Posts Tagged ‘health and wellness’

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By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

“Prisoner number……It is time to go home.

The most beautiful words she had ever heard, as she dreamt about the day that phrase would be uttered for the past ten years. Today, she will get to see her daughter that has been out of her life and begin the process of reunification.

As she takes her first steps outside the prison walls in a decade, it is like stepping into a foreign land. Outside the concrete confinement she is overwhelmed by the simplicity of feeling the fresh breeze, the sunlight, the green grass, and of course her family. Her daughter, mother, and brother await her release in what feels like another world away.

Her lower lip starts to tremble uncontrollably – which it always has done when she becomes emotional  only to see her 13-year-old daughter’s lower lip mirror that of her own. Mother-and-daughter are able to embrace for the first time in years as they share an electric bond that cannot be broken, despite so many unanswered questions over the years.

“Why is Mom in jail? Why didn’t I get to have a Mom while growing up? Why wasn’t anyone there to do my hair, makeup, or other little girl activities that everyone else enjoyed? Where was my Mom all this time?

These are the questions the little girl repeatedly asked throughout her lifetime without an answer that ever seemed to make sense. She once even wrote a letter to the judge, prior to her mother’s sentencing. It was written in 6 year old writing, in a blue crayon. It said:

“Please help my mommy, I don’t want her to go to jail for a long time. I want her to get better.

This woman was a prisoner of war. Another unnecessary and ineffective war that has destroyed far more lives than it has. Society’s most loving, caring, and abused people are literally being reduced to a number; while corporations, politicians, and congressmen that write the laws of the land are profiting off the lives they are tearing apart.

The Great Marketing Scheme:

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon officially declared the War on Drugs:

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

A war is defined as a conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state. But, to declare a war on an inanimate object or concept, means that there is no clear enemy  hence, no end.

And this is intentional. In fact, it is one of the greatest marketing schemes never told. It is drawn out as follows:

1. The President tells you the greatest risk to our safety is a concept, object, or philosophy (Communism, Drugs, Terror, etc.).

a. Declares a war that is not really a war (Cold War, Drug War, War on Terror).

b. The American people are asked to pay the bill because money is not an issue  this is for our safety and security.

c. They create a special agency that makes their own laws in their war (CIA, DEA, NSA, Homeland Security, etc.)

2. Laws are changed that support fighting this war  leading to mass incarcerations of anyone not in compliance

3. The prisons become over-crowded; and therefore, private prisons run by corporations need to be built to house prisoners

a. Corporations are for-profit  which means more prisoners equals more money

b. They sign contracts with the government guaranteeing high occupancy rates (usually between 90-100 percent for up to twenty years).

c. This gives incentives to lock up more people, because they have to pay regardless as to whether or not the bed is filled

d. The quality of care and supervision is poor, because it is a business and they seek cheap labor and cost-cutting techniques like every business

e. Corporations then rent prisoners for free labor- also known as slavery

4. The private prisons then lobby to congress to make stricter laws to lock up more people

5. Congress obliges because it helps them win elections and:

a. Congress makes the laws of the country  and they don’t bite the hand that feeds

b. Then, since they know the laws, they buy stock in these same private prisons

c. Profit off their investments

6. Then the war against a concept shifts overseas

a. This allows to overthrow poor countries under the disguise as a war against our greatest threat

i. Allowing to steal natural resources

ii. Install a puppet government that benefits our corporate interests

b. Politicians that declare war also have stock in Arms manufacturers like General Electric, Raytheon, etc.

i. More wars means more arms need to be built

ii. They profit off their investments again

c. In order to overthrow governments without making it obvious to the public, they hire guerilla insurgents to do so.

i. They train these rebel groups and supply arms

ii. In turn, these groups pay for the arms by supplying illegal drugs

iii. The CIA returns these illegal drugs into the inner cities of America

iv. They then arrest people and put them into private prisons (in which they profit), by selling the same drugs they brought into the country (in which they profit) to arm rebel groups to overthrow governments and install puppet governments which support U.S. Corporations and gain further profit (in which the law-makers also have stock interests)

It is such a brilliant concept, that we have recently followed suit by launching a War on Terror. Another war without a clear enemy, against a concept, that will never have a definitive outcome which only profits those with heavy stock interests (i.e. John Kerry, secretary of state, has made $26 million off his investments directly related to the War on Terror; but that is not a conflict of interest?)

This is not freedom, this is fascism.

We proudly claim to be Land of the Free yet we have more people locked up than any other civilization in the history of the world, with the majority of them in there for non-violent drug offenses. The United States is home to only five-percent of the world’s population, but holds 25-percent of the world’s prison population. We currently have more black men and women behind bars per capita than that of Apartheid in South Africa all part of money-making scheme for corporations.

War on Drugs Race

All the drug laws in America have their racist and discriminatory foundations. The first drug-law came in 1875 in San Francisco, which was a banning of Opium Dens as a discrimination against Chinese-American immigrants. National headlines linked cocaine to causing violent behavior in African-Americans and laws were soon put in place. Marijuana was first used recreationally in the Southwestern United States by Mexican immigrants 1920’s, and laws were established that was geared at incriminating Mexicans.

But these were just the early battles before war was officially declared.

In June of 1971, Nixon declared the War on Drugs making most street drugs illegal with stricter penalties. Two years later, the DEA was created to enforce drug laws and bring those criminals to justice.

More arrests, meant more people in jails and prisons. The prisons started to overflow and they need for more prisons arose. Corporations got involved and built private, for-profit prisons. They arrange contracts with the government to remain at high occupancy’s, further incentives for the government to arrest non-violent drug offenders and keep them for longer sentences.

