Archives for posts with tag: women in prison

ote:  Esther:  My husband died November 2014, and I faded out of my SorryGnatWorldCitizen blog; I am still a sorry gnat on the spiritual path of becoming a giant eagle, but measurement of who I am these days is not my quest.  I am still connected to TC, a privilege I feel, and am posting her latest newsletter.  I noticed in the LA Times today, someone got 23 years for murder, and TC and her mom, have been in prison for ever; her stepfather abused her forever, but she and her mom, Barbara, didn’t receive battered woman status.  Prayers are the best thing when all seems hopeless.  She’s spunky, and is amazing I think.

The Uncaged Voice

4th QTR, November 2015

Dear Family of Friends,Has it really been nearly a year since last Christmas? They say that time flies when you‘re aving fun. I reckon it also flies when you‘re not counting the days, but instead, counting your blessings. We have more than we can count, and then very recently, had one that is the equivelent of the cherry on top. I‘m referring to the attorney and law professor that agreed to defend Mom‘s case pro bono! Who said that lightning doesn‘t strike twice? We beg to differ. This is Mom‘s second pro bono attorney, but technically, it is the third one to look at the case on her behalf. We believe this third time is a charm, and well, things are looking up!

This is the season of gratitude, and hopefully more love and humanity, and less violence. This is when people stop to actually focus deeply on what they have, more than on what they do not. What we are most grateful for is all of the family of friends who embrace us from across the miles with a letter in the mail. We are so blessed to have such angels in our lives, and we can never thank you enough. That connection to the free world makes all the difference. Each one of you, in r own way, makes a world of difference.

Thank you so very, very much.Love, Peace, and Light,TC and Mama ‚P‘

Prison Lingo

For those in the free world, you may sometimes be a little unclear on what we‘re talking about if we don’t explain our prison lingo. We usually do explain our use of such slang or shorthand but there are times when we are simply on a roll in our letter and neglect to be more informative. So here’s a little Prison Lingo 101.

BPH: Board of Parole Hearings, a.k.a. The Parole Board. When I say I’ll waive my BPH for two years, I mean I will request to not hold my parole hearing for two years.

ADA: It could mean Assistant District Attorney or Americans With Disabilities Act, depending in the context.

AD-SEG: Administrative Segregation, or The Hole.

805: The building number for the infirmary.

OTC: Out to court; transferred back to county jail.

OTM: Out to medical; transported to medical office or facility in the local community for treatment.

C/O: Correctional officer.

I/M: Inmate, as in I/M Paulinkonis

C/C: A double classification called “c-over-c” – basically punishment status for the I/M‘s who don‘t want to work, keep testing dirty for drugs, or are habitual behavioral problems for staff.

LTOPP: Long Term Offender Pilot Program. It is provided to I/M lifers 2-3 years prior to next BPH hearing           

Q & A with T.C.

 Q) Why waive your BPH for 2-3 more years? Couldn‘t you do more for Mom from the outside if paroled?

A) Everyone believes that, but I have carefully evaluated the facts, options, and worst case scenario. I can do more for Mom once I go OTC to begin a new trial. There is evidence that we haven’t openly discussed in letters on this format, but please people, I know what I’m doing. Everyon’‘s hearts are in the right place and so is mine. Once I am released, I’d never be truly free until my mother is released too. A new trial means new evidence and exposure of exculpatory facts that BPH and the DA hid for years. Parole is not an option.

Q) But, wouldn’t you have more benefits on parole?

A) Yes, That and a lifetime leash. My being paroled does not help Mom. If it doesn’t help Mom, it’s not an option.

Q) Okay, so what are your options, released without parole?

A) The short answer is that I’ve done a lot of research. I have sent out inquiries, many not acknowledged with the courtesy of a response. The good news is that I found a re-entry for only seniors aged 50 and over. Being that we are fed up with Romper Room on drugs around here, we’d love a place strictly for real adults. I wrote the Executive Director and await a response.                                                        * *   

A.R.C.‘s Ride Home Program

The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) is formed of mostly formerly incarcerated people. ARC sends ex-felons to California state prisons to pick-up long-termer parolees on their release date. Long termers are people who’ve served ten or more years while the outside word has changed. ARC reduces culture shock.

I read about ARC in The New York Times Magazine and I agree that such a program needs to exist. The parolee is met at the prison release area by a couple of guys, ex-cons themselves, who offer the parolee a cell phone to call home, and a ride to a restaurant where they can be served a hot meal without having to stand in a line to get it, or be threatened if they get up out of their seat until told it’s time to leave. For the long termer, that goes against the conditioned behavior that has been instilled in them for years, day after day. They need to relearn life, free and in public, and ARC is there to help them do just that.

The two-man team of ARC drivers take the parolee to the DMV to get a photo I.D. card, and to a nearby department store to get new clothes. The parolee doesn‘t have to touch the $200 gate money they were given. ARC gradually inches the parolee back into the free world during the day trip, before dropping them off at their destination, usually a re-entry program.

