For my friends
ATTENTION: You are receiving a story from a slave—ahem—from an inmate inside the Bad People Department of Corrections. We are adding to our multi B-B-Billion dollar purse just by letting you communicate with our property. Please remain in the “grab your ankles, bitch” position as we continue to fuck society in the ass.
Thank you for your continued ignorance—hah, whoops…
Thank you for your cooperation :)
Holy shit. Prison is nothing like County. Intake was just as violating, but this place is actually clean… ish. It smells like stale air and generic Windex rather than the lingering aroma of sewage pipes and boob sweat.
Walking through the unit, I see that there’s more than just 5 showers per 100 women, and every line has less than 10 zombies shuffling along in it. I must’ve won the lottery of prisons because County was nothing but endless wall-sliding and single-file, consuming your whole day just to eat, bathe, and call home.
The biggest mind fuck is my cell. I have a door that I can not only close, but I have keys to lock it. Even more shocking, my bunkie is apparently in the infirmary (so I’ll have privacy for once). All a far cry from the cramped pole barn at the jail where personal space is nonexistent. It’s like I just moved to a different planet. I’m hesitant to feel comfortable, but the slightly muffled noise from outside my closed cell is a bunch of sweet nothing compared to the echo chamber of hysteria I’ve lived in for the last 13 months.
I finish organizing my bunk and change into my standard-issued prison blues to try to make use of the day I have left. I lock up my cell and head towards the rec area to get in line for the mail kiosks. I’m feeling good because blue is so my color (and my husband’s favorite). He says it brings out my eyes. Oh, my heart! I can’t wait for our first visit next month! I just know he’s going to tell me how good I look in this dark indigo instead of that gross bright orange I’ve been wearing. We never had kids so he calls me his pride and joy, and I’m finally feeling like it again in this pretty color. I’ve learned to really appreciate the small things in life.
I hop in line for the kiosks so I can write a letter to my baby. I need to let him know I’ve made the transport safely. I don’t have a tablet yet, so I’ll have to type something quick on the big screen. The girl ahead of me is much younger, but she looks familiar with the place.
“Hey girl, what’s the time limit on the screens?” I ask in that high-pitched tone us females use when we want to appear harmless.
“Fifteen.” She replies over her shoulder.
Wow! We only got ten at County! Five whole extra minutes when you don’t have a tablet is a godsend. It’s a pain in the ass to type on the big screens that barely register your touch to begin with.
When my turn arrives, I see a new message from my husband… from today? Whoa! Mail actually comes on time here? It took up to 5 days to receive digital letters at the jail (even for short messages), and weeks for snail mail. I’m starting to feel like I’m in the twilight zone. Like this is all too good to be true. Let’s see what my dearest has sent me:
FROM: Ian Flores
TO: Jasmine Flores 11130013
I hope the bus ride went smoothly this morning. Must’ve been a sauna in there without AC. The high is supposed to be 99 today. Please let me know when you’ve arrived. About to jump in the car with Pop. He’s ready to go to the airport now. Your sister wants to come for the drive. Pop’s flight was delayed to 12:13. He sends his love. Stay safe.
Aww! My baby just cares for me. I don’t know what I’d do without him. My husband is the only thing that keeps me sane as a prisoner. I’m actually excited about the future for the first time in over a year because I get to have family visits here. Well, with the family I have left, that is. My sister barely talks to me anymore, and the trial was hard on Pop’s heart. My father-in-law is the only parent I’ve ever known, and I’m the daughter he’s always wanted, but he doesn’t fly down as much now with his failing health. This whole situation has been tough on everyone.
The screen is slow to load, but the timer says I have just over 13 minutes left. I have a million things to tell my husband about this new world in Bad Girl Prison:
BPDOC INMATE ACCOUNT
11130013 Jasmine Flores
TO: Approved Contact:
Thank you so much for your well wishes. I made it in one piece. The travel time you looked up for me proved useless. I’m sure it will only take you about 1 hour to drive to the BGP, but for us, it took FOUR HOURS in that oven on wheels. They insisted on taking the back roads and confusing routes to make sure us “dangers to society” couldn’t ehscayp into populated areas. It took all day just to get to my new lockup.
