Thursday, December 31, 2020

Stink, Stank, Stunk... by Rory Andes

Since our prison has experienced a wide ranging quarantine that originated in our kitchen, roughly one quarter of our population has been relegated to being allowed one hour out per day for a shower, a phone call, mail and cell cleaning. Some people are pretty efficient and can do it all. Some, like my direct neighbor, don't do any of it. After a week and a half, the putrid smell of unwashed body and unwashed linens permeates though our shared ventilation ductwork. It has me on edge and I wake up sweating in the middle of the night, reminded of terrible times. Perhaps the back story...

While in Iraq many years ago, there was a mass grave that had been exhumed to the west of our camp. Neighborhood dissidents who were contentious to Saddam's regime where dealt with in numbers. After the liberation, the families came looking and the graves uncovered. The smell that wafted over the FOB from time to time was pungent and a reminder that we were in a place where terrible things happen. The smell of rotting bodies had a very unforgettable odor, even after they had been removed.

During that same tour, one of our interpreters had been killed in an IED attack. His head was severed from shrapnel from the jawline up. Parts of his skull were everywhere and in the cleanup, it even made its way into my body armor. About a week later, I detected that distinct odor coming from my gear and after closer inspection, I found a piece of tissue under the ammunition magazines in the pouches of my vest. Another connection of that smell to the worst of humanity.

So, my neighbor that has his issue with washing himself is torturing me during his quarantine and I can't wait until he can go back to work and put his gross ass hands all over the things I eat with and eat on in the kitchen again. At least then the putrid smell of rotting tissue can leave his cell with him and not get piped into mine, reminding me of a time I'd rather not have to reexperience...

by Rory Andes

The water and soap are paid for by tax dollars. There's no excuse to not use them...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

Or by Mail:
Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Trans Prisoners : We Have Our Own Voice (but thanks anyway) by Ruth Utnage

Trans prisoners seem to be a new flavor for organizers to cut their teeth on. Google the term and anything but the words of an actual trans prisoner emerge. Why?

Perhaps its because we are locked up and in our incarcerated and sometimes desperate state we accept being spoken for by strangers. At least that way we are represented.

Yeah, no thanks.

At the risk of unleashing a torrent on TGNC advocates and activists, give me the mic and get out of my way, I know what I'm doing. This is just like the racial injustice of black men and women being spoken about on news channels by nothing but whites, never bothering to include the black community in the conversation. Forgive me for not being okay with someone standing on my face to get up high enough to talk about me.

Check it out,
I got a voice
and
I know how to use it

I can write
and
I do

I am not helpless
I am not a victim
I am not your child


Piece of advice, not that it's been asked for (AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM!!!), if you are in the tough work of representing trans prisoners in some fashion... to anyone, you should be INCLUDING trans prisoners in your LIFE! We are people
who breath
cry
laugh
love
break
learn.

We
speak
write
publish
advise
lead
manage
follow
listen
direct.


Did I mention we, too, can speak? Did I mention that part?

With Love
Ruth Utnage
(an actual trans prisoner, I know, shocking...)



Tuesday, December 29, 2020

On the Annoying Topic of Prison Fame by Christopher Havens

Well, it's good and it's bad... and I certainly have a case of it. First, it feels good because people think what I do is amazing, and it feels good to know that of the thousands of prisoners everywhere, *I'm* one of the few that's blazing the trail, showing people how time can be better used. I'm an example to a lot of people and it's nice to grasp the idea that I could be serving my time like everyone else. Instead, people are telling me that I'm the anomaly that's showing the other anomalies how it's done. That feels good. And it's also neat to get messages from admin at DOC headquarters congratulating me on my endeavors. I get that from staff here as well.

On the other hand, there are some negative side affects. I have a lot of great stuff going on in my life. So much that when people ask me how I am doing, and then I tell them. Well, when everyday I do this, and they can see that I'm glowing while I tell them. It begins to bother many of them. Probably because their world is stuck inside a mental prison. But then I feel uncomfortable when this happens, so I stopped telling people how my day's are *actually* going. When they ask, I tell them what they're looking for. They say "How's it going?" and my response is now "Oh you know.. the usual". And then they smile and I smile and that's it. I would love to talk to somebody about some of this stuff, but it's hard to relate. So I keep my endeavors mostly to myself. 

Another thing I don't like is that because I've taken the time to learn some math, and because the media keeps picking up my story, everyone thinks I'm a genius. Many of the staff here boast and say that I am one, and many times it's in front of a bunch of other inmates, and so I now have that stigma. I hate it. It makes me feel really uncomfortable, but they don't get it. No matter how many times I try to tell them, they have this idea in their mind and it's just not true. It's weird. I'll be perfectly honest, I keep mostly to myself now. Even with the people I'm close to in here, it is sometimes a problem. And I try telling people that any one of them can pick *one* thing they'd like to become truly great at. If they were to focus on just that, for years, then they would be great at it, so much that it could change their future.

People mistake my drive for something else entirely. But this is another thing where the goods outweigh the bads. There has to be a "me" so that once people see that I've stayed consistent even out of prison, then my whole stigma in here (the annoying one) will act as a huge inspiration for other prisoners. I'll become a story that people tell, and maybe future guys might try modeling their own behaviors from certain aspects of mine. That's potentially a powerful and wonderful thing. :) It feels odd to be *this* guy. But I don't know of any other way I'd be. I'm surprised, truly surprised, that I'm one of the few who choose to truly *live* while carrying out their sentence. Why the heck is that?!

So the whole "prison famous" thing is strange to grasp. And it's carrying out into the community too, where my story is becoming known by hundreds of thousands of people. And to be perfectly real with you, here's where my opinion drastically changes. This is important. Because so many people are hearing about me, and because most all of them are inspired about it, I am in a unique position to make small sociological shifts in perception. Long held notions of how prisoners are and how prisons function. I'm going to try changing how society views "the prisoner". 

