An Open Letter To Washington State Governor Jay Inslee

iceGovernor Inslee,

As you are no doubt aware we have an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center here in Tacoma. It currently houses 1,300 people. Most of these people are illegal immigrants. The vast majority of these individuals are not violent criminals. It is a facility to hold individuals until they can be processed and released or deported.

The Detention Center in Tacoma is run by a for-profit company called the GEO Group. The GEO Group is a global for-profit prison company. They are the second largest for-profit prison company in the United States and have more than 95 facilities.

A quick look into the GEO Group finds that when it comes to immigration, the GEO Group is at the forefront of funding anti-immigration legislation. The Associated Press found that the GEO Group is one of several for-profit prison companies that contributed tens of millions of dollars towards anti-immigration lobbyists and candidates.

It’s in their best interests that we lock up as many people as possible for as long as possible. That’s how they make their money. And so they are literally influencing new anti-immigration law in order to lock more people up in their facilities. That alone should be disturbing to anyone as it goes contrary to the basic concept of our rule of law.

However, that’s not all that’s wrong with the GEO Group. A woman in a Texas facility reported being raped by male inmates and shortly after that committed suicide. In March of 2007, her family won a settlement against the GEO Group.

The GEO Group-run Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi is a place where in 2010 the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a legal complaint alleging that the juveniles there (67% of them there for non-violent offenses) were “kicked and punched while handcuffed, and others have been stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement for weeks;”

One need only put the words ‘GEO Group’ and ‘Abuse’ into a Google Search to quickly find a litany of abuse complaints including horrific conditions, inedible food, sexual assault, rape, physical abuse, and death.

Recently, as many as 750 of the inmates in the ICE facility in Tacoma began a hunger strike citing poor conditions. I fear Tacoma may soon be added to the growing list of cities where for-profit prison abuses have resulted in unwanted headlines. It’s clear that this company is not a company that should be making money in Washington State.

Governor Inslee, I recognize the need for a facility such as the detention center here in Tacoma. However, it should not be run by a for-profit company with a lengthy history of corruption and abuse.

Recently you put a stay on executions in this state because you found that the law might not have been applied fairly. I urge you to seek a solution to this situation that gets for-profit prisons out of our state. These companies thrive on taxpayer dollars by locking up our people for as long as possible.

-          Jack Cameron

UPDATE: Sign my petition to Governor Inslee to shut down for-profit prisons in this state.
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/shut-down-for-profit-1.fb58?source=c.fb&r_by=2851726

5 Question Friday With Rosie Martinson From TacomaWorkingMoms.com

imageEvery now and then I’ll put out a random tweet asking for people to volunteer to join me for 5 Question Friday. Historically, every single person who has volunteered has not responded once I sent them five questions. It’s been that way for three years now. Rosie Martinson has broken that streak.

Rosie Martinson works in healthcare marketing, but that’s not what we’re talking to her about. Rosie is likely better known as the creator of TacomaWorkingMom.com. Rosie somehow manages to do all of this and raise four boys with her husband. How she found time to join me for 5 Question Friday I’ll never know. Here’s Rosie:

1. What is TacomaWorkingMom.com?
It’s a blog all about living a successful Mom life, Wife life and work life.

2. How did TacomaWorkingMom.com get started?
Tacoma Working Mom got started because I wanted to create a place for working Moms to engage in community and share lifestyle tips and experiences plus I needed a creative outlet separate from my day job.

3. What’s the one thing you want every Tacoma Working Mom to know?
It doesn’t matter whether you have a conventional job or you stay at home, all Moms are working Moms.

4. What’s your favorite thing about being a working Mom in Tacoma?
As a working Mom in Tacoma one of the best things is all-day kindergarten. My favorite thing about being a working Mom is sharing what I do at work with my boys and how I make a difference in our community. 

