Bunkie

If you are looking at prison time this will be your new nickname, Bunkie, at least at the Federal Women’s Camp.

I moved on to the compound on May 7th after being in quarantine for 21 days and I was assigned to an upper bunk in an already occupied lower bunk cubicle.

My first Bunkie, A*, was the same age as I was and worked in the Commissary Warehouse. We had similar hours which helped when it came to our routines.

When she came home that afternoon she definitely had her guard up and asked me if I had ever done time, I said no. So she basically said “My stuff is my stuff and your stuff is your stuff”. Easy enough. I later would learn that one of her previous Bunkie’s had been blamed for stealing from her.

It didn’t take us long to become friends. I really liked living with A, she liked it quiet and read a lot. We didn’t have much company which was good with me as well. All of the women I came in with were in the same unit, only upstairs. So I would often go up and eat dinner or just hang with them. This also gave A* her privacy too, I had mine after work most days, she would get home later than me. I was an early riser on the weekends and would spend time writing, making bookmarks or reading. I became friends with some of her friends too and before she left we would all shop for meals and eat together. A* would talk a lot of shit to the loud women in the unit and she would also sing heavy rock songs when some of the other women would start in at the top of their lungs. We had a lot of laughs in the few months we spent together and I will always consider her a friend.

I was fortunate enough to have only good Bunkie’s during my stay. A* left to go to quarantine in the end of July and that’s when I moved with K* upstairs into another cubicle. K* was a lot of fun and became a good friend. We would talk and listen to each others stories and become each others confidants as well. K* is a year younger than I am and we got along well. I thought I was funny when I would learn some new terminology and go back to the cubicle and tell K* for shock value. She would always tell me to grow up, the answer was always “NEVER!!!”.

I had two more Bunkie’s before I left another K* and H*. I was lucky, they were both easy to get a long with. H* and I had become really good friends, we both came in about the same time and just clicked right away, so living with her was easy.

If you find yourself in a situation like this consider the following:

  • Always be mindful of the other person’s space and belongings
  • Do not allow just anyone in your cubicle without consideration of your Bunkie
  • What’s yours is yours and what’s hers is hers
  • Pick up after yourself and share the cleaning responsibilities, you both live there
  • If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to your Bunkie

Just be considerate. You can always ask to move if things don’t work out, but have a place and person to live with before you ask. Staff doesn’t like pettiness and will not move you for no reason, you could possibly end up in the hallway or in a different unit altogether.

Peace for your day!

** The image pictured above is from a general search. This is the bunkbeds we slept in and we also had a metal wall mounted desk like the one pictured. We had two lockers (short), for our personal items and food storage and hung our clothes at the end of the bed. Before I left we were given plastic bins to store under our beds, they were taken for the men’s FCI before I stayed at the camp. We were a working camp for the property which included a men’s federal prison.

COVID, Federal Prison Camp & Quarantine

I self surrendered on April 13, 2020 to a Women’s Federal Prison Camp. I only remember the last 20 minutes of our ride there and an waving goodbye to my guy as he drove away.

In the lobby I was escorted to a conference room and asked several questions by an officer. One of the hardest things through this entire process is having to relive childhood and adult trauma to men. Men seem to have very little compassion, the ones I have encountered anyway, for women who have experienced trauma. In those moments the man who asked me questions didn’t even act like I was human, as I would learn in the next year, he treated everyone like that.

From there I was led to R & D, where a woman had me fill out some paperwork and gave me government issued clothing. I was fingerprinted and had my photo taken for my id that I would carry for the next year. Some women’s id’s reminded me of elementary school pictures, smiling and happy. I always wondered what was going through their heads in those moments. I was given two bags and a camp cot and then taken by my Case Manager to the Chapel where I would be quarantined until May 7th when I was released to the compound to my housing unit I would spend the rest of my time in.

When I got to the Chapel, there were two other women there. One in her 40’s and another in her 30’s. I have to back track, in the lobby a women close to my age had just returned after being gone for a few months for medical issues. She would later come into the Chapel with us and a day later another woman from Texas would come in. We would spend the spend the next 21 days together in the Chapel, reading, writing, watching movies and getting to know each other.

I later realized how lucky I was to be in quarantine with those women. Instead of being thrown onto the compound without knowing anyone, I had 4 women I knew. N* questioned and watched me, I didn’t know until she told me later that she was watching me to make sure I was who I said I was. Meaning my words and actions matched. N* and I talked a lot and shared our stories with each other. Common thread….Trauma. She would share food and toiletries with me without hesitation and without asking for or wanting anything in return. She helped me with my first commissary sheet and after that I would always buy things to share or things she liked so that I could return her kindness. We would spend the months leading up to her move in July together, granted we made other friends, but we always found our way back together.

The youngest woman, J*, I got to know about a week after she got there, she was coming down and was sleeping it off. She and I would stick together after our move as well. You could always find 4 out of 5 of us not too far from each other. J would come to me when she was really homesick for her Mama, just to sit or for a hug.

The lady who came in with me had already been there and had her own group she went back too. While we were in the Chapel many women, and several of her friends, would bring us food, clothing, shoes or other items we couldn’t get because our spends were low when we first came in.

Then came V, she is the same age as me. We would talk a lot about life experiences and she would share some funny stories of her wild days with me.

We could only shower every third day and we had to wait for a unit to clear out and be escorted by a guard. We had laundry once a week, they would come get our bags in the morning and they would be returned in the afternoon. Everything was washed and dried in a mesh bag. We would hand wash our under garments in the bathroom sink and hang them to dry on the back of chairs in the room we shared. J and I also took to shaving our legs in the sink so that we would save time in the regular shower.

