Sunday, September 14, 2014

#39 Transfer Day and My First Jail Bunkie (Journal Entries Through December 10, 2013)

I like peanut butter.  And I like oatmeal.  But this morning I learned that I don't like peanut butter in my oatmeal.  The inmates that cook from the other cell block do a pretty good job of mixing things up in here.  I know their resources are very limited and they try their best to fix a variety. 


Some of the girls started packing last night, even though we don't know who's leaving.  Appearantly this is the highlight of the week.  Today is transfer day.  I've learned that each week some girls leave and some new girls come in.    Most everyone went back to bed after 6:00 breakfast, I got some quiet time for reading and journaling, and then after 7:00 headcount everyone was up.  Pacing.  Watching TV.  Filling up on extra coffee.  Packing.  Showering early.  Layering their extra clothes in hopes they can keep them at their next destination.  The tension and strange energy has been a little much this morning.  It kind of makes me tired and want to go back to sleep, but I'm kind of curious about it all.  Some girls are hoping to leave and others are really nervous about leaving.  I don't understand it all. 

This is considered a state hold for prison inmates.  (And I thought I was 'just' going to jail?!)  This little community wouldn't keep the jail full on its own, so they contract out with the state to house those that are fluctuating between rehab programs or waiting to see a judge, or a 100 other situations that they get transferred here.  So here I am in jail with prison inmates.  When we lived in town, I thought it was for inmates that were on 'good behavior.' 

One of the older ladies is really hoping to be transferred.  Her son is serving time in another facility south of here and somehow she thinks he's being transferred today too, so she's hoping to be able to see him in passing.  (Who is being transferred is kept so hush-hush, that I don't know how she would know he's being transferred in the first place, as well as herself.)  She said it's also his birthday today, so if she gets to see him, she will know there's a God.  (If that's what it takes to know there's a God, personally I think she's looking too hard.)  She's been pacing back and forth all morning...  Asking the guards if they know who's leaving yet and when they'll tell us...  Hoping she's getting transferred...  Hoping her son is getting transferred...  Hoping to see him...  Hoping to yell happy birthday to him...  Even though the transferring inmates are not supposed to talk to each other, she said it will be well worth the punishment to yell "Happy Birthday" to him.  I can't imagine so many things lining up for her to meet all her expectations, but more power to her if they do.  I'm just realizing again and again what a bubble I have lived in... And so thankful for my bubble! 


With all the talk about transfers, I really hoped Karen wouldn't be transferred.  She said because she's only been here a couple weeks, she should stay until she's ready to go before the judge again.  With that as the start of our conversation, we talked about being 'bunkies.'  I have to say that the tension of transfers is getting to me too - and I even know that I'm staying put!  What makes me nervous is having a new girl move into my cell with me.  It's kind of a toss up with what kind of girl I would get.  Karen and I decided to put in kites (the paperwork) to request that we share the same cell.  We both added on the kites that we'd like to move to cell 3 if it's available (so that we can see the TV from our bunks).  I just laugh at the little things that make these girls' day! 

By the end of the day I was approved to move into Karen's cell, but the girls in cell 3 weren't being transferred out, so we'll stay in cell 2.  The older lady got her wish and was transferred.  Brother also got transferred today.  I happened to have the Yahtzee game sitting in front of me at the table and she ran over and wrote on the pad of score sheets, "I will miss you guys!" over and over on half the score papers.  


I also got up enough nerve to put in a kite (paperwork) to apply for a jail job!  Kinda nervous about filling out a 'job application' of why I should be the... (drum roll!)... jail seamstress!  Really it just consisted of a paragraph explanation of why I want the job and what my sewing experience is.  After hearing the girls talk, they said no one in the block has experience sewing.  (What?!)  One of the girls heard that I have sewing experience and assured me 'job security' if I got the job.  They use strings and thread from their clothes for all kinds of things - hair bands, friendship bracelets, markers to use with their crocheting, etc.  As a result, the seamstress always has work to do - you know, job security.  I just have to laugh! 

The specific guard was finally on duty to approve my store-bought items.  I can't believe how excited I am to be approved for a few simple items!  Shower shoes... so I don't have to shower in my orange crocs anymore.  I don't dare shower in bare feet now that I know better!  CD player with headphones... Thank goodness for something else in my ears besides what I've been hearing!  3 CD's... Hilary Weeks in jail, here we come!  Pictures from home... Even just one would be fantastic!  Crochet hooks and yarn... to help me keep my sanity and give me something to pass the time!  At this point, the things I have ownership of consist of a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small deodorant, a small black comb, pack of paper, a few envelopes and stamps, and my clothing I came in with. 

