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.