Wednesday, March 31, 2021

My Horoscope Told Me... by Ruth Utnage

My horoscope told me that this was an exciting time for me. That I should really focus on facing my fears and watch my life seriously change.

I could be critical and point out the vagueness of it. I could remind myself that it was in a weekly TV Guide. Those are options. You know what else is an option? Trying it.

Why not work on facing some fears? Living a life with less fear sounds liberating to me and if I allowed the advice of a TV Guide Horoscope to inspire me...who cares?

Inspiration can come from anywhere we allow our imagination to play. Gratitude comes from taking the time to be thankful. Thanks weekly TV Guide Horoscope, I'll take it.

For the next week I'm going to focus on facing my fears. My internal fears are coming up first. Fear of rejection. Failure. That I'm not "enough of a woman".

You know, I've had a fear that cis women will reject me.

Fear that I'm too 'big boned', not skinny enough, that I'm going to blow up.

Fear of dating. Getting too close to a man. Fear of being hurt.

Fearing judgment if I say I want to have sex. Lol. Can you imagine? A woman who wants to have sex...as if it's an odd thing. Why is that a fear of mine anyway. Piss on that.

I like to think what would Glennon Doyle or my therapist tell me in moments like these? They'd tell me "Ruth, you're not crazy, you're a goddamned cheetah!"

Damn right I am.

I am an unruly, bold, and determined WOMAN who has a serious sense of exactly what and who she is and I don't give a goddamn what anyone thinks about it. I'm a bit wild and possibly untameable and I am about to be unleashed on the order of things...

Now watch it reorder itself around me.

Watch out fears, you might just be in trouble.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

His Name Is Van... by Rory Andes

Everyone calls him "Uncle", yet neither he nor anyone else knows why. While he doesn't particularly care for the name, he's become accustomed to it. Even many of the prison staff know him as Uncle. But it's a good fit for his caring nature. He has that vibe of a family friend you might have grown up around. If you know him, he's very much a lovable man. He works hard, he's proud of his family, and he's inspiringly humble. He represents an older generation. He stands a mere five foot, but at his age, it's certain gravity has robbed him of a few inches along the way. He has a brilliant smile and looks at you intently when you speak to him, perhaps to be engaging or perhaps to listen in closer to catch what you're saying. 

Van is an immigrant from Vietnam and English can sometimes be a struggle for him. Without a doubt, only a man his age, who grew up where he did, can know the gravity of the circumstances that brought him to America. This gentleman has a powerful history. As a young man in Vietnam, he was thrust into the position of a warrior, forced to pick a side in a war that ripped his nation apart. He moved up the ranks as a soldier to become a leader, a sergeant, for what was then South Vietnam. However, he's had to do what no American soldier has ever had to do. He's had to watch the country he came from and fought for, become swallowed up in a conflict it wasn't going to win. It was a conflict that killed more than a million civilians and displaced over 6.5 million more of his countrymen. It was a loss that would cost Van twelve excruciating years in "reeducation", a term meant as atonement for his opposition to a communist regime, for fighting on the wrong side.

Van was born and raised in Nha Trang, a coastal city about 200 miles northeast of what is now Ho Chi Minh City. He entered his service in 1972, a year before the never-implemented cease fire agreement was signed by the US, the Vietcong, North and South Vietnam in Paris. He served until 1975 when the south surrendered to the communist north. Van fought in the South Vietnam army, or Binh Linh as he called it, alongside UN forces made up of Korean and Filipino soldiers. Ultimately, when the south surrendered, those fighting were rounded up in a measure to enforce the new government. When his unit was captured along with the multinational forces, the other nations' soldiers were executed. He was then moved to Dong Gang, a brutal prison where he would experience the worst atrocities offered to a human being. By the time he arrived in his new hell, he was just 24 years old.

Dong Gang was a 45 minute drive from Nha Trang and he could feel the ghosts of his home. More devastatingly, he watched his peers, his friends, become those ghosts. The images of his confinement there are difficult for him to articulate. Not because of his language proficiency, but he stops to reflect in retelling me the story. It's as if his soul has a razor just beneath its surface and he doesn't want to touch it. He recalled several accounts of the abuse and death he witnessed. Images he says he feels angry about, the trauma cracking through the stoicism of his face as he tells me what he experienced. In one instance, he was forced to watch 27 friends, fellow soldiers, die in one day from disease. He described in great detail how they bled from their ears, noses and rectums all while starving. Disease was just as brutal to the prisoners as the North Vietnamese guards. They were offered only one type of medicine for their ailments, one called Sien tam lien, one many Vietnamese will recognize because it was prescribed for everything from a cold, to heart disease, to cancer. But he said when they had it, they felt lucky.

