A Day in the Life of an Inmate
As told to Mimi Marie
Bunky= the person an inmate shares a cell with
The hole/segregation= isolation from other inmates - a single cell
Grooming room= the room where the women can do their hair
Caustic room= the room where cleaning supplies, mops, and brooms are kept
Yard= outside grounds
Count= times when the officers do a count of the inmates. They must be in their cells at these times
Roll ups= cigarettes inmates roll themselves
Lifers= women with life sentences, they live in a separate unit
Med line= line the inmates stand in to get their medication
Dayroom= Open room where inmates can play cards, socialize and use the phone
I’m freezing! Its 6:15 Monday morning. The window, which is a foot away from my pillow, is wide open. It’s the middle of December. Blaring music and a loud bang against the locker wake me up as Bunky turns on the bright light. It shines in my face. I’d like to give her a piece of my mind. She’s obsessed with that window and is so rude! I want to break her hands and put poison on the window knob. She’s a psycho bunky from hell! I reach for my Bible and the Lord says, “Let me handle it.” Guide me in all my ways.
I still can’t believe I’m in prison. I’m really in this 7 by 10 cell. I grab my clothes and toothbrush as Bunky is standing naked singing “Amazing Grace” and blowing kisses to herself in the mirror and waves good-bye. She’s not just waving because I’m going to the bathroom; she’s determined to send me to the hole. The sarcastic wave is her way of saying it. I won’t let her make me mad. With only five sinks, four toilets and three showers to share with ninety-one of us, I purposely get up early to avoid waiting in line. 6:15 is the earliest they let us out of our cells. And I need time to disinfect the sink before using it.
It’s 6:45. I take my work calendar to the Officer and say “good morning”. She responds with a stare. I gather my cleaning supplies, clean the grooming and caustic rooms, empty the trashes, and do it for eighty four cents a day. I praise God and sing. At least I have a job.
Chow is called, its 7:30. Sometimes we wait until 7:45 and other times they call it as early as 7:00. I drop whatever I’m doing and finish my work afterward if I’m not through. The cold cereal and banana make the trip worth while. Though I occasionally get sour milk, it’s a lot better than lunch and supper. Hot oatmeal is served sometimes, but I look forward to a hard boiled egg once a week. When everyone is finished eating, I empty the trash and leisurely walk a quarter mile to the trash compactor. I don’t mind the alone time.
I stroll to the yard around 8:30. Sometimes I socialize and other times I jog around the track. Some of the women mock me, but I jog anyway. After the yard, I go to the Law Library to browse and read for a while.
I enter my cell around 11:00 for count. Bunky threatens to hit me for not taking my shoes off---- she’s the one who tracked mud in earlier. Hypocrite! She stomps her dirty shoes on my clothes, full of filth, and hands me my shirt and pants.
“I just mopped the floor with em,” she says with a smirk.
I notice my sheet of prayers in the trash; my mail is scattered on the floor. She thinks the universe revolves around her. I’m glad she’ll be released in a few weeks.
“I’ll make your life miserable until I leave,” she says. “You’re going straight to hell. And when I leave, I’ll get someone in this room to crack your head and hang you. You should know why your mother left you when you were four, it’s because she knew you were the devil!” She spews.
Chow’s at noon and I know what to expect. The same menu each month makes meals predictable. The taco salad and baked chicken with stuffing aren’t so bad. And I like the kidney bean pasta. Too bad they only have those dishes once a month. I take my small cup and fill it with Sprite. I wish we could have ice.
I go through the med line and return to my cell around 1:30. Bunky’s smoking roll ups. The cinder block walls are stained a yellowish brown color from the clouds of smoke that suffocate them. She’s counting all the hairs that fell from my head on the floor.
“You’d better clean this place, B!” she shouts.
She sweeps dirt and hair underneath my desk and does her weekly ritual of rearranging the furniture. Obsessive compulsive! She climbs up to her bunk and starts indulging in cakes, candy and cookies; she never offers me any. Selfish! Her family fills her account with money so she can order personals, snacks and tobacco at the store, yet she hoards whatever she gets. I know when her drink is gone; a horrendous slurp echoes in the cell. I pack my ears with cotton before reading my Bible and saying my prayers. If I want to visit my lifer friends, I walk to the Law Library around 3:00. (This is the only place I can see them.)
I go back to my cell by 4:00 for count. I take a twenty minute nap and complete my correspondence Bible study. There’s not much religious education, so I sign up for whatever becomes available. On Sundays, I sing in the church choir. We sound great! The joy of the Lord is a gift only He can give and it manifests itself when we sing. Refreshing!
Chow is called at 5:30. I pray that I don’t get seated with people who swear or ridicule me. I wish I could sit where I want. I’m not fond of the tasteless pasta and gravy. The chocolate cake looks okay; there’s no frosting. What’s the point of that? I eat an orange and go back to my cell.
I watch the news on my ninety three dollar thirteen inch black and white TV. Everything is so costly here! I browse the channels until 7:30. I’d rather stay in my cell than go to the noisy, overcrowded dayroom that’s filled with strife. The med line starts at 8:00 for our unit. I try to go early before it gets too long. It’s not fun to wait outside, especially when it rains. Then I go back to my cell to pick up my tooth brush and get ready for bed.
I watch “House” until 10:00. I lie on my steel slab bed and pack my ears in cotton again. Just as my mind wanders to a peaceful sleep, Bunky yells, “Stop that snoring or I am going to get an axe and chop you into little pieces.” She waits until I fall asleep to open the window.
And the next day, I do it all over again.
The Lord reached down from above and took me;
he pulled me from the deep water. He saved me
from my powerful enemies, from those who hated
me, because they were too strong for me. They
attacked me at my time of trouble, but the Lord
supported me. He took me to a safe place.
Because he delights in me, he saved me.
Psalm 18:16-19 NCV
What a day! But, whether anyone knows it or not, humans walk in a similar prison each day if they do not know the peace and joy of knowing Christ as their Savior. Yes, there are hard times, even then, but we don't have to face tomorrow alone!