Archive for the ‘jail art’ Category

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Cardinal couple
Cardinal Couple jail art by Crane-Station. I will be posting new art soon. Our camera issue is only temporary.

KCIW PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary near Louisville,KY, Spring, 2009

I am off to see my birds. They have their nests built, for the most part, and now they are mating and having chicks.

A dove pair lives near the library. Another lives near the grave of Columbus Dorsey, the young man who is buried outside the Horticulture greenhouses. This dove couple had a chick, that was beaten to death with a broom, by an inmate. I interrupted the beating and tried to save the baby dove, but I could not, and so I left it near its nest and near the grave of young Columbus, where it died.

The other baby dove, the one that a guard stomped to death on the ball field, remains at rest underneath the tree where it the officer killed it.

The robins are here, and so it is Spring, because robins have returned from winter migration. Robins are stout birds that keep to themselves and hunt worms; they are not interested in scraps or bread. This morning, when I was in Horticulture class and we were digging and planting in an area between the chapel and the dining hall, the robins watched us dig, from a vantage point near the chapel. When we finished, the robins moved in, rooted through the freshly dug soil, and stuffed themselves sick with earthworms. Amazing that they could even get themselves up off of the ground after their worm bacchanal. On occasion, I see the blue halves of robin eggs, after the chicks have hatched.

Starlings, along with crows (and seagulls), are the birds that Alfred Hitchcock featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds. Starlings were introduced to this country and they are generally hated. Starlings are accomplished mimics and vocalists; they answer me specifically. The people who hate starlings describe them as ugly, but I believe they are beautiful, with their glossy coats and their mercurial flock formations that at times make the sky seem fluid. A starling flock can have tens of thousands of members. They do not care for crumbs, but they do enjoy hot dogs and bologna when I have it.

Bluebirds are shy, and they often encounter difficulty with competition with sparrows for nesting space. There is a way to offer bluebird housing that is specific to bluebirds. (Perhaps someone can share their experience.) Bluebirds are not interested in scraps and crumbs, but their presence is uplifting.

Sparrows are regular customers for crumbs. They are loyal and entertaining. When a sparrow once became entangled in some string, Officer Carbey untangled it from the bird’s foot. The bird was quiet during this procedure, and I think it knew that the officer was trying to help. There are, it turns out, a good many kind-hearted officers working in the prison system.

There are many other birds here: swallows, chimney swifts, mockingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, and even the occasional heron.

I spot a baby bird that has fallen from a nest just outside of Ridgeview Dormitory. I pick it up. It is a hatchling that is so small I can cup it in my hand. Its eyes are not open, and it has no feathers, so I cannot identify what kind of bird it is. I place it back into the nest above the area where I found it.

The next day the tiny, naked creature is back on the ground. I assume that something is wrong with it and that it has been forced out of the nest due to its weakness. I decide to keep it warm, and I decide not to tell anyone, not even my roommate, for fear it that a guard or inmate will find out and stomp or beat it to death. The bird cranes its neck and makes a peeping sound that is barely audible. It raises its naked wing knobs. I make a warm place for it, hide it in my room, and offer it some sugar water. The bird dies the next day, but at least I know it was warm and as comfortable as it could be.

I decide that someday, somehow, I want to make a life with birds, and have a sanctuary.

In case you missed it:

Bird drawing  by Crane-Station
Birds drawn at Ricky’s World by Crane-Station. Sorry if you have seen this. I have more jail art, but am having a temporary camera issue, that will be resolved soon. Thank you for your patience!

When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.

Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, winter 2008

I am turning into a bat.

I wear a cape to fend off the cold. I am going blind from the fluorescent lighting. I wear a towel on my head. I speak very little. I have hair on my face and on my body that I have no way of controlling and it embarrasses me.

My cape is my greying thin sheet. Sometimes I put the grey square scratchy wool blanket on top of the sheet, but it itches me because I am allergic to wool. When I asked for a cotton blanket, the jail staff refused because I was unable to provide documentation from an outside physician stating that I am allergic to wool.

I am in the toilet trying to brush what is left of a tooth that lost a crown. I have asked to see a dentist for more than a moth now, to no avail.

I have just taken a shower. The cell has no toilet paper, and so, when you have a bowel movement, you have to cup your hand underneath your crotch, and make a run for it, out of the toilet area and through the cell to the shower stall. Someone must stand guard, because the inside of the cell is visible to the hallway occupants. The hallway occupants are usually working Class D men, because Class D women are not allowed to work hallway jobs. No one wants the working men to see them running through the cell naked with shit and piss cupped in one hand, and so we look out for each other. In the shower, you use the other hand to depress the push-button spout that issues a ten-second spray of cold water. Some inmates use rags after they pee, but after a bowel movement, you really have to do the shower thing.

