Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]
www.Hollybot.me From Surviving to Living Podcast
From Surviving to Living
(02) JAIL
Loading
/

I was arrested in March 2010. Again I heard the familiar questions, “What were you thinking? Why did you do that?” I had long believed myself to be the source of conflict in our family. Our family’s shared religious beliefs, strong convictions, and high expectations defined a good person. I was an unlikable failure who nevertheless cried out for attention and love. I was an embarrassment.

Have you ever let someone down? Failed to meet expectations? How did you feel?

Intake process at the county jail passed in a blur. Finished with my mug shot photos and fingerprinting, a female guard ushered me over to receive my clothing and hygiene. I slumped after her. Inside I felt cold and withdrawn, hopeless. With little interest I hefted the blue tub full of necessities now mine and brooded as she escorted me deeper into the building. Several times we paused before heavy metal doors with keypads, awaiting a buzzer entry before going further.

I felt lonely beyond all belief, too sad to cry. I felt I’d been crying for days.

The jail was windowless and quiet, able to house 264 male and female inmates (in separate areas). My eyes roamed the large room, absorbing the hard red cell doors and furniture, cold gray cement floor and the room’s 2 other occupants. Despite the jail’s large size and attempts at equal gender portioning, the men’s pods overflowed with repeat customers while the women’s single pod often lodged just one or two women. I located my cell and dumped my belongings on the bed.

I felt lonely beyond all belief, too sad to cry. I felt I’d been crying for days. I flopped on the bed and captured the wall with my stare. I memorized every crack in the cement blocks.

Life before this day had been busy, busy, busy, always on the go with five children. I lacked the capacity to achieve quiet calm. My body and mind raged against this enforced seclusion and isolation. I felt contained and constricted, empty and frozen. I wanted to act, do something! I lacked the power, the permission.

I lacked the capacity to achieve quiet calm. My body and mind raged against this enforced seclusion and isolation. I felt contained and constricted, empty and frozen. I wanted to act, do something! I lacked the power, the permission.

The next few weeks found me writing letters to my children, family, and friends. My family did visit, for which I was grateful, but I learned that mail, good old fashioned mail, is something special. Young women, old women, everyone loved mail, me included. Women born with a cell phone in their hand and never mailed anything in their life felt the allure of the written word on paper from behind bars. I, like everyone else, rarely received it but eagerly looked forward to every mail call.

Three months passed before my husband secured my release on bail. During that time many women revolved through the door of justice. Eliza was the first to demolish my immature views on life.

During that time many women revolved through the door of justice. Eliza was the first to demolish my immature views on life.

Eliza blew into jail two weeks after my own arrest. Initially high as a kite, the tall leggy blonde made quite an impression. Over the next few weeks I learned Eliza had been to prison many, many times. She had more children than I, most given up for adoption. Eliza stayed 2 weeks before her own release on bail.

“Would you like to play cards?” Eliza asked the room at large. With little else to do I agreed. “My fiance will be so mad at me,” she bemoaned, twisting the large diamond ring on her left hand. Jail rules demanded such an item be removed during intake, but Eliza’s hands had been too swollen to allow it. Threats to cut the ring in order to secure its release from her hand had been made. Anxiously she pulled on it, with no success.

Standing, Eliza began to pace. After only a few strides she relaxed. Returning to the table she retrieved her cards and threw out a king. With a distant look her eyes wandered the room. Ten years younger than Eliza, I did not feel a deep connection to her. I was unfamiliar with her lifestyle, although I sympathized with her struggles.

Christina arrived shortly after…even her eyebrows had wrinkles. ‘Tired‘ was a step she’d blown past in her desire to earn the merit badge ‘Awake for 17 days.’

Christina arrived shortly after. First impressions put her age at a worn-out 60ish. Deep bags under her eyes dragged the rest of her face towards her drooping lips. Even her eyebrows had wrinkles. “Tired” was a step she’d blown past in her desire to earn the merit badge “Awake for 17 days.” Someone told me Chris was only 40 years old; right then I made a solemn vow to never, ever do drugs.

Christina flung herself into bed immediately and proceeded to hibernate, occasionally accepting food, which she devoured like a ravenous animal. Ten days later she emerged from her cell, looking 20 years younger and feeling refreshed. I didn’t recognize her.

Another woman arrived, her face a mass of sores and scabs. I overheard her explaining her appearance. “I burned myself while frying food.” The woman next to me, aware of my naivety, leaned over to whisper, “Don’t believe her. That’s meth for you. She’s a picker.”

“What??!” I recoiled in horror. “What do you mean?”

“She’s been picking at her face. She did that to herself. Drugs will do that to you.” I dared to examine the new woman more fully, now sitting across the room playing a game. Her wounds looked nothing like burns. I wondered to myself. She left a few days later.

I’d already heard the phrase, “I’ll write you,” repeated many times by departing inmates to those left behind. I’d been quick to catch on that this was a lie.

