Sunday, August 24, 2014

#36 - Searching for a Purpose in Jail (Journal Entry from December 7, 2013)

December 7, 2013
I woke up this morning to assending notes, "Ding, ding, ding, ding...  Breakfast in 5 minutes," through the speaker in my room.  It doesn't help that everything is concrete, so it's echo-y in here.  I laid there wide awake, thinking I should hear the other girls getting up in the other cells, but it was quiet - Just like every time I woke up last night when the guards made their rounds.  I'm guessing it was every half hour that I heard the buzz they make with their tool on a button on the wall to electronically log that they were here to do bed checks. 

After five minutes of quiet, and me sitting on the edge of my bed wondering why everyone else wasn't getting up, the same voice on the loud speaker said, "Breakfast time!"  Then I heard rumbling and morning groans of not wanting to wake up.  Within a few seconds 10 toilets must have flushed all about the same time.  Seriously 10!  I laughed to myself.  So this is jail in the mornings... 

Ready or not, I walked out of my cell into the common area dressed in my stripes and had a seat at one of the metal tables next to another girl.  Pretty soon another girl joined us and I said, "Good morning."  She half smiled and pushed her hair out of her face.  The girls in the cells upstairs sat staggered on the stairs and some twiddled with each other's hair.  It reminded me of my college days of doing my teammates' hair for softball game days. 

Everyone had a plastic cup and orange spork except me.  I noticed a sign on the wall in big, bold letters "MANDATORY CUP AND SPORK EXCHANGE AT BREAKFAST EACH MORNING!"  (One of the guards mentioned later that he's seen a plastic spork filed into a sharp tool, so that's why they have to keep a strict count on them and exchange them each morning.) 

A new inmate I hadn't seen before pushed a cart of food in, accompanied by a guard.  "Good morning my apple blossoms!" the inmate said cheerfully.  No one said much as they lined up for food.  She gave us a bowl of bran flakes, sliced bananas on the side, packet of sugar, and a carton of milk as the girls mumbled through the line.  I grabbed my designated cup and spork as I filed through the line as one of the last ones. 

I had purposely found my place toward the end of the line so that when I had my food and was looking for a place to sit, I wouldn't 'accidently' take someone's seat.  I felt like I was in 6th grade again, hoping there would be a seat next to Dolly once everyone else was seated.  There was.  I bowed my head to bless my food.

When Jason and I were first dating, he was just back from a 2 year church mission.  I remember being at Wendy's and Jason and his friend blessed their food - right there in the middle of everyone at a public restaurant.  I was so impressed with that, that I've tried to do that also.  However, saying a prayer at breakfast in jail was new for me, and it made me feel like I was sticking out, as it wasn't something the other girls at my table did. 

Breakfast was a lot quieter than last night.  The girls weren't all awake yet for one, and I noticed the TV wasn't on either.  After breakfast everyone disappeared back to their cells to sleep some more.  I went to my bed to read "Let God Be God" that Dolly let me borrow, a story about Job from the Old Testament.  At 7:00 a voice came over the loud speaker again and called for headcount.  Dolly had told me that at headcount we should be dressed in our stripes and stand outside our cell door to be counted.  I had never taken my stripes off even to sleep last night, so I was ready. 

A guard came to the window and counted 14 of us and then waved.  That was the sign for everyone to go back to bed I guess.  Good thing Dolly had given me some paper and a pen and a book to read so I had something to do.  The silence was nice compared to the craziness last night. 


I miss my family.  I wonder how they slept, if they are up yet this morning, what they are eating for breakfast.  Today I will miss basketball games and giggles and getting the house and clothes ready for Sunday.  I will miss tucking them in and reading scriptures together and hearing the cute things they pray for.  I hope the jail can fulfill my commissary request soon so I can have my calling card to call home. 

