Strength of Survival
Earlier this year, Charles (Cristina) Toste arrived here at San Quentin from another CA prison, the first of the anticipated deaf prisoners scheduled to be housed here. The transfer was brought about due to litigation on behalf of deaf prisoners being held in CDRC custody. The controlling case, Armstrong v. Newsom litigated by the law firm Rosen, Bien, Galvan & Grunfield, resulted in CDRC agreeing to provide better accommodations for rehabilitation and education for the [currently] 78 deaf prisoners being held throughout the state.
In the free world, Cristina was a warm outgoing person always optimistic and hopeful.. Now, she found himself in a world she had never encountered, having had no previous bouts with the law, no juvenile arrests, never setting foot in a county jail, now she is in prison for the first time sentenced for a crime she says he is innocent of.
Cristina grew up between two countries, America and Brazil, born in Los Angeles in 1960 and raised with his siblings by a single parent, a happy child. But his mother died when he was 9 and he was sent to live with his father. Everything changed when his grandfather started to molest him. He went to his father telling him what grandpa was doing but as is often the case, his father would not believe him. So he ran away with the help of an older friend who did believe him, all the way to Brazil where he had family. He stayed with his aunt and enrolled in school for the deaf, putting the past behind him.
But he was haunted by what his grandfather had done; he blamed himself for the abuse and began to question his own sexuality. He did not feel comfortable wearing boys’ clothes but did not want to accept the fact he was gay either. He played the role of a macho man, always seeking out girls and things that made him appear masculine. Eventually he met a girl and they got married. But then he came to realize that he was more woman than the woman he was married to. Now trapped in a loveless marriage, fighting all the time, 17 years of torment, he decided to call it quits.
In search of himself and happiness, he returned to the u.s. at the age of 35 and settled in Bakersfield CA. Still not all that comfortable in the skin he was in, he did finally accept that he was gay. He knew he was attracted to men but his only frame of reference was what his grandpa had done to him. But Cristina did find her calling: doing advocacy work for the two communities she is a member of.
When Cristina found out that she was being transferred to San Quentin, she decided to teach other deaf prisoners. Then the COVID 19 outbreak hit after CDRC policy makers decided to bring in 121 prisoners from Chino State without proper screening. Before their arrival, San Quentin had no confirmed cases of the virus and no one was sick. Shortly after their arrival, several started showing symptoms but it was too late. The virus was here, staff and prisoners alike were infected. San Quentin now leads the country in confirmed prisoner infections and deaths due only to the policy makers making bad decisions.
Cristina now has another obstacle to overcome. She is in the high risk group, over 50 years old. She can only study while being kept in her cell 24 hours per day, only let out every 3 days to shower. I hope she can get through this and onto a future of doing advocate work for those who do not have a voice. Alfred King, #C12880. San Quentin/N Block/5-N-63, San Quentin CA 94974
Shorts From Inside
Thanks so much for the last issue!!! This place is still semi-locked down due to the COVID problem; blocks or pods on total quarantine, block or yard out, showers once every three days etc. I wish all of you a safe, health celebration of whatever deity (ies) you may believe in! CT Jones, Houtzdale PA
I highly appreciate receiving and reading the “UltraViolet” newsletter. Your actions help to allow some of us to be our own true selves and for others to see a different point of view on Life. R Neyens, Anamosa IA
This is in response to the letter published in the September 2020 issue of UltraViolet: the letter complaining about FCI Petersburg destroying photos, letters, cards etc after issuing inmates copies. What needs to happen is that they need to file admin remedies (yes, go all the way to Washington DC with a BP-11), and file tort claims every time the staff do it because all the afore mentioned items are considered personal property by the BOP and therefore it is destruction by the facility of an inmate’s personal property by staff negligence. Especially of personal photos, there is case law showing $100 per photo in damages. TH Cramer Edgefield SC
LAGAI Family, first let me say how overjoyed I was to receive September’s issue of UltraViolet. It made me happy to see that I was still on the mailing list. Please continue to be safe while fighting for the Family. COVID-19 is all there is to life these days, it seems. My facility’s woes are nothing compared to say, San Quentin’s outbreak. That said, Oklahoma DOC’s response has been mostly to mount a weak defense against litigation, rather than to actually help anyone. My facility, specifically, has tested. Our unit came up over 60% positive and their solution was to cut our unit in half, moving the positives to the other side of unlockable fire doors. Enforcement of movement restrictions is paltry and consequences for violation ‘quarantine’ are non-existent. Luckily, and no thanks to staff efforts, nobody has died here. And that’s enough of that. All my love, A Bennett, Hominy OK
Hey everybody. This is Victoria writing from death row in Ohio. I just wanted to give some hope and encouragement to all my T.G. brothers and sisters reading this, doing time. After a decade long battle in 2 different state prison systems, I have officially been approved for women’s undergarments, an electric razor and hormone replacement therapy. It’s not come easy or without sacrifice. But it came. So if transitioning is priority in life for you, don’t ever give up on your right to be who you are. I love all of ya’all. From my cell to yours, V Drain, Youngstown OH