And so it went, women coming and going, my new education rounding out. The day came for Eliza’s release. I’d already heard the phrase, “I’ll write you,” repeated many times by departing inmates to those left behind. I’d been quick to catch on that this was a lie, if a well intentioned one.

As Eliza readied to go she turned to me and said, “I’m going to write to you.” Surprised, I looked up, searching her face for the reason. At the time, the jail housed about 10 women, and I felt no special connection to Eliza. Perhaps sensing my confusion she clarified, “I know what it’s like to be locked up, how hard it is, how lonely it is. I’m going to write to you.”

Eliza seemed a stereotypical addict – unstable, unreliable, spacey. Her self-described life was messy and destructive. I would have thought her anything but a role model, able to do what others failed to accomplish.

Finished packing, Eliza gathered her things and left. Watching her leave, I wondered at her words. Eliza seemed a stereotypical addict – unstable, unreliable, spacey. Her self-described life was messy and destructive. I would have thought her anything but a role model, able to do what others failed to accomplish.

Eliza hitchhiked the two hour drive home from jail. Four days later my name was announced at mail call. Amazed, I slid open the large purple envelope to reveal a pretty card inside. Eliza’s loopy handwriting greeted me.

Over the next three months no one was more reliable, more dependable, than Eliza. Her letters and cards continued to greet me at least three times a week, every week, until I walked out the door. I was humbled.

Over the next three months no one was more reliable, more dependable, than Eliza. Her letters and cards continued to greet me at least three times a week, every week, until I walked out the door. I was humbled. I am still humbled all these years later. She consistently spent time, money, and energy on me. She expected nothing in return.

She was the first unexpected person to treat me thus. She would not be the last.

She altered my worldview, but not me, not yet.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Reflecting on the Holly’s feelings of loneliness and hopelessness upon entering jail, have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you felt isolated or confined, yearning for connection and understanding? Are you experiencing these challenges today and looking for help?
  2. The passage introduces the characters of Eliza and Christina, each with their unique struggles. Have you ever formed judgments about people based on first impressions, and how might this influence our ability to connect with others on a deeper level?
  3. Explore the significance of Eliza’s commitment to writing letters despite initial impressions of her as unstable. Have you ever been surprised by the support or understanding offered by someone you didn’t expect to connect with?
  4. Holly notes that Eliza’s letters were consistent and reliable, demonstrating unexpected kindness. Can you recall instances in your life when someone unexpectedly extended support or kindness, and how did it impact you?
  5. The passage explores the theme of unreliable promises made by departing inmates. Have you ever encountered situations where people’s intentions did not align with their actions, and how did it affect your perception of trust and reliability? Are you struggling today with issues of trusting others?

READ MORE…

  • BEFORE
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]Before my arrest at age 35 in 2010 I never thought about prison, jail, or the criminal justice system. Everything I “knew” I learned on TV. I really enjoyed news and drama… Read more: BEFORE
  • JAIL
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]I was arrested in March 2010. Again I heard the familiar questions, “What were you thinking? Why did you do that?” I had long believed myself to be the source of conflict… Read more: JAIL
  • WELCOME!
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]
  • BAIL, SENTENCING, & PRISON INTAKE
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]A year passed after I was first arrested in 2010 before I was sentenced and sent to prison. During this year I served 3 months in county jail, was released on bail,… Read more: BAIL, SENTENCING, & PRISON INTAKE
  • ORIENTATION (CHANGE, SHOCK & AWE, SUICIDE WATCH)
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]I have said I was unaware previously that I needed to change. What does that mean? I believed myself to be a good person or at least a person who understood what… Read more: ORIENTATION (CHANGE, SHOCK & AWE, SUICIDE WATCH)
  • A PADDED ROOM (THE PICKLE SUIT)
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]Suicide watch in Shakopee takes place in the facility’s segregation unit. While inmates are most often taken to seg for disciplinary reasons, suicide watch and health concerns are other reasons why segregation… Read more: A PADDED ROOM (THE PICKLE SUIT)
  • WoW
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]In October 2011, as I waited to be released from seg, I received a kite (internal institutional mail) from the director of Shakopee’s Women of Wellness program (WoW). She invited me to… Read more: WoW
  • General Assembly (Burning Rubber)
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]It is November 2011. I finished the WoW program and became eligible for the workforce. Nervously I checked my mail daily, waiting for a job assignment. I’d been fired from my last… Read more: General Assembly (Burning Rubber)
  • RING TOSS & DOPPELGANGERS
    Click to rate this post! [Total: 0 Average: 0]I began my job in General Assembly the end of November 2011. Also called Rubber, it was housed in a large warehouse building shared by several educational and industry job opportunities. There… Read more: RING TOSS & DOPPELGANGERS
Click to rate this post!
[Total: 0 Average: 0]