The first of three voices below is from Solitary Watch. The second is from Women + Prison. The Third, and in some ways the most telling indictment is from People Against Prison Abuse.
Voices from Solitary: Disciplined Into Madness and Death
The following essay comes from Sara Rodrigues, formerly imprisoned at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison for women in Westchester, New York, and now further upstate at Albion. When Sara was sent to prison at the age of 16, she found her friend D there as well. Both Sara and D had life-long struggles with mental health, and while in prison, spent long periods of time in solitary confinement (both Keeplock, which is lockdown in one’s own cell, and SHU, which is the Special Housing Unit).
Sara writes about the difficulty D faced when she was finally released and put on parole, with no transitional assistance to move from prison to the free world. She ultimately ended up back in prison and committed suicide, shortly after giving birth to a baby girl. Sara Rodrigues wrote this piece in the hope of spreading awareness of her situation and the experience of many people around her. She writes, “Too many inmates in New York State under the age of 25 are killing themselves in prisons because they are literally being thrown away like garbage by the court systems.” (Thanks to Jennifer Parish of the Urban Justice Center for forwarding this essay to Solitary Watch.) –Rachel M. Cohen
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This essay is dedicated to D and all those who have given their minds and/or lives trying to pay their debt to society and to those who will forever be haunted and scarred from our justice system. Once self-worth and hope dies within our souls, what is left behind is a shell of life that can see no future, no redemption and no chance for a normal life. It is then that our minds realize how truly unwanted we are and how on a daily basis we are reminded that society has no use for us. Day by day life becomes very dark, some lose their minds, some will never be the same, and some just give in and take their own lives.
Many people who are sentenced to prisons are very young and have serious behavioral and mental health problems and this environment only makes their sickness worse. This is D’s story and how somehow out of the tragedy of her passing has made me resolve to open people’s eyes to the greater damage that happens to everyone by throwing the very young, mentally and emotionally ill into cages to rot under the pretense that more punishment, isolation, and deprivation will make people change for the better. This story has nothing to do with not doing your time, but doing your time in a healthy corrective facility, not the factories of misery that most of our prisons are today. D’s death had such an impact on me that she inspired me to keep fighting for my sanity, to try to never give up, and to get the word out whether people care to hear the truth or not.
In December 2008, I tripped and fell down the rabbit hole. Instead of “Alice in Wonderland,” I became Sara in Prisonland and I am still to do this day trying to wake up from my nightmare. I was 16 years old entering RCOD (reception) in a maximum-security prison, Bedford Hills. My sentence was eight, years flat and 5-post release supervision, I was scared and in definite culture shock, it was all so alien and overwhelming. Later I learned D was there, to me D was my cousin, my best friend, and a sister all rolled into one. We could talk about anything, she helped me so much to get used to this crazy way to survive my new life. We also argued a lot as young teenage girls often do, now in hindsight I regret ever getting angry and wish I had been a better friend.
Some months later, she was paroled and went home but it did not take long and here she was again. Being so young when she went into prison, the outside world was just too overwhelming for her. This and coupled with the fact that there are no transitional programs for people leaving prisons in the area we live in, which is Jefferson County, this leaves all parolees pretty much on their own. Get out of prison, go report to parole, go to Credo, (drug and alcohol counseling), go to mental health, get a job, pay your rent, don’t drive till we say you can, pay parole, pay credo, be home at curfew. You give up because it is all to stressful, can’t get a decent job because you are just out of prison and no one wants to hire you, zero job programs or training programs for parolees. One can’t even go to VESID (vocational training) until 6 months after you get out of prison and by then it is usually too late.
People need these services as soon as they come home and because of all this lack of support, every parolee is set up for failure. So she just gave in to all the temptation around her and started partying and having a good time, and even though her mother begged parole to try to live in a drug and alcohol program instead of sending her back to prison, they didn’t care and did what they do best. That is to not keep people out of prison but to make sure they end up back in. Do the math, almost zero services and supports for parolees in this country why is this and who lets this happen?
By this time she came back to Bedford Hills, she was pregnant. D’s time in the prison system was not easy, she was an outsider even in prison, she had a extensive disciplinary record which was making her mental health issues worse, and she had a long history of suicidal behavior, she had been hospitalized before incarceration and during. Making matters worse, she was always in Keeplock or SHU and this did nothing to help her problems. In coming back to prison, it was so much harder to deal with than the time before and at that point, I believe she thought nothing would ever change, she was in a cycle she could not get out of and I think she was just getting soul tired.
