Posts Tagged ‘INCARCERATED WOMEN’

First, since my camera batteries are dead today, here is Breaking: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere:

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of Kentucky jails and prison in 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Inmates names are changed, except for nicknames that do not reveal identity. My name is real.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Frog Gravy posts are all here: froggravy.wordpress.com, although to get to older posts will take a bit of backward scrolling through the “older entries” instruction.

This post is for Silverback66, who may be my editor someday but he does not know it yet. He races motorcycles, writes like a poet and he has a parrot, and there are pictures to prove it.

It is also a shout-out to jail and prison librarians, including McCracken County Jail librarian Jack, who made fun of me early on, saying “Pay attention to this one. She isn’t awake yet.” Well, Jack, I was awake actually so back at you, and thank you ever so much for keeping those law book pocket parts up to date. Also, the law librarian at KCIW PeWee Valley: you continue to make life better for a lot of people, every day.

KCIW PeWee Valley Ball field, sometime in winter, 2008-2009

I have lost my rocks.

I am on the ball field during recreation with the rest of Ridgeview Dormitory, walking laps at a quick pace because we are not allowed to run or jog. With each lap I select a small rock from a gravel walkway, carry it about fifty feet to a cement grate, and set it in a pile. At the end of recreation I count the rocks. This way, I know how much I walk each day, and can meet at least one personal goal during my stay here: keeping fit.

I am wearing khaki, with white Nike tennis shoes and a khaki knit cap called a “toboggan,” that is a cap and not a sled. On the outside you might mistake me for a lost hiker.

I have crumbs for my birds rolled and tucked into my cap and into my elastic band of my khaki pants. Birds follow me all around the field, even the one whose leg was amputated on razor wire.

But now my rocks are missing, and I have already spotted the guilty party, a picnic table of six friends who look just exactly like the cat that ate the canary; they can hardly contain themselves, seeing me notice my missing rocks. They want to laugh so bad, and so do I. I make a sadistic decision to take a couple of more laps and pretend not to notice the missing rocks. A couple of my friends might actually wet themselves with giddy anticipation of a confrontation with the non-confrontational Bird Lady.

The women’s penitentiary is eighty percent pathos. Even funny situations are laden with sadness. Almost everyone exhibits some form of mental illness- severe depression at the very least. Women’s prison is very different from men’s prison. The women’s penitentiary is not scary. It is pathetic, in a real sense. It actually matters to me that these women would include me in their fun. That they noticed my rocks becomes important to me because I actually mean something to someone.

During the torture laps, I study my notes that I also carry everywhere now. Thanks to the wonderful prison library, which has, by the way, inter-library loan, I am teaching myself Spanish and feeding my longstanding addiction to Mother Goose. I mean, try even finding “Fatty, fatty two-by-four” these days. The three little kittens they lost their mittens. The Little Red Hen. The Three Pigs. This library has it all. Absolutely fabulous. I am in heaven.

I suspect the reason that Mother Goose and other children’s books are so readily available in the women’s prison library is that illiteracy is over represented in Kentucky’s incarcerated population. To be clear, Kentucky locks up women who cannot read or write. There are no programs to correct this issue, but at least, thank God, the prison librarian has bent over backward to make these books available to women who choose to self-teach.

This excellent library has graduate-level literature as well. If you choose to wade through Chaucer, you can. The only thing missing is the internet, and I will exit prison two years behind everyone else in internet and cell phone technology.

The guilty friends with the stolen rocks are on their feet well in advance of my approach to the picnic table. I must choose my greeting carefully. I use a prison word that is used as different parts of speech: motherfucker.

“Motherfuckers.” I announce.

Comes the reply: “Bitch. You ain’t rocked that much.” Out comes, as if from vapor, a hand full of rocks. A round of laughter. High-fives. More laughter. The rocks are returned.

But the guards notice this bit of fun and ban ‘rocking.’ Because they can, I will no longer keep track of my laps with rocks.

At least we enjoyed the rocks, while they lasted.

Roxi, The Cocker Spaniel. Jail Art

My sister’s cocker spaniel Roxi by Crane-Station on flickr. Jail art, colored pencil. My sister is a champion at the precise art of weaving, hence, “Weave-On.” A fellow inmate, who was a dog groomer, sat with me and described some of the finer points of cocker spaniels to me, so that I could do this drawing. Hence, the great big feet and the long, pretty ears. Roxi is very sweet. She is also a hot mess! Very wound up.Drawn in Ricky’s World.

