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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Goldilocks Goes to Jail, Part V — Jail Romance and Meth Heads

Part of a continue series of posts sharing my recollections of the time I went to jail for 24 hours as a journalist…



Someone please lock me in a cell with him.

Back in the women’s unit, Marie, the young pregnant woman, is bustling in and out of her cell, getting ready for her hearing. She thinks she’s going to be allowed to go home and is all but telling everyone goodbye. But then I notice that everyone seems to be in a flurry over something. One woman is wearing rollers in her hair. (Foam rollers are available through the commissary, along with some basic forms of make up.) She wears them for a while and then passes them on to another woman, who runs squealing back to her cell.

“What is going on?” I ask Renee, still my mentor in this bizarre otherworld.

“They’re getting ready for recreation hour,” she says.

I have no idea why an hour in an enclosed gym would make anyone put rollers in her hair, but I don’t say so. Instead, I sit quietly and watch as the women run about, trading contraband pencils, passing out Jolly Rancher candy and generally acting as if they’re about to go on a date.

The No. 2 pencils they use as eyeliner. A coveted red pencil is being used as blush and lip liner. And the Jolly Ranchers? One by one they melt them using paper cups and warm water from the dayroom sink, and then they flick the syrup into their hair using their toothbrushes.

One inmate sees me watching her with what must be an utterly confused look on my face. She explains that the syrup acts as a sort of styling gel.

Then a male guard opens the red door and shouts that it’s time for a shift change and afternoon count. Everyone must be locked down. Women shuffle into their cells, me included, and the doors, controlled by the guards, swing shut and lock with a series of metallic clicks. I imagined that it would be silent in behind all that concrete and steel, but it’s not. I hear women’s voices all around me.

While in the middle of count, a guard announces that when the doors open, anyone who wishes to go to the gym can line up for recreation hour, while anyone who remains in the unit, must stay locked down. Not surprising, most of the women choose recreation.

We line up in the hallway, the women smiling and laughing, the excitement palpable. We start down the zigzag hallway, and soon I understand what the fuss is for. As we pass the kitchen, several dozen male inmates suddenly appear at the windows, big smiles on their faces, their mouths shaping words we can’t hear. But their gestures — hip-thrusting, hands moving up and down at the their crotches in imitation of a hand job, hands squeezing imaginary breasts — say it all.

One woman desperately wants to pass a note to a particular man. She lags behind hoping the guard won’t notice, so that she can tuck the note someplace the male inmate, who is apparently watching, can retrieve it. But the guard isn’t fooled, and, disappointed, the woman is forced back in line.

“As if you’re going to meet Mr. Right in here,” I say.

“You never know,” she says.

“Yes,” I say, “sometimes you do.”

When we reach the gym, which is about half the size of a high school gymnasium, the younger women scatter, running their hands along the edges of mats, looking under the weights, checking beneath the drinking fountain. (A drinking fountain!)

“What are they looking for?” I ask Renee.

“They’re looking for notes. The men are sometimes able to hide them in the equipment,” she says.

I walk laps with Renee for a while, then decide I really need to talk to other women. I join some who are lifting weights. There’s Donna, a mother of five including an infant, who is serving a year for her fifth DUI. This time she got into a car crash with her kids in the vehicle. She was injured, as the bruises on her face attest. Another, Michelle, is serving time for deeds she won’t disclose. She’s American Indian, and very good with a basketball. I can tell she hates being here. Then there’s Cassie, who also has five children, all by different fathers, and who also bears thick scars on her wrists for what could only be multiple suicide attempts. She’s got AIDS, too, as if years in prison (that’s where she’s headed) weren’t enough to contend with. Then there’s Stacy, who’s serving 10 days for having been caught for the third time without car insurance, which she says she can’t afford. She could have gotten off by paying a large fine, but she didn’t have the money for that either.

I look at the wrist bands and see a mix of low-risk, medium- and high-risk inmates. Because there are so few women, and the jail is so crowded, there’s no way to separate more violent female inmates from those that are not violent. Stacy, the women busted for not having car insurance, is locked up with women accused of fraud and assault.

