I have now been "down" 85 days. In prison, we use the term "down" to refer to the length of time we have been incarcerated.
Basically, I have 85 days down and under my belt. I still have roughly a few more hundred to go.
I have adjusted (mostly) to having to shower, pee, poop and have my period in front of other people. In order to get by in prison you have to let go of all pride and dignity and suck it up.
Life in prison is not just about the loss of freedom; it's so much more than that. Its about the loss of all ability to make any decisions for yourself.
Prison is about having every aspect of your life (including your bodily functions) regulated and controlled by others. It is a systematic breaking of the human spirit and human will by completely degrading you until have no dignity left. The intent of incarceration is to get you used to being treated in an inhumane way so that it becomes normal and you leave prison broken and damaged.
There is not much here in terms of reform -- that is not the purpose. The purpose is to punish you in every imaginable way.
It's not enough to keep you locked away from your family and friends; you must also be punished by daily degradation.
Since I have been in prison, I have been subjected to humiliating strip searches where I stand naked and bleeding on the floor because I'm on my period. There is no private bathroom anywhere so you can never relieve yourself with some dignity, I have had my cell searched and raided and the piece of bread I took back from the kitchen so I don't starve at night has been thrown away.
I have been lied to by administration and denied acceptance into this RDAP program (one I'm now in because they lied about my qualification and I appealed). I have been lied to by numerous officers about my rights, and forced to ride the bus for 10-hours in handcuffs because "high-profile" inmates are not allowed furloughs. I have been called names based on my physical appearance and had to tolerate sexual harassment and highly inappropriate comments.
I have seen the prison take away the small comforts that make us feel like a human beings such as makeup or hair color because the male officers cannot seem to control themselves and have inappropriate relationships with inmates; therefore, it is the inmate's fault and the women collectively must be punished.
This is prison.
Right now I am in a Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) in Dublin, CA. I started out in a Federal Prison Camp but I am now in a real prison with murderers and gang members.
I am in this facility for the RDAP program which is the Federal Government's Residential Drug & Alcohol Program.
This is a 9-month residential program and it used to take place at both the Dublin Camp (for the campers) and the FCI. Unfortunately, the Camp is currently condemned and operating out of a temporary building and there is not enough space to offer the program. So, they are sending us "campers" inside the wall here to the FCI.
As a non-violent offender with a shorter sentence (24 months) coming into an FCI is like coming into another world. Literally.
It is like being trapped in a parallel universe that you can never escape. There are prison families, prison marriages and divorces and a weird set of prison community rules. There are 1,000 women here, so there is also plenty of prison drama.
Being here is surreal because I know that the real world exists, however, it does not apply to me at the moment.
I am here in prison with women who have life sentences (or more), in the world they built for themselves to live in....until they die.
We cook, we shop, we work out, we go to school, we bake birthday cakes and plan celebration parties.
Life goes on...even if it's life inside a prison.
This has been a hard adjustment for me because I refuse to accept this as the real world and I know my life exists outside of this prison. I am just here living in my temporary residence counting my days until I go home.
I wake up at 5 am everyday. I use the toilet, mirror and get dressed in front of my 2 bunkies (there is no privacy or pride here). Breakfast is at 5:30 am and I have to be dressed in my prison uniform to eat. If I chose to skip breakfast I still have to get up and be dressed in uniform by 6am. At that time, my bed must be made in military style and everything in my cell must be put away except for a Bible.
My cell is 12ft x 8ft and I share it with 2 other women. I have one small 3ft x 3ft locker and one under-the-bunkbed storage box for my clothes, toiletries and food items from commissary.
I try to work out each day from 6:30-8:30am, then I shower and get ready for lunch at 10:30. I start "programming" (prison speak for release preparation programs) at 11:30 and this class lasts until 3:30pm. There is a standing count at 4 pm where I must be in my cell until count is cleared about 40 minutes later. Then its time for dinner.
I go to work at 6:30pm for an hour. My "good government job" (as my counselor here says) is scooping poop for the many geese that reside here. I then wait in line for about 45 minutes to shower. Then its a 9 pm standing count and bed.
In my unit there are 200 women. There are only 2 microwaves, 4 phones, 4 computers and 8 showers for all of us to share. I have to wait in line to do everything.
In the evening, the phone line is 1.5-3 hours. The shower line is usually about 45 minutes. I also have to wait 45 minutes in our cafeteria (we call this mainline) to eat.
It is never, ever, ever, quiet.
Imagine the group of noisy obnoxious people in the movie theater. Now imagine never being able to get away from them. I have given up trying to have a relaxing hot shower in silence or to use the phone and actually hear what the person on the other line is saying
I cannot just extricate myself from a situation here when I'm irritated or want some peace and quiet. I am trapped inside my living unit except for when we have a "movement' which is for a 10-minute window where I can move across the prison complex. Since I only have 10 minutes, I often get stuck where I'm going until the next hour when I can move (this is why I work out so long). If I need to print labels to mail a letter, I have to go to education, then I am stuck there until the next hour when I can move elsewhere.
Most of the time, I am locked inside my unit.
This is prison.
But this is not my home.