This page was created to expose the primitive justice and the abuse of power of the California Supreme Court. This is a true story, true facts, true evidence, confirming the innocence of Jarvis Jay Masters, a 56 year old man living on death row in San Quentin State Prison in California. This page will contain legal documentation taken from the Petition For Writ Of Certiorari To The California Supreme Court, written by Attorney Joseph G. Baxter, Appendix A, B, and C, and will be cited.The use of this information falls under the Fair Use law. Fair use is a legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Information not of Joseph G. Baxter’s work will also be used and cited. Works from my personal case study, Death By Innocence, Jarvis Jay Masters, a Miscarriage of Justice, is all-inclusive.

Jarvis Jay Masters entered San Quentin State Prison in 1981 at the age of 19, charged with armed robbery. In 1985 he was falsely accused of conspiracy in the murder of a guard and charged with sharpening the tool that was used. A witness, Rufus Willis, pointed out the man who sharpened the tool used in the murder, but this man had no resemblance to Masters. It was Harold Richardson. Richardson then confessed to sharpening the tool used in the murder of the guard (Baxter App.B). Inconceivably, for Masters, the jury returned a verdict of death on the murder count and life with the possibility of parole on the conspiracy count (Baxter App.A).

At the trial Masters was denied his right to due process, his right to defense.The law states that a person cannot be sentenced to death if denied their right to due process. Still, the California Court knowingly violated this law and sentenced Maters to death. He has been on death row for 37 years because of this court violation.The California Court also knowingly violated Masters Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, therefore violating both State and Federal laws.

“The constitutional guarantee of due process of law, found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, prohibits all levels of government from arbitrarily or unfairly depriving individuals of their basic constitutional rights to life,liberty, and property.” Due Process of Law (FindUSLaw)..
The California Supreme Court again, blatantly violated article 6 and article 14 of the ICCPR law, which is The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976 (Cornell Law School ).

Article 6 of the ICCPR provides that the death penalty may only be imposed where these standards are observed. The Human Rights Committee has accordingly held that when a state violates an individual’s due process rights under the ICCPR, it may not carry out his execution.

Article 14 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to a “fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal,” and the right to be presumed innocent.
Masters was never presumed innocent by the California Supreme Court, nor did he have a fair trial.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing–Edmond Burke.

Death By Innocence Jarvis Jay Masters Part II

The California Supreme Court, as well as the prosecutor, manipulated the evidence to cause a death sentence for Jarvis Jay Masters. I will give you the facts collected from legal documents, and I will try to make it simple. You can you decide for yourself. The order of facts is not chronological for various reasons.

It’s common knowledge that prisons house gang members of all sects. Joining a gang would be in one’s best interest if in for the long haul. Masters joined the Black Guerrilla Family after he entered San Quentin, but has decades ago departed from the BGF.
Rufus Willis, Harold Richardson, Andre Johnson, and Lawrence Woodard, were also members of the BGF. They were all housed in the section where the prison guard was killed. Bobby Evans was a BGF member. He had an extensive history and motives for testifying for the prosecution. Convicted of four burglaries and attempted robbery, he admitted to stabbing numerous inmates. He also supervised the BGF’s street crimes while out of prison ( p. 9).

Rufus Willis, the supposed witness, was serving a 25-year-to-life sentence for murder, kidnapping, and robbery, at Folsom Prison (Baxter App. B). He was transferred to San Quentin.

While at San Quentin, Willis had committed and ordered the stabbing of several inmates, distributed illegal drugs, and extorted prison staff by promising them protection or threatening to harm them. In exchange, Willis sought favors, such as freedom to pass notes and weapons to other inmates and access to other inmates’ confidential files (p. 8).
Within days after the murder of the prison guard, Willis contacted prison officials to provide information hoping to work out an early release from prison. The investigator suggested that he would, but the prosecutor said no deal. Instead, he would be granted immunity for the crimes he committed in prison, including his participation in the murder of the guard, and moved to an out-of-state prison for his protection (p. 6). Even after the prosecutor promised only immunity and protective measures, Willis told two other inmates that he had come up with a plan to be released early. He told one of these inmates that he would “do whatever he had to do to make sure he didn’t spend the rest of his life in prison” (p.8). His statement alone was a strong indicator that Willis was going to point a lying finger in any direction, and his testimony would be deceptive, at best, unstable. It would seem that the defense attorney would use this information against Willis.

At the trial, Willis admitted to altering a note addressed to him from another inmate about the murder to make it look like it was addressed to another inmate (Baxter A p. 6). Willis also testified that several inmates would write notes for other inmates in order to cover up the identity of the author (p. 8) Willis destroyed over 300 notes written by other members, however, oddly, and curiously, one note remained that was supposedly in the hand writing of Masters, with a ‘code’ name supposedly belonging to Masters, talking about the murder. Believable? I don’t think so.

Andre Johnson, by admission, was the inmate who stabbed and killed the prison guard on the night of June 8, 1985. A piece of metal was found 15 minutes later on the floor of the second tier area below Johnson’s cell, with no evidence of blood. Masters was on the fourth tier. On a search for the weapon, a makeshift spear shaft created from rolled-up newspaper and cloth was found on top of a security screen. In other searches on the tier, officers found other prison-made weapons, and pieces of metal from the same prison bed. None of the evidence was persevered (p. 6). A state-issued shoe was also found on top of the security screen. The shoe had a piece of metal in it believed to be the weapon used in the murder.

