2 Jun 08
Women in Prison: From Lifer Renee (Letter 1)
As a teenager, Renee received a sixty-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. Fourteen years into her sentence, she is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona.
The voices of women prisoners are seldom heard, and I am unaware of any blog posts by females inside. I’m hoping Renee will continue to provide insight into her own life and the lives of women prisoners by becoming a regular contributor to Jon’s Jail Journal.
Hello. How are you doing? I hope all is well for you. I have thought about writing for your blog for a while. I was/am shocked and a little scared. I have attempted several letters to you, but I felt I didn’t know what to say. It felt planned. Not natural. So instead of trying I am just writing. With time, maybe I will feel a little more comfortable.
Yes, the woman prisoners are in orange. I’ve been down a while. 14 years. I’ve seen and experienced a lot. I feel as though I have been prison raised. I was 18 when I hit the yard.
You want to know what it’s like in a women’s prison? A dog eat dog world and you’re wearing milk bone underwear, and either going to eat or get eaten. The women are different from the men. The men are more physically violent, whereas the women are more mentally, emotionally and verbally vicious. While there are the few who will duke it out, the majority will just talk badly about you and try to turn the masses against you. I know because I live this on a daily basis. Even the officers get caught up in the ebb and flow of the never-ending drama.
When I speak of individuals that are legends in their own minds, I speak of individuals who believe they are “the ones,” the leaders of the people, the ones you should bow down to, run or fetch for, do this, do that. The ones that proclaim everyone fear them. They run the weak by playing on weakness, claiming to bring them up, but when their ass is in a sling you’re the first person to get thrown under the bus. The ones that will not fight their own battles when called out, but will slither around filling people’s minds, recruiting others to fight their battles, all the while claiming deeds they never really did. All just to feel like they are someone. When in reality no one can stand them. They are only legends in their own minds.
Most of the women suffer from something I call “princess syndrome.” They feel they should be catered to and everything is all about them.
The medical here is a joke. A couple of days ago I was at work (I have worked maintenance for 8 or 9 years now) and we were trying to repair the showers on 26 Yard (that is the close custody yard). We were replacing the moldy/mildewy shower tiles with stainless steel. We had three showers to do. Things were running fairly smoothly. We completed one shower and I was getting ready to cut the steel for the second shower.
Our boss came around the corner of the control room, yelling, “Wrap it up. Someone broke something on 30 Yard.” 30 Yard is supermaximum custody.
So we were rushing to put everything up. We loaded up my ten-foot sheet of steel. I saw the copper pipe lying under the truck, so I bent down to retrieve it. I came up and I ran right into the corner of the sheet of steel. My hand went to my forehead. The blood was running down my face. I called for Cletis my friend and coworker. I removed my hand. She saw the blood running down my face and started screaming.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! Somebody help her!”
My boss led me to the shower bleeding all over the place.
Somebody gave me some rags and paper towels for the gaping wound on my forehead.
My boss said, “Let me see how bad it is.”
So I removed the rag.
“Oh, you need stitches. Let’s go,” he said. He got on the radio, notified the sergeant and medical.
I went to medical with paper towels pressed to my forehead. The nurses cleaned the blood off, slapped a big piece of gauze on my head and taped it on. They asked me if my head hurt and sent me on my way. No instructions on how to take care of it. No tetanus shot. They did not even butterfly it with a bandaid. Mind you, I still hadn’t seen it.
I got back to my room and removed the gauze from my head. My stomach turned. I almost threw up. The gash was about two inches long and about a quarter of an inch wide.
I showed the yard officer.
“You need at least butterfly bandaids,” he said, and called his LT.
The LT called medical.
Medical’s response was they had done all they were going to do for me.
I was traumatized – this is my face.
A friend came over and taped my forehead together and told me the best way to take care of it.
It is healing now but without the help of someone off the yard I would not have known what to do.
Everyone was freaking out, but medical didn’t care.
I picked a piece of aloe vera from the U-gate to apply to it to help it heal.
All I could think of was, I have so many scars that run so deep. Now I have one that people can see.
Thank you for the pictures and the biography. It is so tempting and easy to get caught up in the drug world but the price that is paid at the end is not worth it – but we never see that tollbooth coming.
I am really glad you are not a perv looking for a hottie. That is so old and worn out. I can tell you after 14 years, I am tired, drained, beat. Yet I get up every day and try and start a new day. I continue to educate myself. I want to learn as much as possible. I try to grow from my mistakes. I try to be a better person. I lost my life but not my will to live. Although I feel beaten and battered I am not quite broken yet. The sad part is the fact I may never get to prove I have changed and have learned from my mistakes. I never really had a chance.
I love yoga. When I first came down I still did drugs to numb the pain. Then I started corresponding with the Siddha Yoga Foundation. I quit drugs and realized I really needed to take a good look at myself. I did not know who I was, who I wanted to be or what I was about. I couldn’t figure it out. I meditated on it for a while. I couldn’t figure out what it was I wanted, but I knew for sure what I did not want and that’s what I started with. The pose I am trying to master right now is the peacock. I love yoga. It feels as though it saved my soul. With yoga I am humble, centred and aware. I am thoughtful in my words and actions.
I hope to hear from you soon. Take care.
As this is Renee’s first contribution to Jon's Jail Journal, your comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated and shall be forwarded to her. If you would like to write to Renee email me your name, address, and a few sentences about who you are.
Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them below
Copyright © 2007-2008 Shaun P. Attwood