I am still more than grateful for the women I shared time and space with during quarantine, I know that there will be three of them that someday when all of this is over I will see again.

So this is with who and how I spent my first 21 days in.

Peace

My Day

This is what my weekdays at the camp looked liked, they varied very little. When I first got there we were not allowed out on Friday’s, eventually they did give us rec time for two hours. It was referred to as Rest Based Fitness. We were only allowed in the recreation area and on the track if they weren’t practicing at the gun range behind the camp.

Sometimes we would walk the track if it wasn’t too hot out. Sometimes we shower early and nap. Another quiet time in the unit. Our unit at maximum occupancy housed 74 women. The lines for the showers were sometimes long, there were often arguments at the phones because of lack of respect and people using the phone on both am and pm rec. Outside workers were scheduled for afternoon rec and others were in the morning while we were gone. Some women were just rude and it seemed like they thought they were the only ones in a room with 5 others trying to talk on the phone.

So here is what my weekdays looked like. I was fortunate enough to get a job 3 days after I hit the compound as the clerk for the garage which maintained the facilities equipment and vehicles. Working camps took care of the outside detail for the Men’s Federal Prison as well. I have to say I worked with some BADASS hard working, smart women.

5:10 am: My alarm goes off, I make my bed and climb down from my bunk. I check to see if the 5 am count has already been done, we are supposed to be in our cubicle at all counts. I head towards the bathroom and start getting ready. We take a breakfast of oatmeal or protein bars we buy on commissary for breakfast.

6:45 am: I meet my co-workers out front to walk the half mile to the garage where we work. We did have a little truck for a while but it was surveyed due to age and miles. I was the clerk in the garage for the time I was in Phoenix.

9:50 am: My co-workers and I went back to the camp for lunch. We get one hour to eat, typically we went back early. Being at work helped time pass quickly, we had a purpose and things to do.

10:45 am: We would make sure all of our duties were completed and sometimes we would find things to do, clean, help with other projects.

1:00 pm: Back to camp to wait until 1:30 pm for our rec time.

1:30 pm: We had rec time, this included phones, emails, video visits, laundry and working out. While I was in we were still on a semi lockdown where we only had two hours to get these things done. We had a phone and laundry list that we went by.

3:30 to 3:45 pm: Our unit was called for Chow (dinner). It would always depend on what we were having if we were going to the Chow Hall or not.

4:00 pm: We had standing count. We had to be in our cubicle with our ID’s in hand until the count was completed in our unit. If you weren’t ready you could cost the unit rec time, receive a shot or do extra duty. Extra duty depended on the what the office chose for you.

4:00 pm on… We made dinner if we didn’t eat in the Chow Hall, and hung out with our friends in our unit. Some would go to the TV room. I would throw up my towel over the stall, who ever gets there first goes first. When new people started coming in they would throw their towels over other peoples towels so I started using post-it notes with my name and who I was after.

The rest of the evening I would hang with my Bunkie if she wasnt watching TV, we would read or I would crochet. Sometimes I would go visit my friends down the hall or they would come hang out with us.

9:00 pm: This was our second and last standing count of the day, unless there was an emergency count. A majority of us would go to bed. This was the quietest time of the day. There were two more counts in the night, we had to have a body part exposed or could not cover our heads. This was so that the counting officers could see that we were physically in our own bunk.

I will write more about things that I experienced and I am always open to questions, especially if they help someone.

Peace

First things first…

Being gone for almost a year and really having time to think about some of the things that took place prior to me going away is the first thing that is on my mind.

In 2020 I had to reach out to my closest friends and family members to ask for character letters for my Judge. The amount and substance of these letters brought me to my knees. I had letters from friendships that spanned over thirty years and friendships that spanned two years. The genuine support I had was and still is overwhelming and deeply felt. Every time I went to the mail box and there were letters, I knew tears would follow.

Which brings me to the reason I am writing this piece in the first place.

There were three people who I asked to write me a character letter. One, I had worked with in the same industry and had been in and out of contact with over the years. The previous conversation we had he asked “are you dating?”, I told no. So when I asked for the letter his response was “I don’t know what you have been doing for the last 15 years”. Bitch!

When I told my Mom what happened, she knew him, she said to me….”Someday he will need someone and no one will be there for him. Just let it go.” I did, but I was angry. I thought way too much of the people who were supposed to be my friends.

So, I had similar experiences with three women I know. One I have known since I was 16…”I will write you an amazing letter…blah..blah..blah…we have been through so much together..blah…blah..blah…I love you…BLAH….BLAH…BLAH!” Two weeks before my letters were to be delivered to my attorney I reached out to her. Calls, messages, texts….dead air. My last message was “Just let me know if you cant/dont feel comfortable writing the letter.” DEAD.AIR. Technology…when you can see the messages have been picked up. Someone close to me said, “Call her on her shit!”. For what? At the end of the day there is nothing that can be said or done to undo what was done. The other two….different stories but along the same lines.

Hurt?? In the beginning, a lot. Venting…completely!

When someone asks you for something don’t say yes, if you have no intention of doing it. Don’t drag ass or bullshit them. Especially when it’s something important to them. They will have more respect for you if you just say no.

A character letter is about how you see and view the person you know, the relationship you have with them, their qualities and familiarity with them. It’s that easy, it’s only about the way you know them.

So, yes, I am back. I look forward to writing about my experience and hopefully helping people get through similar situations.

There is more to come….

Peace

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