I think one of the more difficult aspects of doing time is dealing with the myriad of personalities from the passive to the outright aggressive, everyone with their own agendas and views.
In men’s prisons things are a little different than in women’s in that some of the acts of revenge that might fly there would cost you dearly here. But that’s not to say men don’t seek revenge for perceived injustices. They do. I’ve witnessed unimaginable acts of revenge such as an angry tattoo artist intentionally tainting his ink with Hep C and HIV and then performing work on unsuspecting victims. Yeah, I know. You’ll never catch me getting a tattoo in the joint.
Fights are an everyday occurrence here. Men fight over everything and nothing, and they’re quick to do so. I’d say most of the time there’s no harm done save for busted lips and bruised egos. I’ve seen it all, too. Men fighting stark naked on the second tier range having been assaulted while in the shower. Men fighting over another man’s boyfriend, over a female staffer, fighting over a spot in line, or because of someone’s case and on and on. The list is long, and I think you get the picture. When a fight breaks out I immediately leave the area lest I get swept up in the aftermath. What about female prisoners? Do they fight over the same stuff as men do? Do they even fight? You bet they do.
Some things are constant in prison.
Fist Fights By Tara Snyder
I can count on one hand how many times in my life I’ve been in a fight. An actual, fist swinging, seeing red, lost my mind, no cares given fight, where I actually stood up for myself and didn’t just take a beating.
What’s life really like for female prisoners? Sugar and spice and everything nice right? Sure buddy, if you say so. Whomever came up with that phrase knew nothing about female prison life.
In this series female prisoners write about a part of their prison experience you seldom hear about. The best I can do to explain why you’ve never heard about these things is to put it into a phrase: What happens in prison stays in prison. We prisoners simply don’t talk to non-prisoners about this stuff.
Many correctional officers will tell you that female inmates are far worse than male inmates. Women are mean and vindictive. The men when they have a problem they generally fight it out. Sure, the women fight from time to time. In never lasts long before officers get involved, so fights rarely settle the problem. Women hold grudges. Some grudges will last forever. Being passive aggressive is part of everyday talk. Three things cause the biggest problems between women; jealousy, girlfriends and owing someone (commissary items). There are other things that cause issues but those are the top three.
Just the other day it was my friend’s birthday. We celebrated hard all day, ate nothing but sugar and caffeine. We played games and hung out all day smiling and laughing. Couple of girls had a serious problem with this. They could’ve joined in as many others did. They chose to be irritated, jealous even. God forbid we have fun and be happy! The next day a rumor started about me and my friend. Those who started it wanted to get under our skin and ruin our good moods. They managed to make us laugh even more because the rumor was so ludicrous. The rumor was that my friend and I were girlfriends. Even staff laughed when they heard about it. This is a minor example though.
A few years ago I had a decent cellee. Her girlfriend lived five rooms or so down from us. The girlfriend was very jealous because her girl moved in with me. We don’t get to choose who we get to live with, the officers do. For reasons unknown, my celle
e punched her girlfriend right in the face, right in the chow line. My cellee went to RHU (Restrictive Housing Unit, a.k.a. seg). My cellee’s girl dropped a slip on me. I would find out later that she accused me of sexually assaulting my cellee. I was called down to the captain’s office where I was told what I was accused of. I spent close to an hour defending myself. I was on the verge of going to RHU myself. If you go to the captain’s office you usually leave in cuffs. This meaning you’re going to RHU. Fortunately, in the end the assault was deemed to be a lie, and I got to go back to my unit. While in the captain’s office I was so scared and in tears.
On another occasion I lived in a unit where a girl went to RHU. When she came up she was
put on a different unit. I have no idea what I did to this girl for her to do what she did to me. One day I called my friend, and he was highly concerned. This girl had somehow got my friend’s information. I figure she had help from someone who lived on my unit. She wrote my friend with the assumption he was my boyfriend. She told him I was using him, I hated when he visited, I had another guy, etc… My friend thankfully didn’t believe any of it. He knows where he stands in my life. His concern was if she had done anything to me personally, which she didn’t other than some dirty looks. I saw the girl a few days later. I thanked her for writing him and that we got a good laugh out of the incident.
