Sixty Days of Green
I have always been the type to abide the rules of the law, listen to good advice and do the best I could be. As I got older, I had sometimes encountered being pulled over by the law to the police for a broken headlight to even minor little fractions such as a seatbelt. Nonetheless, this time around for few years, I was struggling to be the best parent as I could pursue myself through what a complicated situation I had somehow put myself through with a second failed marriage. No matter what the circumstances came out; a failed marriage that had somehow would always try and find fault into anything I did through the years, which even meant through the typical court system.
For years, I was the parents always trying to be the better person, no matter what I had accomplished in life. The calm, and less judgemental, I tried for years to remain the better parent through the rough times. So it seemed, things were well, and here I stood once again in front of a new Judge,fighting for myself once again to remain the honest and true parent. I somehow had for years made right choices, to bad ones at times, and always prevailed at being the better person through whatever life would throw at me. In a blink of an eye, it was just like that, I was being accused of not doing what I had been doing to begin with. I didn't understand and I became confused at what I did wrong. So like that I had been hauled off by the court's deputy and out of the courtroom in handcuffs. I was placed in a holding cell, where at that point, I was informed a Sheriff (female) would come and then escort me to the local county jail. To this day, my first few days upon arrival is still a bit confusing and I was unaware of what happened. I had never been in jail in my entire life. This was a whole new experience for me, and most would imagine people screaming, violence to your worst possible nightmare coming true. Not exactly like what people seem, it is terrifying as a woman as a inmate. There is very little information you can get in advance and there is always lots about what is written in male facilities, but little written about women's facilities. When I arrived to the county on a December morning, I was literally put in a holding cell for several hours. Though every fifteen mintues I was checked on to make sure I was alright and breathing,the first time in contact with any of the C.O., or what are they called as Correctional Officer, whom some can be scary people in general.
What may be intimidating about Correctional Offices is you never know what can happen from moment to moment. You can't ask questions about anything personal, to about other inmates in the building or your unit. They tell you to keep your mouth shut, and follow orders. When you
become an inmate, just as in prison, you can't have anything on you. They take and strip everything from you as an individual. They take everything from jewerly, your hair clip right down to you underpants. As a county inmate, you are issued toilet tissue, tampons or maxipads, a bar of soap, toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste and a small brown tupperware cup. You get your uniform, sheets to blankets. Blankets are typically wool, and for those whom
are allergic to the material, such as myself, I was given two cotton blankets, which is nothing to brag about of course. It was about a week before I could actually shop the commissary because I had to have family bring money to put in my county account. Inmates are never allowed to handle their own accounts,only the county does.
Being my first time, I didn't know what to expect. I was afraid, upset and quite scared and confused at the same time. I had always watched television programs portraying what jail was typically like through the eyes of television. I never imagined I would be one of the inmates now, serving for sixty days of not being able to have contact with the outside world. Not only are you stripped of everything, there is a ton of paperwork they do and you
are not only photographed, they finger print you as well. I was given the opportunity to make intial two calls, each about five mintues long. It was the roughest moment of my sixty days knowing I would not be able to see any of my family, children, to closest friends. I felt as if my life had been put on a stand still and I was in a Matrix movie. Once the paperwork was completed and I had been able to speak to family briefly; I was given clothing uniform,
the small essentials needed for my small cell. This consisted of a green t-shirt, green overshirt, sports bra, boxers to underpants, socks and a pair of green pair of pants. The shoes were blue canvas slippers. Something you would find or shop in downtown China.
My first week was more of mere blank to me. I was quarantined after I had a TB shot, which all new inmates are given upon arrival. My cell consisted of a metal bunk bed, a thin green mattress, a metal silver toilet to a sink. No new inmates were given a pillow unless fellow inmate was being transferred or being released. Upon my first half of my sentence I had no pillow and learned to use some of my clothing to one of my cotton blankets as one.
Besides given a TB shot, I had gone through what is known a mental state with not only the nurse, but with the county's psch doctor too. For someone who is medicated in the real world for mental illnesses, I learned that at times, you were guaranteed to your medications on a timely manner; and to know if you would be able to socialize with other inmates, known as population. Everything inside the women's Unit was either blue to gray. The cell door
I had was blue, with so many markings that one would know it was from other past inmates who might had lost their mind at one point. I did not eat the first three days I spent in confinement. By the fourth day, I was warned to eat, or I might be considered to be a "one on one". This meant that a Correctional Officer would be forced to sit in front of me until I was done eating a meal. By this point, I did not want to put a burden onto the officers where were doing their job and by day four, I was eating small portions of the food.
