Posts Tagged ‘Prison Programs’

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:, 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.