Masters highlighted the shortcomings of the prison staffs investigation.
1. The officer who found the piece of metal used in the murder, carried it around in his pocket for several hours instead of preserving it as evidence.
2. The envelope that later held this piece of metal was not retained.
3. Many items seized that could have been evidence were lost or destroyed, including various prisoner-made weapons, the seized shoes, and the numerous inmate notes that contained supposed tips about or claims of responsibility for the murder (p.10).

Jarvis Jay Masters lives on death row waiting for execution, while the others who were admitted murderers, conspirators of murder, and the murderer of the prison guard, received sentences of only life without parole, made deals for immunity, received protection and moved to out-of-state prisons. As of today, Harold Richardson, the man who admittedly sharpened the weapon used in the murder of the guard, is up for parole this month, January 18, 2018. He also was moved to an undisclosed prison for protection. Johnson who committed the murder of the prison guard was sentenced to death by the jury, however, the court granted the automatic motion for life without parole. Woodward also received life without parole. Evans received a grant of immunity, and exchanged his testimony for safety and security considerations.

Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture of facts? Why did Jarvis Jay Masters receive death, along with life with the possibility of parole? It could very well be that he was tried without an attorney the first time around. Moreover, it might very well be what the court allowed the prosecutor to do at trial. More to come on this story.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor—God.

Death By Innocence Jarvis Jay Masters Part III
The Dinosaur days

The court systems were still practicing primitive, and prejudice ways, back in the 1980’s. Had this murder of the prison guard occurred today, Jarvis Jay Masters would not be on death row. The violation of his amendment rights alone would have caused an automatic mistrial.

The Prosecutor would not have been allowed to play fairy-godfather and grant wishes of immunity, private transfers, and forgiveness of past murders, to manipulate the outcome of the trial. And certainly, he would not have been able to do the following:
The court allowed the Prosecutor to present a bizarre barrage of stories about Masters’ young life and his entire family’s life, along with any and all details true or false, with proof, without proof, with documents, without documents, and extensive hearsay—starting when Masters was age 12 (p.10-20).
Masters came from a very troubled past since birth. His parents were drug addicted and would abandon him and his siblings, ages ranging from 3-years-old to 8-years-old, for long periods of time.

Quotes taken from Masters book, “That Bird Has My Wings.”
“An old white woman lived in a house behind us. Every morning she would put food out for us. She somehow knew that we were being left to starve in our own house” (p. 5).
“We were living in filth and hunger when we were finally found” (p. 10).
“ . . . the awful stench of our pee-stained mattresses . . . after urinating on them for months . . .” (p. 10).
“My sisters had to be quarantined due to the parasites found everywhere on them” (p. 11).
Many chapters of these sad realities set the stage for the rest of Masters life. From juvenile homes, detention homes, foster homes, to dysfunctional homes, all played a part.

As a young child the only stability and structure Masters had in his life was from age 6-years-old to 9-years-old, with a foster couple, the Procks, but he had to leave their home after his foster mother died. They took him away and he was not allowed to attend the funeral (p. 19). He kept running away to the old house trying to find her and connect to the only home where he felt accepted and loved.
At the age of 16-years-old, at one of the more structured Institutions where he lived, Masters excelled in sports, placed on the academic honor roll, along with obtaining his high school diploma (p. 20).

For the Court to allow the Prosecutor to re-open wounds and memories of abandonment, of emotional, physical, and mental abuse by parents, stepfathers, and strangers, is outrageous and unconscionable.

Because the Prosecutor gave so many allowances, freedoms, deals, and fringe benefits to the real killers and conspirators, Masters was all he had left. Yet couldn’t make his case justified. So his grandstand was filled with nothing more than the past rap sheet of a troubled teen and the hard road that he had to travel.
In a desperate attempt to sway the jury the Prosecutor belittled Masters Mother, calling her a prostitute, disgraceful; listed the number of marriages, the number of children she had from different men, her care of them, the violence of the men in her life, how many times she had sex, the cleanliness of the house, the crib death of one twin baby boy, her financial status and more, all unrelated to the present charge (Baxter App. B p. 18-19).
Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule is designed to exclude evidence obtained in violation of a criminal defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. If the search of a criminal suspect is unreasonable, the evidence in the search will be excluded from the trial (legal Dictionary).

As I see it, the search for all documents and past records were completely unreasonable, and unrelated to the present charge, and were presented purposely to manipulate the trial, and to defame and defile Masters and his family to make a case, again violating Masters Fourth Amendment rights. If Masters was given his Fifth Amendment rights accordingly, the Prosecutor would not have had a chance to seize documents about his past, and the proceedings would not been carried out to that extent.
I once asked Masters why he didn’t lawyer up when he was first charged with sharpening the tool. He told me because he believed he didn’t need one because he didn’t do it.

Not one person, including myself, reading this story right now can say they’ve walked just one day in Jarvis Jay Masters shoes.
Judge not and you will not be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you—Jesus

Death By Innocence Jarvis Jay Masters Part IV
Baxter’s Appendix A.

