(Some) Resources AIDS Educational Project – National Prison Project of the ACLU 733 East 15th Street NW Suite 620 Washington, DC 20005 Serves as a national resource center to provide educational materials, legal information and assistance to persons seeking information about AIDS in prison. Provides free packets of information to prisoners, including aneducational pamphlet, AIDS and Prisons: The Facts for Inmates and Officers (in English, possibly available in Spanish, single copies free to prisoners) and a comprehensive AIDS and Prison Bibliography for $10. Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. 2212 6th Street Berkeley, CA 94710 510-644-2555 National Clearinghouse in Defense of Battered Women 125 South 9th Street, Suite 302 Philadelphia, PA 19107 Information, referrals and legal assistance for battered women. Works a lot with prisoners, free newsletter. American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch Project 89 Market Street, 6th floor New ark, NJ 07102 (973) 643-3192 Fax: (973) 643-8924 email@example.com Monitors human rights violations and abuse of prisoners in US federal and state prisons. Prisoners should send personal testimony to Bonnie Kerness at the above address.
Once upon a time, we were all children… We had to learn how to walk, how to talk, how to get attention. Then we had to learn how to survive in our madness! Really learn…and learn quick… We have many teachers in life. That’s how we end up with a belief system to go along with our learned behaviors. Now we must relearn and unlearn, teach ourselves how to be… Be what? Should we learn how to be responsible, be respected, be loved, be honest, be strong women, be considerate, be caring and compassionate? For whom? For myself or for you? Oh yeah—I’m I’m the one who suffers the consequences, the loss, the loneliness, so maybe, just maybe, we should take a good look and do it for
ourselves first, then for the ones who love and need us. Where I learned how to lie and steal out of my mother’s purse, I can’t begin to tell you. I can tell you where I learned to do drugs, drink alcohol, skip school, quit, be rebellious, hide things from my mother, feel the need for acceptance and run away…My babysitters. Between the ages of 11 and 12, I had already had sex with girls, smoked cigarettes and marijuana. Then, of course, they helped me graduate to acid, mescaline, alcohol and crystal tea. My mom worked a lot. My father wasn’t in the picture. He’s an addict, she’s a negligent workaholic. So yeah—I learned a lot from my babysitters—my caregivers and their friends. So ladies, be careful! Pay close attention to who you’re leaving your kids with cuz all their bad habits will come back to bite your children in the ass someday. Trust me. The comfort zone with drugs led me to snort, then shoot, then smoke cocaine, CRACK! Then the CRACK taught me how to lie some more, manipulate, steal, shoplift, break and enter, home invade, and last but not least, sell my ass to whomever and wherever I could be quick about it and get to the dope house.
SUBMISSION FORM FOR BEYONDMEDIA
I got clean for 7 years, but low and behold, the first sign of being alone, I ran as fast as I could to what’s familiar—crack and heroin.
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PLEASE LET US KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SENDING (Check One): A personal story/history
Interview with a prisoner
Now for almost 12 years, I’ve been in this squirrel cage, the great big, larger-than-life hamster wheel chasing myself around the city of Detroit. While self chases that ghost. For the first time in 12 years I’m trying to surrender. To learn how to give up the drugs, to learn how not to come back to prison.
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I’ve realized I have to unlearn damn near my whole life. I’m 43 years old, I’m in prison and I have to give up being… Being what?
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Being irresponsible Being in the streets Being with the people that were just like me, Being in the lifestyle, Being dependent on the adrenaline rushes and the drugs for comfort and validation.
How? Can somebody tell me just exactly how I can do it? Date
No, nobody can tell me. I have to learn and I’m learning by experience—I’m learning who I want to be and I’m also learning why I want to be that person. I want to tell you that I feel no remorse, that I have no regrets, that I feel no guilt, and that I’m not ashamed of myself— But like you, I can’t. So we relearn how to survive, how to leave the madness behind and learn how to love and respect yourself, be your own teacher.
Angela Lovan 210572 Robert Scott Correctional Facility 47500 Five Mile Road Plymouth, MI 48170
Call for submissions Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance is a forum for public discourse about the ways that incarceration affects women's lives and the work that people are doing to dismantle systems of violence and oppression. Your contributions are vital. Please submit articles, visual work, personal narratives, etc., to firstname.lastname@example.org or send to: Beyondmedia Education 7013 N. Glenwood Ave Chicago, IL 60626 New submissions are reviewed and posted three times each year. Submission deadline dates are: January 15, May 15, and September 15. (If sent by mail, submissions should be postmarked by the deadline.) Submission Guidelines: • • • • •
Include a one-paragraph bio and a 100-word abstract or summary of your submission. Limit submissions to 1600 words. Please write for a general audience; avoid academic jargon. All submissions will be edited for length and readability. Submissions in all languages are accepted and will be posted. Whenever possible, an English translation should also be provided. Unfortunately, we cannot provide an English version at this time.
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do it? If so, it will never get done! Don’t pass the buck—take it upon yourself or build a collective that would be willing to start lobbying for prisoners’ rights and set up your own advocacy group in that state. There are countless—tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of prisoners—just waiting for you to step up and reach out, so what is everyone waiting on? It’s not getting any better in here, only worse by the day. The longer you procrastinate, the more we suffer. We need your hands, your minds and your voices with our efforts so change may occur. So, did I answer your questions? I’m not the all-knowing anarchist. I’m just Lee, living day to day in a concrete cage while these lifestealing monsters try to shorten my life expectancy and decimate my hopes and dreams for the future. I’m just trying to leave something positive behind in the wake of my solitary confinement.
Lisa “Lee” Savage P59277 T-2111/Annex CMI, Lowell Correctional Institution, 11120 Northwest Gainesville Road Ocala, FL 34482-1479
Simple but Real Poems by Nina
Behind these walls Dedicated
to rising voices
Behind these walls, this is what’s going on y’all! The deputies do the shot calls… Booking & processing ain’t no joke, in Santa Rita jail… Twenty-four hours to seventy-two, you’re waiting to get housed in hell… Damn! Someone’s throwing up, defecating on themselves from kicking dope… While another inmate needs to bail out, all she has is hope… Before her PO finds out she’s here… They call yo name to get Bob Barker’s jail clothes, and it might be the last time you see yo gear You get a bed roll that smells like shit & piss… Man! This jail stuff I don’t miss… But under the circumstances I end up here again… Tryin’ my bst to fight, not goin’ to the pen… In the meantime, I live, eat and use this place They call a bathroom, next to thieves, murderers, robbers, paperchasers, sex offenders, drug offenders and victims of abuse… While some suspects are on the outs running loose!
