Some people live in a world that the rest of us can't even begin to recognize.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 21: I feel like a kid in a candy store

OH---GAG! SLAP ME! TATTOO 'POLLYANNA' ON MY FOREHEAD. Dress me in a white twirly pinafore.

I just wrote that title to this entry--"I feel like a kid in a candy store," and can't believe there is still a smidge of "the glass is half full" left in me. This is prison for goodness sakes and comparing it to a candy store simply verifies blossoming psychosis. Until I scribbled that down I thought I had lost any optimism left in me. THIS IS PRISON AND IT SUCKS! (Or as a previous occupant of my room had scribbled on the wall "THIS SHIT SUCK.") Yeah, I could change the title, but maybe I need to leave it there, as another example that my brain is still able to process positive feelings, and that I CAN GET THROUGH THIS. Yeah, right.

Candy stores are colorful, exciting, intoxicating and cheerful. Prison is dreadful, scary, shameful and intimidating. And it sucks.

But we had commissary yesterday, and I did buy myself candy and soda and junk food and treated myself to things I haven't had in weeks. My wonderful husband has put a decent amount of money in my prison "fund account" and I was able to purchase M&M's, Doritos, Root Beer and Snicker's Bars. Also, deodorant (what? they actually allow you to feel like a human being in here?) shampoo, conditioner, writing paper and two pens! I also broke my rule about never sending mail from prison to my kids. I bought five "Write Outs," the name for envelopes with stamps printed on them.

Oh, my roommate was "shipped" to her final destination prison today. Remember I told you she said she was a thief? Well, I was at recreation when shipment left today. I got back to my room and Casey was gone. And so was all my candy.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 20: What's that sound?

So much has been taken away from me over the last few weeks (job, family, friends, TV, my cell phone, and much more). It seems like every hour I become aware of one more thing I miss terribly.

It is easy to notice the absence of tangible objects. I don't have a lot of 'stuff' anymore. The loss of various intangibles is either quite obvious or not as apparent. Privacy is intangible, and its absence was overwhelmingly apparent from day one. Horribly apparent. Today I became aware that I have been missing one of life's most essential intangible components, but it has taken me almost a month to realize it's been gone.

Noise on cell wing C is a constant. The walls are made of concrete, but the doors have metal mesh grates in them so we residents can hear announcements that the officers make. Well, I guess the purpose of the grate is to hear announcements, but most of the time we hear the officers yelling and swearing and threatening to take away another privilege. Also, due to the air vents we can hear voices from the adjacent rooms fairly clearly.

Tonight, I heard sounds from the room next door. The two women were talking. And something else. It actually took me awhile to realize that the other sound I was hearing from next door was the sound of laughter. Not just a few giggles, but enthusiastic, unrestrained laughter. The sound of joy. The sound of happiness.

The realization that, in this horrible place, joy, humor and even fun are all possible brought a huge smile to my face. I had not heard laughter in weeks, and hadn't even noticed it missing. And that is so odd since laughing is one of my favorite things to do.

There isn't a lot to do in prison, but I've just put LAUGH at the top of my daily to-do list.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 19: moving day

Cell door opens, officer looks inside, says "pack out, you're both moving to C wing."

I throw my few possessions into a plastic bag and am ready to move within five minutes. If only "real" moves from house to house were that easy.

Never having been outside of the intake wing I was a little excited to see what the other wings looked like. Hmmmmm. Surprise, surprise. They are exactly the same as the intake wing. Same everything. But a new roommate. She introduced herself as Casey, said the bottom bunk was hers, said she is ready to kill someone because she's been in the same room for 12 weeks-- 12 WEEKS?-- and said "I'm a thief." Now how in the world am I supposed to respond to that?

Casey is about half my age, obsessed with her looks, and had scribbled her fiance's name on the walls, bed frame, window sill and door. She said she was planning her wedding from prison, and would be getting married as soon as she got out. But she didn't know when that would be. Given all the stories people tell in prison, I wondered if any of what she said was true. I was soon to find out that the "I'm a thief" part was very true, but never did actually confirm the fiance or wedding parts.