I miss home so much, but I’m trying to stay focused on the positives. This new facility is MUCH nicer than expected. Prison is soooo different, babe. Well, this one is, at least. They try to make it look homey in the common areas, and there’s even decorations! They’re really pretty, actually. And guess what else? I heard the jobs here pay $1 per hour! ONE WHOLE DOLLAR, BABE!!! If I’m lucky enough to snag one, I could pay for my own medical visits! Yay! And get this: WE GET TO HAVE A 3 SECOND HUG AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF VISITS HERE!!! Oh, baby! I’m getting you know what just thinking about it! Will you wear that Tom Ford I bought for your bday for me? Mmm, I can’t wait!
I miss Pop already. Let me know how his next doctor appointment goes? I hope he’s feeling better. Tell him I’m so hungry that I could eat my chanclas. LOL! It’ll make him laugh. All we had was a sack lunch of slimy bologna and stale bread for the ride over. They should be calling last chow soon. I’ll let you know when I get my tablet and commissary. The money hasn’t gone through yet, but everything seems to run faster here so I’m sure I’ll get it tomorrow. Thank you for always keeping money on my books. You’re the light leading me home.
Hope you had a lovely day!
I love you!
PS: I tried calling right when I got to the unit but it says there’s no money on the phone. Perhaps you need to reset automatic payments for this new location? I’ll try to find out how that works. Thanks, babe.
I learned that I can’t write stuff like “escape” because the system will instantly deny my mail before the COs even read it (because I’ve typed a no-no word), and they don’t give refunds either. And I definitely can’t tell my husband I’m getting wet in anticipation of touching him for the first time in a year. A chick from County taught me to use bad spelling to have some freedom of speech in our letters.
I once got reprimanded for telling my own husband that I miss making love to him through the partition at the jail (shut it down folks, we’ve got a psychopath on our hands!). All the while, I had to watch certain male officers fuck us with their eyes every damn day. And since they don’t give a shit about those of us disabilities, they had no clue I could read their lips as they fucked us with their words, too.
The worst COs would sexually harass us right to our faces (both male and female). But, they can do that because they’re allowed to break the rules (and they get paid and praised for it). However, when the rest of us make mistakes, we don’t deserve to be human anymore. Scratch that—when you’ve been caught making mistakes. Until then, you get to walk around with a golden stick up your ass, shaking your finger at everyone else.
The screen confirms that my email has been sent 09/13/2023 at 16:13 PM. My account has been charged 1 stamp and—look at that! A whole 6 minutes to spare! Not too shabby! I’ll let the chick behind me step on early…
Wait! I’ve got a new message from Ian! Screw it, I’ll make a good impression another time. I’m taking this:
FROM: Ian Flores
TO: Jasmine Flores 11130013
We just got home. I want a divorce.
What the FUCK?! No. No, no, no! I read it over and over:
A divorce?! WHY?! How is this possible?! We’ve never so much as uttered the word “breakup,” let alone “DIVORCE!” Ian and Jazz are that couple who grow old together! And what does he mean by “we” just got home?! That’s our home! My fucking home! The house I bought for us! Is he talking about him and my sister?! Is he fucking my fucking sister?!? Has he just been using me this whole time to secure a way out? Is that why my sister stopped talking to me?! Or wait—did he fly home with his father?! What does he mean?! If he’s with my sister, I’m gonna fucking kill him. Everything was fine! Oh fuck, I’m gonna throw up…
I rush to the giant rubber trash can secured to the wall next to the kiosk and quickly puke my guts out. I hear a couple women in the line laughing at me as I leap to grab my last 5 minutes, but the chick who was behind me has already taken my place.
“Hey, sorry, I had 5 minutes left. Can I go back? Please? It’s urgent.” I plead to her in a guttural, low-pitched tone.
“You snooze you loose. Well, more like ‘you puke you lose.’ Yuck. Go to the back of the line. Your breath stinks.” She doesn’t even look up from the screen as she shoos me away.
I race to the back of the line. There’s 6 people ahead of me. With 3 machines, that’s up to 30 minutes of waiting just to send a “WTF” to my husband. My husband! The love of my life! I feel like I’m about to shit my pants. My whole world is spinning. What the fuck is happening?! I shift from one foot to the other, holding my stomach as I wait.
Just as I’m about to take my turn on the next available screen, they blow an emergency count. The siren is deafening and my head is already pounding.
“No! Please! I just need one minute!” I beg the officer headed our way to wrangle us back to our cells.