Food, or better known in the local jail as Chow, was served three times a day. Breakfast was first thing in the morning, lunch before noon, and dinner was before five. The menu was always repeated to recycled every twenty one days. For myself, most the food was something not enjoyable in my opinion. True to what people say, county food was at times undercooked to an awful taste that had to be aquired for. If one didn't eat a meal, you went without until next meal hour. Most inmates would trade or give away their meal in exchange for something off commissary or whatever might be of equal value. Coffee seemed to be a big deal among the women in my Unit. I had always paid attention to the few as I learned who had attempted to steal that extra coffee behind the correctional officers, to gaining the trust of others to give it up. Especially the new women inmates who would arrive and be able to come out into population. When I was allowed in population by the fourth day; nobody really attempted to take my food, to coffee. Something I learned later on why that was. Commissary seemed to be a huge deal within the Womens Unit. It was always administered every week, on a Wednesday.
Most the women were always eager to wait upon writing materials, food or snacks, to personal hygiene products. For myself , on the second week for commissary, I had found myself purchasing personal hygiene, such as deodorant to a brush, to snacks and writing materials. It didn't matter what the setting you were in, women had tended to dominate the unit as I learned. From cleaning, and yes even obsessed over food. I learned women could make a small cookie cake out of vanilla creme cookies, the cream filling as your frosting and snickers to m&m's as your toppings. Women's unit had no microwave,
had no coffee machine to no running water cooler to use anytime. If you didn't have extra water from your last meal, you were drinking the awful warm taste of water from your cell sink.
For the first week I was there, I learned none of the inmates would bother me. Most the inmates in my unit consisted of white women. The other were either black, to Latino to Spanish. Most of the ages ranged from as young as 17 to the oldest as 64. Everyone had a story, some whom were more than willing to share with you, or those who never mentioned anything and you minded your business when it came to them. Everyone had a family they belonged to,spouses, and children. Some had good jobs, whom got in the wrong crowd or people. Others had a different story, which ranged from a felony, misdeamnor to even embezzlement. Half these women in the unit were either waiting their sentences , to prison or being released. Everybody as I learned had a story to tell if they wished. The first few days, you have to learn all the rules and regulations as a county inmate. The rules are enforced by the guards, or Correctional Officers as they are typically called, to the Wardens, which are either a lieutenant or a sergeant. This included all daily counts, when every single person within a unit is counted. There was always the other set of rules you have to learn very quickly too, which were the unofficial rules. These rules were that of the county and strictly enforced at any given times. It could be anything from not taking someone's habitual seat during dinner, to movie night, to not asking someone directly what their offense is because it was considered very rude. It always was hard to figure out where you fit in the social of the county jail.
I learned that over time, race was less and less important among others. My entire experience in the county for sixty days was kind of a very tightly locked box and it was hid away. I did alot of thinking, but usually never talked about it, but as well the consequences always come back to us.
Once I was allowed out into population with the other women inmates, it had drawn on me that none of them really bothered me, let alone give me a real hard time. I found this odd since on television it's always depicted of how new inmates are a true target. There is always different facts and myths when it comes to being in the county jail. For the most part, some inmates are usually targeted by their attitude, whining, and how they might hold themselves. Others might not ever be targeted, such as I wasn't, for the mere fact of tattoos that register other inmates a gang, a religion, etc. For myself,I learned a tattoo I have on my right forearm had told not only the inmates; but the Correctional Officers that I was a Witch. A simple Wiccan woman, who have years been portrayed as at times, a Witch with powers to hex, eat children, and put spells on people. Half the unit assumed the myths of what Witches
do these days; and upon learning what I do is practice simple spells, to nature, and potions, to healing. They learned I wasn't the kind of Witch who would do more harm than anything. I was no threat to the unit; as they were no threat to myself during my time. This was benefitual to my time; as I never had any