Casey spent the majority of her time combing her hair, scrunching it up with a combination of gel, conditioner and vaseline that she offered to lend me ("no thanks but that's so sweet of you to offer") and applying makeup (some days her blue pen as eyeliner, some days her black pen). She made sure she displayed cleavage (very hard to do in prison clothes) whenever her favorite male officers were working.

At least Casey was nice enough to tell me about the schedule there on C wing. Wake-up call at 4:30AM, Breakfast at 5AM, Lunch at 10AM, Dinner at 4PM. The best part was that the "chow hall" was in a different building so I'd finally get a few moments of fresh air and sunshine! (You don't miss it until it's taken away from you.) Showers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (and check your dignity at the door ladies-- these are group showers). A fresh set of prison clothes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Recreation on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8 until 9. (YES! I was seriously going to get to exercise?) AND the best of all, Commissary on Thursdays. Casey gave me an extra commissary slip and asked me how much money I had in my account, and would I buy her some candy? Please?

Casey also explained that for "count" time, the officers turned the lights on full blast at 7AM, 3PM, 9PM and 3AM and made sure we were awake at each of those times. Prisons apparently like to have high electric bills and sleepy inmates.

Tonight will be the 19th night in a row that I will 'sleep' with a towel over my eyes to block out the light. The definition of sleep has changed dramatically since coming to prison.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 18: possessions

I'll admit it. I love to shop. I love to have things. I love to have new things. That hobby of mine has sure been stifled in prison. I'm wearing clothes that are beyond hand-me-down status, eating off trays that have been filled and emptied hundreds (thousands maybe?) of times, and eating with a spork that has been in more mouths than I care to imagine. Who knows how many people have slept on this mattress, pillow, and sheets? Don't even remind me that the prison population has probably not had the best lifetime health care. (My roommate is the perfect example, although I think half her illnesses are imaginary.)

For some silly reason I liked having my drinking cup as my primary possession while in the county jail. I can live like a monk, void of material goods, for, oh, maybe a week or so. But this is getting ridiculous. We are not allowed to be sent any of our own possessions. I've been wondering about what kind of "stuff" I'm allowed to have here, but there's no Prison 101 course where they explain things like that to you.

So I was thrilled today when I got a letter from my husband. I had been able to call home a few times on the phones from county jail. Here in prison there are no phone privileges. My wonderful husband had called and spoken with many people at the prison to learn the answers to so many questions that both he and I have had. (While the officers treat us like crap, non-inmates are welcome to call, speak to anyone-- including the warden-- and are actually treated nicely!) His letter said that I was currently detained in the "intake and reception" building of the state's department of corrections, that I would remain in solitary confinement (with my roommate) until I was medically cleared, then be moved to another wing of that same building. They told him that after a few weeks in the medically cleared wing the state would decide where I would go to serve the remainder of my sentence. And, no. Nobody believed him when he told them I am innocent.

My husband's letter also told me he could send me letters and books, but nothing else. He'd already ordered several puzzle books that I should get soon! I love doing puzzles, but wondered how I'd do them without a pencil. My husband also told me he had given my prison address out to friends and coworkers so they could write me. WHAAAAAAT? I don't want anyone to know where I am since I'm planning on being home soon. Then I will have a big party and announce the big mistake the state had made and we'd all have a big laugh.

Perhaps good luck does come in bunches. Soon after I received my husband's letter, there was a knock on the cell door. It was the prison chaplain asking if we'd like any Christian reading material or prayers. I got a Bible and several daily prayer books, while my roommate got some Christian fiction novels. The chaplain said individual prayers for both of us, and I sat holding my new possessions-my husband's letter, my new Bible and my prayer books. I was so happy with my new 'stuff,' that I felt like I had won the lottery. The reality that a person's perception of their emotional and personal wealth depends upon their present situation hit me like a ton of bricks. But why did I have to come to prison to discover that fact?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 17: prison nicknames

Still stuck in this awful cell, sleeping on the top bunk, listening to my bunky's life story. Again. Oddly, it keeps changing. First, she said she has only been addicted to medicinal drugs, then her story changed and she talked about use of meth and cocaine. Then back to swearing she's never used "illegal" drugs. She made me promise that I'd never tell anyone she has stolen doctors' DEA numbers, that she's beaten her husband, and that she has an STD. Then I hear her tell others in the shower all those things and more. Why would you tell other women in the shower that you have a sexually transmitted disease?