This ride home program is currently only for male drivers to pick-up male parolees. That led me to ask why not a female driver to pick-up female parolees? And the light grew brighter! I am in the process of contacting an attorney who is one of the ARC board members who was responsible for helping all non-violent Third Striker inmates released in the aftermath of 2012 changes in law. I want to ask him that question, but more importantly, I want to ask why not me? He teaches law at Stanford University, and well, why not me? Why not a ride home or to a re-entry facility for women who’ve been locked away while engineers taught cars to drive themselves? It’s a whole new world out there and women need reduced culture shock too. Where I see a need I see a purpose. Time for some equality. I am woman – hear me roar!

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Beauty Tips by Audrey Hepburn

Ms. Hepburn wrote this piece when asked to share her own beauty tips. It was read years later at her funeral. Thank you to Carol Rischette for sharing with us, now we can share with others. Here are words to live by.

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.            For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.            For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.            For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.            For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others

tear

Army of Woman await their men’s return from Baghdad

Troop Day by Sally M. McNeil (USMC)

Troop Day was held at CCWF on 10 Oct 15 by the Veterans Support Group (VSG) and Dependents Support Group (DSG). It was planned many months in advance, and my day began at 0500 hours.

VSG and DSG planned Troop Day to honor the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). We planned a PFT (Physical Fitness Training) for the women who wanted to participate. Think Boot Camp. Each participant had to complete as many push-ups and sit-ups as they could in two minute test times each. Once that was done, they took to the track for a two mile run, seeking their personal best. Some struggled on the PFT, and some plowed through it like the warriors they could have been.

The PFT is meant to keep soldiers conditioned and physically fit to withstand going to war, in the deserts of the Middle East, jungles of Vietnam, or the mountains of Afghanistan. It takes endurance to fight in a war. They don’t cancel a war because it’s a scorching 133°F or a chilling -22°F. Wars are fought seven days a week for 24 hours a day. Holidays are not observed or honored by the enemy. They‘ll attack when we’re not ready, so you have to have three shifts a day for 24 hours of surveillance. It is the assurance that the enemy cannot sneak up and attack at the dawn of a day.

Conditioning is important along with support from the American people. As prisoners, we may be incarcerated, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that we still love our country and are proud of the branch of service that we represent and served in.

I was in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years. I served my country honorably, and CDCR can never take that away from me. Being a Marine prepared me to endure 20 years of imprisonment. I‘ve kept myself conditioned and do my time like a prisoner of war. I will survive my incarceration due to my military discipline and training.

I am a Three Blue Star Mom. All three of my children have been to war. My son, John Jr., is a Green Beret who has been to Afghanistan three times. My daughter has been to both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She had to leave her son with my niece as she went off to honorably fight for our country. My children were welcomed back with wonderful greetings from the press. However, that did not happen for my three uncles who fought in the Vietnam War. Because of this, I painted a yellow ribbon to respectully welcome back all Vietnam veterans. The back-drop of the ribbon was cammoflauge in an array of green, brown, black and beige. It was displayed in the gym during Troop Day for everyone to see … and reflect upon.

For me personally, Troop Day meant thanking the VFW‘s Vietnam vets. They were given a hard time when they returned from the war. I want to thank all of the veterans who did not receive a hearty welcome back home to their land of the e. God bless them, and God bless the U.S.A.Thank Veteran’s for Giving Day

It‘s not a day off of work or school to play video games or to finally reorganize your spice rack.

It‘s not just another day on the calendar. Veteran’s Day is a day of remembrance and gratitude. It’s a day to mourn the loss of lives cut down in their prime, or to have a sincere empathy for those still alive but forever changed. It’s a day to not take their personal sacrifices for granted.

Some came home but far too many didn’t. Sadly, there are those still fighting the battles in their minds. It isn’t like a bad day at the beach. It isn’t a forgotten memory. They remember. We need to remember them. Even if it is only to say a prayer, go on; God is listening. For those who can, visit woundedwarrior.org and give what you can. They need us.

Is it any wonder that in November, Thanksgiving falls just two weeks after Veteran’s Day? Let that be one of your reasons to celebrate – the service of our military personnel. They certainly deserve to be appreciated and remembered.

Ed. Note: Wounded Warrior has come under criticism for the limited amount of their funds that they spend to directly support veterans. Please consider researching other reliable organizations to send donations.

 

 

 

 

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… And I Am Grateful

 

Somewhere on the streets of Guatemala there is a ragged child who hasn’t eaten since yeasterday. The pain of their growling stomach is only one of several stages in starvation, something they know all too well.

Somewhere along the Ivory Coast, a man can feel the warmth of the day fade away, ebbing from daylight as the sun begins to set. He cannot see the blend of yellow and orange hues that paint the sky, his vision long gone from wounds suffered in a bloody civil war.

Reading a discarded issue of National Geographic, I see the vivid reality of childen without shoes, I see someone who must carry heavy barrels of river water to their mud hut, I see faces of people who truly know what it is  to live a hard life.

And I feel grateful.

Somewhere, there’s a woman wrinkled by time who weeps over the ashes of a war that has taken good men from her family, and some grandchildren too.

In the ruins of Syria, innocent people trying to escape inevitable death by terrorism scrape together what little they have in order to seek a new life in Europe. Some cannot afford the life vests to protect their childen for the desperate sea voyage but they risk the challenge all the same. And children become another statistic taken by the sea – innocent and so young.

With tears in my eyes, I am grateful.