Behind these walls some females’ heads are not on straight…
Too much for them to decipher behind these bars & gates… So they cut themselves! What a twist of fate! It’s funny how fast deputies show up when there’s a fight… But when someone’s life’s in jeopardy, the inmates are the ones making sure the person is alright… Help, help, is what we yell through the intercom… What’s your medical emergency? Well are you stupid or dumb!!? There is a woman here bleeding to death If you don’t hurry, she’s gonna take her last breath… Finally they show up with a look of disgust! You tell me, who are we supposed to trust? They give you sandwiches every day for lunch… With mystery meat inside that makes your stomach hurt a bunch! Locked behind these gates, like animals in a zoo… I would give anything to take the place of you! A free person on the outs… Being locked up is not what it’s about! The process of strip search is degrading to us… Squat! Cough! And spread yo cheeks is a must… All we can do is complain and fuss… The authorities, deputies and police, oh yeah, they lie! When will somebody hear our cry? I’d rather be shopping any day at the mall… Then to feel dehumanized behind these walls! Edith “Nina” Clark ASM 056 South 25 Upper D, Santa Rita Jail, 5325 Broder Blvd, Dublin, CA 94568
I don’t have a definitive answer as to how to do it without making the system bigger and stronger because, as shown throughout the history of the prison system, once we destroy one form of deprivation and torture, the prison systems invent new ingenious form of torture. If I knew the answer, I could end the oppression of the power-gorged prisoncrats that are draining us of our humanity and stealing our lives.
If I could wake up I’m an anarchist, the world, I would.. so I can’t say: I’m trying to do that Make new laws against one person at a time.. prisoncrats. It would take the majority of the U.S. citizens to have epiphanies about the ability to live unencumbered, without a capitalist government. People would have to up their own standards and morals to live without predatory behavior. We are talking of living a higher quality of life, with nobody lording over the other, no groups lower than others. So if I could wake up the world, I would. I’m trying to do that one person at a time and the fruits of your and my efforts may not be seen now but will hopefully be seen later. I’d love to see the prison system overhauled as a first step… If a state doesn’t have any prisoner rights or advocacy groups, ask yourself why don’t they? Is everybody waiting for someone else to
be recognized as to who they are and what their purpose is. Most people, 98% of them, don’t know what an ABC [Anarchist Black Cross] is, so why would they write them? The outsiders have to make clear to us in here that they are up to the challenge. I feel that after a collective (or individual) has been recognized, then they must become a part of that person’s life. Visits, phone calls and letter writing are essential. essential Only with a firm foundation, a strong foundation, can we together be able to build a greater movement, a bigger resistance front. The outside organizations must be willing to “lobby” others to join our fight. A show of cohesiveness to media, the prison and state and county officials. You must amplify our voice and give face to that voice. Make us real to the outside, for women aren’t considered able or even seen as wanting to resist their oppressors. Validate us!, call the prisons, do what activists DO
GET ACTIVE! ACTIVE Get attention drawn to us.
Women Rising is a Reentry program for formerly incarcerated 18-25 year old women. The program provides them with a full continuum of services that greatly increase their chances of transitioning to a productive and self-sufficient lifestyle. The new Women’s Reentry Center, at 930 Bryant Street, serves as the program site. Women Rising provides services ranging from immediate needs like groceries, clothing and internet access to longterm support including case management and housing, as well as the arts-based mentorship program, Rising Voices. Writing and Performance Internship Rising Voices is a paid writing and performance internship for previously incarcerated women ages 18 to 25. Each cycle involves the creation of an original piece and culminates in community performances. Rising Voices supports women in staying out of jail, encouraging ensemble members to value their power as artists and agents of change, and to find meaningful ways of sharing their experiences with the community. The sharing of these words is transformative not only for the performers but for members of the public who do not often get the chance to hear the voices of women who have been incarcerated speaking their truth. For upcoming Rising Voices performances, please visit the Events page. Writing Workshops in Jail Rising Voices offers weekly Creative Writing Workshops to women in San Francisco’s County Jail 8. Rising Voices provides incarcerated writers with a safe space to investigate experiences such as abuse, prostitution, addiction, love, motherhood, and homophobia. These workshops also enable facilitators to form relationships with participants and help build bridges for them as they leave jail and seek a supportive structure and creative outlets for their lives on the outside. Community Works, 1605 Bonita Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709 http://www.community-works-ca.org/programs/risingvoices.html
Adopt us and make us your family! Make this fight personal!
Simple but Real Poems by Nina
Untitled Dedicated to
I’m already locked up on the inside… So please, don’t take my dignity or pride… Because one day, I’m gonna see the outside… I’m human, just like you… Incarceration is what I’m going through… I’m also a mother, wife, sistah, niece, cousin, A queen, and believe in my higher power… The only thing you have taken from me is my time, Day by day, Hour by hour…
Edith “Nina” Clark ASM 056 South 25 Upper D Santa Rita Jail, 5325 Broder Blvd, Dublin, CA 94568
You asked how people on the outside can support movement-building, organizing and resistance among women on the inside? How can they do so without making the system bigger and/or stronger? And what can people do in states that don’t have strong (or any) prisoners’ rights or prison advocacy groups or movements? First, I feel simply there needs to be more contact with those prisoners organizing and resisting and trying to movement build. They (women in prison) need to know those people are out there willing to support our resistance. It would take conscious effort to send a one-page (or more) letter to the higher custody prisoners to locate those who are trying to establish a collective. I say higher custody because it is the lifers and ones with long sentences that feel the most pain and repression from the prison system. Locate via web those women in SHUs and CMs, the control units. It is within the bowels of the women’s prisons that revolution has been propagated. It makes sense that the most seriously oppressed would be the ones to give birth to resistance. I “stumbled” onto Anthony and the South Chicago ABC Zine Distro via a resource guide that had been given to me by another woman, but neither she nor anyone else in CM ever wrote him. Flood the control units with the names and addresses of outside organizations and people who are willing to get down and dirty, to go into the trenches. They (the outside people) must be able to
HIV infection in Oklahoma women prisoners is still rare. All new arrivals are tested and here at Mabel Bassett, there is only a handful of women living with HIV or AIDS at any given time. Nevertheless, I cannot name one at this moment because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” shame. I volunteer as a Peer Educator and most women have some difficulty prioritizing actual risks of infection. Many have unsafe sex or drug habits without worrying about the consequences, but they will shun someone with a boil or unwashed hair. They have a fit in the kitchen if another inmate touches their tray or cooks without gloves and many become obsessive about personal and environmental hygiene to the point of absurdity. I myself had to get over this fear of contamination when I was first locked up. I had always been a clean person, but the lack of privacy and the stress of the prison environment made me hypervigilant. I have relaxed over the years, but the prison environment does have many institutional health pitfalls like MRSA infections and tuberculosis. Vigilance without panic and behavior modification are the tools I try to teach my peers.
