Archives for posts with tag: bravery

The Uncaged Voice

Available free upon request at eclift@vermontel.net

2nd QTR, 2014

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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.

 

                                                     Namasté

                                                     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

Email: Michele@MicheleGarfinkel.com

 

 

 

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

 

Dear Jeremy,

 

            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.

 

                        Love- momma

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

           

Subject: Total Moral Victory in the World’s Worst Prison Today (For Friends, the Public, as well as the Media)

Dearest Family and Friends:

The following is a vivid testimony to the ultimate moral, mental, and spiritual integrity, dignity, and destiny of the Baha’is and indeed of the entire human race:

Ever since the most unjust and undignified imprisonment some three years ago, without a single crime, of the most innocent, the pure, and the saintly Baha’i Leaders in Iran called Yaran, and their subsequent transfer from the Evin Prison to the most backward and unusually harsh prison of Rajaei Shahr where some 5000 topmost killers, drug dealers, and others are kept in clusters under sub-human conditions, despite the lack of food, toilet, sanitation, and basic subsistence conditions, despite the dirt, filth, and illness, in pitiful conditions themselves, the two saint Baha’i ladies Mahvash and Fariba, as with the other five in the men’s quarters, have by the power of their Faith managed to support and uplift the minds and hearts of their fellow pitiful prisoners by giving them their relentless and genuine loving support to the poorer, the more needy, and the more frail fellow prisoners, seeing no evil in any soul, finding and nurturing dignity even in such a man-forsaken hell, and by such genuine constant manifestations of loving kindness, tact, and wisdom, they have now won, as a testimony to human moral triumph, the hearts and minds and the respect of the entire company of these same so-called “criminal” fellow prisoners, despite the moribond conditions and with all forms of dangers to their own very lives!

Over the months, whenever by token of the only good modern-day miracle of cell phone in the prison yard it was made possible for me to hear several times from Fariba herself, and on the one and only occasion when I got the chance and was so blessed by Divine Destiny to visit the two most precious ladies from behind their prison cabins two months ago for one hour myself, as well as from other family members and even directly from prison guard, I heard myself how miraculously the dangerous killers and criminals had been overwhelmingly moved and transformed by the vivifying souls of these two saintly Ladies.

One can recall the moving poem by Mahvash which shook the world, who, amidst the extreme pains of her own, backed against the withered single pomegranate tree in the prison yard, contemplates how the entire burden of these soul-and-body tortured fellow prisoners and indeed all the down-trodden suffering women of the World are now on her shoulder.

I am still amazed how for the entire three years during the rare occasions she could talk on the phone at various times, I never heard Fariba’s voice even once tremble slightly except for joy, with full faith, complete optimism, and total jubilation, as if walking in the highest Paradise all these long suffering days and months and years.

I still recall the moving sharing lessons of Fariba relaying to me how she had found the single remaining hidden spot of beauty and purity in each and all of these worldly despised and abandoned souls. I remember when she described to me the miracle account of how the most feared gang leader of the prison mafia, despite the huge body, knife-cut and broken face and other fearsome features, shun by all other killers and criminals, had been so moved by our twin spiritual heronies over time that she had on one occasion when Fariba had to pass a toilet dirt mud which had become watery sludge after rain, with their prison-customary slippers, she saw Fariba from far and told her from the distance “Please wait, please wait, may your holy feet not be touched and smeared by these dirts”, then, throwing her own slippers bode and insisted Fariba to kindly step on her slippers and pass by the place lest she be mired. No such things happen in any deadly criminal prison anywhere in the world, specially not in any place similar to this Rajaei Shahar, where only for the mere sake of prolonging an already issued death sentence with formalities paperwork procedures, often the killer kills one more unfortunate and helpless person often at random in the prison, days prior to the execution.

I remember how once Fariba was so overjoyed to tell me how one of her friends, where a few had died mercilessly by swine flu and cast and treated like swines by prison authorities, had first completely given up strong drug addiction, only to replace it with super heavy cigarette addiction, then, by the loving care of our two Baha’i Ladies, day by day she had been reducing smooking to the last one cigarette per day. Fariba told me how that day, just a month ago, Fariba hugged that lady, and rather than insisting or requesting her to give up the final cigarette, only told here gently how much she loved her and was proud of her who despite her years of bad luck in life turning her into a despised criminal, she had obtained the positive hope, the will power, and the supreme determination to accomplish what so many others in the free world had failed to succeed despite all facilities, toos, and support. Fariba told me how the lady, now a close friend, immediately threw to the ground the last final cigarette, crushed it with her heels, and, cried and said: Today I finally give up this addiction for the sake of love of you, as I feel and know that some day I shall visit you in your home and tell you and show you the effect of the loving transformation you have affected and created in me and our many other fellow prison mates!