In many places across America there are people trapped by floods or hikers lost in the wilderness because they took a wrong turn. Perhaps a child sleeping on the couch is struck by a drive-by bullet and hangs on in the ICU. So much misfortune, so much pain, loss, and inhumanity. It all makes me that much more grateful to live the life I’m living.

I‘m not saying that I’d want to re-live my entire childhood or this prison experience all over again if I had the chance not to. But I cannot deny that both have made me more resilient for what lies ahead. My experience has given me a strength that I otherwise would not have. I am a better, stronger woman for the journey. It has introduced each of you into our lives, and we would not want to erase that. And with heartache, with life’s struggles, wounds and scars, character is born. I am a better daughter, friend, and confident for the entire experience.

And for all of that, I am grateful.

 

To Quote a TV Show 

One of the television shows I watch is Madam Secretary. On the October 25th episode, the daughter of the Secretary was caught up in a scandal. Apparently, she made the mistake of taking selfies of her boyfriend (The President’s son), and herself in bed. A former secret service agent out to avenge being fired took possession of the lost cell phone that held the photos and not only released one risky photo to the media but also threatened to release the rest if not paid handsomely not to. Once he was caught, the daughter of The Secretary wanted 15 minutes alone with the guy. Clearly, she had something to say.

The two were put in a room where she broke the ice by asking about his family. She asked questions about him. He answered politely, but then finally he said, “Look, I don’t know what you want from me.” She looked him in the eye and ever so calmly replied, “I just wanted to get to know you better. I didn’t want to reduce you to the one bad decision you had made.“ Something he had done to her.

I grabbed a pen and wrote those lines down. I love a good quote and this was enormous! Those words spoke volumes about each and every one of you who have met us only through the written word and not yet in person. It spoke directly to my heart. Thank you to each of you who took the time to get to know us better and did not reduce us to the one bad decision I made on New Year’s Eve, 1988. And thank you for letting us in return get to know yyou. Thank you.

From The Heart 

Years ago, I heard another quote but I cannot recall where I heard it. I only know that I wrote it down:

“What hurts us the most, that’s where we find our strength – that’s what keeps us going.” 

Words to live by.

Some of you tell me how impressed you are by my strength to carry on after all we’ve been through. Some are even more surprised at my tolerance and patience with the long, drawnout process of this appeal for a new trial. Many have told me that they’d have lost patience by now. So, how do I do it? What hurt me is what keeps me going. He’s not allowed to win every battle, even in death. My stepfather is not allowed to define my character by his own flaws.

First of all, I’m really in no big hurry to leave Mom here alone without me. I do have to leave at some point but I‘m not in a hurry. I’m on God’s timetable, not my own. If I had the choice to rush into court for a new trial clear back in say, 2005, I would not have been as ready as I am now, nor would I have the evidence that questions the DA’s integrity. So yes, God knew what He was doing all along. The DA thinks that they are running the show, but I know better.

I have the will to face down the dragon. I don’t know how to give up, so quitting was never an option. I kept the faith, allowed hope into my heart, ran with patience the race before me, and well, like the song says, “I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.” I can relate deeply to the lirics in :Fight Song:”

Like a small boat, on the ocean            Sending big waves, into motion            Like how a single word, can make a heart open            I may only have one match, but I’ll make an explosion            This is my fight Song, take back my life song            Prove I’m alright song, my power’s turned on            I don’t care what no one else believes –            I still got a lot of fight left in me!

So, I say from the heart to you – my strength come from a power greater than myself. My willingness to face demons from the past and ressurecting old ghosts is all part of doing what this girl has got to do. And yes, it would be a badge of honor to hear them say, “You fight like a girl.” Your darn right I do. Right into the New Year and beyond! Its’ time to fight lik a girl!

Happy Christmas & New Year,TC and Mama P

Teresa Paulinkonis                                                                  Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis

W45118     513-5-3U                                                             W45120     513-5-3L.O. Box 1508                                                             P.O. Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610                                                           Chowchilla, CA 93610

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

           

T.C and Mama ´P´ Quarterly Newsletter, 2nd QTR, 2011

Dear Family of Friends,

It is our hope that this issue of the newsletter finds you doing well. As time goes by, more and more readers have joined us by the sharing of distributed copies with others. We would like to encourage each of you to pass it on to others to read. Esther has posted it on her blog while others have e-mailed their e-mail versions to their friends. Knowledge is to be shared. In some pieces, it may be more perspective than scientific fact, but there‘s nothing wrong with sharing that too. Please feel free to make copies and share with others. For anyone who wants to automatically recevie this quarterly newsletter via e-mail, all you need to do is to send your request to Anna Ingolfsdottir who resides in Iceland. She is my typist and publisher, yes, but she is my friend first. E-mail is annaing@centrum.is

I have asked several other „writers with a number“ to join forces with me by making submissions to include in this quarterly report. Some did not meet the deadline, so maybe next time. In this issue you will be introduced to Gia, a volunteer Health Peer Counselor and breast cancer survivor that helps educate other inmates on health related issues. I‘m proud to have you meet La Donna, a woman I met about 13 years ago in the U-Turn prison prevention program directed at youth-at-risk. Donna Lee, an LWOP prisoner, choose to write on the topic of parole. Her piece was most informative, but I had to edit it to fit in this format, while hoping I kept it well in tact.