Van had to witness hundreds of executions. As he recalled them, he remained matter of fact, composed. For him, in the moment of it, fearing it was a way of life and the source of death. Some of those executed included those who were trying to escape. Van describes how prisoners ran in an attempt to free themselves and were relentlessly gunned down. Some were executed for failing to work harder in the rice fields, sometimes for just stretching after countless hours of being bent over to pick rice. A boot to the back of the knees was their first warning before being shot in the back of the skull. An AK-47 was effective at regulating the other workers. Still, others were executed just to show the masses that no one was safe, so do your part and always obey, or suffer the consequence.

When it came to his daily routine, he and his fellow prisoners worked shifts from six in the morning to six at night, everyday. Along the way, they got a fifteen minute break around noon and an opportunity to eat one small potato, the size of a plum. How hard you worked dictated how much you were allowed to eat for the month. For the hardest workers, they were allowed 18 kilograms of rice per month, or roughly 40 pounds. The second hardest workers received 9 kilos and the bottom rung received only 6 kilos, although no one received the actual amount awarded because even the cooks who prepared the rice were hungry and would steal it. Often, the top producers would get only half of what they should have. Famine was a constant struggle in his prison.

The living conditions he described were atrocious as well. They slept 225 inmates in a single open bay. There were no beds, so they slept in line on the dirty floor, often shackled to one another. The building they were in had one additional room set at the end of it to use the toilet. They were awakened every day by their oppressive guards. Van described one morning, in 1979, when he was getting up to go to the rice fields and the person who slept next to him, a friend whom he had been with since his capture, didn't get up with him. Concerned for his safety, he shook him and his friend felt cold and stiff. When Van rolled him over, his dear friend had been dead long enough that the maggots fell from under his eyelids. It was another bit of proof of his stark and dangerous reality and another friend who died senselessly. He had to fight his surroundings to stay alive. Worse yet, he had to fight himself to hide the humanity within. He couldn't grieve, he couldn't mourn, so he simply moved with those still standing to the fields to pick rice. He said he held himself back in the moment, but gave me just a little emotion in my interview with him about this memory. It's difficult to hear this man's story without feeling what he was presenting to me, his emotion so rigidly packaged for the purpose of self preservation. He's carried this baggage nearly as long as I've been alive, though he would add to it in time, as he would tell me.

I had asked him what happened to his family while he was serving this time in prison in Vietnam. His family is extremely important to him and he beams when we talked about them. He explained that his family, six sisters, four brothers, his father and mother, had escaped to the Philippines where they stayed for a month and then found asylum in the United States along with many other refugees of the Vietnam conflict. He described his goal was to join them in the US, but struggled with how to get there. After he spent his last year of prison in Vietnam, in a softer place known as A-40, Van was released and he immediately fled to the Philippines around 1987. He then had to wait an additional five years before he could join his family.

When he finally arrived in America in the early 1990's, he started to establish himself. He found a job as a painter, but because of his limited English and lack of professional license, he couldn't get into a labor union or progress to more than $18 an hour. His industry counterparts were making $35 an hour doing the same work, after the same time invested in their careers. As an immigrant, it's often difficult to realize the fullest potential of the American Dream when you encounter certain barriers. But, Van is a humble soul and enjoyed the freedom to work without tyranny. I asked what could have possibly lead him to be in an American prison, so he told me.

He was a heavy drinker and spent time among the local Seattle bars. He had the traumas that haunt many old soldiers, and he handled them the way many soldiers still do... he self medicated. One night in 2007, he was drinking with a friend and an argument ensued. His friend drew a knife and tried to rob him in the heat of it. Van's response came through the barrel of a loaded gun. He shot his friend dead. A shot that would take his meager success and send him back to prison again. Another act to add to a lifetime of traumas and baggage.

Fearing the idea of incarceration with what he had previously experienced, Van went on the run and he stayed on the run for nearly two months. His story had been top billing on local news stations for over two weeks. He finally gave up and was arrested. Two of the victim's children came forward at his trial to ask the court to give Van mercy and the lowest possible sentence for the charge. Van received 15 years for 2nd Degree Murder. Had he not feared and ran, he could have had it mitigated to five years for manslaughter. More over, he expressed frustration that it happened to a friend, though he has trouble defining the exact feelings of it. It seemed to make him uncomfortable when I pressed him on it. To me, those are the edges of what those traumas look like. In his travels, other people hurt his friends, so it was difficult to him to know he was capable of doing the same.

