When I Wore Blues, Pt III

The Final Piece of the Puzzle

This is a picture from prisonphotography.org and it shows accurately a LCDF inmates bunk and life incarcerated.

                                                           Part III

Once I arrived at the medical department, it took about an hour for me to see the doctor because she was out to lunch. Once I saw the doctor, the nurses needed to give me an IV to get saline into my system. I was deemed extremely dehydrated. Unfortunately, the medical staff at the jail was not the most competent. In their attempt to give me an IV, they missed my vein four times—twice in each hand—completely blowing my veins out, and I had good veins. Finally, the nurses managed to find a vein and I began my first bag of saline.

After it was determined that I truly needed medical care, I was given a medical bed with new sheets and a pillow for my stay. There was only a total of six medical beds, not including the one segregated for inmates that test positive for T.B, five of which were in use when I arrived, and there was a huge handicap bathroom and shower, and there was a TV, just like all the other dorms. However, this TV did not get turned off unless the inmates/patients requested it. The nurses were the ones with whom the medical inmates became the best acquainted with. However, the guards that did come into medical were always very nice.

My first day in medical was a day of adjustments and learning the ropes. I did not eat, but that was OK because it was not a requirement, nor did the inmates have to attend each meal in the chow hall. After every seven hours, my IV alarm would go off with no way of silencing it. I simply had to wait or call for a nurse to come change my IV. However, not every nurse knows how to change out the IV bag or how to silence the alarm, which always made me the favorite person in medical when the alarm would sound in the middle of the night with no helpful nurses.

In the middle of the night, between my second and third days in medical, a deputy woke me up to deliver me my belongings from N-6. After just making friends with everyone, it sucked to think that I would not be returning there. It also made me wonder if I was unaware of something regarding my medical status; something causing me to need to stay in medical. I could not dwell on it in that moment, it was one AM and no one would be able to answer my questions. One good thing about my items being brought to me: I now had my letters from Scott, and I was able to work on my daily writings to him. I was sure that he probably was concerned after not receiving letters for these days in medical.

On the morning of my third day, I was told by the doctor that I finished my rounds of saline—totaling six liters—my IV would be removed immediately, and at the next meal I would begin a liquid diet for the next three days to prepare my stomach for food. If I did not vomit by the time dinner had come and gone, then I would be returned to regular population. I was excited because I honestly had started some friendships back in N-6, and because I was getting bored just lying in bed, watching TV and sleeping all day and night. So, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Later that evening, a deputy walked into the medical room and called out, “Uhh…Darryl?” He made eye contact with me as I nodded, and then he said, “get your stuff, you’re going back to mainline." I was shocked, but excited, so I quickly gathered my things and made my way over to the deputy. The walk was a lot easier this time around since I was no longer weak from severe dehydration. Once the deputy and I arrived back at the dorm, I asked the deputy, “Am I still on bunk number thirteen?” 

“Yes, you are.” The deputy replied as I walked in the dorm door (the following day, an inmate who had bunk thirty-three, which was by the main dorm door, was released to a drug treatment program. When she left, I asked to switch bunks and the deputy on guard allowed me to do so. This put Tiffany and me on the same bunk; I was on top and Tiffany was below). As the inmates looked at the door, I never would have thought I would get such a reaction.

“KYLEE!!!” The room exploded as the entire north side yelled out when I crossed the threshold of the dorm. It was shocking and so wonderful. These girls truly care about my well-being. The one girl that I bonded with because we both grew up in Riverside—Jasmine—she ran over to me and gave me a huge hug and said, “Oh my gosh, we thought something happened to you! The deps came for your stuff and we thought something serious happened and that we’d never know…” That was such an amazing feeling. These girls barely knew me and yet they cared more about me and my well-being than most people in my “friend circle,” and that, to me, was amazing but truly sad, as well.