Thank you for not judging us. I mean, if you‘re reading this, you‘re either a prisoner or you know one. To those of you who‘ve stood by us over the years, please know that it truly is your strong shoulders that we lean on. Thank you for ever stuff!

Namasté

T.C. & Mama ´P´

What Is D.I.D.?

Have you seen the movie, „Sybil“? Sybil had what was termed MPD, or Multiple Personality Disorder. Over the years MPD got a pretty bad name as a defective title for a person who is totally messed up. The MPD was for the most part, replaced with D.I.D., Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Now, I‘m not a psychologist, but I‘ll explain this the best I can.

When an individual is subjected to trauma, and their conscious mind (present tense person) cannot deal with said trauma, they may dissociate. That means to mentally check-out, leave their conscious mind and hide in the safety of the subconscience. When that happens, they may appear changed, or in some cases, in a daze. In those instances when one has dissociated, another personality often referred to us an alter, is developed. That alter personality can be male or female, even genderless. They can be of any age, and not age as the host does. You, being the host. D.I.D. is most commonly brought on in childhood sexual abuse cases. In my case, when I could not deal with the trauma that I was subjected to, I checked out. When she couldn‘t handle it, she checked out and another stepped in. That‘s why they referred to it as multiples.

Each personality has their own memories. Where I have lost time, is when I checked out. The alter that was present is the one holding those memories. In recovery, you attempt to pull the memories together. Trust me, that requires professional counseling. Think of it as a huge jigsaw puzzle, and each piece is a memory. The pieces however belong to more than one personalty. The idea is to piece the picture together. In my case, I really don‘t want to recall whatever I don‘t remember. All that really matters to me is that I know now what I didn‘t know back then, and that is that I did nothing wrong to get D.I.D.

Did You Hear About the Super Jail for Kids?

In the last issue of this newsletter, I asked who would lock-up teens for life and throw away the key. The answer quite simply was: our legal system. Lady Justice wears a blindfold supposedly to not see defendents by race, gender, culture or any other means by which prejudice can be measured on her lopsided scales. Personally, I think she wears the blindfold to avoid seeing how terribly bent the system really is. I mean, how can you not want to fix it once you see it? I discovered an answer to my question that took place in my own backyard, Alameda County. The facts are appalling.

In the late 1990‘s, the state legislature voted to reallocate federal funding that was meant to support the construction of new prisons and to renovate and expand local juvenile correctional facilities. The general concensus was that local juvenile detention facilites were in a state of disrepair. Many of the existing buildings were at least 50 years old and inadequate living conditions. The chief Probation Officers Accociation tried to get voters to agree to a bond measure to remeoly the conditions, but California voters adamantly rejected not only bonds to improve detention centeres, but clearly did not support expanding juvenile facilities or building new adult prisons.

President Bill Clinton‘s administration began making federal grants to partially defray the building of new prison facilities. California‘s share of the pie was a whopping $275 million a year. Almost all of the money was used for renovations and improvements to adult lock-ups, but the grant mandated there be some expansion in custody beds.

The BOC, Board Of Corrections, was given the task of either improving or building new juvenile detention centers. It wasn‘t enough that the adult rate of incarceration was a booming economy for the state, lets add juveniles to the melting pot of the prison industrial complex. The counties all wanted some of that money and began applying for grants to the BOC for their cut. Of the 58 counties, 40 received grants. In the end, it ws a tidal wave of madness that proposed expanding the juvenile bed capacity by 3150 new beds, a 50% hike in total. It should be noted that this took place in the late 1990‘s when juvenile arrests had been on a continuous decline. Hmmm …. follow the money.

Alameda county operated a 299 bed facility in the northern part of the county near the neighborhoods where most of the youth lived. Technically, the place was in such bad shape, it should‘ve been illegal to house mice there, let alone 299 kids. To consider their options, the county hired a firm out of Georgia to evaluate the situation and help prepare an analysis for just cause to build a new juvile center with even more beds. That firm proposed the plan to build a new 540 bed juvenile hall to be located on the site of the old adult county jail, SANTA RITA JAIL (SRJ). The old SRJ was shut down in September 1989, just two weeks before our arrest. It was a rat motel at best. Yeah, lets remodel it and put kids in there. Are they nuts?

Well, that‘s when things became interesting. The site was in Dublin, across from a federal prison, the new SRJ hi-tech county lock-up, and out in the boondocks, meaning it would be more difficult for those youths to receive visits. Public transportation is fairly limited to that area. The site was justified due to the acreage of land. The need was further supported by false data that showed an increase in juvenile arrests. Alameda county applied for funding, having secured nearly $30 million for renovations and an additional $3 million to subsidize bed expansion. The funds only covered a small percentage of the costs for the new facility. They must have figured that once they began, grant money would certainly be given to complete such a big project. They never figured in the funding for staff and operating costs. That‘s like buying a fleet of cars that you can‘t afford to insure or put gas in. Where‘s the logic?