Only the Strong Resist a letter from Florida’s Closed Management Unit for Women
Here at Lowell Correctional (Corruptional) Institution, there is a split compound. No, that doesn’t adequately convey it. There is the original prison, Lowell Main Unit, which is a rather old set of freestanding open bay dormitories. The dormitories can be compared to the likes of military (army or marine) barracks with bunk beds taking up at least two-thirds of the living quarters. What this translates into is 80+ women being housed in one huge room, sleeping, showering, shitting and watching TV. There is no privacy, no real personal space for “time alone” unless you consider sitting on the toilet as privacy. The majority of these women’s prison sentences are spent inside one of these decaying, rat- and roachinfested housing units. To add insult to injury and to make for a very punishing stay at this facility (Lowell Main Unit), there is no air conditioning in these oneroom building/cages, so life is absolute hell for these women. Remember, this is Florida and our seasonal changes are virtually non-existent when compared to any northern states. So, for those women who are forced to slave-labor outside in the heat, there is no relief whatsoever when the workday is done and they return to cool off, rest and relax. In fact, the temperature inside the dorms on the “main” exceeds that of the outside, so the women walk from “the frying pan into the fire.” Imagine how this affects our elderly population.
Anonymous in Oklahoma
The Main is located in the rural area of Ocala, as is the “norm” these days for prisons.1 The “prisoncrats” sold the idea to these unsuspecting country folks that a prison amidst their farming and horseraising community would generate revenue and jobs for those declining farms and for the unemployed.2 This is not the case; the majority of correctional workers and guards are not from Ocala but rather from other towns, cities and counties for they don’t wish to live in a “prison town.”3 Lowell Main is situated between a pig and cow farm and across from the prison is a horse farm. There’s nothing in the world quite like waking up to the fresh aroma of cow and horse shit after sleeping in a dormitory that reeks of the human feces of 80+ women…Welcome to Lowell Main Unit. As the numbers of incarcerated women in the U.S. has nearly doubled, increasing from 68,468 to 104,848 between 1995 to 2004, there became a “need” within Florida’s DOC to build a new facility.4 The supposed increase in the magnitude of these women’s crimes, such as more women imprisoned for assault or murder (because Florida did not have self-defense laws against abusive spouses or foiled rapists who were served “street justice” from a woman being raped), there became a need for a higher custody facility. But it is my belief that the true numbers would show more women in prison for possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia that tested
Kevin Pyle and Craig Gilmore, Prison Town: Paying the Price. The Real Cost of Prisons Project. 2 Prison Town. 3 Prison Town. 4 “Incarcerated Women Create Their Own Media,” off our backs 37, no. 1. October 2007.
Women prisoners, in my experience, generally tolerate human weaknesses well. They do not care if another woman is ugly, toothless, poor or uneducated. So one would think that they would not stigmatize peers with blood-borne infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis B & C. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but like racial prejudice, it is unseemly to discriminate against the sick, so most of the shunning is subtle. I have heard women scandalized that clothing with traces of an infected woman’s blood might be washed with their own in the washer on the housing unit. Institutional laundry workers fear exposure to possibly contaminated clothing and wear gloves whenever possible. This is a ridiculous and exaggerated fear, like the fear of infection from toilet seats. Curiously, when I teach the segment about HIV transmission, someone always wants to defend the myth that a mosquito can cause HIV. I have tried to communicate the lack of risk from laundry, toilet seats, institutional food and insects, but I am not always successful. I usually quote a doctor I saw on TV who, when asked if one could get a disease from a toilet seat, answered, “Not unless you try.”
I have a broken vase. My guts. Space that is blank, Soft velvet leagues deep in this Vase’s prior place. My heart had rested in its opening, A mouth of desire. I was happy to preserve myself, An internal internal sculpture made up for a soul. Now it is all material As if it never was. Chips and shards scar the floor I recognize them as mine I remember that I can hold everything I was hungry I have those phantom pains And I know Somewhere There is glue. Rachel Galindo 131837 La Vista Correctional Facility, 1401 W. 17th Street Pueblo, CO 81003 This piece goes with the drawing (also by Rachel) that graces the cover of this issue of Tenacious.