I get that this might seem a little cocky. It's doable though. I'm showing people that some of us change and that prison does not solely exist with the variety we see in the movies. So what if John Doe goes to prison for his first time, his only idea of prison is what he sees in the movies and media. He then acts and contributes to his atmosphere in a way that provides defense for that which he *perceives* prison to be. It's not pretty. Instead, what if John Doe gets thrown in prison for the first time knowing there to be a different reality to that which he sees in the movies? John Doe will not act as if his life was at stake. This small thing changes whole prison culture, because the revolving door that is incarceration becomes less dangerous. And it then breeds more anomalies inside prisons.

Visit my website christopherhavensmath.com

Christopher



Monday, December 28, 2020

Ruth's Place... by Rory Andes

I met Ruth at a place that she designated. It was an amazing place for dinner among her friends with beautiful artwork and brilliant track lighting (I seem to associate track lighting with fancy eateries). Much of the room was Christmas decorated. As we sat at a table tucked in a large room blocked by three walls, she introduce me to a group of several of her friends, none of whom I knew, but all were lovely people. Then we were asked by a young lady about what we would like to eat. As the others in the party gave their order, I kindly excused myself and quietly asked Ruth where the restroom was located. She pointed me around the corner and I stepped into the kitchen, brilliantly white with clean lines, an island of marble, and stainless steel appliances that were impeccably polished. It finally occurred to me that we were in Ruth's home and the young lady serving the dinner party was a staff member of Ruth's. I discovered just how well she had done for herself, extraordinary home, house employees, very wonderful friends, even holiday cheer. I felt so proud of her for doing so well. What does she do to accomplish this much?

Just as I entered the kitchen, the ground shook and I heard Ruth shouting commands to the rest of the dinner party from the other room. "Get under the table!" It was an earthquake and the lighting started swinging from the ceiling. I could smell smoke and before I could say another word, Ruth was standing faced to face with me telling me to get a bucket of water. Her Christmas tree had caught fire in the shaking and she proceeded to clear the space around it to isolate it as I filled the bucket. Her actions were quick, decisive, deliberate and well commanded. She snatched the bucket from me and doused the fire in the tree. As she inquired if everyone was ok, it hit me. It didn't matter what she did in her life to be this successful, she was in control of everything and with perfect execution. As I woke up out of this strange dream, I kinda laughed to myself and agreed with my subconscious that when Ruth gets out and is successful, it'll be because she is in command of a lot of complex things, all at once, and has room to enjoy a bunch of life, too... Good job, Lady... Good job....

by Rory Andes

It's amazing what my brain says sometimes when I'm sleeping...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

Or by Mail:
Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



Sunday, December 27, 2020

What's Prison Like? by Ruth Utnage

I wish I could answer with an answer that compels the reader to believe prison is solely what you make of it. You can be happy anywhere all the time type of answer. You know, be happy and fake it until you make it type of thing. Like hard days don't happen to the strongest of us or the weakest.

My truth is that sometimes prison runs my mind to the edge of insanity and it is only by pure proverbial core strength that I can grip the edge and keep from tipping. Sometimes my pinky toes are all the hold me upright, sometimes that's the only muscle left with any strength to stay put.

Sometimes I have days so good I wonder if I'll ever have a bad one. On top of the world type of mind, can't nothin' stop me type of vibes. I try to avoid them because every majestic mountain top is girded by some of the deepest valleys and I must come down, for a mountain only has its one highest peak. In order for me to reach the next I must descend into the valley below.

Please, do not mistake this answer for my own melancholy-ness or for the evoke-ment of your pity. I value neither for I am not an absurd creature. Granted, I have absurd moments and thoughts but my being, my humanity is far from absurd. Indeed, my friends have wished upon me to be more absurd! And that for my own benefit! I think not.

Prison is just like mountain climbing. We have choices to traverse the path that leads us into some of the most haunting valleys harboring some of the darkest and loneliest of nights we will ever know while we look up to the next majestic and promising peak where God Himself seems to sit. Then we will climb to that peak and see the next shimmering peak where that clandestine shimmer seems to escape our lucidity yet again and we must make the hard choice to descend our latest achievement into the depths so we may perhaps feel the warm embrace of success upon an even mightier peak.

That's what prison is like. Never even keel, always extreme. Mellow, even tempered, always sane prisoners I have only met in instances where they are heavily medicated or know not they are in prison, for they are insane.

With Love
Ruth Utnage 



Saturday, December 26, 2020

What Does Life Look Like? by Christopher Havens

A few months back, I was asked by a friend about what life looks like for me in prison. This was my answer. I'm sharing this because my answer today would be much different. Events have been occurring for me, one after the other that bring me to the realization that there really are no bounds upon how beautiful life can become. Later I'll share the update. Here was my original answer.

Life for me is similar to what you might imagine life is like for a student in mathematics who lives in the ghetto, but also that never leaves the ghetto. I try to keep my head in my studies, but it's hard to focus with all of the "prison" floating around. It's very loud, and people don't respect that I'm trying to live a separate lifestyle from them. But aside from the way it sounds, my life is in a constant state of surreal. It's beautiful and wonderful, and a bit terrible at times, but to be perfectly honest, my life was hell before I came to prison. I've become part of the math community, and my interactions with people like yourself, and my research group, and so many others make me realize that I have found the right company. This is the community I belong to, not prison. My head is not in prison. It's wrapped in projects and conversations, research with amazing people. When I leave my room, I see a prison full of individuals whose most meaningful event of the month involved not having to pay for a ramen soup. That is not what life is like for me.

