Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky, during 2008 and 2009, in jails and in prison, that is reconstructed from my notes.
Frog Gravy contains graphic language and descriptions.
Worry not; I got the proper permission before I wrote this over-the-top, hella fuckin’ balls-to-the-wall post.
We figured what the heck, everyone knows everything else about our private life anyway…
The Gift That Keeps On Giving, McCracken County Jail, Paducah, KY, shortly before my transfer to Ricky’s World, Winter, 2008
As you can see from this reply letter that I received from the State of Kentucky, McCracken County Jail is classified as a ‘Class D’ facility, which means that Class D nonviolent, final-sentenced State inmates qualify to serve their entire sentences in such a facility.
The jail receives money for housing Class D nonviolent offenders. There are supposed to be programs, such as work, education and treatment, but in reality, when I was there, I had no work. I even got kicked out of drug class for writing letters to everyone I could think of in Frankfort, Washington DC, and other places complaining about jail conditions and the warehousing of Class D female offenders. Ironically, Frog Gravy would not exist, had I had a job. But since I didn’t, and the men did, I had a glorious opportunity to get a good look at the occasional penis that wandered by the window to the hallway, belonging to a Class D working male who happened to be pushing a broom or a mop.
One such male, let’s call him Greg, had sort of a crush on me, and so one day he wanted to show me his wares. He paused his mopping for a moment at the hallway window, garnered my attention, glanced at the cameras, and then yanked down his orange jailhouse khaki pants a little ways to reveal a very nice, circumcised erection.
By the way, those hallway cameras do not show the sides of the hallway. Or the floor next to the cell doors. In fact, I wonder what they actually do show and who watches them, because we got to see quite a few penises off camera. The guy in the broom closet down the hall, for example, who had a crush on Christie, and who was also a talented author, penned the following description for Christie and swept the note with the description under our door, off camera, in case she missed the view. It said:
Make a fist with your left hand. Okay, now make a fist with your right hand. Place your right fist on top of your left fist. Now, extend your right thumb straight up into the air. That’s how long it is. And the fists? That’s how thick it is…
“Nice,” I said, when she showed me the note. “Corn fed and nuclear-plant bred.”
So anyway, Greg is at the window showing off his erection and I say, “Hey Christie, check this out.”
“Nah, he’s got the crush on you, not me,” she says.
“Okay, but check it out. This guy isn’t even in the ballpark with my husband. Limp, even. Not even close. Thickness. That too. Look him up on Google Earth when you get home.”
So now, we are both looking and smiling but Greg does not know why we are smiling; he is just glad that we are.
On the subject of cameras, next time you visit WalMart, count the cameras. WalMart has more cameras than a prison. I swear to God. Probably not as many erect penises, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch. If I had a ranch.
So I got kicked out of drug class in jail. Can you even imagine such a thing? But it’s true. For writing letters. I was told that no one cares, and no one reads the letters, and I was kicked out of jail drug class. But it turns out they did read the letters, because one day, a woman visited from Frankfort to speak to us in our cell about jail conditions. I will not print her words, but she was serious. Maybe it was the pregnancy disaster letter. I am not sure.
Because of my letters, my days in McCracken were numbered. One day, a woman from the judge’s office arrived with some paperwork. She handed me the papers as if she were handing something to a coiled rattlesnake. She smelled like cigarettes. She said, “I am giving these papers to you because you do not have a lawyer anymore and you are going to be going to Fulton County.”
Apparently, the judge had taken away my legal representation. It was just as well because my lawyer, Chris McNeill, was about as useless as a screen door on a submarine, but still.
The woman says, “I spoke to your husband.”
“Well good!” I say. “He’s nicer than me. When is the brief due?”
“I don’t know.”
“Yeah, you do,” I say.
You may be wondering what sort of letters would cause people to do such things with an inmate?
Well, here is an example. This one is to Professor Robert G Lawson at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Governor Beshear and others received the same or similar letters. Blockquoted due to dead camera batteries; I will take a photo when I can.
April 26, 2008
Robert G Lawson, Professor
U of KY College of Law
620 S. Limestone
Lexington, KY 42003
Dear Professor Lawson:
I have written before, regarding inhumane conditions in jails and regarding corruption in courts.
While we had a very nice chat with Tracey Montardier (Frankfort), nothing has changed. Only 5 women are working in this Class D designated facility. Only FIVE. Only in laundry. No women work outdoor jobs. “Understaffing” is the excuse. Class D women are nothing more than warehoused revenue units. We rarely leave our grave-like cement cell.
Had I killed someone, or committed a violent crime, I would have all the privileges of penitentiary state inmates. But, because I am nonviolent and because I am female, I am punished harder than violent inmates with greater likelihood of reoffending.
All I want is to work and/or attend classes, and maybe go to the outside cage for recreation once in a while.
McCracken County Jail should not be receiving Class D funds from the state for any more than 5 or 6 women. They should not receive revenue for any more. This is a men’s Class D facility. Anything else is fraudulent theft of state funds.
Any thoughts are appreciated.
Sincerely, Rachel A. Leatherman
One good thing did happen.
Pregnant inmates in Kentucky are no longer housed in county jails. They are housed in ‘G Dorm’ at KCIW PeWee Valley women’sprison, and this is a very good change, for women and for unborn babies.