“Sorry. No can do. You’ve got 3 minutes to be in your bunk. Go on, get!” He, too, shoos me away like a dog.
I speed walk in the direction of my cell, ducking under the stairs to save a few seconds, as if that will help count go faster. I’m already calculating the time it will take to tally every single woman in the prison. My stomach turns even more.
They sound the alarm again, signaling the end of a successful count. I immediately race back to the mail kiosks. A woman gets on the loud speaker to call our unit for chow, but there’s no way I can eat now. Maybe I can grab a phone when everyone is at dinner. I hope the money went through. Shit, now I’m unsure if Ian put money on my accounts at all.
I have no way of accessing what’s left of my funds without Ian. How will I buy my necessities? I don’t even have tampons yet and my period is supposed to start this week. The pads the DOC gave me in my indigent kit couldn’t absorb a ball of spit, let alone my endometriosis horrorshow. The last few e-stamps on my account are my only hope. I need to find out what the fuck is going on. I hope Ian hasn’t blocked me by now. No. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t leave me all alone in here. Would he?
The same douchebag officer stops me just before reaching the kiosks.
“Phones and screens just went down. You’ll have to try back after dinner.” He scoffs while holding his duty belt, creating a firm barricade between me and my only link to the outside world.
“Sir, please! It’s urg—"
The CO stops me by putting his hand in front of my face.
“Go to the chow hall or back to your cell! NOW!” He commands, pointing his finger over my shoulder, waiting for me to turn around and leave.
I huff away, knowing full well he can give me a ticket for “poor attitude,” but I couldn’t care less right now.
I storm into my cell, lock the door behind me, and climb up to my bunk. I plop down onto the 3 inch mat and shove my face into the flat pillow so I can scream. My anger is boiling.
We’ve been married for eighteen fucking years. Together for twenty. It’s always been just the two of us. Ian and Jazz against the world because we are the perfect couple—minus my convictions. But my side hustle paid off our mortgage! We would’ve been homeless without it! All because my darling husband ruined our legitimate business. When we went under, I found a way to keep our heads above water. Me! I’m the one who paid off all our debt. How could he leave me like this? And without explanation? Now I’m here, paying our debt to society for the both of us! Like always! Am I really this easy to throw away? After all I’ve done?!
My thoughts spin out of control, and before I know it, the stress of today knocks me out cold.
I wake up startled by the horn, not realizing where I even am. Oh—it’s final count. I wave at the flashlight shining into my dark cell through the window to prove I am where I’m supposed to be. I see the silhouette of someone walking in front of the light. A woman unlocks my door and enters the cell. She reaches for the lamp below me and flicks it on. It’s my bunkie, back from the infirmary. She’s very young and frail looking. She waits for the second horn and closes the door, locking us in for the night.
“Hey.” She says quietly, looking up at me as I stare down at her.
“Hey.” I reply softly.
We both instantly recognize deep sadness in each other.
“I’m Sandra. You just get here?” She asks, trying to be polite despite her obvious melancholy.
“Yeah, earlier today. I’m Jasmine, but everyone calls me Jazz. How long you been here?” I ask, trying to match conversation.
“I got transferred here 3 weeks ago, but this is my second time down… and last…” Her voice dwindles.
“You come from County, too?” I ask.
“No, the Max. Way out in the woods. I just made Level 2 after seven months there. I worked hard to complete my treatment plan in time for… whatever. Now I’m here.” She looks away, hiding her pain.
I heard a couple of female guards gossiping about my bunkie when they assigned my cell. She apparently took a murder plea for stabbing her husband to death after he beat her for years. If that’s true, I say he had it comin’ and he ran his damn self into her knife. Ugh, I shouldn’t think like that. How horribly sad for her and her family. But, it must’ve been a good deal to not fight a murder case like that—any murder case. I want to find out more, but I’ve learned not to ask about people’s cases. She’ll tell me eventually if she wants me to know. I just hope she has a chance to get out someday, as young as she is.
Sandra finishes organizing her things and slowly sits down on her bunk, wincing loudly in pain.
“Hey, you okay?” I hop down from the top bunk to see if she needs help. “You were in the infirmary, right?”
“Down the road at Saint Mary’s, actually. Or ‘Hell Mary’s’ more like it.” She holds her hips in pain and lowers the elastic waistband of her bottoms to find comfort. That’s the first time I notice her big belly.