In the notorious, Kids for Cash Scandal two judges in Pennsylvania were convicted of taking cash payments from prisons as bribery to sentence more juveniles to fill their beds. They were locking up kids, for minor offenses, and changing lives forever for sums of money. And these are just the ones that are getting caught.

The prisons spend millions of dollars each year lobbying with congress to change and keep laws that allow locking up more people for non-violent drug offenses. In turn, members of congress  the people who write the laws  have investments in private prisons, encouraging them to keep these laws that help their portfolios.

Prison Labor

An increased prison population helps out more than just the prison industry, many other corporations have invested in prison labor. At least 37 states have legalized contracting of prison labor including corporations such as IBM, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Dell, Honeywell, Target, and many more mount their operations inside of prisons.

This is also known as slavery.

In fact, this idea of convict leasing arose after the Civil War. The South was built by stealing Native American land and utilizing free slave labor to build America into one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. But after slavery was abolished and African-Americans were emancipated, the corporations needed cheap labor.

Freed slaves started getting charged with petty crimes and sentenced to many years in prison. Once in prison, they were leased to work picking cotton and building railroads  just slavery with a different name.

After the Drug War launched in 1971, the prison population has skyrocketed by locking up African-Americans at an alarming rate to work for free for corporations. We really have not changed, we just find new and creative ways to hide the atrocious human rights crimes better.

Just Say KNOW

In 1986, Nancy Regan told us to Just Say No to drugs. While she was telling us not to do drugs, her husband and president, Ronald Reagan, was making illegal deals to fund illegal wars which brought those same drugs into our inner cities.

The Iran-Contra scandal involved Reagan illegally selling arms to Iran (despite an embargo on arms to Iran) in exchange for payments. This money went to fund the Nicaraguan contra rebel fighters to embark in a guerilla war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. The Sandinista government was democratically-elected (which I thought we liked, right?) which overtook a forty-year-old Somoza dictatorship (which is something we don’t like, right?)

The Sandinista government implemented welfare, health, education, and housing reforms. Peasants were granted access to land to help socio-economic growth. Citizens were given freedom of speech, assembly, council and religion.

They also looked to nationalize many U.S. Corporations and give resources back to their people. Most notably, the United Fruit Company, a subsidiary of the W.R. Grace Company  a major supporter of the Reagan administration. Since this cost corporations and investors money, they deemed that Nicaragua were communists and we needed to protect them from this “evil” regime.

The CIA went to extreme efforts, including getting involved in the illegal drug trade of cocaine from the Contras. They shipped crack-cocaine into the major cities as payments for fighting the guerilla war against the Nicaraguan government. The drugs hit the streets and crack was in all the major cities in the 1980s. The media told us the dangers of crack and people agreed a problem had to be made by locking up anyone who uses it.

The Anti-Drug Act of 1986, told us because crack is so much more powerful than powder cocaine that the sentencing must also be more severe. The laws stated that if you had 100-times less crack than powder cocaine, you received similar sentences. For example, if you possessed five grams of crack you faced a mandatory of five-years in prison (you would need five-hundred grams of powder cocaine for the same sentence).

Former L.A. police officer addressed this with CIA director, John Deutsch, in a 1996 town hall meeting by stating the following:

“I will tell you Director Deutch, as a former Los Angeles Police narcotics Detective, that the Agency has dealt drugs throughout this country for a long time.

This was followed by an uproar and applause from the local residents in attendance, which had to be literally silenced before he was allowed to continue.

“Director Deutch, I will refer you to three specific Agency operations known as Amadeus, Pegasus and Watchtower. I have Watchtower documents, heavily redacted by the Agency. I was personally exposed to CIA operations and recruited by CIA personnel who attempted to recruit me in the late seventies to become involved in protecting Agency drug operations in this country. I have been trying to get this out for eighteen years, and I have the evidence. My question for you is very specific sir. If, in the course of the IG’s investigation, you come across evidence of severely criminal activity, and it’s classified, will you use that classification to hide the criminal activity, or will you tell the American people the truth?

After another large applause and interruption, CIA Director John Deutsch responded by saying, “If you have information about CIA illegal activity  in drugs you should immediately bring that information to wherever you want, but let me suggest three places  the Los Angeles Police Department [interrupted by laughter from the residents], the inspector general, or the office of one of your congresspersons from this…”

After Congressman, Julian Dixon addresses the situation, Ruppert responds with one final blow:

“I did bring this information out eighteen years ago and I got shot at and forced out of LAPD because of it. I’ve been on the record eighteen years non-stop, and I’ll be happy to give you congressmen anything that I have.

“Bad Guys Go To Jail

The statistics will tell you about 75% of women in jail have been abused. That number is wrong. The number is 100%. I have worked in jails and in this system for over 18 years now, I have read thousands of charts. Not one of them has a case in which the patient/inmate was not the victim of some sort of trauma

Studies have lower numbers because the patient/inmate may not report past trauma. That does not mean that it did not occur  either it has been repressed or they do not wish to share due to shame, guilt, or embarrassment. The Hippocampus shuts down during trauma, helping us to forget the actual event. The effects on the brain linger, the neurochemistry of the event has affected us for a lifetime, exposing us to the much higher likelihood of addiction.

Harry Harlowconducted a series of experiments in 1958 with infant rhesus monkeys and a set of surrogate mothers. Two main types of mothers were used: 1) a wire model containing a bottle to feed the monkey and 2) a terry-cloth model.