In the cell, YaYa works on a grievance about the lack of toilet paper and we all sign it. It says (picture coming with update- we currently have a nonworking camera):

We have been without tissue paper for 8 hours or more and the 2nd shift is telling us to get it on the 1st shift, they are too busy now. We are without tissue and no guards will bring us any.. We’ve asked and still no tissue. The jail gets money for state, federal and county inmates. There is no reason we should have to drip-dry. We are not animals.

The response reads:

You are given allotted amount of t/p and feminine products. You must use them accordingly.

Meanwhile, in the cell, Meg says to Lea, “I have pinkeye. Isn’t that contagious?”

“It’s incredibly contagious,” says Lea.

Christie says, “I can’t afford to get pinkeye in my eye socket. I can not afford to get pinkeye.”

I say, “Write a note to the doctor.”

Tina says, “Wash your hands.”

“I do wash my hands,” says Meg.

“They won’t do nuthin,'” says Lea. “They want you to get full-blown pinkeye, so everybody in the mutherfucker’ll get it. I’ve been here when everybody in the place had it.”

Down the hall, Harry shouts from his isolation cell, “PLEEEEASE! Somebody,HELP!!”

On the television news, the Amish men, six or seven of them, are in court in neighboring Graves County. Their hats are off and they are quiet. Displaying a large reflective orange triangle on their horse-drawn buggy does not coincide with their religious beliefs, and they are opposing the charges. Graves County is eager to accommodate the Amish in their county jail, and so the jail has pre-ordered dark gray outfits for the men.

I am actually sort of an autistic bat. I speak little, because I want to avoid conflict. It does not help that much. Inmates make fun of me anyway, because I am not from here, and because I took my case to trial. But it is okay that they make fun of me, because everyone is in pain anyway.

I write because there is absolutely nothing else to do but listen, write down what I hear, readjust my towel hat and my cape, and fold cranes out of paper scraps. For breakfast we had applesauce, sausage and cereal; for lunch we had a hamburger patty, corn, an apple and green beans, and for dinner we had a hamburger patty, sweet potatoes, carrots and cake.

I wander to the hallway window and read a new sign that is posted there, regarding a new clergy visitation policy. The letter is from the jailer, and it is lengthy. It says in part:

Clergy Visitation Policy

The staff at McCracken County Jail recognize the importance of one-on-one clergy visits in the rehabilitation of inmates…

However,to ensure the safety of…

The gist of the lengthy letter is that the jail will now limit clergy visits to entombed inmates by narrowing the times that clergy can visit, and increasing the red tape for both clergy and inmates to coordinate such visits.

The new policy is out of grave concern for inmate safety, and it is authored by the same folks who walked the bleeding pregnant woman in premature labor down the hall in handcuffs.

The newer, safer Policy:

-Clergy must now show their theological licensing credentials and documents to the jail staff, and the staff must approve the credentials.

-Hours for clergy visits will be limited to:

8:30-10:30 M-F (no weekends)

(11:30-4:30 M, T, Th,F (no weekends)

-No more than 30 minutes per visit.

-No lay clergy will be allowed. (So much for the laity! ie: nuns and deacons)

-No more than 2 visits per week.

-Clergy must be listed on a visiting list and the visiting list must be approved by the in-house jail chaplain. In other words, if you are not from the area, or if you do not happen to know any clergy in the area, you are shit-out-of-luck.

There are 450-475 inmates warehoused in this jail at any given time. Non-religious texts and educational materials are banned. The only materials allowed are specific types of religious materials. Okay. So now, we agree to get to know God better, and what does the jail do? They limit clergy visits.

To insinuate that clergy, many of whom have ministered in this jail for a long time, somehow compromise inmate safety during brief visits over the phone behind bullet-proof glass is insulting to the clergy who dedicate ministry to this jail.

Meg leaves and vacates her prime real estate and we all rotate our positions in the concrete and steel cell for four, that will soon house six again, as soon as Meg’s replacement arrives. I am in line for a choice spot on a steel bunk next to the cement wall. I started at the beach, between the toilet and the shower on the cement floor. Then I moved to the mountains on a top bunk where the lights were in my face, but now I am hoping for a cave before I lose my eyesight.

In my cave I reflect on the clergy visits and surmise that if I were to ask for a Shaman or a Unitarian, I would be deemed a witch and burned at the stake. Eventually, I dose off.

My dreams become trapped in the walls.

Barn at winter by Crane-Station
barn at winter by Crane-Station on flickr. jail art done at Ricky’s World.