D was a fun girl who could have done great things in life. She had a good support system; she was creative, beautiful, funny, and smart. She could do hair and nails like a professional, no matter what her issues were she had many good attributes. Even though she did not have a lot, she would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it. This girl was not a nothing; she was a living, breathing, strong willed human despite all of her troubles. To many others and me she was a much better human than many who claim to be A-one citizens.
January 22, 2010 D gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl. She got to spend some time with her until arrangements were made for her mom and step dad to come pick the baby up. At this time D seemed to be doing better and holding her own, then within a few months she went on the draft to Albion Correctional Facility. This was the beginning of the end, she hated being at that prison, she was scared of that place because she was always in trouble and spent almost all of her time in shu. It was not long before she had deteriorated so bad she was sent to Marcy Psychiatric, she spent some time there and was shipped back to Bedford. Two days later on June 17th 2010, D was dead; she was found hanging in her cell while she was in keep lock because of three tickets she received while still at Albion. It was two weeks before her 23rd birthday.
Some thought she did it on accident because she didn’t want to go back to Albion and some thought she just had enough but it didn’t matter she was gone and me, I lost my mind, I was alone, grief stricken and sick. This was just too much for my mind to grasp. I became angry with her, God, and everyone around me. Every night I had horrible nightmares, I would wake up screaming and crying hoping this was just another nightmare, but it was real. Something went wrong, she should have never been sent back to Bedford Hills because she was just not stable enough. The fact that she was so desperate speaks volumes about how bleak she thought her situation was. Her family was devastated, as was my family; our worlds were in upheaval and pain.
In many ways, I can totally relate to the feeling of wanting to just give up. Since I came to Albion, I have spent most of my time in the box and I am so tired already. Having a medical condition, every time I go to the box my skin gets horrible, my skin cracks and bleeds, rick now I am so sick, I feel like death. After awhile I start talking to ants, crickets or any other living thing or imaginary thing I can think of so I do not totally lose what is left of my mind. My mother is convinced that they throw people like us in the box so much because they want us to go over the edge and kill ourselves. My mother documents everything that happens to me and she tries so hard to make people aware of what goes on. Right now, she is infuriated that I slipped up about a month ago and tried to hang myself and now I am back in the box for months. Mom says that we are not even allowed to treat animals that bad and keep them locked in cages for months, why is it ok to do it to humans. So yes, we do get tired and in a moment of disparity, I can see just ending it all. I keep telling myself to hang in it won’t last forever hopefully I will listen to my own words and stay strong.
Although she died in prison, I believe the brunt of responsibility for her death lies in the hands of the people who put her in there. Prisons are not equipped or have the time or training to be able to deal with people with mental and behavioral problems. They have been taught that if they just keep disciplining with tickets, Keeplock and SHU, eventually they will stop acting out. This is far from the truth and that is why I believe that everybody I know with mental health or behavioral issues that goes to Albion ends with way worse issues. They are strictly about punishment whether you are guilty of your tickets or not. To them you are just a trouble maker who must love being locked all the time. They aren’t educated to the bigger picture that people like D and myself have always had problems even as small children. If we understood why we are the way we are, and could be normal I know our lives would not have been hard. There are many good decent officers here at Albion, who are fair, try to understand and treat us with dignity and to all of them I say thank you and don’t ever stop having heart, but there are others who well, the only way I can explain how I feel towards them is to refer you to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” the dementors, the CO’s of Azkaban prison who don’t have a good happy positive thought about anyone, they take all good feelings and thoughts away, drain them of life, and take pleasure in watching you fail.
The powers that be, who send people like D and myself to prison full well know that prisons are dangerous for people with mental, emotional, and behavioral problems and worse than that, send children into adult prisons just because they can. They don’t care to help them get the help they need, it is easier and cheaper to ship them to prisons. Too many inmates in New York State under the age of 25 are killing themselves in prisons because they are literally being thrown away like garbage by the court systems. We need good transitional programs and job training for those whose skills were not up to the training programs in prison and good decent parole officers who talk to people like humans, really support, and help parolees to keep from going back to prison. All these things if they were in place may have saved D’s life. D needed a decent long term residential treatment and rehab program, that was equipped to deal with her mental health issues, not to be thrown away into prison as if she was disposable.
