November 20, 2013
Tonight Jason and I sat in a room with many others for Probation Orientation. When I had made the appointment they said to show up early and bring my spouse or significant other. But as I looked around, only one other person had a visitor with them. Maybe that should have been my first clue. Or maybe it was me in my khaki pants and nice shirt, while everyone else wore oil-stained ripped jeans or t-shirts with alcohol ads, tattoos, and multiple strange piercings. Trying not to be judgemental - I'll assume that they all came from their mechanic jobs and were expected to wear their grubbies.
As I looked around the room, I saw one girl that looked like more of 'my type,' so when we rearranged our seats at the table, I found a seat next to her. We started filling out paperwork and she pulled up her sweatshirt sleeves to start writing. I glanced over and saw dark, crazy tattoos all up and down her arms. Maybe not 'my type.'
I signed away my option to have alcohol in the house, no drugs, to keep my new probation officer aware of any prescriptions... Then I got to some harder ones. Signing away my voting rights... Initialing that we wouldn't keep any guns, ammo, bows, or arrows in the house, nor any hunting/pocket knives longer than 2 1/2 inches... I am to be home by 8:00 each evening until I clear it with my probation officer... Those were harder to sign to. Jason is a huge hunter - for him to make the sacrifice to give up his guns to store somewhere else - well, let's just say that is love right there! :-) A lot of our kids' sports practices go later than my 8:00 curfew. I was glad Jason was there to read through everything with me and reassure me that we'd figure a way to make it all work.
Then we went over some of the options of classes we'd be taking. The man leading the class started rattling off a bunch of acronyms, which I guessed were rehab programs. A guy sitting near me said, "What happens if we've already done all those?" The instructor went into more details about each of the classes - domestic violence, drug and alcohol rehab, things to do with robbery and other charges. The guy said, "Ya, I've taken all those.... TWICE!" I tried not to look like I was scared. What am I getting myself into, hanging out at meetings with people like this?! Get me outta here!
Most of these people were fresh out of jail or prison. It was then that maybe *part* of reality set in. I am not being asked to 'go along' with probation. I am not being asked to 'fit in' with these people. I am not being asked to even just 'make do' until it is all over. I am being asked to do two completely impossible tasks - let my light shine, and to serve these people. Serve. These. People. These people that scare me to death... These people I have nothing in common with... These people who are guilty of some awful things... I feel very overwhelmed, completely inadequate, and way too far out of my comfort zone.
How? How can I serve these people that I don't have a thing in common with? How can I let my light shine AND serve them, without it looking like I have 'pity' on them? How in the world can I even know what these ladies will need in jail? I just cannot relate to them at any level. I can be nice, but does that land me in the 'take advantage of her' section of jail? How can I be bold and stand up for myself and also be kind and nonjudgmental? I think this is what they call 'living IN the world, but not OF the world.'
As our meeting wound down, they passed around a sign up for the drug and alcohol classes. The judge had not required me to take any of those, so I passed the clipboard along without signing my name. One of the instructors of the class called me on it and several people turned to look. She asked me to sign my name and she would double check that I didn't need those classes. I wanted to sink into my chair to hide. Don't notice me! Don't pay attention to the clothes I am wearing. Don't notice that I have the support of my husband. Don't notice what she just said about me not being 'like you.' Since when did being myself start to feel so weird?!
A man across the room asked another question and distracted the class from looking at me. He had long, thick needles through his ears, uncombed half-spiked hair, multiple large facial piercings, and overalls on. He was jittery and fidgeted a lot as he asked his question while he stood and then sat and then stood again and sat. I don't know what he asked, but I was just glad the attention was off of me.
The reality is setting in that I need help preparing! Who can I call that understands? I need to know what I'm up against and how to be ready - physically, emotionally, spiritually. How do I not just 'make it through,' but make it completely, 100% worth it? That will be my prayer... God knows. He will show me. I can do this with His help. Maybe there is someone in jail that needs whatever I have to offer. This whole thing has not been about hiding and waiting for the storm to pass - Bryer has taught me to dance in the rain! I just need to know the steps to that dance!