The walls are somewhat thin, and with the windows open we can have some degree of conversation between rooms. My next cell neighbor decided we all needed prison nicknames. YES! My nicknames in school were always brown-nose and teacher's pet, and while raising my kids I was "mom" to the whole neighborhood. So here I thought was my opportunity to get some really bad-ass nickname. Maybe "Spike" or "Stomper"! Maybe "Slash" or "Smasher"! After the neighbor gave out the nicknames of "ice blood," "T-Bone" and "Miss Vicious" it was my turn. I suggested a few that I thought might make me appear tough and mean (this is prison, after all) but they were turned down. One girl suggested "French Vanilla" (because of my pale skin). Not exactly a nickname to make anyone tremble. Another suggested Ro-Ro, but apparently, there was already a Ro-Ro in the cellblock. Another suggested Rosie, and another suggested Zee. Huh? But those are my names! Finally, Ro-Z was settled on. Oh great, I ended up with my own name as my nickname. I'm as boring in prison as I was before I got there.

Days 15 & 16: adjusting to boredom

You know how when you have so many things to do you wish there were more than 24 hours in a day? Well, apparently in prison there's at least 30. Maybe even 40 hours a day. With absolutely nothing to do. Time drags by so slowly. I am now in the intake area of the "reception" prison. Inmates in this area are confined to their rooms 24 hours a day, with the exception of meal times, when the guards go from cell to cell, unlocking each door with a key, and allow one of the roommates to walk 20 feet to pick up the two trays for our room. We get about 15 minutes to eat, then they unlock the cells again, and one of us gets to return the trays. My bunky and I take turns getting each meal, so we both get a bit of exercise. A very tiny bit of exercise.

Wearing pajamas to bed is much better than county jail where we wore the exact same clothing 24 hours a day for three or four days in a row. The only problem now is that we are woken up for breakfast at 4:30 AM, and have to be in full uniform in order to walk down the hall to pick up the trays. And NO throwing clothes over the pajamas. If they spot our pajama collar peeking out from under our uniform we get no breakfast.

The officer guarding our wing sits at a desk at the end of the hall. We have no interaction with him at all except when he unlocks and locks our doors for meals. So I have gotten to know Cindy (my bunky) very well, since she talks constantly about herself. She was not kidding when she told me that she cries a lot, also. Cindy has some real health issues. And some unreal ones. According to her, every bone, organ and cell in her body has something wrong with it. I happened to ask her why she is in prison. Through her many tears she stated that she has to take so many medications for her health problems (and those "f***ing doctors" won't give her all the ones she needs) that she had to "borrow" prescription pads, and "borrow" doctors' DEA numbers, in order to write and obtain her own prescriptions. She saw nothing wrong with that since, according to her, they were medical needs.

Cindy was shocked and actually offended that the police arrested her for her medical needs. Oh, and something else. She said she also beat her husband and son regularly and had had orders of protection against her many times. Gee, doesn't she think that's a reason for arrest, too? She cried a lot because she was sure she was going to die from her health issues at any moment. At first I reassured her that she was going to be fine. Then (oh, Lord, please forgive me) boredom got the best of me. I started agreeing with her assessment of her health, agreeing with her that she looked pale, then she looked flushed. She'd complain it was too cold, and I'd say I thought the room was warm. She thought she looked all swollen and that her hair was falling out. "Gosh, I think you're right" I'd say. She was very worried that her STD would cause her to get cancer. I just nodded and said I'd heard that, too. Normally I'm never mean like that, but the utter boredom of having nothing to do but listen to her complaints really got to me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DAY 14 continued: PRISON

Oddly, even though the PRISON is barely 30 miles from our county jail, the officers took a very circuitous route to get us there. Apparently they have to do this in case someone tries to stop the van and help us escape. I haven't even mentioned that, while in the van, we are required to wear highly conspicuous, distinct neon colored jump suits. And handcuffs and shackles. I've seen a lot of Clint Eastwood and Nicholas Cage escape-from-jail movies, but those did not even give a clue that the government wants you to look as distinctly noticeable as Big Bird in case you happen to somehow escape and start running down the highway during the trip.