Thank you for the last two great fabulous issues of UV, winter and fall 2020. The front page article is always both hilarious and infuriating. Congrats to our beautiful Lisa Strawn – spread you wings girl! Chaya and Deni, I love The Mocha Column! Great job and woof woof! The shorts from Inside are always inspiring and lovely while often heart wrenching. I read them and become emboldened, develop crushes, fall in love and lust and yearn to be the writers’ friend. I would love it if you’d publish my letter in the Shorts from Inside column. Adrien Espinoza #T597560, Lower Buckeye jail, 3250 W Lower Buckeye Rd. Phoenix AZ 85009 (postcards only)
I saw a post in the last [UV] issue from a JH in Mineral Point MO asking for direction for reentry resources … I can help. I was 16 when I was incarcerated, I’m 41 now and I am an out transwoman. I am due to see the parole board in the next few months. Our situations are very similar and I can tell you there are many good people willing to help with everything you expressed concern about. The Start Here section of the Learning Center lists all kinds of reentry resources. Look up the Release to Rent Resource for housing, employment etc. Other resources like medical, mental health and even clothing are listed. Or, just find me and I’ll give you more info. Thank you again LAGAI family. Jessica Hicklin #527993, Potosi C.C./HU5A-10, 11593 State Highway O, Mineral Point MO 63660
I am an older gentleman who dins himself in prison once again. I would like to stay up on what’s happening in the Lesbian and Gay community. I always wanted to get into activism, but was too afraid that someone would find me out and I was doing good just to make it through each day. I thank you and all your associates who have lent a voice to those of us who for one reason or another, back in the old days (1960s and 70s) had to remain silent. S Krush, Nicholls GA
I was recently handed a copy of UltraViolet (Fall 2020) and fell in love with it. To KJ in Petersburg VA, I just left there in December. I feel for you. That place is going to hell with the new administration. Petersburg is the only place that I’ve been that had Diversity Day. Tell all the transg girls that Bree said hello. B Leonard, Charleston MO
Dearest UltraViolet family, I regret that this letter brings sad tidings. We have lost a transbrother. Patric Loeza, 26, was found on June 7th stabbed to death in the Los Angeles area. The police say his body may have been there for about 2 weeks. They don’t believe he was sexually assaulted. Patric was a member of the Gender and Sexual Minority Advocacy and Support Network and will be sorely missed. Please, if anyone you know or yourself, has experienced any type of abuse, bullying or shaming due to your gender preference or sexual orientation, report it immediately. If nothing is said, then nothing can be done. You are not alone, there are many of us out there that have been through the same. A message of resistance against [those] who want us to conform to heteronormativity. Thank you all for listening to me rant and rave, I wish all of you safe days and peaceful nights. Elaine Willow Rose Moone, Pine Bluff AR
I am a huge supporter of all things LGBTQ+ and all things anarchist. I have been searching for other organizations like yours that support and inform/educate our community, especially those of us in prison, about the goings on in the world. The only other good one I found, thus far, is Black and Pink. I previously received the Under Lock and Key newsletter from Maoist International Ministries. They were informative but I have not heard from there in a few years despite 3 letters having been sent. JA Griffin, Dayton TX
Hello family. I call you all family ‘cause we are in the same boat. I’m 52, Transgender and struggling with trying to get my GD diagnosis. It has been a long 8 years and I’m still trying. If it was not for newsletters like this one [UV] and others like Black and Pink I would have not had the courage to come out. For RW in San Diego CA: I too am doing a life sentence and I know all too well, it’s a struggle to find friends. When you’re locked up, you become a disease, not COVID LOL! And the friends you make in prison become family. Stay safe during this crisis, fight for safety from guards not wearing masks. KD Tomlinson #1218339, JHCC, 8200 No More Victims Rd. Jefferson City MO 65101
Thank you so much for your insightful publication. I am grateful for all your hard work and I am happy to be a subscriber. Your magazine re-invigorates me and makes me that much happier to accept who I am, “what” I am and who I choose to be. Reading other prisoner stories gives me more hope and leaves me more appreciative for this life. I have been ‘alone’ these 4 years. I have literally had no emotional or physical support from others. My family distanced themselves for the time being. (I’m the only ‘criminal’ in the family – always been the ‘black sheep’. Maybe that’s why I’ve made some poor choices?) I’ve tried Pen Pal services but this prison does not allow them. Ridiculous. Publications such as yours have helped me a lot through these difficult times. G Schwegel, Deer Lodge MT
We here at the FCC Petersburg VA have now cases at the MED [unit]. We didn’t until the LOW had 75+ a month ago, but 3 weeks ago, our MED had cases (# unknown) in our Drug Program unit. We locked down for 13 days in September. [Other units are] … Round Robin pick up of meals, 3x/week recreation. Not for the Drug Program, still in Lockdown. All for precautionary reasons, per staff explanation. Be safe at your place. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER. K Brody, Petersburg VA
