Category Archives: PRISON TALES

Guilty

I just realized it has been several months since my last post. This has been a work in progress and I am learning as I go along. I originally set up this page so I could deal with my past. I wanted it to make fun of a seriously awful situation.

My hiatus from writing is a direct result of self examination. I have moved forward in leaps and bounds. I now have an “outside job” and drive myself to and from work. I deal with people in a customer service field while continuing to run my household.

The biggest accomplishment is not feeling like I owe everyone an explanation. I use to feel so guilty and ashamed. That feeling will always linger but now I also feel pride in my accomplishments. This gives me hope that one day I may wake up and not think about those awful days in prison and the mistakes I made.

I may not see the progress I have made in the present but when I look back I know that every year continues to get better. Guilt and anxiety go hand in hand. I am ready to let go.

Christmas Tamales

Tis the season…. I thought I’d share a recipe for “tamales” that we would make for special occasions in prison. All of  the ingredients are non perishable and bought from the commissary.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2- large bag of nacho cheese tortilla chips
  • 6- packs of nacho squeeze cheese
  • 3- packs of roast beef
  • 1- jar of jalapenos
  • Hot sauce to taste

EQUIPMENT:

  • Stinger- to heat water
  • Styrofoam cooler
  • Saran wrap (must buy from kitchen staff)
  • clean pair of shoe laces

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Gently open one end of the chip bag to let air out. Take a soda bottle and roll over the top of bag to crush the nacho chips inside. This will grind the chips into a fine corn grain. Repeat with second bag.
  2. Heat a cup of water to a slow boil with your stinger.
  3. slowly add the boiled water and one squeeze cheese to one bag of chips and gently knead the mixture from the outside of bag.  Do not make mixture too watery. It should be consistency of a moist dough.
  4. Once you have a firm but moist mixture, gently press flat inside the bag. This is the bottom layer of your tamales.
  5. repeat for second bag of chips and set aside.
  6. Heat all the plastic meat packs and cheese.
  7. Open these packs and mix all meat packs , 2 squeeze cheese, jalapenos and hot sauce together. This is your tamale filling and can be varied to your taste.
  8. spread meat mixture over bottom layer of chip mixture inside the bag. You are essentially using the chip bag as a casserole dish.
  9. Spread second chip mixture over the top of meat mixture. This takes skill as you want it to be flat and and meat mixture sealed within corn mixture.
  10. slide this finished tamale chip bag into the  empty chip bag.
  11. Wrap the entire thing in saran wrap. Use as much as you can hustle.
  12. Thread two shoelaces 2″ down from top of cooler. You are making a resting place to steam tamales above boiling water.
  13. Fill styrofoam cooler half way with hot water and add stinger to heat. This can take an hour or more to get the water hot.
  14. Place tamales on top of shoelaces above boiling water and seal with cooler lid.
  15. Continue to heat as long as possible, it was like waiting on turkey at Thanksgiving. Wake up early and get it started.
  16. Remove, unwrap except one chip bag. Slice bag open down the middle. This is your serving tray. Cut into tamale shape size and serve.

 

Hair Care

I went to the salon today and had my hair done. I realized how grateful I am to be able to indulge in this way. I love that feeling of walking in with a day old dirty hair, roots grown out and split ends to walking out feeling like a whole new person ready to conquer the days’ battles. I don’t think this stems from vanity as much as being able to have a control of your being. Let me explain hair in prison.

I was a bleach blonde before I was incarcerated. I assumed there would be no hair bleaching options so I decided to go back to my natural color of brown before I took my plea. I did not want to be trapped in prison with 6″ roots. Go figure! I was in jail awaiting sentencing when a couple inmates commented that my hair was turning green. There were no mirrors in jail so i remember trying to pull my shoulder length hair around my head to see the strands myself. I thought it looked like a deep olive green but then blew it off thinking it was the bad lighting. That was until my first visit from my family and my six year old daughter claimed my hair had turned green. I can now laugh at this situation but at the time, I was devastated. I was going to prison with green hair and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

I arrived at prison and was told the rules on hair:

1. Upon admittance to prison hair is searched for any hidden items. All extensions, braids were removed. (The only person I saw that was above this rule was a mother of a famous basketball player) She walked around with braided extensions to the middle of her back.

2. Hair longer than the collar bone had to be pulled back into a single ponytail. They supplied you with one black hair tie.

3. Ears had to be exposed at all times.

I wanted to cut my hair and realized I would have to wait to be secured on a permanent yard. Once I was admitted to Lumley (High Security Yard) I was enlightened to the fact that we had no barber. There was a inmate barber who cut the guards hair in a small room next the visitation building. She used to own a high end salon in Scottsdale and was accused of killing and dismembering her husband. She was allowed scissors right next to the guards heads. Never understood that one.

The inmates, I, had to cut our hair with toe nail clippers. Yes, strand by strand my hair was finally cut into a cute bob that I didn’t have to put in a ponytail and rid most of the green from my hair. I felt a little more human at that point.

The other hair care options were to move to a lower security yard. There was an inmate barber that was given an electric shaver to trim hair. It was amazing what these women could do with this tool to make a decent cut. There was the final option of waiting for the  Breast Cancer Awareness stylists to come annually. An inmate could donate there hair and have a real haircut. I found it amazing how many women donated their locks with no hesitation. Even though, in may instances it was their only possession.

I joke a lot about the fact that “at least I came home with long hair”, “That I got something from my stay”. but the truth is…I feel grateful for the small things like having my hair shampooed by someone else.

 

Table Settings with a Spork?

A spork is a spoon-shaped eating utensil with 3-4 small fork tines on the end. It is a hybrid of a fork and spoon. I may of used a spork in grade school at some point but I don’t have any true memories of them, just a familiarity. I never thought they would be the only utensil I would touch for five years.The sporks in prison were a very hard orange plastic and the tines on the end were very small as to prevent stabbing in the cafeteria, I suppose. I always thought they would make a great shiv if it was smuggled back to the cell for some filing. I never did see one weapon made of a spork though.

I did begin to wonder if we ate with sporks for safety reasons or for degradation. The first time I went in to the cafeteria to eat in the beginning of my incarceration, we were lead in a single file line to the fine dining establishment. The cafeteria was a square building placed on each yard. The walls were made up of brick from the ground halfway up and then shatterproof glass to the ceiling. The outside of the building was aligned with an L-shaped enclosed gate that we were to line up in like cattle. The entrance to the cafeteria was a double door with a huge fan above it blowing deliciously cold air onto an inmates head as they passed under it. This was the only delicious thing in the cafeteria.

There was an opening in the wall to the left that an inmate would receive their tray of food. This tray was made of the same plastic as the sporks. It was the shape of a rectangle and had five food slots.  We would then proceed down the line a try to pick a clean  spork and a small yellow drink cup. We were then told to find a seat and eat. There is no talking or wasting time. I felt like a monkey in a cage while the rest of the women were staring at me through the windows waiting for their turn to eat. I wrestled with my spork, most food dropping and the tiny tines unable to cling to even a little piece of lettuce. It was awful but even worse was watching the women give up and use their hands.The guards would watch us and yell for us to hurry up and get out. I was embarrassed when I noticed a guard watching me, like they were normal people and I wasn’t. I tried my best to maintain as much dignity as possible while shoveling food into my mouth with my ugly orange spork.

Needless to say, I will never use a spork again.

Sleep with One Eye Open??

So, I recently took a trip to Sedona, Arizona with the family.  It was a wonderful trip full of Hiking, shopping, psychic reading and lots of wonderful food. I was on the go from morning to night and started thinking about my sleeping patterns.  I can grab a few zzzzzzz’s anywhere . I can lay down on a rock halfway through a hike for a quick slumber to sitting upright in a chair to rest the ole eyelids. I do not suffer from narcolepsy or other sleep disorders. I have only had this ability since my stay in prison.

I was first introduced to incarceration sleeping when I took my plea in May of 2004. I was taken to the “horseshoe”, the Maricopa County Jail Intake center in downtown Phoenix. The beds in this place are made of a metal sheet about 5′ x 2′ attached to a brick wall about a foot off the ground. I stood for about twenty four hours instead of fighting for a place to sit or sharing this bed with women whom smelled of anything from body odor to feces.

I was then taken to the “Towers” at Estrella Jail. The towers held the high risk inmates such as child crimes, murder or inmates awaiting sentencing to prison. I was being held for thirty days awaiting sentencing. I was taken to a room that had two stories of about 20 cells. Each cell contained an upper and lower bunk. These were the same metal beds from jail but also had a 3″ mattress. This mattress was filled with a foam and upholstered in a hard, light green plastic. There was  a matching pillow if you were lucky. We were assigned one white sheet, one white pillowcase and one charcoal colored wool blanket to make our bed.

The towers were extremely overcrowded so I was  guided to a cell that was occupied by two inmates already. It was around 2 A.M. in the morning so I was a little nervous about waking up my new roommates. I was handed a mattress to drag into the cell and told I was to sleep on the floor. My cell was now a 3 inmate cell. I made my bed up as quickly as possible, said hello to my  groggy roommates and laid awake until the doors popped open at 6 A.M.

I did not sleep very well the first few days. The cells came alive at night with inmates singing, talking, yelling from cell to cell, smoking and the occasional crazy rant of my next door neighbor. She would talk as if Satan was visiting her every night. The worst night of my stay was when a realized the rustling sound in my cell was the pitter patter of mice. I would sleep with my brown grocery bag full of commissary snacks at the head of  my bed. I heard something crawl over it and then a mouse scurried across my face. I jumped up screaming and scared my roommates out of their beds. I had just been to the E.R for a bowel obstruction (another story) so I immediately bent over in pain.

My roommates actually felt sorry for me and helped me stuff the two open holes in our cell doors. We also laid an extra hand towel my roommate had scored under the gap in the door. This helped with keeping the mice out. My roommates and I actually stayed up talking that night and they showed me how to make earplugs out of Kotex pads. A skill I used for the rest of my stay. I began to take cat naps throughout the day and night and just gave up the concept of a regular nights sleep.

I was transferred to Perryville prison 30 days later. I was taken to a cell on Lumley on the R&A unit. The R&A Unit is where an inmate is classified and processed into the prison. I was assigned to a two person cell and given a proper upper bunk. The prison had the exact same mattress and sheets as the jail except we had two flat sheets now instead of one. My roommate was a middle aged gray haired women with large protruding eyes. She would stare at me and it seemed nothing was going on beyond that gaze. She did not speak and would pace back and forth all day long. I slept with one eye-open and felt I was going crazy myself from lack of sleep. She finally spoke to me in an lethargic manner. She told me they had her on so much psychotropic medication that she couldn’t write a letter to her family. I began to write letters for her and also to sleep soundly.

I had many roommates over the next five years and my sleep differed with every one of them. I have slept through snoring, coughing, crazy laughter, talking, screaming, farting, pacing and ranting. I would deal with most of these issues with earplugs or headphones. Sometimes I would console and sometimes I would have to threaten. I also learned to block the sound by sleeping with one ear in the pillow and my arm laid across my other ear. This is a habit I still have today. I was also woken up 2 times a night by guards for headcount. They would have to shine a light in my face and I would have to make a movement before they would move along to the next cell.

I think a misconception is that inmates sleep all day and have it made. I did not have one uninterrupted night of sleep in five years. When I came home, my daughters quickly learned to stand back several feet when they came in my room to wake me up. I would swing first and ask questions later. That has finally disappeared but I do hear every noise in the house at night. I no longer sleep with one eye open and with time my ears may close as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyewear

Please keep eyewear on or contacts in when entering jail or prison in Arizona. You will feel intimidated but stick to your guns and complain loudly that you can not see without them. If they manage to confiscate them off of your person: you will never see them again.

They will provide you with state issue glasses if you know to request a kite (Form) to see the optometrist. You will wait for months anyways, and then receive a pair that looks like what your parents wore in the seventies minus the cool ass tint. A clear flimsy plastic frame wrapped around huge lenses.

I had money on my books and finally found a hook up. I went to an inmate, a former prostitute, that knew a “John” on the outside. He happened to be an optometrist. I described what I wanted and we guessed what my prescription would be. We actually came very close to what I needed. I arranged for payment and she arranged them to be mailed to one of my visitors.

You can see the result of all this effort on my previous post. Those black beauties.

 

 

 

I’m Free!!

SCAN0125

 

This was the last day I was in prison. I was woken at 3 A.M. and transported to a release area that I hadn’t seen since I was brought to prison five years earlier for intake. I remember feeling like something was going to happen and being released would be put off again. My original release date fell on the weekend so I had to wait for Monday. Isn’t that nice? I hadn’t really slept the night before so I was unusually calm and felt numb. There was a few other women being released that day all squawking like chickens. Only a couple of them had people waiting outside to take them home or bring them release clothes. They didn’t care, there was a drink, a party or whatever else their vise was, waiting outside those gates.

We were shuffled around from room to room filling out paperwork, getting this lovely state ID and basically told to be quiet and stand in a line. I can still feel the humiliation of knowing they had control even though I was suppose to be out two days earlier. I was given my final bag lunch consisting of a sandwich, cookie, and I think an orange. I passed this along to another shameless inmate who gobbled it down like it was her last meal. finally we had to drop our personal property at the front gate where we could briefly see cars on the outside. Excitement started to build deep in the pit of my stomach, one of those cars was my love waiting for me like he did the last five years.

Just wait,One more humiliation, we were then shuffled into a long trailer right by the front gate. I was handed my first civilian clothes in five years . I had picked them out from Victoria Secret catalog months before and asked my boyfriend to bring them. I stripped naked in front of a guard with all the other women side by side. Squat and cough ladies!!! Yes, Like I really want to bring that lighter home I have been hiding for the last couple years. Humiliation over and into the sweet smelling brand new clothes. Shuffle  Shuffle and we are outside waiting to walk through the gates.

There he is…my rock, my love and now my husband.