It was a Saturday, which meant it was our Friday. We snapped out of our afternoon lull when chow was delivered right before 4 o’clock count, the idea of our weekend motivating us to get through our last two hours. As I was helping pass out chow down Baker run, one of the inmates started going off on me.
“Get out of here you nasty ass bitch.”
“You probably the hoe of DOC.”
“You think you special, you’s a disgusting hoe.”
“I hope your ovaries fall out, nasty bitch.”
“Your boots are dumb.”
I had to laugh at the last one. I had worked Charlie run all day, and this was the first time I had gone down Baker run. This inmate was new to the house and had not seen me previously. I had no idea what had set this inmate off on me, but it took everything I had not to fire back at him. Professionalism, I thought sarcastically to myself, What a fucking joke. When dealing with mentally ill inmates in a suicide watch house, you're forced to become especially tolerant of what is said to you.
The inmate kept repeating the words and I just laughed.
“That’s all you got?” I replied to him, keeping a smile on my face. I looked over to my co-worker and laughed, "Aw, he thinks he's hurting my feelings." My co-worker didn't say anything, and I knew that he was just trying not to escalate the situation. However, my response seemed to do the inmate in; the audacity of a female standing up for herself. With obvious fury, the inmate began banging his fists against the cell door and screaming more obscenities at me. I ignored him and continued on with passing out chow.
When I returned to the control room, I wrote the inmate up for harassment. One of my male colleagues was particularly upset about what this inmate had been saying and left to go talk to him. The inmate tried to tell my male colleague that he didn’t say shit and it wasn’t that bad. The inmate finally admitted that he started saying those things because “I walked down the run like a runway model”, like that was even remotely true.
I left work that day trying not to let the words bother me. They were told by a crazed, delusional criminal, after all. However, I left really wishing that people understood the degradation we faced everyday, especially as female officers. I knew what I signed up for, but it doesn’t make it any easier. The thick skin just keeps on growing, but it ends up feeling like enormous walls being built around me once I left those gates.