Sunday, January 31, 2021

Relationships In Prison And LGBTQ Folx: The Value (and reality) Of Intimacy In Prison by Ruth Utnage

A cup of water in the desert is more valuable than a cup of water in normal life. Prison is like that desert. Physical touch is forbidden. As a trans woman living in a men's prison the temptation and downright need to touch is problematic. I crave physical touch like I crave food and water.

The problem with prison relationships is that while we're in here we feel "much". When we're in love we're deeply in love. When we have a friend we are the best of friends. This isn't necessarily an LGBTQ issue but a known 'thing' about prisoners, we grow close fast. But this also means when were no longer forced to be around others or our options are no longer limited we tend to forget about the bonds we had in here. This is that cup of water losing its value as an abundance of water is available.

When we're in the desert (prison) a small cup of water (some need, i.e. intimacy, being needed, love, simple physical touch...) is highly valued, precious even. Protecting that becomes a number one concern and consumes lots of thought. But when we are out of the desert (free) water is readily available and that little cup is no longer as important, if at all.

I dislike this reality. But it is a reality. Granted, not always. Some relationships are real. No doubt. But many are not and it feels real when were going through it. It fills a void.

This leaves a bunch of questions in my mind. I do a good job of staying focused on my future but I also spend a lot of time coping with not having certain needs met, like simple human touch or other forms of intimacy. Sometimes that little cup of water consumes too much time.

Just a little food for thought. When I release in less than a year, I am going to cuddle with my loved ones and I cannot wait.

With Love
Ruth



Saturday, January 30, 2021

Tokenize Me (but tell me first!) by Ruth Utnage

I value direct honesty. I understand that what motivates humans is intrinsic. What I value most is when someone tells me what they're really after. Cold, unadulterated truth. If someone comes to me with some plan to make a million bucks so they can donate half of it to some cause my immediate thought is "why?". Not as a challenge but as in what need does it fill for you? Notoriety? To cover shame or guilt? Because you lost a bet? Why do you need to do this? Because if I'm going to expend my energy and resources for you I want to meet a need and know why I'm meeting it because when we're in the trenches and stuff is getting hard and life is throwing challenges our way I need to know what motivated you in the first place...because it damn sure wasn't because you were feeling altruistic. I will need to know how to motivate you to reach your goal.

I tell this to individuals trying to vie for clemency. Just tell me you want clemency. Don't tell me you want to facilitate the LGBT support group because you want to "protect a marginalized demographic" you were "a bully". No, tell me "I want to get out of prison through clemency and I think if I show I care about those I used to terrorize in prison I can use that to counter my prior behavior."

Tell me the truth because I have a record of helping someone 100 percent of the time when they just tell me the truth.

Tokenize me. I am a transgendered woman who spent 10 years in prison.
I can speak to crowds, without fear. I have spoken to rooms full of killers as someone queer and convicted of a sex offense (and they all knew it because I told them) and still managed to deliver a great speech that motivated even the most resilient. I have delivered speeches greater than those in notoriety (though my favorite was the prior).

I am smart. I'm smart because I am dedicated and willing to face my fears. I am not fearless, I am courageous. I'm dedicated and courageous and that helps me be smart.

I am relentlessly strategic. I will use my strengths for someone if they ask me because it makes me feel better about my wasted life so far. In prison, I've done amazing feats. I've managed a website from behind these walls with no internet access. I've been published academically. I have a 4.0 GPA and was inducted into the Honor Society as Phi Theta Kappa. People tell stories about me, to me, not realizing it's me they are speaking about. But out there, I'm just a drop in the bucket and I am going to change that. I am going to change it by helping as many people accomplish their dreams as possible. It will help me feel better about myself.

If some organization begins to court me, they need to tell me upfront the 'why'. Otherwise it seems shady. Tell me "I want to tokenize this sh*t out of you because your a tranny and you can speak and I think if I take credit form your academic achievements in college investors will give me more money and help my organization more because I can Cinderella you". Yup, let's do it.
Tokenize me baby. I'll bend Heaven for you. I will spend every ounce of energy I possess to help you because, like I said already, it helps me feel like I am countering a lifetime of nothingness. And I know that if I help enough people get to where they are going at some point I can rely on one or two of them to help me get to where I'm going. We need people to accomplish our biggest dreams, let me help. I want to.

Tokenize me...

With Love
Ruth



Friday, January 29, 2021

Lovebird Hitchhikers by Ruth Utnage

When I was 17 and sure of myself I decided to claim my space in adulthood by taking my pregnant 18 year old girlfriend, we'll call her H, soon to be wife, and hitchhiking from Washington to Nebraska. We were a mixed race couple with no real sense about what lie ahead for us. She was Alaskan Native and Black, I was white. All we had was an atlas and a drive to get as far away from our childhoods as possible. Funny how that drive led me right back to the epicenter of my childhood trauma, the Midwest.

It felt good to be trusted by someone, even if that trust was garnered via desperation and ignorance on both our parts. When I first made the decision to hitchhike to Nebraska we were in H's Mom and stepdads minivan supposedly vacationing to Chicago. We began in Bremerton, WA and by Wenatchee we were broke down, on the side of the road with no money and one bitchy, pregnant girlfriend who placed blame everywhere but where it belonged. I just wanted to get out of there and I didn't want to go home. I stole an atlas from a truck stop along with a bag of mixed nuts squirreling them away for later. Within hours H's parents left us, along with H's little brother to go find emergency help. The boy was 14 and full of attitude, so I told H that I was leaving and I wanted her to come with, but if she didn't I was still gone. I only walked about 4 steps before she said "I'll go".