positive for drug residue.5 This growing statistic in the war against drugs has caused the higher custody women to be displaced from their old facilities here in Florida. Hence, the addition of Lowell’ Lowell’s Annex six years ago. The Annex has an armed guard tower (yes, guards with shotguns pacing the walkway) that oversees it population and 8 dormitories. The annex is divided from the main by three sets of electric fences spaced eight to ten feet apart, set atop and below with razor wire. The annex is at the foot of the rolling hills where the “main” is located and there is only one entrance and exit from the annex to the main: one gatekeeper with 3 sets of gates to pass through. Once prisoners enter the space between the first and second gate, they must wait until the gate behind them is secured, then the next electric gate is opened so that they may proceed, then the process of the gate locking and opening is repeated but at the last (in between gates 2 and 3) there is the guard station where each prisoner must give her full name, her DC number, housing unit, job assignment, custody level and show a valid pass for movement to or from the main unit. She also may be subject to a random pat search for contraband. But the gates don’t stop there. Inside the annex, the dormitories are separated by gates which the guard tower must open. The “minor” medical facility is gated, the entire annex is sectioned off so that each dorm has its own mini-yard and canteen. The chow hall is occupied by only one dorm at a time. There is no mixing of 5
Sabrina Jones, Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens, Prisoners of the War on Drugs. The Real Cost of Prisons Project.,
prisoners from different dorms. In between these miniyards is an asphalt walkway that divides them and circles the guard tower and more gates. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. There are no trees, no visual amenities to make the annex look less looming and desolate, just fences, razor wire, gates and the click click click of the gates unlocking and the noise of them slamming shut. I do not have the “privilege” of being in “population” at the annex. I am housed in T-Dorm which is the lockdown unit with high security, more so than the others on the annex.6 T-Dorm (Tango) is the 4-quadrant dorm with slide shut steel doors and yes, barred gates with locks. It is the CM SHU (Closed Management Special Housing Unit) but only 2 quads are CM prisoners. Quad 1 is Suicide Isolation (or the “Butt Naked Cells”), Quad 4 is the spillover of “DC” (or Disciplinary Confinement) and “AC” (or Administrative Confinement) from M-Dorm (Annex), and DC for main unit prisoners. Quad 2 is home to the only Death Row female at Lowell and also CM Level 1 housing. These women are handcuffed behind with a “black box,” tight waistchain, drop chain shackles for all movement. They are not allowed bunkies or roommates. One person per cell. If they are not DC status, they are allowed one phone call a month and can order five hygienes and five food items per week, that’s it. They also have access to reading material—three books from Lowell’s library, but only if the CM prisoner is not on DC status. If she is on DC, she is only allowed to read religious material. 6
Lockdown Unit meaning women are confined for 23 or 24 hours a day to their isolation cells—there is no free movement or social interaction; we just sit locked in a concrete and steel room the size of a small residential bathroom.
THE FACE IN THE GLASS WHEN YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR STRUGGLE FOR SELF AND THE WORLD MAKES YOU FEEL LIKE A QUEEN FOR THE DAY, JUST GO TO THE MIRROR AND LOOK AT YOURSELF AND SEE WHAT THAT GIRL HAS TO SAY. FOR IT ISN’T YOUR FAHTER OR MOTHER OR HUSBAND WHOSE JUDGMENT UPON YOU MUST PASS, THE GIRL WHOSE VERDICT COUNTS MOST IN YOUR LIFE IS THE ONE STARING BACK FROM THE GLASS. SOME PEOPLE MIGHT THINK YOU’RE A STRAIGHT-SHOOTING CHUM AND CALL YOU A WONDERFUL GAL. BUT THE GIRL IN THE GLASS SAYS YOU’RE ONLY A BUM IF YOU CAN’T LOOK HER STRAIGHT IN THE EYE. SHE’S THE GIRL TO PLEASE, NEVER MIND ALL THE REST, FOR SHE’S WITH YOU CLEAR TO THE END. AND YOU’VE PASSED YOUR MOST DANGEROUS TEST IF THE GIRL IN THE GLASS IS YOUR FRIEND. YOU MAY FOOL THE WHOLE DOWN THE PATHWAY OF YEARS AND GET PATS ON BACK AS YOU PASS BUT YOUR FINAL REWARD WILL BE HEARTACHE AND TEARS IF YOU’VE CHEATED THE GIRL IN THE GLASS.
GRICEL PAZ, W26568, MA 05L, CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN 16756 CHINO CORONA ROAD, CORONA, CA 98820
I know personally I need a support group to help me cope with my issues. Staff make comments about how “I sound like I am proud to have HIV.” My only response to Ms. Littleton is that I’m not ashamed. Why should I be? Those comments would set some people off, but for me it only makes me want to change the stigma following HIV. Though I have not been able to start a support group, I don’t plan on stopping on trying. I know we inmates that face these illnesses need a place to be able to discuss and express our fears and concerns. I believe a support group would make us feel that we are accepted somewhere. The reality is simply this: you have to accept ALL of yourself before others can. Thank you for listening. Let’s change the stigma surrounding HIV and Hep C. Stephanie Walters 621650 Robert Scott Correctional Facility 47500 Five Mile Road Plymouth, MI 48170
Women who are CM1 are the most restricted of the 3 CM levels. The women on CM1 status are said by Chapter 33 to have committed extortion, murder or serious bodily injury to other prisoners or staff or are said to be known gang members with active affiliations or committed “free world crimes” while in prison. But the truth is that you can go to Level 1 for being a “mover and shaker” or having too much influence in General Population or if the guards simply don’t don t like you. If you are not liked by the administration or the staff, the guards will “paper trail” you until you get so many write-ups that you are buried in the bowels of prison. CM is the prison within the prison within the prison of Lowell. There are now only 18 CM1 women in Florida. Lowell has the only CM unit for women. I am one such female held captive in this place of isolation and loneliness. Quad 3 is where Levels 2 and 3 CMs are housed. Right now, there are 17 CM 3s and 14 CM 2s. This is the smallest number of CM women in the past year. There were 70 CMs total; total now there are 49. So picture that ratio of CMs or each CM level individually compared to the total number of women in Florida prisons…We have roughly 2500 to 3000 women at Lowell, 700 at Homestead, 1000 or so at BCI and there are many other facilities: Gaston, Levy Forestry Work Camp, Hernando and 26 different work release centers. So it’s safe to say less than 1% of incarcerated women are in CM. Also, those who are of such custody are seriously marginalized and virtually non-existent to the outside world.
Within the last two to four months, the administration and head of Florida DOC have released 20 women without too many replacements.7 The reason I was given by the administration for my placement on Level 3 in August 2007 was a prior history of CM placement. In 2003, I received my first write-up for a dirty urine, for testing positive for opiates. I had started using six weeks earlier while on interferon treatment and was so sick the doctors said I possibly would die. The interferon was killing me while it was trying to kill the Hep C virus. Interferon kills all cells in its path, like chemo but this is biotherapy.8 The nurse at my original institution, Homestead, would monitor me after administering the Interferon, which I had to have every 48 hours. I would barely recover from the effects of the treatment and not feel so sick, but about 6 hours later, I’d have to go through the same pain again. He couldn’t stand to see me in pain and so sick, so he would bring me oxycotin. The other medical staff wouldn’t give me anything to ease my suffering except Tylenol and you can’t take Tylenol with a compromised liver and besides, Tylenol isn’t going to do shit for the pain of the interferon injections.9 7
As I edit this piece in November 2008, 2 more women have been added to Level 3 CM. 8 Chemo is “chemical therapy” used to kill cancer cells. Biotherapy is not chemicals. It uses naturally occurring substances already found in the human body to combat a virus. Interferon is a substance found naturally in humans. It is “supercharged” in a laboratory and then readministered by injections. 9 I’m actually ashamed that I was “doping” in prison. It wasn’t so much for the high, but to alleviate the pain of “treatment.” I haven’t used in prison since and have been clean and sober for three years.