“Oh! Did you just have a baby?!” I ask in excitement, but immediately realize my mistake and apologize with my expression.
She stares up at me in despair as tears rush into her eyes, trying to muster a response.
“Yeah.” Her voice cracks.
The pain on Sandra’s face is haunting. That’s not just the “baby blues,” that’s someone who’s been through torture. Oh my God… I can see the marks on her wrists from being shackled while giving birth.
“I’m gonna get some sleep. Nice meeting you.” She whispers.
Sandra turns to her side and kicks her slides off the bed. She’s clearly in too much agony to even change into her casuals. I see her inmate number splayed across the back of her blues. Oh, no. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Her number is my wedding date: 10132005. Well, I guess October 13th used to be my anniversary. I’ve always had shit luck, Pop even says that I must’ve been born under a bad sign, but this feels like a cruel joke from God. And what happened to Sandra is just fucking cruel.
“Goodnight.” My voice trails, failing to offer her any comfort because I’m a sad sack of shit.
I climb back up to my bunk. Sandra waits for me to get settled to turn off her lamp. Her kindness makes my heart ache even more.
This is insane! I woke up this morning the same Jazz I’ve been for the last 18 years. I’d never felt special until I became Mrs. Jasmine Flores. Ian always called me his spring flower when we were newlyweds. I hate my maiden name. Am I plain old Jasmine Withers again? Oh, God… old. What will a middle-aged woman with no family and a record do on the outside? I’ll be forty-fucking-six and ten years gone when I’m released. Who’s gonna give a shit about me now? Nobody knows you when you’re down and out. Shit, I don’t even know me. The only identity I’m absolutely sure of right now is 11130013.
The shapes of the room fade to black, but my mind refuses settle. I toss over in frustration, making both bunks squeak and clank. As soon as the clatter stops, I hear Sandra start to cry.
Holy fuck. This poor girl. She just gave birth and can’t even hold her child—hell, can’t even see her child—when all mom and baby need are each other right now. Captivity breeds madness, but being forced apart from all that you know and love… that’s the real punishment.
I can already imagine ignorant ass people talking their shit about someone like Sandra. They would say she’s not a “real” mother, or that she doesn’t deserve her child. But I can feel her maternal desperation in my bones with every uncontrollable wail coming from her soul. It’s the most agonizing sound I’ve ever heard.
I begin to cry along with Sandra, trying to hide my own sorrows in her sobs. I feel pathetic for drowning in self pity when she is going through something much worse, but my pain hurts, too. It really hurts! And it’s all my fault. What have I done to my marriage? To my life? I did this! Me!
In our own way, no matter how much time we get, we are all serving (and giving) life sentences. We will always be paying for our mistakes, and no amount of pain in here can fix the pain out there. It just creates more pain for innocent people who don’t deserve to be motherless, daughterless… wifeless. I don’t know how to fix any of this, but hurting more people can’t be the answer… can it?
The sounds of Sandra’s loud, painful bellowing causes women from other cells to start shouting all over the unit.
Woman 1: “I’m trying to sleep!”
Woman 2: “Stop being a little bitch, Sandra! I had to do it, too! Shut the fuck up!”
Woman 3: “YOU shut the fuck up, Dee! Put your headphones on, you heartless bitch!”
Woman 4: “JUST SHUT UP!!!”
Woman 5: “Y’all bitches are crazy! Haha! Craaazaaay weeoo weeoo!”
The douchebag guard from earlier comes to our door and bangs on the window, scaring Sandra and I so bad that we both jump.
“Hey, Flores! How do you like it here? Hah! Welcome to the machine!” He taunts me loudly, making sure I know I’m on his shit list. I can hear the other guards laughing, joining in his schadenfreude.
Ah, yes. There it is. This is more like the punishment I deserve. Nonstop chaos. The optimism I had when I arrived was but a momentary lapse of reason. Prison isn’t this cozy, decorated home they’re trying to fool us with. It’s fucking prison: a torture chamber designed to destroy human beings… and it is succeeding.
The personal laments of 100 women continue to fill the thick, nobody gives a shit atmosphere. I cover my head to shut out the madness, but it’s just no use. There will be little sleep as this symphony of destruction plays in the BGP tonight.
This has been the worst day of my life…
And it’s just day one.
A “Those Damn Enigmas” Production
This is a work of fiction. However, it was written with real men and women at heart, because their stories matter. They, matter.