Our first ride was from a military person, he gave us $50 and a warning against the dangers of such a task along with a stern finger wagging at me for allowing a pregnant woman to embark on such an adventure. In our minds he was just attempting to parent us some more and we couldn't get away from him fast enough. Though after that we learned that the State Patrol frowns on hitchhiking on Interstates, we were picked up and the cop was nice enough to take us back to our origin, precisely where the military guy dropped us off, a truck stop. We were thankful he just let us be. We made our rounds to all the parked Semi's and were rejected by the entire lot, save for one but he told us "I have to wait for a trailer to arrive, if I see you on an on-ramp in my rearview I'll stop for you, otherwise, good luck."

I hadn't even thought of the on-ramp. So that's where we headed and for 4 hours we stayed there while H angrily stuffed rocks inside my backpack "One rock for every 15 minutes I have to stand here in this heat!" It wasn't long before my back was aching and I was beginning to get worried. But then we heard an air horn blast on the highway and that trucker came through on his promise! We hightailed it down the long ramp, which are deceptively long, and hopped in the guys cab where we were greeted with a warm smile.

That trucker lined us up with other truckers all the way to Omaha where 18 hours later we arrived safely having never set foot on asphalt or had time to break that $50 dollar bill. At 3 a.m. I was dropped off at a childhood friends home who, luckily, still had a mother who lived there and remembered me from long before.

I never did get the names of the truckers. I suppose I could name them all after Angels, they were certainly guardians. It wasn't until years later I even understood how lucky we were, how generous they were and just how stupid youthfulness can leave us.

Our adventures in adulthood came to a screeching halt just a few short months later when H's mother passed away shortly after our first was born that December. She went home for the funeral and just simply wouldn't come back. Living in rural Nebraska had been too much for her because racism was still very much alive and "status quo". It wasn't the only reason though, our running start to take flight and spread our wings ended with us being dirt poor in the middle of nowhere and her mom dying was the final straw. It didn't help matters any that I was very clearly struggling with my sexuality. As was evidenced by my bringing my best friend J, down with us to live. But J is another story, another tale of ridiculous notions staged by the stupidity of youthfulness.

With Love
Ruth



Thursday, January 28, 2021

Loving Ourselves Enough To Tell Ourselves "No" by Ruth Utnage

I watched a video in college that a professor brought in of Will Smith giving this motivational talk ( I don't remember the name of the video, sorry!! ). In it he says "you have to love yourself enough to tell yourself no".

I've repeated that as a mantra in my head. Tough decisions for our long-term best interests are not easy to make. It's easy to go high and hard to tell yourself no. It's easy for me to gorge myself at night and easy for me to skip the gym but hard for me to say no to unhealthy food and my own laziness. It's easy to let your anger run amok and your temper flare and hard to check yourself enough to say "No, we're not doing this again".

I've been practicing this for a few years now. I'm about to be candid here, so be aware. As a woman in a men's prison the pressure and temptation for sex is extreme. All day everyday, nonstop. Sometimes that constant is too much and to be quite frank, sometimes I am just as attracted to someone as they are to me. It isn't that hard to find a way to be physical. As a woman I have to see men with their shirts off, and believe me...some of these men are chiseled like Greek statues of perfection. Add to that their flirtatiousness and doting attention, it gets really difficult to say "no".

But I do. I do every day and have for years instead choosing to focus on my long-term best interests. If they are "the one", they'll be there when I get out too.

It's eating more fruit and less sugar. It's going to bed at a decent hour. It's doing the things today your tomorrow self will thank you for. And to be even further candid, it's not all that tough. It's not hard to love yourself, at all. It's much harder to be our own enabler than it is our own loving, responsible parent.

Be kind to yourself.

With Love
Ruth



Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Social Mathematics Experiment, 1/22/21... by Rory Andes

During our Friday math club, of all the cool material we went over (like Ruth's overlay of Pascal's Triangle onto dimensional subtraction), something else became an interesting topic... Math books, apparently, evolve. There was a book in the room that we talked about with a print date in the 2000s, but it was a reprint of material from the 1950s. The book covered linear algebra, but there have been changes in terms and techniques since the original content was collected. Who knew that the way to represent the math would be so vastly different in a mere seventy years?

Once we were clued into the how to express certain elements of the math using modern terminology, much of what we played with made more sense. And I ultimately learned that the language wrapped around the numbers changes in time, often to be more useful and become more impactful. If math, something so seemingly absolute, can change, can't we all? Fascinating...

by Rory Andes

If the way to express numbers can change, certainly prisoners can...

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Monday, January 25, 2021

9 Months Left by Ruth Utnage

I have 9 months left until my release and I have to remind myself that 9 months is still the better part of a year. It's been 10 years since I was locked up though and 9 months hardly seems like a blink.

My friends say I'm nesting, getting restless. I have to be honest, I don't even remember life outside of prison. My memories are like fuzzy remnants of a TV show or movie I once saw. Sometimes I can't tell if they are even real. My friends that have released say that it's like hitting an "un-pause" button, everything just comes back, like it never happened. I am unable to imagine that, however, I accept it as truth, my friends are unusually smart and reliable.

I am looking forward to the adventure awaiting me though. I am nervous about what lies ahead, but nervous enough to be deterred. More...excited than nervous. I'm about to crush it, I've spent 10 years preparing for this moment where the rest of my life begins. Best believe I won't squander a second chance.

