My Intro Defying the Media Ban in Calif. Prisons
This is my first blog here, although I do have a regular column at this site. I'd like to give myself a proper introduction.
I am older than the earth's crust and the photo you see of me was taken when I was about my daughter's age. Ann Landers used the same photo for 50 years and it's about the most presentable one I have as taking pictures is not one of my favorite past times.
I have been using that photo on op-eds and features with the same byline of B. Cayenne Bird since 1983 on a daily basis. As media types go, 23 years with the same byline showing up in hundreds, possibly thousands of publications, is very stable. It's an old photo but it is also my long-established logo and it reminds me of the wonderful life I led before my only son was sent to prison.
I am the mother of a son and daughter and have three grandchildren, two of whom are in college - two boys and a girl. I also have an adopted grandson which means I have THREE late teen young men in my life, all of whom I aim to protect against our police state, or better stated our police country.
When I started out working for the Bakersfield Californian in 1969 after having grown up in that all-American town, I knew that I wanted to make a difference more than I wanted to be rich. On Saturdays I did the news for Channel 29 who was an ABC affiliate at that time. In those days, women didn't typically do the news.
I was reared in the country and my relatives, including my father, were all veterans of some war or another. I'll be honest, in Bakersfield during the 50's and 60's when I grew up, almost everyone was a redneck and there's still a large preponderance of them living there now.
I never was a redneck but I have their fighting spirit and it has been the core of me for all 54 years of my life. What I learned attending college in a redneck town was that prejudice is most prevalent among those who are uneducated.
There was rampant racial prejudice but it never made sense to me as I was always fairly popular with all the groups and a high achieving student every step of the way. Had I not grown up in Bakersfield, I would not have known the times where there was very little crime and less than 20,000 people in prison.
I would not have a good sense of ethics and integrity, my deceased mother's creativity and passion for people or my father's patriotism and fighting spirit.
Drugs, alcohol and smoking were not allowed in my house growing up and starting in pre-school all the relatives pounded into our heads that only low life people did these things.
As a result of these daily warnings and the excellent example set for me, I never fell into the traps of substance abuse. Although now in my later years I have been sitting too much and exercising too little so I can understand part of this struggle to avoid excesses.
I mention this because I have some basic philosophies having lived life from many perspectives. I believe that poverty is the major contributor to crime, combined with a lack of adult supervision of our youth, and that mental illness and substance abuse are illnesses which should not be punished with prison or jail.
I realize that some people do act out their illnesses but a proper response from a decent human being should not be to lock them up in cages but to treat their problems in a healing environment.
Of course, the best way to protect the public safety is through education and prevention of crime although you'd never believe the legislators understand this basic premise.
Prevention of substance abuse and mental illness is the most prudent way because punishing those who are ill doesn't do one thing to reduce crime. All it does is make people much sicker than before they were incarcerated, plus it breaks the hearts of the families to the point that they are no longer productive citizens.
I had an exciting and wonderful life as a media gal. I worked for several years for the Ojai Valley News during the time when Johnny Carson used to read the police blotter on the Tonight Show.
I married an Arizona geologist in 1975 who died of renal (kidney) failure and there I met Erma Bombeck as we did work for the Ariona Kidney Foundation as volunteers. She was a great inspiration to me and for many years my writing reflected a sense of humor. It was necessary for me to support my family with my husband on dialysis and I did that by working as the media specialist for a 600 bed hospital and later for the AEA, the Arizona teacher's union. During the latter part of this period I raised $2 million with actor Vincent Price and built the Sun Cities Art Museum.
I went to the University of Tucson and learned how to administer dialysis treatments at home to protect my family from getting Hepatitis if my husband dialyzed in the clinic.
I was only 25 years old with the burdens of someone who was 60 and my own mortality passed before my eyes. I have always volunteered at something in order to make the world a better place. When I was pregnant, I spent several hours a week between work and classes volunteering at the abused children's shelter in Bakersfield. I was only 18 and the sight of unwanted children coming in traumatized by domestic violence, tortured, raped and with cigarette burns all over their little bodies made me a firm believer in birth control. I also saw the effects of substance abuse and mental illness up close constantly in my life.
I was an over-protective mother and held my children close even though I had to make a living at various times in my life, they were always the focal point.
I never really liked working for other people as I was usually way ahead of them in my thinking so a few years after my second husband died I came back home to California and opened my own publishing company and remarried.
C. Bird Publications in Fullerton, CA produced seven different newspapers, magazines and directories for a decade during the 80's. It was listed with Dunn and Bradstreet and I had an excellent life from it as I was rearing my two teen-aged children. I had all the material luxuries in life and my family was well, children were honor students and I could as the owner of my business come and go as I pleased to keep them active. I was happy, my family was happy and my husband and I had five businesses besides the publishing company, a big house on the beach, other properties all intended for my children's future.
But then in 1990 a downward spiral began which ultimately nearly killed me and to this day, I know that I will never get over it.
My son wanted to be a medical doctor and it was my plan to make that dream come true for him. He decided that he will defy all my human rights training which abhors the military mindset. He is influenced by the fact that all the males in my family were veterans and he joins the Marines. Horrors!
My son Eric tells me that he is doing it for the educational benefits. He becomes a medic.
Then my daughter decides to get married and makes a grandmother out of me at the age of 36. So suddenly I am left alone in this huge 4000 sq. ft. house and my son is shipped out to Korea and my daughter is now a mom.