In my life, I have made some bad decisions, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, when I was in my most formative years—sixteen—I fell in love with a controlling and abusive man. The five years I spent under his control completely changed who I was and who I was supposed to be. Due to this man's insecurities, I was bullied into cutting all ties with most of my friends. Prior to this relationship, my friends were my entire life. I was raised an only child, so I considered my friends to be my family and I loved them as such. When I entered the relationship with Derrek, I was so completely under his spell that I did not even realize what was happening when he was removing my friends from my life. It was not until years later when I was at a party with Derrek and someone asked my name, and I had to pause and think about that response. I had completely forgotten my name and, in that moment, I realized that I lost a lot more than my name. In the years since my relationship ended with Derrek, I still have not found myself…the old Kylee that I lost, and I do not think I will ever really get her back. Since losing most of my friends, the ones that have stayed through it all I consider to be my real friends. The reaction I received from these inmates really makes me question my friendships now.

January 2012, I am woken up early and called out to court. This court date was the most important. It was my sentencing day. Today, Scott and I would finally know how long we had left to be apart. Life had pretty much become routine and so finally having an end date was allowing me to relax and just focus and doing my time. At five in the morning, the inmates going to court are lined up outside each dorm and then collectively lead to the court holding cells. In the holding cells, we are held there for at least an hour while the guards take care of the breakfast at the chow hall. Being in the holding cells means that we do not get the typical breakfast meal the other inmates are getting. We get a paper bag breakfast. This means that we get a bologna sandwich, orange, milk, and a cookie. Around six in the morning, the guards were to call names out to line up the inmates according to their court location. When I was called, I was lined up in the hallway while other inmates were placed in other holding cells. The group of us going to V.D.F. were then searched, shackled, and led out to the van and loaded up.

The court was always the same once I began coming from L.C.D.F to V.D.F. All L.C.D.F inmates arrive and are placed in court holding cells before seven in the morning. The inmates that are temporarily held at V.D.F are brought down to the court holding cells in groups according to the time or your court case. L.C.D.F inmates must sit all day in court holding cells, patiently waiting to speak with their attorney and then be taken to court. Even though it sounds pointless, the girls would create makeup using colored pencils just to attempt to look normal for court. These inmates would only eat a paper bag meal for every meal on court days, which meant I did not eat on court days. While V.D.F inmates were taken back to their pods every couple of hours, L.C.D.F inmates must sit and wait until the return transport comes to pick the inmates up, typically around five or five thirty in the evening. For me, the only reason I ever got excited about court was that I knew I would be able to talk to and even see Scott. However, on this visit to court, the walk to the courtroom would prove to be the beginning of some interesting behavior.

After speaking with my attorney and getting a few minutes to talk through a door to Scott, the guard welcomed me and began to walk me down the multiple hallways to the courtroom. Typically, this walk has been made in complete silence, so when the deputy spoke to me saying, “Hey, how’s your day going?” I was caught off guard. Adding to that, I wanted to be sarcastic, but I had to remind myself that this was a deputy and I was an inmate, so I simply responded with, “Well it’s sentencing today, so it’s a good day,” and he responded just before opening the door for me to enter the courtroom and sit in the inmate box, “Well good luck, then." Then I walked into the inmate box and sat down. Shortly after I arrived, a line of men inmates, chained together, entered the courtroom. Scott was one of the men in the chain of men. As soon as I saw him, my heart began to flutter. I felt myself blush and I became overly warm. I felt a smile take over my face as he walked into the section of seats in front on my own. I was so overwhelmed with excitement to see him that I did not even pay attention to what happened in court. Before I realized what was going on, the same guard opened the door and motioned for me to exit. As he and I were walking down the hallway to return me to the holding cell, the guard asked me, “So is your co-defendant your…brother?” 