Store commissary should come tomorrow or the next day.  Looking forward to my own shampoo, conditioner, hair brush, and hot chocolate mix!  By going through store commissary, plus the 10% store fee, 25% commissary fee, and 6% sales tax, these 4 items should cost me about $20.  And those aren't even name brands! 


The Captain called me out and asked me to come with him down the hall.  I've learned by watching that most of the girls get up tight and nervous if they get called out.  Not me!  I would much rather go than stay - even if it's just for a few minutes!  He took me through 3 locked doors.  All the doors around here sound like they are slamming since they are heavy metal.  We stopped in a room with a desk.  He scanned the shelves on the wall, looking for a specific book, and then handed it to me.  He asked if I would like my own copy.  I felt like I had hit the lottery!  In my hand I held my very own copy of The Book of Mormon!  I could highlight, add notes, connect references from the Bible... heck, I could do whatever I wanted with it!  Add it to my small list of things that are my very own!  My spoken "Thank you" was hardly enough to show my gratitude for his thoughtfulness. 

I also asked him if I would be able to leave my things here between 'visits.'  I don't want to have to buy shampoo, conditioner, a brush, etc. everytime I come and go.  He said that would be fine.  I also explained that I don't have access to call Jason when I leave.  Since it will be late when I check out, and more than likely will also be snowy, he said I could use the phone in booking, (You know, the 5 minute phone call each person is aloud to make when they are booked?) to call and let him know I'm on my way. 

Once I got back to my room I flipped through the pages, trying to remember thoughts that had come to me as I read before and couldn't mark verses.  Some of the first several pages inside the front cover were pictures.  Without even hesitating, I tore out the picture of Jesus.  I needed to find a place for Him where it was visible to me every day.  I need His example, His strength, His tenderness with me!  Like the hymn goes, "I Need Thee Every Hour."  I used toothpaste to stick Him to the wall where I could see Him. 

I marked in my scriptures part of 2 Nephi 2:8.  It says, "...there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life..."  I added in the margin, "Christ did not just die for our sins, but felt our pains and heartaches and sadness too.  He knows exactly how we feel."  I need Him and His atonement just as much as every one of the girls in here. 


Last night one of the girls asked if I wanted to workout.  It was kind of one of those moments where I looked behind me, thinking she couldn't have been actually talking to me.  Maybe I was mistaking the invitation for the girl behind me.  Not because I don't like to workout, but because up until now, none of the girls have really paid much attention to me.  I stick to myself, and if I need something I ask Karen.  There are a couple that I've talked with individually, like the girl who didn't have anyone to sit with at lunch.  (I have continued to sit at her table, and then Karen started joining us.)  I kind of just feel like a fly on the wall in here, which maybe is not a bad thing.  I'd rather not draw attention to myself.  But now this girl was asking if I wanted to workout with her.  Being ripped out of my bubble, I've observed long enough to know that she was one that didn't scare me nearly as bad as the other ones. 

As I write and think about how to describe this girl, there's a line drawn in my mind about her as a human being.  As humans, we have 2 parts.  We have a body and we have a spirit.  We received a body when we were conceived.  We gained parents as a result.  Our bodies are tempted with all kinds of things and we learn to overcome (or give in) to those things.  Our spirit, on the other hand, is much older than our body.  Our spirits lived with God, the father of our spirits, before we were born, as it says in Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee."  We are each given attributes, talents, and traits that are unique and will help us overcome the temptations our bodies endure. 

So as I have this line drawn in my mind, there are 2 ways to describe this girl.  By reading her body language, listening to her past, observing her interactions all could lead me to describe her outward appearance.  She has long, shiny brown hair and is a pretty girl, maybe 30ish.  She's creative with the hairstyles she practices on herself and some of the other girls.  She's missing a couple of back teeth, but not noticeable unless she smiles really big.  She makes passes at the other girls and talks about her girlfriend, but in the next breath talks about how hot the guy inmate is in the other block.  I don't understand it, but I also don't have to.  I'm not here to judge or try to 'figure her out.' 