With humility, he speaks about how lucky American prisoners have it. One morning a few years ago, he showed me a pouch of peanut butter and a piece of fruit and explained how many people in Vietnamese prisons wished for things like that. It's so simple for us, and such a treasure for him. During his incarceration, he's been blessed with the support of his family and his sisters look out for his best interests as a routine. Van is scheduled for release in July of 2022, back to the loving arms of these precious people that he's been separated from for so much of his life. His mother is still alive and waiting for him to come home. He has a daughter who still resides in Vietnam and he always speaks of her like a proud father. He says she's doing well. When I thanked him for allowing me to document his story, he ever so kindly smiled, gave me his hand and said, "Andy, any time!" I guess it's fair, my name's not Andy and his isn't Uncle... His name is Van...

by Rory Andes

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Monday, March 29, 2021

Integrity by Ruth Utnage

We all have different 'selves'. A shy self, a jealous self, a loving self, so many selves. I, myself, strive to integrate all my 'selves' with one another.

The integration of my 'selves'...that is integrity.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



Sunday, March 28, 2021

Zoom Certification... by Rory Andes

Even though I am incarcerated, I see the pain that comes from having to connect to others through Zoom video software. The pain isn't from the software itself, but those who are completely unqualified to use it. During this legislative session for Washington state, many of us civically minded inmates view countless hours of testimony live from Olympia. Because of the pandemic (and I'm sure for convenience as well) most of the participants video in. Most times, it's fine and well delivered video coverage of their testimony. Sometimes, it's extremely painful. Sometimes, it's beyond painful...

For example, if you insist on using a green screen, don't wear matching colors. The talking, disembodied head is scary. Also, the background is often ridiculous... the greens of someone else's mansion as a background makes you look like a pretentious prick. You know what? Just avoid outdoor settings completely. If the state lawmakers won't take the homeless seriously and that IS their living room, then politicians shouldn't have an outdoor setting either and be taken seriously. How about that library background, huh? Who's library is that? Or the sheriff who has a log cabin background superimposed, complete with gun racks and mounted heads... lean far right much? Yeah, you seem fair and impartial. Or the people who ditch the fake background entirely and settle for their own space... good! It's a start! But please clean your house. I can't take you seriously either. Or the guy or girl who took a class of AV in high school twenty years ago who get "artsy" with camera angles... just stop it... Use the right lighting because you look like a silhouette...

Before we chew through HOURS of testimony over Zoom, please take a "basics" class online (because I'm sure they exist) and set the stage for a serious discussion. The chaos of the unqualified Zoom participant is super distracting to a message and it reminds me of some advice I found about job interviews... If the interview went well and you walk them out to their car and the car looks like a mess inside, so might their approach be to your company. The devil is in the details, so get your Zoom right...

by Rory Andes

Watching a mess is distracting.

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Saturday, March 27, 2021

Rejuvenated By Nuclear Love by Marshall Byers

My living quarters, aka the shoebox, storage unit, and my personal favorite, the mini suite, is literally bulging with nuclear love in the form of words expressed on notes by beautiful people. Here are their words to me.

My brother, thanks for being the example for so many, including me. With who you are and all you do, life is a better place. Regardless of the road that led you to this point, in prison at 42, the road leading you out is one people have waited their whole lives for. I appreciate being on this stretch with you as you travel to greatness. Just make sure the world continues to know the miracle of your journey. And thank you for the amazing friendship. -- Rory

I truly value you as a friend and brother, my life is better for having known you. I love ya bro, ---James

Hi Marshall! Your vibes are truly infectious and because of that, I love being around you. You're a good friend. ---Christopher

Marshall, you mean something to this world, to us, to me. You've done so much by being a genuine you and like all things genuine, I will never regret being your friend. Thanks for being my friend. Here's to that TEDx Goal ----Ruth

Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing outside of you will make you happy. You choose to be happy, feel grateful and then share that with the world. This is how I describe you! Love you ----Aunt Sal

Look around you, and feel proud of what you've accomplished. Look within you, and you will discover that you have everything it takes to make your dreams come true. Marshall, way to go my friend! Can't wait to hear about it! Sincerely, Nancy (Quilting Volunteer)

Dear Marshall, you made me the happiest person on earth! I received your note today and it has turned me upside down with happiness!! P.S. putting your note in a frame to keep near me always! Love you to the moon and back "Mom" V. Ensminger

We can't wait for you to come home son, you are such an inspiration. We have so many dishes for you to wash, gutters to clean, lawns to mow and leaves to rake. We took great care of you while you did your time, well guess what! We are old fuddy duddy's, now it's your turn to take care of us kiddo. Love, Mom and Paul

Marshall-Heck-Yeah-Byers, I know I said that I am so very proud of you but I want to say it again--I'm so very proud of you! It was so great to hear from all your teachers and friends how much of an inspiration you are. Keep it up and you know the sky is the limit and beyond. Only 4 months and you'll be released and no more bars! Super excited for that day to come. Love you so much. ----Jennifer