Out of these results, it was shown that if an infant does not bond with a caregiver early in life that they are more likely to suffer from all sorts of ailments. Early attachment to the mother or caregiver is essential for normal development. When we see someone with addiction/mental health issues, we cannot assume that they are bad and lock them up, everyone has a story.

We cannot just look at behavior, but we must look beyond the mask. At first glance you see this woman’s rap sheet. She has eight felonies, all of which were drug offenses.

What do we do? Most say lock them up and throw away the key. That has been what we have been doing for centuries, and for centuries this world has been going downhill. We have less crime, but a higher prison population. So there is one problem with this philosophy. IT DOES NOT WORK!!

It has the opposite effect. We are locking up some of our most gifted, intelligent, sensitive people and forgetting about them. Instead we should be taking of their mask, getting to know them, rehabilitating them so they can have a positive impact on society.

If they are rehabilitated, then they don’t return to prison. It is what society needs, but corporations fear.

A Prisoner’s Tale  Stages of Development

We have an infant, born free and pure and not sure how the world works. She is learning to crawl and walk and explore. She is free. But she does not get as much hugs, kisses, and emotional connection as other infants. Her parents are always fighting and screaming at each other. This is an important stage of life in which she has now learned the world is an unsafe place. Her day consists of lying in her crib alone and crying for love, in which she is only fed and changed and otherwise lacks any connection. She is more of a nuisance, than a child. Her mother did not want children, but did so to please others. Should we lock this infant up in jail?

Now she is a toddler 2 or 3. She is trying to gain control over her motor skills like the other kids. But she is unsure about herself and afraid of the world at this point. She stumbles and falls, but she is afraid to ask for help. She is unsure about who to go to when she is sad or needs help and does not know if she is doing things correctly as there is no guidance.

The chemicals in her brain have now changed and are different than that of other children. She is hyper-vigilant, always looking over her shoulder and startles easily. Her brain is moving at a faster pace and she is always in survival mode. Should we lock her up now, and make money off of her being locked up?

In school she struggles more than the other kids. She is unsure of herself and does not interact well with her peers or adults. She is bullied throughout her day and isolates even more. Although, she does well in many aspects of life, her self-esteem is destroyed. Her view of the world has been shaped since the time she was born to look at it through a cloudy lens.

Eventually, she finds a group much like herself and they get along because they understand each other. They are the kindest, loving, and most gentle kids around; but they are the minority and are teased as a group. They are told they are losers, they fail out of school, and usually find themselves in trouble.

After school, their parents are not around as much and they do not have supervision, so early as 10 and 11, they begin to drink and smoke pot. It frees them, they feel free like when they were infants for the first time in their lives they are happy and feel at peace. So this becomes a daily habit. They do worse in school, get it more trouble at home and at school, but they get high and drunk daily. It gives them the freedom and peace that others have. Should we lock these kids up now?

There were times at parties in which older men have made their way into her room and touched her. She tries to tell parents and teachers but they tell her she is a bad kid and she should not make up lies just to get attention. These patterns continue and again she is the bad one, and learns that to be good is to be quiet and give into these older men.

In her adolescent years, she begins drinking and getting high daily  but now it is more a means of coping with life, rather than feeling free.

The older guys she hangs out with provide her drugs and alcohol and abuse her physically, emotionally, and sexually. But she learns that if she has sex with them, they begin to treat her kindly. This reinforces that she is a sex object and in order to get love, she must give sex. Is this fair, does she deserve to be locked up at this point?

At age 16, she meets an 18-year-old that comes from a rough environment as well. They bond right away and attach to each other immediately, spending every minute of every day together. They love each other, but neither of them knows how to love leading to jealousy, anger, and insecurity. Three months later, she becomes pregnant.

Their passion then turns on them and they begin fighting with hateful, verbal assaults. After the child is born, she has had enough and eventually she leaves him. Now she is a 17-year-old single mother, alone with a life of abuse and being used for sex. Should we lock her up?

She goes back to the Childs father and it only lasts a few months. It ends with her finally snapping and holding a knife to his throat. She has had enough of life. She moves to Florida with her mother. Should we lock her up at this point?

She meets a new man and tells the child that this is her father. She gets a job, has a new life and home and things are finally going well. Until this new man starts to physically and sexually abuse her for three years. She starts to drink and use again to numb the pain, until finally one night she sneaks out of the house and leaves for good. Should we lock her up now?

A few years later, she is working as a bartender and meets another man. He moves in with him and his kids and one day he asks her to try meth. She tries it, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. She feels this sudden sense of peaceful euphoria in which all the pain, abuse, and trauma is gone. She has that feeling of being alive and well once again. Because of this feeling, she starts using more often, always chasing after that feeling of peace and love. She leaves this guy and gets her own place with her daughter and finally has peace of mind. Should we lock her up now?

But as her tolerance grows, she needs more money to keep bringing about this peaceful feeling by means of using meth. Along the way, she is introduced to injecting the drug directly into her veins which creates a much more intense high  plus it lessens how much she has to use and buy. In the meantime, her daughter is being neglected and left for days at stranger’s houses. This little girl is now all alone and afraid of these people  just like the mother felt all those years ago. One day, the daughter walks out of the house while the mother is passed out and found by a passerby in a snowstorm. At this point, police and social services are involved in her life. It is the first time in her life, someone has intervened.

But it is the wrong intervention. They put her on probation and tell her to stop using. If it was that easy, she wouldn’t have been doing so in the first place. It was the only thing that connected her with her true self. As the pain returns in her life, she misses the feeling and starts to fail drug tests. Her child is removed and placed with the father. Her house is now being watched and she is arrested a few times on drug charges. We have now started locking her up.