Stigma The stigma that surrounds people living with HIV is very negative. I’m no Wonder Woman, but I know that if we would stick together (HIV positive inmates), it would help you have to present yourself with dignity and respect not only in your attitude but your appearance as well. You have to learn to NOT be ashamed of who you are. Or, I should say, of what you have. The stigma is caused by PEOPLE. PEOPLE Staff and inmates are not informed. Ignorance. See here at Robert Scott Correctional Facility, we are orientated about blood borne diseases at some point in the first 30 days for about an hour. The problem with that is that you are new to prison and already scared and you don’t have the ability to comprehend everything being taught. There is a real need to hold a once-a-year informative session held for staff and inmates that are interested in expanding their knowledge. The rate of Hep C and HIV are growing rapidly among those entering the correctional facilities. A lot more people are likely to come and listen, not out of the desire to learn, but out of fear. Sometimes fear really is the best motivator.
there was not a lot of information out there to help people understand. It is so hard to sit here and see all the people afraid to ask questions. No matter what we tell them about our illnesses, no one understands until it happens to them or to someone they love.
Stephanie Walters 621650 Robert Scott Correctional Facility 47500 Five Mile Rd Plymouth, MI 48170
This write-up started a paper trail stating I had an inability to live and adjust to open population without disrupting the orderly running of the facility and was a security risk. But the drugs were not the determining factor for CM placement. They never caught drugs or drug paraphernalia on me, but I tested positive for opiates when I had to submit a urine sample. A “dirty urine” carries a penalty of 60 days regular confinement (DC). Since I felt like I was dying and was told that I was, I decided to “call out” all the bullshit I’d see the guards do. I told those around me, “Why listen to those fucks? You’ll be going home anyway, so why don’t you do your time the way you want to while you’re here? Life’s too short to be miserable at their hands.” I received 13 Disciplinary Reports (or write-ups) which sealed my fate to CM3 status. I had just completed the Interferon when I came to Lowell in 2003. I had 10 months DC status to do and, at that time, I didn’t understand the dynamics of CM (solitary). The alienation, restriction of movement, the abusive treatment from the officers and inmates drove me to commit suicide. I would much rather have died by my own hands than by DOC officers. I had hung myself and was quite dead when the guards cut me down. My heart must’ve just stopped because of the loss of involuntary functions, but still they wrapped me in a sheet and rushed me to medical and succeeded in reviving me. I EOS’d (or was released) from prison January 4, 2004, with a year’s probation. I did 11 months and one week and got violated…Yes, I’m sure you know the story of probation and recidivism. In 2001, 60% of ex-prisoners (people) on probation were
rearrested, mostly on technical violations, like missed appointments and failed drug tests, NOT because of new crimes.10 These technical violations inevitably send the probationer back to prison. It is my belief that this is how government and DOC make money, by quickly reincarcerating ex-offenders. Okay, I’m getting off track. I was CM’ed on my third trip to prison, but not during my 2nd prison sentence. So what they claim, a prior history of CM placement which stemmed from an inability to live and adjust to open population, is a lie because I was not placed in CM during my second incarceration. I was doing well this time and was on minimum custody in August 2007 (3 months into my 3rd sentence) and was being considered for work-release, but the classification team, guards and warden were not happy with my exemplary behavior. The CM placement was a set-up to deny me work release and to ship me off their compound and hold me hostage in CMSHU…Months before my placement in CM, I was “laying low.” I was still subversive and tried planting the seeds of free-thinking in my peers’ minds. I had a few women who also were attracted to my “bad boy” attitude, so my name was ringing like a bell on the compound, thus resulting in the officers monitoring my behavior and interactions much more closely. I had just received the “Editors’ Choice Award” from the International Library of Poetry in June 2007 and won the compound’s poetry contest in the beginning of August. So I had a lot of people coming up to me asking for poems for their man or mom or girlfriend and I saw that 10
Sabrina Jones, Ellen Miller-Mack and Lois Ahrens, Prisoners of the War on Drugs. The Real Cost of Prisons Project. Cites Susan B. Tucker’s and Eric Cadora’s “Justice Reinvestment,” Ideas for an Open Society, vol. 3, #3. November 2003.
Let Us Help Each Other It is so common for those of us to come to prison and not know what to think at first. But as time goes on, you realize that we all come from different walks of life and that we all struggle with different things. You meet those who can’t handle gems and those who get here and have a bootcamp type of cleaning regimen and, while the cleanliness is a good thing, it makes those inmates that have illnesses or are elderly very uncomfortable. I myself am HIV positive and have been referred to as a sick person and disgusting. It is not only hurtful but very much misinformed, really. The oldtimers here at the prison are very nice to me, but at the same time I know that they are afraid of what they don’t understand and I don’t blame them. A lot of inmates came to prison in the early 80s, some even sooner, when 37
the long arm of the law has raped your life and left you broken but you just stand up and brush yourself off shake your head, then just keep going because in you burns a want to teach and a passion to change the world and somewhere out there in some shitty old town is someone who has your back
After being incarcerated for 25 months, Stacia Quarto is now on I.S.P. (Intensive Supervised Parole) and living in New Mexico where she volunteers with the Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights.