November 22, 2013
Tonight I got a phone call - an answered prayer - for 2 1/2 hours. She was so insightful, so full of stories, so active in church, such a shining bright light!
A Mom of a friend had heard Ja'Nette speak at a women's conference. Through the grapevine, I knew I needed to talk to her. She had made some poor choices when she was younger and after making a turn around and trying to make things right, she was sentenced to 5 years in prison for her past. For 2 1/2 hours she shared her experiences and realities from her time in prison. Being the happy, positive person she is, most of it was about the amazing people she met that were so humble - so broken - that they were looking for someone to learn from. She told about the lasting effects of those she was able to teach and learn along with - women that are still her friends today - women with broken, hurtful pasts that turned their lives around.
When she was done telling me about all the good things (all the much needed inspiration I needed to buoy me up), I asked her to warn me of what to be careful of. She talked about how the holding cell was the scariest part because everyone is coming down off of their drugs/going through withdrawl/seeing things. She talked about getting used to the toilets being out in the open and having very little privacy.
She told me I am about to enter into a place where women are humble, have broken hearts, and contrite spirits - the things we talk about at church - trying to have ourselves. They have no where to look, but up. Some will be ready to listen, she assured me.
As we ended our conversation, I asked her one more thing that has been on my mind - how should I explain to them why I am there? She had already said that the women with crimes against children are ostracized, alienated, outcasts - even in the prison system. She told me to tell the truth. Tell them I was falsely accused. I kind of thought - maybe being the outcast in jail wouldn't be such a bad thing. At least I could just be by myself. But again, I strongly feel that I'm not supposed to just get through it, but find something of myself to offer to others.
After talking with Ja'Nette, I decided that when I meet the girls in jail, I won't ask what they are in for. It will just give me reason to judge and I don't need that. If they offer, that would be different. Afterall, I wouldn't introduce myself to someone new at church and say, "So, what are you struggling with today?" Jail should be no different if I'm going in with that mindset. I can't let my curiosity get the best of me. It's hard to love and serve someone if I know all the bad they have done.
November 25, 2013
How exactly does a person 'choose' a jail to serve time in? In all the court proceedings I've watched while I wait in line for my turn, I have never seen the judge tell the offender they could choose where they go. If this is a blessing, it's the strangest way to receive a gift from God. So, I went online to research my options. Not exactly like hotel shopping for vacation. They don't offer pictures of the cells, the amenities available, and meal options. Some of them have pictures of the outside of the jail, and I kind of expected a picture to pop up on my screen of a picture just like the jail in my dream. It would have been easier to choose that way. I looked at how old the 6 jails were that were the options to choose from, how many inmates they house, and what the visiting hours are like, but it's very little information to go on. They do that on purpose I suppose.
As I've been praying about this decision, I remembered what my two oldest boys said after they toured our little courthouse and jail during a scout fieldtrip - "It's the best jail in the state Mom!" That was over a year ago that my boys were so intrigued after the fieldtrip. Of course they had nothing else to compare it to, but they had been sold on the idea. I, on the other hand, am not so excited to going back to the same place where charges were originally filed. Could I really go back to the little town we loved so much - not to visit our friends and family, but to go to jail? I miss the people and would love to visit - but visiting hours shouldn't be a factor in seeing our good friends! Could I really humble myself to check myself in to jail under the same sheriff's office that brought charges? I have prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And the only thing that keeps coming to my mind is my boys voices echoing "It's the best jail in the state Mom!" Oh this is so strange how this whole thing is working out!