Still, at this point, everything that is going on, not one person has intervened by offering treatment or looking into her past. Instead, she is labeled as a Drug-Addict and a Bad Person. And bad people go to jail.

After she loses her daughter, she is in more pain that ever and is still seeking love. A major drug dealer in the area asks her to run meth in her part of the state in which she will get a cut, enough to fill her desire to feel at peace amidst a chaotic life. She has already given up on life and has nothing to lose. She gets involved and starts making endless amounts of money and supply of her drug. The FBI follows her for years and eventually tracks her down. She gets sentenced to 17 years in Federal Prison.

She did not get offered treatment, she went directly to jail. She was not rehabilitated, she was treated like an animal, a prisoner of war.

Once she was released she has made the most out of her life and is doing well. People ask her how she did it? Most people who suffer through the corruption of the prison are bound to return. But it is not a corrupt system, they designed it this way. Return prisoners equal increased revenue for many different corporations.

“Everyone ignores you, she said one day in a speech, They treat you like an animal. No one believes you, they tell you ‘why would I believe a career criminal?’ The guards take pleasure in abusing the prisoners. Women are assaulted and there is nothing you can do. It is the ultimate feeling of powerlessness.

“But there was this dentist, she paused, he treated me like a human being, like I mattered. Every day I would look forward to seeing him. That is the only thing that kept me going. He was the only one that gave me hope.

That was her treatment. She got treatment from him.

I have worked in this field for 18 years, this is all of their stories. All of them are similar.

I know this story well. The little child in this story is my now 20-year-old daughter and the woman in prison was her mother.

She needed help, not to be locked up.

It is time to end the war on drugs and on humanity.

Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution $3.99

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Taking the Mask Off” is the new book by Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne. Cortland Pfeffer spent years as a patient in psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, and jails before becoming a registered nurse and working in the same facilities. Based on his experience, this story is told from both sides of the desk. It offers a unique and valuable perspective into mental health and addiction, revealing the problems with the psychiatric industry while also providing the solution – one that brings together science, spirituality, philosophy, and personal experience.

“Taking the Mask Off: Destroying the Stigmatic Barriers of Mental Health and Addiction Using a Spiritual Solution” is available on Amazon, and Balboa Press

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“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” – Janis Joplin

 

 

As my mind was returning to consciousness, I had no idea what had just taken place. My eyes were still closed and I felt too weak to open them. Bits and pieces of the previous evening started playing in front of me. The laughs, the good times, and the extra shots of liquor, but also there was a lot of missing scenes from the blackout I had experienced. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that brings more pain that the physical pain I am trying to withstand.

It is at this point I remember being the “least drunk” and most OK to drive home last night. These scenes start returning to my conscious memory. I remember the curve in the road and then everything goes blank. My heart starts pounding and I am hearing loud machines and voices of strangers around me.

Out of fear and confusion my eyes open to discover I am in the emergency room of a hospital with excruciating pain in every cell of my body. But, again, there is an overwhelming feeling of guilt pressed against my body as I am trying to figure out what happened last night.

“Where is John?” I asked. John was my boyfriend and father of our six-month old child and was also the passenger in my vehicle last night.

Nobody answered.

“Where is John!?” I managed to shout louder.

But the louder I cried, the quieter the room grew. The police officer in the back approached me and took off his cap and with a tear in his eye, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Holly,” he couldn’t even maintain eye contact, “He didn’t make it. He was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact.”

With so much intoxicants still in my system, I could only hope this was part of the worst nightmare of my life. I yelled, screamed, tried to do anything to escape reality but nothing could be done. I had just killed my boyfriend and my child’s father because I drove drunk and lost control of the vehicle.

Powerless, hopeless, trapped, and unable to escape, I momentarily lost touch with reality.

Once stabilized and deemed safe for discharge from the hospital, I was put into handcuffs and walked to the back of a squad car on sent to the county jail. I sat there in a lifeless form of a body as they took my mug shot and notified me of my charge – homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

I only sat two days as my wealthy parents were able to post $5,000 bond. I felt like I had cheated the system as I had a far more severe crime than any of the women in that jail, but I was able to go home due to the condition my parents had money. While I awaited my court date, I felt completely numb and they had checked me into a psychiatric unit but they did not keep me because I was not suicidal. Honestly, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I had a six-month old daughter that I was trying to raise the best I could before my judgment date.

I signed the rights over to my parents, knowing that I would be facing prison time in the near future. There are no words that can describe the pain trying to play with your six-month old daughter, knowing she will never know her father and the most crucial parts of her development her mother will be incarcerated. But beyond all of this, all I wanted to do was to apologize to John and his family.

On the day of my sentence, I couldn’t even bare to have words come out of my mouth as the state prosecutor questioned me. All I could repeat that I was sorry and that I feel nothing and only want to make sure my daughter is safe.

At this point, there was nothing anyone could say to me that hurt any more. I have heard it all. My name is on the front page of the paper, I read all the comments on the article, I read the comments on John’s social media pages, along with many hate messages of my own. There was nothing that could be said that could push me down any further.

“The maximum sentence for homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle is twenty-five years in state prison,” the judge looked at me as my heart sank.

He went on and explained the results of the Pre-Sentence Investigation and how I would be better served to be a part of society as opposed to a long prison sentence. Following some more lecturing he handed down my sentence – two years in state prison along with seven years of parole.

As tears rolled down my cheeks and I hugged my parents and kissed my child, I knew how fortunate I was to only be serving two years. But at the same time, I realized that my life was forever changed. My name will always be linked to the word homicide. How will I explain to my daughter when she asks about her father? Every time I apply for a job, this will come up on a background check or a simple Google search and you can see my mug shot.