as the perfect opportunity to speak anti-administration propaganda. Also, between June and August 2007, I was putting pen to paper to weed out the worst of the worst COs…The administration wasn’t feeling me being back on their compound for a third time (my freedom was short between incarcerations: 11 months and the other was only six weeks before rearrest). So I was sent to confinement, held AC status,11 found guilty of Disrespect to Officials, lost my gaintime only, no DC days,12 but I was immediately CM’ed and sent back here to Lowell. I lost my opportunity to obtain Work Release Status, which was pending, and thrown into a concrete cage, similar to the one I hung myself in back in 2003. I had stayed out of trouble in CM because I wanted Work Release, or at least the opportunity to be considered for it. I saw Work Release as the only viable option for me to not be homeless upon release from prison this time. I have no family. But just like a dream, I woke up to reality: There will be no work release. So I needed to do something to better myself and to adjust to this isolation. I found out there was a Drafting Course at the main unit. I had taken architectural drafting in college twenty years ago and didn’t finish because I 11
The Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights offers a monthly newsletter and various resource lists free to people in prison. They are NOT lawyers. They can be reached at: PO Box 1911 Santa Fe, NM 87504
AC or Administrative Confinement status means that I haven’t been found guilty of the infraction I was being charged with. In other cases, AC status can be invoked for the cause of placing a person “under investigation” for hearsay of a crime, such as planning an escape, selling drugs, being sexually involved with an officer or just because the warden and/or administration want to use their authority in a manner that can be construed as intimidation. 12 Once a prisoner is found guilty of the rule infraction, the majority of the time she is placed on”Lockdown” with no movement or privilege. DC days can be 15, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150 days or multiples of that time.
loved an abusive boyfriend/soon-to-be husband and I felt I had to quit to marry and support him. Foolish me… So I’m lobbying the assistant wardens, colonel, lieutenants, to get a copy of the drafting text so I can refresh my memory and do something I enjoy. It took 6 months of outstanding behavior to accomplish this. (I’m not down with authority in any way, shape or form, but I needed to set goals and get my priorities straight.) Please remember, a CM prisoner has no access to vocational programs or text…I’m the first one to break through that barrier. Around that time, I stumbled onto the South Chicago ABC Zine Distro by accident. I sent for a catalog and, when it arrived, I knew I had found my home and people like me, different from society’s norms. So I skooled myself with “Surviving Solitary Confinement for the Targeted Prisoner” and I then knew that’s what was up—I was targeted because of my influence over the women I met. Administration thinks I’m a threat and knows I could quite possibly evoke change and resistance, so their retaliation was out of fear of my possible initiation of group defiance. I then knew why I was sent to CM and that I could survive this solitary confinement. I could use my CM status to my fullest advantage and make it work for me, not against me (or so I thought). I was digging into the text and drafting principles, drafting everything that was laid out in the book. I showed these plates that delineate various drafting concepts and techniques to COs and others. Shortly after letting it be known that I was drafting, the Quad’s CM prisoners were yelling and screaming that it’s not fair for Savage to get a “higher education” and I shouldn’t be allowed to draft. Some of the COs agreed and started to harass me about my pencils, paper and text. Thus began
you have their back you trust them too you know that they have yours a few clicks here a few commands there and busted, S.O.L. A well placed word a changed up thought and all of a sudden you fall you take the hit while they run off their safety for your life and they move on now all alone you watch, not knowing what’s next you can do nothing but sit and watch as by the arm of the law they get snatched and all this time you sit and rot you wait and think and wonder what might have been if the law’s long arm had not pulled you under
There is a lot to deal with in prison already! While in seg and out, I shared cells with women who refused their psychotropic medicine and “suffered” mentally. Not alone though because it affects us around them. You don’t own anything in seg but your Bible, a few envelopes, a few personals. Going through details is too negative, but just to enlighten those that care, this is not a college campus! We can’t use the phones at all in seg, not even for legal calls. After we get out of seg, we are C-Grade—no phone privileges until it’s finished. I usually call my kids twice a month, sometimes more. Now I can’t talk to my kids and family and friends for a long time. This is part of the punishment in seg, the most painful part. I prayed and exercised and read a lot, keeping some kind of daily routine, to make it through. Thoughts came to haunt me, but I kept busy. Keep your head up to the sky! There is still hope! Don’t ever lose heart and let any wall separate you from the love of your family! The chains are only physical, never spiritual.
Margaret Majos B49682 P.O. Box 549 Lincoln, Il 62656
a war against staff and any who opposed my only way to stay sane. All the while, I’m reading more and more zines and gaining some head knowledge about the collectives, oppression, mentacide and reading Anthony’s work and corresponding with him. My review came and I was approved for release from CM and was just awaiting final approval from Tallahassee (the head of Florida’s DOC) the following day. My property was packed and I’m ready to get out and try to do my best in the program on the main. I had been approved by the Head of Education at Lowell for placement into the drafting program and they were waiting for classification to release me from the CM SHU. Classification had approved my drop in custody from “close” to medium so that I could go to main. Of course, this was contingent on the basis that I keep “in line” and cause “no waves.” Once this information of my near-finalized release from CM reached the ears of the CM lieutenant, he decided to use his “authority” to strip me of this opportunity to better myself, to earn certifications in drafting. He had said so much before, that, if he could help it, I wouldn’t do anything but rot in CM until I EOS. So, as I was sketching the floor plan to a small, yet cozy, residence, the sergeant and the lieutenant came to my door and started yelling me to cease my behavior. I wasn’t doing anything but sitting on my bed designing a house! The lieutenant ordered the video camera for a Use of Force, so I got up, went to my door and declared a psychological emergency (for I felt that was my only defense). I was escorted downstairs and locked in our dayroom.13 The lieutenant said, “I got something for 13
When a CM prisoner declares a psychological emergency, it is notifying the officers that she is in extreme duress and that
you—your psych call won’t help.” After his taunting and realizing it is his authority that will produce the extension of my CM time and loss of educational materials and career training, I decided to step up to the plate, for I knew that I wasn’t going to leave the CM SHU. I started yelling to all the CMs about the bullshit and psychological reprogramming and repression of their natures by DOC and how DOC is using us CMs as reuseable minions to carry out their plan of recidivism. I let go full force! I got crunk on their ass and kept on spitting out the truths. The lieutenant stripped my cell of everything, wrote me DRs for Participating in a Major Disturbance, Disrespect, Disobeying, Disorderly Conduct and every other “Dis-” that the rule book has. When I was returned to my cell, I had nothing left for him (the lieutenant) to take from me so I stood at the door and, for approximately 6 hours, ranted my anarchist truths and all the crimes the DOC has committed against me over the years and the abuse they are dishing out in extra heavy portions to the CM women. I spewed the truth like Mount Vesuvius and tried to bury the COs and staff with my volcanic flow, just like Vesuvius buried Pompeii…
there is a breakdown in her coping mechanisms, which may lead to suicide. It is the officers’ job to handcuff the prisoner so that she can’t harm herself and then immediately notify her psychological specialist. The prisoner is removed from her cell or the environment in which she experienced the extreme duress and waits to be counseled by her specialist, who will determine what level of impairment she is suffering and what staff can do to adjust the environment or if she needs to be placed on H.S.O.S. suicide status. To declare a psych emergency is like saying, “I cannot handle this current situation. I need help.”
