The First Day In County Jail

I’ll never forget my first day in county jail. I’d stepped into a world that I only knew from television and Hollywood movies, and like every Hollywood movie about crime & punishment, Hollywood’s depiction is nothing like reality. The only thing Hollywood gets right is the fact that it’s stressful. This is especially true if you’ve never stepped foot into a county jail–any jail, for that matter–because this is the day you were arrested.

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Prison By Kyle (SOCF) (OH)

Forward by Christopher

Maximum security is different from time at the lower levels. You’re caged with men serving very long sentences many of whom will never be released. The mentality of convicts is hardened, and it’s day in and day out of endless madness. Each day is about survival.

In maximum security most convicts could care less about the next man. They certainly have a disdain for a hostile administration protecting bad staff or that promotes retaliation.

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Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal by Christopher Monihan

Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal

 

483 pp, (paperback $11.50) ebook ($1.99)  Availab le at amazon.com

I’m always looking toward the future. I don’t live in the past, and today is simply a crossroad into the future. For 2 1\2 years I’ve written LettersFromChristopher. I’m more excited with each passing day for what is yet to come, for the stories and voices of other prisoners posted here about their incarceration struggles and triumphs.

When I started LettersFromChristopher it was just me. I’ve met amazing people on this journey from prisoners to free world citizens. All with personal stories to share about incarceration.

Now I write with Felicia, a prisoner at Ohio’s massive women’s prison known as ”The Farm”, regularly posting thoughts and stories from prisoners around the United States. We write to draw awareness to the plight of prisoners in the world’s largest penal system. One post at a time. One voice at a time.

Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal is a book containing every LettersFromChristopher post from inception through April 2021. In it you’ll find personal stories and essays about incarceration from male and female prisoners, all at your fingertips. No clicking. No scrolling. There’s tons of pictures and images taken from the site, and special written series are highlighted for easy reference. There’s also an eBook version for on the go reading.

What is day to day prison life like? What’s it like to be an incarcerated parent? What do prisoners struggle with but never tell their families about? These questions are answered in Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal.

It’s my hope that you will purchase a copy for yourself, and for others you know who may have a family member incarcerated or who has an interest in incarceration. For this reason, I’ve priced the book as low as Amazon would allow. I make virtually nothing from each copy sold.

If you work in corrections or law enforcement or are a criminal justice student, this book is for you. In it you’ll discover the human side of us prisoners and you will find that we share more common ground than what prevailing stereotypes dictate.

I believe that rehabilitation, not endless incarceration, is the key to breaking the cycle of crime. When one’s rehabilitation is ignored or under weighted by state parole boards and administrators there’s a tangible cost to society. The solution to incarceration isn’t more incarceration.

Awareness begins one post and one voice at a time.

Christopher Monihan

 

I’m Sorry My Son by Felicia (ORW) (OH)

March 29, 2007 at 5:46pm, a day that I will never forget. Becoming a mother for the first time, looking down into his beautiful (then) blue eyes. The silkiest black hair I had ever seen, long enough to lay on his neck. Delivered by C-Section, weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, 21 1/2 inches long. Dr. says, “Hey nurse call Jim Tressel, his new quarterback was just born.”

The first time my heart skipped its beat, quickened and slowed all at once. Love at first sight, one of those feelings that happen very seldomly in a lifetime. They knock you off balance. Watching my son grow up kept me on my toes. My days filled with fear and anxiety.

Every time he would stumble and fall, I wanted to be the one to break his fall. The day he was born I vowed to protect him at all costs, later realizing it was impossible. Have you ever not been able to breathe? That feeling of panic that sets in. That’s the only way to describe how you feel while raising a child. Every minute of every day mixed with feelings of unconditional love and happiness. Does the feeling of fear ever go away? Who knows? Fourteen  years later and many miles apart, that feeling is still alive and burning.

My heart is full of cherished memories. From his first word (“dada”), to his first steps (10 months old), to his first day at school, trips to the hospital. The normal boy injuries to the scary WTF happened and how injuries. All these moments and many more brought happy tears along with moments of sadness. Knowing with each moment, it was a step towards him growing up and no longer needing mommy. A very common worry with most parents.