 

Welcome to the Jungle:

My attorney had pleaded for a lesser sentence and argued that I was not mentally prepared to handle being incarcerated with the general population. Terrified for my life, I was sure my parents would find a way out of this. But, there was nothing anybody could do. The judge informed us that I had taken another person’s life and if I am capable of doing so, then I am capable of living with other criminals.

I was powerless, hopeless, and terrified for my life. For the first time, things were completely out of my control. I had no choice but to fully surrender. And it was this forced surrender that granted me this irony – finding greater freedom while locked behind bars than I had ever experienced in my privileged life in the affluent suburbs.

As I sat alone in my cell, I refused to talk or make eye contact with anyone.

“Welcome to the jungle princess,” said one of the guards as he smiled at me and seemed to be getting joy in my anguish.

For the next two years, nobody used my name. I was always referred to as “Princess” due to my privileged lifestyle outside the prison walls. I would estimate that ninety-percent of the people in that prison were minorities and came from poverty. In those that I got to know, I would argue that 100-percent of them have experienced some sort of trauma or abuse in their life.

And then there was me, the incarcerated princess. I had been sheltered my entire life and had no idea how the rest of the world lived.

Every day, I witnessed the prisoners being abused and ridiculed. Nobody deserves this type of treatment. The guards were untrained, highly judgmental, and abusing their power daily. If anyone saw how they treated the inmates there would be a public uproar.

 

Punishing the Abused:

Since I was a young child, it had been engrained in my mind that prison was the place that the “bad guys” go for committing crimes. It did not take long to realize nobody in this prison was a bad person. Nearly all of them were in there for drug-related charges.

And why did they do drugs? They turned to drugs to escape the trauma and abuse they had suffered their entire lives. What kind of system is this? We are punishing people for being abused without giving them the tools they need.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all the people serving time in prison for drug offenses, 45-percent were black and 30-percent were white. Yet, the general population is 77-percent white and 13-percent black.

Now the logic, that we are brainwashed by the media would tell us that the reason for this inequality is that black people are committing more crimes and doing more drugs. But the factual studies discredit this racist rhetoric we have been fed our entire lives.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that a greater percentage of white people use alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, hallucinogens, nicotine, methamphetamine, heroin, and all opiates. Yet, blacks are arrested three times as often as whites and the sentences are always more severe.

In fact, the only drug that blacks use at a higher percentage than whites was crack cocaine with a slim margin of 5.0 percent to 3.4 percent, respectively. And, not coincidentally, that is the one drug that receives the higher sentence.

In the past, the ratio was 100:1 for the sentencing of crack/cocaine. This meant your sentence would be 100 times larger for possessing the same amount of crack than if you had the powder cocaine. The “Fair Sentencing Act” reduced this, albeit still not “fair,” as it is not reduced to 17:1.

 

The New Slavery:

However, they did offer people to get diplomas and certificates while incarcerated so they could adjust to the outside world. They granted us opportunities to work and “build skills”. While this seemed like a great opportunity at first, it was brought to my attention that it was an extended form of slavery.

One of my cell mates informed me that we were working for corporations who wanted cheap labor and they set up contracts with the prisons. She explained that America was built into a economic superpower by stealing the land of native Americans and using free labor from slaves stolen from Africa. The greatest exports were tobacco and cotton which were labor intensive and required great amounts of land. After the slaves were freed, the prisons started incarcerating African-Americans for petty crimes for long sentences and corporations would hire them out to work for free.

Slavery never ended, they just got smarter at hiding it from the public.

Here I was among a group of African-Americans that grew up in poverty, were abused, and lived traumatic lives. Then they were arrested for doing the same drugs that people in the suburbs do just as much, yet they were locked up for years and put to work for free to help the rich get richer.

 

Freedom:

When I was released, I went back to being the “privileged, white, stuck-up, greedy, ignorant bitch” as the day I came in. My father would easily be able to get me back into society as if nothing had happened. People were ready to give me opportunities.

And I said no.

I am a convicted felon, a killer. Why should I get to just jump back in as if I did not do this crime? I had to struggle to find places to live, places to work, financial aid for school just like all the other “felons” who only crime they committed was being born into poverty.

John’s family, once accepted me as their own, has disowned me as I took their only son from them. Which I did, I am sorry, but sorry does not bring back their child. As I look into my own daughter’s eyes, I am not sure if I could forgive someone who did that to her – so I get it and I do not blame them. They did not deserve this pain and anguish that I put them through.

My parents hardly speak with me since I was released from prison because I refuse to live their phony existence and I refuse to take the “get out of poverty” free card. They still do not want to hear about my experiences in prison and the lessons I learned about how the rest of the world lives.

I regained custody of my daughter and met a guy from the recovery community that has a son of his own. We are doing fine, working our way back up in society without the handouts we had been accustomed to based on the color of our skin.

We are more free now than ever before. It is highly liberating to be able to see through the lies of society, the lies of our teachers, parents, government, and culture to see the world as it truly is. There is an incredible feeling of inner peace to live without a mask, to be your true self, and enjoy every minute of the people you are with.

I already know the comments that will come from this article. I’ve already seen them all before – I am a criminal, I am a murderer, I am privileged, I am a bitch, I am a slut, I am a terrible person and do not deserve to live. I’ve heard it all. The one comment that I have never agreed with is that I should not have had my child so young – that I do not agree with you. But, go ahead and type it for the world to see, I’ve seen much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, there is not a single day that I wish I could go back in time and bring John back and have our little family again. But each time I try to resist, try to change the past, I start to build those mental prison walls. Freedom comes from accepting the past as it is unconditionally.