Rufus Willis, the witness against Masters, was asked to describe Masters in detail. He agreed to do so. However, instead of describing Masters, he described Harold Richardson.
1. Willis said Masters was 5’ 7” chubby/heavy/stocky, weighing 185 lbs. and “had a stomach.”
2. Masters was 6’ 1” slim, weighing 170 lbs.
3. Willis said Masters was bald, shaved head.
4. Masters had hair, not shaved and bald.
5. Willis, having been only 12 to 24 inches away from Masters face, was asked if Masters had any facial tattoos. Willis claimed to not remember seeing any.
6. Masters had a visible tattoo on his left cheek.
7. Willis said Masters was in his 30’s or late 20’s.
8. Masters was 23.
9. Again, Willis having been 12 to 24 inches away from Masters face, was asked if Masters had facial hair. Willis said that he doesn’t remember seeing any.
10. Masters had a moustache and goatee.
11. Willis said that Masters wore glasses.
12. Masters did not wear glasses (p. 6).
Willis completely mis-described Masters. Instead, the description closely matched Richardson.
The prosecution’s theory was that the mission was headed up by four inmates.
1. Lawrence Woodard the BGF leader
2. Rufus Willis, Woodard’s right-hand man.
3. Andre Johnson the ‘soldier’ who carried out the hit.
4. Jarvis Masters who fashioned the knife (p. 3).
By Willis’s description of the fourth conspirator, it was not Masters. It was Richardson.

Masters sought a line-up, but was denied (p. 5).
Richardson’s confession of his part in sharpening the tool used in the murder was disclosed to the defense, and revealed only at the end of the preliminary hearing, proving that Masters was not guilty of the crime that he was charged with. Richardson not only confessed to his part in the murder, but also provided 10 co-conspirators, and Masters was not one on the list. The Prosecutor also had the same list of the 10 co-conspirators, and he knew that Masters was not one of them (p. 4). Masters was not only innocent of conspiracy to murder, but innocent of sharpening the tool used in the murder. Still he received life with the possibility of parole for the conspiracy, and death for the sharpening of the tool—both of which he did not do.

At the start of the trial Masters requested not to be tried along with Woodard and Johnson, to try his case separate in his own defense, wanting to introduce the statement from Richardson and Charles Drume (who also came forward as one who helped fashion the tool), (App. B. p .29-31).

Masters said that Richardson should have been given immunity so he could testify on Masters behalf. The prosecutor said he didn’t give Richardson immunity for his confession because he refused to give a tape-recorded statement. But Richardson also did not want to expose himself as a confessor.

In the preliminary hearing, Masters did call Richardson in his defense, but Richardson asserted his privilege against self incrimination. Remember, it wasn’t until after the preliminary hearing did Richardson disclosed that he had sharpened the tool. Possibly, Richardson was afraid that if he confessed at the preliminary hearing that he fashioned the tool, and not Masters, he’d receive the death sentence. Also, if other inmates knew that he was collaborating with prison officials he would face severe consequences.
The court decided that because Richardson had made a confession outside of the court to the correctional officers and not at the preliminary trial, it was only hearsay and it could not be used in court. The California Hearsay Rule Evidence Code 1200 (SCLG Justice). It does not accept hearsay as evidence because the statement is not made under oath, and therefore is not considered to be reliable information.

One and a half years after the prison guard was murdered, Drume wrote a letter to the Marin County Clerk with information about the murder of the prison guard at San Quentin. He then talked with an official and told him that he was the head of security for the BGF for Carson section (where the prison guard was killed) and that he, Woodard, and two other BGF members planned the murder, and that he “made the knife” that was used to stab the guard, and not Masters (App. B p. 44). Again, Masters sought to introduce the statements of Drume and Richardson, but once again was denied. The court used the hearsay law, as well as Evidence Code section 352 which says, in short, too much time had passed by and the confessions were unreliable and may be altered. So, again, Masters stood trial for a crime he didn’t commit, and sentenced to death for sharpening the tool which Drume and Richardson confessed to doing.

Another injustice occurred for Masters. Evidence Code 1230. In short, if there is evidence brought forth by someone who has sufficient knowledge of something, and if he or she is unavailable as a witness, it cancels the hearsay law, because the statement . . . “created such a risk of making him (the person) an object of hatred, ridicule, or social disgrace in the community, that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the statement unless he believed it to be true” the outside statement, witness, confession, whatever you want to call it, is admissible and the hearsay law is canceled (California Legislative Information). In other words, these witnesses, Richardson and Drume, would not have risked their own life, their sentencing, the danger of other inmates retaliating, any and all other consequences, had they not been telling the truth and willing to do the right thing to come forward and give Masters his fair sentencing. Motion was denied by the California Supreme Court. Again, not only violating Masters right to his defense, his right to due process, but violating its very own Evidence Code 1230, of the California state law.

Miscarriage of Justice

Why was the Prosecutor allowed to use “hearsay” when he shredded the reputation of Masters’ Mother to the jury, projectile vomiting streams of hearsay accusations? There is something in law called, Prosecutorial Immunity. Its absolute immunity Prosecutors have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state’s case (legal.IQ). In other words, the prosecutor can be as cruel and vicious as he wants to be with his words. However, if the prosecutor is found to have violated rules and laws that could lead to a not guilty verdict, the prosecutor is no longer covered under the Prosecutorial Immunity law, and the case is overturned.
Listed are two violations committed by the Prosecutor that can’t be denied.
Brady v. Maryland, 373, U.S. 83 (1963), the prosecutors suppressed evidence favorable to the defendant that might have led to a not guilty verdict (California Innocence Project).
The Prosecutor did this twice.
1. Holding back the 10 co-conspirators list proving Masters was not one of them.
2. Would not allow the confessions of Drume and Richardson to be admitted in the defense of Masters.
Unlimited power corrupts the possessor –William Pitt.

