The Mirror: Frog Gravy 69

Posted: December 21, 2011 in criminal justice system, feminist perspective on incarceration, Jail

The music for this post is for Masoninblue, and it is Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, Three Dog Night with the Tennessee Symphony Orchestra LIVE August 6, 2010. Hat tip ubetchaiam.

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Inmate names are changed.

McCracken County Jail, winter 2008

I am in the toilet, trying to get a look at myself in the steel mirror that resembles those mirrors in the rest stop areas. An older inmate has crowded in front of me, and is also looking in the mirror. She has a full beard. Her skin is a pasty green hue. She has bags underneath her eyes. She looks to be about a hundred years old, and her face reminds me of a Latex Halloween mask of a witch that I had when I was a child.

I do not speak to her because I am focused on my own legs. There are scabs on my legs and they itch. The quality of the jail-issue razors is so poor that I cut my legs pretty bad when I first arrived here. I remember the Psycho scene diluted chocolate syrup circling the drain in the shower. After I discarded my clothes, another inmate gave me a helpful hint: only shave one leg each week.

Christie has received news that Livingston County has denied drug court for her. She now faces 24 years for bad checks, even though she is making restitution and has begged for help for her drug addiction. She tells Carol, “I now have three PFOs (persistent felony offender enhancements. Each enhancement doubles the original sentence) and a prior. I feel so bad inside. I cannot believe what I have done to my life with drugs.”

She cries, and YaYa overhears the conversation and cries with her. They lament with each other, some of the things that people do, in the grip of drug addiction. Going into schools during recess and getting the purse out of the teacher’s desk and taking checks. Asking a neighbor to use the restroom and going through the medicine cabinet.

In the bathroom, I put hair conditioner on my face because I do not have any lotion. I wish the old woman would move. She annoys me. I re-fix the towel on my head. The towel keeps some of the thoughts away during the day, I think, but I take it off at night and a dream sometimes slips in.

In the dream, it is the end of the world, not due to disease (my prevailing theory) but due to arrests. There is a tornado. I try to run but I am paralyzed. A very close friend of mine, a man named Polhemus, turns out to be a vicious killer, and I am trapped with him in his apartment. He loves his mother. He is dangerous. He takes out ice picks and scalpels and needles and he says he can fix my tooth, but I see that he will torture and kill me. Suddenly, his lover comes in. The lover throws Polhemus’s mother’s severed head at Polhemus. I ask to have some sort of break. I try to run. I say, “Take everything else. You’ll never have me.”

The dream ends. I do not know where the name Polhemus came from.

In the bathroom, I gently scratch at the scabs on my legs. The hair conditioner on my face smells good.

I look in the mirror. At first, I think the old woman has put a towel onto her head, just like I do.

But, there never was an old woman.

  1. Sarah Risher says:

    I really enjoy reading Frog Gravy. I myself have spent time at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections and KCIW because of drug charges. I became addicted to pain killers following a surgery and was charged with “doctor shopping,” which is a felony. Prior to that, I had never even had a speeding ticket. As a stay-at-home mom on the east end, I couldn’t go to the corner to obtain narcotics. I didn’t know any drug dealers, so I went to multiple physicians for my pills. I tried to tell myself that what I was doing wasn’t really *that* bad, since i did have legal prescriptions. It’s the deception that’s illegal, but I didn’t know that. I received 13 years. THIRTEEN. People get less time for armed robbery, manslaughter, rape, and numerous other violent crimes, than I got for going from doctor to doctor for pain pills.

    And don’t get me started on the conditions at LMDC.

    • You are speaking the truth. The system is not interested in helping people. Quite the opposite. Since jails and prisons are a cash cow, the goal is to warehouse nonviolent drug offenders by the thousands and destroy they, essentially guaranteeing recidivism.

      Thank you so much for reading and for commenting, and I wish you all the very best.

      PS: Absolutely true- They love having violent offenders running the streets while locking people up for ass-kiss personal amounts of drugs that could be addressed with treatment and help. Class Ds are way more profitable.

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