Imagine something for a moment. Imagine being stuck in a room for a very long time, years maybe. Imagine that despite this state of not being able to leave, you no longer had the pressure of your job, your bills, and any other obligation of society. Imagine now that you have all the math books that you want.. Then suddenly, a person reaches out to you and invites you to study, say, projective geometry with them. Neat topic. This invitation comes with all sorts of neat dialogue. In this little room, you've transformed the floor into a mess with SET cards, modeling advanced topics. And conversations about concepts that are tough to grasp, but with the help of a new study partner, well, it's pretty awesome. Now include the same for Cryptography, and category theory and Topology. How bad really, is this scenario? Finally, what if in your amazing studies, people outside noticed and began giving you more support than you know how to handle? And what if you were suddenly given the opportunity to reshape your life to precisely how you want it to look? That is what life looks like for me right now. Like I said, it's surreal. I'm living my dream behind the walls of a prison. Who'd have thought that would ever be a real thing? But I have my second (thousandth) chance, and I'm using it to prepare myself for my future in mathematics.

Visit my website at christopherhavensmath.com

Christopher



Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas by Rory Andes

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a blessed, safe New Year. I promise, I'm smiling under this mask... You do the same!

Best Wishes,
Rory



Thursday, December 24, 2020

Changes I Would Like To See Happen In Incarceration by Ruth Utnage

I am a proponent of taking responsibility for your actions. You do something wrong, illegal or otherwise hurtful you should take responsibility. In the words of Albert Camus "...I note everyday that integrity has no need of rules." (The Myth of Sisyphus, pg. 49). This is why prisons are here. While I would like to see a world where prisons do not exist I would rather see a world where prisons have no need.

I read somewhere once that experts are experts because they can communicate the complexity of an issue they deal with simplicity. Prison is a complex issue because it involves multiple, often opposing stakeholder viewpoints. To communicate the complex nature of prison in terms that most stakeholders agree with I will say, people need to stop committing crime. It is that simple. But prison itself is a structure that does not promote that view point.

Prisons in the U.S. were built on the Quaker ideology that isolating a human being in a panoptic (Google it...) setting and making them work, follow a strict regiment, read the bible and talk not would "cure" their errant ways. Said simply, people commit crimes because they don't follow God, talk to much, and are lazy. Obviously the belief was to lock them up long enough to instill those values (for more on this subject see "Discipline and Punish" by Michel Foucault or "American Prison" by Shane Bauer). Today these values are not only outdated but, ineffective. If they were effective than it would have taken only a generation or two of this "corrective" action to "cure" the problem. If God and work was the answer it would have worked long ago.

The problem, in my opinion, is education and the unwillingness to adapt to emerging culture. I could rattle off a million little problems but I am going to assert that these two categories, being properly addressed, would change the entirety of incarceration to such a degree it would render the system nearly unnecessary for recidivism. We have uneducated and narrow-minded individuals exiting prison into the community with beliefs that don't hold water in modern civilization. It immediately misplaces them in the community as an odd-man-out and thus produces dereliction of mind forcing them to seek like-minded derelicts. Bad company corrupts good behavior.

Leaving prison with the mindset that you don't have to respect someone else's view of themselves creates a sense of superiority that few find palatable. Calling a transwoman he and him is a plain language example. When someone calls or refers to me as he/him I respect their right to spew that disgusting filth known as bigotry, hatred, or discrimination but that also means I have the right to not answer to it. After all, I am not a he/him, I am a woman and I honestly don't care who disagrees with it. I will say this though, if a hiring manager of any respectable company hears someone spewing such intolerance the hiring manager must first protect the company, which means the bigot and their intolerance will unlikely work their way into decent company, professionally or otherwise. It is but one example of the flat out refusal to adapt.

Have we not learned from nature that failure to adapt equates to death. As your environment changes so you must adapt. Prisoners adapt to prison life. That is the problem, the environment of prison, which is (sadly) created by humans using concepts designed hundreds of years ago. Recreate the environment to be adapted to, provide the intellectual and social structure to adapt to and the majority of incarcerated individuals will step inline with community held values. But when they are shown bigotry, literally watch it unfold as a community truth, then are released and practice such indecency publicly (as they were taught and allowed in prison) they find themselves isolated and around a narrow-minded social base, namely, those that will affirm their intolerant views. I shouldn't have to spell out for the reader that when you have a limited group of people to socialize with so to are your options. With limited options come narrower margins of success. With narrower margins for success come a higher likelihood of failure to comply with pro-social concepts. Because, after all, their "world" agrees with their intolerance, it is others who impede on them.

Now by this point it is likely I have made some people angry and have lost others in this narrative. But understand, I care not what they think and do not value their misguided and uneducated approach to social acceptance, as if the world should digress for them. Yet, I am the entitled one (this I say sarcastically!). I will not convey my points too simplistically, yet I am not naive to the dullness of semi-academic writing. Thus I will provide a summation for the reader.

To change the prisoner, which is a product of the environment of prison (remember, adaptation), change the environment the prisoner must adapt to. Make education the cornerstone of rehabilitation instead of the privilege so that when prisoners read basic text, as written here, they can comprehend what they are reading and are better prepared to interact with an increasingly educated society. Lastly, if prisoners are to adapt to prisons expectations than perhaps those expectations should align with the communities, after all DOC is a governmental agency that is built by the community for the community. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT impervious to criticism or fault. As so many prisoners and government workers have been forced to believe.

But then again, what do I know? I'm just a prison tranny, right? A he who feels entitled to be a she and wants the world to bend to me, right?

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Reflections of a Killing by Christopher Havens

There are so many things I wish I could have done differently. When I was in the court room I was a smug and remorseless wretch. But I've thought about this for years and years. Not a day goes by that I don't reflect on the past so that I may work to never make those same mistakes again. The truth is, I viewed my crime differently when it happened. Now, on the other hand, I know that what I did was wrong for reasons I was not previously capable of understanding. It was wrong for so many ways that I never thought to consider. 

There is *no* justifiable reason for another man to commit murder. I think of all of the moments he would have had. All of the laughter, all of the love. The joy of living and even pain. And then I think of a little boy who is currently growing up without a father. The moments I've stolen from the relationship between a father and his son. This is unspeakable. And I've taken a son from a father and mother. A brother from some sisters. I've robbed his family of a lifetime of memories, for the good and for the bad. I've taken these precious things from his friends and I've taken the very same thing from Randen, my victim.