Now at 14, about 6 foot, 200 pounds, I can’t protect him anymore. Doing 17 years in prison. They say you come here to get reformed, but the things they don’t tell you is the ups and downs you will go through with your children, family, spouse and friends.

After teaching me what true love felt like, making me a mother and showing me what happiness really is, he’s teaching me something new. A feeling only your child can give you. A pain that cuts so deep you have to second guess yourself. He taught me that no man can break your heart like your own son.

“Fuck you bitch, I have no respect for anyone in prison, and there’s not shit you can do about it.” Words that replay over and over in my head. Shattered my heart. Made me mentally evaluate myself, questioning why I’m doing the things I’m doing…G.E.D., college, writing, groups, programs, etc…All to benefit my success in the future upon my release. To be stronger for my children. But if my own flesh and blood hates me, what am I really doing this for? What am I really going home to? I have always been a mother before I’m anything.

How do you repair your relationship with your child or help them when they are crying out? These invisible handcuffs take away more than your physical freedom.

(“I Got You” by Ciara) “I love you son and I’ll always wait for you to come back.”

Felicia 6/3/21

We’re Free Again

So it’s the 4th of July. I feel more festive than usual, and I’d imagine all of you feel the same way for the same reason I do. We’ve been released from Covid Purgatory, that self imposed ”I’m a prisoner in my own home” quasi hades zone we’ve lived in since March 2020. And you all never thought you’d experience prison–ha! Welcome to my world.

The lifting of Covid restrictions has everyone dashing for vacations, buying cars and new homes. Funny what a year does thinking about the things you still want to do in life should this not be the Apocalypse after all.

There are so many staff at my institution taking vacations right now that it has been a boon for us dog handlers. I’m a handler in the staff dog program here and we have so many dogs with us right now that we’re drowning in K9 bliss. Funny how for the past year everyone wanted to be around their dogs, but now that everyone can actually go somewhere again Fido is sidelined. Ah, my gain though.

Another curious thing is  the number of staff quitting their jobs. They’re fleeing by the handfuls. It’s not just my institution either. It’s happening everywhere. I think it’s a combination of a tight labor market where better paying less stressful jobs are plentiful, and a realization after a year of pandemic that people want to do other things in life still. Who’s to say? All I know is that I’m sad to see some of the staff go. I might be a prisoner, but there are a number of good staff here. Men and women who have always treated us with dignity, respect and sincere desire to help.

I usually watch the fireworks from my window. I love the patriotic symbolism of the 4th. The town of London puts on a good show each year and I’m looking forward to what they do this year. Someone told me that Columbus, Ohio cancelled their firework display on account of pandemic concerns. What? Give me a friggin’ break. We can cram ourselves into concerts and sporting events like sardines again, but can’t watch an OUTDOOR fireworks event? Doesn’t make any sense. Does it make sense to you? At least I’ll be able to watch fireworks on television from Washington, D.C. If they cancel that one I just assume move to another country.

The holidays tend to be an adventure here. I’ve written about this before in the posts ”Cry Baby, Santa, and The Easter Bunny” and ”Groundhog Day”, but this year something odd has swept over the men. Everyone seems to be smirks and grins, which by it’s very nature would normally make me suspicious and leery. So what gives?

I think it’s because of the same reason all of you are in good spirits, lifted covid restrictions. Guys are able to workout again, move, play sports. Free to do as they please. The tension levels have dropped to near zero–unheard of.

I wonder if the past year gave guys pause and this can account for what I’m witnessing? I mean, experiencing covid sweep through my facility and watching men literally healthy one day, near death the next, gave me days on end of worry. I know it had to impact others, too.

I didn’t need covid to appreciate life, but the thought of possibly dying behind bars did cause me to frequently think of the things that matter in life. Of course, you all know this because I wrote about it. Anyhow, it all seems like a bad dream at this point.

As I write I can see from my window the fireworks show that just began at the nearby fair grounds. It’s quite a show for such a small county. I wonder if it’s bigger and nicer this year than last because of the pandemic? I guess I’ll never know.

We’re being served Angus burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and ice cream for the 4th of July. What? What the hell is going on? We never get stuff like this.

It has been a strange year, but I’m glad life is returning to normal.

–Christopher–