We grow up believing we live in a “free country” and proudly proclaim this is the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Yet, we never teach anyone to be free. In fact, we teach everyone to be slaves and go along with the masses – buy this, do that, talk to this person, don’t try that, conform, and be like everyone else.

It is comfortable with the masses and knowing what to expect, but it is not true freedom. Freedom comes from surrender and removing our masks.

So write your comments and judgments, but realize that is just you building your own mask. You have already seen behind my mask, let me seen what is behind yours.

hugclub

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks

By Cortland Pfeffer and Irwin Ozborne

Every Wednesday morning for the past few months I have seen the same patient around 7:00 a.m. I would bring her a sausage and egg McMuffin every morning and sometimes a fish sandwich in the afternoon – a violation of company rules.

The “rules” also tell me that I am not supposed to pick up her medications, not to disclose personal information, and to never give hugs to patients. But we all face moments in life in which we realize that rules no longer apply to present circumstances.

Nearly sixty years ago, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to follow the rules and orders of a bus driver demanding she gives up her seat to a white person. The rules no longer applied to Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement began. A couple decades prior in Germany, Oskar Schindler and Karl Plagge were members of the Nazi Party who saw the “rules” of the time meant systematic extermination of people. They saw the rules no longer applied, with each of them finding a way to save thousands of lives along the way.

Parks, Schindler, and Plagge shared one thing in common. They recognized injustice, deliberately refused to follow the “rules” of their time, and put their personal life at risk in an effort to do the right thing. While these are all extreme examples, they all also started with one simple act which catapulted a movement.

Today, let’s start our own revolution. As they say it will not be televised. That is because only hate and corruption is televised. The real revolution is a return to love.

This woman that I would visit had just lost her only son about three years ago to suicide. She was devastated and never recovered. When I stopped by, we would just talk about life, my kids and family, politics, and the world we live in. It was the highlight of her day. She always asked me for hugs every time I came, and against staff advice, I obliged.

She was incredibly lonely and her depression had reached the point in which it was physically debilitating. She was in so much emotional pain that it was a struggle to get out of bed each day. I would help her get up and walk around outside for a few minutes to help boost her mood.

Then our Wednesday meetings always ended with a simple hug.

I find it ironic that these things violate rules. This has been scientifically / biologically proven that hugging actually releases a hormone called Oxytocin, which is a natural antidote to stress and naturally lifts ones mood. Oxytocin is also released by looking into another’s eyes, a simple holding of the hand, patting on the back, petting an animal, etc.

In fact, studies have shown that teachers that give a warm pat on the back to students will typically fare better in testing and that sports teams that make more personal contact (i.e. high fives, exuberant hugs) are more successful. It has more of a scientific backing than that of antidepressants.

Today, as I was walking towards her door, something felt different. I knocked on the door and waited as I felt something turning in my stomach.

There was no answer. She was dead.

I am not sure the cause of death, but likely will find out in the coming days once the coroner can run an autopsy. But she is gone, she has passed away and will be reunited with her son. Ask me if I regret breaking these rules for the past three months?
On her answering machine, you hear my voice saying, “I can’t come this morning. I have to bring my kids to school. But I promise I’ll be there tomorrow with the egg McMuffin.”
Before I headed to her house this morning, I was feeling very depressed about some other things going on in my personal life. I wasn’t going to bring her food today and my plan was to let her know that I could no longer keep doing this for her. As these thoughts were going through my mind, I was able to slow myself down and remind myself “just because I am depressed does not mean I should add to her pain.”

Last week, I blew her off during our visit. I was short, rushed, and didn’t want to be “bothered.”  She pleaded me to stay longer, but my occupied mind would not allow me to be present that day.

“I promise we will chat more next week,” I told her. Without knowing, that next meeting never came.

And that is what I regret. I was too busy with things going on in my own world, that I missed out on an opportunity to make another person’s day brighter.

Every interaction matters, every hug matters, every moment matters. Being a man does not mean who is the most productive, busy, finishing paperwork on time, or rising to the top. No, being a man has to do with going beyond our ego and making true, meaningful connection with another soul. Give someone a hug, someone in need.

I am starting a hug club. I’m going to hug people openly just the way we did when we were children before society scared us away from loving our neighbor and fellow man. If I see someone walk in the room that I am happy to see, I am going to hug them. If I see someone distressed, I will hug them and allow their body to naturally heal the way we were created to do so.
This is my vow and I encourage others to do the same.

I know we will get weird looks, laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed. But so did Rosa Parks. A real man does not concern himself over the opinions of those still living behind their mask, because a real man understands that that hug may be saving a life.

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“If you touch the phenomenal realm deeply, you touch the ultimate realm. The ultimate is Nirvana, it is God, and it is available to us 24 hours a day.”  -Thich Naht Hahn

By Cortland Pfeffer

When Irwin Ozborne and I met in early recovery, we discovered we both loved baseball and began coaching as a sober activity that allowed us to try to give back to the community.

We have coached baseball together for many years. One year of the many, sticks out. It is the year we met Jonah.

The team was from a small and well off community. We usually coached the poor communities to try and give back. The cities that had no money, and no resources. This year we were recruited by an old friend to coach this wealthy community, the challenge was that they were small and moving up to play all the big schools. No community this small had ever done this successfully, so the challenge was intriguing.

We reluctantly accepted this challenge, thinking that these rich community kids have everything.

We thought, “this won’t be fun, these guys have it all figured out.”

Boy were we wrong. We found out they were much sicker, they only masked it better. As it turns out, money can buy you a nice fancy mask that is hard to uncover.