Death By Innocence Jarvis Jay Masters Part V


Masters goes on hunger strikes from time to time. A hunger strike is the only power that inmates have. I compare it to someone who suffers from anorexia nervosa. I was one of those people for years. I loved starving myself. It made me feel in control because I was in an oppressive, abusive situation. In reality, I had no control. I almost died. And I suffered physically with side effects for decades. I sometimes wonder if Masters is trying to do the same—playing Russian Roulette with his life. Trying to kill himself, hoping that starvation will do it for him. What does he have to lose? He begged the court several times to let the real conspirators testify on his behalf, and was denied. He’s on death row waiting to die because of a corrupt justice system, and attorneys who have at best, made up a collection of papers talking about what went on in the 27-year-old trial—over, and over, and over again. I think Masters has lost his will to live.

After twenty years of waiting for an appeal, Masters finally had one of his appeals heard by the California Supreme Court, on February 22, 2016. It took his attorney 30 minutes in court, and reasonably so. I’m sure they carried in the same old stack of papers that they carried 27 years ago. Of course, his death sentence was affirmed. Why wouldn’t it be when his attorney did not challenge the court on denying Masters Fifth Amendment Right, his right to Due Process, his right to bring in a defense to prove his innocence? Not to mention Brady v. Maryland, 373, U.S. 83 (1963), the prosecutors suppressed evidence favorable to the defendant that might have led to a not guilty verdict (California Innocence Project).

What did his attorney say? I hear, not much. Oh, sorry. That’s hearsay and can’t be held as truth according to the California Supreme Court, although it came from reliable sources that were in the court room and heard and saw the whole thing. What did his attorney do for him? I think that it’s Masters who is ‘doing’ for his attorney. His attorneys have made a lot of money off of Jarvis Jay Masters’, pitiful, sad, and tragic life on death row.

Several times I’ve been on the phone talking with Masters when the morbid sound of the suicide alarm has gone off, bellowing like some kind of monster from the pits of hell, alerting all prison guards that someone has just killed themselves, on the edge of death, bleeding out, hanging from a sheet or belt, or however they can manage to do it. It’s a sound that you can’t get out of your head because you know right then, right at that moment, someone has just removed their existence from this planet, or has attempted to. It leaves you feeling sick.

What can set Masters free? What can make the courts listen? Some people believe that if you get a celebrity involved to advocate for someone on death row, this will be the magic ticket. The courts will certainly have to listen to someone who is on television, someone who is a household name. Right? I have strong doubts. Celebrities may have the power of persecution over an audience of TV viewers; however, it’s useless to think it will have any effect on a corrupt and powerful court system that is allowed to get away with breaking and violating judicial laws, constitutional laws, and amendment rights. Forbid it may even speed up the execution of the one they are advocating for, so the court can prove a point and its power! I wonder.

Masters was hospitalized the week of Christmas during a hunger strike while protesting against his attorneys to make something happen. His liver was starting to shut down and he ended up in ICU in Marin County Hosptial. Though he was doubled over in pain in his cell, the San Quentin clinic refused to help him until he ‘cried uncle’ and gave up the strike. They left him like that for one hour. He finally gave in. However, he went back on his strike 3 days after Christmas.
Masters is innocent of the crimes he was charged with. Masters does not belong on death row.

I will continue to peruse this story everywhere and anywhere until Masters gets justice and until the California Supreme Court comes under scrutiny for the corrupt crimes that they continue to commit.

The gentle soul seeks not its own but a hand to walk the way it’s shown—Ram.


Dedicated to Jarvis Jay Masters: Without Remains

Dedicated to Jarvis Jay Masters: WITHOUT REMAINS
by Roze Albina Ches

I am here. Me, my life; there, somewhere among the fallen ruins of what I thought would save me. Silent voices are calling good-bye, and I let go. Betraying hands lose their grip, and I drift away. No safety shore behind me, no horizon somewhere ahead. The stirring sounds of rising waters are unmerciful refusing to show the way. Fog and mist cry tears of balm over my bruised and battered soul, my shaved emotions. I reach for the love birthed by a dream, birthed by the echoing words of a stranger’s past, a heart calling out a victory story to the harsh and hurting. Pavement, concrete, and steel all turn to him, all turn to me, speaking beautiful wishes. What can seep a ray of hope into the veins of a shattered illusion? I’m spread-eagle, free-falling, standing still. The clay beneath my feet crumbles, and I have a ticket to sail unbound, unsealed, unraveled, and undefined. I am forever soaring high like a butterfly on the wings of an unruly breeze. I laugh and cry and scream into the endless blue above for millions of deaf ears to hear. I drift over the deep while thousands of blind eyes observe my passing. Day and night will rise and fall, and fall, and fall. I am all of this. This is all of me.