My contribution is not on Marshall's emails but I tell him every chance I get that his attitude and the way he sees life is awe inspiring. I hope to be more like him everyday. He is sunshine, he is amazing, he is love, and I wish him all the best when he gets out to give me my long awaited, well deserved hug. I love you Marshall.     Valerie



Friday, March 26, 2021

A Little Advice To All Trans Women, Especially Those With...Histories by Ruth Utnage

There is a book by Glennon Doyle called:

Untamed: stop pleasing and start living

It was sent to me by a book club friend (thank you gurl, you're a goddess!) and it is seriously hitting my soul.

I've read a lot of books during my incarceration, I mean a bunch, and some have impacted me so profoundly that it changed my entire course of life and set me on a path that I am still following. But Glennon Doyle is speaking right to my soul in a language that its been longing to hear. No, a language it's been longing to feel.

Girls, this is a must read. This book should be government sponsored and mandatory reading...

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



Thursday, March 25, 2021

Another Possible Perspective... by Rory Andes

The shootings in the Atlanta area spas last week, killing eight, is a horrendous tragedy. A senseless loss of life beyond human comprehension... Most media is centered around race and as someone who sees the racial divide in my everyday life, I do think that Asian Americans are unduly suffering at the hands of hate. But could there be more to this story? Certainly mental health is a factor, because the urge to kill is the outcome of a cognitive processes. The acting on that urge is a failure of it. Of all the answers needed to be had, I'd like to gently and compassionately, both to the victims and the assailant, add another perspective, the influence of the gunman's treatment for sex addiction. Keep in mind, my opinion is merely speculative.

Until a couple of years ago, our state's treatment towards sexual deviancy was what most would consider "shame based". Keep in mind, I believe we are among the more compassionate states about treatment now. But just a short while ago, treatment here centered around, "If you think this, you're a monster and bad." While it was sanctioned treatment, the best comparison would be stopping the dog who bit the neighbor kid by ripping all its teeth out, putting a muzzle on it, locking it in a crate in the basement and consistently yelling "NO!" at it. Sure, the dog won't bite, but is this the right approach? It wasn't for sex based treatment here, so they changed it.

If this gunman, who lives in a largely conservative area, was made to feel evil, bad, a monster... maybe even worse... if he had those thoughts, how could this impact his struggle with his sex addiction? How did he see himself? At what point did it cross his mind that to be beyond this addiction, he had to kill and why? Like I said, I'm merely speculating, but real thought does need to be put into the treatment of addictions of all varieties. It's taken decades to start learning that drug addiction isn't solved by prison. My heart breaks for the families of the victims and my prayers go out to them for the required, monumental strength to move forward... I make no excuses for the murderer in any way, but as a human, my prayers go to that gunman, too.

by Rory Andes

Tragic events require the deepest of thought...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Ways To Minimize Stress by Marshall Byers

Spend the entire duration of a sunset trying your best to describe all the colors in the sky. Write thank you letters to everyone you know, I challenge you to write to that one person you've been avoiding. Brake that long silence, but no emails, they are very impersonal, hand written only.

You don't have to, but I make up a jingle about all my stressors. What ends up happening is a lot of laugher, and I get to be creative. Next, I write on paper a gratitude list of people, places and things. Reframing your thoughts about the stress is wonderful too. But just simply doing some deep belly breathing is best, at least for me.

Yeah, the silly thing about breathing deep, and how much it works, has me thinking of all the times I heard others say it and never taking their advice, mostly giving them the stink eye. I now apologize with a thankful heart, it does work.

With Love,
Marshall Byers 



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Life, Done Right (inspired by Glennon Doyle's "Untamed: stop pleasing and start living) by Ruth Utnage

I have thought my entire life that because I feel I am broken. I have sought to silence those feelings my entire life, without success. Failure to me was feeling something besides nothing. The quintessential human was stroic and strong and there I was feeling things. I was doing 'life' wrong.

I was plain and simply choosing death. Dead people don't feel. Alive people feel. Sounds so obvious, so simple. Such a simple truth. While I was grasping for the meaning of life within the complexity of academia and religion in the day at night I was choking down my own internal silence. After awhile everything inside of me just went dark. Nothingness.

The internal voice that whispers morality and dreams finally ceased and I knew at that point I was simply waiting for my last hellish breath to leave my body. When it never came I raged against God for suffering me still. What must I do to anger God enough to send me into the afterlife.

Pretty dark stuff...I was like that from the age of 6. Until I chose to feel. When I embraced that I feel and that others feel and that when I feel I am alive... it brings tears to my eyes.