December 3, 2013
I have tried and tried and tried to get a hold of my probation officer. I've left multiple messages on her voicemail, with the front desk, at 2 different offices, and still no calls back. My sentence says to serve a minimum of 7 days each month, and while it would be so helpful for a call back for some direction (or use it as an excuse not to go this month!), Christmas is coming, so I've taken things into my own hands and made my reservations. I'm headed in to jail. Back to our little county where charges were filed. Ya, humbling! Making the phone call to 'reserve my bed' was the strangest phone call I have ever made in my whole life. Really, who calls ahead to say when and how long they will be checking in to JAIL?! No wonder Jason has started referring to it as my 'vacation!' When I called, the officer on the other end made it clear that if I was choosing this jail because they allow smoking, that it was no longer a smoking facility. A little speechless at my intentions being questioned, I assured her that I have no desire to smoke. She told me I could bring a Bible, a journal, two books, and my own underclothes. Is this the saddest excuse to go shopping for a journal and long johns?!
|I found my undershirt and journal|
I also talked to a lady that had gotten into trouble and had to spend time in the same jail I'm headed to. She filled me in on some routines and what to watch out for. She kept saying over and over, "You don't deserve this. You don't deserve to be there!"
December 5, 2013
All the preparations are done. The meal schedule is complete with friends that have volunteered to feed my family while I'm gone. I have a spreadsheet of who is in charge of practices and homework and driving kids to activities while I'm gone. (Really, how do you break a Mom's job up into a spreadsheet anyway? Maybe it's me trying to micromanage, but I want to have it worked out in my brain that at least my family is taken care of.)
The last thing on my list was to fill Bryer's therapists in on all of it, as well as the other kids' teachers. None of them had a clue. Again, I have to find the courage to put myself out there and hope they understand. I climbed that emotional mountain yet again. And at the end of explaining a condensed version, I told them that I'm headed to jail this week. I hoped they all would be understanding, but there's always the fear of them siding with the doctors. I have to risk being judged and criticized. Whether they side with me or not, they need to know that our kids may (or may not) struggle this week without a Mom at home and expect some transition.
Both meetings ended with hugs and some with tears. I am so thankful to leave my kids and Jason with the support they need to get by! I can't explain how huge it is for my heart to know they are safe while I am... gone. If God has asked our family to walk this journey, then He's also padded it along the way for us with just the right people.
December 6, 2013
I drove almost 2 hours back to our little town. All by myself. Without the radio on. I sang hymns and kids' church songs most of the way, trying to fill up my spiritual cup. When I got into town, I stopped to gas up so the car would be ready the following Sunday after my checkout. I continued down the highway and then watched the jail pass on my left. I just couldn't make myself turn in. I justified that I would just drive a little further to a friend's house to say hi. I was early for check in. Then I changed my mind and turned around. Then I made a lap in the parking lot. I never visualized what checking in would be like and how hard this would actually be. I finally parked, turned off the car, and bowed my head to pray.
I cried as I thanked my Heavenly Father for this opportunity to serve my sisters. I asked for His special blessing to keep me safe and that whoever would be my roommate would have a heart that is prepared and kind. I prayed for strength and courage to share myself with these women. As soon as I said amen, I wiped my tears away, gearing up to be tough.
I took my bag of clothes, my scriptures, journal, and Sheri Dew's book "No Doubt About It" with me inside. I had scheduled an 8:00 pm check-in time, but I was early. I thought about turning around and coming back at 8:00. I got the courage to walk up to the glass window where disbatch sits. What exactly does a person say in this situation? It's not like the teller at the bank, "I'd like to deposit this money," or to speak to the worker at McDonald's, "I'd like fries and a hamburger." My words came out like I was checking into a hotel. "I'm here to check in at 8:00." That wasn't so bad. She went to tell the officer in the next part of the room. The officer told me to have a seat, to stay in the building, and my time would start now. Great! In fact, I could sit here all night! That would be just fine with me. Just count my time as long as you want in the lobby. I don't want to go in anyway!
I looked around and saw letters on the walls from past inmates about how good the food is, and a thank you for the nice facility. Like a hotel review, right? I'll just keeping telling myself that. The officer then gave me instructions through the window to meet him around the outside of the building so he could let me in through booking.