With Love
Ruth



Sunday, January 24, 2021

No Justice, No Heat... by Rory Andes

Every year during the winter, we have occurrences where the heat may go out. It may be out for several days or maybe come and go until they get it fixed. This breakdown in the steam system is to be somewhat expected. We use a thirty year old system and it serves an entire prison. How it's managed in each building is beyond me, as I'm not in the business of knowing. That's not a trade I'm interested in or a skill I have. Kudos to those who can out smart this HVAC system. All I know is that my cell is freezing and the water isn't warm and it may be awhile until that changes. In years past, because it does happen every year, I learned to use the right body cleansing products to turn a five minute shower into a much shorter one, bundle up before bed, and keep some cough drops on hand for the inevitable. So why is this worth mentioning now?


With the response to Covid symptoms (or anything that remotely looks like a Covid symptom) being dealt with in such an absolute way, illness induced from a lack of heat might just mean being quarantined in spaces that have actually Covid ill people. The lack of heat might just mean a death sentence for the wrong person. More over, the prison maintenance folks know how to fix the heat, so it just seems irresponsible to allow it to linger for days at a time. With so many in close proximity, what was in years past a simple nuisance, might just be the deal breaker for the wrong immune system. It may seem like a situation you might just say "Suck it up" over, but when you watch the perceived punishment that comes with illness these days in here, man... just fix the heater....

by Rory Andes

Covid changes everything about prisons...

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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Is It The Men Or The Ideals We Fight For? by Ruth Utnage

Two groups meet at a significant location to defend the honor of one of two political figures. Prepared to fight for that one individuals spoken word and the promise of action.

I can see it now, civil war all over again. Our country is on the verge of a second civil war and the battleground is once again our backyards where our children will be steeped in the boiling waters of bloodshed.

I urge you to think about what will be fought for. Is it the man or the mans ideals? Can we not see that both scenarios are manufactured by mere men. At this point we have betrayed our Creators or if you believe we came from evolution we have betrayed basic science by fighting for the words of mere men. Our very cores have been overturned the second we entertain the exaltation of one human being over another and deemed them so worthy of the sacrifice of our lives. What kind of madness overtakes our psyches that we would even give voice to such thoughts. Sacrificing our lives or the lives of our children to exalt a single man.

Exalt not some man but our kindred spirits into the wake of destruction that has left us all seeking stability. Let us calm the waters of tumult not by election or through another man's ideals but through our own actions.

We can never be led by a human. We have hearts and brains and breath and none of these things can be created by man. Not one. We cannot recreate ourselves and let us not lead or control what we cannot understand let alone create! What lunacy overtakes us to think such foolish notions!

Let us heal one another in these new waters. Let us all dip into the pool of calm and let ourselves be cleansed of the mire that we have all been spackled with. Let us not think in terms of Republican or Democrat, Race, Trump or Biden, Man or Woman but in terms of "will this end in the love I want to receive?".

Brothers and Sisters, I will go first, I love you and I will treat you with kindness and heart. I have harmed others. I have been the evil of which I ask to shed. I vowed to love. To do no harm. To never take autonomy from another human being. To never victimize others or, indeed, myself. To these core beliefs I hold true.

I urge you to spread a new message. It doesn't have to be this one, but let not silence be the cleanser of your conscious.

With Love
Ruth Utnage
www.humanme.org



Friday, January 22, 2021

Don't Forget Today... by Rory Andes

While standing in line for one of the various things we stand in line for in prison, I struck up a conversation with a guy who, after 25 years, has become well versed in Buddhism and the accompanying philosophies. As I usually do with guys, I asked about how he saw his place in his future. He simply stated, "I have to make sure today is as good as any other day, before or after." I was intrigued by this and asked him to expand and he gave me a great one line explanation... "If you keep one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you might wind up pissing on today."

This little nugget struck me like a ton of bricks. So many people in prison wind up struggling with the histories they can't erase, their failures or shortcomings. Some of that becomes the anchor to progress and degrades any advancement. On the other hand, some get so wrapped up in a want to outrun themselves, to do more, or become so engrossed in "next" that the future is the only thing they see. It becomes what they will do, the big plan, the future... and they ignore the journey. Experiencing both past and future are key for all of us, but I think it might be good to also just experience today. The victories of putting yesterday to bed and planning for tomorrow exist in this moment. I like his idea. I'll make today count because all my days, before and after, depend on it.

by Rory Andes

Keep your ear to the world and you hear amazing things...

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bothersome Math in Bond Yield Years by Ruth Utnage

If you watch CNBC they display the yield percentages of bonds. Each bond yield percentage is separated by a length of time in years, the ones displayed are: 2yr yield, 10yr yield , and 30yr yield.

So what's my beef with this? It's not the amount of the yield that vexes me, no, it is not nearly that justified. It's that if I take 2 x 10 it equals 20, not 30. I would be much more inclined to purchase bonds if they were sold and displayed in multiples of one another such as 2yr yield, 5yr yield, and 10yr yield or 2yr yield,10yr yield, and 20yr yield. At least then it is aesthetically pleasing to me.

While I understand the world does not revolve around me and my admittedly pretentious outlook on bond yields, it makes me wonder if others like me exist?

Ahh, what it must be like to be normal...