This is how a candle can shine like the torch, nay as the mid-day Sun, in the darkness of desolation, pessimism and hopelessness, and selfishness that has overshadowed the human society.

Now, I just spoke to Fariba few hours ago on the phone who called from the Rajaei Shahr Prison.

For your information, as the latest news, by tomorrow the two most precious angelic ladies, and the crowning pride of future human civilization will be transferred to the worst section of the Prison entitled “The Under-Ground Dungeon for the Worst of the Villains and Criminals”.

This latest panic move by a remorsely helpless oppressor signifies an entirely unparalled scenario in the World History ever, even up to the present date; that is, for the holy and saintly riligious prisoners of conscience to be once more exiled within the prison, one more tier down from the already terrible exiled Prison allocated for the worst of criminals, killers, and drug addicts to the lower degree underground dungeon for the most dangerous criminals amongst them, just becasue these two already grossly-wronged innocent Saint Lady Prisoners, while in the prison under sub-human conditions, have by their shear Faith and their most pure love and consistent un-conditional tireless and selfless caring actions have transformed the prison-hell into a moral and spiritual Paradise, by moving the souls, changing the hearts, educating the minds and rectifying the conducts of the worst criminals, killers, and drug addicts to such a degree as to empower on the one hand many to give up their severe drug addictions simply on their own free will and by natural encouragement they so lovingly received rather than by persuation and without the need to appeal to any medicine or doctors or tools, or force while against all odds in such deprived hell-prison, and on the other hand enable most others to repent and wash their hands and hearts away from all crimes, purely through the power of real love and by the intense natural free persuation of mind and transformation of heart solely affected via the dynamic power of example of the Twin Tahirih’s of the Time!

Fariba said today on the phone that despite the repeated public prison loudspeaker announcements and stern warnings for all prisoners to stay and shun away, and do not associate with the Baha’i prisoners, groups upon groups of prison ladies thronged and gathered around their cell these past three days, with tearful eyes and warm hugging arms and in a unified supreme array of moral support and expressions of reciprocal love and as spontaneous sign of total unified allegience by all prisoners to the Two Saint Ladies whom they have grown to know as Angels from Heaven stationed in this human hell of a notoriously fanatic and repressive unhumane and dark Regime. Even in the oppressors, the Baha’is see light and apply the transforming and healing power of Baha’ullah’s Revelation which is the Most Great Elixir to ultimately
apply the unifying panacea to the ailing body of the World of humanity and finally affect the evolutionary transformation by God’s Will to the entirety of humankind.

“God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of “uncleanness”, whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridván, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand.” Baha’u’llah; Aqdas #75

Just hours ago, Fariba in most happy tone of voice told me that one of the miracles of the Supreme Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah, is that to the degree He gives His loved ones sufferings for the sake of the mental and moral and spiritual education and upliftment of humanity in this dark age of the transition to the collective maturity of the entire human race, to a multiple degree of that He also bestows upon them true felicity, joy, and jubilation; and that how truly happy she is that she is going down to the underground dungeon, with no fear nor a bit concern for imminent interrogations and torture.

This, reminded me vividly of her hand-written letter to me some thirty years back, in 1982 or 1983, posted from Babolsar to Boston, when our dearly beloved martyrs had just ascended to the Abha Kingdom, how she wished to be like the example of the root of the Cause of God, that Divine Tree which is neither of the East nor of the West, whose roots are firm in the earth (dark, cold, wet, lowly soil of the earth as she described), so that its branches and fruits, us, the Baha’is and all the people of good will in the outside world, can overshadow and benefit the entire human kind. Surely that Divine Tree is growing to overshadow the entire human race, now that the roots are going deeprer inside the darkness of human soul in order to bring and apply the world-wide healing remedy of Baha’u’llah.

What a sublime drama in the human history!

Speechless in awe and admiration, I remain.

Ya Baha’u’l – Abha!
(Oh Thou The Most Glorious Glory!)

(name deleted for safety purposes)