And furthermore, no man deserves murder. I know from the very fiber of my being that people can undergo amazing change. I've learned that the rougher one's past - once this amazing change happens - the contrast from that past life to the current changed life has the power to inspire so many people for so much more positive change. The process is magical. I only wish I could have stepped aside so that this other person could have experienced the same thing.

From all this, I spend my time in the company of my victim. His image is in my mind every day, all the time. But he doesn't haunt me, his face does not show judgement. There us no hatred or mockery. He simply has become a part of my life, acting as a constant reminder that I must pay a debt which is priceless. And I've long ago realized that I'll never have "payed" my debt to the family or society. This is a 
permanent thing. My debt is payed the moment I lay my head down for the very last time. Until then, my path of desistance has two sets of footprints. I will have him along on my journey in the back of my mind, constantly reminding me of which direction is forward.

By Christopher Havens



Tuesday, December 22, 2020

How Many Convicted Felons Are Alive In The United States? by Ruth Utnage

How many convicted felons are alive in the United States today? This is a question that has plagued me. I can calculate estimates, but estimates are not hard fact. Having said that, one quick estimate using an almanac tells me we're (very conservatively) at around 68,000,000 (68 Million). Just for context, the United States total population is around 350,000,000 (350 million). That's a big number of felons. Almost enough that we could say having a felony is socially "normal".

While we are not quite at the "having a felony is normal" stage we are at the stage where being directly connected to someone with a felony is normal. If for every felon, 2 people are connected and supportive (in some fashion) then now we have even more staggering numbers, 136,000,000 (136 Million) people are connected and supportive to a felon. Add that with the total number of felons alive and now we have 204,000,000 (204 million) people who are now directly involved with the criminal justice system. By the way, that's the majority, in case you couldn't tell.

This is important to grasp. We are all impacted by crime. I am, you are, all of us. But, we are all also impacted by criminal rehabilitation as well. I argue that if we emphasized criminal rehabilitation and get more of the public directly involved than we will have less crime overall because the majority of our prisoners in the U.S. are recidivists (those that have committed a crime for a second or more time), which comprises upwards of 65 percent of our overall prisoner population.

Prisoner rehabilitation is everyone's concern. When someone releasing from prison does not have access to competitively waged employment, it creates a strain on our economy. It is not cheaper to lock them back up. Getting someone employable may be as simple as a college degree, at a community college we're talking $10,000, at most, as a one time expense. Compare this to the annual cost to house an offender of $20,000 (depending on the state), if someone serves 5 years that just cost you $100,000 and there is only a 30% chance the felon won't revictimize. Now, compare that to science that says if a felon is gainfully employed and college educated the chances of committing another crime reduce, by a lot, we're talking 70% or more. It is that dramatic.

The problem is this requires a shift in how prisons operate. It is hard to be a student when you're treated like a prisoner. It's hard to act like a college professor when you don't go to a college campus for work, instead you work at a military-like compound. The students don't have first names, they are numbers, with last names. It is hard to imagine that type of environment fostering educational growth and achievement. Yet, it is the single-most, scientifically proven, effective tool for reducing crime and our economic impact on the community.

Food for thought.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Monday, December 21, 2020

Social Mathematics Experiment, 12/11/20... by Rory Andes

"Sometimes it's the people who no one imagines anything of that can do what no one can imagine." - The Imitation Game

As we roll into winter break for the Social Mathematics Experiment, our amazing math lecture series with Edmonds College, I think about this quote as credited towards Alan Turing from the movie. Allow me to tell you what a few of my classmates have imagined for themselves...

Christopher has found a passion in mathematics, changed his entire life's perspective, became a published mathematician and is now becoming world renowned. He's the creator of the Prison Mathematics Project and is redefining how rehabilitation and mathematics intersect...

Marshall has grown passionate about his rehabilitation, conquered his math anxiety to an extreme degree, and is wholly focused on how a positive outlook can change more lives than just his own. He has become a standard bearer for others to emulate as an outstanding citizen. His educational path is materializing and his dreams are coming true...

Ruth has created a platform to showcase rehabilitation and the humanity behind those that are justice involved as the Executive Director of HumanMe. She has developed an educational path dedicated to criminology and how the system can be used to help people become more grounded in self discovery and reform. She teaches goal planning and self actualization to those who've never believed that had the ability to do such things...

James is a creative powerhouse who has learned brilliant artistry in both graphics and his words. He uses his experiences as a justice involved juvenile to promote identification of self doubt and pushes those around him to conquered those doubts. He sees his hopes towards second chances as a vehicle to live his best life with a focus on his education...

Muhammad has captured the American Dream from behind the walls of prison. A native of the Ivory Coast in west Africa, his mind for math and his thirst for education are infectious and it brings out a want for the rest of us to see the beauty in numbers. He has a way with words and can inspire deep thought about self reflection...

Victor has taken his education and gift for mathematics and applied it towards a passion for aerospace engineering. His use of numbers to theorize the most complex structures has become a source of awe and amazement. He is deeply driven on a path of education and is using his current space to create opportunities he never before thought possible...

As for me, my passion exists in seeing the beauty in the people around me and exploring the process of education, rehabilitation, and reentry. I've done more amazing things in prison than I ever imagined possible and with the help of these brilliant students, my friends, the best is truly yet to come...

by Rory Andes

What we can imagine, we can become...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

Or by Mail:
Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



Whoo Hoo by Marshall Byers

I received a message from Bellevue College today,, "Marshall Byers, you have been accepted into Bellevue College today!"Wooooooooooh!Heck yeaaah!   

12-17-20




Sunday, December 20, 2020

Needed: Additional Reading on Photons, Quantum Physics and Probability by Ruth Utnage

I am wanting to understand Nils Bohr and Albert Einstein's quantum physics theories better. I am fascinated by Einstein's ERP and Bell's eventual conclusion that Bohr's theory held. Our world is indeed "spooky" and I wish to understand the depths of just how "spooky" it is.