In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.
-Albert Camus

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account.

Inmate names are changed.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

McCracken County Jail Cell 107, winter, 2008

Meg announces to the cell that she is on her period.

“So?” says Christie.

“So, I get out in two weeks, and I can get some dick!”

Meg lives in a motel on the outside, where she trades her body for drugs. She has nine children; many of them were born while Meg was in jail. After Meg is released and after she gets her ‘dick,’ her tenth child will be born in prison, but we do not know this yet.

She has made the comment about getting some ‘dick’ to be mean, because she knows that the rest of the cell occupants are serving lengthier sentences than she has ever had to serve, and that we will be unable to know a man’s touch or have sex, and she will.

When the announcement about dick does not elicit much of a response, Meg starts in on Christie, who, having been denied drug court and now faces 24 years for nonviolent drug-related charges, is desperately depressed. Christie stays on her bunk all the time now, crying.

One of Christie’s felonies, by the way, is for a cold check in the amount of something like one dollar and seventy-two cents, whereas Meg, who will walk out of the jail and get some dick and get pregnant two weeks from now, has a lengthy history of theft and possession charges that, for some reason, she has never had to worry much about, in terms of serving any time.

Rather, during her frequent yet brief accomodations in the McCracken County Jail, she busies herself with the passive-aggressive practices of constant manipulation and torment of fellow inmates who will be serving lengthy sentences entombed in cement with no hope. Each time, Meg leaves, and gets some dick, among other things.

Meg says to Christie, “I think you are overreacting.”

“I can’t help it,” says Christie. I’m not overreacting. I feel really, really, really bad inside. People notice that there is something wrong. I can’t quit crying. I don’t mean to be such a bitch about it. I just don’t know what to do about it. I sleep 15 hours a day now. I can’t handle this.”

“It’ll be all right,” says Meg, who, two weeks from now will be having sex.

“You don’t know that,” says Christie.” I’m sorry. This isn’t me, but I just don’t know what to do.”

Christie cries.

Down the hall, Harry yells from his isolation cell, “HELLLLP! PLEEEEASE! Somebody! Let me out! Helpme helpmehelpme helpmehelpme Helllllpp…”

Sally is on the phone, calling her mother “a fucking whore.”

Sally calls her mother every five minutes or so, and treats her like a disobedient child. She says, at maximum volume, “I love you! Shut your fucking mouth, you’re nuthin’ but a lazy whore.”

Sally’s mother shouts back. Sally also screams at her 17-year-old son on the phone. She holds the receiver and says to us, “He ain’t got his books for home school yet. Can you believe that shit? My mother ain’t even got his books! She ain’t nuthin’ but a useless whore, don’t do nuthin’ but lay on her back all day.”

The son is supposed to be homeschooled by Sally’s mother, who is addicted to Vicodin and who never completed the eighth grade, because Sally is in jail.

The son is also apparently very sick, with some kind of severe illness that Sally cannot define. Munchausen by Proxy I think to myself, although I never say it. I think this to myself privately because Sally also self-reports severe, undefined illness in herself, and the mother is dysfunctional, and there is too much collective severe-yet-undefined illness in a young group of closely connected people. Sally looks healthy and robust. It is Christie, crying on her bunk, unable to get up, that I worry about.

I like Sally, and we get along well. I do not agree with how she speaks to her mother or her son, but Sally is amicable to fellow inmates, and she has a delightful sense of humor.

Meanwhile, Meg has come back to the cell from a brief visit to the jail library. The library is a jail cell with mostly paperback romance novels and religious materials, and a remarkable dearth of literature. Meg sets an arm load of romance novels onto the steel table, and then starts gossiping about YaYa, who was in the library, gossiping about Amy. YaYa is not here to defend herself.

Meg says, “I just wanted to hit her.”

I say, “She’s pretty big. Maybe that is not such a good idea. You know, hitting her.”

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Meg taps on the wall to the cell next door, to arrange for her delivery of drugs for the evening, in the form of the inmate-next-door’s psych meds. Everything went okay for her first delivery, and I secretly hope that everything will continue to go okay, because when Meg is on someone else’s psych meds, she usually shuts up.

They make some arrangement.

Later, I am doing exercises on the floor next to the steel door when the steel door flies open, nearly hitting me, and there stands Tiffany, the sergeant, and she is irate. She says, “Who got the note from Carter!?”

“Who’s Carter?” I say.

“Who got that note from Carter!?”

Just then, we realize that Meg’s drug arrangement has not gone as planned. Carter, the inmate next door who was on psych medication, had wrapped two pills in paper and ‘fished’ them underneath her cell door and into our cell, under the door. But it did not work, because the note got stuck.