A Lesson of Life …Segregated but Not Isolated… We must learn to take every experience, painful or joyful, as a lesson of life. Grow better and not bitter. Take a stand. I’ve been through so much in the last 18 years of my life (in prison) but every time, I bounce off of the wall of opposition like a ball, ready to go. The game is not over. God is the captain of my life. I’ve spent almost 30 days in segregation. It’s ugly, cold, lonely. The four walls are your best friend, keeping you confined but safe from others who could harass, take advantage of and hurt you. The food is cold and scary. Everything is scary. I had a roommate to keep me company (from being too depressed). We have 2+ men cells in seg. It’s usually full—11 people together! It’s not that big. You can only take showers three times a week, go get fresh air, clean your cell. The days are filled with mixed emotions, tears, thoughts, screams of other residents. It’s heart-wrenching watching the world from inside the cold, dirty cell makes you wonder! Where did I go wrong? Don’t we all, at times, have bad moments?
Well, it’s been difficult for me since the speech and rant, but that’s okay because I spoke the truth and didn’t cower in fear of abusive authority. If you succumb once, you’ll give in again…I’ve gotten DR after DR for bogus infractions, and have been stripped of my personal property which, by the way, I found a way around “them” impounding my writing paper. I used their (the DOC’s) formal grievance forms to write a comrade as the all-out assault on my humanity was happening. After days of strip status, my property was returned. Sometimes I feel like it’s just me against the world and I know in here, at Lowell CM, I’m the army of one with no back up from other inmates or staff. It’s sad but true. Sometimes I feel like I’m Don Quixote jousting at windmills, that what I’m trying to accomplish here by educating and enlightening these women, is all in vain, but I know that somewhere in one of these cells, a seed is being planted that may later grow into their own realization for the need to lead themselves and not be led and bled while here… I’ve finally gained a firm sense of self by holding fast to my beliefs in equality, liberty and life without threats or coercion. Each accomplishment, may it be emotional, psychological, or mental “growth,” is a form of
resistance. Marianne Brown SBI # 000149918C Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women P.O. Box 4004 Clinton, New Jersey 08809
Every time I teach someone geometry or basic reading or tell them of their own intrinsic ability to be autonomous and secure with themselves, I resist the mentacide, and hopefully arm the women with ways to combat their own mental slow death sentence here in CM SHU.
I fight for my CM sisters even if they don’t like me or don’t understand the guerilla tactics used against them.
instructor believes that DOC purposely discourages people from getting approved. Hence the shortage of instructors who are able to teach college classes in prisons.
Every time I get mail from you or Anthony of the
In almost every class I have taken, there have been problems with supplies, such as books. Sometimes we have started class with the wrong books, the wrong amount of books or no books at all. Then we have to wait a few weeks for their delivery. Some students in psychology had to use photocopies of the first few chapters. Also, an overhead projector was purchased so our teacher could display his computer’s screen as he lectured, but he has been unable to locate it since it mysteriously disappeared shortly after delivery.
South Chicago ABC Zine Distro or Abigail of Burning River or the meeting notes from StopMax (I am on the Steering Committee for the National Campaign to End Solitary Confinement and Torture in U.S. prisons), it
confirms that I am part of this resistance movement. As I conclude this piece, I have been informed of an increase in my custody to CM Level I. I know this is only a label, label, not who I truly am. DOC may have condemned me for my actions, but I know in my heart that for the past 7 months, I have taken the measures necessary to ensure my beliefs and integrity remain intact within a corrupt system. I have done my best to stand up for my CM sisters and myself. Yes, I have been DR’ed and “gave up” my privileges to take up for women who would spit on me if given a chance. I’ve asked nothing from them, I’ve only tried to show them that they must fight for their beliefs and happiness. I’ve wanted to show them that they do not have to be the label placed upon them—dumb ho, loser, etc—that they can achieve positive healthy goals even while locked in a cell 24/7. I wanted them to have a piece of my courage until they could find their own. Yes, I shouted about the unjustifiable psychological abuse they suffer—I shouted so that they could at least whisper of their own hurts in their own hearts…For this I have no regrets, and I
It has been common for instructors to point out the limitations of teaching and learning in prison classes with no access to computers, the internet or even sufficient library material. This causes difficulties in giving and completing homework assignments, for instance, as well as papers and projects that require research. These are just some examples of issues involved in obtaining an education while in prison.
Rachel Galindo 131837 La Vista Correctional Facility 1401 W. 17th Street Pueblo, CO 81003
will not apologize.
completion of previous courses. The age factor was relevant to the fact that the grant was only credited to women aged 25 and under. (This year that age criteria was amended to 35 and under, but will not take effect until fall of 2009) Over the years, this rule has been a significant education block for many who have been unable to pay the regular course fee. After a few weeks, a second block of the same Psychology class was offered to accommodate women who had been turned away from the first. With this arose the problem of finding another eligible (DOC approved) visiting instructor. One potential teacher was unable to do so because of a time constraint in starting the class after meeting all of DOC’s requirements to teach. In the end, the instructor of the first course was willing to also teach the second one. During the last class session, prior to the sudden disruption, we were discussing possible courses we would like for Pueblo Community College to offer us as our instructor is able to relay suggestions. Currently, he is among a limited number of professors who are associated with the program that enables these classes to be offered in prisons, and who are approved to teach here. He told us about some of the obstacles and hassles in going through the requirements for visitor clearance, such as trainings, “integrity classes,” and how these may deter those who are interested in teaching people who are incarcerated. He described one experience of a training session: The session began with 30 attendees, but after their lunch break, only 7 returned to finish. He described the trainings as being designed to scare people away. For example, different scenarios are presented to the trainees to prepare them for things that may occur while interacting with “offenders” (as we are referred to). Of the many unrealistic scenarios offered, one addressed what to do if every student arrived to class with shanks (prison-made knives). Through his experiences, our
I would much rather be punished for telling the truth than be rewarded (and praised) for living a lie. It is my unshakable belief that the only way the overall poor conditions for women held captive in “the hole,” CM SHU, solitary, and in general population will ever change for the better is through resistance. I’m not referring to a momentary attempt to defy the oppression and degradation of those who control us. When I speak of resistance, I’m speaking of a continuous, concerted effort to agitate and aggravate the infrastructure. I’m speaking of ALL women—all ages, races, classes, lengths of sentences—to set aside those differences and unite to create change. We are united, joined together by different sets of circumstances under this crushing weight of DOC’s imposed control and repressive dehumanization. Change will only occur through action, the action that we individually resolve within ourselves to take. The action to propagate and promote change is resistance. Our only chance at improving the quality of life behind the concrete and razor wire (which is slowly stealing our hope) is resistance. For the sake of our children and the next generation of incarcerated women, we must resist. For the sake of our future, we must resist. Resistance isn’t just a word, it is a way of life.