Music for this post post is CEBU dancing inmates:

Frog Gravy is a nonfiction account of women’s incarceration in Kentucky jails and prison, in 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.

Inmate names are changed, except for my own, and for nicknames that do not reveal identity. My prison nickname was Bird Lady.

Frog Gravy contains graphic language.

Frog Gravy posts are gathered in one place at froggravy.wordpress.com, and, to get to older posts may take some backward scrolling through the “Older Posts” instruction.

PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary, KCIW, Spring, 2009.

At five-forty-five every morning, the fluorescent lights buzz and snap on throughout the penitentiary, and we are awakened with the cheery overhead announcement, “Goood morning KCIW, this is your five-forty-five AM wake-up call,” that sounds exactly like “Gooood morning Viet Nam,” only with different words.

My roommate, Miss Pat, a kind black lady who loves her grandchildren, and I get ready for school. Breakfast is served in the dining hall at around 6 AM, but I usually skip it and study, because early morning has always been my best study time.

I have designed a rather nice imaginary greenhouse for Horticulture, if I may say so myself, for about $34,000. It is a 28′ x 96′ “Quonst”-style, plastic (polyethlylene) covered house, with fan-and-pad cooling, nice heaters, fans and lights, and a bit of high-tech environmental control.

I chose sub-irrigation. The benches are fitted for ebb-and-flow. Water is pumped into the benches, the pots take up what they need, and then the benches drain. I even chose this irrigation method for propagation (germination) over misting, because I think misting can invite fungus problems.

I’ve read that Europe, which is eons ahead of us in horticulture, has switched to nearly 80% ebb-and-flow. In fact, what is growing (so to speak) in popularity over there is flood floors, floor benches, where the whole thing is flooded and then drained. Fertilizer and insecticide can be delivered in this way.

Mealtimes in the prison are very busy, and the dining hall is always crowded. Dormitories are called at staggered time intervals to address the crowding, but often, inmates linger after the next dorm is called in. One chair in the dining hall is elevated and cushioned and it has a sign on it that says, “Reserved for Jackie.”

I am going to burn in Hell like a twig for writing this, but when I see Jackie for the first time, I cannot take my eyes away, because she has no arms, and is eating with her feet. But I can’t help it, I am mesmerized. She can do things with her toes that I cannot do with my hands, let alone my feet. In fact, she does everything with her feet and even does unassisted outdoor work in the yard with strength and precision. Her adaptation makes me feel like a clumsy klutz.

At some point, I ask Christie (who was initially sent here after her drug court denial) why Jackie is here, and Christie tells me that she was convicted of shaking her baby to death on the outside, a case of shaken baby syndrome. At some point, in my room, when no one is around, I try to get my feet to within range of my face and I cannot do it.

I have written to the Kentucky Innocence Project and requested DNA testing for the inside and the outside of the “baggie” in my case, but my request is rejected, because I am not on death row, I suppose.

Letter from Kentucky Innocence Project

Back at school, my greenhouse is a production operation, so the benches run the length-of-house. There are five benches, three movable (rolling), so the aisle is ‘floating,’ and the aisle is just wide enough for carts- this maximizes the growing area.

After school, I am picked, for no reason whatsoever, to be the subject of guard/officer Ogletree’s (who I call “Ogre,”) torment-a-white-inmate game. She prods and insults me all the way to main laundry, and forces me to change into clothing fit for a child. Fortunately, I have spare clothing, but I am in tears all of the sudden, because for some reason, this humiliation gets to me. I speak to Officer Kennedy, a kind officer, trained in negotiation, who will go on, I believe, to be Assistant Warden at a different prison after my release. Kennedy is very helpful, and I am able to return to the dorm, to walk through the inmate insult lines and laughs, all the way back to my room.

As I said before, it would not surprise me if Ogletree spoke backward or neighed like a horse, or spoke in a combination of previously untranslated ancient languages, because she is at the least, an egregious human being.

I wanted to say to her, “Bitch, I did not invent slaves. My ancestors were poor. They farmed their own land until they lost everything.” But it would not do any good. She uses her badge to berate, belittle, and humiliate, and grievances go nowhere.

Sometimes I think I am wasting my time with God, and maybe I should just throw in the towel and worship Satan. He is winning, anyway. Why try so hard to search for God, look for the good in people, seek truths, stand up for something, and try to be a better person, when it is so easy to just join in with the Father Of Lies?