Although D’s death was the most horrible time of my life, it was a learning experience and surprisingly she inspired me to try to be the best person I can be and I do try, and that is not an easy thing in here. I learned not to depend on anyone but God and myself. Since her death, I have realized how making fun of someone, teasing, embarrassing or humiliating someone does hurt. We sometimes do not realize how mean comments can hurt another. I have learned to try to never judge anyone because you never know the circumstances of what they have had to endure that may have made them become the way they are. A big thing I have learned is that with just a little common kindness, it may save a life, and just showing human concern and being there for someone makes a difference and may have a positive impact on them.
In writing this essay, I felt that maybe others that have been in similar situations could possibly relate and may reach out to help someone who needs to be lifted. In choosing this topic I felt the way to get the message to all inmates about the importance of sticking together and helping other inmates instead of being mean to each other. I hope this reaches at least a few hearts and helps them understand the impact we all have on each other’s lives. This situation is real and it happens all the time inside and outside of prison. Try to remember you are not alone and try to never give up on life no matter how bad you feel like enough is enough. D left behind a family hat loved her very much and misses her everyday. More than anything I learned life is so precious, we take each other for granted never understanding that one moment someone can be there and the next day they can be gone from our lives forever. This had to be part of my healing process too; I had to tell her story so she did not die in vain. It is so ironic that my most notable surprising experience was with another inmate who taught me more than she could have ever imagined. Unbelievably I feel her with me sometimes holding me up when I feel like I just cannot do it anymore. No matter how bad people make you feel about yourself, no matter what they call you or how bad they try to degrade you, remember you are not unworthy, that everyone has issues especially the ones who want you to fail because that is the only way they have to feel good about themselves.
In closing, maybe this essay may shake some of the authorities, maybe someone somewhere will have the courage to stand up and start changing the system for the better. If you want people to pay their debts to society, come out and be better people, you cannot keep beating a dead horse with more and more punishment and shame. As we are all aware, many know and see how counterproductive prison can be; now we just need for someone with some common sense who has the power to take action because most of us are really worth trying to save. Too many lives have been lost or tossed aside in the name of paying for your crime.
Sarah Chase’s narrative is one of the oral histories that appears in the forthcoming book Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi, Inside This Place will be available in stores in October 2011 from Voice of Witness. The ninth title in the Voice of Witness series, Inside This Place reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside—ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth, to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.
To learn more about the Voice of Witness book series and oral history projects, go here.
To pre-order Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons, visit the McSweeney's Store.
SARAH CHASE - 21, CURRENTLY IMPRISONED
Sarah Chase sits in a prison several states away from her family, friends, and everything she has known. She keeps busy with books, crafts, and writing, but she is lonely. She was sent here because of her relationship with a guard at her previous prison. Because of her new prison’s inaccessibility and the high cost of phone calls, Sarah shared her story with us through letters and one short phone call. She described her experiences of childhood neglect and brutal rape, and how, in 2007, she was sentenced to twenty years to life for the murder of her stepmother. In one letter, Sarah included a picture of herself. It showed a petite young woman with large eyes and very long blonde hair, wearing prison sweats and smiling cautiously at the camera. In this excerpt, Sarah describes the events leading up to her incarceration.
I WAS NUMB TO THE WORLD
The summer I was fourteen, after a three-day binge on meth where I hadn’t slept, my stepmother told me that she was taking me to get drug tested and that I was going to jail, so I ran next door to stay with my best friend’s mom. My best friend wasn’t there at the time—he was in California with his aunt and uncle. I would smoke weed with her, sometimes several times a day. One day, my friend’s mom also allowed her forty-seven-year-old uncle to start shooting me up with meth—I had never shot up before—and then he raped me. For the next week they shot me up and raped me over and over. Then they sold me to their drug dealer to pay for drugs. He watched my friend’s mom do things to me, and I had to do stuff to him and sleep with him. As brutal as the rapes were physically, psychologically I suffered the deepest wounds that would take years to heal.