A couple things have stuck out to me in the book I read this morning, Let God Be God.  It's based on the story of Job from the Bible.  Job lost everything - his livelihood, his family, his friends, his home.  Everything.  Yet he still remained faithful and counted on God to continue to help him.  The book pointed out Job 23:10.  Job says "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."  Gold.  Job hoped to come out on top.  Even after all he had lost.  He saw it as a test of faith.  If Job can loose a lot more than me, I can have that attitude too.  I still am just trying to figure this place out and know what in the world God wants me to learn from this experience.   

Another quote that stuck out, "...I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction...  I have learned... everything that has truly inhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained."  It's true.  The hardest things I have fought back from are some of the best memories I have, because of the growth achieved through it. 


At breakfast I noticed that 3 of the tables were full, but there was one girl who sat by herself at the 4th table.  I decided to sit by her for lunch.  I bowed my head to bless my food.  When I was done and looked up to start eating, I noticed Dolly at the other table blessing her food also.  I smiled inside. 

I got to know the girl I sat by today.  She has long hair and has a friendly face.  It amazes me how open people are here.  They have no problem sharing what they are in for, who they have 'on the outs' waiting for them, what they want to do when they're out.  A lot of this girl's life has been heartache.  Her mom abandoned her when she was 2 so she was raised by her grandparents.  She was molested as a young girl.  She described relationships she's been in and out of - still not really connecting that they were abusive and unhealthy.  From her point of view it was her fault.  She's moved around looking for right answers.  She's had 4 kids, which she finally adopted out.  She knew it was best for her kids to have a better shot at life than what she had.  I told her how impressed I am at her unselfish decision to let her kids go.  I can't imagine having to make that choice. 

I know that everyone makes choices for themselves and has to withstand the consequences, but when does an innocent child - at 2 who has a mom who has abandon her - make the switch from what she's always known - to a better life?  If you've never been taught, what helps one person make good choices and another go along with their circumstances? 

As I sat there and talked with this girl not much older than I am, I felt incredibly blessed for the family and life I have been born into.  I also learned a huge lesson,