Finally, after all the hoopla, a small group of youth advocates called Books Not Bars (BNB) stepping in to oppose the madness. They pointed out that mostly minorities faced extreme detention, local budgets had taken away from youth programs, public schools and welfare, and that the super jail for kids was nothing more than a political investment for Supervisor Scott Haggerty, in whose district the new super jail would be built. His agenda was to bring a new source of revenue to his district by way of local construction businesses who were bidding for the contract. That‘s when the media got more involved. All coverage, was bad coverage, so the pressure was on. Dublin residents got involved, protecting the new super jail in their backyard. It took the tireless efforts of BNB, the center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the Youth Law Center, and several other juvenile justice advocates to shut down the maddening plan for what would have been the largest youth detention center ever heard of. Reasonable renovations and building did take place in Dublin, but not before the persons who sought personal gain at the expense of a bunch of kids where eliminated from the picture. This included personnel changes in high positions of both the Probation Dept, and the Juvenile Courts System.

Prison is an industry of making money. Everyone from building planners and builders, to staff, local businesses, and vendors that win state contracts, all profit from the incarceration of 33 state prisons. And they want to build more. By taking away funds from public education and after school programs, our budget planners reduce the chances that today‘s youth will succeed. It almost seems like a set up. It is long proven that humanities in the arts guarantees a kid a better shot at half a chance and higher self-esteem. So why are our legislators reducing their chances? There are many besides myself that think it is to increase the delinquency ratio, and pack our prisons. And with life sentences being handed out, how can you argue with that? Money is money, right? Even at the cost of today‘s youth. And that‘s a high price to pay.

Juvenile Offender Facts To Consider

· There are approximately 275 California youth presently sentenced ot life without the possibility of parole (S.F. chronicle 12/6/10)

· Within months of the passage of Proposition 21, San Diego was the first county to put the new law to the test charging eight middle class white students as adults for chasing down and beating some Latino immigrant workers. Being there were 8 of them, according to the text of Prop 21, that is defined as a gang.

· No other country outside the United States implements children to be sentenced to LWOP.

· In many cases where a youth was prosecuted with an adult for the same crime, it was the kid that received the heavier sentence.

· Many youth sentenced as adults, had no prior criminal history.

· Each youth offender sentenced to LWOP will cost taxpayers about $2,5 million.

· To continue incarcerating the 275 youth already sentenced to LWOP, will cost close to $ 700 million.

· The principal opponents to Prop 21 included juvenile court judges.

· Neuroscience studies report that children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than that of adults. This scientific theory was recognized by the supreme court in Roper V. Simmons as well as Graham V. Florida. The Graham case was ground breaking, as the U.S. supreme court held that it was unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to LWOP for nonhomicide offenses as well. The Graham case recently affected more than 100 juvenile offenders who received LWOP sentences for nonhomicide offenses.

Parole Denial in Federal Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Swarthout V. Cooke, 562 U.S. (zoll) (Per Curiam, 1/24/11, case 10-333) that California lifer inmates have no right to federal habeas corpus under existing law to challenge a parole decision, based on the „some evidence“ rule. Federal writs are based upon the grounds that one is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. In a nutshell, this ruling states that federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law. Period.

I Am One Of Many – submitted by La Donna Robinson

My name is La Donna Robinson, and I am serving a sentence of 15 years to life for 2nd degree murder. A murder that was committed at the ripe old age of seventeen. I am now forty years old, soon to be 41, in 3 months.

I don‘t pity myself, and I don‘t feign innocence for the crime of which I know that I am guilty. However. I know I have served my time-nearly double-than that of which I was sentenced.

I have appeared befoe the Board of Parole Hearings approximately eight times, and have been denied each and every time, regardless of the positive psychological evaluations that I have received, stating that I am a „low-risk“ of danger to society if found suitable for parole. I have been disciplinary free since my arrival, have become a certified Airline Rerservation Agent, a certified Animal Groomer, and have received all the necessary hours to become a licensed Cosmetologist. I have received my GED and an AA degree, and have completed too many self-help classes to count.

There are numerous juvenile offenders just like myself who are struggling every day to achieve their freedom. We program every day for up to eight hours, return to the houseing unit to be counted, and immediately report to some self-help class or another. We struggle to remain diciplinary free in a miniature world where we are constantly threatened with „how ´bout I get you a 115 to take to the board?“ We find the strength to support each other no matter how tired we get on our journey because as with any species, when one gets tired one will fall back and wait with hi until he has found the strength to move ahead. We have created our own makeshift family of juvenile offenders who have discovered that it makes it a little easier whenn you know there is someone struggling to paddle in a boat just like yours. We don‘t always like each other, but we love each other, and we are here for each other.

Thank you T.C. & Mama ´P´ for the opportunity to participate in something that reaches far beyond these prison fences. There are people who need to know that there is more than „convicts“ stuck in this place, ther are „prisoners“ who left society when they were too young to legally take a drink of alcohol, or to get a job, or to even marry. What about us? What is to be said for a state that will not allow you to take a drink until the age of 21, but will try you as an adult and lock you away for the rest of your life at the age of 14? There is a lot to be said. But no one wants to be the one to say it.

Juvenile Justice Reform Update – by Elizabeth Lozano

On April 5th, California‘s Public Safety Committee voted 5-to-2 for SB9, which is derived from SB399 that did not pass by two votes last fall. As I‘ve said before, this bill is not a get out of jail free card. SB9 is a bill introduced by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) to end life sentences without parole (LWOP) for juvenile offenders. It would require that I prove that I deserve to be considered for resentencing. As an LWOP juvenile offender, should SB9 pass, my fate would lie in the hands of a court judge.