I will love recklessly, and mean it every time. Never regretting that I loved. Never. I will feel pain and sadness and sit and stay with it for as long as needs to exist so that we can share our greatest joys together. I will do life right. I will *feel* life.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



Saturday, March 20, 2021

How Soon Is Too Soon To Say "I Love You" To Someone? by Ruth Utnage

Are humans not more valuable than ice cream?

If you're looking for a specific time frame to say "I Iove you", you're not going to get that here. What you are going to get is a perspective on what I believe love means between 2 people and how NOT to regret saying it first.

I love flowers, the color purple, chocolate, and people. I love a lot of people, ideas, places, things. When you see a kitten it's not so difficult to imagine saying "I wuv you" as you paw at its little kitten feet. Or seeing a pretty flower for the very first time and exclaiming "I LOVE THIS!" on first site. If we can instantly fall in love with inanimate objects and not fear exclaiming it in high pitched squealing voices of delight why are people different?

I love people. I can't help it. I see good in people because I understand what it means to have only your bad seen. I believe everyone deserves to be loved. Period. Why not say it? If I'm dating someone (scandal alert!!!, I am) I cannot imagine regretting saying I love you first because even if we break up, I still have some level of love for them on a human level and don't regret that I do.

We can say I love you to people and the meaning deepens over time from a surfaced, but genuine, declaration to a deeper soulful connection. I'll never regret that. Telling someone I love them is like providing water for someone's soul. As humans we are scorched by sunlight of judgment and "I Love You" helps hydrate us all to sustain our rain forest of community. Rain forests can offer life in the hottest of climates.

Our community needs more love. It's shouldn't be scary to show care. It should be a pleasure, a joy. Commonplace and it sucks when you feel this deep longing for someone and you are afraid of saying "I Love You" but you have no problem using the gift of an "I love you" on a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

Are humans not more valuable than ice cream?

I'll go first-

I Love You, and I will never regret saying it first.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



Friday, March 19, 2021

Transgendered Prisoners and Dating: Alone Equals Accessible by Ruth Utnage

She came to me and said people think she's dating this guy. She's been hanging around him for some time. She's known him for 5 years and she understands something that someone who isn't transgendered in prison will never understand- objectification.

When celebrities look like they might be dating someone it makes some followers jealous. It means that their chances have just been reduced in their little fantasies. Like a teenager who cries hysterically when they learn their celebrity crush is dating some other celebrity. Objectification. Transgendered folx are part of the "celebrity" demographic within the micro society that is prison.

Transgendered prisoners experience the exact same thing with one teensie tiny difference: everyone around us has been convicted of a crime that stems from lack of emotional control. The typical stalkers of celebrities are literally all around us all the time. We must rely on street smarts to keep us safe. Street smarts means we must keep our social circles heavily managed and acute. Specific. Intentioned.

It makes sense that we are going to keep our circles small and hang out with the same people day in and day out, we know those people are safe. They respect our boundaries. Keep us trudging in a positive direction. You know, friends. But people hate on that and make assumption after assumption because in their minds, they no longer have a chance. When we are alone, we are accessible.

There is this little trick used by predators in prison that involves the Prison Rape Elimination Act or PREA. PREA is a Federally managed program with financial incentives for states who fully comply that takes aim at stopping prison rapes. But there is this little gem (I hope you see the sarcasm dripping off the screen here) hidden within the language of PREA that forces states to view any intimate relationships as illegal and predatory.

In short, it is NOT possible for 2 people in prison to have consensual intercourse, period. One MUST be a victim and one MUST be a predator. In the event that both claim consent occurred (meaning, it was a healthy, mutual event) than both are labelled the predator. Now, the fun part, the predators secret. If you are in a known or suspected relationship with someone than you will nearly always be separated.

I had a Correctional Unit Supervisor (CUS) try to explain to me once, in a miserable and misguided attempt at empathy, that:

"if I, as a man, were to be placed in an all female prison or dorm, I wouldn't be able to control myself. I'd have sex. All we want to do is try to lesson that temptation."

What he can't understand is that many of us go years, some a decade or more, doing precisely what he so readily says he "wouldn't". His weakness and lack of self-control is being forced onto us as an inherent character flaw. No thank you.

When a someone reports to the state that two inmates might be in a relationship that person understands that the state will separate them. They also understand that trans inmates are harder to place and will likely be kept in that same location while the "boyfriend" will be moved, where he/she is no longer a competitive threat. Leaving that trans person isolated.

