Another Day in a Women’s Prison (Part 2 by Lifer Renee)

Renee – When only a teenager, she received a 60-year sentence from a judge in Pima County. Fourteen years into her sentence, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.

My day started at 4am. I got up from a restless sleep. Depending on who works the yard on the graveyard shift will determine if you get to sleep the night through. Tired, grouchy, not wanting to go to work, off to work I went. I took a ChapStick, cup, glasses, Sweet ’N Low, and creamer.

Me and Sara walked to the 21 area. Jokingly, we said, “Is it Friday yet?”
When we got there, it was like every other day. Our boss was late. We waited.
Sergeant Hart walked out of the yard office, and screamed, “I don’t wanna hear no lip. If I hear it, I will write you up, and you will lose your job. Get into the pit, and line up.”
Everyone looked slightly confused. We had hardly conversed amongst ourselves, let alone to any of the officers. We lined up.
“Now empty your pockets! Everything on the ground!”
We emptied our pockets. I put my personal items on the ground in front of me. Great, I thought to myself. Our boss already thinks we’re a bunch of troublemakers, and is completely submissive when it comes to the Department of Corrections and sticking up for us.
The sergeant was walking in front of us, looking at our items. The expression on his face was as if we had each put down a kilo of heroin. We looked at him as if he had lost his damn mind.
“Sarg, come over here and make sure they do not pick anything up.”
Another sergeant came over. Sergeant Hart went into the yard office.

Our boss finally showed up. We protested, our voices overriding one another.
“Not today!” he boomed. “I do not care! You are not allowed to have anything today, but a water bottle and Maxi-Pads. Take it back to the yard.”
We walked back to the yard, everyone whispering.

At the yard, everyone was staring at us as if we were aliens. My friends were in the smoking section.
I told them, “Just so you know, if you have anything in your room, you might want to take care of it, and don’t try to take anything to work with you. I think they may be shaking down the yard.” I dropped my stuff off in my cell, and returned to work.

Sure enough sometime later there was a call initiating a lockdown for quarterly searches. When I returned to my cell from work, all of my belongings had been dumped on the floor in a big mess. I had to start picking things up at the doorway.

We were locked down for the evening at 8.15pm. A guard went from door to door doing a formal headcount at 8.30pm to ensure that everyone was in their proper place.
The shift change from swing to graveyard happened at around 10pm. Around 11pm, when I was well into dreamland, I was abruptly woken up by the banging of keys on the door, so that the officer could see my face. Then again at 1am. I don’t know why they need to wake me up for a face-to-ID check twice every night. My cell was locked at 8.15pm and no one was let out. Sleep deprivation wasn’t part of my sentencing.

Click here for Renee’s previous blog in which she answered some of your questions

Click here for Another Day part 1

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Shaun Attwood


Anonymous said...

I would never stand for it, Hart and his cronies would realize that coming to work means they might not get home again if they didn't lighten up and show some respect. Fear dictates behavior and they often need reminders to never forget who runs the place, the inmates! At any time things could pop-off and become dangerous for all,from the cons to the staff.

This understanding between inmates and co's would culminate in more mutual and cohesive relationship that usually leads to the " I wont hassle you if you don't hassle me" attitude.

But of course this is just my fantasy world and as it stands , I wish no harm or ill will towards anyone. I think we can all agree that hostile environments with people who have a history of criminal acts or histrionics isn't conducive to rehabilitation.

I empathize with Renee and wish her the best.

Uncle Tim said...

It is tough duty. I admire you and can only say, stick with it. I guess you don't have much choice, except for the blog. I am interested in reporting on human rights violations. If you find some. please let me know.

Uncle Tim said...

Keep at it, we all want to hear your story! I am interested in reporting corruption and human rights abuses. Should you become aware, please letme know.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute..didn't you leave off where the warden lady came into your cell? I would like to hear some more of that!

Jon said...


You are referring to Farah Damji's guest post, that wasn't written by Renee.