With Love
Ruth



Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Goggle Search Marshall Byers by Marshall Byers

Yes, I may be in prison, but I possess a limitless freedom to choose what I think about. I am continuously creating healthy and positive conditions for my everyday life here in prison. Waking up at 4:30am, I start my day with a giant smile and a cold glass of water. I look for every opportunity to say thank you to others, including myself.

I spend time reading, writing, and applying fresh ideas by pumping the bellows of my inner creative fire. One of the notes to self hanging from my cork board: Desire what reputation you want ten years from now, and then grow to fit it one element at a time. Build your reputation intentionally!

Written on my mirror in Purple w/ Black boarder: I Am A Uniquely Gifted UW Student.

Nothing can ultimately confine or limit you. New thoughts create new conditions. Happy high-five Friday everyone!

Love with laughter,
Marshall Byers



Social Mathematics Experiment, 1/15/21... by Rory Andes

After a winter break, we reconvened our amazing math club with a new approach to intermediate algebra. Sounds like a lot of fun, right? It is... And just as important as exploring a few math problems, we got to catch up on some community among friends. We did a round of check-ins and it was so wonderful to see the faces of these amazing people. But, we were missing two this week for very responsible reasons. Next week, the group will be all together and we can catch up with them as well.

One of the great things about this class is the involvement of the college educators and the ability to formulate so much about how to pursue opportunity beyond prison. I am always humbled by the level of commitment and explanation they are willing and wanting to give to students to excel. I'm glad these Friday classes are started up again... there was so much to miss.

Are you interested? Try this...

Find all the values of t such that t-1, t+1, and 4 could be the lengths of the sides of a right triangle...

by Rory Andes

I enjoy the mental playground that comes with my Fridays...

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

My Release Plan by Ruth Utnage

I've been thinking about how to live my life better upon release from prison for the better part of a decade now. I have obvious elements such as:

Report as required to whom I must report to
Pay fines and obligations
Follow the rules imposed on me

All of these are obvious to me and several more are present that are obvious like "get a place" "save money" etc. But I am a pragmatic. I need a plan, I thrive on regiments and steps...pragmatism. Here's my over all plan:

1. Get enrolled in college, study Criminology (I'm published in this field already) and prepare that I may pivot into Human Services or Business.

2. Get a career that uses my strengths, pays me well, encourages personal growth and appreciates loyalty. I'm open to new fields but initially I want to work for an HR Consulting firm or for a business / nonprofit that is in the social change arena. ( I want to seriously pursue wealth through a career that makes me happy, seems that may be dreaming for some, but I'm Ruth, I have never excelled on the beaten path)

3. Increase investment portfolio so that I can begin providing venture capital for start-ups (I'd like to begin with my first 10k, grow from there).

4. Position myself, credentially, to be a very loud and influential voice of reason in the correctional system to begin strategically shifting prison culture to be more educational and rehabilitative in nature focusing tax dollars to be more effective in their use with the final, long-term goal of ridding our country of a system that simply doesn't work (our national average recidivism rates (that is, how often someone returns to prison on a new crime) are above 66%, that means prisons have a 66% failure/ineffective rate, we wouldn't fund that kind of failure in any other field, not even pizza delivery or fast food, corrections is NO DIFFERENT).

5. Finish my treatments/therapy

6. Grow HumanMe.org into a platform that gives voice to a national writer-base, has everything one needs (in the free world) to create 1, 3, 5, or 10 year goal plans (for anyone), and mentor a prisoner safely and effectively. Ultimately I want this to be a fully functioning 501c3 and will likely be the way I introduce cultural strategy planning into a states prison system (as a consultant).

This is my initial plans. I of course want to date and continue to transition into Ruth, have that closet full of designer and fix my teeth. But those things will come naturally as will new cell phones and laptops and food. I need help getting those things but I actually need help getting the major stuff above. The career, the mentorship, the network.

I could use your help.

With Love
Ruth 



Monday, January 18, 2021

Six Seconds... by Rory Andes

While watching some local news this morning, there was the usual fare of long winded human interest pieces. Don't mistake my words, they are important, but lots of time goes into reporting things with marginal substance. But, as the news was hashing through the various pieces of Covid stories, most holding over a minute of reporting, one story earned six seconds... a measly six seconds. It was the death of a second inmate at Stafford Creek Corrections Center in southern Washington state.

They gave me the stats, over 700 infected in 30 days at that location and a second inmate dead. And I got it all in six seconds. As these things go, they won't revisit the story. Did the inmate have a death sentence? No. This state deems that unconstitutional. But, he was confined to a space that has no relief of disease and died. And he, nameless as can be, got six seconds of reporting. I'm sure someone out there reading this would say he got more air time than he deserved, but he was someone's loved one also. For those that think prisoners deserve "what they get", if death wasn't their sentence, I don't believe it's warranted. But any way you slice it, the story deserves more than six sorry seconds, especially as they're building medical tents in our yard without any information as to why...

by Rory Andes

A tragic loss is worth more than six seconds...

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Fruit of Facing Resistance and Challenges by Ruth Utnage

Resistance is not an enemy or an opponent. Resistance is a tool, a character trait to help you learn to achieve your wildest dreams. Without resistance we are doomed to limits as a species. When muscles face resistance repeatedly they adapt to the difficulty by growing stronger. Strong enough to overcome challenges. So do we.

We can choose to lay down at resistances' feet and declaring it a tool for someone else, to heavy for us to use. Or we can stand and fight. We can continue to embrace it until we are strong enough to overcome our unique challenges in life. Instead of retreating from resistance, pick it up and use it.

