Prison is not a place where you want to end up! And it's not always how the media portrays it on TV or in movies, according to some women. Although these women have done their time and have been released, their stories are powerful and make you realize what is truly important in life. And no one wants to live a life locked away...
Women Come Back For More Crimes?
“I was in jail for about 14 hours. The other ladies in my holding cell were all women that were arrested frequently, I knew this because as they came in the rest were like: ‘Hey girl, you’re back!! What did they get you for this time?’ ‘You know, same stuff, assaulting my old man….’
Also, a girl named ‘Pinky’ went into labor and I almost had to deliver it because the guards didn’t believe her. It came out in the hallway. If I hadn’t been arrested and knew I was supposed to be there, I would have thought I was in a nightmare.”
She’s Hoping She Never Has To Go Back…
“The best way I can describe it is like a boarding school full of every type of female you can imagine. I spent about two months at a facility with around 400 women, whose charges ranged from small petty crimes to murder.
Everyone had their own cliches that they kept too, but there was a lot of stupid drama. Try to think of the most troubled girls from high school, and then imagine 400 of them stuck together, in a place that is miserable, where they are isolated from their family and the rest of society. That’s basically the jist of it. But like any community, there are good people and bad people, and most of the time you can find a like-minded individual to make friends with.
The facility I was at had a huge library, pretty good food, and cable TV, so I considered myself lucky in that aspect. I mostly kept to myself and read a lot, and I never got into any fights and stayed out of trouble for the most part.
I met some really strange people and saw women who committed unspeakable crimes. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I had never seen before.
Overall though, my time wasn’t as bad as it could have been, and I learned some things, and hopefully, I will never go back.”
Spending Her Five Days By Herself In Isolation
“I spent a Monday through Friday in jail a couple weeks ago after some troubles from earlier this year. There’s not a lot I can say about my time because I spent the whole week sitting in a cell by myself trying to go back to sleep. No one to talk to and no way to leave, it was just me in a room with a slot in the door for food.
I didn’t ask for anything or attempt to communicate with officers because I ultimately just wanted to be as inoffensive as possible and not cause any trouble.
It was freezing cold, at least to someone who had zero physical movement, and there was no way to tell time. I counted breakfast and read, reread, reread again my paperwork stating how phone calls worked and when I’d get out.
All in all, I found it very draining. Mentally exhausting just trying to keep occupied while having zero stimuli. Jail food is not as bad as elementary school food was. The officer who released me seemed excited to have the ‘good job,’ that day, where he’s dealing with people who want to put their real clothes back on and get the heck outta there!”
“It Felt Like An Eternity
‘I spent 30 days in jail at 19 years of age (my 1st offense, but my mouth got my bond revoked so I sat there until my court date). It was horrible. The girls were beyond mean and the hygiene. In general, was lacking. Ironically, my skin got really clear because I had no makeup & I bathed as much as possible in there. The food was lukewarm garbage. We usually had cold grits and warm milk for breakfast, and bologna sandwiches on hard bread for lunch. I once traded a roll of toilet paper for a twin package of Dunkin Sticks.
Guards snuck me Jolly Ranchers & Snickers bite-sized candies bc they said it was BS that I was in there. Other guards had it out for me & would drag their flashlights along my cell bars to keep me up at night. It was too light, but I made a face mask out of a pad.
We used newspaper as rollers for our hair to get ready for church. I wasn’t in general population bc I badmouthed too many people, which was good bc I got to bathe separately from the other girls.
Overall, it was terrible! I was only in there for 30 days, but it felt like an eternity and it was shocking how quickly I acclimated to jail life. I wouldn’t wish jail on my worst enemy.”
Don’t Trust Your Jail “Friends”
“I spent a week in youth jail when I was 15. It wasn’t too bad because the majority of the girls weren’t in for violent crimes. After 3 days I’d made friends with the rest of the girls and that worked to my advantage later. About 6 months before, I’d been hanging out with the wrong crowd and I was gang bashed by a group of 10-15 ish girls for no reason other than I had become friends with one of their boyfriends.
The main instigator later ended up in the same unit as me and my ‘friends’. For the rest of my time there they proceeded to bully and antagonize this girl, I felt kind of bad considering she looked so scared and lonely but I couldn’t help but be a little bit happy she experienced a fraction of what I felt when I was attacked.”
They Didn’t Give Her Prescribed Medication, Then Profiled Her As Deranged
“I was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail at the beginning of this year with a day for day credit, which meant that as long as I didn’t stab anybody I would actually serve two weeks.