While it can be said that prisoners should not be concerned with dating in prison and should instead be focused on rehabilitation, there are factors overlooked that seriously complicate that. One major one is constant objectification. We are walking to the phone to call our mother and we are hit on, propositioned, and ogled. Each and every time and there is zero consequence for them. Where we work, eat, sleep, socialize, exercise, get medically treated, cry, laugh, urinate, shower, rage, become vulnerable... it is always around the same people who are objectifying us. It's not as easy as one might think to only focus on rehabilitation when you have no way to get away from the constant pressure for sex.

Think about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, transgendered folx inside prisons are kept in the lowest Need's level, finding safety. The very mechanism that is supposedly keeping us "safe", PREA, is the very thing that is weaponized against us to keep us unsafe.

Then there is the little factor that our ideal partner could be another inmate. Think about it, some of us have done some bad things. Who better to understand that we can change as human beings to be our best selves after a crime than someone else who has changed also. Someone here understands and accepts my past as the past. They know how to help me navigate it and utilize resources properly to ensure that neither of us ever do it again. They understand and see our daily struggle with those around us and ourselves. Sounds like a perfect partner to me...

But yet, that too is weaponized. When we could be receiving counseling for managing and finding a healthy, stable relationship as a trans woman or man we are forced into secrecy or total isolation. Now, imagine this for a decade. For 10 solid years it is entrenched in your mind that dating is a crime and needs to be kept secret. How does that translate into freedom or rehabilitation? It also keeps Trans and Gender NonConforming (TGNC) folx in isolated positions where reporting acts of violence is basic suicide for the TGNC community as a whole, but more so for those previously incarcerated.

It is up to the State department of Corrections, of which I am calling out and holding accountable, to make changes towards equitable treatment of TGNC persons. A major part of that equity is understanding basic psychology and practicing reality based human treatment. Which, is not happening, as I hope you can see a small piece of written above.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth



The Pressure Is Building... by Rory Andes

Because of the climate of Covid and incarceration, I currently live in a pressure cooker. Sooner or later, the pressure will become too much.

Indifference. When rules are put in place, it's done by those with the authority to do so. When those rules aren't enforced by that same authority, it leaves a distinct fracture, a dividing line, between those incarcerated that want to do what's right and comply and those that don't. It provides a fertile ground for further exploitation by those who thrive in noncompliance. Just enacting a rule doesn't mean it doesn't need enforced. It works in society, it needs to be done here, too.

Contempt. When an officer looks at inmates with rigid disgust, it sets a tone of adversity. More worrisome, and even scarier to the situation, is when those same professionals hold the same view of the policies which govern them and the way they view their colleagues. Prisons are full of people from shattered homes who've grown anxious with authority in conflict. Now, they've been sentenced to decades of mom and dad fighting.

Dishonesty. What at first glance appears to be a change in policy and methods, and then upon further review seems to be a series of untruths, it erodes trust. Incarcerated people are extremely observant and when a pattern of change is noticed too often, it's discovered that the change is a way to deflect what's real. If the authority doesn't know, say that. If the authority does know and can't say, say that. Making up information to best suite a question is the worst way to govern a body of people. And in an environment where health and safety are at stake, it's inhumane.

The conditions of Covid and the adversity of incarceration are a recipe for disaster if not managed with dignity, respect and authority. Of course, it probably wouldn't be so bad and so noticeable of we didn't over incarcerate in the first place...

by Rory Andes

The pressure is ever rising...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Strategy Behind Accomplishments by Ruth Utnage

Strategy. I define strategy as the method, plan or process to achievement. Strategy is often thought of as individualistic and loose but just under every strategic plan is a universal foundation. Like a template. Let's talk about it.

Where do we start? What's "step 1"? See if this guide helps you:

Step 1: Define the goal. Every strategy begins with an end point in mind. What precisely do you want to accomplish? Start here.

Step 2: Dream audaciously. Once you know what you want to achieve, aim higher. Take your goal and ask yourself "what's bigger than that?" or WBTT (pronounced wibbit). If the goal is to own your own organic beauty supply store, your WBTT could be to franchise them across the country. Who knows, you are only limited by your ability to think it.

Step 3: Believe. Seriously, this is the hardest step. You have to believe you are able to do what you want. You have to think it's possible. This is where I learned to rethink about the word impossible, instead I think "I'm Possible". A mustard seed of doubt can crumble an empire and squelch a dream before it ever leaves the incubation period. Strategy isn't difficult, believing it's going to work, that's the difficultly.

Step 4: Phase it out. These are different from Action Steps. Each phase of your plan should be a mile marker, something to let you know you're on the right path but more importantly, it's an opportunity to readjust your strategy with new info! Which brings us to step 5.