Eventually we reached the 20 foot high fences of the prison, all covered with razor wire. I saw multiple buildings that looked like they were at least a hundred years old. And a graveyard. Yikes. We were "greeted" by a female officer who couldn't be nastier. She told us we smell, we're fat, and we better be afraid. We went from room to room to be given clothes and materials, and also to be checked by a doctor, dentist, psychologist, and drug counselor. Though I told each one of my innocence, nobody believed me. Apparently they hear that from others often. But I AM telling the truth, why don't they believe me?

After gathering one shirt, one pair of pants, three pairs of socks and underwear, a coat, a funky pair of black velcro shoes, and an actual pair of pajamas, we were lead to our rooms. I couldn't believe how tiny the rooms are. One set of bunk beds, one chair, a toilet/sink combination and six shelves hanging along the wall opposite the bed. There was less than two feet of room between the bed and the shelves. But wait! The room has a window, and it actually opens! Fresh air feels so good, no matter how chilly it is outside. I can see trees and clouds! The little things. I have to learn to be grateful for the little things.

My roommate had gotten to the room before me. She weighs about 300 lbs, and had already claimed the bottom bunk. Top bunks frighten me, but the flimsy looking bunk beds made me glad I was not on the bottom, in danger of being crushed. I introduced myself to my new "bunky" (apparently, even at my age, everyone is expected to call their roommate "bunky"). She rattled off her life story in ten minutes, including the fact that she cries all the time, is suicidal, and has an STD.

I cried myself to sleep that night. I so want to go home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 14: "Strictly Dickly?" or "Gay for the Stay?"

At 8:30 AM I heard a message for me over the intercom. It said to pack out, I'm moving. I knew my attorney had told me I was going to DOC (Department of Corrections, A.K.A. PRISON) but some women had been waiting for months to be shipped. That's what they called us-a 'shipment.' And I had just ordered stuff from Commissary. That figures. Each prison has its own commissary, so I would not get what I ordered from jail, and would have to wait until I had money in my new prison account to order anything.

There were four of us leaving jail and being shipped that day to prison. We had five minutes to pack out. It didn't take long since we were only allowed to bring our Bibles and any legal mail with us. News spreads fast in jail, and very quickly everyone knew who was leaving. I received many hugs, "God Bless," and wishes for good luck in the future. I was surprised at all the hugs since no touching is allowed in jail. I asked one of the officers why hugs are allowed when leaving. His answer seemed to indicate his realization that you cannot stop women from hugging as a way of greeting or saying goodbye. Again, in spite of this being jail and being surrounded by criminals, the positive side of humanity was able to shine through. Even Moniqua gave me a thumbs-up through her cell door window.

The four of us leaving knew we were headed for the woman's reception and classification prison about an hour away. That is the place where all the women condemned to prison are originally sent until it is determined which state women's penitentiary they will end up at to do their time. Of course, I KNEW that at the last minute the mistake of my conviction would be discovered and I would be sent home. Nope, it didn't happen again today. How long can I maintain hope?

After what seemed like a dozen strip searches (what were they expecting us to do, steal their precious orange cheese?) the four of us were handcuffed together and seated in a large van. I was scared to death. Surprisingly, the other three girls acted like we were headed on vacation or somewhere pleasant. They sang, told jokes, flirted with the officers in the van, and had trouble sitting still they were so excited. As much as I hated jail, I could not imagine prison could be a place to be excited for. I guess, to some degree, it was the fact that we were actually out of our cells and in a van, the radio was playing, and we could see the familiar world of our county passing by out the windows.