My math skills are limited and I know that in order to understand the mechanics of the science I need Probability as well as a a bunch of additional mathematics, I am willing to learn so I can play in the area of quantum physics.

Is there any way books on the subjects can be sent to me?

With Love
Ruth Utnage





Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Social Mathematics Experiment by James Cody Goodman

Mathematics. That word was once a source of what my good friend Christopher calls 'math anxiety'. Growing up I believed that math was a living being and for some reason that vast and terrible creature had a very personal problem with me. I had no clue what I had done, but it must have been unforgivable.

So, to now find my self in love with all things mathematics is quite a trip. I have always been an artist and I thought of art and math as being on the opposite side of a spectrum. I now see math as the art at the heart of everything.

Math is truth and beauty. It is art and magic. math is incorruptible. The only limitations on what you can learn and do with math are those which you set for yourself. Math cannot be taken from you. Oppressors cannot control it.

whoever you are, you can empower yourself through mathematics.

The Social mathematics Experiment is a beautiful oasis in a dessert of corruption and hypocrisy. I am grateful and proud to be a part of it.

James Cody Goodwin.



Friday, December 18, 2020

On Dropping Out of School by Christopher Havens

I started high school in Washington State. Unfortunately, I was suspended early on for causing a panic in the computer labs. I wrote a macro and made all the text on the computer screens dance around the screen. Nobody knew how to fix it, and so they called a group of technicians. They didn't find it as funny as I did. 

But my behaviors eventually led to me moving to Colorado Springs, in Colorado, with my father. Here is where I first used, and like I mentioned earlier, my use of drugs was initially a tool to fit in. And as my drug use brought a new type of people into my life it also brought new behaviors. I was skipping school to hang out with all my new friends, I cut classes, and I left my house at night to roam the streets. My grades took such a hit that I was made to repeat 9th grade.

My father and I did not get along well because of my decisions and behaviors, and so I ran away from home. I stayed on the streets and on couches with my new friends, and school was like a distant memory. After some time passed, I came home, and the next school year started. I was in 9th grade again, but I attended even less frequently. My father and I couldn't get along, and so I was sent back to live with my mother.

By now, my mother moved to Texas because of the military. So I had a new school, and again, new people to meet. This constant state of moving was the biggest common theme in my life. I started into the 9th grade again, but only as a social outlet. I was rude to teachers, and I acted out in class. Texas was different, because when I would skip classes, the law could get involved. So when I skipped school, I learned how to run from the police.

I quickly found new drug friends here. We would make a sport of running from the police. Finding entertaining ways to evade them. Texas was a career criminal training ground. My school sessions became less and less frequent. The reason, was that an officer would seek me out soon after I showed up. So I ran from them, as I had become so good at. I got suspended more times than I could count. I've gotten expelled. And the deeper in trouble with the law I had become, the less I went to school. So finally, as school had become a "risk" to me, I completely quit going.

I was finished with my education, I was running from the law, and so to keep from going to jail for a long time, I left Texas and lived my life out on the streets, roaming the avenues of San Francisco. No communication to my family. I just picked up and left. For years without a word.

christopherhavensmath.com 



Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Fight To Achieve While In Prison: How The System Blocks Achievement by Ruth Utnage

I am working on publishing an academic paper while I'm in prison and the journals editors have no concept of the challenges I face to meet their standards. Basic tools like a word editor are not available, I have to edit via email and a family member. Tracking the papers changes involves me hand typing two copies of the same paper and pointing out in one the changes in the other by painstakingly numbering each line in each numbered paragraph and documenting all corresponding changes in yet another email.

All of which requires clear communication that allows for someone who has never written an academic research paper before to make the necessary changes on my behalf without making unnecessary mistakes. I have to hand-hold them through literally every line of the entire document via email. And about that email system...

The email system is monitored, of course. It is screened to ensure any potential threats to anything are caught and managed appropriately, thankfully. However, this system is monitored by humans with no understanding of what it is I'm sending and like most humans they tag something they don't understand as threatening until they have decided otherwise. My emails are constantly getting flagged and held up for additional review before they make it beyond these walls. This makes meeting deadlines a challenge, to say the least, because I never know how long this process takes. Sometimes a day or two, sometimes a week or two.

You might think I could simply go to staff and ask for help. Trust them to be rational and help because, after all, I am accomplishing something that is positive and they should be more than willing to help. No, that's not the case though. The foolish stance of "if we do this for you we have to do this for everyone" or "we don't have a policy for this" or its lack of staff or a flat out denial based in ignorance and all that only happens if they will even listen to you. It's more than frustrating, it's disheartening.

Here I am writing new research on criminal desistance and rehabilitation, that has been academically accepted (pending publication), and the system fights me every step of the way. It's a wonder anyone does anything from inside these walls. The system and its operators literally block you from doing it making you feel as if you are committing a crime. How shameful on their part.

A typical roadblock looks like this:

I spend 35 hours painstakingly applying edits on an email that only allows 6000 characters per email. I have a draft folder that allows basic copy and paste, the extent of my word editing software. Once its sent or something is sent to me, copy and paste is disabled. In order to copy something I must pay $.60 a page to be printed and mailed to me (which takes up to 30 days to receive) or handwrite everything and retype into my drafts. My most recent paper took the entirety of 8- 6000 character- emails, each of which was labelled "Email 1" through "Email 8" so I can track which ones get held up in the mail system or "flagged". I sent 8 and my editor received emails 1, 2 and 6 only. The rest have been sitting in someone's inbox waiting to be screened for over a week.

Each email cost me money, $.60 to send each 6000 characters. Sometimes I have to resend each email in smaller segments to navigate the arbitrary screening system. For example, I took the recent emails 3,4,5,7 and 8 and divided them into each smaller emails (email 3a, 3b...etc) comprising an additional 14 emails, all which went through accept emails 3a, 4a, 5a, 7a, 7b, 7c making editing still impossible until those too are released.

