During her 7 year prison term, the author finds that there is only one piece of the puzzle missing. Will it make or break her?
Publisher Amazon LLC
During her 7 year prison term, the author finds that there is only one piece of the puzzle missing. Will it make or break her?
After I was completely bound in chains, the guard escorted me down the hallway toward transportation. She kept telling me to hurry up but my ankles were cuffed. It was like trying to run with your shoelaces tied together. I did my best to keep up with her long strides to avoid falling. She had quite a firm grasp on my arm, and I knew that if I fell she’d fall as well. If that would’ve happened, I probably would’ve gotten an assault charge at the very least.
We finally made it outside. There was a Kings County van with a couple of heavily armed male guards waiting for me. There was no one else in the vehicle. The female guard released my arm and handed me over to one of the officers. Before she walked back inside the jail, she said, “Watch this one. She was planning to escape.”
She said as she walked back inside the building.
I rolled my eyes, but I kept my mouth shut.
The guard that had my arm ordered me to get in the back of the van. I wasn’t standing on a curb, and there were no steps. The rear door was at least three feet from the ground level. Typically this wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Being shackled slightly less than “Lecter-style” made the whole ordeal something of a challenge. Putting it mildly, my boarding of that van was pretty much the same as a whale flopping around on the beach trying to get back in the ocean.
Once I was back in the ocean, I mean once I managed to get into the van, the guard locked me in. He gave the standard lecture about remaining quiet and refraining from talking to other inmates.
I listened to him as he spoke. Was he serious? I was the only one there! There were no other inmates. He certainly had that speech memorized probably not even realizing the deflection.
As we traveled further up north, I did my best to comply with the guard’s order. I didn’t talk to any other inmates the entire time. Not even once! I had absolutely no problem at all keeping my mouth shut and abiding by this command. I’d have to say that was one of the most natural things that I’d ever been ordered to do in my life.
Even to this day! If only everything else would’ve been that simplebeen that simple.
We finally made it to our destination. The Valley State Prison for Women which was, located in Central California. The reason I say was, is because officials have since turned the place into a men’s institution. It was, and it still is, in Chowchilla directly across the street from The Central California Women’s Facility. The latter being the same prison that I had the unfortunate opportunity of visiting before. The same dark place where I’d been privileged with an extended stay, including a private room (without a balcony) for nine months before returning to the general population. I’d been gifted all that due to my severely non-compliant behavior.
As we approached the entrance, we were greeted by prison officials who carried large guns which were pointed directly at me. That was nothing unusual. It was merely something else that I’d become accustomed to over the years.
When the county guard unlocked the back of the van, I exited by maneuvering my body in a manner that “Shamu” would have envied. The county guards were relieved of their duty, and at that point, I became “Property of the State of California” once again.
I was escorted to a holding tank in “R & R” aka Receiving and Release. Valley State looked precisely like CCWF. As I sat in the cage waiting to be processed in, I thought about my last days of my previous prison term. Some of the inmates were being transferred over to Valley State when it first opened. The warden had shipped a lot of the most violent inmates, troublemakers and most of the long termers across the street. Requests for transfer to the new prison were encouraged although no incentives were given. Slowly but surely the two women’s prisons would be identical, but at that time, Valley State was not the place to be. It was probably never an inmate’s first choice of prisons. Not that an option was ever given.
Ok, so as not to bore you any further with the so- called “Prison Politics, Tactics, and Transfers” I’ll get on with my story. I was basically locked up in the worst of the worst. I was processed in and given a new number. There were so many women inmates that they’d run out of “W’s” and they’d already started on the “X’s.” I was inmate #X07920. With my previous number being #W49426, I realized the insane amount of, women passing through the system.
I went through the usual procedure, and I prepared to be escorted to my housing unit on “A” yard along with about twenty-five or thirty other women from various small counties in Northern California. We were all wearing the stiff blue and white polka dot mu-mu’s, white ankle socks and cheap black flip-flops. We each carried our fish kit and roll-up, and we began the humiliating “Walk of Shame” to our designated place in the gated community.
As we exited the door from R & R which led us to “A” yard, I noticed that there were quite a few inmates outside.
“Back off! Step away from the new fish!” he ordered.
