Sunday, August 31, 2014

#37 - Finding the Goodness in Jail (Journal entries through December 8, 2013)

I woke up this morning feeling more refreshed than yesterday morning.  I must have slept through most of the guards and the annoying bell that rings to log their bed check every 1/2 hour.  After breakfast everyone went back to bed as usual.  I borrowed Dolly's Bible and took my Book of Mormon with me to a table in the common area.  I read and took notes for over an hour.  During one of the guard's rounds, he asked me if I was doing okay.  I assured him I was fine.  He said, "I just wanted to make sure.  No one ever stays up in the morning after breakfast."  I told him I was fully appreciating the quietest time of the whole day.  He chuckled and agreed with me. 


I know people who love to go to the mall just to people watch.  The mall has nothing on the jail as far as people watching.  I have been intrigued every day by what goes on.  Sometimes it get to be too much and I go to my cell.  I was prepared to try to give of myself in here, to teach somebody something.  What I was not prepared for is what I have been taught in two days.  Today was one of those experiences.  Jail is a good place to learn a lot of bad things, but I'm intrigued by all the good that's within these girls too. 

Today a music video came on of Miley Cyrus.  Some of the girls talked about how hot she was and talk in detail about parts of her body.  But then a conversation broke out that I would have never, ever thought these girls would have.  Hardened criminals, girls with more holes from piercings than I can count, crazy tattoos and sad childhoods.  One girl started by saying, "You know what my Dad would do if he caught me doing a video like that?!"  (Honestly, I was surprised to hear she had a dad that would care!)  More chimed in, all adding comments about their Dads - wishing they had spent more time with them growing up or wanting a father figure to teach them between right and wrong.  Some talked about how they knew their dad's stance on skipping school or getting good grades, but that they never discussed drugs.  Those that had dads that were involved, talked highly of them.  Those that didn't, wished they had a father figure. 

I wondered what their dads would say if they could hear their daughters talk about them right now.  Maybe they think they have failed...  BUT...  Do they know how much respect they hold in the minds of their daughters?  Do they realize the positive impact they have had?  (Even that they can continue to have?!)  Do they understand that they fill a need that can be filled by no other person?  Maybe they had their own rough upbringing.  Maybe they didn't feel qualified for the job.  Maybe they felt inadequate.  But whatever impressions they made - good or bad - their daughters, right here in this jail, respect them and love them and need them.  

Do dads of little girls right now know how important one-on-one time is?  Do they take their daughters on Daddy-daughter dates or talk to them about boys and good grades and drugs and modesty?  Do they take their turn to tuck them in before bed and hear about their day?  Do they know that by doing these things that maybe they can prevent the things these girls in here regret? 

Too often boys get 'assigned' to the dad and the girls get 'assigned' to the mom.  And maybe it's supposed to be that way.  I know I'm guilty of it.  But I hope I don't underestimate the relationship I also have with my boys.  And I resolve to better encourage that relationship between our girls with Jason.  Funny that an inappropriate Miley Cyrus video would prompt that kind of discussion and spark ideas in me of how to make improvements at home.   


The food was good today.  I learned that Sundays are brunch days.  And I'm a breakfast kind of girl - 3 times a day if my family would go along with it.  The girls raved about how good the food is here compared to other facilities.  Other places serve the same thing every morning - usually oatmeal or mush.  I get it - it's cheap.  Afterall, they aren't here to be rewarded for the things they've done.  But I also know how grumpy my family gets if I prepare the same meal for them even a few days in a row.  Today we had pancakes, peanut butter, syrup, applesauce, and bacon.  I learned that there's another block of female inmates that prepare the food, which is why I never see them.  There's 4 of them that  do the cooking for over 30 inmates as well as the staff.  It's a job that earns $7/day.  And in here, that's a lot!  Some of the other jobs only earn .35 or .40 a day, so to work your way up to the kitchen is a big deal! 