Same set up as most of the county jail pods described in other comments – common area with a couple tables, a TV and a phone, four sleeping cells branching off that with two bunk beds in each, and a bathroom on either side. I was a non-violent offender and I was in there for violating probation on a three-year-old drug possession charge, so I was put in the ‘honor pod’ where the addicts, drunk drivers, and illegal escorts got put.
My first couple of days were kind of a blur. I have a mental disorder I take medication for, and they won’t give anyone their meds in there, so the first full day was pretty much a 24-hour panic attack. I ended up sitting on the floor under the desk in my cell crying and shaking until a couple of the girls got me some water and hit the medical emergency button. I heard a guard come in and tell the girl who hit the button that I had to ask for help myself, and in my overwhelmed mental state, I flipped from total panic to total rage in .2 seconds. I flew around the corner and threw the cup of water at the guard, screamed at her that I needed help over and over until she left to get the in-house mental health professional to deal with me. I use the term ‘mental health professional’ in the loosest sense possible, and I learned very quickly why you don’t lose it like that in jail.
They pulled me out into the corridor to talk to this very well manicured woman who was carrying a cup of coffee and the smell of a cigarette I had obviously interrupted, and she was not happy about it. She talked over my attempt to explain myself, asking me what drug I was withdrawing from. And then she told me if I needed help so bad she’d be happy to put me in the turtle suit. When I said I had a mental condition, not a drug problem, she told me I didn’t really have it because she had worked with people who had my disorder and they were all messed up. I stopped responding and just stared at her, and she called me a lot of insulting names and told the CO to throw me back in my cell.
The rest of my time there was slightly less eventful. A pregnant escort tried to fight me, I read fourteen books, listened to life stories from other inmates that would break your heart right in two, stayed up late laughing so hard about stupid things that we had to bury our faces in our blankets so we wouldn’t get in trouble, watched a new inmate come in overdosing on drugs and screaming and picking invisible spiders off her skin while the guards laughed and told her to lay back and enjoy, had a CO poison my peanut butter for giving her too much lip, wrote dirty stories at my bunkie’s requests with dirty illustrations to go with that were passed all over the pod, had a power outage during a snowstorm, and, in some weird twist of fate, had one of my worst enemies put briefly in my cell.
Jail is crazy. I still hate the smell of certain shampoos and foods, and I can’t use the little disposable toothbrushes you get at hotels because they remind me of the two weeks I spent in that place. It’s strange because when it’s all said and done, I wasn’t in there that long, and it wasn’t really that awful compared to a lot of people’s stories. But sometimes I have these dreams I’m still in there, and I wake up completely rigid because I’m afraid if I move I’ll fall off the top bunk I slept on. More than anything, it is just absolutely, crushingly lonely, just this big grey box where your ultimately locked up with yourself, and all of your mistakes and terrible life choices, with nothing to distract you from the fact that you put yourself there.
1/10 would recommend. Keep your noses clean, ladies. Jail sucks.”
The Correctional Officers Won’t Always Treat Inmates With Respect…
“I spent time at ORW. Hale was dehumanizing and disgusting. The male Correctional Officers would go into the shower area and watch you undress and shower. This was not for safety. I ended up finishing my time out in the basement of the original building which was full of black mold, cockroaches, and who the heck knows what else.
Yes many, many women turned ‘gay for the stay.’ I’m guessing to feel protected or out of boredom…I’m sure they all had unique reasons.
Since ORW was the only main prison for women in Ohio at that time it was a mixture of min to max security. Also at that time, they were shutting down mental health facilities left and right because I guess those jerks at the DOJ didn’t think our prisons would fill up so fast. You know because mental health accounts for 0 of criminal activity. DERP. That was an especially stressful and horrifying time for both inmates and I would think the correctional officers. I’m sure the CO’s had very little if any training in dealing with severely mentally ill inmates.
I was never harassed by the inmates. I’m guessing because I kept to myself, talked to almost no one, and read about every waking minute. Some of the CO’s, however, were really terrible human beings. I understand it’s not supposed to be a vacation but the way they treated you like rabid animals and degraded you to the point where death sounded refreshing, was absolutely ridiculous and not the way you go about rehabilitating people. Women especially.
Luckily I only had 11 months in that dilapidated cesspool run by mostly psychotic men with control issues. Medical was an even bigger joke. At that time statin drugs were the new craze and that thing they labeled a doctor had a hard enough time using pen and paper…
So my advice, since our justice system is so perfect, is if you find your life has been handed over to the state, any state I’m sure, try to stay healthy, aware of your surroundings and read for fun and education….”