Booking. That used to mean 'running fast' or something we would do at the libray. Now booking was like something out of the movies. They had the lines on the wall to tell how tall I am as they took my mugshot. There was a computer for finger printing, and a long hallway with solid, heavy metal doors that banged shut and echoed down the cement walls and floor that were cold and sterile. I glanced around and saw a small walk-in closet with about 20 full mesh bags labeled with last names. There was also shelves and piles of orange crocs and it hit me that I would be wearing a pair of those before the day's end. I know this should be serious, but it's so ridiculous that I have to laugh inside to survive it.
I started through a series of routine check-in items - name, address, phone, charges, length of stay. The officer said things several times like, "This is a little unusual since you'll be coming and going," or "this usually isn't the way it works." It was a slow process with a new computer system. It must have taken 2 hours, but I wasn't anxious for it to end because then I'd have to go to my cell and in with the other girls.
There are parts about booking that I'd rather not remember, so I won't go into details. In the end, I was wearing 'stripes' as the female officer called them - black and white striped pants with elastic waist and a black and white striped top kind of resembling scrubs. My new 'outfit' was completed with the orange crocs. The officer half joked and told me I was lucky because they had a right and a left shoe in my size. Who knew this was my lucky day?! (Ha. Ha!) By now I just wanted to wake up from this crazy dream. Or turn off the movie I was playing in. This is just plain craziness!
My bedroll wasn't ready yet, so the officer put me in a holding cell while he left for a while. There was a small metal table and a metal bunk bed with an old, worn piece of padded plastic for the matress. There was a sink and a toilet. This was the first time, standing in there, that I thought, "Crap! If I wanted to get out of here, I wouldn't be able to!" From the edge of the bed, I could only take a few steps in one direction before I was at the door. Normally I would have felt clostrophobic at the thought, but I didn't. I can only count it as an answer to prayer to remain calm.
After sitting there on the bed for a few minutes I realized this might be my last chance to use the bathroom without anyone else around so I took advantage of it. Shortly after, the officer returned to finish up my booking. He explained that I can't take my own books in. No journal. No scriptures. No Sheri Dew book. I respectfully explained that the officer told me I could when I called to reserve my bed. He said all books need to be shipped in brand new from Amazon or another online company. He said one time a man smuggled in a lighter, burned himself, and is now sewing the jail for his injury. (I don't know what that had to do with my books.)
In the process of things, I asked the officer a few questions - about how big it is in there, what the day tomorrow would be like, how many girls are in there... He answered each one with, "Oh the girls will let you know. They'll fill you in on everything." I don't want the girls to fill me in! I wanted to know from him! He's safe. They are scary! I don't want to rely on them for anything!
The officer gave me a squirt of an awful smelling chemical and told me to rub it into my hair. It was to kill lice, "just a routine part of booking," he said. The smell made me want to gag, let alone to put it in my hair! He gave me strict instructions to wash it out in exactly 10 minutes. I hoped he would put me back in the holding cell and let me shower in the same room where I had changed - alone, but he moved me along to take me into the rest of the girls.
Not being able to take any of my books - and especially my scriptures - was like leaving a piece of my strength at the door. I needed those! For my courage, my reassurance, my strength, my perspective. I tried not to be heartbroken, now having to rely on only what knowledge I have in my head.
The officer handed me the bag with the rest of my underclothes. He took me down the hallway through a door that clanged shut behind us, making me walk in front of him. He unlocked the next door, let it also clang behind us, and motioned me toward Room 1. I was standing in what they call the commons area. There were 4 stainless steel tables bolted to the floor, a microwave, 4 open cell doors along one side of the room, and stairs that led to another 4 open cell doors up above, housing 2 girls in each cell for a total of 16. The room was small, but the two story ceilings made it seem bigger. There were 4 ladies, also in stripes, sitting at one of the tables playing cards. They shook my hand and introduced themselves. Then the oldest one, with long dark stringy hair asked, "So what are you in for, a DUI?" (I learned later that it was a compliment that she would peg me for a DUI. The ones that are in for DUIs don't outwardly show any major health signs - their skin isn't rough and they aren't missing teeth like some of those with other addiction issues.) I explained that when my baby was 2 months old I found her not breathing during a nap. I called 911 and did CPR until help arrived. By that night at the hospital, they were accusing me of child abuse.