“Only those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.”
Some Challenges of Education in Prison
In Loving Struggle, Lisa “Lee” Savage 959277 T-2111/Annex CM, Level I Lowell Correctional Institution 11120 Northwest Gainesville Road Ocala, FL 34482-1479
I have taken a number of college courses in La Vista Women’s Correctional Facility in Pueblo, Colorado. Some of these courses are offered through local state and community colleges and are taught by outside instructors. I have seen a few common challenges in implementing these courses within a prison environment.
Note: Lee is scheduled to be released between July 1st, 2009 and August 1st 2009. She has no family and no leads on a place to stay. If anyone knows of any resources in Florida or out of state (she’s willing to relocate), please contact her or Tenacious. Three comic books published by The Real Cost of Prisons Project (“Prison Town---Paying the Price,” “Prisoners of a Hard Life---Women and Their Children” and “Prisoners of the War on Drugs") are available free to prisoners and others working against mass incarceration. To request a free set write: The Real Cost of Prisons Project 5 Warfield Place, Northampton, MA 01060 South Chicago ABC Zine Distro P. O. Box 721 Homewood, IL 60430 Sends free literature to people in prison about politics, history, psychology, criminalization, capitalist oppression, war, health issues, grassroots organizing, issues specific to women, Afrikans, Native Amerikans, gay, bi, lesbian and transgendered prisoners and political prisoners to people in prison. Write for a twenty-paged catalog. Donations in cash and stamps are welcome but publications are never withheld due to lack of funds.
In August, one such class began, Psychology 101, which led immediately into Psychology 102. After completing around 11 weeks of this 18-week class, it was disrupted by the need for our instructor to be reapproved by DOC to teach in the prison. According to a captain I spoke with, a certain renewal of background checks and facility clearances for visiting instructors need to be done every two years. So far, we have been in limbo, waiting for nearly a month to be told that the class will either resume or be cancelled. In the meantime, women who may have been expecting to finish the course before their release dates may not be able to because of this interruption. Issues also arise with the problem of limited slots for each course. There is limited availability for the federally-funded grant that pays for each woman, as well as a lack of adequately sized classrooms. Larger rooms within this facility that have been used for past courses are now unavailable for some reason. When Psychology first began, 55 women showed up for enrollment, cramming into one tiny “room” and spilling into the hallway. After a couple of weeks of lectures and jumping from one room to another, it was determined that 55 women were too many and the class was cut to around 20 students. When deciding whom to allow a slot, a couple of factors that were considered were age and the successful
A Beautiful Morning on the Yard Versus The Same Old Shit; Different Day PRISON MARCH We accept being classified Whose rules are we to abide Don’t know in whom we can confide Get upset when our patience is tried Hate to admit when we have lied Stress on with whom we are going to reside Often our values are cast aside. Most of us are never satisfied But yet we continue to go along for the ride We lose sight because we are too preoccupied Too afraid to cast aside our mighty pride Now maybe you’ll stop to take a look inside It’s up to you to decide.
Jen Nelson 119400 La Vista Correctional Facility 1401 West 17th Street Pueblo, CO 81003
A bevy of birds chirp and tweet, composing a symphony of spring, singing their hearts out and calling to one another, a lyrical melody fills the air. ************************* “Hey that bitch, she really fucked me over. I hate that asshole,” thumping her fist on a picnic table, she glares into space. Anger. Rage. Revenge. This is her “space,” where she chooses to be. ************************* The brilliant morning sun slowly ascends above the horizon. Her warm rays stretch out to embrace you. Her light reveals a stunning display of nature’s bounty. Myriad shades of green flora and a robin’s egg blue sky lift up your spirit. You greet the new day with a sense of peace and joy. **************************
They huddle, stooped-shouldered, in the shadows of the west side of the unit. Their bitter words drift along the wind as does the poisonous smoke from their cherished cigarettes. Yellowed fingers bring their deadly lifeline up to their lips. Yellowed teeth flash as they deeply inhale the noxious gasses. A thin smile crosses their faces as yet another nicotine surge calms their nerves. For but a moment, they are satisfied. ************************** I face the line of trees at the back of the yard, and pretend to be a branch, reaching way up high. A long, gentle stretch, and my tight muscles relax, the dull morning ache seeps away as I limber up. Now I feel like I can do anything. ************************** They stare scornfully at the barbed wire, weeds and asphalt. Inhale the exhaust fumes as a truck rumbles by. “These benches are hard as shit. Damn my back is fucking up. One more day of this crap,” they complain as they shift uncomfortably on unyielding wood and steel seats. **************************
I consider the time I spend in horticulture class. The hours fly by as I drink it all in. There is so much to learn about nature’s creative magic. New wonders reveal themselves daily and inspire even more questions that beg for answers. *************************** “I’m bored as shit,” they mutter. “There is nothing to do here. I wish I was back at intake or the camp. This place sucks. How much time do ya got left in this hole?” Disgruntled, they trudge slowly, shuffling their feet on the asphalt path. “Damn goose land mines,” they grumble. *************************** The same wind carries all conversations. The same sun and shadows creep across the land in their predictable course. Similar bodies either thrive and move or steadily decline from neglect. The same clock marks time for us all. Which course you choose depends on you. Beauty or brutality? You decide, it’s up to you! Sharon Stewart 575930 Huron Valley Complex—Women’s 3511 Bemis Road, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 27
Published on Dec 26, 2012
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