Then a fight breaks out over foosball — who would have thought it’s a contact sport? — and a guard has to intervene. Soon it’s time to head back to the unit. Women line up again, and we make our way back down the hallway, past the kitchen where the men gather once again to ogle the women in their colored-pencil, Jolly Rancher glory. Then we’re locked behind the red door.

* * *
The afternoon wears on, and tempers flare. A shouting and cussing argument has broken out over who’s being louder, the women talking at the table or the TV.

“Turn that goddamn thing down!”

“We can’t hear anything because you’re making too fucking much noise!”

“Would everybody just shut the fuck up!”

Up on the screen, Vanna is turning letters.

Marie comes back from her hearing in tears. The judge won’t let her out on bond, so she’s stuck here for at least a month. She can’t quit crying, and some of the older women go to comfort her.

Then the guard comes in with the day’s mail. Anger and boredom shifts into another kind of tension, as women gather in an anxious knot to see if they’ve gotten anything today. The guard opens each letter or package and inspects the contents for contraband before passing it on to the recipient. A deck of tarot cards is confiscated along with Ms. Fat Bottom’s book of stamps.

“Why are you taking my stamps?” Ms. Fat Bottom protests. “Why can’t I have my stamps?”

I see another chance to make myself fit in.

“Because it might be blotter,” I say.

“What’s ‘blotter’?” one of the younger women asks.

An older inmate slaps her on the arm. “LSD, stupid!”

Those who didn’t receive mail are visibly disappointed. They feel forgotten, an entire world beyond the walls that didn’t remember them today. Those who did sit to read letters from family and children, huge smiles on their faces. One holds up a Valentine her children made for her. “We love you, Mommy!” it says in bright red crayon. Another has received a couple of new photos and shares those with everyone.

“It must be hard to be away from them,” I say.

She bursts into tears and collapses into a chair.

And then everything changes.

Two new inmates arrive. Word passes quickly that they’re still coming down off of meth and that they were arrested for trying to pass forged money orders in K-Mart. They look angry, and they’re both wearing high-risk wrist bands.

For some reason, I attract their notice. I wasn’t watching them; I didn’t try to talk with them. But when I pass by to get a drink of water, one of them slams me in the chest with her shoulder, the look on her face angry and aggressive.

Out of the blue, I remember what I know about mountain lions. If you look them in the eye, they’re more likely to attack. So I refuse to take the bait, acting as if nothing has happened. I get my drink and go back to my seat by a different route.

But that doesn’t stop them.

As I sit talking with some of the inmates about their kids, I see the two meth heads watching me. Adrenaline punches through my system as I wonder what in the world I did to piss them off.

“You need to stay away from them,” Renee whispers.

But I’ve figured that out on my own. And so every time they walk toward me, I manage to be someplace else. When I have to pass them, I’m suddenly too far away to slam into. I don’t make eye contact, pretending never to see them. They are invisible, and so, I hope, am I.

Soon, they’re embroiled in a shoving match with someone else.

[to be continued…]

For an excerpt from Unlawful Contact, visit my website at www.pamelaclare.com/unlawful.htm

10 comments:

Ronlyn said...

Since you told me about the Jolly Ranchers I've been wondering about bugs. Jails aren't the cleanest of places...wouldn't the candy attract bugs?? Ugh.

Bo said...

I am just about speechless at the pencil & candy makeup.Like you said,as if they are going to meet Mr.Right-HA!

I'm wondering what on earth you did to the tweakers.Is it possible they recognized you from the paper somehow,I guess we'll find out in the next installment,LOL.Or were they just wanting to take you on b/c you are tall-you must have been one of the tallest women in there & maybe they thought they wouldn't get hacked on by the others if they teamed up against you first?


BTW,I read Pamela Clifton's story below a few days ago but could not find the words to reply,it was so heartbreaking and awful what happened to her & Leah.My heart goes out to both of them.

Aimee said...

I don't think I need to spell out for you what happened to the only person who ever shoulder slammed me LOL

The pencils & candy bit totally cracked me up LOL

I feel bad for people who have to live under jail conditions, but jeez, most of them did something to be put there in the first place. I do NOT think they should be treated as less than human, and what happened to PG there was no excuse for, NONE.
But I am NOT a supporter of luxury items in jail either....