A Truly Awful Experience To Both Live And Witness…
“I got locked up in women’s prison when I was 21. When you first get there they ask if you’re addicted to anything. If you said benzos or alcohol, they dosed you up with 4mg of Klonopin a day. Anyone who’s been there before knows this, so for the first 2 weeks when I was in the drug treatment area (for other things, I didn’t know about the Klonopin) things were very chill.
There were a few verbal fights, but kind of a camaraderie between the women like, ‘We’re all just addicts trying to get through this together.’ We had groups and AA, it was a daily thing for all (which was most except me) the women with children to break down crying about missing them and how they’d literally anything for their kids now that they’re sober. You were in a trailer with 2 floors. There were rooms with 4 bunks in them and a community bathroom with individual showers. A lot of hooking up in the bathroom stalls and showers.
There was a microwave you could sometimes use and access to hot water to make noodles and coffee. They gave out stamps paper and pens to write home if you asked and gave you pads, one roll of toilet paper, horrible shampoo/soap and toothbrush/paste. During rec time you could walk around the compound, but there were also classes like yoga, AA, Zumba, gym, library, etc.
After 2 weeks there, I got moved to the maximum security part. Here you were in a high tech building with one bunk in each room and locked in for most of the day. Or else you could go in the community room and watch tv a few hours a day. No more access to hot water.
Women who didn’t pay a fine were locked up with baby abusers, they were the most shunned. One baby abuser attacked me because she asked for my oatmeal I wasn’t eating.
No more classes of any kind. You had to be there for over 5 years to be put in the trailers by where the drug program was. They even had dogs and could go to the library and pick out books instead of just picking from books left behind. I saw a girl almost die while she was getting her face smashed into a metal door frame. There were a lot of fights. It really was awful.”
The Days Seem Very Long And Lonely…
“Unfortunately I have been to Women’s jail numerous times and Prison once. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid 30’s. Prior to that, the only knowledge of jail or prison was what I saw on TV. I am a drug addicted and I suffer from Bi-Polar II. I started using drugs when my mom committed ended her life. I was a mother of 2 young boys, who were very active. I used to keep up with our hectic schedule and my overcommitting nature. I didn’t want to feel just go through the motions. Very quickly those motions began to involve criminal behavior and thinking. Which at first was very foreign to me.
I went to a Lutheran school through College. I was a goody-goody, however, drugs turned me into a different person. Well, I am an overachiever. If you are gonna do something go big or go home. Well, I did. My first time in jail I was being held for residential burglary. I really had no clue what that meant. I don’t remember the first 5 days in jail. I had taken like 10+ nannies and was high on drugs.
When I finally came to it was a sobering moment. I was being housed in 2 man cells. We were on 22-hour lockdown, which meant we only got out of our tiny cells for 2 hours a day. Those two hours could be any time. I was going crazy. I was freezing, it was so cold in there. I missed my kids to where all I did was cry. When we did get to use the phone it was too late or too early to get to talk to the kids. All I could do to take my mind somewhere else was to read. I met have read at least 2 books a day. Meals suck. Breakfast is like at 4:30 am. Lunch at 11 and dinner at 4:30 pm. By the time it hits 7 I was starving. Thank God I had a supportive family who put money on my books to I could buy commissary. A ‘store’ which had ramen, chips, honey buns, coffee and candy. It was the only piece of the outside world that we had. The deputies were totally ruthless and power hungry. If you crossed them the wrong way it wasn’t out of the ordinary to get pulled to a zone where the cameras didn’t record. I didn’t mess around. The hard part is that there are so many rules and procedures you kinda learn as you go. Well on top of everything you also get taken to court. Court days suck. You are taken downstairs at like 4:45 am and get on a bus with the men also and drive to your courthouse where you are searched and placed in another cell. The day is exhausting. Girls are coming back crying because they got 5 days. Well, I wasn’t one on the lucky ones. I was going to prison 2 years plus a strike. I would only do a year of the 2.
A year away from my kids and family, in prison, me? I didn’t want to go. I would stay in lockdown for 22hours a day for a year if I didn’t have to go. Well let me tell you, of course, it was scary! Prison is supposed to be but I would rather do time in prison over County any day. I was housed in an 8 man room. 5 of my roommates were lifers. I googled them when I got out and they all were in for murder. My roommates whom I eventually grew to love were murders.