What really intriges me is the other part of her being - her spirit.  There's so much good inside her.  The way she talks about her past is awful.  Things that no human being's spirit should have to experience.  Yet she has so much ... something.  I can't put my finger on it.  Maybe it's compassion.  She can't wait for Home Extreme Makeover to come on and she stands right in front of the TV and clasps her hands behind her and sways back and forth and bawls with the family when they talk about why they need a new home, and then bawls again when they get to see their new home.  She completely intrigues me - because people with a past like she has - watching her mom inject heroine into her arm or sell her body, seem to become hardened and emotionless.  They learn to put up walls around their heart and their spirit.  She has kept her compassion in tact - very obviously a God-given attribute.  And a lot of it.  She's not afraid to cry or show how she feels.  But when she talks, I feel like she doesn't have the tools to change, but her spirit's desire is there.  She's been through this system for a lot of her life and she's learned to survive.  With all the awful things her body has had to endure, witness, experience... all the poor choices, addictions, and broken family...



It makes me want to rewind to when these girls were little.  I want to take away all the pain and hurt and frustration and temptations they have had.  Start new.  I guess that's how God still sees them.  With repentance and turning away from their old ways, accepting Christ, they can be Moldable.  Clean.  Pure.  It seems like such a huge mountain for each of them to climb - and I'm not even in their shoes! 

So, we worked out.  We did lunges.  And some abs.  I just let her lead with as much as she wanted to do.  I haven't seen anyone else workout, so I don't know how much 'movement' we're aloud to do in here.  It felt good to get a little bit of physical activity in though. 


I got to sample some caramel popcorn tonight.  Yes, caramel popcorn in jail!  These girls get pretty creative with their items that they can order from store commissary.  It was actually microwaved popcorn with caramel ice cream topping squirted all over it.  I don't know if it would have tasted so good if I had access to other treats, but in here it was delicious!  One of the girls made it in the common area and offered me some.  Karen filled me in later on 'jail etiquette,' that if something is in the common area, it's nice to offer some to others, but if we take it to our room to eat then it's all ours.  Even though that's not what it says in the handbook (no sharing at all), all the girls seem to get along pretty well with etiquette.  Karen said she'd fill me in on all the jailhouse recipes.  (Now THAT would be a good Christmas gift from the heart, right?!) 

Other jail-isms that I've heard...

"I didn't get home until 11:00 last night!"  (which really means they didn't go back to their cell until the regular lights-out time of 11:00.) 'Home' will never be here.  I feel so sad for the girls that consider this their home. 

"Don't be walking main street looking for a fight!"  (Main street is the area right in front of the bottom 4 cells.)

"Who did the drive-by?" (Passing gas as you're walking by)  And in a jail full of girls, this happens more than I'd like to think and there's no escaping the smell!  There's conversation flying when the cooks bring in hard boiled eggs as part of the meal. 


In four days of being here, I have heard more hard core profanity than ever before in my whole life combined.  But there's always a silver lining.  Always.  Today Karen swore, like she often does, and for the first time - she apologized to me.  I never asked her not to swear.  I didn't tell her the swearing bothered me.  I didn't ask for an apology.  In fact, I am learning to really like her anyway, despite the swearing.  The apology was a nice gesture and maybe showed some growth on her part.  Most of the girls here seem to have a hard time looking outside themselves, and to notice those around them, let alone think of other's feelings.  I certainly didn't need an apology.  I don't expect people to change for me.  But for her to take notice and be sensitive to another human being's feelings showed progression.  Today, it just happened to be me. 

Tonight's Update:  After getting up the nerve to 'apply' for the jail seamstress position, I was denied.  (Who gets denied for a jail job?!)  I tried not to be too depressed.  Their explanation was that I am only here for a short amount of time.  I thought I was going to have something to fill my time.  Crochet hooks and yarn are a necessity now! 

Tonight I go to bed in my new cell with my new bunkie.  I'm on the top bunk now.  And since they never turn off the lights, I will use one of my socks to cover my eyes from the light that's 2 feet from my face.   My prayers tonight are gratitude for my safety, a continued friendship, and a sock.  Things could always be worse! 


  1. I'd like to place my order for the jailhouse recipe book!

  2. I would enjoy reading more recipes.

  3. I was finally able to "log in" through my account.

  4. I can understand how you get into a pattern once you are in jail and any little thing will disrupt it. Moving day has to be stressful for you guys and the girls entering a new environment. The girl asking you to work out may be a new door in your life opening for reasons that you don’t completely understand today.