Debbie H said...

At first I thought maybe the rollers had drugs in them, then came the explaination. You do with what you can find. Maybe the meth heads thought you looked too innocent and decided to take their anger out on you?

J said...

Hey, I am back. I was reading from Singapore, but for some reason the comments page was blocked.
Seriously blocked. Maybe one of the by-products of a benevolent dictatorship methinks.

Firstly, PC2, my apologies for the delay in responding to yours and Leah's story. What happened to you is not acceptable, not in any case. No matter what you did to be there to treat you and Leah in that way is an indictment on the guards and their lack of humanity.

Please accept my best wishes for you and your newly expanded family and I really hope you continue to shine. Your courage and determination are an example to all the readers here, and you know what? You are making a difference and not many people can say that.

PC1. You are mental, fucking mental. When I read about those meth head nutters I was pooing my pants thinking my PC is about to get her head handed to her!

You know that I admire your work, woman. You are a real journalist, what the rest of the profession should try to be. You know my opinion of the profession in general, but you shine the light where it needs to be shone.

However, as your friend I am kinda torn as I don't want you to be at risk! A dilemma, ah?

I am home for a couple of days then off again.
My email in Singapore was painfully slow and all my replies timed out. Sorry about that, but it seems you got it all sorted out.

MWAH! J xx

Ronlyn, the main thing the Jolly Ranchers did was dry and turn into something that looked like mega-dandruff. I was totally flabbergasted by that whole episode, I must say.

Bo, my reaction, too! Here they were using candy and pencils to attract guys whose futures are anything but promising. Lordy!

I never learned why they wanted to hammer me. They really targeted me for a few hours. I think I must have looked as green as grass, no matter how cool I tried to be. Probably the wide blue eyes and the look of shock? Who knows.

I hope Pamela Clifton reads this and sees your words and Joanie's. I think she was very brave to come on here. I need to call her and tell her so, in fact...

Aimee, LOL! I'm guessing you kicked his/her ass? As for the candy/pencils episode, I was utterly floored. Too bizaree! You couldn't make something like that up if you tried. LOL! And I agree, for what it's worth. Makeup in jail is a luxury. I hate to wear it anyway. Lip balm, given how dry it is, i think is important. But blush and mascara and hair mousse? Not so much.

DebbieH, LOL on the rollers having drugs. Just rollers this time. As for the meth heads, that's my guess, though I don't know. My being tall might also have been it. One of them was tall, too. Tall and really surly!

Joanie!!! I wondered what happened to you, chica! Thanks for your kind words to Pamela Clifton and your concern for me. She rocks, for sure.

As for me, yes, I do some stupid things sometimes, but only because it seems necessary. Thanks for your sweet words, dearest.

Is Singapore part of your Japan trip? I'm anxious to hear about the champagne powder and how J's new ski gear worked out. :-)

One or at most two jail posts to go... And then it will almost be the release date for UC!

JennJ said...

Hey girl oms at the pencils and Jolly Ranchers I have never heard anything like that in my life. LOL and yep that's just mind blowing that they wanted to attract the men in there ah noooot a good idea lol. When you said there was a male guard I thought they might have liked one of the guards but oh well lol. I'm really enjoying the posts but I'm so glad you weren't hurt by those Meth heads ACK woman. I have to agree with J here don't do anything like that again!

Brenda said...

Holy crap, Pam! The meth-heads are freaking scary. Did they ever get their commeupance? Did anyone fight back against them? My scaredy-cat-ass would've tried to hide under the couch.
As for Pamela Clifton, I was so disturbed by what I read that I couldn't comment at the time. I had to try and absorb it all and visualize it as reality.
I hope that someday, Pamela can look back on all that without so much pain and that the settlement helps her find closure and move forward with her future.

Cheryle said...

Wow I am just getting a chance to catch up and Pamela lets just say you are much braver then I would ever hope to be!

photoquest said...

I guess it would be sad to meet your prince charming in Prison.LOL I know I hope i never do anything to land me doing time i am just not prison material!!

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