This of course changes everything for me since the focal part of my life was always my children. My marriage ends rather abruptly in bankruptcy and divorce. I do not get a proper financial settlement so there I am at 40 and the last ten years of extremely hard work leave me without a home and nothing to show for all that effort.
I learned never to marry a legal beagle and if you do, never divorce them. In 1993 my son, who completed the military with honors and was working as an EMT, at this point 25 years old and a medical specialist was accused of rape.
There was no solid evidence such as DNA, witnesses and he didn't have so much as a traffic ticket on his record. The girl was his age and both had been drinking, not something my son usually did. She didn't have a scratch upon her, the parents were home, and there was no signs of a struggle.
Another girl the same age was brought into testify that my son assaulted her all the way from Texas. She has severe mental problems having been molested as a child, suicide attempts and should never have been considered a reliable witness in the first place.
She has three DUI's on her record. Two years ago she recanted her testimony in an affidavit which states that my son never did assault her. She had been told by an Asst DA to lie. What a savage beast to take my son's life and condemn to abuse and torture of California's corrupt system for life.
When the pride and joy of a family is taken in this manner, it nearly kills everyone connected, especially when he had been such a good boy all his life. My mother and 92 year old grandmother had strokes the month he was arrested from the shocking media coverage and harassment by investigators. They both died after suffering several years and draining all the financial assets from my small family.
Whatever I had left in terms of finances I had to use trying to get a decent attorney for my son. They wanted $60,000 as a deposit which I did not have, so I went through the entire process and learned first hand about the corruption and politics that we as taxpayers have thought was a working system.
He has now been in prison for 13 years and while the experience nearly killed me, I have been able to help hundreds of families by teaching them to organize a citizen's group. I have defied the media ban imposed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996 by publishing a daily newsletter that goes to the key criminal law journalists in California, many of the legislators, and families of prisoners from every occupation - doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, clerks, secretaries, all of whom are crime victims.
I have been visiting prisons all these years but what gives me special insight are the 500 plus letters I receive from all the prisons and many of the jails every week begging for help with life and death problems.
All of these people cannot know one another and I see very definite patterns of abuse that equals that of any third world country.
I am technically disabled now with arthritis in my back and I cannot work the hours that I could when I was young but my mind is still very sharp and my reporting accurate.
I have often been the only person showing up to scores of legislative hearings to speak out on behalf of prisoners and their families. ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance, Friends Committee on Legislation and me for United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect are the only ones you ever see at these hearings most of the time.
Most people would rather watch tv or go to sporting events, waste money on pizza, beer or other pursuits then invest a dime organizing for their liberty.
But I speak to the ones who want to DO something about better conditions and forcing changes in the law through the initiative process. The others who just want to whine and allow others to do all the work and pay for everything I don't have any patience for so I write to subscribers only with my newsletter.
We've made a tremendous amount of difference. We have members of the clergy active with us with massive congregations and I've been able to find volunteer attorneys for six lawsuits for wrongful death and medical neglect. More are on the way as attorneys surface, we've had 4,506 deaths in Ca. penal institutions since 1994 and I personally know nineteen of these devastated families.
I get very little information on the sinister activities going on in the prisons from my son because he is mostly locked in the hole because I write about and criticize the bully guard's union.
In fact he has been nearly killed twice when we were able to head off some bills.
While I am the founder and publisher of the UNION newsletter, our coalition is large and encompasses people of every race and religion across all economics fronts, but after someone has lost a loved one to the system, they are usually destroyed.
I have a television series when I can afford to produce the segments called "Cayenne Common Sense" that has shown hundreds of episodes on cable channels throughout California and at universities where I interview the families. This is a big expense to produce, dub and mail these out so I only do them when funds allow. The audio of the shows are up at our website at www.1union1.com/advice.htm
There are 3 million voters in California attached to a state inmate. That does not include those in jails, on parole or probation or in the federal prisons and juvenile hall.
That is an incredible voting lobby that outnumbers all the rest of the citizens who choose to lock mentally ill and addicts in cages.
I believe that restorative justice is a better way to reduce crime and that it works, that brutality and neglect of people on the taxpayer dime is inexcusable, and that ordinary people can do even more than we have so far to put the focus on prevention, rehabilitation, support of our young people through education.
My op-eds, features and columns will be more formal in nature. This blog will be more personal in nature, and much shorter than the articles.
My son has a habeas corpus filed which is in the State Courts now which can only result in a retrial if there is any justice left in the world.
I will be writing about judicial and prosecutorial corruption, political graft as well as conditions in prisons and jails and legislation.
I hope that you will stay tuned in, and your comments are always welcome.
You may read some of my other articles at
and on this site under the author's section.
You may write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. While I do get 500 plus emails per day, I do try to personally answer all my mail because public education is everyone's responsibility - and it is my calling to do so to honor the public's right to know for which I have lived my life.
I will not cave into the Fascists or injustice without a fight, which I learned how to do long ago. A movie is being made about my son's case and my struggle for justice on his behalf and others for the big screen which takes up quite a bit of time but I am fully cooperating and assisting with the writing.
I am the daughter of patriots with a Bird's Eye View into the prisons and no political agenda to hold me back from talking about what I see.
B. Cayenne Bird
Sunday, August 14, 2005 @ 9:37a Comments
Cayenne Bird - Published Writings