Once, when I was being raped, some friends of my rapists saw what was going on and went next door to my stepmom. They told her where I was and what was happening to me, but she just told them to leave. Then she pretended not to know where I was or what was happening to me. She even called the police asking if they’d found me yet, saying that she knew something bad was happening to me and that they just had to find me. And all the while she knew I was next door, being raped.
The people who my stepmother turned away went to the police, but unfortunately one had a warrant out for her arrest, and she was put in jail. Two days later, the police came to get me. By then I’d been at that house for six days, and I believe I was totally brainwashed or something, because when the police came, I was protecting the people who had done horrible things to me. I actually had it in my head that my rapists were trying to protect me from my dad and stepmom, and that they cared about me. I was messed up. After the police got me, I was placed in a foster home for several weeks, and finally I was released to live with my sister Mary in Sparks, Nevada. I’d just turned fifteen. I was so messed up from the rapes that I had no respect for myself. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and blamed myself for it all. I was numb to the world. I dressed trashy and would sit at bus stops waiting until a stranger would come by and pick me up. I didn’t care if anything happened to me. I also started having blackouts at that time.
I was spun out when I showed up for my court date about the rapes. The judge ordered me to be detained until I could get into treatment for both the drug abuse and the rapes. So I was then taken to Western Nevada Regional Youth Center, where I stayed for three months in an empty cell. I was locked down for twenty-three hours a day, awaiting an open bed at Spring Mountain Treatment Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Then a bed opened and I was transported to Las Vegas, where I spent the next year.
During that time, the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the rapes caused me to have night terrors, flashbacks that resembled seizures. I had conversations I have no memory of, and blackouts where I would get violent. Other girls at the treatment center would make comments and then I would freak out and beat them up. Afterward I’d have no memory of any of it.
I punched walls and doors, bloodying my hands. At night when I was asleep, I would claw at my private parts and be screaming and thrashing around, and staff would have to wake me up. The medications were not helping. I had one good counselor, and she had me do packets from a book on PTSD, and that really helped me. The packets were designed to help me deal with guilt, denial, blame, anger, mistrust, feelings of hopelessness and self-hate. It made me draw pictures and remember details that I desperately wanted to forget, but it made me see things clearer and feel confident that I could protect myself in the end. I pretty much had no choice but to get over it. I was tired. I wanted to be happy.
I THOUGHT THIS WAS HOW THE REST OF MY LIFE WOULD BE
I was released at sixteen years old back to my father, and I was still on probation. For the most part I tried to stay clean and sober, but I was not happy. I really didn’t have friends at that point, and the trial for the rapes was starting.
We lived in a small farm town with a few horse ranches around. When I was seventeen my dad and I got into a big fight about a horse that was supposed to be mine, but that he had put in his name. I don’t think I’d ever seen my dad that mad. I left the house and went to my boyfriend’s, and then I got a call from my dad saying I needed to pack up all my stuff and get out of his house. He said I needed to be home in ten minutes to do that or else. I was really, really scared. I don’t know why, but I had a bad feeling that my dad was going to hurt me, so I asked my brother to come with me.
I made it exactly on time, but my dad told me that he’d already spoken to my probation officer because I hadn’t got there within ten minutes, and that I was going to be locked up. All that was going through my mind was the last time I was locked up and how horrible it was. I don’t remember anything after that. I blacked out, like I did after I was raped. The next thing I remember is being in my parents’ room inside the house, holding a gun from my boyfriend’s house. My ears were ringing so bad and my stepmom was on the floor. I went to the church where my grandparents used to go, and I think I blacked out again. The next thing I remember is crawling through fences from the police.
As soon as the cops came to get me, I got to see how I would be viewed and treated for the rest of my life. I was dragged through the gravel in front of the house, even though I no longer had the gun and I wasn’t resisting. The cops told my dad that they would do anything and everything to make sure that I got the max.
I was seventeen years old, I was terrified, I had no clue what was going to happen to me, and I had absolutely no one fighting for me. I was taken to county jail. In county the cops were horrible to me. For the first couple of weeks I was kept in a rubber cell, with only a mattress, a blanket, and a roll of toilet paper. There wasn’t even a toilet, only a hole in the ground. I slept on the mattress on the ground, and sewage would rise up on the floor. Ants would crawl all over the ground and all over me, not to mention the bugs that would crawl up from the hole in the ground. When I was let out at night to shower, the porters would clean the rubber room with ammonia and bleach together, and the cops would put me back in there. I would be coughing and choking and I’d hear them laughing.
