[Marxism] Fw: [SDC] Leisa's Prison Journal #8

DHE cuibono at rcip.com
Thu Jul 1 18:06:09 MDT 2004

Leisa Barnes was sentenced to 90 days in the federal facility at Dublin CA,
for trespassing on federal property at Fort Benning GA -- to wit, she
intruded into the real estate properly known as the School of the Americas.

At this pt I wouldn't call Leisa exactly a Marxist -- but whatever you call
it, I  hope we see a lot more of it:)
----- Original Message ----- 
From: Paul Burke
To: Multiple recipients of list
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 7:12 PM
Subject: [SDC] Leisa's Prison Journal #8

Prison Journal #8

I save sugar packets off the breakfast line, hide them in my shirt pocket to
sneak out past the kitchen officer so I can wash the layers of dirt off my
face and back with a sugar scrub in the shower after working outside each
day. Yesterday I asked Iyabo, a Nigerian Muslim, for the cellophane tube her
disposable fork came in, so that I could wrap up some extra raisins I took
from the lunch line. Those raisins along with my reserved peanut butter
sandwich from my own lunch and a biscuit (wrapped in plastic saved from our
box dinner on Monday) became my dinner last night. I felt lucky to have
stashed it away, undiscovered, when I missed dinner again last night.

At 3:30 PM yesterday as I was trudging home, my soaked feet wrapped in two
layers of mucky socks and mud-laden, steel-toed, leaky army boots, Mr. Cook
quickly stepped inside my row of wooden barracks in front of me. Before I
could get up the condemned stairs to the showers, he pulled the fire alarm.
Oh, Mr. Cook, why'd you have to do that? He didn't bother to answer me, just
swung his arm around, pointed at me then pointed me out the door just as a
chorus of women in unison moaned loudly for their lost beds and showers and
for the next lost hour we would spend standing in full sun on the old army
football field.  After, we waited again to be counted. (We are not allowed
to stand in the shade of the trees in the smoking area during a day-time
raid on our barracks; only at night when the ocean breeze blows through the
prison camp can we stand under the trees). I didn't get my shower.

They were late counting us at 4 PM because of the contraband/locker raid. We
each had time to check our own lockers after the raid to see if it had been
gone through. I had time to pull off my soggy boots and socks, and rub cocoa
butter into my soggy feet, but nothing else before count.

We all jump, except big girl Dee-Dee, when the lookout calls out he's
coming! We scuttle out to the center aisle of bunk beds and stand in silent
line as he marches down the narrow aisle to count our bodies.  I had to tip
back to my chest my paperback to make room for him to pass. We can't leave
the side of our bunks while we wait for these counts that could come 15 min
early or 45 minutes late.
I turned to Dawn Miller, my new good friend, our self proclaimed and duly
elected (by one vote) camp president, and my unofficial twin sister; I don't
know why I hate being counted. Dee said I'd get used to it, but I think I
resent it more each time.

My beautiful black twin sister popped back with, "Cuz the man's standing on
your neck & cuz the man is walking all over your back." No wonder I love
her. She expressed what can become so easily repressed in prison: even a
blink like me, doing short time, can adjust frighteningly soon to abuse,
repression, and depravation. It wasn't till 3:30 am this morning, when I was
tosseled awake by yet another body count that I began to put my survival
techniques into perspective. I can see how inmates facing 10-20 years become
institutionalized. I save used scotch tape off of cherished bags of books. I
admired Suzette's prison earrings she made from a contraband paper clip
wrapped with a tiny piece ofborrowed copper wire, and the disposable
earplugs I found on my pillow one day are one of my most prized possessions.
I watched and learned how to make rubber bands out of carefully cut slices
of used rubber gloves. I know how to scrub floors, sink and toilet fixtures
with the same toothpaste we use to paste photos up with inside our locker. I
watched Gigi put half an avocado on her face and choose between putting the
other half on her face or her salad. My ragged shirt I cut up to run in
donated its extra parts to becoming a head band and lining for the crocheted
purse I'm making.

I use generic hemorrhoid ointment to moisturize my face and Chapstick on my
nails under my work gloves. Postage stamps are bartered for ironing,
pedicures, cleaning and massage. They are legal currency for art work and
extra food. An old coffee jar became my water cup, a real toothbrush a
luxury. The 12x15 foot space I share in an open hallway with seven other
women I even referred to as home one day until Dawn reminded me never to
begin thinking of this as home.

Real chairs and air-conditioning will be an adjustment next month when I am
released, so will driving in
traffic and deadlines. Some things will be easier to get used to than
others, like the sound of the ocean or the feel of Luke's arms around my
neck. I miss all my sons and borrowed children, but Luke was my constant
companion and it will not take any time to get used to that smile again. I
only wish all the mothers here could be returned to their children. Each
woman kept here I believe is a loss to society. Any woman who can maintain
the strict requirements of this prison camp, getting up before dawn to work
for $.05 to $.29 an hour, keep her sanity, keep smiling and not take a walk
down 8th street between the midnight and 3 AM counts, could easily handle
rush-hour traffic and manage a household. I'm not sure if most of the women
on the outside could manage some of the stresses here. By the time a sister
inmate has earned prison camp, she has well proven her coping skills a
thousand times over, yet she is kept captive to work slave labor wages and
earn money for the man who steps on her neck, and walks on her back. She is
forced to silently obey the same men who claim us as their bitches now. If
this is how we re-train women for society, it is a shameful way. I am more
honored to be classified with these strong women than I can ever express in
words. Next Memorial Day I will remember this one as I remember my father
and brothers' service to our country. I will not forget what my country has
done here and is doing now. I hope you won't forget either when it comes
time to vote for prison reform.

Peace and Justice all ways and always,

Paul Burke
Sociology Department
CSU Sacramento
University of the Pacific

"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."    -- Ben Franklin

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military
defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual
death...." -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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