I received the latest issue. So much in there, so much love, inspiration, hope, power and passion. I could describe so much within all these words and stories. And yet, I know there is a lot missing still. It’s nobody’s fault though. You can’t tell or cover stories that you don’t know. I feel like I was missing for so many years and in everything that I read I silently search for some printed thought that resembles my life, my invisible roots, some kind of care or acknowledgement of the missing or invisible as I once was. Do any of you remember that period of your life when you were so scared of being hurt for your truth that you only lived in your mind? My actions in childhood hardwired fears within me that hijacked my life and robbed me of precious moments that every transperson holds dear. The most wholesome path I’ve found is to be me. Be known, smart, touched, loved, loving and most importantly, in the present. Our presence can help our youth to be present and save life times of hurt. If any of you still hurt from the past, try being in the present … and at all possible, be seen, not alone. CJ Forrister, Marianna AR
Thank you so much for putting out a newsletter. This is a Big thing for me because it is in a way the only form of communication I receive. See, I have no friends and no family, I don’t even have a TV and I don’t talk to the other inmates. I read to pass the time. However, I’m particular about what I read. UltraViolet has some compelling articles. I really enjoyed Deeg’s work about the Pandemic and was alarmed to learn the percentage of COVID deaths on Death Row … her intuition seems spot on regarding Foul Play and I have to admire one who trusts their intuition. And Kate’s work about the Defund the Police is crucial for all of us and I’m glad it’s being addresses in print. The $ cops get makes me want to vomit, anyway I won’t go into length here because my ink is in short supply, your time is precious and it’s not necessary because we all know already. I send my love. J Davall, Calipatria CA
Please take me off your UltraViolet mailing list. Our prison library will copy all the newsletters off the Internet for me and others. So plese save the postage for someone who needs it. Thank you for your love and kindness and help. R Janssen, Clallam Bay WA
May this letter get to you Corona-free. I do not have Corona – yet, and I’m thankful that my efforts show for it. I am alsothankful for the existence of the goddess “LAGAI” and wish for a subscription, please. A Aquirre, Ione CA
My name is “Divine K Sexton”, a 51 year old Pan Sexual POC GNC/GF poet/author/activist. I am currently serving the final year in NC. As you may well imagine, being anything besides a white male hetero in prison in the Southern Baptist Bible Belt is a living HELL! Shout-out to my sister Ashlee Inscoe, an Intersex woman; having served time there also and experienced first-hand how members of the LGBTQIA+ community are treated – you are definitely in my prayers, hopes and thoughts little sister. Thank you UltraViolet for all your advocacy and being a shing light in a sometimes stormy sky. W Craig Jr. N Wilkesboro NC
I am in a state that discriminates against trans women, especially in the prison system. They keep them locked up and try to ruin them psychologically and emotionally. I’m not sure how they do it in other states and prisons but my message is to all the beautiful transwomen that are being mistreated by the system and by life: you are not alone. There are men, such as myself, that root for you every day. Men who love transwomen and no one else. We are here for you. If you are seeking a friend for comfort, to grow bonds and friendships or more, hit me up. Robert Conyers #1903524, EA Unit, 2665 Prison Rd 1, Lovelady TX 75851
Corona Virus in Prison
Prisoners are treated like zoo animals, perhaps worse. The gross inconsistencies of fair treatment of inmates is abysmal. When we are able to see TV news or talk shows – many of us, especially those who are indigent have no TVs or radios nor magazine subscriptions – we can observe how “free” people are allowed to live in the world of Corona. INMATES LIVE IN THEIR BUILDINGS AS A COMMUNITY AS A FAMILY LIVES IN THEIR HOME. Corona virus is brought into prisons by employees (cops and medical personnel) from the outside to infect us!! We inmates did not have COVID and do not infect others.
Inmates are demanded to wear masks and “social distance” but prison employees are not. Prison employees do NOT social distance, often hugging each other and being within inches of each other. Often prison employees do NOT wear masks. For any excuse, inmates have their limited free time taken from them at the drop of a hat. So, if inmates become infected it is by prison employees. It is disheartening to be unfairly treated as pariahs. But we inmates are continuously treated thus.The prison employees, like Trump, are acting as if they are immune to disease and superior as humans to inmates, whom they believe to be garbage and treat in that manner.
All humans, by virtue as being born, deserve respect and love. As it says in George Orwells’s Animal Farm, “Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.” Mike Phillips #BI4781, CHCF/C3B-123, PO Box 32200, Stockton CA 95213
Looking for Submissions
California Prison Focus is looking for articles and artwork by prisoners; reports, stories, opinion pieces. poetry, book reports, and cartoons. Artwork is especially welcome. Their newspaper is published 4/year and costs $20 for non-prisoners, $8 for prisoners and is free for anyone in SHU or solitary confinement in California. From their statement, “…submissions are not guaranteed to be published and they will not be returned. We always appreciate, but generally cannot respond to individual submissions.” Send submissions to California Prison Focus, Editor, 4408 Market St. Ste A, Oakland CA 94608. Donations are always welcome and needed: www.prisons.org or the address above.