problems with not only the inmates; nor the Wardens to the C.O.'s. My first week out in population, meeting many different areas of women in the unit. Half the women in the unit were merely awaiting their sentence to prison for their crime. I learned real fast that stand count was three times a day. Stand count is better described in the real world as counting the inmates every time a Correctional Officer came on their shift in the unit, and during a shift change. If you didn't stand when your cell door was opened for count, a C.O. would call your name few times, always last name, and then bang on your cell door. This would echo so loudly it would wake the dead even. This routine was an every day thing. During my final days before my release, I became quite ansy about alot of routines, that I had found myself barely coming out to population with the other inmates and found myself isolating myself in my cell. Everybody was required to take turns to help clean the women's unit. From mopping, dusting,washing windows, sweeping, and including the four showers that were in the unit as well had to be scrubbed down everyday. Very few of the women helped only because they had health problems, but found themselves helping in other ways to be productive during routine cleaning. I made sure I gave my fair share of mopping, to cleaning windows, or dusting. If a C.O., asked a inmate a particular job, it was done right away. One of the most disturbing routines I learned during my stay was the exchange of clothing among the inmates. Exchange clothing would happen twice a week, which included once a week for clean linens. The blankets that had been given to me during my stay i discovered were never cleaned and though i had been told they held a once a month exchange for that; during my time, it was never done. Every inmate was issued to wear the green uniform, to the socks,even the boxers and undergarments that were given to the women. Though twice a week clothing was exchanged for clean ones, I learned that infections could spread fast among the women when it came to the undergarments. Though undergarments were part of the policy among inmates, it totally baffled me tremendously to realize that women were not allowed to wear their own undergarments. Undergarments were cleaned, then put back in a crate for women inmates to grab and use during the days. I found this quite disturbing, and frankly unhealthy. I learned that cleaning my own undergarments were much of a safer idea, and quite frankly santized than picking new ones that were cleaned and worn before by other women in the unit. Between that, I learned that it was quite easy for us women to get infections, and even sick at that if not treated well. Everything that was given to inmates, were pretty useful to use for more than what it's orginal purpose was. Toothpaste for example was use for a numerous of things. Besides the general brushing, I learned that it was good for cleaning metal sinks when a "ring" would develop in them. Other simple ideas it was used as a glue agent when inmates wanted to hang posters or pictures of family and loved ones. The women's unit always had a full supply of variety of tampons. These at times were used for the purpose and even other things I learned during my stay. They were useful for tape, cleaning the walls, toilet warm, to using as a cushion for your great china town shoes.
Entertainment was something that was acquired for most of us. For myself, I learned that living in such ungreatful conditions at times to the food,was horrible enough, but enduring in conversation with people I did not really want to get too close while I was serving my time. The unit itself could hold over eighty women at a time. During my stay, there was approximately fourty women in the unit. Some were required to share their cell with another fellow inmate. I had been attempted three times to bunk with someone, the first two didn't last for me even a full day. At times, it was necessary when new inmates were coming in. Trying to occupy one's brain and mind can be at times frustrating, which in turn would result in uproars too. Population was allowed to share one huge flat screen, and if you wanted to watch a particular show, and didn't put up on a calendar next to the flat screen that was mounted to the wall, it was your own loss. Some of the cells were put together with three cells such as a bubble where a television was allowed there to share. If the Correctional Officer allowed those televisions on during their shift, it was a great day as everyone would be happy. If the Correctional Officer did not allow it; meant everyone would have to share the main screen for the time. I found myself for the most part, getting annoyed with the same routine that would always happen every day, seven days a week. From music videos, to watching soap operas at times, and even scary was the fact most these women enjoyed watching such shows that involved being in jail to prison. Something to this day, I will never figure out why. Reading was a huge thing to do in the unit, as in any county jail, trying to occupy yourself for your time, can be difficult at times when you find yourself not knowing what to do. Reading and writing became of a passion for myself. I found myself writing alot of blogs, to writing within my soul, to even at times reading and obsessed with the Bible. This later became more fascinating for me,when every Friday morning, a local church of women and one man would arrive to give prayer and talk among other inmates. One of the church women was very informative and to my surprise at one point in her life, had spent time here at the local county herself to even prison. Her story intriqued me deeply, and made me realize that at one point everyone can change and be given a second chance at life. I took to her liking and found myself always looking forward to every Friday to meet with the local church.