I worked, I went to a drug program. We could be outside all day, go to church, workout, it was our time. Meals were amazing. Most of the time my roomies would cook and it was better than some restaurant food. The CO’s were cool as long as you weren’t breaking some major rule. In prison, the prisoners run things, not the CO’s, whereas in jail the deputies do. I got out 6 weeks early because I was in the drug program and am happy to say have never been back. That is to prison. I have been to jail steady 3 more times and believe me it is a lonely place to be. For the most part, there is a bonding that does occur with the women, which is a saving grace.”
They Got To Watch TV In Bed All Day?
“I was in jail for 10 days following an extreme DUI. I had had acl repair surgery a whole two days before being committed (my lawyer swore they wouldn’t take me). I ended up (after a very confusing game of ‘where do we put her?’) in the infirmary for my time because my knee brace and crutches had metal. I was supposed to be on the work release program (work during the day, come back to jail at night) but you have to be a part of the general population for that. I told them I didn’t need the Vicodin (can’t take it at gen pop) and that I’d do whatever I needed to get out of the infirmary. They pretty much just string me along until I gave up the notion that I’d get moved to gen pop. After that, my time went pretty quick. We were locked up in one big room that one side was just a glass wall that looked out at the main area where the guards were. There was a small tv in the room that I got lucky and got the bed right underneath. I think we even had satellite tv! We literally watched tv and laid in bed all day. We had a bathroom and two sinks. I think there was 4 beds in there altogether.
My only constant roommate was this sassy younger pregnant black woman who was in there because she had to take the methadone (??) pills so her baby wouldn’t go into withdrawal (or something like that, please correct me if I’m wrong). She was super nice and told me some great stories. She also offered me a bunch of food, but jail killed my appetite so I usually ended up giving her all my leftovers. On Friday we got a cola and a package of grandma’s cookies for ‘being good’ all week. We were locked in the room for 23 hours a day and got 1 hour of free time. In this time I showered, called my family & husband, and exchanged my books.
There was also a hot water heater if you had stuff from the commissary. The guards took a liking to me (I guess I’m a bit of an outlier as far as prisoners go: tall, blonde, well educated, not a junkie, etc) and were very helpful when it came to my knee. They would bring me ice, more blankets so I could prop my knee up, trash bags and duct tape for showering. I was very polite and respectful to them and in turn, they reciprocated. They loved to come and chat with me and the pregnant girl to kill time.
I got to see them get pretty angry at this one lady though. She had been in general population and never told them she was a junkie. She ended up having a seizure and was brought to the infirmary. She would get up, pound on the door and when one of them would come over she’d just ask a ridiculous question or say she wasn’t feeling good, etc. they kept telling her to lie down in bed because the doctor would check on her like once an hour or something. 5 minutes later she’s back pounding on the door. They ended up threatening her with segregation which is literally just a bed and a toilet. She would lay on her bed just screaming, ‘Help I hurt!’ They were like, ‘Yeah, no duh, you’re detoxing.’ She ended up faking a seizure and they moved her.
All in all it was a very boring experience for me. My only exercise was crutch in laps around our room. The constant pain was horrible and I had a hard time sleeping but it’s an experience. Also, my time was cut down from 6 months to 10 days because I spent 9 months in rehab.”
And This Is Why You Should Avoid Drugs All-Together….
“Back in 2014, I spent 36 days in the county jail on a contempt charge. I, unfortunately, had jumped aboard the drug bandwagon that has been riding around my town which led to my brief stay at the County Inn.
When I first arrived I was led to a large room lined with cells and an elevated platform with a half wall surrounding it taking up the center of the room (this is where the Correctional Officers sat to monitor the area and watch the security cameras). They asked me a dozen or so questions about who I was and why I was there. One question being if I was going to be experiencing any sort of withdrawal, which I stupidly admitted to thinking that they would help me in some way. Boy was I wrong. After being booked I was given an orange jumpsuit that was made out of a rough canvas material and a pair of worn down orange Crocs that were about 3 sizes too big for me (I told them I wore a size nine, I guess I should have specified that was a woman’s size nine). I was led to a bathroom and was told to strip down to my underwear and wait. After standing there for awhile a metal door about 3 foot by 3 foot opened to reveal an older woman. She kinda looked me up and down and asked if I knew I was coming there today. I replied that I didn’t. She explained that she could tell I didn’t based on my undergarments. Pretty much the only undergarments acceptable there had to be white and cotton and no underwire bras. Thankfully this lady was kind and allowed me to keep my purple laced underwear and dug through some old ‘whites’ that previous inmates had left and found me a t-shirt that was about a size too small and stained with sweat.