The worst thing was that one of the men who raped me when I was fourteen was in the jail that was housed right next to me. For two weeks, the cops would let him yell at me and taunt me. There was only one cop who treated me well. I wanted someone to be nice to me, so I didn’t care why he was doing it. He would stand out of the camera’s view and he’d put his hands through the bars and touch my breasts, or put his hands down my pants. Sometimes he’d take me to another room without a camera and “pat search” me, feeling all over me and inside me, but the room was right by other officers, so we didn’t have sex. In December 2007 I was sentenced as an adult for first- degree murder. Everyone told me that if I didn’t take a deal I would get one hundred years for shooting and killing my stepmother, so I pled guilty. The trial judge gave me twenty years to life.
The women’s prison is in southern Nevada, so women in northern Nevada who are sentenced to prison are taken to the men’s prison first to await transportation to the women’s prison. For eight days, me and an old lady sat in a cell with nothing. We were given dirty orange jumpsuits to wear, and we never got to change them. The room was freezing, and the blankets didn’t keep us warm; they were dirty and had holes. We had nothing to properly bathe ourselves, no way to comb our hair. The cell was disgusting, and we were locked in it 24/7. The officers would ignore us altogether or call us whiny, needy bitches if we asked for anything. It really scared me, because I thought this was how the rest of my life would be.
A day in the life of a TDCJ female inmate
My name is Rhonda Ermis, inmate #694307 in the Texas Prison system. To the system I'm only a number and a statistic. I am doing a 20-year sentence for forgery and have been here almost five years. My days are filled with work and my nights are long and lonely.
4:30 a.m. Count is clear so as I get ready for the day, I shower trying to beat 107 women to an open shower. Every day I feel like a herd of cattle to do anything here. There's a line for chow, pill line, commissary, to turn out to work. I get so frustrated cause I have no choice to do what I would choose to do. We dress alike (all white clothes, black steel toe boots). We eat the same food. Speaking of food, it's now breakfast.
5:00 a.m. Breakfast - to wait in another line. We're told where to sit, we can't talk table to table, you're only allowed to talk to the person in front of you or in back of you while in line. We get twenty minutes to eat. Officers stand over us to make sure we don't pass food or take any back to the dorm. I get so mad at myself on a daily basis cause I've brought myself here. I know life is full of rules but in here everything is laid out for you to follow.
5:30 a.m. Go back to the dorm in a single file line walking on the right side of the yellow line. We are not allowed to walk on the left side cause it's for officers and free world people. We get into the dorm and have to be pat searched to see if we brought food back with us. I feel so degraded cause trust isn't an issue here. It's like having to prove yourself over and over again.
6:00 a.m. Time to turn out to work. I walk down the yellow line to a building to be stripped searched along with 107 women. They take 20 at a time and we strip naked in front of everyone. We have to cough and squat, spread our butt cheeks, undo our hair. It's also a daily ritual. I feel so degraded and disgusted. From afar I see about 300 women turning out to the fields in duces (twos) trotting side by side at a slow pace. They have aggies (20 pound hoes with pipes for handles) over their shoulders and officers on horses with guns on their shoulders riding by their sides. All of a sudden one girl takes off running. The officer fires three shots and the inmate falls to the ground in fear of dying. She now faces 15 more years for trying to escape.
6:30 a.m. I get to work and have to go on the slop wagon to pick up all the old, spoiled food from all the kitchens. I smell rotten food, and maggots crawling all over it. The sight of it makes me sick at my stomach.
7:00 a.m. We then have to go to the hog farm and empty it there for the hogs to eat. The smell of hogs in the air will never leave my memory. Thoughts of never coming back here are often running across my mind. The smell on me lingers as the day goes on.
11:00 a.m. After all that is done, I then go back to the unit to go to chow. Imagine having to go eat food after smelling it all day. Also your clothes stained by it and the smell never leaves them, even if they are washed.
12:00 p.m. I've eaten and now I'm told by an officer I have to go aggie a field so they can plant food. My hands and fingers are full of blisters and ache as I swing the aggie up and down. It's 105 degrees in the air and sweat runs down my face, back.