We walked into the first practice, the kids were still just kids. No different. They did not see money. This is always true of kids, they have not been domesticated yet.

We were told of one particular kid on the team, Jonah, who was the best player by everyone’s account.

We get to the first practice and do the normal speech regarding who we are and what the season will be like.

When we were talking, Jonah seemed to space out. Was he not paying attention? Did he think he knew everything? He is the star player we were told, so we wondered what this was about.

Then we start practicing and he is awful. He is dropping balls. We were thinking, is this the same kid everyone told us was so amazing?

Yes it was.

So we start playing games, and we have him in the lineup because everyone else knows him better, and assures us he will be amazing. He drops balls, strikes out, makes mistakes constantly, and costs us a few games.

One game in particular, he is in tears running off the field in embarrassment, no one is able to console him and he runs off into the old rink at the field and will not move from it for about 6 hours after the game.

At this point we needed to find out what is happening as this appears to be more than just a baseball issue. We talk to him, and he tells us that his parents are divorcing, he is scared and confused. He has to take sides. It is a chaotic environment in his house.

It would be best described as putting a rat in a maze and starting the maze on fire. How would you expect that rat to behave?

We decide to talk to his parents about what is going on as this kid is struggling. They confirm what he has said, they are divorcing and it has been a bit chaotic. His parents are both emotional people, and you can tell this has become an issue as they fight in front of us and try to get us coaches to take sides.

Jonah’s Dad was a great baseball player in his day and knows a lot about it. You can hear him screaming at us during the games about coaching decisions. His Dad is also screaming at the umpires. You can hear his Grandpa screaming at us as well. They watch our practices and attack us verbally, even as we practice.

They love their baseball. They are great people, as we have gotten to know them well over the years now, and still talk to them today. They were good people in a rough situation that year.

His mother was kicked out of a few of our games for screaming as well. She went out of her way to attack Jonah’s Dad in front of us and the other parents. If they did it in public, you can imagine what would happen at home.

During the meeting with the family, they told us important information. Jonah not only was struggling in baseball, but he had been struggling in school this year. So they had taken him to the doctor before baseball season and he was diagnosed with ADHD and placed on Ritalin.

As the season continues, Jonah struggles and is spaced out. It is heartbreaking to watch. He is losing friends, and he is losing his purpose.

He is the rat in the maze with fire.

We of course being the way we are, show up 3 hours ahead of game time and prepare for games. After a while, we noticed something, Jonah would notice how early we were, and he would start showing up early every single game. He was there an hour before practices and 3 hours before games.

He loved the game so much, but also, his parents didn’t want to deal with him and he did not want to be in the maze on fire as well. The medication wasn’t enough to slow him down, so they had dropped him off as early as they could.

I remember one pre-game Jonah crying to us, he said, “coach, this team is my family now, and it is the most important thing in the world to me.”

He didn’t care that we had benched him. At this point we could not have him play much, as the team was getting close to qualifying for the state tournament, something that no team from this city had ever done. Jonah still showed up, played when he could, and cheered on his teammates. He became the teams emotional leader, He cracked jokes, he was happy when he was at the field. He was energetic and it was contagious.

Eventually, things started to cool down at home and he was with his Dad for the end of the summer. As things stabilized at home. Jonah started to perform better. We started to have him play more as his confidence gained. He never became the player we had heard of, but he was not dropping the balls and his focus was better.

We had made it to the big tournament to qualify for state. Everyone was there from the city. They were trying to be the first group from this town to ever make it. It was loud and a lot of great teams were there trying to qualify. It was unusually cold and rainy. The energy was amazing.

We had to win the last game to make it. We had run out of arms to pitch. The kids were tired, the parents were tense. We could have all the pitchers pitch about 2 innings each and try to win that way.

We had a meeting with the assistant coaches. We said “how about we let Jonah pitch?”

The response was “so we are trying to lose now?” ‘

Or “It will ruin all the kids’ lives. You are going to embarrass him more than he already has embarrassed himself and his family.” or…

“He is a trouble maker and he will embarrass the city. He was only good when it was not against these good teams, look at how he behaves. You cannot be rewarding his behavior.”

It was a resounding NO from everyone.

We decided we were going to do it anyways. We pulled Jonah aside, who had not pitched all year long and it never was even a thought.

We said, “Jonah, how do you feel about pitching the final game?”

His eyes got wide open, his smile was the biggest I have ever seen still to this day. His eyebrows popped up. It was the most happy I think I have ever seen a human being.

“Really coach? I will shut them down. This is awesome.” He gave us both huge hugs.

We did not care at this point what happened and if we got run out of there by a mob of angry parents. It did not matter to us anymore. We were set on this now. We went to tell everyone the news.

It was worse than you can imagine. The parents were up in arms, they were yelling, and cursing.  They were verbally aggressive and right in front of Jonah. It was sad, pathetic, and the moment we decided not to ever coach these guys again. The parents were too sick. They were like a mob ready to kill us. They were talking about how bad this kid is right in front of him and their kids. So THEY could WIN a baseball game.

The kids look bewildered and were all watching their parents. This is who is going to guide them the rest of their lives. Parents who were so obsessed with winning at all costs that they had turned into animals.

However, in the background you could see the look on Jonah’s Dad’s face and it was the same as his son. He was proud. They had a rough summer, his Dad had become the outcast of the parents group. He sat by himself now as they called his Dad “crazy,” and “Schizophrenic.” He was isolated.

His Dad still yelled at us from afar, but he was usually right. We enjoyed it because we knew where his heart was at. We learned to appreciate the yelling, he had great baseball knowledge. So we knew if he wasn’t yelling, we really were doing well.