Step 5: ADAPT!!! No joke, failure to adapt is a dream killing machine. If you do not know how to achieve your goal that DOES NOT mean you cannot accomplish it, it DOES mean you will have to adjust and adapt to new information. This is where failure must be rethought. Because one step doesn't work, doesn't mean the strategy is ineffective. Instead of failure think, lesson. Success comes to those who stay the course. Keep trying. For every plan a, rethink about a contingency plan b and c.

Step 6: Understand your motivation. Why do you want to make this goal happen? What does it mean for you if you don't make it work? What's at stake? Hint, this should be selfish. If it's not, you're not going deep enough. Telling people you want to make enough money to pay for your kids' college is wonderful, but the motivation under that is what will get you there. Maybe you want to do that because you can't stand the idea of poverty or you resent your parents for not doing the same for you or you just have to be the best parent in the neighborhood... who knows, this is yours. Own it because when times get tough and you feel like quitting, this motivation has to be strong and deep enough to get you to the finish line despite yourself.

Step 7: Action Steps. Each Phase has to have steps to achieve during the phase. If you don't know what to do, make asking or researching the action step and understand you will have to ADAPT to new information.

Step 8: Prepare for problems. Come up with a contingency plan b for every step in your plan. This means you have to brainstorm what could go wrong. List out every possibility you can think of and then problem solve each one as a plan b.

Step 9: Visualize. See yourself making it happen. Seriously important. You have to see your own success because if you can't no one else can either.

I hope you find this useful. If you would like individual help or more depth, I am available for consulting and classes. Email: ruth@humanme.org

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth 



Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Sick Bastards... by Rory Andes

John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Jodi Arias... even Gary Ridgway...

These names resonate with the sickest and most morbid of humanity. They are standard bearers for depravity. What's more sickening is that they are the headline of TV Guide's most recent cover. A magazine devoted to "entertainment" has this true crime genre at its top billing. While these people are haunting in the consciousness of many, they surely are not entertainment. Yet time and time again, the whole idea of brutal crime seems to please the masses. Would the same fans enjoy gladiator fights in the Roman Colosseum? Here's a more important question... do you believe that through true crime fanatical support, the families of those affected can find any peace?

If the public gave a damn about justice in any way, they would reframe true crime and steer it away from entertainment. The devastation caused in victims families need not be rehashed again and again in the public. What never does get showcased is how the victims and their families cope, heal, or move on to a better place with their loved one's memory tied to better times. While I agree that the story should be clearly defined for the purpose of prevention, and maybe even for law enforcement only, media companies are making a shit load of money on someone else's misery. Between the fat cat producers and the sycophants that live to be entertained by the destruction of someone else's life, I have to ask... Really, who are the sick bastards in all of this?

by Rory Andes

Society's moral compass appears broken.

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Ladies, Let's Talk Guys by Ruth Utnage

I'm 39 years old and for the first time I'm considering dating a man as a woman. It is a little intimidating if I'm honest. I've dated men before, of course, but always under the label of gay or gender non-conforming, this is my first time entertaining a relationship as a woman, just me.

I tip-toed into coming out as trans, first I admitted that I liked men, then that I didn't feel like a man, more like a woman, then I came out as a woman, shedding the mask of masculinity and showing my true self, Ruth.

What's odd about this guy is I know it's not going to work. I tell him so. He obviously doesn't like it when I say things like that but he also doesn't work to change that viewpoint either. He's a player. He hates it when I say that, but it doesn't mean it's not true. I'm okay with him being a player. Oddly enough, when I call him on that and tell him he's not boyfriend material he reacts in strange ways. He opens up...

He goes from a smooth talking hottie to a vulnerable adult. And it is SUCH a turn on. I like him best in those moments. For instance, he's admitted that he's worried that once we...you know...that I'll leave. That confused me, a lot. I have had to ask him why does it matter because he's a player, I'm the perfect match in that regard. Hit it and bounce, everyone's happy. But apparently that's not the entirety of his character.

I'm not one to use anyone. I find him attractive sexually, physically, and mentally. But just as soon as I begin to melt that icy heart I'm so famous for he seems to be kinda smug about it and begins to talk once more about his I'm both a "girl" and a "friend" but not necessarily a "girlfriend". Always followed up by a comment about how attractive I am. He's good, I'll give him that.

I don't mind simple, uncomplicated sex. So long as it's completely healthy, sober, consenting and well communicated...let's have at it. But I get a little insecure when the other person does what this guy does. I legitimately cannot tell if he's playing a game to hustle me in some fashion or if he's just trying to have sex or if he's just reserved about his own true feelings of attraction. Perhaps my transness is a bigger factor than he let's on.