3:00 p.m. I've worked till now and it's time to go in. I'm so broke down and hot and tired. Every day is a chore to face.
4:00 p.m. After being searched, I go to a shower, again standing in line. I can't wait to be out of here.
5:00 p.m. Chow time again, same ritual every day, same rules. I dread it cause everything is a chore, I feel as if I've been belittled, beat down and worthless. I've been broken and I feel I have learned to become a better person by it. All I want is my freedom.
6:00 p.m. I go back to the dorm and watch the world from my window, it passes me by as if I've never existed. At times I feel this is all a dream and I would give anything to wake up.
7:00 p.m. I rest my head on my pillow as I hear the keys jingle from the hips of an officer as she goes down the run to count us again. I curl up in a ball hoping for all of this to be over.
8:00 p.m. I drift off to sleep, dreaming of the world as last I left it and remember it. Things have changed so much since I've been here. At times, I fear what is in store for me upon my release. I feel like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly and freedom is my only hope.... Rhonda Ermis after her release from Five years in Texas prison for women.
3:30 a.m. I awaken to the sound of keys as an officer passes by on the run to count the farm. Thoughts of "I'm still in prison" run through my mind.
3:50 a.m. Count clears as the overhead lights beam into my eyes giving me a whole new meaning to "bright." I crawl out of my bunk knowing I have another day to face the punishment of my crime.
4:00 a.m. I shower and as I walk back to my bunk I see a woman crying, curled up in a ball on her bunk. I ask someone and they tell me she's lost her daughter due to a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting. I see so many people lose loved ones while we're here and the thought of not being able to have spent time with them while they were alive hurts deep in our hearts.
4:45 a.m. I continue to get ready for work making sure I have my house (cell) in order. We have so many rules in here to abide by, if we have more than one book out, or clothing we get written up (it's called a case) and then we receive extra work or lose our trusty status and good time if we get more than one case. I hold sadness in my heart with thoughts of the girl crying.
5:30 a.m. Go to chow and on the way down the sidewalk, walking along the yellow line, I see two girls fighting. One holds a razor blade (shank) in her hand and cuts the other girl's jugular vein. I get out of the way as officers, in their goon vests and helmets, bring the girl down on her face on the cement and they get the blade out of her hand and handcuff and shackle her. The nurses take the other girl to medical for treatment. She is passed out from loss of blood and the nurses are telling the officers she might not make it.
6:00 a.m. I lost my appetite by now and have went back to the dorm. I hear inmates talk that it stemmed from bulldagging (fighting over a woman lover). I then go back to my cubicle and wonder, "When will this nightmare be over?"
6:30 a.m. I turn out to work and have to be stripped searched. Butt naked, cough squat, spread your butt cheeks to see if I've had any contraband (stamps, tobacco, etc.) up my vagina, butt hole. I feel so degraded as 20-30 women watch me daily to do this. Soon all female bodies look alike to me. Dignity goes out the window as we are treated like a herd of cattle.
7:00 a.m. I arrive at my job and I'm told by my boss that I'm on a crew of women to go clean the main water drain that a trap catches everything that is flushed down the toilets. Great, I get to dig for Kotexes, tampons, and God only knows what else. "When will this all end?"
10:30 a.m. Time to go to chow. As you can tell the things I see and have to do affects my hunger. I only go eat out of habit. Bosses (officers) stand around screaming to inmates to not talk table to table, to not get up from the table once you are seated. If you forget your fork, oh well you eat with your hands. You have twenty minutes to eat.
11:00 a.m. Return to work (have to be stripped again). And a woman (inmate) hides a cigarette lighter under her breast and is caught with it. She's escorted to segregation to go to UCC (unit classification committee) to be served her punishment. She'll lose one year good time and have to be placed on the hoe squad.
11:30 a.m. I get to work and we find pieces of a shank, ID cards, Tampax (used), Kotexes (used) as we sift through the debris.
4:30 p.m. I return to the farm and have to be stripped again and I go to my cell for some solitude. Privacy is so hard to get, you use the bathroom and shower in front of everyone. Disgrace sets in my mind.
5:30 p.m. Everyone goes to chow as I stay in my cell (a few of us stay in the dorm) and I eat something (tuna and crackers) I have bought off of commissary.