I have never been so excited for the guards to come in as when they brought commissary today!  They brought me a calling card.  $10 for 20 minutes.  I also got a package of loose leaf notebook paper, envelopes, and stamps.  There are 2 phones in the common area that we can use most of the daytime hours, but they are out in the open so there's never a private conversation.  After some frustrating trouble with my calling card, I finally got to call home.  I guess I didn't realize what was happening in me until I heard Jason's voice.  The whole drive up before I checked in I had prepared myself to be strong.  Be tough.  Don't show emotion.  Feel the quiet strength of my Savior.  I still feel like I have to be on guard, even though there hasn't been a reason.  I mean, this IS jail.  I'm so thankful for my own little cell so that I can relax a little when I'm by myself.  Once I heard Jason's voice, it was like my real life collided with this jail experience.  It was like he was here with me.  Maybe that would be comforting to some people, but it wasn't for me.  I wanted nothing of my family to be a part of jail.  I want them to be protected, be shielded, be completely 100% separate from what I am going through.  I talked to him for the first time since I left the house 2 days ago.  I left my cell phone with Jason since all the teachers, therapists, and coaches have that number if they need something.  I told Jason I was fine.  He asked questions, but it was hard to answer, feeling like everyone was listening.  I let him know that the guards are nice, that I have my own cell, and that the food is good.  That was about the extent of our 6 minute conversation.  I felt lonely as I hung up.  The anticipated phone call didn't meet all I had hoped for.  I wanted to talk.  Really talk.  And not from a phone that's attached by a 12 inch cord that's hard to hear.  Or worry about who's listening and where the guards are monitoring my phone call. 


Dolly has filled me in on the things to look forward to each day.  Sunday is church for those that want to go and it's also a day for visitors for those who have them.  The guard announced that anyone wanting to go to church should line up, just like we do when we get to go outside.  They unlocked the door to go out into the hall and showed me the way to the jail library.  Now I know why it's called the MPR - multipurpose room.  It's one wall of books and then a couple tables in the middle of the room that we all gathered around for church.  There's a TV and a DVD player that the pastor used to put a CD recording into that he recorded from his congregation.  We sang songs about lifting our voice to the Lord.  It was different than the Sunday music I was used to, but it was nice to be sitting with other believers.  There were 3 other girls from the kitchen crew that came.  It just hit me ironically that we were all dressed in stripes singing praises.  Strangely, one of the best feelings came over me.  God loves each one of us the same.  Just like I don't have 'favorites' of my own kids or love them any less when they do something naughty, God feels the same about us.  He loves us.  And He wants us to know it.  When we are good, when we make mistakes, when we are ready to feel it, or not, He loves us.  Today that love came through a pastor willing to share His time with a handful of inmates dressed in stripes.  It felt surreal and awkward and comfortable and strange and familiar all at the same time. 


Today was a visiting day!  I love having something to look forward to, but I didn't want to get my hopes up.  I didn't know what to expect, so I hadn't asked anyone to come visit me.  I was surprised when they called my name and announced that I had a visitor.  I lined up at the door, excited to see who it would be.  They let me out of the common area and took me around and down the hall to two metal stools separated by cinderblock dividers that sat in front of individual windows.  I sat down at one stool and through the window I saw two of my greatest friends from our little town.  I was so happy I wanted to cry, but I didn't want them to mistake my happy tears for sadness.  They both were dressed in their church clothes and such a strong contrast standing there in the lobby, compared to the place I had just come from where women didn't understand their worth, where they cussed like it was common language, where there was inappropriate talk about showers and music videos and ugly criminal cycles.  These two friends of mine stood in the lobby, just being themselves, not realizing what light they have that shines. 

I picked up the phone receiver next to me and felt like I was in a bad jail movie.  Mandy sat across from me with the window between us and picked up the receiver on her side.  The recording said that we would have 20 minutes to talk.  I don't remember what we talked about other than answering her questions about how things are in here.  What I do remember is thinking about how this all started 3 years ago.  When Bryer was in the hospital, Mandy started texting me to let me know she was praying for our family.  Her heart was softening.  She asked if there was anything she could do to help and I asked her to keep our seat warm at church.  She returned to church and over time her husband was baptized.  After a while, they and their three kids went to the temple together for the first time.  I remember thinking that if I had to go through all of this just for her, then it was worth it.  She is not perfect, but to see her on the other side of the glass in her church clothes, and no matter how imperfect their family is, they are making choices to do better and better, it is worth it!  She was coming to bouy me up, to lift my burden, to visit me in jail.  But she also reminded me, just by her being there, that what I am going through is worth it.  To see someone's life change for the better and accept the Savior is worth the heartache, the stress, the time away from my family, the legal battle, the money spent.  It's all worth it.   