I don't know. I do know this, I expect nothing. Just chill. I try not to think about it too much. He's fun to flirt with, cook for and call him my man. He calls me beautiful and affirms my body as not only mine but sexually desirable, attractive and that feels good. He calls me smart and encourages me while at the same time finding me attractive.

Okay, so maybe this is a little more complicated than I'd like to admit and that I'm just a bit beyond my comfort zone. Okay, I'm in my own proverbial deep end. I know that I have no expectations but I do have hopes. IDK.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth


 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Is It A Right?... by Rory Andes

When people come to prison, it's a punishment. It's done as punishment. The freedoms of social normalcies are removed along with the freedom to conduct life as desired. In society, we build social bonds that can become the sources of love, intimacy, even sexuality. But prison is intended as the barrier to the full exploration of that. While very few states (like ours) have provisions for conjugal visits that strengthen the bonds of those in a legally recognized partnership, it's a joining of the free world with the incarcerated one, not two inside prison. But not every marriage or domestic partnership qualifies for such visits, either. It is a privilege. Never a right. Like owning a gun, the right to have consensual intimacy or sex is removed by virtue of adjudication. Don't like it? Don't go to prison. But for the sake of rehabilitation, follow the rules on it...

So, why am I beating this drum? I've ran I to people I prison who are adamant that it's their "right" to find a partner in prison and explore it to all its ends. It isn't a right. As a matter of fact, it's against policy. Sex is outlawed inside prison for a number of reasons, specifically disease transmission and the violence that can come with messy relationships. Should it be illegal to fall in love in prison? Absolutely not. Fall for whomever you see fit to bond with, but you can't act on it. It's a privilege given to a prisoner through a legal process and with the free world. Tattoos, smoking marijuana and consuming alcohol are legal for those of age in the free world. But not in prison... and sex isn't allowed either, for the same safety reasons. Sex in prison isn't a "right", but feel free to love... Sorry, my friends, the energy should be put into creating a life that doesn't require such staunch defiance of policy, anyway...

by Rory Andes

Follow the rules as required (unless the rule jeopardizes safety)...

Email at Jpay.com using Rory Andes 367649

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



Sunday, March 14, 2021

Helping The Socially Averse During Incarceration Become Prosocial by Ruth Utnage

An offender spending all or most of their time inside their cell is not good. Not only does it socially isolate them enabling potentially unhealthy, or otherwise socially unacceptable, habits to go unchecked it also limits the offenders ability to do simple things like ask for help. The inability to ask for help is perhaps one of the number one causes for criminality. Think about that. Spending time away from others, isolating from the prison environment may sound safer but the long-term impacts of that on ones psyche can be costly.

An individual that stay inside their cell are referred to as a "house mouse". Some might view this as smart but after 10 years inside I can tell you it is a sign of refusing to adapt and in most cases, change. We must learn to adapt to our environment. That does not mean adapting to immoral devalued ways or practices. It does mean looking for the good, not just avoiding the bad. Being afraid to socialize, for whatever the reasons, is not in anyone's long-term best interest. We are designed for social interaction.

This has become a point of discussion here on HumanMe because these socially averse house mice are very, very human and often disenfranchised. Also, I like the concept that if someone takes a step in the right direction to help themselves I think taking step towards them to help is warranted. I am watching just such an occurrence transpire.

A guy never left his house. He slept all day, no socializing, no friends. When he did come out to eat, as little as possible, he would say something awkward, usually asking if someone else stayed up until 2 a.m. watching anime, to which he was usually met with a barrage of blank stares. Self-conscious, he would crawl back into his bed and succumb to his obvious depression. This went on for months.

Then I watched as someone loud, obnoxious, and clearly incompatible with this hermits lifestyle get moved in. The new guy was bossy and demanding at first, I could hear him. But not mean or demeaning, just clear about what it was gonna take to live compatibly with him. Simple things like needing to leave when he wants to use the restroom (we have toilets in our cells here) and not sleeping all afternoon, giving him at least a little space to be alone, a rare occurrence in prison believe it or not. Over a short amount of time I watched as our units house mouse sat in the day room committing himself to some small project, staying awake to live peaceably with his new cellmate. Slowly people begin to interact with him. First a simple knuckle rap on the table, not a threatening gesture but a friendly acknowledgement. Then a question about what he's working on, what else does he create, where did he learn that and, oh yeah, what's your name?

Just like that I suddenly have a new respect for the loud obnoxious gangster that moved in with him. I see the daylight of humanity in the nocturnal house mouse and the heart within the heartless thug. Perhaps if I can find the joy in these people and present them to you, maybe you will try and do the same.

Maybe.

To help support or share in my release, please visit my gofundme created by some unusually wonderful folx in the community at:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-ruth-utnages-reentry-after-prison

Thanks.

With Love
Ruth