As a first time female inmate, all I can really say is those jumpsuits are comfy.
Growing up, I never would've seen myself behind bars. Even as a high schooler, I didn't engage in any criminal (to the most part) activity. I found myself to be a smart woman, knowing right from wrong and fully capable of making the right choices to avoid exactly such a thing.
One thing led to another, and sure enough, the next thing I know I was pleading guilty to a charge that wasn't true. I was slapped with a 20-day jail sentence in county lock-up. I was to turn myself in that Friday and bring white shirts and undies. I was so nervous. I didn't know what to expect. For all I knew, I was going to have to find the biggest and baddest chick in "the yard" and fight her to avoid shower rape! (Keep in mind, I've never been in a fight in my life. Also, apparently back then I didn't know the difference between jail and prison.)
Friday came, and I made sure I ate before I turned myself in. (I chose to eat Chinese food as my last meal, because who knows how long it would be until I get to enjoy that kind of food again!) (20 days. It would've only been 20 days. I was highly dramatic.) I kissed my boyfriend goodbye as if I was boarding the Titanic and went inside. Everything was fluorescent. The fluorescent light shone down onto the laminate flooring which then reflected the lights—the feng shui in that place was terrible. And that was just the lobby.
They led me to a room where I had to put on my orange (yuck) jumpsuit. They gave me my mat and my "blanket" (never knew they made dryer sheets that big) and led me to my pod.
Here I thought I would be in a concrete room with a window that had bars on it and bars as one of the walls, looking out toward a guard with a giant key ring, with many keys on there, one per cell. (Again, I was very naive toward the jail life.) Instead, I was brought to a relatively large room that had five rows of bunk beds, three circular steel tables with attached benches and an opening that led to the communal toilet and shower. Luckily, the opening was covered by a semi see-through plastic "curtain" to give you a false sense of privacy.
I didn't poop for six days. I didn't want people walking in on me doing my business! It was terrible.
It was the responsibility of the pod inmates to keep the pod clean. We would get a mop and bucket every day to mop the floors. Our pod had four concrete walls and a thick steel door. The wall that held the door also had a thick plastic window (one that you view an animal through in the zoo). Every half hour, a guard would walk by, patrolling the hall. At 8 o'clock, the main lights would get shut off in the pod, and yet there were still small flourescent lights that stayed on, plus the light from the hallway, so it would never be completely dark. At 5 AM, the large lights would turn back on, whether you would be ready to wake up or not. The guard wouldn't allow you to cover up with a blanket past your knees at that point. And they definitely weren't afraid of cranking up the A/C.
Luckily, I scored a top bunk. The TV in the cell was hanging high on the wall, so I had a perfect view. One night, the ladies in the pod gathered around the TV and in the nearby beds. I asked what they were about to watch. A girl named "Chica" (a Hispanic broad, never did get her real name) said that every week they watch So You Think You Can Dance. That was the first time I felt comfortable. I loved that show and from that moment on, they became roommates instead of inmates. After the show was over, a few of the black girls in our pod tried to teach a few of our white girls how to dance. They asked me to come down and try, too. Luckily, unlike typical white girls, I was born with rhythm and a booty. So after seeing me doing my thaaang (it probably went way better in my head than in reality) they crowned me with the name "White Chix" and I was offered a spot at their table to play spades. Yes! I've been accepted as a proper inmate! Bucket list ✔️
They told me what was good to eat, and what was not too good to eat. They also tricked me once by saying my Salisbury steak was actually cow tongue (Was it a trick? Who knows?), but I ate it anyway in between two pieces of white bread and with one large green onion. I'm guessing that was our veggie part of the meal. I have to say, though my family has many culinary talents, I didn't mind the food that much. You get what you get and you don't throw a fit.
What bothered me was that we had a pregnant inmate with us in our pod. She would be fed the same amount as us with an exception of an added pack of six peanut butter crackers. Are you serious? I felt so bad for her. She constantly claimed how hungry she was. She wasn't just a few weeks along. I mean, she was out there. So we girls always made sure to try and give her something off our trays. And because I had "money on my books," I was able to buy commissary (extra food, toiletries, paper, pencils, etc). I bought a bunch to give her. I found that to be highly inappropriate. They should have better conditions for pregnant women.
One day while playing spades with my newfound friends, Chica had a problem with what we were watching on TV. Now, I've always had a smart mouth. I can't help it. I told her to suck it up because it was my bunk's TV day. I had forgotten for a moment's time... where the hell I was. Chica got arrested for being an accomplice to a kidnapping. She was being held there in the jail temporarily until she got extradited out. I don't what devil possessed me to sassmouth her, but I did. She looked at me from the other metal round table and slowly raised herself up off the bench. "What the **** did you just say to me?" It was in that moment I knew, hey, I probably shouldn't talk anymore (and also, hey, I don't have a problem pooping anymore either). But when in Rome..