This bill has many stages to go through. Any support by way of phone calls, e-mails, or written correspondence to Assembly members and Senators in Sacramento would help immensely and be appreciated.

In another area of reform, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 23rd on whether police officers ought to consider a young suspect‘s age before Miranda Rights are read to them. (The right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, you know the drill). Currently under Federal Law, a suspect taken into custody is Mirandized. Certain uses of restraint such as prolonged interrogation, handcuffs, and restricted surroundings, add up to custody. Under court law if a „reasonable person“ would feel free to leave, then the rights need not be read. In this case and others like it, children are being expected to obey authority figures and have the thinking processes of an adult. Both technically and scientifically, that is unrealistic.

The case being argued is that of J.D.B. v. North Carolina. Detectives went to a middle shool and escorted 13 year old J.D.B. to a school conference room where officials awaited him. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in this case that since the door was not locked, and he began to speak after agreeing to answer questions, that he must have reasonably understood that he did not need to answer any questions regarding his involvement in property crimes. He was not Mirandized. The U.S. Supreme Court however, granted certiorari, creating what could be a ground breaking case to protect the legal rights of underaged suspect. So far, the last two cases brought to the U.S. Supreme Court involving uvenile offender rights were ruled in favor of the juveniles. This case is pending decision.

For more information or to learn how you can become more involved in reform, please go to http://www.fairsentencingforyouth.org.

Breast Wellness – contributed by Gia M. McClain

Let‘s talk about breasts, Baby. Yes, breasts. If someone were to gie you a free gift, wouldn‘t you accept it? Of course you would. I have a gift for you. It is information about self-breast examinations. Now, while both men and women can get breast cancer, the focus of this piece is on women‘s health.

Thousands of women die needlessly each year from breast cancer. Many women automatically assume that during a self-exam, they are looking for a lump. The purpose of the breast exam is to become familier with how your breasts naturally feel, so that when you feel something different, you wil lknow it. This can allow you to get to your health care provider in a timely manner. It will help to ask your healthcare provider for guidelines that are appropriate for your age group.

Within the prison environment, inmates are their own best defense, and in some cases, their own advocate to fight for their own medical rights for healthcare. As budget cuts have come down upon us, there has been a lack of doctors, replaced by nurse practitioners. However, regardless of whether you‘re a prisoner at C.C.W.F. or a citizen within the free society, here‘s my advice as a Peer Health Volunteer:

1. Do a monthly self-exam. It is best to do it about the same time of the month every month, and while you‘re not on your menses (period) or ovulating. You may experience tenderness and discomfort at those times and be less likely to do it properly, or at all.

2. Have a buddy check system, which is a friend or loved one that you contact monthly as a reminder to do the self-exam, and they in turn do the same for you.

3. When you see your healthcare provider, as for a clinical breast exam on a yearly basis. Using your birthday as an easy reminder can make it less likely to forget the last time you had one. Also, ask them to show you how to properly do a self-exam. Far to many women assume incorrectly, missing anomolies.

4. Get a mammogram, set by guidelines of American Cancer Society. Guidelines include age, ethnicity, and family history. Remember, the life you save, may be your own.

A Perspective of parole – submitted by Donna Lee

If you ask a lifer whether parole is a right or a privilege, most will say that it is both. If you‘re sentenced to a life term with the possibility of parole, that opens the door to your legal rights. However, being granted parole encompasses the respect of the privilege of a second chance at freedom.

Life prisoners are a special breed. They work hard to satisfy and meet the nine circumstances tending to show suitability criteria. They learn the rehabilitation tools needed to insure that they can succeed on parole and for therest of their lives. The lifer spends a majority of their time and energy in thinking about the factors that led to the crime and how they can avoid similar situations in the future. With age comes maturity, and the likelihood that the paroled lifer will not reoffend.

Like anyone else, the lifer inmate has goals. Usually, many. Some want to help support family and friends who‘ve stood by them over the years, while others dream of starting up businesses or families. Granted, one released after decades of confinement, the newly released lifer will experience culture shock. That is where re-entry programs like Crossroads can benefit them and help orientate them back into society. The goal however, is to be granted parole first.

The nine circumstances to become suitable for parole can be a challenge to meet, but is achievable. They include:

1. Lack of a juvenile record depicting career criminal behavior.

2. Stable social history that demonstrates you‘ll have the support of family and friends upon release, especially during transition.

3. Signs of remorse (a step in the insight issue)

4. Motivation for the crime (also part of insight)

5. Battered Woman Syndrome, if applicable.

6. Lack of criminal history, – first time offender.

7. Age.

8. Parole Plans, which include employment, housing, and counseling or support groups relative on a case-by-case basis.

9. Institutional behavior.

Even if you‘ve satisfied the criteria, there is a chance thatyou will not be found suitable for parole. It could be the psychological evaluation you were subjected to, or the inability to adequately answer to a panel question regarding insight issues. If found unsuitable, and you believe your rights have been violated in that denial, you can file a Writ of Habeas Corpus in your trial court. It isn‘t easy to do on your own without legal counsel, but there are a number of jailhouse lawyers who can help guide you through the process. It will not be easy. It can be quite stressful overall. However, when your personal freedom is at stake, you either step up to the plate or you walk off the field and guilt. I say look the pitcher in the eyes, because a girl‘s gotta do, what a girl‘s gotta do, Parole is possible. You just have to want it. You have to earn it.

