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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunset Commission due to review TDCJ - you can have your say!

Once every 12 years, the Sunset Commission review TDCJ and TYC. The Sunset Advisory Commission was created by the Texas Legislature in 1977 to systematically review all of the state agencies and give recommendations to eliminate waste and inefficiencies. This year the spotlight is on the Texas Department for Criminal Justice and the Texas Youth Commission.

Anyone involved with TDCJ and TYC in any capacity can contact the Sunset Commission with their thoughts, ideas, stories and suggestions for improvement - indeed, that is what the Sunset process is all about. It gives the public a rare opportunity to voice their concerns to an organisation specifically set up to take notice of them.

How to get involved
The Sunset Commission has prepared a questionnaire that you can fill in and return. You can also write, email or phone the Sunset Commission with your information.

For more details and addresses etc, check out the official flyer by clicking HERE You may want to print out some copies and circulate them at your church, workplace, local store or anywhere else that lots of people pass through.

Many people are ashamed of having a loved one in prison. You may not know about their circumstances because they do not want to go public about it. This should NOT be a reason for them to miss out on taking part in the review process. The more visible the flyers are, the greater chance that positive recommendations that aid inmates and their families in Texas will be the result.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Guest blogging again

If you've seen the Good Girl / Bad Girl dolls I'm currently auctioning for charity, then you will know that I support Resolana - a charity based in Dallas TX that works with women inmates in Dallas County Jail. The Director of Resolana, Bette Buschow, agreed to do an interview with me for another blog that I contribute to.

If you'd like to read the interview, click HERE

And if you'd like to see the dolls for auction, click HERE

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Knitting in Prison - New Zealand

Another rehabilitation-led programme that matches prison inmates with the benefits of knitting.

In New Zealand, the Prisoner's Aid and Rehabilitation Society works across the country to help inmates and their families through the stressed of incarceration. At the prison in New Plymouth, inmates have been knitting for the past 9 months, under the direction of PARS director Barbara Sarjeant. As with other such groups, the inmates have been making beanie hats and other items, and these are donated to a local women's refuge.

See full article at Taranaki Daily News

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Promise of a Visit

As well as Hubby being in prison, I write to a couple of other inmates in other parts of the USA as well. One theme unites them all: visits, or the lack of.

When I see Hubby, I usually have some idea of when I might be back there. I don't really like leaving without being able to tell him when he can start to expect me back again - even when in our case it could be as far off as a year's time. I visit regularly, and he always tells me that if a hurricane is headed their way I am not to leave here etc etc.

My pals have varying experiences with visits. Jon in Pennsylvania usually has a visit from his neice (who used to go with Jon's sister until she died earlier this year) once or twice a year, and from a couple of people who write to him and live nearby in between. He knows when his neice will be visiting, but the other friend's visits are unexpected and possibly more enjoyable because of that.

My pal in Oregon rarely gets visits, but is constantly promised them from her family. The letter I received from her this week was written over the course of about a week; she starts by saying her daughter may be bringing the kids to see her and her sister may be visiting next month. Then later, the day of the promised visit arrives and she is waiting to see if she gets the call to the visitation room. And finally, no visit from the daughter, and her sister can't make it next month now either.

Hubby has experienced the promise of visits undelivered too over the years so far. Frequently he will be told that this family member will come and see him or that old friend will be dropping by. Every Father's Day weekend, he hopes to see his sons. Once or twice they have been, but there is nothing regular in their frequency. He says he does not expect them to visit - how could he expect anything from them - but he hopes. And that hope is what my pal in Oregon clings to, but for how much longer she will be able to I do not know.

She says she won't believe her family now until they actually show up. But how can you do that? How can you stop yourself from hoping, wanting something that you see others get, yet is totally out of your control to achieve?

I suppose some would say that it is payback for the times that Hubby didn't turn up when he was supposed to see the kids. There are plenty of people that that would apply to, but not to my pal in Oregon. And then I wonder what exactly is it that stops people from visiting an incarcerated family member. I can think of several things
  • The feeling that the visitor has also done something wrong, even when we haven't
  • The attitudes of some of the correctional staff
  • The indiginity of being pat searched by someone in a more intrusive and less polite way than would happen at an airport
  • The cost of getting to the prison (they are rarely in urban areas or served by public transport)
  • Difficulty in getting time off work on visitation days
But really I think that no one in their right mind would ever want to be inside a prison, even as a visitor, and it is very easy to find a hundred and one other reasons not to go.