Unless you have walked every. single. footstep. in someone's shoes, you have no idea how you would react in the same situation. 
This afternoon I went out for rec time outside with Dolly and another girl, the one who had made a comment on my CTR ring.  When it's rec time, one of the guards announces it on the loud speaker for anyone who wants to go out for rec to line up at the door.  I felt like a kindergartener lining up to go out to recess.  I didn't really realize what they were announcing before and being inside for almost 24 hours was enough for me.  We waited by the door until they came to let us out; then we lined up in the hallway so they could unlock the door going outside.  When we walked through the door to go outside, I had a lot of emotions hit me at once. 
I was now seeing the inside view of the chain length fence we used to drive by when we lived in this little town.  The girls said this is the only jail they've been in that they can actually see out beyond the fences.  And the people driving by can see the inmates.  I can see a little bit of what I normally see driving through town - the gas station, a car repair place, the landscaping around the courthouse.  I remembered driving by once when my oldest 3 kids were little.  Sawyr noticed some of the inmates outside and he said, "There's the bad people!"  I pointed out that they weren't bad people, they just had made some really bad mistakes.  Piper said, "Ya, like maybe they pulled their sister's hair!"  We all had a laugh. 
But now, here I am.  On the inside of this tall chain length fence with circular barbed wire curled around the top.  Innoscent.  And feeling a lot like Job.  Wondering what in the world God thinks I am supposed to be doing.  Why would God think I need to be here right now?  How can I make this a good experience?  How can I serve?  What am I supposed to offer to these girls?  How can I muster up a good attitude in the middle of so much ____________....  I don't even know what you call it.  It's a whole lot of jail is what it is!  People that have made bad choices.  Horrible language.  Loudness that I can't escape - and this goes way beyond my 5 kids being crazy.  So many sad pasts. 
While we were at rec, I got to know Dolly a little more and the other girl that was out with us. Most of the girls in here have kids.  This girl I got to know has 3 that range from 13 to 3.  She has long, pretty, curly hair and a cute face.  Her teeth show years of drug use, but that's the only outward sign.  She's learned to smile so that she doesn't show her teeth.  She got emotional, talking about how her daughter started kindergarten without her this year.  She's missing out on so much while she's locked up.  I can't imagine having a desire for something so strong that it would override all other common sense and land a person in jail.  What a powerful thing a drug can be to trick a person into temporary satisfaction and thinking it's an escape from real life.  She told about the plans she has to be a good mom when she gets out, to pick up the pieces with her kids.  She said her own mom doesn't write to her, but another friend of the family from her childhood does.  Her dad is a native with a drinking problem and split personalities. 
I also learned a little about an older lady in the group.  She's got an awful mouth and walks around like she's the boss.  She talks about jail life like it's 'home.'  Most of the stories she tells are all about her years and years in the prison system.  Then she mentioned something today about her son who is currently serving in another prison.  He has a baby on the way.  I just sigh.  It's an evil cycle.  It's so 'normal' for them to spend their life in here.  That's what they know of their own parents growing up. 
There's been some kind of drama or another going on all day.  For a while it was about the haircuts.  The guards were trying to find scissors that were sharp enough to cut hair, but with rounded ends that were safe enough to turn them loose with.  The girls finally settled on a pair of scissors used to cut casts off, with the flat bottom blade.  As bad as I need a haircut, I think I can wait.  :-)  One girl keeps her hair really short so they brought in the buzzer for her.  She's the 'guy' of the group and a few of the girls call her Brother, so that's how I'll refer to her.  She has a hilarious sense of humor, but way too much 'language' for me. 
The girls got into a discussion about what's okay and what's not okay in the shower - one of the only places that's not monitored by camera.  Brother was very opinionated about it.  Let's just say I will be wearing my crocs from now on in the shower until I get approved for shower shoes.  And I'm so glad to have my own cell to go back to when the talk gets to be too much for me to handle.  I will be happy when my commissary gets here with ear plugs! 
My highlight of the day was getting to go to the jail library.  (It's the little things, right? ha ha) I found the book The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball and a Book of Mormon!  I'd like to have a Bible to go with it, but just having my own Book of Mormon to read is great news!  It looks brand new and I'd like to write in it and underline verses, but it's not mine.     
Finding my purpose in here is proving to be challenging.  Usually when a friend of mine needs something it can be fixed with a delivered homemade dinner or homemade bread or a note with cookies.  I feel like I have nothing to give here.  And after reading the whole jail manual start to finish I learned I'm not supposed to trade or give away anything that's mine anyway, as everything can be used to trade for 'favors.'  I had a frank talk with Dolly about it.  She just laughed with me about letting me borrow her shampoo, conditioner, pen and paper.  Man, I would have never made it my first full day without her!     
I can only handle so much at a time before I just go back to my room to read and re-group.  I miss my family so much.  I want to be home getting ready for Christmas with them, decorating and making gifts.  It's almost easier to try not to think about how they are doing.  If I think about them, I get emotional.  And emotions are not a good thing for me in here.  No wonder girls in here get hardened.  I'm only on Day 1.   
I don't know why I am so blessed to be sent to the family I have.  I am humbled again and again as I learn about these girls' stories.  It's not just a story on the news of a lady on drugs that was arrested for meth.  Meth use is easy to hate.  Being a bad mom is easy to dislike.  The girls I am meeting have years of pain they never dealt with, or started out life without a chance to succeed.  I am not so nieve to think that people shouldn't be held accountable for their decisions, but how does someone break the cycle or jump off the rollercoaster when that's all they've ever known?!


  1. My feelings, when I learned you'd be going to jail, were ones of sadness and outrage. As I finished this blog post, the sense that you were there for a reason, felt a little clearer. It can be an amazing feeling, when you see or hear, the smallest influence, you recognize or are told, you have on another human being. Sometimes the lessons we learn happen at the same time we teach. HUGS to you and your family. - Paige

  2. Oh Krissi, is it bad to wish that I could watch this all on video? I just have such a hard time picturing you ACTUALLY in JAIL! -Carissa :-D