know that you´re confused right now about everything that is happening. I‘ll never forget the look on your face and how haunted your eyes looked when the officer placed me in his car. That doesn‘t make him the bad guy, Jeremy. I‘m the one who broke the law doing something I shouldn‘t have been doing. The officer was only doing his job. Please don‘t be mad at him for the police overall. I put a lot of people in danger and by arresting me, he was protecting so many more people. Had it been someone else that had done what I did, driving their car while drunk, I‘d want them arrested too. I don‘t know what I would do if a drunk driver hit you on your bicycle. I‘d want them to be punished, therefore I must be punished. It makes no difference that I didn‘t actually hurt anyone. The point is that I could have if not pulled over and arrested.
Jeremy, when you get older, you may have friends that want to party with alcohol and drugs. Maybe you already have been introduced to that world, but are still too young to drive. Once you are though, you could end up like me right now, and I do not want that for you. Just because you don‘t drive a car, doesn‘t mean that you can‘t harm yourself or cause an accident while riding your bicycle or skateboard. I know that sooner or later you‘ll face the introduction of alcohol and drugs into your life. I can only hope that it is much later, and that you have learned from this chaper in my life.
I am so sorry for not being there on your birthday and the holidays. I‘m sorry that I‘m not there to play games or read together. I wish so much that I could‘ve been with you when you saw the sea lions, or when the seagull pooped on Uncle Gino‘s head. I‘m seeing what I‘m missing, and I don‘t want to miss out on the life I took for granted ever again.
Jeremy, please don‘t be mad at the police, the DA , or the judge. They were only protecting the public from the menace that your mother became. Please don‘t be mad at your aunts, uncles, or Grandpa Jeff. They are all doing the best they can doing what I should be home doing myself. If you need to be mad at me, that‘s okay. Get it out of your system. Talk to someone. Talk to me. Don‘t hold back. You didn‘t do anything wrong, I did. And I swear to you, I‘ll make up for it, but first I must accept my consequences.
This Mother‘s Day, once you leave the visiting room, it will hit me all over again just how much I took for granted. Just how much I‘m not the only one serving this sentence. Jeremy, I love you, and I will never, ever, do this to you again. When I said my actions didn‘t hurt anyone, I was wrong. My actions most definitely hurt you. I am so sorry. Please know that I love you. I miss you like Blue Man‘s.
Being A Grandma in Prison – by P. H.
In the Easter – Passover season, it seems so much harder just being here, in prison. I feel filled with pain in my heart and soul, as I serve my sentence, isolated from the outside world. The law found me guilty, so I must serve my time.
I am eternally grateful for the family I have. I am a mother of five adult children, aged 32 to 42 years. I am also the proud grandmother of 11 grandchildren ranging from 5 months to 24 years old. The youngest was born while I was here, waiting for the news. I could not be there, which makes it especially painful, because I was present during all previous births. I am simply missing way too much.
My husband is the greatest man alive, and we‘ve been married 48 years. He is the most loving, kind man I could have been blessed with, and he has been 100% supportive in my predicament, standing beside me.
My husband and children are exceptionally good to me, and I feel grateful without end for how well cared for I am by them. The love that I‘ve showered them with is coming back to me in abundance. I was a very abused child, thus making my feelings all the more profound. I am a combination of a Polish Jewish father and a German Christian mother. My mother, in her 80‘s, still writes me four times a week. She and I suffered a great deal at the hands of my stepfather, but we are survivers!
Today, I have to find strength to be strong for my entire family, bot here in America and in Europe. I know that my family will visit often and maintain this bond of love. There are so many other prisoners here that do not have those commitments of the heart in action, and that compounds my sincere appreciation. There are inmates who do not get visits or mail at all, so I am rich in these priceless treasures.
It takes more than just familial ties to face each incarcerated day here. My faith is strong, thus making it possible to cope through prayer and meditation. It is at times unbearable, and one must find their center to cope.
My heart is very full and goes out to all grandmothers both in prison and out in the free world. Whhether free or not, the separation of time and space between loved one is painful. The sense of loss can be overwhelming. Prayer and meditation has aided and healed the pain I feel on a day to day basis, and the same can be true for you as well. It is in centering ourselves that we can embrace our own light.
While it is not easy to be a grandmother in prison, I want to stress that the bars on the windows do not lock up the heart. There are no bars on my heart, and it is my intention to encourage others to remain free from within in the very same manner. May you all feel the love that you deserve this Mother‘s Day.
More Than A Number – by Lakaysha Redd
I was incarcerated at the age of seventeen for murder, in the death of my girlfriend. The charge was later reduced to vehicular manslaughter. It is my testimony that I did not actually kill my girlfriend, but my inability to control my anger and other emotions were a problem. I was raised in a middle class environment with parents present to teach me morals and ethics. I didn’t have any prior behavioral problems; yet that one fateful day, many lives were changed when one life ended.
