Monthly Archives: October 2015


Mignon Zezqueaux

I gave a hoot when I saw the envelope, you can tell its letter for you, and as I set the mail down…my heart skipped a beat .. a yellow sticker means he’s not there. What the hell??? I just talked to him a week or so ago and he did not tell me he was going anywhere or pulling chain.  So…ok breathe, breathe BREATHE!!! My head was throbbing from the sudden rise in my blood pressure. Now what? Hold tight, I know he’s going to call.

It’s 4:18 am, I’m looking at the label and I notice the stamp. Stamps are my way of sending a message of the contents.  Good news gets a celebration stamp; need you to pay attention gets a Ray Charles stamp; giving you inspiration gets a Maya Angelou stamp; talking about your music gets a Jimi Hendrix stamp, this one had an Althea Gibson which meant he was getting encouragement to beat the odds against him. Hmmm, didn’t I send this in February? This date line says March…what the hell? It’s not opened or resealed, I used a security envelope and the seal is not broken.

10am and still no call….I go to the post office to ask about the label and the clerk tells me the label came from where ever I sent it to.  Ok…I check the phone … no missed calls from him. I feel my anxiety rising because now I’m wondering what is really happening. The last time I talked to him “they” seemed to be trying to give him a case that would affect his parole eligibility. I wondered if he was alive…SHIT!!! I feel my pulse racing… Don’t go negative, slow down and breathe, 3pm and still no call. He told me they were on annual lockdown, no alerts had been posted to the website and there were no reports of violence at any TDCJ unit on the news. and I haven’t missed any calls from him.

My eyes popped open at 5:54am and I calmed myself and later called the Post Office that would have placed the return label. The clerk explained that a return label that states “unable to forward” means the inmate is no longer at that unit. The return initiates from the prison unit. Now before I call the warden…”Good Morning, I need to verify that an inmate is present at your unit”, one transfer same greeting, and I give the second clerk the TDCJ ID and name … “yes Ma’am, he is here”. “Your current records indicate that he is physically there ?” “Yes”. I was relieved, but not settled.

The first thing that I felt was that something was wrong. In 2016 it is not unusual to hear of a young Black or Latino, woman or man,  or someone without proper psych medication  dying in police custody. How many do you think are dying in prison that we don’t know about? You ever have a Loved One whisper to you about a body they saw being transported, someone dying with no attempt made to administer CPR, tell you how the guards didn’t do anything when someone had a seizure or see someone freak out because the medication required for that individual was not administered correctly? Have you ever been in a visitation room and saw someone with stitches at the throat, still red and obvious, working there? I asked what was up…

Yeah so that damn yellow sticker had me twisted… When my LO gives me permission, I will post a pic and I’ll want to know how many have had the same thing happen and what you did. I’m still in the process with this one and will share the results just understand that my baby’s safety comes first. The unit is currently on annual lockdown.

How do you find information to help you navigate the Texas Criminal Justice System? I have two recommendations and your participation will be required, so what is your level of activism? I can tell you nothing can be done if you do nothing. You need to know who to call if there is an issue that needs attention.  If you are a mother, father, daughter, son, wife, husband, sister, brother, cousin or good friend of someone who has residence within the Texas Criminal Justice System, and you are concerned about your loved one, Texas Inmate Family Association ( is a great resource. If you are all of the above and you have an Activist spirit, Texas Advocates for Justice (TAJ), headquartered in Austin, TX may be the vehicle you need to be trained to express yourself effectively.

Texas has the highest mass incarceration level/rate in America, what are you going to do to change the statistics?

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Texas Advocates for Justice is on a mission to end the criminalization of our communities, to break down barriers to reentry from jail and prison in Texas, and to demolish the legacy of racism in the criminal justice system. TAJ unites formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, people of all faiths, and allies to build safe and resilient communities through organizing, leadership training, and connections to community resources.

Sonia – TAJ Member


According to The Sentencing Project, one out of every three adults in the

United States has been arrested. 1 Millions of men and women are negatively impacted

because of past arrests, convictions, and incarceration. Unjustly after involvement with

the legal system, many pay for their offenses for years, decades, and even lifetimes.

This perpetual sentence and the effects one faces is known as invisible punishment.

The stigma of a criminal record is immense, and many ex-offenders experience

legalized discrimination, subjugation, lack of opportunities, and loss of political power.

Consequently, many people are unable to obtain basic needs, such as employment and

housing, and have no option than to return to the very environment which led to

incarceration. In addition, inability to meet needs may lead to recidivism.

justice system, and I have encountered challenges because of my past. My

involvement was a direct result of drug use. For twenty-four years I was in active

addiction, and this year, I celebrate ten years in recovery. My life has dramatically

changed, but for too many years, I was a slave to my past.

Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of

Colorblindness, writes, “The shame and stigma that follows you for the rest of your life –

that is the worst” and how “…a felony conviction has been like a mental punishment”. 3

The stigma is far-reaching and can have devastating consequences. I lived in self-

condemnation. The shame was paralyzing and kept me living in fear. I felt my life was

over, for I thought I would be forever marred by the stigma of being a criminal.

But along my journey I discovered self-acceptance and self-forgiveness, and I

learned to separate the person I truly am from the person I become under the influence.

Being clean has transformed my life and given me a peace I never knew existed, so

now the mess of my life has been turned into a message of hope.

I am coming out of the shadows. I no longer have to hide in shame because it

has become self-respect and self-worth. Shame has evolved into advocacy. I am

excited to be a part of Texas Advocates for Justice because I am surrounded by like-

minded people: the formerly incarcerated: their families, faith-based, and civic

organizations. We acknowledge the human suffering that has occurred, and we unite to

challenge the injustices of the criminal justice system. Great strides will be made as we

mobilize to uncover the truth and demand change, and the same men and women who

were once voiceless are now on the forefront of this movement.

I am one of the many who has had personal experience with the criminal

Addiction, crime, incarceration, and the lifestyle are traumatic events.

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Gloria and Ruth – TAJ Members

The telephone rings late on a Sunday night. The local TV news report has ended. Following a series of questions, hospital personnel informs me that my son is in the emergency room. I would need to come to the hospital for more information. I had no idea of what had happened, but would soon realize that my family and I was entering the criminal justice system and my son was entering the “war of prison”.  As the aunt I received my call early the next morning. My nephew is where? What happened?  I was stunned and angry at my nephew. Our family had no history of any family member being incarcerated. We were forced to enter a system we had no knowledge of. It was clear the odds were stacked against us and it did not take long to feel the shame and stigma of our situation, although we never said the words out loud.

He would be released on parole after 22 years and 7 months of jail and prison incarceration to an alternative confinement of ankle and home monitoring. The excitement of his being at home is marred and strained with the restrictions limiting employment, health access, emotional, physical, and monetary resources needed to comply with the parole placement plan. Being part of the Texas Advocates for Justice has helped us bridge the educational divide and meet others in our position.   What are your challenges with home confinement and ankle monitoring?

Two Brown Girls

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