Yes, you'll be sore and for a short while you'll be aching, maybe even walking a little funny. But when you heal you're better adapted. You're more durable. You're stronger. You're one step closer to your dreams.

Don't shy away or be resentful of resistance, embrace it. Without resistance we fail. With resistance we prevail.

I choose to prevail.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Chuck... by Rory Andes

I remember him... His name was Chuck. I remember when he was my neighbor. Chuck was in his mid thirties and left here about two or three years ago. He wasn't unlike a lot of inmates who had a rough upbringing and found his way into a life of drugs. He would talk about that part freely. He always hated that drugs were a part of his life. It was one of those things that factored into him coming in and out of prison. He had been doing that since he was a kid. While in prison, he fell into the trap that happens to a lot of kids who find their way to prison early and he aligned himself with the less desirable types. Not so much gangs, but those that might be viewed as a lower class, less educated, anger over all else, generational strife type, maybe even classified as simple white trash. The people he absolutely related to. Chuck hated that, too. By his thirties, he had a different vision for himself. But he still had some wheels in the rut and that was a hard habit to break for him.

I remember talking to him on a walk one day about how he saw his life becoming better and how to become different. He was enjoying a victim's empathy course I had taken and he was asking my advice on how to really embrace what he was learning. He said he was driven to be clean and sober and he wanted to be a real dad and be a person of business, but he had one major thing holding him down. Something he wanted me to keep under wraps. Something he didn't share much.

Chuck was a sex offender on lifetime community custody for an assault with sexual motivation that he committed when he was a teen. He felt the same about it as if he raped someone. To him, it didn't matter how far he fell and recovered, because he was never going to outrun the stigma of his first offense. He was never going to be good enough to be released from DOC's overbearing stipulations, so why really try. Truth be told, it kept him from engaging more in gang life in prison because they don't accept those crimes either. It kept him from engaging in success, too. But Chuck's heart was just that of a poor kid from a poor life who could dream big about everything except the shame of his sex offense and the weight he had around his neck. To him, the lifetime parole ensured he would always come back to prison, time after time, for a drug habit he picked up to deal with himself. He was a nice person at heart, though. He dreamed a wonderful dream. I lost track of him as soon as he left. He wasn't someone who kept up with folks after his release. I think for most people, he just assumed he'd be back and see them again.

Tonight I heard that Chuck committed suicide. I see his face and I think about our talk that day on that walk. I still see the shame in his face. Not of being a poor kid from a rough background who dealt with drugs as a demon, but of being stigmatized as a sex offender that society, the system, even prison culture said is irredeemable. I hope he's free of the stigma now. Rest easy, Chuck...

by Rory Andes

Stories like this are so fucking sad...

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Friday, January 15, 2021

So You're Coming to Prison.. by Christopher Havens

When I grew up, all I had ever heard or seen about prison was that it was filled with violence, rape, killings, deceit, and a layer of politics dictated by some "convict code". And what could anyone do to prepare themselves for such a place? 

My first feeling while on the bus to prison, while I looked at the miles of razor wire fence, and the guards with guns, was to become that image in my mind of the convict. I felt that if I were dangerous enough, people would leave me alone. That is NOT reality. 

First, if you're very dangerous, you'll simply be expected to do very dangerous things to other people, in which case you become a tool for violence. Second, and the most important, prison does NOT fit the picture that society paints of it. You do not need to become the "convict". 

There are more options, and if you're first arriving to prison, it can be hard to see. But keep in mind that in the the jails and receiving facilities are full of people who are just like you, they're preparing their mind for danger and chaos, and thus *they play the part*. 

You'll notice that the returning convicts telling how "crazy" prison will be. That my friend, is because they are returning once again to prison. They ARE the type that makes this their lifestyle. But be yourself and once you settle into your main prison, you'll see that prison life is precisely what you wish to make of it. Think of it this way. You've suddenly been given x amount of years to learn whatever you wish. So pick one thing. One very specific thing, say, something you've only dreamt about as a child, and learn it. Become an expert at it. Find your passion and build a lifestyle around it. 

Prison is only in your mind.

By Christopher Havens
Visit his website at christopherhavensmath.com



Thursday, January 14, 2021

Will This Trans Prisoner End Up Alone? That's The Fear: Chasing Career Certainty Above Uncertain Relationships by Ruth Utnage

Of this I am certain. I have the confidence and grit to go and achieve my ultimate career goals. I have done things in prison that most will never attempt outside of prison, let alone in prison as a trans woman. What I am not so certain of, finding an intimate partner.

This is where I recall bits of advice telling me that when I stop looking it will happen and to be patient or some nonsense about fate. My truth is that I don't have much experience. I got married in my teens. As in I had to get emancipated. All of which makes me roll my eyes at my choices, my upbringing and my seeming desperation to prove I am loveable.

There's a lot of my past written in these posts. Enough so that I can pretty much kiss any shot of being a CEO of any major publicly traded firm or in political office. We won't even bother adding to the mix my criminal history. Regardless, read enough of what I write and you at least get the picture I am working hard to overcome ... challenges. Some challenges were provided by others and some were created by myself. It is no secret I am determined to root out problems and fix them before I get out. One current challenge I'm facing is believing I'm loveable.

Believing I'm loveable is personal and deeply rooted. It causes a lot of problems for me. Despite being unhealthy, feeling unlovable has provided much fuel for achievement in my personal development, tenacity, and professional growth. While I am proud of my growth I must now face the reality that no achievement will ever make me loveable. I at least understand that feeling loveable is an internal belief.