5. What do you see for the future of TacomaWorkingMom.com?
The future of Tacoma Working Mom is full of opportunities. I just launched TacomaWorkingMom TV in January! I’m interviewing women that have a story to share. I also want to partner with brands to help promote everything local.
I’d like to thank Rosie for participating in 5 Question Friday. You can find more about TacomaWorkingMom at the links below. If you or someone you know wants to participate, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

www.tacomaworkingmom.com

www.youtube.com/tacomaworkingmomtv 

www.twitter.com/tacomamomblog

www.facebook.com/tacomamomblog

-       Jack Cameron

Tacoma Pill Junkies, A Review

FrontCoverLast night I watched an old episode of the Chris Carter show, Millennium. The episode started with a church in Tacoma and a priest being burned at the stake. Of course it wasn’t really filmed in Tacoma. And the only reason I could see that they set it in Tacoma was due to its proximity to the main character who lives in Seattle (though the whole show was filmed in Vancouver). My point here is that the episode could have started just about anywhere and nothing would be different. This isn’t true with Joshua Swainston’s debut novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies. Tacoma Pill Junkies has Tacoma in its veins.

I first became aware of Tacoma Pill Junkies when I saw a poster downtown for it months ago. I’m someone who enjoys reading and writing crime novels and this site can attest to the fact that I love Tacoma. So a crime novel set in Tacoma is really something I have no choice but to purchase.

If you’ve spent enough time in Tacoma, you’ve met people like the characters in Tacoma Pill Junkies. There’s the hard working single mother. There’s the working man who gets high from time to time. There are the scheming junkies. And the loser with delusions of grandeur. If nothing else, Tacoma Pill Junkies is populated with authentic characters.

It’s difficult to pin down the plot of Tacoma Pill Junkies as it actually has about three or four inter-connected plot lines with overlapping characters and events. This too, feels so much like Tacoma to me that I can’t help but enjoy it. A woman gets robbed in the Tacoma Mall Parking lot. A guy starts selling his grandmother’s pain pills. A serial killer is strangely stalking and killing janitors. These unrelated things drift through the novel occasionally bumping into each other along with a few other subplots.

Tacoma Pill Junkies is a meandering crime thriller with a lot of humor. It’s less an edge of your seat nail biter and more like hanging out with some strange and occasionally dangerous people. (I don’t want to spoil too much so I’m deliberately being vague.)

Swainston’s writing is conversational and inviting. He doesn’t spend too much time on being overly descriptive. His dialog is witty and full of humor. He also manages to convey the thrill of the high along with the underlying desperation of being a pill addict. It’s never glamorous.

For locals who enjoy a good novel, Tacoma Pill Junkies belongs on the shelf next to Mark Lindquist’s King of Methlehem. For those outside of Tacoma, I recommend it as a glimpse at part of the underbelly of our fair gritty city.

You can find out more about Tacoma Pill Junkies and read a sample chapter at http://tacomapilljunkies.com

-          Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday With Tony, Owner of Little Jerry’s

lj2Last December my girlfriend suggested we have breakfast at a place called Little Jerry’s. I knew nothing about it. I looked it up and found the address. It wasn’t too far from the South Tacoma neighborhood I grew up in, but even knowing where it was and what I was looking for, I must admit I initially drove by the place. Then I turned around and we walked into a classic diner with an outright obsession with the TV Show, Seinfeld.  It also turned out to be one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.

Whenever I find an awesome place in Tacoma, I want to share it with the world. And so I asked the owner of Little Jerry’s, a guy named Tony, to join me for 5 Question Friday. Here’s Tony:

1. What is Little Jerry’s?

Little Jerry’s is a breakfast & lunch joint. We serve skillets, breakfast stackers, outrageous burgers and sandwiches. . . COME EAT!

2. What makes Little Jerry’s different?

Little Jerry’s is different because of our perspective. . . we don’t fit the standard restaurant or diner mold. We make food that we love to eat in an environment that we love. . . Seinfeld.

3. Why Seinfeld?

We chose Seinfeld because it is and has been our favorite show. Its content relates to so many people even today, 15 years after its final show. It also has so many correlations with food, and around eating, it all just fell into place.