While the prison system’s goals on paper are to rehabilitate criminals, I beg to differ. As I rode up to the prison‘s barbed wire fences and tall gray concrete buildings the day I arrived here, I felt freedom and my life as I knew it escaping me. Society would like to believe that prison is teaching inmates how to rehabilitate themselves and resist criminal behavior. In actuality, I‘ve witnessed one large warehouse that educates inmates to be more clever at committing crimes. By this, I emphasize that many staff members contribute to that education by assisting in the breaking of laws as a means of survival in here. Prison is a world within itself if you choose to indulge in drugs, sex, theft, trafficking, and an array of other violations. It is all possible behind these walls. And avoidable.
During my imprisonment, I have witnessed how some inmates have allowed the system to steal the good parts of their hearts, minds, and spirits. Prison is a place of discipline, but that doesn‘t mean that we have to surrender our mental freedom and sense of character, or our state of humanity. There is a daily fight to not lose grasp of these things but there are those who succumb to prison life in negative ways and indulge in drug abuse and unhealthy relationships. Many do so due to the lack of help from family and friends on the outside who sadly assume that all our needs are met by the taxpayer. They are not, and women here slowly slip away, becoming people they never thought themselves capable of becoming.
I am not one of those women; I am an incarcerated student. I‘m looking into the future, working on my A.A, degree with Feather River College, and planning to further my academic successes in psychology and business. I work my hardest not to let the negative aspects of prison life influence me, as I strive to use every resource possible to keep me free on the inside. Although I am locked in a cell each day, prison cannot lock up my heart and mind. I have plans for a better life that doesn‘t include being in prison.
I committed a crime as a result of not having control over my anger, and I am in a place that tests it daily. I am not just another number. I am a human being learning from her mistakes. I am a woman seeking self-help, even when the prison doesn‘t offer it. I could succumb to the depth of darkness like many others have, or I could rise above it. I chose to rise above it. Not everyone in prison maintains criminal thinking or behavior. I‘m proof that there is another whole class of inmates here. We are the class that deserves a second chance.
Drum Roll, Please!
Elayne Clift and Anna Ingolfsdottir, two of the people who put our newsletter together and get it out to you, have just published books!
Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman-supported Birth in America by Christine Morton, PhD, and Elayne Clift, M.A. was published in January by Praeclarus Press. It has been called “THE definitive work on doulas in the United States, immediately drawing readers in to the story of doulas in the U.S. and of the social movement that arose to support their incorporation into American hospital birth.” Doulas are (mostly) women who provide emotional and practical support to women throughout labor and delivery. (The word ‘doula’ comes from the Greek for “woman servant.”) Elayne has been a doula at her local hospital for ten years, and even did a volunteer doula stint in Somalia, Africa in 2011. A prolific writer, she also published her first novel in 2010. Hester’s Daughters is a modern, feminist retelling of the American classic The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (www.elayneclift.com)
Anna published two books in April, both available on Amazon. The first, Losing a Spouse: On Love, Grief, and Recovery,was written in collaboration with a well-known Icelandic psychologist, Guðdinna Eydal, whose husband died four years ago. The book is based on Anna‘s journal written when her husband became ill with cancer and died seven months later when their three daughters were 12, 6, and 4 years old. Guodinna also shares her personal story and writes from a psychologist’s perspective about loss and grief, especially when a spouse dies. The book includes assignments to help the surviving partner in the process of grief. (www.losingaspouse.com). Anna’s other book, Belongings, also tells the story of her personal experience as a stand alone work of creative non-fiction, eliminating the psychological context and assignments.
From the Heart (TC)
I read a daily word, “Streams In the Desert“ by L.B. Cowman, first published in 1925. It was written out of her heartache as she cared for her ailing husband from 1917 until his death six years later. It‘s the perfect daily word for a prisoner because it inspires us to see hardships as obstacles on our way toward hope, betterment, personal strength, and true faith.
The entry for April 4th I quote briefly here:
Mom and I have had a tumultuous last year and a half, dealing with a variety of issues and both conflictive and defective personalities. While we cannot control another person, we do have the reins in our grasp to decide how we will deal with those who are detrimental to our own well-being, and more precisely, our path on this journey towards freedom‘s gate.
When you put women into closed quarters, there are bound to be differences in opinions, belief systems, and perspectives of what is respectful and/or acceptable. When it comes to our sense of parole-acceptable behavior, anything that impedes that is unhealthy and calls for action. Not an act of violence, just the act of making a healthy decision. Being that there was way too much conflict and chaos going on in unit 514, I had to get mom and I the heck out of there. Like the passage I quoted said, „”he smallest trial may become an object crushing everything in its path into misery and despair, if we allow it.“ I could no longer allow it.
Mom and I are happily relocated to unit 513 where staff has structure and discipline is more visible than the animal house we left. I‘m happy to report that my mother will be in a less stressful environment now, and what a great gift for Mother‘s Day!
So, I say from the heart to you, while change is not what many of us want, it may sometimes be what we need. I prayed for mercy, God delivered, but first I had to stop trying to fix it my way, and get out of His way. Once I did that, we were given the gift of more peace and less stress; we were doubly blessed. I just had to get out of His way! Silly me. Silly, silly, me.
Blessed Be –
TC and Mama P
Teresa Paulinkonis Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis
W45118 513-5-3U W45120 513-5-3L
P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610