Now my options are to wait and hope for the best or call and narrate the changes by phone, which costs $2.50 per 20 minute phone call and by the way you are cut off at 20 minutes. Oh, and by the way, there are other people waiting to use the phone so after 20 minutes you have to get off, wait in line again and hope your editor can wait as well (usually not). Sometimes 1 call will net half an email, of changes, if you're lucky because the other person has to manually type everything you say and repeat it back to you for clarity.

None of this includes the process of research. For instance, one of my editors added a cite to my work, necessarily. However, didn't add the reference to my bibliography. When my peer review noticed it I had to go and dig up that reference on my own. Without internet. Without a library. Without someone who knows how in my circle of outside support. I had to ask a friend who's mother has access to places like "JStor" to send him all articles that might fit that author and year and hope there was only one. In this case it was simpler because the cite and author was from 1963 and 1959 (Goffman), so I was able to get the paper, reference both properly and add them to my reference page. But it took 4 people and $7.50 worth of phone calls, emails and postage to do so.

All of which would have been avoided if the prison would bother to help in any way instead of block in every way.

And people wonder why prisoners sit idle for years. Me personally I understand my life is one big fight. I am a trans woman in prison who hails from extreme poverty and childhood trauma. I know that nothing in my life is going to be handed to me and I have had to fight for everything. My clothes, hormones, my emails, my education...hell, even my books I have to fight for.

I'm going to publish this paper even if it costs me every penny I have, and it has, even if I have to handwrite every line and snail mail it out or orate every letter by phone until I'm broke. Then you know what? I will take credit for every word and every bit of accomplishment and will make sure everyone who cares to listen knows I did it not because of prison but in spite of prison.

Ruth Utnage



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Root Problem by Christopher Havens

I began using drugs at about 14 years of age, and I remember exactly why I did it. It was because I wanted to fit in with a certain girl. I suppose the root of my biggest problems was that I wanted to fit in. I was never very good in my social interactions while I was young. As long as I can remember I always wanted to be liked by "the cool kids". So, in that moment while I was offered my first drug by a girl whom I wanted to impress, I gladly accepted as if it were nothing new to me. While I used, social interactions were easier, and then all of a sudden, I fit in with a whole group of people.

I see this behavior today, everywhere I turn. It's unfortunate to notice when other people go out of their way to look and act differently for different people, because I had spent so much of my life doing that very same thing. It's the reason why it took me until I was 31 to finally grow up. It is the underlying reason why I committed my crime. I wish I felt then, what I feel now, that it's "cool" to not be cool. That being happy in our own skin, with all of our oddest flaws, and all of our awkward behaviors is what's really impressive. I love seeing that attribute in people. I think other people do as well. That's what I should have strived to be as the younger version of myself. Happy in my awkwardness.

christopherhavensmath.com 



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Motormouths by Ruth Utnage

My cellie is a motormouth. I'm quarantined for some unknown duration and my cellmate can't stop yapping. He's like a Chihuahua that got himself into a bag of sugar.

I encourage him to read, which he does...thankfully. But then I get to hear every other line, so I'm reading his book too. Lucky me.

He's a nice person but I am a self-contained woman. I control my own structure and set my own days. I've been down a decade, doing time requires you to have a calmness about you in times when the only control you have is what you think about, everything else is controlled for you. He hasn't learned that skill yet. I suppose that's a good thing, nobody should have to adapt to something as inhumane as lockdown, it's not normal.

It doesn't change the fact that this...child...is in my cell and won't stop talking. Today I was watching TV and a commercial came on that featured Joe Montana, I said "I remember when Joe Montana retired from the 49ers" to which he replied "Who does he play for now?"

And he was NOT kidding.

I laughed out loud and right from my gut because it occurred to me just how different our experiences in life have been up to this point. I wonder what it must be like to be stuck in a cell with a trans woman who doesn't speak to me and when she does she talks about things I have no idea about. As it stands I cannot tell who's under more stress me or my cellie. He's a boy in his early 20's with virtually no life experience except what he's learned on TV and from idiots in prison. I was married for 11 years before I got locked up, my oldest child is only a few years younger than him, I'm literally old enough to be his momma.

I'd like to say something like "Now I know why some mammals eat their young." But I won't, not seriously anyway. I'm a calm spirited woman these days and even though the boy makes my head want to explode some moments, I'm calm. I'm used to being around chaotic minded children, I am in prison among many of them- and worse, just as many work here.

Patience. God bless it.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Monday, December 14, 2020

Beauty by Christopher Havens

Mental prison is a real thing, and much more powerful that the razor wire that surrounds me in my beautiful gated community. I know.. And the sad thing is, that I *didn't* know for so long. I call that mediocrity. At least in my life.. living to make it until tomorrow. Always in a rush to get to the next red light, and never pursuing beauty for the risk that it mighty take a few of your "precious" moments. I suppose I don't believe quite all the way that we live *for* beauty, but it surely needs to be the friend that you run into around every corner. I don't know what we live for yet, but I know that I want to contribute to the bank of human knowledge, and that beauty is a part of that process. I know that I want to inspire people, because it makes magic in a way, which is also beautiful. I love doing both of these while I do mathematics. That's how my life has meaning. So I suppose I live to inspire and be inspired. I live as a purveyor and cultivator of beauty, in so many forms. What is our future if we can't step back and marvel at the beauty of all of the past wonders from the minds of the men and women of whose shoulders we now stand? That's what I think is amazing. Human achievement

christopherhavensmath.com



My Life Growing Up (Part 2) by Christopher Havens

I was in so much trouble that I decided to run away. And so I did. But I didn't tell my parents or any of my family. I simply left with nothing but the shirt on my back. I was 15 years old, and left without a trace. After some time, my parents must have thought me dead.. I was gone until my 18th birthday. On my eighteenth birthday I called my family and came home. I can't even imagine how my mother felt while I was gone. But here I was, finally a legal adult. Here is what happened between that time.