The officer ordered us to remain silent and to continue walking toward the housing unit. We all walked robotically in a single file line. The hooting and the howling began. The inmates always got excited when a new “boy” came to town. “Q” had been an instant hit. I smiled and then winked at a group of cute inmates. Remember, I told you that I was going to play this part well. Again, don’t judge. I was a man with a plan, and I was going to come out a winner.
We entered the housing unit, and we were each led to our cell. The cells were all designed for two-women, and usually, everyone had a room- mate. Those that were housed alone had been classified as either, extremely dangerous, a known thrower of bodily fluids or just simply plain nuts.
They were secluded from the rest of us “normies.”
I entered my temporary new home and set down my things. I introduced myself to my room-mate.
Her name was Karen. She was about fifty years old, and she was a parole violator. She’d been on “A” yard for a couple months at that point. She had stringy blonde hair, and Karen was awfully skinny. She stayed curled up in the corner of her bunk most of the time reading a book. She’d talk to me a little, but she certainly wasn’t into sharing any of her canteen items with me. Karen wasn’t the least bit interested in “Q.” She’d been focused on getting released, and within a few days, she was.
I had the cell to myself. For the moment, anyway. People would come and go all the time.
Over the years I’d see many of the same faces enter the prison, parole and then come back again. It never changed. Their comment to me was always the same.
“Hey Q? You’re still here? Good to see you bud!”
It used to really get on my nerves how these women didn’t seem to care about their lives. I guess it was because I was finally clean. I could think and see clearly. Then my twisted and screwed up head would bring me right back down to earth. It would remind me that if I were to be let out right then, that I would more than likely be right back in prison with a violation like the rest of them. What I got was exactly what I needed. A good healthy dose of reality smack dab in the face. Ouch! That really hurt.
I heard a cart coming from the other end of the housing unit. I got up and looked out my wicket.
Books! Yes, I needed a book. Please take me away! Anywhere but where I was. I watched as the officer stopped at each door with the cart.
She allowed each resident to choose something to read. I’d wished that she’d started at the side closer to me. I saw the small cart losing inventory at a rapid pace. She finally made it to my cell. I browsed through the few remaining books at my leisure.
“You need to hurry, or you’re not getting one!” she threatened.
I quickly grabbed a thick book. If it had a type- print, I’d read it. No matter the subject it would be better than my current situation. I wasn’t going to miss out. I wasn’t going to be denied a book.
I went over to the small desk. It was connected to a round stool and secured to one of the walls of the cell. I sat on top of the table and put my feet on the seat. That way I’d be facing the cell door.
If any type of movement or action happened on the outside well, at least within a six-inch radius, I’d be able to see it. I looked at the cover of my book. I let out an unsatisfied moan.
“Aww! Why me?”
Yes, I chose the thickest book, but it was one of the longest cheap romance novels I’d ever seen in my entire life.
“Oh well, it beats a blank!” I said aloud.
A couple more days dawdled by at the pace of a snail. Everyone that had arrived the same day as I had was temporarily released from their cell. We were all ordered to have a seat on the benches that were located on one side of the dayroom. We were handed a “welcome” package which consisted of a stack of papers and a CDC Title 15 booklet.
Along with the institution rules, we got a clothing form to mark our sizes and a pencil. A Correctional Officer (as to whom I will be referring to as a C.O. from this point on) gave his speech about the repercussions of not following and abiding by the institutional guidelines and rules.
We sat there and listened to the C.O.’s lecture although, I don’t think too many people actually heard what he said. With the majority of, us being addicts we had become pretty, skilled deceivers. We had mastered the art of looking someone straight in the eye. We’d either lie to them or pretend to be listening to whatever they said. We’d allow the words to flow in one ear and then straight out the other.
After the C.O.’s mouth stopped moving, we filled out the clothing forms, and we checked off our sizes. The slips would be delivered to the “A” yard clothing department, and we would be notified when our orders were ready for pick up. After everyone had finished, the unit porter came collect them.
“Does anyone have any questions? Did I say something that you didn’t understand? If you don’t speak up now don’t bother asking me later!” he warned.
That was when everyone had something to say.
I’d never heard more ridiculous questions in my entire life.
“Do we need to have money in our account to shop canteen?” one inmate asked.