As much as I want to blame my trans-ness (not being feminine enough), my childhood, my marriage, prison, or God I know that at the end of the day it's me. I must choose to believe I am worth loving. This is where the water gets murky for me. I only know how to measure my value through externalities such as my popularity, opportunities presented to me, status, looks, what i can provide, financial worth, and lovers to name a few. If I am not dating someone I must therefore be undateable. If I am undateable, I am therefore unlovable. Obviously we have some logical fallacies happening here, I can see them even as I type them.

This is a core belief that I am seeking to rid myself of. So far I have done a good job of cleaning things up inside to give myself enough 'space' to work on this main issue. Even so, I could use help. It seems odd to ask externally for help with internal problems such as feeling unlovable because, for me (and perhaps the problem), the proof I am loveable is I will be in love with someone who is in love with me AND we will be together.

I know what I offer in a relationship is valuable, therefore making me valuable to me and others. I must view self-esteem as multifaceted because I have self-confidence and am self-assured, even if its partially faked at times. I do not say things to myself that are self-defeating anymore, now there is nothing...at least it is progress.

I have a lot of love to give and a willingness to give it. I have a lot to learn and a willingness to learn more. I have a lot of growing to do and a willingness to admit it. I have a lot of life left to live and a willingness to share it with someone else.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Prison Mathematics Project by James Cody Goodwin

I am just past my twenty fourth year in prison and I could not be more excited.

If someone would have told me that math would change my life I probably would have never spoken to them again for fear that whatever delusion they had may be contagious.

Yet math has altered my reality in a most unexpected and awesome way.

Let me create a little perspective for you.

I was state raised in California. I was an angry destructive child who did terrible in school and math was the absolute worst thing in the world to me. Math made me feel stupid and hate myself. Perhaps the mind numbing doses of medications I was forced to take played a part in my struggles with school. But to a kid whose world was pain and sadness and loneliness math was the last thing I wanted to have to do.

That insecurity stayed with me throughout my life. I was just not smart enough to succeed in math and that was that. I would add it to a long list of impossibilities that include never having a family or seeing the outside of prison.

I began my prison life as a juvenile at the age of seventeen for murder. A life on the streets, homeless, led to drug use and crime and excitement and terror and eventually prison. When the Judge sentenced me to forty years in prison I felt like I was going home. Growing up in the group home system in California had prepared me for entrance into prison. I was returning home.

Next came years in solitary. Assaults, New crimes, riots. I considered myself to be dead and the world beyond prison was not a real thing. So what I did could not possibly matter.

Eventually I grew up and out of past ways of thinking and began looking for other things to do and other people to surround myself with. It is hard to find good people among those trapped in prisons culture of self destruction. But I did. My humanme family and my fiancee are foremost among those who have helped me change my world.

For about eleven years or so there has been a battle in the courts in regards to juvenile sentences. Long story short, I am among a large number of individuals serving time they were sentenced to as minors. Recently our cases were taken off stay and we were all looking at resentencing and those of us who had served twenty years or more were looking at possible release. Imagine our excitement. 

King and Pierce county decided to appeal the recent Washington state supreme court decisions to the United States Supreme court so back on stay we go. In the past this turn of events would have been an end of the world event.

To my surprise, when I received this news my first thoughts were ' Yes! I can complete math 87 and 100 before I get out and enroll in college!.' Then I thought of my fiancee and my humanme family and how they would take the bad news and that was when I became a bit despondent.

So, math changed my life to the point that even news of possibly serving more years in prison after already serving twenty four, and thus being able to study mathematics was a cause for excitement. What the ??!

The Prison Mathematics Project and the Social Mathematics Experiment gives me that inner freedom.

by James Cody Goodwin 764730



Monday, January 11, 2021

The Power of The Letdown... by Rory Andes

"My life is not full in spite of disappointment, it's full because of it."

If not for all roads leading to this very second of my life, I wouldn't know the successes I've known and appreciated them to the degree I do. It's been the letdown, the setback, the disappointment that creates the clearest of perspectives. Absolutely none of it is easy, nor should it be, but in the disappointment, I've grown the most. In that growth, I've done things like worked hard on healing my wounds and understanding where I hurt others, I've experienced true empathy by feeling the pain of those around me and I understand how to self empathize. If I didn't really feel my own disappointment, could I truly appreciate theirs? In that disappointment, could I appreciate all the silver linings?

By doing so, there is a fullness and a richness I've never known before. It's the kind of thing that you can explain and write a book about and discuss and draw a map over... maybe even drop a blog from time to time, but unless you've experienced and embraced that disappointment, you simply won't know how full your life truly is. My life is half over, my family mostly deceased, I haven't a penny to my name and I stand in a prison by actions of my own design... From all outward accounts, I've been a disappointment to myself and the world I live in. And I promise you I had to get to this point to see just how full my life truly is. I have a voice, I'm clear of thought, I'm healing, and my potential is beyond my own wildest dreams, all because of a string of disappointments. Ask yourself, "How amazing are your disappointments and how grateful have you grown of them?"

by Rory Andes

If things were easy, would they be worth it?

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Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
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Monroe, WA 98272



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Book Review: "Number: The Language of Science" by Tobias Dantzig by Ruth Utnage

"Number: The Language of Science" by Tobias Dantzig is a book for the inner ' math nut in you. The author details the birth of mathematics among the sciences and pulls curtain back on math's not so perfect upbringing.

