Mechie on personal decisions and mass incarceration

Marie "Mechie" Scott
Marie “Mechie” Scott

Letter from Marie “Mechie” Scott on January 12, 2015

What questions would you ask the other people serving life sentences who are participating in this project? Are there specific things you would most like to hear them respond to?

  • Do they feel as if it is gender disparity inside of the commutation process?
  • Do you believe the new governor will have the “unanimous decision” in the commutation process repealed?
  • Have they heard talk of the commutation board supposedly letting people out? If so, can they be more detailed in what they heard?

What do you think has caused the current conditions of mass imprisonment? Why has the broader public allowed it to happen, and who has benefited from it?

I think that politicians have caused the current conditions of mass imprisonment. I think the politicians have created such fear in the broader public in order to get them to support building “their” prisons so “they” can benefit from mass incarceration. Do you want to know what I think the leading cause of mass incarceration was? The stratagem way that conservatives back in the 50’s – 60’s connected their resistance to the Civil Rights legislation to the cry for law and order. They capitalized off of Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy about civil disobedience and used that as the cause of crime. The “Baby Boom” generation was considered a huge reason for the crime wave back then because of the spike in boys from the ages of 15-24.

The media never even highlighted on the fact that the unemployment rate for black men shot way up at the same time of the baby boomers growing up! Instead, they pasted the newspapers with the same tactic they use on women who kill; they sensationalized crime reports!

A lot of people don t even know that some of our own black activists jumped on the band wagon for law and order! They wanted the government to become tough on lawbreakers! They literally campaigned for what became the famous Rockefeller drug laws! I remember when Rockefeller opened up a huge drug rehab for addicts! His policy was made to capitalize off of the start of mass incarceration!

What is the difference in what Hitler did to all of the Jewish people, and what mass incarceration does to all of the poor and oppressed? The legislature violates their own law to their own constitution and the blatant racist laws on “crack”, just to enslave our children again. And the sad part of it all is not the government and their stratagems to get their cake (mass imprisonment) and eat it too (slavery and dominance). It’s not even all of that! It’s US! I blame myself for getting ME in here!

If we didn’t break a law (for the most part), they would of had to find another way to get us into mass incarceration; a money making machine. We give them what they need to get us here every time we make BAD DECISIONS. This isn’t like back in the day when all you had to do for it to be a crime was be black! But we are living in a time where the eradication of our race is the agenda of the government – BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE, but do we really have to aid in our own eradication the way “we” do? If the money it costs to house inmates – old lifers who have been incarcerated over 30 years – was coming out of the pockets of the legislators, how fast do you think they’d make up legislation to let us go, despite all of the rhetoric they shove down society’s throat to pay for more and more prisons -all in the name of their safety!!! ??? !

There was a time Emily when I use to fight for those women who kept coming back to prison, addicted and imprisoned. I’d say, “It’s not their fault! It’s the system’s fault! The government brought the drugs in our country! The system is designed to keep us addicted and committed to crime!” However, after doing decades in prison Emily, I no longer think it’s just the system’s fault the people are locked into mass incarceration. More than a lot of it is our own fault. It’s one thing to have choices and all of them be bad. Like, if my relative is sexually abusing me and I tell my other relative and they don’t believe me, but instead treat me as if I’m crazy. Or every night when my aunt went to work, I had two choices: I could either run away, or stay and be abused sexually. I could run away, or I could go to the police. The right choice. I did that too once. They called my guardians and turned me back over to them. So you can pretty much imagine how my life would turn out. But that was back then. We’re not living in a time of no people and agencies that give us better choices. There’s advocacy for everything under the sun! Prisoners are definitely no exception! These same women have been taught time and time again about how to choose the right choice, but unless they want to, they’re not going to, and it’s as simple as that.

I wish I could find a way to make “US” wake up and stop being led like sheep to the slaughter of mass incarceration. If this scheme is truly about mass incarceration, then do you think the people who are behind it are going to let what we’re getting ready to do get in their way of their agenda for mass incarceration?

The broader public has allowed it because they’ve been conned by the government that we (criminals) are all over! And we are coming for you, so you had better take the proper legislative steps in keeping that from happening. Who benefits from it? Everyone. Or so they think. The legislators benefit because as long as they keep crime down, or convince the broader public that crime is down because of the legislation they’ve passed, they will continue to benefit from mass incarceration. I look and see how even some of us even benefit from mass incarceration. When you turn on TED-X on YouTube and hear Tomika Shepard’s story, you’ll see why even we benefit from it. She’s so happy to be in jail she doesn’t know what to do!

You know what? Your questions have endless answers, or I’m really getting senile! LOL!!!

In the midst of one of your previous responses you make the exclamation “Try raising a child behind bars!” Can you speak more to what particular obstacles this presents and how you and others have worked to overcome or find ways around them?