4. What should someone order if it’s their first time at Little Jerry’s?

Someone should definitely try one of our breakfast stackers for breakfast which takes your home fries or hash browns, topped with an English muffin or biscuit, topped with breakfast meat, eggs, and topped with either country gravy or hollandaise. At lunchtime, “The Mimbo” is by far the most popular, a 1/3# burger, fried egg, bacon, nestled between two grilled cheese sandwiches. . . so good!

5. What would you like to see for the future of Little Jerry’s?

We would like to see continued growth and success within our neighborhood, and grow with our customers and their families. We want to serve generation after generation. I want to hear people say, “I came here as a kid too.”

I’d like to thank Tony for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. If you’re a local or even if you’re just passing through town, you owe it to yourself to stop by. I highly recommend it. Little Jerry’s is located at 8233 South Park Ave. If you’re heading towards 84th Street from the direction of the Mall it’s on the left hand side.

littlejerrrys

You can also find Little Jerry’s online at http://www.littlejerrys.com/ 
on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LittleJerrys or on Twitter @LittleJerrys_

If you or someone you know would like to participate in 5 Question Friday, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

-          Jack Cameron

Keeping Tacoma

The streets of Tacoma are safer than they've been in years.

The streets of Tacoma are safer than they’ve been in years.

It’s been 94 days since there was a homicide in the city of Tacoma. In 2013 we only had ten homicides. Tacoma earned its reputation as a dangerous city in the early 1990s when California gang members relocated to Tacoma’s Hilltop. In 1995 I was in Los Angeles and ran into some gang members there. I told them I was from Tacoma and they respected that. Now, a generation later, Tacoma has changed in a lot of big ways.

Downtown isn’t quite the ghost town it used to be. You’ll still find empty shops, but it’s a far cry from the mid-1980s when there were just blocks of empty buildings including Tacoma’s Union Station. Similarly, Hilltop isn’t nearly the crime magnet that it was years ago. You’ll still find gangs and street crime in Hilltop but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

One of the reasons I write about homicides in Tacoma is to simply show how rare they really are. I’ve seen bumper stickers and t-shirts that say, “Keep Tacoma Feared” and while I can relate to that sentiment, I don’t think that’s what Tacoma needs.

I’ve also seen people talking about Tacoma being a ‘second city’ with some sort of endless comparison to Seattle. We’re 30 miles away from a much bigger, much more-well-known city. This is true. Half the time when a movie is filmed in Tacoma, they call it Seattle. Recently when the mayor of Tacoma was interviewed on PBS after the State of the Union, they did it against a backdrop of Seattle’s skyline. There seems to be this idea that we are somehow the Randy Quaid to Seattle’s Dennis. I disagree with this idea.

Tacoma has never been interested in being Seattle. We’ve never tried to be. As a life-long Tacoman, I’ve spent almost no time comparing Tacoma to Seattle. We’re entirely different cities. Yes, Tacoma is smaller and less well known, but what most of us Tacomans know is that we don’t care. We’re too busy doing our own thing to worry about what Seattle’s doing.

Part of the issue as I see it is that Tacoma refuses to be identified by any one major thing. We aren’t just the Port. We aren’t just the Tide Flats. We’re not just our museums. We’re not just our poets. We’re not just our bars or our breweries. We’re just our incredible waterfront or our world class Pt. Defiance Park & Zoo. We’re all of these things and more. The one thing we can shed if we cared to is our reputation as a dangerous town. We simply aren’t anymore. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen here, but compared to a lot of places, it’s a rarity.

You can keep fearing Tacoma if you like. For the rest of us, we’re just going to keep Tacoma.

- Jack Cameron

Tenth Tacoma Homicide of 2013 Derek Wagner

darekwagnerLast Sunday afternoon near the 4500 block of Asotin Street a man went into his back yard and found the dead body of 27-year-old Derek Wagner. He’d been repeatedly stabbed. Derek was from Kalama, Washington. At this time there is no further information about what Derek was doing in Tacoma, who he may of been with, or how he ended up in a South Tacoma back yard.

Police are asking anyone with information about this case to contact them at 253-798-4721.

As always, the comments section is reserved for friends and family who might want to share their thoughts about Darek.