Just Another System

The Many Faces of Imprisonment

Crime and punishment is a complex system. For centuries there has always been an attempt to keep a moral code within society. Throughout the centuries punishment for crimes committed has taken on various forms and approaches hoping for a resolve. It has taken from the seventeenth century up to this day to design programs and buildings hoping to meet the needs of the offenders, in balance with the degree of crime committed, with the goal of rehabilitation.
In Meithe Terrance’s, Punishment Philosophies And Types of Sanctions, he explains the “retributive principle of lex talionis, or let the crime fit the punishment” (Meithe). From the seventeenth century continuing unto this day, punishments have ranged from “exile of country, chastity belts, stockades for humiliation purposes and restraint, boycotts, suspended trading, electronic shackles, harnesses control for children, house foreclosures, even censorship of public speaking,” plus more (Meithe ). Punishing the crime was measured by the degree of the crime rather than the offender. Regardless of how elaborate the buildings have become, or how structured the programs are, not everyone has the same experience while incarcerated, nor is rehabilitation guaranteed.
The idea of imprisonment began in the seventeenth century with the mandatory quarantine of the town’s people during a plague. In Michel Foucault’s, Part Three: Discipline 3. Panopticism, he explains Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon design, which seemed to be the ultimate answer to incarceration. His hopes were to build a criminal’s paradise where all convicts, the evil, and the corrupt, could come to rehabilitate into a working-class individual. Bentham said it was going to be a “laboratory,” a machine to carry out experiments. Also, “to alter behavior, to train or correct individuals, and to experiment with medicines and monitor their effect.” The Panopticon would be an alternative solution to the problem of the more barbaric forms of incarceration, possibly a luxury idea (Foucault). It would be a “mechanism to control the masses inside of the building.” The Panopticon was designed “to avoid those compact, swarming, howling masses that were to be found in places of confinement.” It was a circular type of building, where guards who were stationed within and could keep all the inmates in the surrounding cells under constant surveillance, along with one high tower in the middle (Foucault). This was a blueprint dream for prison, punishment, and rehabilitation.
Not everyone is going receive the same mental or emotional benefits from a stretch of incarceration. Not everyone will have an awakening as hoped for by the justice system. Thoreau describes his epiphany while he was incarcerated for refusing to pay his taxes. He talks about having read all of the literature there, like traveling into a far country, and it seemed he had never heard the sounds of the town in which he lived, even the strike of the town clock, until that one night spent incarcerated. He felt like “. . . an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village inn.” The incarcerated experience for Thoreau proved to suddenly have awareness to the life going on around him. He describes feeling almost like a stranger in his own hometown. This was one theory the Panopticon was said to serve. “. . . to induce in the inmate a state of conscience and permanent visibility” (Foucault).
The basic idea of punishment and imprisonment is to detain or to delay the offender from continuing in his or her criminal behavior (Meithe 17-18). There is also the hope for a reformed and productive lifestyle when released back into society. Rehabilitation is accomplished to an extent, but it seems people who are imprisoned may have rehabilitated on the level of prison life rather than the immediate society in which they live, yet making them more aware of the outside world. This seems to be only a utopian theory. Meithe talks about deterrence and the “relationship between sanctions and human behavior” (Meithe 20). He claims that only a small percent result in arrests and convictions. “The typical criminal penalty and civil suits are often imposed or resolved months, if not years, after the initial violation. He also states because of plea bargaining, reducing charges, jury nullification’s, clemencies, pardons, and good time leniency, “the severity of punishment actually received by offenders is often far less than mandated by law” (Meithe 22). Rehabilitation can’t happen unless the offender is incarcerated by the system who administers the programs.
Meithe says that “some degree of moral and spiritual enlightenment was expected of those condemned to those for long periods of solitary condiment.” In Henry David Thoreau’s, Civil Disobedience, after his experience with incarceration, in which he before-hand had been so proud to serve, says, “Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made . . . Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” (Thoreau). After his experience of solitude in confinement, he’s now questioning again, whether to obey or not to obey laws that he still views as unjust. Many who are paroled soon forget the pain of being locked out of society and soon offend again.
Some are imprisoned to hold them back from accomplishing what might be a threat to a social group or government change. When justice becomes unjust in a clever disguise of the law, it is a violation of power. Meithe talks about “false positive,” which means, falsely labeling someone as a high-risk offender.” After his arrest for leading a peace march, in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, he asks of the law enforcement, “In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence.” The government considered him to be a high threat of obtaining his goals of equality for the black race. Martin Luther King Jr. tried to rehabilitate the outside world against the cruel brutality of racial prejudice. He also says, “I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends . . . but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice.”
In H. Bruce Franklin’s, prison writing in 20th-centurty America, he talks about the lighter side of imprisonment and about a collection of African-American convict prison songs, “that shaped the blues tradition at the heart of much twentieth-century American music.” He calls this collection “an astonishing contribution to American and world culture” (Franklin 6). American political prisoners such as “Emma Goldman, Alexander Berman, and Carlo de Fornaro,” to name a few, were authors of books written while in prison, as were most books in the “first two decades of the twentieth century” (Frank 9).
Franks says that when prison literature exploded in the late 60’s, the authors were Americans on the bottom of society. Malcolm X read the entire dictionary while in prison to educate himself, learning how to read and write. From out of prisons, “dropouts, rejects, criminals, and rebels in American society, gained their power for writing” (Frank 13). This may be the largest and most important form of rehabilitation.
However, one absolute is that the acts of crime and punishment are not limited to gender or race, but may be limited to “certain conditions” of the offender such as mental disease, defect, immaturity, or prior offenses (Meithe). Punishment against crime is moral rightness against wrong doing. Meithe says the ultimate goal of incarceration is to restore the convict to a constructive place in society through a combination of treatment, education, and training. To some extent, this combination may be helpful, but it has never been a magic pill for permanent reform.
Punishment and imprisonment has taken on many forms since the plague. Foucault says, “Against the plague, which is a mixture, discipline brings into play its power . . . a whole literary fiction of the festival grew up around the plague . . .” Incarceration is a mixture of minds, emotions and personalities. Discipline brings into play the power of these minds and personalities to create many unusual outcomes, such as books, new rules, new laws, and new awareness not only sometimes to self, but also, sometimes to expose corruptions within the walls of confinement. The Panopticon idea didn’t control the maddening and swarming masses within the prison walls. It didn’t make an ideal society within. However, from the Panopticon idea, the hope for rehabilitation for a better society still remains.
Imprisonment is only the face of what goes on inside behind the construction of a building or institution. The outcome is a birth of new realities, good and bad, not only for those who are on the inside, but for those who are on the outside looking in.

