Joy is one of my friends and wrote about her experience in county jail and prison for a crime she was both charged and convicted of. Joy shared bits and pieces of her story with me here and there in the past and I told her that she should write about it. She ended up doing so and I absolutely love what came out of it. I think it’s incredibly brave to write about such a personal and life changing experience. I am beyond grateful that Joy opted to share her story and furthermore, that she allowed me to publish it on my site. Friends, meet Joy:
Hello, my name is Joy and I am a convicted felon.
Those words are somewhat jarring to some at first sound. The looks, the shock, the comments: “you don’t look like someone who went to prison”. I’ve heard it all. Trying to explain it in a job interview is the BEST …. not! You inevitably feel judged or singled out because of a mistake you made, which, being honest, is understandable. However, let’s face it, I bet 90% of the population has committed a crime that possibly could have sent them to county jail and/or prison. How many have driven after a few drinks when they shouldn’t have? They just didn’t get caught.
A friend of mine, Smash, asked me if I wanted to write about my experience. I wasn’t sure at first, but decided what the hell!
I am now a 41-year-old divorced mother of 3. At the time the crime was committed, I was married to my high school boyfriend for nearly 16 years. The 16 years I was married, I was in an abusive relationship. I kept that to myself and even from my teenage children as I felt I was protecting them. My (now) ex-husband did not work the entire time we were married; he always had some kind of “medical” condition of sorts. There was always an excuse and looking back now, I see that I was an enabler.
I became tired of struggling and being broke living off one income and wanted to give my children a different life. I had, in my possession, a company credit card that I started using for personal things. The owners of the company never looked at the bills and just paid the charges every month. Needless to say, it got easier and easier to use. I was eventually caught and once all was said and done, I was sentenced to 3 years in the Department of Corrections and 7 years of standard probation upon being released. Please understand, I blame no one but myself for the choices I made and I take full responsibility for my actions.
I’d think most people, especially mothers, would be devastated with a sentence similar to mine. Three years without your children is a REALLY long time. Believe me, I was, however, I chose to look at it differently. Once I got past the shock and despair, I decided to use this to my benefit. About 6 months before I was convicted, I FINALLY got out of my abusive marriage. My children went to stay with my parents while I served my sentence.
Now onto the interesting part of the story…!
County jail! OMG! There are not words in my vocabulary to describe county jail. They handcuff and shackle you anywhere you are transported. I suppose this was to be anticipated; after all, I was a criminal. The best part was when they’d take several women at once to be “stripped out”. I cannot tell you enough how thoroughly enlightening it is to strip butt ass naked in front of other women you don’t know, only to be asked to squat and cough to ensure you haven’t shoved any “contraband” up any crevices!
You no longer went to the bathroom or showered in private. Everything is shared and open with other females. If you had to take a shit, you did so with someone on a toilet across from you; someone who was likely staring as you took care of business. When you showered, you did so in the shared shower with usually 6-8 other females. I have seen things that have quite possibly left permanent scars.
As for what they feed you, they are not lying when you hear people talk about the “slop”. It is literally slop. It looks more like dog food than anything edible to a human being. I was fortunate enough to be able to shop their “store” every week and literally lived off of tunafish and tortillas. As a special treat, I’d sometimes purchase a soda and a bag of chips.
I got through about 5 months of this before I was transferred to prison.
Let me put this out there right now: Prison is not quite like Orange is the New Black. There are relationships and corruption, obviously, because that is anywhere, but you don’t see hot lesbians having sex in the bathrooms! While there are many similarities, there surely was no ‘Red’ in the kitchen with a large butcher knife. Even more so, none of us looked even half as good as ‘Piper’ and ‘Alex’. Make up was not a common thing laying around our cells. Our hair was required to be kept in a pony tail at all times and our shirts were to be tucked in when we were out of our cells.
Prison was definitely better than county, but still no picnic. I had an outside job where I was actually able to leave the prison on a bus every morning, work a prison job, and then return to the prison at the end of the day. This definitely made my time more bearable. The thrilling highlight, of course, was once again when I’d return to the prison each night. I’d do the ‘strip, squat, and cough’ routine 5 days a week. To this day, I still don’t hear the words ‘strip’, ‘cough’, or ‘squat’ without horrifying memories and the smell of latex gloves.
However, honestly speaking, after peeing, pooping, and showering in public, this no longer mattered to me. I became jaded. Being naked, and asking to squat and cough became a new normal. I lost all my ‘shyness’ real quick.
Prison provided better meals, nothing gourmet, but definitely better than county. They provided actual private showers; that is, if you got past the little window just in case a guard wanted to make sure there were not 2 of you in there. I did have a toilet in my “room” so unless my “Bunkie” was on the bed next to the toilet, I could usually go to the bathroom in peace.
Despite all of the scary things I have seen and time away from my children, getting caught and going to prison was the best thing that happened to me at that point in my life. I’ve always believed in the saying “everything happens for a reason” and even more so, at a certain time or season of your life.
Prison was not “fun”, however, I did make the most of the time I had there. I met some of the most amazing women; most of whom I am still friends with to this day. I basically had 3 years to focus on nothing but myself. It gave me that much needed time to heal from a long time in an abusive relationship. Abusive relationships are incredibly difficult to recover from as there are so many emotional pains and scars. It takes a long time for someone to heal, recover and believe they are beautiful and worthy of loving again. I had the time to come to that realization. My kids came to see me every other weekend and we ended up having a much better relationship than we’d ever had before. We all became closer and more honest. It opened our eyes to the damages of that relationship and what can happen if you let money rule your world.
I walked and exercised as much as possible. Not only was it good for my body it is good for my soul. I wrote A LOT. All my feelings at any given time were put on paper. Some of that was painful, but mostly, it was cathartic. Most of all, I HEALED! I let go of all the anger and the resentment towards my ex-husband, because at the end of the day it was only hurting me. He couldn’t have cared less how I felt, whether I was angry or not, so I let it all go. I came out of prison happier than I’d ever been in my life. I had refocused my direction on my children and moving forward.
I am still working for the same company I did as an inmate. Even better, I run it now! I have friends in my life that I met in prison that would go to the end of the Earth for me and vice versa. We are a great support system for each other. I reconnected with an amazing man that I went to grade school with and we have been in a happy healthy relationship together for the last 4 years. Before prison, I never expected happiness out of my personal life. I never imagined that I would be in a healthy relationship because I didn’t believe in myself. Going to prison changed all that.
I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be in the place I am now if all of that hadn’t of happened. I truly love my life, my children, my man and everyone around me.
Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Going to prison was mine.