The other three women in the van all had knowledge and familiarity with all of the illegal drugs you can imagine (and the variety of places they can be hidden), so I was completely left out of most of the conversation. Besides drugs, the rest of their conversation consisted of how to resist sexual advances made by other inmates. They made it sound like this would be a constant concern for all of them. All I could think of was thank goodness I'm older. I hadn't had an advance made by a man in many years (other than by my husband of 25 years), so I was sure no woman would be interested!

One girl said that when any woman made an advance toward her she would tell them she is "strictly dickly." She said it had worked for her the last time she was in prison ("last time?" She is only 21 years old!). Another woman said that, even though she has a man and two kids, she might become "gay for the stay" this time in prison. She said having a "wife" in prison made life a lot easier there her last time. I'm usually not at a loss for words, but fear and shock prevented me from asking any questions about this delicate subject at all. Somehow I knew I would eventually find out the ugly truth about this aspect of women's prison society, but I had far too many other things to worry about at that moment.

Day 13: Commissary

I SO do not want to be in jail. I've told my family to make sure they don't tell anyone where I am. I wake up every morning KNOWING that this is the day the court realizes the mistake and lets me go home. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened yet. I am allowed to make phone calls daily if we have time out of our cells. I call home at every chance, and beg my husband to get me home.

I refuse to write letters with the envelopes that can be purchased at the Commissary because the return address is stamped on it as being a letter from someone in jail. There's NO WAY my children will ever receive a letter from their mother with a jail return address. Actually, I have refused so far to order anything from the commissary. They sell candy, lemonade mix, cookies, other foods, and personal products. We aren't allowed to have our families send us anything other than letters. I feel proud that my drinking cup is my only real possession, and if monks can live with only the basics, so can I. Besides, in my mind, I can't plan to be here permanently since I will be going home any day now. Right?

Oh, hell, who am I kidding.

I finally broke down and put in an order for commissary. It takes three or four days for the products to be delivered. My roommate has been kind enough to lend me shampoo, but I decided I'd better order my own, seeing how I am still here and haven't gone home yet. I also ordered numerous packs of peanut butter crackers since I am unable to eat the 'food' they serve. And some candy. And cookies. And crackers. My reasoning? Even though I will only be here temporarily--VERY temporarily since I'm sure my husband and attorney will get me out soon, I may as well enjoy the 'finer' things of life while here. (See, that's sarcasm. Companies only donate their expired and old and dried-up products to a jail's commissary.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 12: Who runs this place?

Each day in jail we have at least 8 different officers rotating through shifts as our guards. There is also an Emergency Response Team that can be called in at a moment's notice for an emergency. I haven't seen too many fights where the Emergency Team has been called in, but they sure look scary, wearing helmets, bullet-proof vests, steel-toed boots, and carrying clubs and Mace. All of the Officers and the Emergency Response Team have a highly extensive vocabulary of curse words that they utilize quite frequently, and usually at an ear-piercing volume. They mean business!

I suspect that these people (the officers and the Emergency Response Team) think that they are running the jail. After all, they wear official uniforms, carry weapons, and get a paycheck for the many hours they spend in the jail. Little do they know that it's the prisoners who really run the place. To us, it's pretty clear who is in charge.

A 19 year old girl named Moniqua is the loudest, filthy-mouthed bully of all 80 inmates. In spite of her age she runs the place due to her anger, threatening demeanor, and ability to both bully maliciously and beg sweetly, both of which she has perfected. She has a posse-- a group of girls who hang out with her, probably more so that they aren't the target of her anger than because they actually like her. Moniqua's posse knows that the rest of the group will support them if they get into any arguments or fights with others.