“No bitch it’s free. Come on now.” I muttered under my breath.
I had started to get agitated. I guess I was just anxious to get back to my romance novel. Then another very bright woman asked the C.O. the most ridiculous question I’d ever heard. I felt like pulling my hair out (had I had any) at the time.
“Does the state give us money if we don’t have any? You know like G.R. or food stamps or something like that?”
The C.O. was beginning to get very upset. The tone of his voice and the reddening of his face made it evident that he was just about ready to explode. He ordered everyone back to their cell without answering the questions.
I was in, the midst of re-reading the first page of my book. It’d been a struggle, but I finally succeeded.
My level of concentration had been at an all-time low. I couldn’t stay focused. My mind kept on drifting off into space. Probably because I would’ve preferred being on the Moon than in that cell. A male C.O. came and unlocked my door.
He slid it open a bit.
“Get ready to walk over to the clothing building,” he commanded.
He then unkeyed everyone else’s door that was going along for the hike.
Well, I’d be ready. I stayed ready all the time.
There was no way not to be. When you have absolutely nothing, it certainly didn’t take long to prepare for an outing. A few minutes passed, and I heard a loud commanding voice rumbling throughout the unit.
“If your door was unlocked come out and stand next to your cell with your back against the wall!
There will be no talking! You will be walking in a single file line! Do you hear me? Do you understand?”
I exited my cell, and I stood against the wall along with the others. Collectively, we formed a line, and we began our first trip outside since our arrival. The C.O. escorted us to the “A” yard clothing building, and he made another announcement.
“When your name is called you will go up to the window. You will receive your state issued clothing. It will be sized according to what you wrote down. There will be no exchanges and no exceptions. If you made a mistake, well that’s too bad. If your clothes don’t fit that’s your problem! You’ll have to wait until clothing exchange. If you were listening to me earlier, you’d know that clothing exchange is only once a week. This isn’t Burger King, and you can’t have it your way!”
I couldn’t believe that guy. Actually, many of the C.O.’s and inmates alike used phrases or taglines from a different era. Everyone there seemed to be stuck in the past.
One by one our names were called, and we each grabbed our bag of state essentials. Most of the clothing items had been previously worn by someone else. The panties, socks and the bras were new. Our wardrobe consisted of if my memory serves me right;
1) Three insanely ugly outfits. The uniforms were a hideous shade of bright orange. They were pull-on stretch waist pants with a matching top that looked like a square with arm holes.
2) Two blue and white polka dot mu-mu’s to add to our collection of one.
3) Six pairs of cheap white cotton granny panties.
4) Six pairs of weird shaped white ankle socks.
5) Three white wireless and very shapeless bras that weren’t appropriately sized.
6) One navy blue winter jacket which was about the equivalent to a windbreaker. Some had snap closures, and some had zippers. Mine had neither.
7) One lovely, navy blue sweatshirt with plenty of fuzz balls included.
8) One navy blue beanie which also had a multitude of the same attractive little extras.
9) One pair of black sneakers with white toe caps that had yellowed, which tried very hard to resemble “Chucks” but had failed.
10) That’s it.
Now, I’m not complaining. Let’s get that straight.
I’d never turn down an ugly orange ensemble if my only other option was to run around naked.
Being that I was in prison, running around nude was forbidden. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. It’s just that it wouldn’t happen to me, given a choice.
What I’m saying is that prison really sucks. It’s an incredibly degrading, humiliating and controlled environment. Living within those means was pretty, humbling to say the least. Especially when you are living like that for an extended period, of time. I guess that’s what it took to get me from where I was, to where I am now. Although, my entirely drug-free status didn’t begin until I’d already been locked up for almost a year. That’s how far I’d fallen.
My days on “A” yard passed like molasses drizzling...
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Susan Segovia-Munoz was born in Los Angeles, California. The Sweet Melissa memoir series, is her personal story of her lifelong struggle with substance abuse, addiction, and then her final recovery. The author now lives a drug-free life, and hopes to inspire others to do the same. The series brings to light how quickly one can get sucked into a life of self-destruction, and how difficult it is to escape. The author's main goal is to help, educate, and to inspire others. She wants to give hope to the family members and friends of an addict that change is indeed possible. With hard work, the support of loved ones, and a clear mind, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished.