Locked Up.. Part 3: Life on the Inside
REALITY! That’s a really tough place to be. But the reality was, I was going to be in here for some time. How long, I had no idea but I refused to accept or believe I would be in there for 6 weeks. Refused!
Once our quarantine period was over, it was time to go into general population and the panic I felt on my first night returned. Man up Ida. Now is not the time to fall apart. As we gathered our belongings I wondered where I would end up and with whom. Leah and I asked to be placed together but you have no say over where you’re placed. It depended on what mood the CO was in that day.
There were rows and rows of bunk beds lined perfectly throughout the center of the unit. The center was surrounded by individual cells which were locked at night. All the cells were full so we ended up in the middle of the unit on bunk beds. I was given a top bunk, with another inmate already stationed to the bottom bunk and Leah was on the lower bunk directly beside me. Good I thought. At least she was close by.
As the days went on leading up to my party, Leah and I tried our best to keep our spirits up. We started talking about what happened the day of our arrest, our lives, relationships, life and so much more. We learned so much about each other during our time there because all we had was time. We didn’t really associate much with the other inmates during our first few days in general population. When we did speak to the other inmates, the question was always the same “what are you in for.” I’ve always been a quiet, very observant person so I spent time listening to the stories of the other inmates which made me realize my situation was bad... but not that bad. You had some women who had been in there for months waiting for trial, one lady had been in there almost two years and still hadn't gone to trial. At that time, the jail housed women who were either waiting for trial, or have already gone to trial and were sentenced to less than two years.
I specifically remember the young lady on the top bunk beside me. She had caramel colored skin and had to be in her early twenties. She was with her boyfriend who, according to her, asked her to pull in to a convenience store and he then proceeded to rob the store. When they were caught, the gun used in the robbery was found under her seat so they were both in jail awaiting trial as co-defendants. The reason why I remember this girl so vividly is because she was the one who made me eventually realize why I REALLY went to jail! That part of the story will come later.
The days that lead up to that Saturday were the longest days of my life. Time goes by really slow when you have nothing to do and there wasn’t much to do other than watch tv, sit and listen to stories of other inmates, or go “outside” which was really just four walls with no roof. The soap they gave us made my skin feel like sandpaper. The water was always cold and made my skin itch. The toothpaste tasted like cement. You had very little privacy when taking a shower and you had to undress, shower and get dressed all in the same stall. I was convinced the food was filled with poison. What the hell is a “Shit on a Shingle”? That’s what the inmates called one of the meals they fed us. It got to the point I would only eat the fruit and drink the milk and force myself to drink the water. Needless to say I lost weight quickly!
The hardest part was waking up every morning, because in my dreams.... I was home! My dreams always took me back to my life before this incident so sleep was GOLD. The officers would wake us up at some ridiculous hour every morning to do a count. You had to show your wristband, which was similar to the one they give you at the hospital but it had my picture and my inmate info. They would wake you up to state your last name and I would have either just fallen asleep or couldn't go back to sleep after the count.
When I couldn't sleep, I would lay on my bunk and close my eyes day dreaming about life once I got out. The food I would eat... the places I would go! The little things I took for granted like sitting outside on a beautiful day. Having someone treat you like a dog, telling you when to eat and sleep... strips away your dignity. You’re nothing more than just another criminal. Many of the other ladies had been in there numerous times. One even bonded out and came right back during my time there. Another told me whenever it gets cold, she would purposely get arrested so she would have a warm place to stay and eat/sleep for free! It was a lifestyle for some and the end of the road for others. I was exposed to a whole new world I had no clue about. The struggles of women who look just like me but didn’t have the opportunities I had. Many of them didn’t choose to be in this situation.... but some how many of them were okay with it!!
I told Joyce I didn’t want any visits and I didn’t want to talk to ANYONE with the exception of a FEW people. I didn’t want anyone’s money... mainly because of my pride! I was convinced my party would have given us exactly what we needed. I told her not to put any money in my commissary because I was convinced I would not be there long. I didn't want anyone's sympathy. I didn’t want any visitors. I told her if she knew of anyone planning to visit me, to shut that down immediately because I would decline the visit. Truth was I was too embarrassed to face anyone. Friends or family… didn’t matter that they were genuinely trying to be supportive. I couldn’t face them. So I stayed focus on my party. All my energy and prayers was in this event going on without a hitch in my absence.