The hardest thing to do from a distance is to have a child be taken from you in the visiting room after just conceiving the child. I believe I helped raise my daughter to an extent. I remember how hard it was for me to hear my cousins say “mommy and daddy”, and I wasn’t allowed because my aunt wouldn’t let me. So that was the first thing I wanted my daughter’s aunt to let her do.

Finding out that my daughter was lap dancing to further her education; finding out that she hit her father; finding out that she made the statement that if she found out I was “gay”, it would be her last visit with me, finding out that my daughter didn’t want me to contact her teacher because she didn’t want them to know she had a mother in prison; and finding out my daughter was using my imprisonment as a rite of passage into the street life, all were obstacles that I had to conquer and I believe I did well with all of them. Today I can say that she is not into the street life. She’s a phlebotomist and a bar tender. She’s 35 years old now with a beautiful son. We’re not as close as I’d like but it is what it is right? We’re in Howard Zehr’s latest book about the children of incarcerated parents.

We have parenting groups up here and I’m sure the women discuss their challenges in raising their children as well as losing them to the system. The therapy program that I got started here decades ago has long since been shut down due to the doctor not being paid and the state not willing to pay him.

In your last letter, you mention that you’ve brought five lawsuits to the state and federal courts to date (winning four and losing one). What were those suits? Would you be willing to reflect some on the benefits and limitations of working to address concerns/issues/problems through the courts?

My civil suits were on the stupid ass misconducts I had on my record that I thought at the time were stopping me from getting a hearing with the commutation board. When there is a serious violation going on in the prison, it helps tremendously to know how to file 1983 actions because it lets the prison know that they can’t just mess you around without any consequences. I was able to get the DOC to agree to drop all of the misconducts I filed against except for one. That gave me at the time about 12 years misconduct free.

Fill in the blank and explain: One thing I’ve never done before but would like to try is _______

Opening up my own restaurant and sell my famous “Fried Rice with …” different types of meat, poultry, fish, and tofu. I’ve had way too many people say that my cooking in here could be in a restaurant that they would buy my food from. I love cooking and I also believe that it’s one of the ways I can give back to society and my Creator, by feeding His children. Sunday my restaurant would be open only to feed the poor free. You know, the homeless. I’d buy these little speakers to place on each table and as they eat, they would receive spiritual food as well. The speakers would only be set on the tables on Sundays.

You’ve been engaged in initiating and participating in so much programming in the prison over the years, both formal and informal. Have you encountered obstacles to initiating such projects and if so, in what form? How have these programs been met by the prison administrations in particular?

Back in the day you could get almost any proposal passed. That was why it was so easy for me to get that doctor up here and have therapy sessions with inmate mothers and their children together. It wasn’t until the trend of corrections changed from reform to custodial that things changed. That is what I believe made the difference. There was even a time when the DOC felt that P.L.A. (Pennsylvania Lifer’s Association) in prison were too powerful. Up in Muncy we were told that they were changing the name of our P.L.A. but as I believe I told you before, I refused to and they simply took it. It wasn’t until years later did we find out that they only took some of them away. Graterford still has theirs and there are a few more.

All of the prison’s organizations are coordinated by the Activity department. Ours is the pits! And that is why a lot of positive programs and things get turn down before they can even get to the administration for consideration. Having our inmate organizations coordinated by our Activity director is the biggest obstacle in Muncy. Most of the lifers quit the present M.I.O. (Muncy Inmate Organization), because of this same thing.

Fill in the blank and explain: If my life were a book or movie, its title would be _____________.

“The Inhabitant” All I am doing now is occupying space.

What effect or impact do you hope that making your story known will have?

First and foremost, repentance. I would want people to know that I am not being able to be held accountable for my crime. I have learned through Restorative Justice, that it is not just about the offender, and the victim. It is about the offender, the victim, and the community where the crime occurred. It is not just about crime and punishment. It’s about being responsible and being held accountable for what you have done to offend others. For over 42 years, I have been being responsible by serving my time. Now is the time for me to start being accountable for what I’ve done. That takes place out in the community from where I took a life.

It is not the state who is paying over $40,000.00 a year for keeping me in prison because of my elderly care. It’s you who is paying that bill. It is not the state paying for the building of more prisons instead of putting it into the education of your children. It’s you who’s paying it. I guess my question to you is: Which would you rather do? Continue to house elderly lifers and pay almost 50,000.00 annually for EACH ONE, or pour that funding back into your city/state tax for your children s education? When I say “you” I mean society.