Next my other friend sat down at the stool across from me through the window.  The Lord knew the two visitors I would need today.  I sat across from one of my most sensitive friends and she had tears in her eyes.  In one look I remembered that it's okay to have emotion.  Just being in here 2 days, I had lost that.  I was being tough.  I didn't let on that I needed to cry, and she blinked back her own tears, but I needed to see someone else with emotion.  Not hardened hearts.  Not an emotional wall.  Not fake words.  I needed 'real' and 'raw' today.  God sent me KD to see that.  I also don't remember what we talked about, but the message she brought was just what I needed.  My 20 minutes was up too soon and I returned to my cell rejuvenated and renewed.  I can do this!  Man, I can do this!  I am NOT here by myself.  I have people praying for me and cheering me on and supporting me. 

Only 2 other girls got visits today.  I felt bad and wanted them to have an uplifting experience like I had. 


The girls that are in here have been tricked - fallen into Satan's trap into thinking that what they have done is okay, or that they are only hurting themselves, or that it's no big deal, or that they are just filling a void of something from their past.  I don't even like to talk about Satan or use his name, but he is real!  He's sneaky and he knows us - our strengths, our weaknesses, our temptations. 

I've made a list today about how this jail is similar to the temple.  They are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but they have their similarities.  That's really Satan's most successful way to work - make things seem 'okay' or 'no big deal' or that it's 'just you' that you're hurting.  Then he lures them away to lock them up.  This place is like Satan's temple.  It's easy to tell the difference between black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.  It's those grey, shady parts he can trick us into a sense of false security.  It's not in huge, grand decisions that we decide whether we will end up in jail or at the temple (or anywhere in between), but in the simple, mindless choices we make each day that determine our destiny.  I am thankful for commandments and standards that help me stay in check of the things that matter most, and to make changes along the way. 

1. Everyone wears generally the same thing.  In both the temple and jail, a person must change out of street clothes and into other clothing.  In the temple the women wear long, white dresses and the men wear white pants, white shirts and white ties.  When I sit next to someone in the temple their social class, their past, their life at home is not apparent.  We are all equal in the sight of the Lord - men and women alike.  I have found it interesting that even in times when women couldn't vote or own land, in the temple they have always been treated equal to men.  

In this jail everyone wears stripes and orange crocs.  With the exception of either white undershirts or orange undershirts, everyone has the same 'uniform.'  For this reason, it's actually easier for me to be in here with the girls.  I would never want to look or act 'better than them.'  It's given me unique circumstances to serve.  If we were all 'on the outs,' they wouldn't be girls that I would normally associate with, nor would they with me.  Some of them have been homeless and most have had drug problems.  Some are here for domestic violence or burglary as well.  This gives me a way to be among them, get to know them, to see them (from my perspective as well as them looking at me) in an even playing field.  It reminds me that I am a human being just like them that makes mistakes.  Although I don't deserve to wear stripes for my mistakes, it's symbolic of the idea that no one is perfect and that we are each loved the same - mistakes and all - by our Father in Heaven.  It's also a way to see them as a child of God.  Without judgment.  Without reservation.  I would have never thought jail stripes to be a blessing, but for the purpose of serving while I am here, they truly are a blessing.  

2.  They run right on schedule and there's a routine.  Maybe this doesn't have as much spiritual insight, but it's true of both places.  Both the temple and jail are very orderly places.  The temple I attend has sessions that start every hour on the hour.  They run like clockwork.  In jail, meals are brought at 6 am, noon, and 6 pm.  The guard with the med cart comes to pass out medication at 11 am, 5 pm, and 10 pm like clockwork.  TV off at 10 pm every night by an automatic timer, and we must be quiet and in our cells at 11 pm.  Head count at 7 am and 7 pm, which is also the shift change of guards. 