Moniqua's power is also present in the preferential treatment she receives from the guards. Any inmate who treated others the way she does would end up in segregation. Somehow, the guards tend to overlook her behavior. Moniqua stands in her doorway all day swearing, pounding on the door, and gesturing at others. She bullies others into giving her their food. When it is 'count' time, however, she sweetly greets whichever guard is starting their shift. When the guards aren't looking, she is angrily harassing her next target. I would feel very sorry for the roommate who has to live in the same cell with her, except that roommate is in jail for shaking her own baby to the point of severe brain damage. I hope she rots in prison for the rest of her life.

I have several theories as to why Moniqua receives preferential treatment from the guards. First, a higher percentage of women in the jail are African American, which results in a higher percentage of African American women being punished or put into segregation. I've been told that there have been complaints of racial bias in the past, and wonder if the guards have decided to make Moniqua (who is African American) their example of a lack of racial bias. Another theory of her preferential treatment is Moniqua's ability to turn on the charm, and get whatever she wants. She is often let out of her cell to spend hours in the middle of the night watching TV in the Day Room. Some assume she is a 'snitch,' but won't suggest that to anyone as they fear Moniqua's posse will come after them.

The inmate food workers also receive preferential treatment-- from the guards because the guards often order them to do menial tasks, then reward them by allowing them to eat leftovers. Also, from the inmates in order to, hopefully, get a decent tray of food, some hot water for coffee, or an extra bag of chips.

Some inmates receive special alone time in the shower (either by herself or also with a 'friend') while their friends stand outside the shower letting others know they cannot go in there.

Gwinny (the girl from the holding cell) uses her power to control what gets watched on TV when we are out of our cells. She also gets preferential seating near the TV. I've seen new girls try to watch what they want, and the threatening look they get from Gwinny, and the looks of fear from all the girls around her make it clear that Gwinny controls what is watched on TV. (I never knew Maury was on so many times each day...ugh.)

Finally, there are several young, sweet first-time inmates who cry often and are obviously scared to death. While they do not attempt to run the place, they receive motherly treatment from many of us to make sure they eat regularly, they have someone to talk to when needed, and to try to keep their spirits up. As a matter of fact, there is always someone available to try to cheer up anyone when they are sad. Amazingly, in a place as depressing as jail, the basic human emotion of empathy and helping others is present to a surprisingly strong degree.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 11: "Bitch" is the New Punctuation Mark

I'll admit I'm naive. Sheltered from bad things in life.  Living in a respectable neighborhood.  Working at a job where curse words are rarely heard.  And now I'm thrown into a world where I hear the word "bitch" at least ten times a minute.

In jail all sentences begin with the word 'bitch.'
In jail all sentences end with the word 'bitch.'

"Bitch, gimme your bread, bitch."
"Bitch, wanna play cards, bitch?"
"Bitch, what'd you say, bitch?"
"Bitch, you feeling better today, bitch?"

I hear the word "bitch" and I naturally think someone is angry. I assume they dislike the person they are talking to and are calling them an objectionable word. In jail that is not necessarily true. The definition of "bitch" is completely different in jail. Sometimes "bitch" is derogatory. Sometimes it is an affectionate term. Often, it is a nickname shared between two close friends. Most of the time, it is the punctuation that ends a sentence.

I have to admit that I can't figure it out. Usually, a person's tone of voice, facial expression, or some other body language gives away their meaning. But the only time in jail that I can judge the speaker's intent is when it is beyond obvious that she is extremely angry at someone. Usually then, 'bitch' is accompanied by physical gestures and the words "M****r F****r."

Now that I think of it, "M****r F****r" is another word (words?) used to an extreme degree. And that phrase isn't always used as vulgar cursing either.

Yes, life in the bizarro world of jail continues.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 10: Why ever would someone come BACK to jail?

There are women here who are highly "experienced" at being in jail. My first roommate has been to jail eight (or is it nine?) times. The woman with the filthy mouth who I was shackled to on my way to court yesterday has been to jail four times (and she has four kids, including a 6 month old baby!). It is always obvious which women have been here before because they know all the answers to all the questions and are familiar with all the day-to-day procedures.