Donna Lee, LWOP prisoner

Communicado

When we write in our letters, some prison slang or facility terminology comes out. There are words and numbers we use quite regularly, so let‘s define some of that here.

C-file: Central file. Our peersonal prisoner file that contains all of our achievements, write-ups, numerous documents.

UCC: The classification committee that evaluates us yearly.

Program: Well, like robots. To do a good program is to do as you‘re told and expected to regarding school or work assignment duties.

Hooch: Inmate manufactured alcohol, AKA PRUNO.

Recall: This doesn‘t relate to memory. It means return to our cells.

Insight: The Parole Board expects that we can see into various elements of our crime, the full impact and all aspects of it.

Canteen: Not a thermos. This is our local 7-11 store.

805: The infirmary (Bldg. number)

504: Administrative Segregation, death row, EOP (Bldg. number)

602: Appeals process (document number)

115: Disciplinary Action (document number)

EOP: Enhanced Outpatient Program for mentally unstable inmates

The Health Care Issue

Although the information is not plastered up in the clinics and 805, there is actually an Inmate Health Care Inquiry Line mainteined by the California Prison Health Care Services. It allows members of the public and families of inmates to report concerns in regards to our health care from behind prison walls in Chowchilla.

As a prisoner, it is my right to 602 any complaints that I have regarding medical services, or lack thereof. The first step in the complaint process is the 602 grievance form. They allow me only 15 days from incident of complaint to have the 602 filed. The form specifically states that they in turn also have that time limit, however, there is a loophole exception to the rule for administration that inmates do not have. Staff is afforded the right to a time delay. Their prison, their rules. I just live here.

What do we 602 on midical grounds? Per Title 15, Division 3, Article 8, Section 3350 Provisions of Midical and Dental Services, the prison is obliged by law to basically take care of our medically necessary requirements. That includes, but is not limited to reasonable care to protect life, prevent illness or disability, and alleviate severe pain. The problem with defining severe pain is that it has become a matter of opinion. Believe me, if I feel it is severe or chronic pain, I will file a 602 to seek a medical remedy.

I cannot find a section int he Title 15 (Prisoner‘s Bible of Legal Rights basically) that refers to the conditions in 805, where some inmates are housed indefinitely. Pour souls. There are partially paralyzed inmates who rely upon nurses to help bathe them and change their bedding. The problem is that many of those overpaid babysitters don‘t want to be bothered. The Health Peer Counselors that volunteer their time to those inmates on occassion, find themselves carrying out those nursing duties as a matter of an act of humanity. But, nobody wants to make waves. Nobody wants to speak out. And then there‘s me.

Tripp‘s dream

In the third quarter issue of this newsletter, we shared the plight and perseverance of our friend and sister in Christ, Deborah Pegler. We even dedicated that issue in her memory, as she had lost her brave battle with Stage IV lung cancer in June 2010. It has been almost a year since she joined the angels, and I find from time to time, she enters my thoughts like a fresh summer’s breeze. She was my friend, and I loved her like a sister, and I miss her as both.

Before her passing, Tripp, as many of us knew her, had the privilege of seeing a dream come true. She did not want her painful past to all be in vain. She believed that if she could help save just one life by telling her story, then her journey would be complete. Filmmaker Yoav POTASH made a documentary that detailed the repeated beatings, rapings, and torture that Oliver Wilson subjected Tripp to. Much of the abuse was to entertain his friends, but we all know that abuse is about control. Potash leads the viewer through the death of Wilson and Tripp’s 1983 murder conviction. But, it does not end there. The film tells the rest of her story. A story of recovery on several levels and the path she took to freedom. Tripp was incarcerated for 26 years, and was released in October 2009. She spent 9 months with her children and grandchildren before she left us. She did not fear death. She accepted it. She’s one of the most influential and courageous women I have ever had the honor and privilege to have met.

Tripp’s dream was for the documentary to be made. It was completed in time for her to attend a premiere prior to her death. The film debuted to critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival in February. It is called “Crime after Crime”. See crimeaftercrime.com for more details.

As I’ve said before, I imagine she’s giggling while riding a rainbow on the other side. Even now, she makes me smile.

From the Heart

As a life term prisoner, I know all too well what it is like to be judged – by those I thought were my family and friends, as well as some of the general public. Funny how people think that THIS could never happen to them. If they’re lucky, it never will, but one would have to have worn my shoes the first 24 years of my life to have any idea what it is like to wear them now. People judge people. It is a defect we’ve all been guilty of doing. I’ve long ago learned to shrug it off. I can handle the looks, gossip, assumptions, even the abandonment I’ve experienced from so-called friends, who judged my. Being that I was more of a square in my school years, I had a lot of practice feeling like an outcast. I sort of embraced it. I didn’t need to fit in. Lucky too, otherwise in spring 1989, I would’ve gotten my sensitive lil heart broken…

I was a time bomb inside of myself. I could feel it. I was guilt stricken by my life crime. I couldn’t sleep of rind any peace. I couldn’t erase the images in my mind. I needed to get away from the Bay Area for a weekend, so I asked BREE to join me, Bree was like a sister, but we were total opposites. She was 100% Biker chick. And I don’t mean Schwinn neither. I mean Harley-Davidsons, motorcycle clubs, bearded bedfellas, drugs, the whole nine yards. That includes the mouth, language, and “Are you talkin’ to me?” attitude that comes with it. In a word, Bree was a Badass.