I'm on the road, hitchhiking to San Diego, California. I was going under by fake name under a fake identity. I used one of my friend's names from Texas. Armed with only a Blockbuster Movie rental card, with my fake name I was able to pass myself off as a 19 year old adult, and so I was never picked up as a runaway. In fact, during my time in San Diego, I was arrested as an adult under this fake identity to be charged with my first felony as an "adult". Contributing maryjuana to the delinquency of a minor. I was a minor myself, but I didn't dare tell the police that! So I went to jail, right next to Mexico, in a place where gang activity was incredibly high. I served a few weeks there, but barely survived. It was terrifying. Once I was released, I fled to San Francisco to avoid the courts.
In San Francisco, I went straight to the Haight Ashbury district, which is where all the famous rock bands of the 70's were known to frequent. Haight street was where the Golden Gate park began, and a whole "ecosystem" of street life thrived. This is where I lived. For money, I panhandled. My run-ins with the law were made much easier with these jail papers, since they acted as a form of identification.

Living in San Francisco, I was slowly conditioned to true hard times. I can't remember how many times I was with a group of friends in the Golden Gate park after hours and had to flee the police for fear that they'd beat us into a pulp. This was common, a game for them. For us it was life and death. Living this life, I had heard of women being raped, men being killed, I've watched my friends die and I have starved on the streets. Keeping warm was a constant struggle in a city covered in fog. After all, the coldest winter I have ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. So I drank alcohol or used drugs, but not so much as a habit, but a way to numb cold and pain.

Somewhere down the line I began using harder drugs, which were easier to obtain in this city. The reason was there was more demand, and so the streets were flooded with dealers and people looking to purchase. It wasn't long before I developed a habit myself. And in order to support this habit I did so many things to compromise my values and my beliefs, but after a time, I became numb to the things I was doing. My virtue and all modesty went completely out the door.
After two years of this, I had found a rhythm, but it came with a price. 

By now I was using such a large amount of drugs that I have lost pieces of my mind where especially now in my studies, I can feel the absent places where my cognitive processes stop at a dead end. I've burned my mind on such large volumes of drugs, trying to numb myself and work towards keeping this pattern. This is a lifestyle where sex becomes currency and hesitation becomes hunger and pain. I've been beaten, raped, and drugged in the back of a van, but this was how life went. I continued this until one day it drove me literally mad. I attempted to jump from the ledge of a building on that day, thinking that everyone was after me, but what stopped me was a group of three guys. I wish I could remember what they said, but whatever it was worked. I came down and they took me into their home. I recall thinking that at any minute they'd want me to do something for their help, but I was wrong. They were taking me into their home as a member of their home. And it struck me as so odd that they spoke to me without judgement, but as we had known each other our whole lives. They had just saved my life.

The conditions for living with them were that I stop using any and all hard drugs. So I did. During this time, I got cleaned up and became good friends, family with these guys. I have a million stories from these times, but I'd be writing all month. Needless to say, I was finally in a safe place in San Francisco. I found a home there. That is, until my 18'th birthday. On my 18'th birthday, I called my family, just out of the blue. I didn't even plan it. But when they answered the phone, I was presented with both happiness and guilt, because for this whole time, my family heard no news of me.

I left on the bus immediately, and as my luck would have it, I was stopped by the police in Texas. I was immediately handcuffed, but not arrested. Since I turned 18, my criminal charges were dropped, but I was still listed as a runaway! So they called my parents and we finally met for the first time in 3 years, 3 years. My normal length of time before moving to a new place.

This was the bulk of my youth. My adulthood was similar, back and forth to San Francisco from Washington, and vice versa. I never actually grew up, and I never actually stayed still for more than 3 years. Well, that is, until I was arrested for murder so many years later.

christopherhavensmath.com



Sunday, December 13, 2020

Speak, Seniors! Sound Your Voices!... by Rory Andes

During my time in IMU for quarantine, one of the most unique revelations happened when I returned to my prison and my friends... I got to speak. For 16 days, I said nothing. Maybe a few words every few days to a medical staff member, but no conversation at all. I was quiet. It wasn't until I got back and talked to EVERYONE that I notice my throat getting sore. It hurt like I was at a concert or football game the night before. But my voice atrophied a little in the short time I was away and it hit me like a ton of bricks... what about those folks in senior centers who experience the same thing for years?

Here's a challenge... call a local nursing home and get patched into a room, any room, of a senior citizen who can't see their family because of Covid or worse, has no family, and get them on the horn to tell them hello and have them tell you how they are. If you can't volunteer to see these folks, please call them to let them know that they have a voice and you want to listen. I spent a mere 16 days without talking... call someone who's spent years like that. Maybe just wish them a happy holiday season and ask them what they want for Christmas. But get them to say something... anything...

by Rory Andes

I wish I could do more for seniors who have to live like I do...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

Or by Mail:
Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



My Life Growing Up (Part 1) by Christopher Havens

I am the youngest of the two children of Randall Lee Havens and Terry Louise Hogle/Forte. I grew up in a military family. My mother enlisted in the United States Army when I was very young and so we never lived in the same place for more than three to four years. Throughout my childhood I lived in Washington State, Colorado, Texas, California, Michigan, and Bremerhaven Germany. Moving around became a common theme in my life which carried into my adulthood. I was already fairly awkward as a child. I always felt as if I didn't fit in. When I would finally begin meeting some good friends, we would move again and repeat the process.

My time in Germany was wonderful.. We would go for long bike rides into Berchesgarten and go to the park there. We enjoyed the rich history, and even got to see some historic events. For example, I played soccer as a child, and every year our team would travel and play teams in different areas. So, I visited Berlin yearly for a time. On our first trip, we were made to go through "checkpoint Charlie" and show our passports to enter East Berlin. The wall was up, and so my family and I painted our names on the wall. I recall the mood being so much different from East to West Berlin. The next year, when we returned, the wall was coming down. People were electric.. and things were changing. That year our team was beat worse than before, and I left with a chipped tooth! :) The following year, the wall was down completely.