Walking the unit was another way to keep the brain occupied. For myself, it paid off on losing some weight while i spent there. Alot of the women in my unit were walking what was later to be found out a three mile walk in the unit. Most of us would walk after breakfast, to around lunch time and even right after dinner to occupy ourselves. For myself, I found walking a great way to clear my mind and keep myself active too. This later turned out to be worth a good thing for me , as I had lost over twenty-four pounds during my stay. Staying active in a county jail can be something of a hardship during cold weather. I learned during my stay that during the winter months or even cold air, we would only be allowed to go outside if the weather persisted to be safe for the inmates. During my stay, I was only allowed outside twice, though both very frigid cold air, I allowed to attempt to stay out for the hour we were allowed to be outside. This as well, was a attempt to stay out of my cell and being cooped up in a small concrete wall. Most the women enjoyed playing cards. This seemed to be a favorite among the inmates. I was not much of a person into cards, but later that it was a way to keep themselves busy and make time pass. Women in this unit were usually not much of a fighter. However I did note during the time, they were big gossipers, and spread rumors faster than a blink as long as it wasn't about them. If women did argue, which was rarely, it was over the littlest thing, such as where one inmate would be sitting during dinner, to having that extra coffee, or at one point, talking behind another inmate's back. In the unit, we had fifteen chairs to use during population to share with the main flat television. Most the time we would be allowed to reserve our chair if we had stepped away momentarily. However this wasn't always the case if a Correctional Officer didn't not allow inmates to "reserve" their seat. If you walked away, it was your loss. Shakedowns were usually a common occurence during my stay in the county. They were usually caused if other inmates spread rumors of others, to if the C.O's discovered someone had contraband on them. I had been involved in only one shakedown, in which the inmate is to stand outside their cell door while the Officer would rummage through your cell. During a shakedown, this meant that your thin green mattress was turned upside down, flipped around while the Correctional Officer would rummage among your personal space to your clothing. If you had anything in your cell that was not stated in the handbook, as an inmate you were written up, and what is known to be locked in your cell for 23hours. You were not able to mingle with other inmates, to even having meals with them. You sat in your four walled cell for 23hours, staring out the tiny window. On a personal level, I will admit that the window was not much to attempt to look outside when trying to clear one's head. It was an attempt to take away your "freedom" of what you lost during your stay.
Water in the county had an added ingredient in their system called Chlorine. Unlike being in the real world, when you are confined to limitations,one will do what they can to get through. I discovered over time, that the water with Chlorine would discolor my hair, and be extremely harsh onto my skin.
Lotion itself during my stay was something hard to get. It was not at that time, something one could purchase via commissary. It was given out once a week,by the local Medical Unit. A small solo cup in which it was dispensed, one would make sure to use the lotion very sparse. Another issue I found very ungreatful was the fact how it was always very frigid in the unit. I later learned this was something done by the county itself, in order to keep the unit santized often. Though if family visited often, in which I did have that luxury of visitations, I was able to acquire a grey sweatershirt that was allowed to be worn by the county. The county didn't offer much services to even programs. They did offer such small services as Church weekly, to Bible study, Alcohol Anyonmyous was another favorite among the inmates. Most these women in the unit abused the programs, as it was a way to get out of their cell and the unit itself. Even commissary day, which was held on Wednesday at any given time, was something out of the wild with the herd ready to jump on its prey. It was always admininstered once a week, where one could order anything from chocolate, to toothpaste, shampoo, chips and stationary. Alot of the women, would trade or barter their commissary items for other such things, to extra cup of coffee, extra stamps, to even that necessary pen. Another ritual I noted was when mail was given out four days out of the week. Again, this seemed to be where the wildlife herd would come out of their caves to jungle to gather around the prey. The Correctional Officer would call your last name and open your mail, taking the stamp and to make sure their was no contraband or money in the mail. I often found myself receiving mail several times during the week. This became something for me to be in my quiet world and discover what I merely was missing on the outside. I did learn that during my stay, that not everything you see on television is what you may believe to be real. Every county , and every state has different policies they rule under by. The county I attended for my time, has it's flaws as any given county jail will. Since my release I've discovered they have rechanged the menu, as food was being wasted a lot by the inmates and too much was given out. They have offered more other services, to even adding a Kiosk for those to keep up to date on their time, expensives, etc. Other things have not changed, but as any jail, time evolves and so do they. The experience I had being in for sixty days, was more of a mental and physical emotion rollercoaster for me. I learned that jail is not for everyone. For some it can be something of a total mental issue where one can lose their mind. For myself, I learned about being away from not only my children, family and friends, but life itself. They say to never take life granted, though it can hit you in the fast in a second. I have lived to understand that being where I was for a short time, it the hardest thing one can learn to understand. I have become a much more better human being than what I was before being sent to the county. I never want to return to what was before. I have become a better person, and to learn and understand that not what you see is always true until you experience it yourself. These days, I have learned what I experienced in jail. Between that and never to eat instant potatoes ever again in my life as long as I shall remain on this Earth.