Works Cited

Birmingham Jail [King, Jr.], 16, April. 1963. Web. 18, February. 2014.
Foucault, Michel, PART THREE: DISCIPLINE 3. Panopticism, 16 June 2001. Web. 1,
February, 2014.
Meithe, Terance, Punishment Philosophies And Types of Sanctions, Web. 1, February. 2014.
prison writing in 20th-century America. Franklin, Bruce H. ed. Penguin Group. New York. 1998.
Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, [1849, original
title: Resistance to Civil Government] 2002. Web. 17, February. 2014.

Will The Real Alien Please Stand Up

I then knew my life was at an end. My organs within me burned and I felt the sensation of a jellied substance ooze from my flesh. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of my family back home awaiting my return–a return that would never happen. My knees weakened and began to buckle as I felt the poison from this alien being invade my body. I struggled to pull free but it was too late. It was over. I felt unconsciousness overtake me as my soul slipped out from its temporary home. My mother had warned me about these aliens–these Human Beings.

Full Circle

If we can dissect the basics of love, we can just as easily do the same with life in general. We are three-quarters water. So which are we more? Water or flesh? And why don’t we drown in our own compound? How does our skin restrain from busting open under the pressure of the water we retain? Is it the heart beating that keeps us alive, or is it the soul, or is the oxygen? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The dinosaur or the caveman? Will we ever have a pluralistic society? No. Was slavery legal and right? Plantation owners and slave owners said, ‘yes.’ Abraham Lincoln and God said, ‘no.’ Do you need to love people to write, or edit? Back to which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A Different Kind of Salvation

A Different Kind of Salvation

Salvation On Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington, gives us an insight into the religious practices and the private lives of a very unique group of people living in the northeastern Alabama, northwestern Georgia, Appalachian Mountain chain. The meaning of the word “salvation” for these people holds a different meaning than the standard term of God saving their soul. Their sense of salvation is something that is continuously sought out and has to be proven time and time again to their selves, and to those around them who indulge in the practice of the religion. The power of belief in the unseen, or a sensation, and the need to unify with like minds, to feel a part of a community, can propel an individual into acts that may seem crazy to the outside world. For this group of people, the feeling of power that comes to them by the handling of poisonous rattles snakes and copper head snakes, surviving multiple venomous bites, and drinking strychnine, is their challenge for displaying their keeping of the faith. This ritualistic organization seems to hold their community together. Insecurities, fears, lack of self-identity, are the inner forces that drive these people into submitting to a higher power, not only that which is in a heaven above, but rather a forbidden act that gives them the sense of self-worth, self-control, and acceptance by those in their immediate community. The snake handlers pass down this ritual from generation to generation. They believe they are predestined to do so and they feel it’s an honor. They are even willing to die for the cause. In all cases, their fathers and forefathers were snake handlers for the faith.
The surrounding circumstances of these types of people, poor, some uneducated, and sense of obligation, induce the need to dominate their object of choice, the need to control something, to have power over something that can even possibly cause their death, seems to be their need in order to feel worth.
Seeking to feel and experience the unseen is a way to strengthen one’s faith, as if God did something mysterious for him, finding the great favor of God. They want to feel it; they want to believe it, so some make it happen. Believing one has to be in the spirit in order to not be bitten by the snakes determines who handles the snakes. The ultimate devotion and loyalty to the cause, is to die unattended by medical provisions, and some want more bites as their going down. The more snake bites that one survives, the larger and more dangerous the snake that one handles, the more spiritual the man is deemed, making him higher up on the holiness chart because he has supposedly obtained an amazing higher faith that Jesus proclaims makes you a marked follower of His (NIV Mark 16:17-18).
However “around eight thousand people in the United States are bitten by poisonous snakes.” But “only a dozen or so die” (147). This is if they have immediate medical attention. But in the in the snake handlers faith and belief in God to protect them, there are instances in the book where people have been raised from the dead, as it is told. Also, for people to survive the bite of a rattle snake and copper head snake without medical attention, does take a divine intervention. To say that these practices are all in their minds would be not interrupting the book correctly, and over-looking these amazing facts (131). Certainly this would be a powerful attraction for someone who is an on-looker.
In observation of the events told in this book and the way it relates to religion, I have the opinion that a person can become drawn to even the most outrageous religion if there is a trace of identification, history of ancestors, insecurities, fear, lack, and the need to be accepted by society or community or individual relationships, or possibly rebellion against the norm. Even if someone has no desire at the start, one could possibly turn their lives over to a religious ritual no matter how much one rejects the idea to begin with. Curiosity can turn a person’s mind and heart to convert to a religion by repeated exposure to its particular practice. Dennis Covington was a “freelance journalist stringing for the New York Times” wanting to write an article (242). He paid a visiting to Sand Mountain and began believing he was called to be a snake handling Preacher. After watching these people handle snakes, he said, “I wondered what it would be like being bitten by a rattlesnake. I wondered if there would be any pleasure in that, coming close to death and surviving.” I think maybe some people can be hypnotized or captured by an idea or ritual if they are compelled to any of the criteria that are involved in the ritual. He began to think back to a time when he was a child and how he would hunt and capture non-poisonous snakes. This made him ponder the possibility that he may be predestined. He says, “I actually envisioned myself, preaching out of my car with a Bible, a trunkload of rattlesnakes, and a megaphone (236).”
Conforming to religion is a must to be like-minded. One has to agree on every aspect of what that particular religion demands that you do. If not, that person will be ostracized. For example, when Dennis Covington got up in front of the church and defended the position of women in the Bible and in the church, he was opposed by the congregation and the Preacher, who were all of his friends, those who accepted him and his wife and welcomed him with opened arms. This was also the end of his illusion and the end for his book (231-233). How are the women treated in their home after the church service is over? Are they forced to be subservient? Unfortunately, I’m not sure if anyone in a group such as this would come to the aid of someone other than for the need of prayer from a snake bite.
What can make a person desert their entire life’s past, their accomplishments, their families, their careers, and sense of direction, all for the sake of a religion that offers ideas that do not make sense, odd challenges, and a path without certain direction, and possibly a destructive end? I think everyone is in search of fulfillment and many find it in religion. I believe it’s the unconditional acceptance of those who welcome a person into a group, even if the group is a dangerous one. Some people find their salvation by taking on the identity or persona of a group, one that makes them feel safe, secure, accepted, powerful, and fearless. Whoever offers the best idea for life’s salvation is where a person will find their Shangri la.