When we moved back to the United States, we moved to Washington for my second time. Everyone was new, new town, new neighborhood, and so I had to begin to make new friends again. This was normal for me. I was in third grade, and it was here where my mother tells me that I helped kids in their math. ..my memory is fuzzy, and I don't recall this at all, but I was told that I helped kids two grades up from me.

Somewhere around this time we had George Bush (senior) as president. This is when active military began shipping out for the "War in the Gulf", which began as Operation Desert Shield. My mother shipped out to Iraq for what seemed like a long time. Then things heated up in the political climate and active military redeployed for Operation Desert Storm. My mother was there for both. This is where things really changed for me because when she came back, my mother and father broke up and divorced. My mother fell in love during her time in the desert, and after she returned, my father moved away to Colorado.

This was the time of my first year in high school. I began getting in trouble by acting out. My first suspension was from hacking the computers in our school computer lab. Really, there was no hacking. I wrote a macro which caused all of the words on the screen to float and dance like a slow tornado hit the alphabet! I thought it was funny. The school did not share my sentiments. Not too long after, my mother was called for schooling in Texas through the military. So again, I moved, but this time, I moved with my dad in Colorado. This was where I tried my first drug.

This was my second high school I attended now. Everywhere I was at, I was the "new kid". So I was always in a state of trying to fit in. I always had to reestablish myself, and so when I was in the company of a pretty girl who offered me up my first drug, I gladly accepted. This began a pattern which continued well into my adulthood. It also caused a rift between my father and I. Soon, I acted out so bad that I was sent right back to my mother, now in Texas.

By now I had a step father, whom I didn't immediately accept. Actually, I recall meeting him by throwing a pitcher of water on him. I was mean to him for no other reason than he wasn't my father. So again, I began in another high school. Here, I was already involved with drugs, and so I fit right in with those types. I would skip school and hang out with my new friends, then I'd get into trouble and have to answer to my mom. Then my step father would interject, when he felt that my mother was being treated badly by me. Of course I resented him for any type of interjection, but this was consistent, and it showed me over time that he really loved my mother. This is what caused me to finally accept him as family. ..meanwhile, I stayed in trouble while I was in Texas. My acting out became committing petty crimes. My friends and I would sneak out of our houses at night and roam the streets looking for spare change in the ash trays of random cars. Really, this was our nightly activity. We would roam the streets, opening every unlocked car door, only to steal the change left in the ashtrays. This caused me trouble with the law at an early age.. The police looked at each case of opening a car door as a felony, and so I became a "career criminal" at the age of 15.

Well, here is where things get interesting. My schooling as a child had all but stopped completely. I never attended, and returning meant that the police would find me. At this time, I was skilled at evading police, trained to dislike them, and I was currently in a heap of trouble. Getting caught would mean I would go to jail for a long time. This began my life on the streets.

End Part 1

christopherhavensmath.com



Saturday, December 12, 2020

Music and Artists Us Trans Girls In Prison Are Feeling by Ruth Utnage

While we are not in the cutting edge loop of pop culture us trans girls in lockup get down too! Here's is some of the music we are shakin' our booties to when its just us:

Megan Thee Stallion and her new album "Good News"
Cardi B (literally anything with Cardi B!)
Mulatto (Try "Pull Up feat 21 Savage", that's my jam)
Saweetie "Tap In" ("Tap, tap, tap baby, tap in...")
Ariana Grande "Positions"
Nicki Minaj
City Girls
Tyga "Dip" ("How you make a g-string just disappear?...", if you find yourself moving to this music you might need to get checked)
Drake...pretty much anything Drake is putting out I am buying, his album "Scorpion" is by far my favorite and is a slow burn for my head, every time I listen to it I like it more and more.
Lizzo, yo, we need Lizzo to make more more more more more music, I cannot get enough LIZZO!

Just a few of our favorites on our latest playlists.

Any recommendations?

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Sending a Thought to the World by Christopher Havens

One of the biggest tragedies with imprisonment is the setting aside of one's goals and dreams, only to find that after serving out one's sentence, a new perspective dictates that they have become unobtainable. This notion of "imprisonment" applies to all of us, for it exists as a mental state.

There are many things I regret, but the past is something that cannot be changed. So I have chosen to embrace my past so that I may help people.. and so that I can help myself as well. I've spent a great many years coming to terms with my crime and many more fixing the behaviors that led to my mistakes. I hope that my story can help others in finding their way.. or maybe it acts as inspiration for people during these troubled times. Before making the mistakes that led to my arrest, life was prison.. My mind was trapped by a state of living to the next day. I worked to live, making no real impact in the world around me...so when was the day when my childhood self forgot his dreams? When was the moment where I decided that I no longer wanted to become an astronaut, or the president.. or an actor? Why did I give up on my dreams?

I want you to know that there is nothing special about me. I'm not a mathematical savant.. actually, as far as mathematicians are concerned, I'm probably a very low level mathematician. But the fact is that I came from a big fog of adversity. All it took was some years and a lot of commitment. And so my biggest goal comes with a message. You who are reading this.. are me. You and I are no different, intellectually or circumstantially. I used a bit of hustle to make my goals happen, but every person on this planet has had a whole life of practice at the hustle in some way. My goal is to show you that you can live your dreams still. It might be tough from your perspective, but it's not impossible. Don't let some discouraging words tell you that you'll need to postpone success for the next paycheck.. for the rent check. I hope that my story can help people realize that they can be better.. or quite simply that people can change.

We set aside a part of ourselves when we forget or dreams. For me, it led to a prison cell down a path to redemption and into some dusty old math texts. And now to you reading this message. I hope that if you've taken anything from my thoughts, it is to move boldly into your future and live what you love.

christopherhavensmath.com