The big game begins as the parents and community had turned on us in a second because we had ruined their dream in their eyes.

But something else happened, the other kids loved how much Jonah had cheered them on during the season. He was their once best player and was struggling. He still showed up every day. He still cracked jokes. He still hugged them when they made a bad play. They saw true leadership in him, and so did I.

The other kids couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on in Jonah’s life, but they saw the yelling, and they saw the chaos. They also saw Jonah crying and scared. They all were as excited as he was to watch him pitch finally, as he had been begging us all year. They were more pumped up than anything to play. They were all screaming and jumping up and down.

Some of the parents came to the bench and said to their “be quiet, you are embarrassing the community.”

But they could not come in the bench.

So Irwin said to the kids on our team, “You get told to be quiet everywhere you go, school, home, church, and you just want to yell. So go ahead, yell, and play like animals. No one is going to tell you to stop today.” He had given them the ok to be kids.

The team we were playing was one of the better teams in the state. We knew we were going to lose. But we also knew we were not coaching this community again after this, and we saw what this whole thing was really about, so we didn’t care either. It was a bench full of kids and us, with our masks all off at once.

If there truly is a heaven, or nirvana, that’s what it is like, no masks, no negative feelings, no man made problems, pure unstoppable love and energy at its full force.

We all have moments that we see this piece of nirvana, or heaven on earth, this was one of those moments.

Jonah took the mound. The first batter crushed the ball as we all expected, no one cared except the parents. The ball was flying long in the air, our center fielder ran and ran, and there was no way he was going to get to it. But he sure was trying. The energy and love had infected him. We looked at each other and laughed, “This will be fun. I hope we don’t lose by 20.” But it was the happiest the kids had been all season.

He dove all out and as he stood up he had the ball in his glove! We didn’t see it, but we heard the screaming and turned around. We could not believe it! Both our mouths opened at once. The whole team went crazy!

Jonah pumped his fist against his glove, smiled, and pointed at us.

The next hitter hit a line drive towards the 3rd basemen who dove, and grabbed the ball. Then an amazing thing happened. Jonah, with his new confidence, struck out the next hitter. The team was so happy for Jonah. After that first inning they all were running and jumping towards us. They got to the bench and all were hugging him and screaming. We looked at each other and didn’t say a word. We knew we were going to win. We didn’t have to speak it.

When you experience heaven, or nirvana with someone else, you do not have to speak, you just feel it. We both knew what we were experiencing, a thing like this bonds you for life with someone.

The kids on our team were all diving all over the place like they never had before. The other team was crushing the ball off of him all day. But it did not matter. If we played this team 100 times, they would have beaten us. But not today. Not on this Sunday. This was Jonah’s day.

The parents rolled their eyes, and acted disgusted. They were hoping we lost. Saying “He can’t keep this up.”

But it wasn’t just him, it was all of us. We all were in on this. That is where they were wrong.

It was the best team effort of the year. They all knew how important this was to Jonah and they showed it. He did not pitch well. But well enough. The team made play after play. Then as the game went on. Jonah gained confidence and started becoming the old Jonah, the one not in the maze, the one with his mask off. By the end, he was the player we had been told about.

I think he had been forced to wear a mask earlier than the other kids. So they saw it, then they saw it come off on this Sunday.

But this other team was great and it was a big city that had always gone to state. This was a major upset for us to even be there. They had their best pitcher on the mound. It was 0-0 after the top of the last inning.

We went in to the bottom of the last inning tied 0-0. There was 2 outs. Jonah stepped up to the plate.

He had maybe 2 hits all year. The first 2 pitches came from a kid who is now in the minor leagues, the ball zipped right by Jonah, 0 balls 2 strikes. No one could come close to hitting it off of this kid all game. He was the best pitcher we had ever seen.

On the next pitch, another fastball, and Jonah hits the ball. It is high in the air, and it is far. It keeps going, the kids all get up off the bench. They all start looking, and screaming. The parents are looking. Jonah’s Dad is over the fence where he always sits trying to make the ball come over with his hand gestures. It fly’s and fly’s, and then it goes over the fence!!

The kids are jumping up and down screaming. The parents are doing the same. Everyone is in complete shock that was not inside the bench of nirvana.

We are going to the state tournament!

Jonah has led us there. On this day, out of the maze on fire, Jonah has done something no one thought he could.

I watch him round first base and slap Irwin’s hand, I look at his face, at the crowd, at the rain, at the clouds, at his Dad, at his Grandpa, and I am in tears coaching 3rd base waiting for Jonah to get to me. I am crying as I write this, remembering the look on his face as he came to me.

He comes to me and slaps my hand, he holds it tight, and I am in tears, I say “I love you Jonah, you did it, and we did it!!”

The atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was running, screaming and hugging in the cold, windy rain. We all forgot it was raining outside. That’s what Nirvana does, everything else goes away.

The energy finally died down.

We went up to his dad. We talked for an hour.

Then as we are ending the conversation, he said “thank you for giving him the chance, it has been a rough year. He needed someone to believe in him.”

We said, “those meds really started to kick in after a while I guess. Those ADHD meds you had him on.”

His Dad, you know, the “crazy” one, said, “What? I had him for the end of the summer, I took him off that stuff about a month ago. I don’t care what anyone says, he is not sick, he is just a boy going through a rough time.

A few years ago Jonah was named an all state athlete in 2 sports, in our state. He is going to college on a full scholarship.

He never took ADHD meds again.

Our kids take their emotional cues from us, maybe it should be the other way around.

Thank you for Nirvana Jonah.