I am not a math girl. I'm in math club called the "Social Mathematics Experiment" here in prison and our teacher, an actual math nut (Christopher Havens) challenged the group to read this book and orate a book review. So here we are. I will admit this book had me doggie paddling in the ocean with some real big swells and most of the mathematical concepts that are detailed out I did not understand. But the historical aspect Dantzig presents kept me interested enough to read words in groups and take in formulas I did not and still do not comprehend.

Below are 3 quotes from the book that sort of tell the reader where my interests really connected and while I am embarrassed I cannot repeat to you how Cantor's contributions to mathematics shaped how we understand the world I can say this:

1.) "...it is not easy to deny the existence of something that has received a name." Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science

2.) "Remove the barrier, extend the field, and the impossible becomes possible." Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science

3.) "By trying and erring, by groping and stumbling- so progressed our knowledge." Tobias Dantzig, number: the language of science

I connected with the 2nd and 3rd quotes for a much different reason than the 1st. Quotes 2 and 3 spoke to an imagination within me that I appreciated. I spent hours during quarantine scribbling number sequences and using dimensional subtraction to understand patterns and create something artistic but mathematical and what I ended up with is pure delight. For instance, if you the mixed fraction 1 1/2 and put an exponent of 0 on it and create a whole set of them with incrementally larger exponents (i.e. 0, 1, 2, 3,...etc) by the time you get to the power off 10 we have a decimal that is large enough it makes you rethink handwriting any more. They were certainly large enough that my ambition to write to the 30th power was rethought and divided by 3. Nonetheless, using dimensional subtraction on those decimal places revealed a neat pattern to me, one which I shall let the reader find on their own.

In the end this book created within me a spark of connection with math because it allowed me to see that math is not a subject already created and is left to be read about and utilized by the fewly gifted but something to create from our minds to understand the world. Mathematics is born from "trying and erring..." like me. Like me, I have a name, Ruth and it is hard to deny my existence because here I am, with a name, like Mathematics has a name, Mathematics. It exists and while it presents this perfect front that wills the most talented a mind to engage with it, just below the surface it is very fragile. Kinda like me.

Yeah, Math...me and you are gonna be alright.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Saturday, January 9, 2021

Talk of the Town... by Rory Andes

With the new year comes new hopes for changes in our prison system. Throughout the continuing Covid crisis, budget issues have reared its head time and again, spurring deeper consideration about how to reduce prison populations. Several options have come up and all of them worth valid discussions. Concepts like parole, resentencing, more time awarded for good behavior, age related release, reduction of sentencing enhancements, and juvenile reform (which is among the most needed) are being talked about among the free world and inmates alike. But among all of these viable options, there's not a lot of talk about how to support the implementation.

As it stands currently, the budget constraints have impacted the amount of staff available on a daily basis. This includes counseling staff that are responsible for the guidance of an inmate's prison sentence and, ultimately, their release. Most counselors are already behind in routine reviews and the legislated process for release is so cumbersome that it takes a lot of resource to get someone out of prison. If the system is already under pressure, how will adding more need for release involvement by staff help? I understand that there are lot of moving pieces in the background that inmates aren't allows to know, but there really is no talk about HOW to get people out and reduce the runaway prison population. But the talk of the town says that's it's coming.... I hope the system can be held accountable for making the people change along with the system.

by Rory Andes

Things need to change...

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Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
PO Box 888
Monroe, WA 98272



Friday, January 8, 2021

Battlegrounds by Ruth Utnage

It feels like I value the things I've had to fight for the most. Like hormones. I had to battle to get them. It was an ugly battle that lasted for 18 months and involved many people, a story I will write when I am no longer incarcerated because it was so ugly. While almost every girl around me got theirs without a battle at all I kept being the "one off". While the reason for this is somewhat sinister and involves a very strange medical professional who no longer works here (thankfully), it doesn't change that I had to fight like hell.

That battle left an impression on me that I will never forget. I will never view another male mental health provider with immediate trust again in my life and I will never again allow myself to be the "one off" or "slip through the cracks". But it does leave me preparing battlegrounds in areas that perhaps I don't need to.

For instance, every 2 weeks I receive a shot of Estradial. Estradial I had to fight like hell for (in some fashion), for nearly 5 years. I get quarantined and see that I am going to need my shot right in the middle of this thing. Quarantined in prison means you ain't going anywhere. So the week leading up to my magic injection day I reminded the nurses taking my temp everyday of my upcoming injection, they got tired of me. Then lo and behold on the day nothing came. But I had already built a mental battleground, prepared to have to fight for my meds, just like before.

Here's the thing, I did have to fight for them. All day. At the end of the day a reluctant, tired, and overworked nurse came to the door with a syringe full of woman juice and asked apathetically "Where do you want it?". Crisis averted.

This got me thinking though, what if I never said anything? Would that same apathetic and overworked nurse still came to deliver my meds? I don't know but I have been trained to expect a battle for the things I value most. This seems especially counter-productive with highly valued things like relationships. I value them very much and place higher value on relationships I must "battle" for which leaves vulnerable to manipulative and critical people (the 'battle' here being someone who doesn't accept me and is critical as opposed to supportive). This particular problem has roots in my early childhood, battling for the love of someone who simply didn't want me, my own birth parents.

Now while these things are legitimate in that I feel them, it doesn't necessarily need to translate into creating battlegrounds where patience reigns king. I have to question "am I needing to fight for this or am I simply impatient or entitled?" Hard mirrors to look in, you know what I mean?