"I SAID it's our TV day." (Oh my god can I please shut up? No! Show no fear! Oh! Ok! Get your ass beat then, that's cool too.)
She got completely off her bench and started to take some steps toward me. I started imagining what I would look like fighting. Would I look ridiculous? Or do I have a hidden knack for fighting that I just haven't tapped into yet? Does this really have to be the moment to find out? Before I could say or do anything else, the two girls who had given me the name White Chix stood up, facing her in my defense. The little Latina stopped after being glared at by the two intimidating black girls. I blessed my white ass that day.
The girls in the pod really found a way to make use of almost everything. If they had a visitor, they would smash the tips of black colored pencils until the colored shards were practically pulverized. Then they would mix it with our clear, flavorless toothpaste and apply their homemade mascara with a toothbrush so they could look more done-up for their loved ones. Genius. They would take the elastic out of the waistband of their jumpsuits (highly disliked by jail staff) and secure it between two adhesive sides of feminine pads, making their own homemade sleeping masks, cushioned enough to be soft on your eyes, thick enough to block out the lights that never turned off (due to their extreme to extra absorbency. Thanks Jail Pads™ 👍🏻). Laundry would be collected every three days, but would take three days to return. The ladies decided that since we got our laundry back dingy and still smelly, they would do their own. They took a trash bag, filled it a third full of our dirty whites, added water, and mixed in bleach (that we "borrowed" from our cleaning-the-pod-station) and bar soap that they crushed up and tied the bag shut and shook it up. We alternated who would be in charge of doing laundry like the true pioneer women we were. Even though the guards watched us do it, they said nothing. Oftentimes our favorite female guard would gives us chocolates. Dove heart chocolates. I still love them to this day.
After a while I learned how to communicate if you had to use the restroom and needed privacy. Apparently you announce it to the world and let everyone who's gotta pee go, so that you could take your time. I still struggled with that.
Our pod was right diagonally across from a solitary cell. One day, I was in my bunk when we heard pounding from the door across the hall. It. Was. Loud. Loud enough to attract the attention of the patrolling guard. The guard went to the cell door, spoke through her shoulder radio, then the door buzzed for her to enter into the cell. I watched as she opened the door, took a step forward, paused, looked up, lost all color in her horror-struck face, and reached for her shoulder radio again, shouting. I told the girls in the pod what I was seeing and immediately our small zoo window was crowded with the faces of the girls trying to see what was going on. Many guards quickly came down the hall. A few of them instantly put up a sheet in our window so that we couldn't see what was happening. They did, however, unknowingly leave a sliver on the side that one of our girls could see through. She reported to us that they had brought out an unconscious girl covered in feces onto a stretcher and wheeled her out. We didn't know at that time what had happened. The jail shut off the phone in our pod so we couldn't make any outgoing calls. Only once I was released, I heard (through the grapevine) that she had hung herself in her cell. Yet she was reported to have died at the hospital. How does that make sense? There is no telling what really went on in that cell.
On my last day of incarceration, I thought it would be a neat idea to embrace the full lifestyle of the jail-life. My newly found friends agreed to give me cornrows. I decided that I needed to show my 20 days properly and wear them proudly. This little blonde white girl would come out of the county cocoon a butterfly, with a new sense of unearned thuggery. Whilst receiving my new hair do, I became very aware of how tender headed and wimpy I was. My scalp was on fire from the women tugging and pulling, tapping and twisting—oh, I just wanted it to be done. Halfway through, a guard came in and hollered my last name. She told me to grab my things because I was being released. I did the most gangster thing I had ever done at that point: I told the guard they needed to wait until my hair was done. She laughed. I laughed. We all laughed. She told me to get my a** up. So I pleaded with her to make a round, because there was no way I could embrace my freedom with half a head of hair. She agreed. So I actually spent an extra 20-30 minutes in jail just to get my hair finished. I still chuckle at that.
That experience I had in county lock-up I know for a fact is probably not at all common. My mentality is one based on exception though. I accepted the charge, so I accepted the consequence. I didn't sit angrily, acting out in disapproval. It is what it is. I accepted the women in my pod as they came. I didn't see myself as superior or in anyway needing to prove myself. I was just accepting of everything. Food. New ways of laundry. Women that did hair. I had a really relaxed attitude about everything. Had I been high strung or entitled, as I know so many are these days, I'm sure my outcome would've been completely different.
Here I am, ten years later, and never returned. Always embrace your life with grace.
P.S. Shoutout to the women currently locked up, making speed balls out of melted chocolate rolled in coffee grounds to get their energy up for their daily sweat walk (wearing as much clothing as possible and running laps in our tiny concrete yard). Amazing detox and weight loss, ladies. See you on the outside!