The older lady flipped and said, "What the ** is up with that? That's all it ** takes to put you in ** jail?" As she talked, it wasn't even like she was swearing. It was so fluid and flowing from her mouth. They asked how my baby is and I said fine. I obviously wasn't ready to open up to these complete strangers about Bryer! Either way, even they were taking my side. I won't complain I guess.
A younger girl at the table said, "I noticed your CTR ring. I like it." The older lady said, "What the ** is a CTR ring?" The younger girl said, "Don't say that when you ask what a CTR ring is! It stands for Choose The Right... or sometimes they say Corrupt the Righteous!" They all laughed at each other. Then they pointed me toward Room 1 that would be mine.
My cell is small, plain, and has a sterile feel to it. A set of metal bunk beds bolted to the wall, a small metal table bolted to the opposite wall with a seat on each side, also bolted to the wall. The metal sink is attached to the toilet and there's a metal mirror that makes my face look deformed when I look in it. There's a set of 4 metal lockers right inside the door as I walked in. The only thing not bolted down is the trashcan. The cell has a door to it, but it's left open all the time and there's a curtain across the doorway to shut if I need to change clothes or use the bathroom.
I was happy to see that there wasn't another girl in the room with me! What a welcome relief! I had prayed that whoever would be my roommate would have a prepared heart and be kind. Does this mean no one is ready?!
On the table was a set of wool blankets, a sheet, pillow case, and a set of 3 different sized towels. All of the linens looked old and worn, some bare enough to see through. But they were folded nicely so I hoped that they were clean. I put all my own stuff down and took a look through the toiletries. A small tube of toothpaste, simple toothbrush, and a mini bar of soap. Hotel supplies, I kept telling myself. There wasn't any shampoo or conditioner in my pile though and I wondered how I was supposed to wash this gross chemical out of my hair.
I stepped back out of my cell where a lady was standing in the doorway of the cell next to mine, casually holding a book like she was pretending to read. She was shorter than me and had a friendly face. Her clean, dark hair was cut chin length on one side and much shorter on the other. I said hi and introduced myself. She told me her name, but that most people call her Dolly. She offered that she was in for a DUI. I felt awkward knowing right away what she was in for. (Do people in 'normal' life come right out and admit all their mistakes in the first sentence?!) I asked if she had kids, trying to change the subject. Her face lit up as she talked about her three kids and what each of them are doing and who they are living with now that she's locked up. For some reason the tattoos on her arm looked out of place as I heard her talk about her kids. She referred to her book and said, "The books kind of stink around here." Then she showed me a stack of books she had checked out from the jail library: Let God Be God, The Bible, and Small Sacrifices. I asked her if she had a religion or if she went to church. She said she was baptized LDS when she was married to her first husband and had 2 kids. She said she was the ideal mom back then. They eventually divorced, she was vulnerable, and she married a guy that was not a good influence. She switched to Christian Science and had another baby. When she divorced that man, she used her divorce settlement to buy a bar.
One of the girls interrupted our conversation and said, "You better wash that ** out of your hair or it's all gonna fall out!" Dolly grabbed her full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner to let me borrow. I found my way to the two shower stalls under the stairs, worried every minute of that shower that someone would walk in.
When I got out Dolly gave me a pen and paper to use until I could get my own, which is how I'm able to write all this. She gave me the rundown of what tomorrow would be like. Wake up at 6 for breakfast, then everyone goes back to sleep until head count at 7, then more sleep or cleaning.
It was really loud to try to go to sleep, but the noise wasn't the only thing keeping me awake. My heart was beating louder than normal. They never turn the lights off and I was happy for the option of a bottom bunk, just so the light wasn't 2 feet from my face the whole night on a top bunk. I laid there for quite a while trying to block out all the swearing and loudness.
In my prayer I thanked God for Dolly. Although she doesn't look like the girl in my jail dream that showed me the ropes, Dolly has been a blessing for me today - and I don't have to go farther than right next door to ask a question, because I am scared to death to go any further than that.
There is always something to be thankful for.