Good Stuff

I Love Hand-me-downs


          One of my favorite memories as a little girl is sitting at the kitchen table with my sister, filled with excitement as we watched my mother do Christmas baking. She began early on Christmas Eve morning and baked all the way until 2:00 a.m. It seemed like my sister and I would wait for hours on the first batch of goodies to come out of the oven, but tasting a sample of these extra special baked goods was worth the wait. This is when my little brother would show up. This was the only part of the baking tradition he liked. Sometimes my mother would let us girls help so we could be a part of the holiday fun and learning the process. My grandparents came from Moravia, Czechoslovakia, so there are many ethnic holiday traditions in my family. They handed down their traditions to my mother, and she handed them down to us kids. Of course as a child I took for granted the hard work and the love my mother put into these family traditions.  Now looking back, my memories make me appreciate the treasure that she bestowed upon us. In our house, we didn’t bake run-of-the-mill holiday cookies. We baked European style!  Baked goods called, Kolaches (co-latch-keys), little pillows of filled dough about 2×2 inch squares, along with sweet rolls called, Bukta (boot-ka), both consisting of sweet prune butter, tasty apricot butter, or sweet ground walnut meats, were a must for Christmas. These rolls are not like bread rolls.  Each roll is about twelve inches in length and about five inches wide, and about two inches high. Today they have dough mixers, but my mom would knead the dough by hand over and over and over again until it was smooth, staying to her tradition, the same way she stayed to Christmas Eve super tradition.


     Christmas Eve super always consisted of lentil soup, tossed salad, boiled potatoes, broiled fish, and boiled fruits of figs and prunes. Before eating the meal, everyone was given a thin slice of wafer called Oplatki (o-plat-key). It was 6×3 wide and barely one-sixteenth inch thick. Breaking off small pieces of the wafer, and passing it to every person sitting at the table assures all who partake, safety for their future, never to lose their way in life. I believe this tradition has helped me to step out in life with courage to succeed. Czechs are the only ones who practice this tradition of wafers. The Russians serve a “Twelve Dish Christmas Eve Supper,” consisting of twelve entrees. The Italians celebrate, “La Vigilia Di Natale, The Eve of Seven Fishes,” along with other entrees.  The Polish celebrate, “Wigilia,” a “meatless Christmas Eve meal, also known as the Star Supper, which doesn’t begin until the first star appears in the sky. Smoked salmon, caviar, pickled beets, mushrooms and other vegetables are served.”There is a great influence of mixed ethnic traditions in my community, because where I live is where many of the European immigrants settled after they arrived in New York City during the 1800 and 1900’s.


     The immigrants, who settled here in America, made their way to many of the surrounding areas where they could find work and make a decent living.  Endicott-Johnson and IBM had plenty of work for them.  My community is where many of Italians, Russians, Czechoslovakians, and Polish people, settled down to work in the factories.  Grape vineyards for homemade wine, and small cafes serving Italian pasta dishes, helped to structure the community. Other contributors to the community were the Russian, Czechs, and Polish, who brought their fine cuisine and their practice of homemade beer, which became very popular, and still is. My mother used to tell us kids stories of our grandfather and the way he would make beer in the basement of their house. Having eight brothers and sister, they made it a family affair, mostly capping the bottles tight. Many of my uncles had smoke houses where they would hang sides of fresh bacon or ham until it was cured. They also made their own stuffed sausage, called Kielbasa (Keel-basa), and horseradish. You will always find the Catholic churches selling ethnic baked goods, crafts, and arts, at their Bazaars held for fundraisers.  They also sell homemade, home grown foods for take-out dinners during other holiday celebrations.