6:30 p.m. I go to the bathroom and as I clean up the dishes I see blood on the floor coming from the showers. I go back there and a woman (the girl who was crying) has slit her wrist. I run to the officer and get her. I show her and go back to my bunk. I feel so much pain in my heart for her. She's dead and no one really cares. They take her body away as I watch them. No emotion in their faces as they carry her away. She's took the easy way out and I feel she wanted to join her daughter.
8:00 p.m. I lay down on my bunk and try to sleep. Thoughts of the day run through my mind. So much bloodshed, so much pain and no one cares. Why is this world so cold to let our lives have no meaning or value. To the system we are only a statistic and a number. One, maybe two (if the girl died earlier) lives taken in vain. I fear for my life on a daily basis cause each day is a chore to survive. I've made it one more day and I thank the Lord above. I'm one more day closer to going home.
4:00 a.m. Sounds of keys rattling as the officer passes by my cell to count the whole dorm of women. Bright lights come on over my head as I greet another day in this god-forsaken place.... When will this nightmare end? I share a cell with another woman and she is a psychiatric patient. My cell is about 12x15 feet and there is a toilet, two bunks, and a table with a iron chair bolted to the floor.
4:30 a.m. I'm up getting dressed as I watch my cellmate babble (not making sense) and have sudden bouts of crying. I try to talk to her but she doesn't hear me. I wait till the officer in the picket pops the door lock and I go to chow. As I leave I see her get up from her bunk and I assume she is getting up for breakfast. I walk down the right side of the yellow line on the sidewalk to chow. I stand in a single file line to get my food and sit down to have the officers stand over me timing my twenty minutes to eat.
5:00 a.m. I go back to my cell, wait for the officer to pop the door to get in and my cellmate is awake, dressed and asked me to use a razor. I tell her I don't have one (I lied) cause she isn't allowed anything sharp cause she might try to hurt herself. She then starts to cry, I can't touch her cause we are not allowed to touch one another. They will write me up for a sex case and I could lose my good time for it. I tell her to be strong and tell her if she ever needs to talk I'm here.
5:30 a.m. I then wait for the door to open and I'm off to work. I enter the command building to be stripped (I go through this several times a day) and when I have to take my clothes off in front of 20-30 women I feel so degraded. Somewhere my modesty has lost its meaning.
6:30 a.m. I'm told by my boss I have to shovel compost from one hole to another to turn the dirt. It's a mixture of horse manure, pig manure and mud. I do this for four hours with one 15-minute water break. It's 105 degrees outside and I'm right in the direct sunlight.
10:30 a.m. I then go to lunch. It's hot links and fresh green beans. I get stripped out before I come in and wait in line for my food. We have no a/c nowhere and it's hot. I get my tray and sit down. I start to eat and I see a grasshopper in my green beans that has been cooked. I lose my appetite and leave the chow hall.
11:30 a.m. I get stripped out again and return to work. I work for five more hours. I've only gotten one 15-minute break for water, my hands have blisters and I'm so hot and sore all over.
5:00 p.m. I come in from work, get stripped again.... Same ole same ole naked bodies all over the room.
6:00 p.m. I return to the dorm and I'm told I have to go to chow with my dirty filthy clothes on, smelling of manure.
6:30 p.m. I go to the chow hall and eat hot links and beans. We eat this all the time. We drink water or juice. There's no ice cause the ice machine stays broke.
7:00 p.m. I return to the dorm and it's count time so I can't shower till after it clears. I have the officer pop my cell door and as I walk inside I see my cell mate lying in her bunk with her sheet over her covered in blood. She's cut her wrist. I tell the officer and medical comes to take her away. I wait in the day room, I feel so much pain in my heart cause she was asking me for help this morning and I couldn't be there for her. To the system she is a statistic and a number.
9:00 p.m. I finally get in my cell to help clean up the blood. They give me a spill kit (to clean up any body fluid) and I then throw all her sheets in the trash. This time I'm wearing plastic gloves.
10:00 p.m. I shower and get in my bunk. I still feel her presence and I say a prayer for her as tears come down my cheeks. I only wished I could of been there for her, she didn't have to die alone, I'm told she got a razor from another girl who sold it to her for two stamps. What a cheap way out....