I think this is called growth.

With Love
Ruth Utnage



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Less Talk, More Action... by Rory Andes

I woke up this Sunday morning, flipped on the news, and caught the tail end of a panel discussion consisting of a Harvard health professor, a federal prosecutor, and bipartisan criminal justice advocates who all agreed that the US needs to commit to decarceration, the reduction of prisons. The Republican said it made sense fiscally, the Democrat said it made sense societally, the health professor said it made sense medically, and the federal prosecutor said it made sense judicially. There's been resounding acknowledgement of European models of criminal justice success, heavy data on the negative social impact of American communities for overincarcerating, and academic, even scientific, approaches to instituting real, meaningful and positive changes to a very broken system. Yet, here we are... doing nothing, expecting nothing, and just talking in circles.

If I can flip on a national news channel on a Sunday morning and hear this continuing discussion, why can't the changes be implemented? This was the same discussion being had at the beginning of Obama's first term (and I'm sure years before I started paying attention). Twelve years later, it's still the same talk, but maybe even by more from both sides of the aisle. In the last couple of years, there's been very little movement in helping the overall problems. When one thing gets decriminalized, another takes its place as the "worst of society's dieases" that can only be cured through long internments in cages. How about we just get to the heart of real issues and remove the "business" being done in the name of justice and add that money into the community, where the problems should be fixed. A little less talk and a lot more action is in order to change a system that's short of anything useful except cash, and let's save the Sunday morning news shows for anything other than problems we should have already fixed...

by Rory Andes

End the caste system that enables these inactions...

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Rory Andes 367649
MCC-TRU
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Monroe, WA 98272



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

My Theme Music For Kissing 2020 Good-Bye by Ruth Utnage

This year has been...well..you've all experienced it too, no need to repeat the obvious.

With all the ups and downs one album fits my temperament nicely:

Artist: Bullet For My Valentine
Album: Temper Temper

Of course lots of good music came out this year (just to clarify, Temper Temper came out several years ago) that is on my playlist, among my favorite artists with new music out this year is Mulatto, Megan Thee Stallion, and Cardi B. But Bullet For My Valentine sums up my feelings for 2020.

With Love
Ruth



Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Benevolent Desistance Organizations... by Rory Andes

One of the most successful inventions that I have seen created for society have been benevolent organizations dedicated to the service of the community by like minded people. As a kid, my parents were involved with the Elks and the organization always had an iron in the fire about some work to be done for the less fortunate. I remember my dad involved in charitable drives for children with disabilities. They had their own hall, their lodge, and the families of the members collected on holidays and weekends for other service work. This is repeated in more familiar terms for me with groups like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, service workers with a common background who are mutually supportive... What if?

What if an organization existed dedicated to those who took their greatest failures and turned them into powerful strengths, those who are such active criminal desistors with a background of being justice involved, that their service work is the honor of the communities they exist in? People that worked their hardest, turned their whole lives around, and give it all back as a benevolent service among like minded people... To me, this would be a way to embraced, then debunk, the scarlet letter that exists for felons and it would be what's right for the community. I envision an organization charter that doesn't tolerate backsliding, helps correct it, and celebrates success. One that makes the world a better place through inspiring service by supporting and contributing to the organization's members and the community. An act of benevolence. What if? And if I'm on to something, share a thought about it...

by Rory Andes

Help me change the world, or at least someone's world...

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Rory Andes 367649
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PO Box 888
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Monday, January 4, 2021

Conquering Mathematics by Ruth Utnage

I see math as a threat. Sometimes I feel like it's the bully of intellect. I shouldn't see it that way, and I don't always see it that way, but I do sometimes.

I'll make headway on understanding some things and then hit a barrier that utterly confuses me making me feel as though I've met the bully in the hallway again. Take calculating velocity for instance, 2-dimensionally is not so hard but introduce 3-dimensional velocity and now we have my mind officially and formally bullied into a small corner.

I want to learn linear algebra so that I understand matrices and vectors better. I find physics to be fascinating and I know that major swaths of physics is mathematics. Understanding 3-dimensional spaces mathematically, like velocity, is an important precursor (as far as I can tell) to understanding how to make sense of quantum physics and quantum theory, which is something I find to be wonderfully fascinating. Problem is I don't have the natural intelligence to just begin, so I am starting in matrices.

To learn matrices and am learning velocity.

Velocity is kicking my behind right now.

One part that confuses me is when I calculate degrees using COS and SIN. I input my degrees and my speed and the distance and I get some decimal number (14.41421) which my textbook says translates into 10 times the square root of 2. Neat. How was I suppose to know to reduce that long decimal point to the square root of 2 if I didn't memorize the first 5 digits of the square root of 2?

I have so many questions that I feel are basic. Like, why can I not simply enter 14.41421 as a vector component? How do I know to reduce it to a square root and when?

I don't want to be intimidated by math anymore. I want to enjoy the things I like. I want to read Einstein's ERP paper and understand his argument and the decades of research to prove him wrong. I want to learn the mathematical language of photons and think about how two photons can exist in theoretically different parts of the universe and still mirror one another.

I don't want to solve major and/or ancient math, I just want to be able to understand.

Actually, I have a need to understand. I think I might take this thought with me to my grave. And I know it begins in mathematics.

I mean, I'm digging in and hoping that someone will come along who can help a lady out.

With Love
Ruth