After that, I handed my street clothes and shoes over and they were placed in a bin with the rest of my belongings that I was arrested with. In return I was given a plastic tote with a rolled up 3 inch thick foam mattress, a thin brown microfiber blanket, a ‘fitted’ sheet so worn down and thin that it was pretty much just a large Kleenex, a roll of toilet paper, a small styrofoam cup, and small toothbrush, and a small hotel size bar of soap.
I was led down a maze of hallways to one of the two cell blocks in the jail. The cell block was shaped like an octagon with eight cell pods surrounding a central unit where the CO’s sat monitoring the pods through the huge two way mirrors that separated the pods and the guard area. Once in the pod you do not leave unless you have court, a meeting with your lawyer, GED class, or ‘church.’ Each pod was in a trapezoid type shape with the longest sidelined with 8 cells with two bunks and 2 cells with 4 bunks which were divided into two levels (5 cells on the ground floor and 5 cells upstairs with a walkway with rails). One of the shorter walls of the pod had three open showers built into it with shower curtains so revealing you might as well just leave it open so you didnt have to hang it back up half a dozen times while you were showering. Along with the showers was a toilet that literally no one used unless it was an emergency and you couldn’t hold it until your cell was opened.
In the center of the pod was three long steel tables bolted to the cement ground with about ten little uncomfortable round stools attached to the table. On a metal shelf about ten feet up, was a small 19-inch TV with about 5 of the basic cable channels for our viewing pleasure. That TV was the source of so many fights in our pod that it probably was only ever on for about 2 hours total in a day.
My experience there was very eye opening and scary for me as far as addiction goes. At this point I had only been using for less than a year, so I fortunately had not gotten too deep into it yet. I would say about 4 out of every five women who came through the pod was already withdrawing from hard drugs or was about to. The scary part of being there for me was with each woman I talked to about addiction, it was like I was looking at my future if I didn’t get my life together. From stealing, to shoplifting, to selling their bodies, to never seeing their kids, and the stories of everything terrible and screwed up they did to get their fix.
The first week I was there was absolutely terrible, going through withdrawal. The only way to get tylenol or anything to relieve the pain was through commissary, which could only be ordered on Sundays and would be delivered on the following Saturday. However, the one good thing about everyone there being an addict was that they were all more than willing to comfort you in most any way they could while you were sick. For the first two weeks I was there I was in a two person cell on the first floor with this middle aged woman who just cried and cried about how much she missed her boyfriend and how she shouldn’t be there (She was serving 21 days for like her 9th time being caught driving without a license). Luckily after that I was sent to the top level into the 4 person cell. Which at first sounded miserable, but it was actually quite nice. A lot more space, more interaction.
I have been clean from all hard drugs since my arrest. Jail sucks, try to avoid it.”
A Girl Tried To Fight Her Over A Candy Bar?
“I spent 2 months in a county jail, (a couple times in different jails. I was very dumb in my early 20s..) among my charges I was jailed for were a failure to appear in court for driving an unregistered vehicle (long story), shoplifting from freakin’ Claire’s, contempt of court for not paying fines for my possession of drug charge (that was the longest stay at 59 days).
Really the only way I could describe it was like living in a girls only low-income area middle school. I personally found a few other white girls who were semi-normal and in there for minor things like DUI, underage drinking, and one girl was super naive and was talked into writing out a check to herself from her roommate’s checkbook to pay bills. She was 19 and had never smoked a cigarette, or touched drugs or alcohol. She was a sweetheart and told me everything there is to know about Johnny Depp.
My first week or so there was rough, I was rooming with some pretty mean ghetto chicks. (I am a 5’0 ~100 lbs girl) one girl stole my Butterfinger I bought with the tiny amount of commissary I had. So I confronted her and she tried to fight me. Even though I clearly saw the freakin’ wrapper in her bunk she denied taking it.
Anyway, I told the guard I didn’t feel safe in that room so she moved me in with the 19-year-old. We actually ended up having a lot of fun! It was like a sleepover every night. Then some crazy druggie girl moved in with us too. She was out of her mind but entertaining nevertheless.
I mostly just read lots of books (28 total) and hung out with the few people I found to be normal there. I still talk to a few of them, actually. It’s definitely not a place I ever want to go again, but I’m glad I was able to find a few like-minded people and get through it.
The worst part was that gap of time between dinner and breakfast, and when you don’t have money for commissary it’s tough watching everyone else eat their snacks. But my friends always shared with me.”