3.  The people in charge are some of the nicest ones.  In 15 years that I have been going to the temple, I have never met a grumpy temple worker.  They are always helpful with smiles on their faces.  I can't say exactly the same of the guards - after all, they do deal with prisoners for 12 hours of their day - but they are friendly and respectful.  The girls have stories of other facilities that are not so.  I'll count it as another blessing that I have been able to choose where I serve my time, and that I felt directed to this jail. 

4.  If you are in the right frame of mind, you leave a better person then when you came in.  The conscience mind is a powerful thing.  We can actively change our situation just by changing our thinking.  I do know that there are places that make it easier to be a better person and to think positive.  And there are places where it's harder to make mental changes.  The temple is one of those easier places.  I really just have to go in being 'receptive' and the feeling there takes over to help me leave a better person.  In jail, it's harder.  Satan would have these girls think that this place defines their worth.  That change is too hard or not worth it.  He would have them believe that this is where they belong permanently.  But for those that choose the opposite, it can be a turning point in their lives.  When there's no where to go but up, sometimes that's when it's the best time for change to happen.  If they could feel their worth, their divine purpose, and know that God has a plan for each one individually, they would see that they can overcome this - that this is not 'it' forever, it's just a sentence to fulfill on their way upward to better things. 

5. It's cleaned spic and span.  The temple is closed every Monday for cleaning, and then usually twice a year for a couple of weeks for a deeper cleaning or small repairs.  Out of respect of it being a 'house of the Lord' it's kept neat, tidy, and organized.  The carpets are white and intricately etched by hand.  The chandeliers are beautiful and free of dust. 

Although jail doesn't have the same intricacies of the temple, bleach is used daily.  The guard brings in the cleaning cart each morning and each pair of bunkies (cell mates) are assigned a day of the week to clean top to bottom.  Each morning we clean our own cells also.  I'm happy to clean, as I have been warned of Hepatitis C, lice, and other sicknesses that other inmates currently have or have had in this jail.  Over the course of my time there, I heard stories of other facilities that had mold growing, they wouldn't allow the inmates to use bleach, they didn't provide plastic gloves for deep cleaning toilets, they wouldn't replace cleaning supplies when they would run out, etc.  In those facilities the inmates are more sickly and unhealthy than the jails and prisons they had been in where cleaning was a requirement.  Another blessing of choosing this jail. 

6.  You must pass through some things in order to be admitted.  To enter the temple, a person must have a temple recommend.  To receive one, they must be interviewed by an assigned servant of the Lord.  We answer questions about if we are honest in all our dealings, if we are living the law of chastity, if we abstain from drug and alcohol use, among others. 

To enter jail, usually a person must be in some rough circumstances to be admitted.  For whatever reason, I'm supposed to be here right now.  I'm willing to be used by Him for good.  I'm here and willing to make the most of it. 

There is one stark contrast that I can see clearly through all the similarities.  Jail represents hardship, misery, and a stopping of progression in every sense.  We can't walk through a door unless a guard opens it for us.  We can't eat unless someone brings food to us.  We can't even see what the weather is like unless the guards open the 2 windows that line up to give us a small view to outside.  And in a bigger picture, we can't overcome our mistakes without repentance and understanding our Savior's role in that.  That goes for a mistake as simple as snapping at one of my kids to one of these girls robbing someone's home. 

On the other hand, the temple is a place all about eternal progression - what's beyond this life, to see the big picture of things, to understand our role in relation to God.  The temple represents joy and goodness and fulfillment and unlimited, wonderful possibilities.  Just like a train track, it's usually a simple choice that changes our direction - and in the end, our destination is at stake - miles (and years) down the track. 


  1. I trully have had a hard time putting my phone down since I started reading your blog two days ago. I am so touched by your attitude. Thank you for being such a great example in more ways than you will know. Reading your blog has given me the opportunity to look at my trials and challenges in faith and removing fear.... Heavenly Father is keenly aware of us. He intimately knows us. Thank you for this reminder.

  2. Very interesting post to say the least. Closing my eyes and imagining being in your shoes was a real eye-opener for me. I tend to take everything in my life for granted, little things that a prisoner would give a years pay to do. Even walking outside to get the mail is something I bet a prisoner would be grateful for.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JR's Bail Bonds