We went to Yosemite National Park for the weekend. When we reached Curry Village, where I had made reservations for a canvas tent cabin on my VISA card, I was in for a shock. They accidentally gave my cabin to someone else for the first night, but we could have it the second night. When I asked where we were supposed to sleep that first night, Bree volunteered us to share that cabin. I kindly rejected. I’d sleep in the back of my mini-truck before I did that. The clerk gave us a room at the Ahwanhee Hotel for the first night. The cost difference was comped to us, so off we were to find this place.

We had to drive up an incline and around a mountain but we found it. Oh my gosh, it was beautiful! We were expecting a motel setting, but what we drove into was a country club setting. I felt like I had driven into the Twilight Zone. I pulled off of the highway into a dirt lot and parked my Dodge RAM 50 between a Mercedes and a Porsche. I saw the people playing that lawn golf game with giant hammers – what’s it called? Croquet. That’s it! I turned to Bree and said, “This should be interesting.”

I was wearing a black sleeveless t-shirt, SOL JEANS, hiking boots, a leather belt with a rodeo buckle, and a buck knife in the sheath. Bree was wearing a t-shirt that she fringed the sleeves off of, skin tight black jeans, knee high Zodiak boots, her arms and chest tattooed with enough ink to print the Sunday paper, and a large handbag hanging off of her shoulder. My hair was short, hers was wild. We looked like we just left the Sturgis Run, and as we left the lot to approach the main lobby, which was a good 100 yards away, all eyes were on us. We stood out, we didn’t fit in. One woman defensively pulled her croquet-playing daughter to her side as if we were hungry cannibals. I just smiled and kept walking. Personally, I think they were trying to recollect if they had seen either of our faces on a Wanted Poster. We were being judged by how we looked. No doubt about it. Someone call America’s most wanted, immediately!

Once we reached the front lobby, I could feel the holes burning into my back from their stares, as the clerk looked up from the front desk and did a double take. I could swear I heard him gasp and his neck crack. I knew what he was thinking. He asked if he could help us, and by that, he meant with directions to where the peasants camp. I explained that we had a reservation to which he said, “oh no…. there must be a mistake.” I handed him the paperwork. He immediately got on the telephone to call Curry Village, probably to cuss them out. Next thing I knew, he looked up over my shoulder with this absolute look of horror on his face. That’s when I realized that Bree was no longer at my side. It had to be her that caught his eye-bulging attention. Sure as water is wet, it was Bree alright. There was a complimentary table sat up in the lobby for guests checking in. It had bread rolls, crackers, cheeses, meats, and lemonade. Bree didn’t need their beverages, because she pulled out her bottle of Yukon Jack to wash down those little sandwiches. She was making little sandwiches and wrapping them up in the large fancy napkins, and stuffing a few in her handbag for the road. I swear it, I couldn’t take her anywhere, but in that moment, I saw her point! Treat us like we don’t belong, she’ll act like she doesn’t belong. However, she was just being herself. The clerk humbly apologized and gave me the key to our room, happy to see us leave his lobby. I bet he lost sleep over it.

After we settled in to our room, we returned to the valley floor for the day. Around 4 p.m. the dark clouds arrived and it began to pour rain. Darkness enveloped us as I drove up the mountain back to the hotel. It sat in complete darkness, as the storm had taken out all of the power. Before we got out of the truck, I opened the glove box and removed two flashlights and an extra package of batteries. We made our way to our room, walking along the outdoor wrap-around porch where people sat at tables with candles flickering as they played cards and chess. One older woman with a snotty attitude asked me, “Excuse me, but how do you rate?” I had no idea why she was so animistic towards me, and I simply said, “Excuse me?” She went on a tirade about how the clerk in the lobby said they only had complimentary candles that were for outdoor use, and how they should fix the lights or refund their charges. I didn’t know how to respond without being offensive. That is, until the rich grouch said, “So, how do you rate? Where did you get those flashlights?” As calmly as I could muster, I replied, “Ace Hardware,” turned, and went to our room. Bree was so proud of me. I’m a pretty nice person, but I had finally had it with the “we’re better than you. They may have been more financially set than either of us was, but at last I had the good sense to bring flashlights and extra batteries to the frickin’ wilderness! Hmpf!

This experience rally did happen. A whole lot more also happened that weekend, but the moral of the story her is…. no matter who you are or where you are, it doesn’t really matter what others think of you. What truly matters, is what you think of yourself. I can look at my reflection in the mirror and not be ashamed of how I treat others. I live my life with Hebrews 10:29 in mind, but I also live by one main philosophy: I make every effort to be the kind of person that I’d be honored to call a friend. And so, from the heart, I simply say, that if you are reading this, it is an honor to call you one.

NAMASTÉ,

T.C.

T.C. Paulinkonis Pauline “Barbara” Paulinkonis

W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-41

PO Box 1509 PO Box 1508

Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610