     It’s the Catholic churches who still help keep these wonderful traditions going on. Catholicism is the preferred faith of these nationalities.  The American church has preserved much of the European home-church experience of ethnicity, from the architectural structure of the high domed ceiling, splashed with paintings of angels and clouds, to the sacred statues of the Holy Saints, especially the Mother of Jesus, Mary, and his father Joseph. Beautiful stained glass icon paintings of the twelve Stations of the Cross, Jesus’ journey to Calvary, line the church walls on each side. Urns filled with holy water are located at the front and back entrances of the church for the petitioners to dip in with their finger, and make the sigh of the cross as they enter the sanctuary. The sacred challis that is located in the front is closed tightly within a little tabernacle and can only be handled by the holy Priest. All others are forbidden.  When I was a child I really believed that God and Jesus lived in the little tabernacle located on the mantel behind the front podium. I also believed that the Catholic holy water could kill vampires; this from watching monster film festivals.  I loved to recite the rosary beads, which is a practice of repetitive prayers. The rosary looks similar to a long necklace with a crucifix pendant. Each bead represents a prayer that you speak as you move around the necklace and back to the crucifix where you began.


     Czechoslovakian beautifully designed egg art, originated at the Monasteries made by the Catholic Monks in Rome Italy. Hand sketched goose eggs are the choice in Czechoslovakia, but in the Western World, the use of chicken eggs is very popular. The yolks of the eggs are delicately drained from the egg by inserting a hole at the top and bottom.  They are then dipped by hand in lacquer or acrylic paint in a variety of brilliant colors of red, purple, green, pink, even black, and much more. After they are dried, they are dipped in colored wax, sealing the holes. After the wax is dried, amazing designs and pictures can be carefully etched out on the egg with fine, sharp tools, done by a very skilled hand. Different materials including bee’s wax, straw, watercolors, onion peels, stickers are used to decorate the eggs. As a part of the tradition in Czechoslovakia, on Easter Monday young girls give their decorated Easter eggs to the boy of their crush. Today, during the Easter season, the Catholic churches will make and sell these painted eggs, along with the Kolaches, nut roll, lekvar roll, poppy seed roll, and apricot rolls. We used try to collect these pieces of egg art, but they were expensive and hard to find because they sell out quickly. However, my grandfather worked the craft so we had several to keep.


     The Catholic religion has another tradition. The day before Easter Sunday, the parishioners fill a basket with these baked goods, cheeses, eggs, meats, salts, and wine. They bring these amazing decorated baskets to the altar overflowing with goodies. Beautiful colored bows are tied to the handles with embroidered cloths to cover the contents inside. Each of the food pieces represents something. Some also put candy in the baskets. The hard-cooked eggs symbolize new life or Christ rising from his tomb. Bread represents the bread of life given by God. Meat and sausages are symbols of the resurrected Christ, horseradish represents accepting the bitter with the sweet in life, and vinegar symbolizes the sour wine given to Jesus on the cross. Salt is to add zest to life and preserve us from corruption, and sweets suggest the promise of eternal life or good things to come. There is a noon mass, and the baskets are lined up at the altar. It’s quite a sight to see. The Priest comes out and blesses the baskets with Holy Water, says a prayer, and tells a story about the tradition of the food baskets. The story is about the beginning of this Catholic tradition.  The people would bring their food in baskets to the church to be blessed because they had been fasting in honor of the Easter celebration.  The Priest had to make the foods holy by praying over the baskets and blessing them with holy water before it was eaten. Today, many of the parishioners fast the entire day and night before Easter Sunday, then eat their basket of food at home after the morning mass.


     The Catholic Churches keep the tradition by honoring Moravian Day. Those in the congregation participate with attire, the clothing worn by the men and women who live in Czechoslovakia. Usually after the church mass, they will have a luncheon buffet and the dancers will perform for those who attend the luncheon. Czech/Moravian traditional costumes are beautifully embroidered, and consist of quite the get-up. For the women, bloomers, undershirt, white blouse with flouncy sleeves and vest, layers of petticoats, full red shirt, apron, belt, black boots, and accessories are brightly displayed, including a colorful head scarf. Men dress in black pants, boots, embroidered vests, a decorative belt, and a black hat with a red scarf hat band.  These days, it’s rare to find a Moravian Club or Organization where these ethnic traditions can be carried out. In these Czechoslovakia, or Moravian Clubs, not only ethnic dress and good dancing is involved, but lots of good Czechoslovakia Moravian food.


     Haluski is a Polish and Slovakian dish of origin. Haluski is made with fried noodles and sweet cabbage, butter, onion, and salt to taste.  Klobasy, a polish type of seasoned sausage, can also be added to the dish to make heartier meal.  Perogies are a type of boiled dough resembling the size of raviolis, filled with cheese or mashed potatoes, and fried in caramelized onions with butter. Some people use olive oil instead.  I still use the standard butter for my Haluski and Perogies.  The taste is too wonderful to not do so. Globs of sour cream on the top of the fried Perogies give them that extra flavor. Halupki is also another very popular food. A head of cabbage is boiled to tender. While it cools, a pound or more of beef, pork, or veal, and egg, is mixed in a bowl with cooked white rice, seasoning of choice, to taste. Take the leaves of cabbage one by one, fill with the meat mixture and roll it tightly to resemble a pillow. Lay it in a very large baking pan, one on top of the other. Continue with this pattern until the cabbage is used up. Then pour tomatoes sauce generously over the stuffed cabbage. Lay a few bacon strips on the top of the cabbages and then bake about an hour. I’ve learned to spice-up my Halupki by using a thicker tomato paste, with extra seasoning, and use bacon stripes also between the layers of the stuffed cabbage. I must confess that I have never made the hand sketched eggs, nor have I learned the Moravian dance, but I can bake the traditional baked goods and meal dishes.  I’m glad to have been able to experience the wonderful traditions of my ethnic roots. I can only hope that the generations to follow will carry on.



Previous Older Entries