I just wish people would be a little more honest, and not make promises so lightly that they break easily. Better to say you wont be there, than to leave someone hanging on waiting.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New Doll Therapy: Bess the ballerina

Bess is now finished and for sale at my Etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/listing/83622183/hand-knitted-doll-bess-the-ballerina

You wont find another Bess anywhere, the pattern is my own design and I will not make another in the same style. So this is your chance to own a one-off piece of traditional folk craft.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Bess of the Bolshoi

This little girl has really been making me smile during my time off work this week. She's not quite finished, as I am going to make her a lacy frill for the tutu, a kit bag, ballet pumps with ribbons, a wrap-around cardigan and a water bottle, but she is ready for her debut.....

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Medical benefits of doll therapy

It would seem that I am not the only one who feels doll therapy is a worth while form of treatment for mental conditions. A report from a medical centre in Pennsylvania earlier this year indicates that patients with dementia and other mental health problems seem to be calmer and more responsive when given dolls to hold.

Medicinenet.com article here

Engineers in Japan have also been investigating the benefits of dolls when given to elderly or mentally ill people. The Babyloid weighs roughly the same as a human baby and can move its arms, yet it is a robot and has a non-human face. Again, patients are said to be able to improve their emotional responses after holding the Babyloid.

It has been a long-established practice to give children who have suffered trauma dolls to interact with during therapy and investigation sessions. But when given to dementia sufferers, the outcome is often a reduction in aggression and distress which can lead to reducing the amount of psychotropic drugs that are administered to the individuals. Not only is that good for the patient, it is also a hugely cost-effective form of treatment.

Dont forget to check out my charity dolls auction page!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Nothing to Declare (Strange emotions)

Just a quick post as I'm exhausted and need to get a few hours sleep before my daughter gets home from work.

I'm back from my weekend trip to see my husband in TDCJ. That makes it sound like I travelled maybe a couple of hundred miles, but actually it's a round trip of about 10,000 miles which includes 6 hours on 2 buses, 18 hours on 2 planes, and lots of driving around Texas.

Our visit was as good as it always is. By that I mean the time me and Ray spend together is always good, filled with lots of laughter and discussion and intimate looks (because we can't have anything else). But the longer we do this, the more we are both aware of how we need to deal with it all - regardless of how we both deal with anything else in our lives, including people we know and often people who don't know us particularly well.

We usually spend a bit of time each visit talking about our combined strategy for getting through the next chunk of months until the next time we see each other. Marking time by visits breaks up the whole amount into more manageable pieces. We seem to also be building our own defenses too now; we both talk a lot about how others we know (and who don't always approve of or understand our life as it is) are becomming less influential or important to us, and how we need to do what is right for us so that we stay strong for each other.

What we face are several scenarios that will ultimately dictate how we can maintain our marriage:
  • That he will stay in TDCJ until he is 84 (ie, until he completes his entire sentence)
  • That he will stay in TDCJ until at least 2024, and then be paroled
  • That he will be paroled, but that I may not be permitted to reside in the USA
  • That I will move to the USA but not to Texas, and that he will not be permitted to reside outside of Texas
  • That I will be able to live in another part of the USA and that he will be able to arrange a transfer, either while still incarcerated or when paroled, to live with me
Him coming to the UK to live is so far out of the equation, especially if the UK retains a Conservative government, although he may or may not be able to visit.

Normally, I have a few tears when the plane takes off from Houston. This time though, it wasn't until I had collected my suitcase and was walking through the "Nothing to Declare" exit that I suddenly felt I was going to break down completely. The overwhelming feeling that I am not strong enough to do this - and why the hel should it be so damned difficult - washed over me and I wanted to turn round and grab hold of a customs officer and shout "I DO have something to declare: I want to bring my husband home!"

But of course it doesn't work like that. And there is nothing "normal" about any of this. Normal people don't have to take so much into consideration when they fall in love or get married. I do love him though, and right now I'm too tired and emotional to deal with the politics.

Sleep now. Fight later.