I heard some fascinating stories when talking to these repeat visitors. Each and every one of their stays in jail was related to drugs. Not that all of them were there for possession, selling or manufacturing. Their crime may have been theft, prostitution, or carjacking, but the ultimate reason for their crime was to get money for their drug habit (or a car to drive into the city to buy their drug of choice).

Many of the women who were "repeat customers" had some very interesting things to say that made me wonder if their jail experiences were not unpleasant. If anything, some made it sound like coming to jail is a positive factor in their lives. My eight-or-nine-times-in-jail roommate said she likes to catch up on her sleep while in jail, and get on a regular day/night wake/sleep schedule. Apparently her drug habit makes that impossible. Another woman told me that jail is the only place where she gets three meals a day. While nobody described it as their "secure" environment, it is obvious that jail is the only place where they have regular rules, structure, and known expectations. The most bizarre suggestion some women made was that they get to spend time with their friends, and make new friends while in jail. What? Jail as a social experience?

Unfortunately, I will have plenty of time to listen to the stories of fellow inmates. I have no desire to be here, but apparently some women's experiences in jail are meaningful to them. Yikes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 9: Oops, his "Manland" fell out of his shorts

Today my attorney presented a motion in court trying to reduce my sentence. Several women and men also had hearings back in the courtroom. I was shackled to two woman who also had court dates. We were driven to court in a van that had a separation down the middle-- one side for men, one for women. In spite of the metal wall between the two sides, I've never heard such disgusting language in my life. Even though the men and women could not see each other, their discussions were all sexual in nature. Graphically sexual. I'm no prude, but I had no desire to hear what could have been the sound track to an x-rated film while I was on my way to court.

My attorney tried to present his motion, but somehow, neither the judge nor the prosecutors had received copies of it. While copies were made and they looked them over, I had the opportunity to talk to my attorney. I'm always open to new knowledge, but what he told me shocked me. He explained that 'jail' and 'prison' are not the same thing, and that the judge had sentenced me to PRISON, not jail! I always thought those two words were synonymous. No. Apparently jail is run by counties. Being sent there doesn't really stain that "permanent record" that everyone is concerned about since childhood, and people in jail are not as "bad," or as "criminal," or as "deviant" as people who are sent to prison.

WHAAAAAAAAAAT? But I'm not bad, criminal, or deviant. I haven't even broken the law. Ever! I wait for the WALK sign before crossing the street. I have never used any kind of drug. I have never stolen anything. I have never driven after drinking. I water my lawn only during the hours the city says I can. I purchase lawn waste stickers to pay to discard my grass and tree clippings and weeds. I've been to jail a little over a week now, and it is truly a scary, dehumanizing place. I think my attorney was trying to explain that prison is even scarier, more dehumanizing, and clearly leaves a major stain on a person's permanent record.

I remember reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter where an adulteress had to wear a bright letter A on her clothing as punishment. I've certainly never committed adultery, but I feel like I will be forever scarred with a Scarlett F (for felony) branded somewhere on my body.

Well, court today did not go so well. Even though my attorney had written a very long "brief" (isn't that truly an oxymoron?) and the judge and prosecutor 'pretended' to read it over, the judge clearly had no intention of shortening my sentence. He even stated that my sentence is six months shorter than he COULD have given me. I guess I was supposed to kiss his ass in thanks for that favor.

Well, court was depressing. Wearing shackles and a prison uniform while my husband was in the court audience was even more depressing. Tripping while trying to walk in shackles brought a big laugh from the prosecutor. However, my trip to court was not a complete loss. I got to hear other cases while waiting for mine to be heard. One man, who apparently has been accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with an adult woman insisted he was innocent. He explained that, on the day in question, he happened to be wearing an old pair of really short jogging shorts. And, Ooops! his "Manland" happened to fall out and touch the woman's "Womanland."
Everyone except the judge burst out laughing in unison. Laughing hysterically. We were all laughing so much that the judge ordered the courtroom clear of everyone except those involved in Mr.Manland's case. My only regret is I never got to find out if his "Escaped Manland" defense was successful.

So, court did not turn out at all helpful for me, but at least I got a good laugh.