- Jack Cameron

5 Question Friday with Tacoma Police Department Public Information Officer Loretta Cool

tacoma-police-genericWhen I read about police spokespeople online or see them on television I always feel a little bad. It seems like they never sleep and are always talking to the press on a near endless schedule. They all seem to need a vacation. I’m sure Loretta Cool, the Public Information Officer of the Tacoma Police Department is the same way, but I couldn’t tell. Despite a workload I don’t even want to think about, she took the time to talk to me and participate in 5 Question Friday.

Given recent events in Tacoma, I felt it would be good to get to Tacoma to the TPD. I also wanted a bit of a historical perspective on the crime in Tacoma. I’ve probably introduced her enough. Here’s Loretta.

1. What is the most misunderstood part about Police Work?

I think there are many misunderstood areas of Police work. Lately, an issue that seems to keep popping up is about Police being able to arrest someone based on an identification by a victim or witness. Everyone seems to think if a victim points out someone they believe committed a crime, the Police can arrest them.  On the surface I guess that would be wonderful, as long as you were not the one wrongly pointed out. Police have to be able to link a suspect to a crime through many avenues, the identification is just one part. Police can have a victim swear up and down that this particular person committed the crime. Police then discover that the “identified person” was nowhere near the crime.  It seems I spend a lot of time explaining that identification of a possible suspect may not culminate in an arrest. If Police are able to tie the suspect to the crime, the identification helps tremendously.

2. Recently two people have been shot and others have been attacked on South 19th in Tacoma’s Hilltop area reminding long time residents of the early 1990s when Hilltop was genuinely dangerousWhat do you feel the police can do to help keep Hilltop safe?

I do appreciate the wording here about the Hilltop being genuinely dangerous. In the early 90’s Police responded to multiple gunshots being fired per shift and many people being robbed, shot or killed. Tacoma has come a long way since that time. Two incidents in near proximity to each other do not make the Hilltop like it was back then. The crime was not just limited to the Hilltop, we had rampant crime throughout the city. The Police took proactive measures to make the City a much safer place. With these two incidents and any others, the Police will continue to actively seek out those responsible and hopefully be able to arrest and convict them.

The things that we have been doing since that time. Being out in the community, getting to know the people who live, work and play here. Actively Patrolling so that the Police presence is felt and citizens feel good about going to Police for help.  Continue using all available resources and tools to apprehend the persons responsible for committing the crimes. And develop more connections to leverage what we have.

3. What do you feel the general public can do to help keep Hilltop safe?

Be out and about. The more good people are visible the bad people tend to go away.  Report the suspicious activity, gatherings and crimes when they occur. A lot of Police work is still reactionary, if nothing is reported, it is like nothing is happening. When things are reported the Police are aware of those areas that need the high visibility of Police.

4. What changes have you seen in Tacoma in the time you’ve been here?

I have already touched on a few of these. What amazes me is the cleanup of many areas.  On Pacific Ave from 7th to 25th Street there used to be something like 40 bars. Now there are businesses that promote growth, not to mention the UW. The same was true on MLK there used to be about 25 Bars between 6th Ave and 25th Street. Now there are businesses that attract more family activities. Even the expansion of St. Joseph’s hospital, Tacoma General and Mary Bridge. On the eastside of Tacoma, the Boys and Girls club, skate park, pool and a welcoming avenue with street improvements, instead of decrepit apartments and bars lining the streets. These are just a few changes that I think are for the better.  There are still improvements to be made all across the City but I think in the last 30 or so years the City of Tacoma has come a long way.

 

5. It’s lunch time. With the whole city available, where do you get a good bite to eat?

This one is not as easy as it sounds. I work with a group of about 15 people. We try to go to lunch somewhere every couple of months. One person will pick their favorite place to go. I have been out with them about 5 times so far, each time a different new spot for me. And each time it has been a great place to go. So, what I would offer here is Google Tacoma Restaurants and pick the type of food you like, my guess is the place will be a great place to eat since so far I like them all.

 

I’d like to thank Loretta Cool for joining me on 5 Question Friday. If you or someone you know would like to join me in a future installment, drop me a line at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

-          Jack Cameron