As for the impact of my story. Well here it is: We were a couple of teenagers at the time, who didn’t even know each other for more than 10 days! He saved my life at my job from a robbery one night, and me – a good codependent – felt I owed him my life, couldn’t say “NO” when he asked me to look out for him while he robbed someone. So many of us get it now after all these decades. Can we just get a chance to prove it? We can start off slow. We don’t have to be released right out in the community. There are so many other ways for our re-entry. Just try us out and we will show you just how penitent a people we really are!

Do the group therapy sessions that you describe between mothers and their children still take place at Muncy? If yes, can you tell us a little bit about how they’ve been maintained and/or changed over the years? If not, can you tell us about how, when, or why they were discontinued?

I think I said in #6 that our therapy sessions were stopped because of a lack of funding. The doctor couldn’t go on doing it for nothing and we only got it approved provided the state didn’t have to pay for it.

In your last letter, you write: “We have always lived in a patriarchal hierarchy where men’s ‘opinions’ count.” Can you say more about this dynamic you observe between men’s opinions counting and women being encouraged to consistently occupy co-dependent relations? How are these dynamics perpetuated and who benefits from them?

Back when the application for commutation in this commonwealth was made, there were only men serving life sentences. They either assumed or didn’t care if the questions fit us. It stayed that way for decades on end. Men have even been released through commutation as late as last year or the year before. No woman has made commute since 1989! IN THREE MORE YEARS, THAT WILL BE FOUR DECADES!!! All of the policy making was based off of men despite the fact that there was a female institution within this commonwealth. When they came up with a way to separate the good from the bad inmates through program levels, they either forgot or didn’t care that women too would be judged by the same numbers, which ended up in disaster. We ended up with more women being more dangerous – than men! How did that happen? When I found out I exposed it and was singled out as a trouble making inmate. Hell! Our Inmate Handbook was originally made for men, by men! We’re still doing time in a prison where some of the men yell at their own female constituents for talking back! And it blew my mind when it happened. Needless to say that we all as female inmates went OFF! and so did the officer.

Co-dependency is what brought me to prison for being responsible for taking an innocent man’s life and receiving a life sentence behind it. Over 80% of the women serving life-sentences alone, but of all the women here are/were co-dependent. You would think that would be a mandatory group for women in prison. But because all of our groups are designed for male offenders, who for the most part aren’t co-dependent, they only let some of the inmate peer facilitators in the drug and alcohol programs run them. I started them as a matter of a fact. From Violence Prevention, to Thinking for a Change, to The Impact of Crime; all of these mandatory groups are geared toward men. All of the tapes that come with the programs and everything. What is left???

What is the shape of your resistance? What does it look like? Sound like? Taste like? Smell like? How does it feel?

The shape of my resistance is never giving up the fight to be educated, to educate, to pray, to pray for. To be perfectly honest Emily, you know the saying, “This thing is bigger than me”? Well, this whole thing is bigger than WE apparently. I mean, look at where my forefathers came from? They fought the hard fight and pushed and pushed until look at us! We’ve got a black president! That’s something that my grandparents laughed at our thought of. The mind thought it was an impossibility. But something happened. An extremely powerful Leader, a Woman Leader at that…. Oprah Winfrey introduced the world to Obama. And all she had to say was that she was going to support him for president! And look how the people moved!

I’ve always been told as I grew up in here that I was a leader. I’ve worn that title very well if I have to say so myself!!! LOL!! My resistance looks like a pen held up full of ink, just like my 4th great grandfather used, Dred Scott. My resistance is one of rallies, marches and tenacity to unite whoever feels the same way we do and stop this. I can’t even say “before it goes to far.” It already has. Today is Dr. Martin Luther Jr.’s birthday! and here we’re being locked up in droves AGAIN, but this time for a hell of a lot of it being our fault! I can’t get around that Emily, and you know what else? I am humbled by you and the rest of your crew. Seriously I am Emily, because if it was the other way around and I knew what I know, I’m more than sure that at every meeting I’d be attending like you do, I’d have to say something about how “we” contribute to our own mass incarceration. You know? I mean, we’ve just got the National Geographic T.V. station, and all they show is “Drugs inc.” This show is about pimps, drug dealers, murders for hire, prostitutes, etc. and these same people are being taped by National Geo. with masks on! Yet, they’re still in the game of killing our youth! I just don’t get it.

I can remember when Peachie and I used to talk about how we’d wished the FBI would let us out so we could deal with the dealers taking over the blocks in our home areas. That’s what the male lifers (to me) should have been doing when they were commuted twenty years ago! Emily, if I get back in court and if they were to say, trial instead of resentencing me to a lesser degree of murder. If I were to be found guilty all over again, I would ask that I be sentenced to death than LWOP – THE OTHER DEATH SENTENCE! I’ll lead! Because I know that would make news that we all could capitalize off of to get the attention you need to do what you’re trying to do. That’s how my resistance tastes, smell, and feel.