Renee – Only a teenager, she received a 60-year sentence. Almost 20 years later, Renee is writing from Perryville prison in Goodyear, Arizona, providing a rare and unique insight into a women's prison.
Since you last heard from me, I’ve been to a medical-offsite visit to St. Luke’s Hospital. I am ok. I’m just in pain and the medication I’m currently receiving, well put it this way, I’m asleep half to an hour after 5 pm pill call. I am on 2 doses, one in the morning and one at night. ADOC refused surgery for my 2 herniated disks because they did not want to be “liable”. So they sent me out for a “pain management” consultation for epidermal shots with steroids and cortisone shots.
Let me tell you about my hospital trip… Monday morning, it was finally cool in the cell, and I was sound asleep when an officer keyed the door and knocked loudly. “Get up you have offsite medical in 20 minutes.” My head was foggy from the medicine. I looked at him like he had three heads.
“Renee, what are you going for?” my roommate asked.
“I don’t know. I guess the pain management shots. I need to get ready,” I replied. Scrambling and stumbling over myself, I hurried to get ready. I made a room-temperature cup of coffee, and smoked to try to clear my head. I rolled a couple of extra smokes, and made a second cup, knowing I’d regret it in a couple of hours, but I drunk it anyway.
I walked outside, past the officer as he did not give me a time limit, as he is looking at his watch. I sat at the picnic table and breathed, attempting to calm my anxiety. The officer walked in the control room and got on the phone. I finished my smoke. I walked to the control box, and asked the officer “Do I go to the V-gate or the sallyport?”
He looked at me. “They’re not ready yet. Just hang out.”
I walked away thinking I only had 20 minutes. About 15 minutes later, the officer came out of the control box. “They're ready for you, go to the sallyport.
I walk out the gate to the sallyport. I greeted a female officer who really didn’t seem happy to be there. I stripped, got belly-chained and shackled and loaded into a van.
We stopped at San Pedro Unit to pick up another inmate. I waited in the van for the next person to run through the degrading routine of stripping down, cough squatting and spread them. The van door opened and I saw D who I knew from a recent training class a few months back.
Smiles crossed our faces as we recognized one another.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Great. Have you heard what is going on at Pedro?”
“No. What?” I asked.
“10 yard is condemned. We have had no air. The roof collapsed. We haven’t had a maintenance officer since I’ve been there. I heard there were 350 outstanding work orders.”
“Where did the yard go?”
“Well they moved 10 yard to San Carlos and moved Televerde, Women in Recovery and diabetics to 8 yard.”
“Are they going to fix it?” I asked.
“They said it would take six months to a year.” She fell silent as we were pulling into San Carlos Unit to pick up two additional women.
D recognized the women as they’d recently moved from San Pedro to San Carlos. D and the other ladies began chattering. I became engrossed with the surroundings outside the van.
Before I knew it the officers picked up their firearms and we were across the street at Santa Rosa waiting to pick up another individual for our road trip. The female officer was out of the van, looming impatiently. We waited for 45 minutes before another officer told our drivers the individual we were waiting for was being released that day. We began our trip. D went to sleep. The other two were chattering in Spanish. I silently enjoyed the surrounding streets that I’ve never driven on, stores I’ve never shopped in, new cars driving by.
Late for our appointment, we arrived at St. Luke’s. We unloaded and entered the building through the back entrance. We were escorted to a waiting lobby. I was so grateful to sit down as the shackles were hell on the ankles.
A nurse silently handed us clipboards and pens and about 10 pages worth of paperwork to fill out.
We filled out the paperwork, turned it in and waited. D was called first. She was in there about a half hour, and one of the ladies from San Carlos went in for about a half hour. Finally, they called me.
I was escorted to a room with just a stretcher. I was waiting for the doctor when a nurse came in, looked at the female officer, and said, “We have to clean the lobby. We have real appointment coming in. Can the other inmates wait in here?”
My jaw hit the floor as the officer said yes.
Not wanting to protest and have my appointment rescheduled I sat silently.
Then here came the doctor.
He opened my chart, confirmed my name, and stated, “I’m not giving you pain shots.”
“Wait, why?” I replied.
“See right here on your MRI. It states you have fluid leaking and pressing against your spinal cord. If I gave you the shots, it would increase that pressure and actually cause more pain. I’m sending this back and recommending surgery.”
I was blown back. I had two officers and three inmates with me in my doctors visit. I couldn’t even form a question. The doctor saw the last person, and we were off back to Perryville. All I could think about was “fluid on my spinal cord” the entire ride back.
Two weeks went by since my last visit to St. Luke’s. This last week has been stressful. Monday we heard we – 24 yard – was moving to Santa Maria Unit and that we would be losing our jobs. We were ok with that until Televerde got involved. Now because of my job I will be moving to Santa Cruz.
Who knows who I will have for a roommate, and what yard I’ll live on. Nothing, just uprooted from a yard of 192 to a yard of 800 because ADOC want to make this yard intake, closed and maximum-security custody.
Those going to Maria were excited because they thought the yard would be open, but no wait for it, Santa Maria has 2 yards. One yard is filled with DUI (drunk driver) minimum-security inmates, and the other yard will be the medium-security inmates from 24 yard.
The funny thing about it is you have violent offenders doing life sentences about to be housed on the same unit as minimum-security DUI inmates. Make any sense to you? It is funny to me because I believe ADOC forgot that Santa Maria is the very unit C.J. Acker escaped from by walking out the front sallyport to the parking lot, and she was doing two life sentences.
What I know is my anxiety level is high, but I have all of my belongings packed. I am just waiting for a decision, a bag and a bus.