Tiffany leaves. Meg goes off on Carter. “Dumb bitch, she shoulda knocked.”

Meg smiles, giggles, and laughs, as though she had nothing whatsoever to do with the note or the pills in the note. She dismisses the whole incident, and gets on the phone to make arrangements with someone on the outside to smuggle cigarettes into the jail. Later, she tries to get me to make an appointment with the nurse and lie about some ailment, so that Meg can get Tylenol pills, or any pills. I refuse.

When I refuse, she makes fun of me, of my trial, of my conviction, of my lengthy sentence, and of the fact that she will be getting dick two weeks from now and I will not be getting any dick until it is too late for me to have sex, because I am too old.

In my mind I try to come up with reasons for meanness and lack of empathy among warehoused humans in the same predicament, and I wonder if people in the train cars during the holocaust were mean to each other. What is it, exactly, that brings out such hate? Perhaps it is overcrowding or demeaning, dehumanizing treatment, or lost confidence in ‘the system,’ or female jealousy, mental illness, lack of stimulus, or hormones, or frustration and separation from love, touch and family. Maybe it is a combination of everything.

I fold my cranes out of scavenged paper. I move them around. I adjust the towel on my head. I go into the bathroom and climb onto the steel toilet and look through the slit to the dumpsters outside.

I return to the steel table. I put the tiny cranes with the big cranes.

I stay silent.

BBC- Attenborough- Life in the Undergrowth- Ants. Planet Earth:

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction incarceration account in Kentucky.

Inmate names are changed.

Ricky’s World, Fulton County Detention Center, Hickman, Ky, August, 2008

I awake to the realization that the TV has been on for something like three days straight. I sleep on the cement floor, underneath the TV.

My right arm is numb and swollen because last night at work in the kitchen, we sliced an enormous tub, the size of a child’s wading pool, full of cucumbers, and then we sliced four gallons of okra.

I did most of the slicing, though, because Fiona, the Borderline inmate who, as a child, stabbed her mother because her mother would not let her watch Rin-Tin-Tin on television, was fired for talking to men in the hallway on the way to work. Fiona is 23 years old and has been locked up for 27 straight months now. I do not know what her charges are, but she speaks proudly of the fact that she once spent nearly a year in cell block (the hole) at KCIW PeWee Valley, for an attack on either a guard or another inmate. Fiona and I compete at completing SuDoKu puzzles in the cell.

That leaves me, Colleen, Penny, and Linda to do the kitchen job in Ricky’s World.

Colleen weighs three hundred pounds, and houses one puffy arm in a sling. At work, she tries to tackle one job per night. For the most part though, she eats. Toast and margarine and jelly. White bread and mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches; hamburgers, fried onions and cornbread; cake and fried bologna and casserole.

After breakfast this morning, Colleen wants me to help her write a grievance to Ricky Parnell, the jailer.

“Just write from the heart,” I tell her, and she does. I only help her with spelling and minor things. Her handwriting is neat and her letters are large and loopy. She has modified her punctuation marks. Each period is an exclamation point, where the period part of the point is a five-point star.

The letter says:

Grievance Mr. Ricky Parnell

I’m writing a grievance on your medical staff and the doctor.

The reason why is I fell in your kitchen working for y’all. I fell on March 3, 2008. I filled out a med slip and they took me the next day to get an x-ray. Then I went to see the doctor and they said the x-ray showed up a needle form in my hand. I have never used needles.

This bizarre statement may have come from the fact that they were looking at a fracture. The letter continues:

The doctor gave me a Tylenol and sent me on my way. My hand was still swollen and hurting really bad so I went back to the nurse and she referred me to the doctor again. So then he said we are going to get another x-ray. Then I went back to the doctor and he asked me what did the x-ray show? I told him he should know, because he is the doctor.

I was off work for 2 months with my hand swollen and hurting really bad. I went back in the kitchen in May 2008.

I went back to the nurse on 7/28/08 cause my hand was swollen and hurting really bad. The pain is going all the way up my arm. So the nurse referred me to the doctor. He was supposed to see me on Wednesday but he didn’t. I asked why and he said cause he couldn’t do anything for me. I am telling you, there is something wrong with my hand.

I also signed a paper they brought me this morning when I was asleep that the doctor can’t do anything for me and I can order tylenol on commissary. So please can you help me I’m in so much pain my hand and arm is so swollen. Also they are making me work if not I have to lay it down in county.

Thank you for your time, Colleen

The term “lay it down in county” is a constant threat to state-final-sentenced inmates in this jail. State final-sentenced inmates are Class D nonviolent inmates, for the most part, and the jail segregates them from county inmates.