There are times when one cellee doesn’t like the other. There was a time when we could
buy hot pots. These allowed us to have hot water for coffee and cooking. A woman who was known for being trouble waited until her cellee went to an appointment. She took the opportunity to pee in her cellee’s hot pot. When her cellee returned it appeared as if nothing had happened. I don’t know if the cellee found out what happened to her hot pot before she used it.
There are many ways women take action when they feel slighted. Throwing someone’s case and/or their time in their face is very common. This becomes funny when the person trying to lip box has no clue what they are talking about.
Women will cut TV and radio power cords, steal commissary or property items, destroy property or even throw their clothing in a shower and turn it on. Badmouthing someone to a group of other women is common also. Doesn’t matter if they are speaking the truth and generally its a lie
Some women will “plant” contraband such as pills in another woman’s things. They will then go tell staff that the item is there. The unsuspecting woman will end up in RHU and not for a short time. Women will put hair remover in someone’s shampoo bottle or even cut another woman’s hair while she sleeps. The list goes on and on and on.
I could go on for days with stories of what women do to one another. The bottom line is that women are mean, vindictive, and destructive to one another. Women will seek out revenge or get even in unimaginable ways. Women in prison seem to never be able to stick together on anything. It’s sad really. Always be aware of your surroundings because anything is possible.
Jennifer (WWRC) (WI)
Next week read the second installment of this series Sugar & Spice (Pt. 2): Fist Fights, by Tara Snyder (ORW) (OH)
Before I came to work with the dogs here in the Staff Dogs program I worked in the prison library. It was the only place one could go to find a glimmer of peace and quiet. I used to go there to read and write, and it was only natural that I’d seek to work there.
During my library tenure I worked as a clerk, a desk receptionist, and at one time I was even the institution’s law clerk. I loved my bosses, and I loved the job and in the prison universe it’s rare to have both.
I met Underdog many years ago. He’s a good friend. He has written for this blog again and again, and I admire his ability to continue forward despite his incredibly long sentence. He’s a positive light in a dark environment.
I Am The Library Guy
I recently finished reading Christopher’s book of blog posts, and I really enjoyed it. What a great window into the prison world for families and friends, and others on the outside.
I met Christopher 15 years ago when I started working in the library here at Madison Correctional. The library is the spot for me. I worked at a university library before I got locked up, and I was lucky enough to work in the library at Lebanon Correctional Institution (OH) almost the entire time I was there.
The library plays an important function in here as a source of information and rumor control. For me the library is an oasis in a desert of stress and tension. Working there makes it possible for me to help other guys. I can find an address for a clerk of courts, help find a book, renew an overdue book, put in a request for an inter-library loan, refer patrons to reference, reentry or law sources, help make photo copies (e.g. updated commissary price list), and other assorted tasks. This puts me in a good spot in the prison hierarchy Christopher wrote about. Guys know they can come to me with questions, and I will follow through. I don’t do this as a hustle, I consider it part of my job. Also, being in this position guys pretty much overlook that I am a sex offender. I’ve established a valuable niche for myself–I’m The Library Guy.
Underdog (MaCI) (OH)
Read more of Underdogs thoughts in “This Land Is Your Land” “What Goes Around Comes Around” and “The Jerry Springer Effect”. You can find each by typing the title into the search bar.
Next week read the first part of a new multi part guest written women’s series titled ”Sugar & Spice” about the things that go on in women’s
I’ve been a prisoner since 1995. I started at level 3 or “close” security, which in Ohio is a designation just below maximum but higher than medium security. A kind of quasi hades zone between the two designations, and something I’ve never really understood.