The ‘county’ side of the jail is not all that much different, except county inmates are not allowed to work, they wear jailhouse clothes, they do not have a microwave, and they have more scabies, ringworm, staph and MRSA than the state-side inmates. However, lately, state inmates have had their share of staph, due to the dearth of medical care.

I spend the rest of the day drawing a train for my oldest brother, who loves trains.

Train. Jail art.

Train, jail art by Crane-Station on Masonbennu’s flickr stream.

While I am drawing, there is a distraction in the cell. Linda and others have obtained a large can of Raid, and they are killing some tiny ants that occasionally pass through the cell.

I am outraged because I love ants. I say, “What in the fuck are you doing?”

“Killin’ the aints.”

“Why? They are not hurting us, these tiny ants.”

“These aints is nasty.”

“You’re gonna kill us all in the process.”

“Mind your own bidness.”

The tiny creatures struggle and drown and die in a lake of Raid. I grab the nearest Bible, and flip to Proverbs. I attempt to speak their language, the language of the gospel, because the killers are all ‘saved.’ They spend their days and nights talking about how much they love Jesus and God. They frequently quote scripture.

I tell the Raid people that Abraham admired ants and the wisdom of the ants.I quote Proverbs out loud. It says:

Proverbs 6:6-8

New International Version (NIV)

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!

7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,

8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

This has no effect on the self-professed ‘saved’ killing spree. In fact, quite the opposite. One of the people who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus to the letter says to me, “You don’t believe in God, do you? I can tell.”

At my counseling session with Father Al later, I ask, “Father Al, do you believe in Satanic possession?”

“Why do you ask me?” he says.

“The joy in life is in the searching for God, I have decided.” I tell the priest. “Satan is too obvious. There is no need to search for evil.”

Barns

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Artwork, jail art
Tags:

Each barn has a rich history, particularly for people who have ever spent time working or playing in them. People fall in and out of love in barns. Either way, barns like no other structures have the ability to elicit nostalgia, longing, and some of the best, most embellished stories ever to be told. Most of the stories will be passed, through story telling, from generation to generation, but the stories will never be told in any book, because to confine the stories to typed pages would interfere with their mysterious nature, I think.

Here are some common barn idioms, from wikipedia:

“He couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn” is a popular expression for a person having poor aim when throwing an object or when shooting at something.

To “lock the barn door after the horse has bolted” implies that one has solved a problem too late to prevent it.

“Were you raised in a barn?” is an accusation used differently in various parts of the English-speaking world, but most commonly as a reprimand when someone exhibits poor manners by either using ill-mannered language (particularly if related to manure), or leaving doors open.

“Your barn door is open” is used as a euphemism to remind someone to zip the fly of their trousers.

I have fond barn memories myself, and so I love to draw them. When I first moved to Kentucky, I saw a barn on fire, and I nearly called the fire department, until someone pointed out that I was looking at a tobacco barn where they were drying tobacco. “Looks like the thing is on fire, if you ask me,” I replied.

Kentucky was also my first exposure to the beautiful world of quilting emblems on barns. Here is jimmywayne’s Goddard, Ky quilt barn, from Creative Commons on flickr. His barn is also a tobacco barn. (The black color absorbs the sun’s rays and increases the interior temperature of the barn, so that the tobacco can be dried.):

Goddard Quilt Barn

There are many types of barns. Here is a jail art drawing that I did of a round barn at winter on flickr:

Barn at winter by Crane-Station

Here is a Pennsylvania Dutch Barn by Nicholas_T under Creative Commons on flickr. The photo was taken in Albany Township, Berks County:

Lucent

Who keeps the order in a barn? Here is Len Blumin’s Barn Owl from Creative Commons on flickr. Len explains that barn owls have a highly specific day roost, and that their biggest enemy is the Great Horned Owl:

Barn Owl

Here is Beverly Public Library MA’s Stetson Carriage House under Creative Commons on flickr:

Stetson Carriage House

Stetson Carriage House

Carriage house for the Stetson Estate, later owned by Robert Evans. The Stetson Cottage was rented by President William Howard Taft for the Summer White House in 1909 and 1910.

Looking at a barn during a storm is haunting and solitary, yet strangely alluring. Here is my jail art drawing of a barn during a storm. In an odd way, I was in a barn, during a storm when I drew this:

Barn During Storm by Crane-Station on flickr (jail art)

from gilesclement under “vintage barn” search Creative Commons on flickr, here is the beautiful picture titled Barns:

barns

Perhaps you have a favorite barn picture or story.