I could not control myself. I laughed and then said, “No…that’s my husband.” The guard lowered his head and remained quiet the rest of the walk. After I returned to the holding cell, the guard even offered to place me in the other cell, allowing me some space and privacy. He could have simply been nice, however, that is not how it felt to me. It felt like he was flirting with me, but once again, I was alone, and I knew if I brought it up, no one would believe me and most likely some revenge would be taken out on me. So I remained quiet.

The coming months were easier and went by much faster. I became more outspoken and became one of the head people on the north side, and by February, I had been elected to be Laundry Mom. This gave me the responsibility of helping inmates when they needed to request new blues, underwear, bras, socks, etc. Holding this position allowed me the ability to have better blues (normally new or in better condition) and to have a second pair of pants. When I received brand new blues and brand new panties, I kept them and did not turn them into laundry when it was collected once a week. This was a typical practice of many of the inmates. Since laundry exchange was a lottery, you could turn in good clothes and get old, tattered, and/or faded clothes. So the inmates, instead of giving up clothes that fit well and/or looked nice, inmates would simply wash them by hand. Going to jail provided me with skills that I never had before. Becoming comfortable in jail and not having access to your typical household items, you learn to improvise and make do with what you have. For example:

1. Laundry: Washing your own clothes was done one of two ways.

a. One, an inmate would gather the clothing items they wished to wash. One of the sinks would be chosen, the water turned on. The clothing item would be placed in the sink to allow the water to fill up, and then a small amount of shampoo would be added to the water. Using the item itself and the side of the sink, you would scrub the item until it was completely washed. One by one, the items would get washed. Once the items were finished being cleaned, the next step was to dry. This meant first ringing the item of all excess water. This typically would end up requiring some assistance. Two inmates would twist the clothing item in opposite directions with all their strength. Once most of the water was rung out, the items were then placed over chairs and placed under a heating/air conditioning (depending on the weather), and allow the items to sit all night to dry.

b. The other way inmates would wash their clothes was in the shower. Some inmates would simply wear their blues into the shower and wash them as if their blues were their body. Once the items of clothes were clean, they would be thrown over the shower door to drip dry as the inmate showered. Then the clothes would be rung out and placed on chairs to dry.

When doing your laundry, this meant that the inmate no longer had their blues to wear. This meant that the inmates would have to wear the horribly unflattering yellow dress nightgown, or as the inmates call them, the yellow moo-moo. This is where being Laundry Mom pays off. I would wear the moo-moo and my second pair of blue pants.

2. Cooking: when I first arrived in jail and looked over the commissary list (items that inmates can purchase with money that friends and family members put onto the inmate’s books or account) I could not understand how the jail could sell things that the inmates obviously could not eat. It was not until I got to L.C.D.F that I really got to see and understand how innovative these women were. One food item that was cheap, makes many meals, and was purchased by most inmates, was Ramen noodles. Inmates would use Ramen noodles to make a “Spread.” You simply add super-hot water into a plastic cup (purchased previously from commissary) and then add the noodles. Then, to make a spread, you add in other commissary items to make a meal that could be shared with other inmates. Typically, chicken or sausage was the meat added, then a packet of cheese sauce, maybe hot sauce, and some smashed up chips. Then you grab a book from the dorm library and put it on top of the cup. From there, you wait about ten minutes and then take the book off. The meals that inmates made from commissary food were meant to be shared with fellow inmates.

My absolute favorite meal to make was something I was taught by a twenty-year-old jail veteran named Tiffany. She was super sweet, very soft-spoken, but so kind. Tiffany had become the House Mom after Lupe was released. This was an interesting position for her. Everyone loved and respected her, the deputies knew her, and she was able to do the position requirement well. The only part where she lacked was authority and conviction in her voice. This is where I came in. Tiffany and I had become very close. We even joked that we were one another’s “wifey” because we chose each other to marry in a game of date, marry, kill. So, when she needed to have a strong, authoritative, and booming voice, I would simply call out to the northside, “LADIES! House mom needs your attention!” Or I would repeat what it was that Tiffany was trying to say. This system worked, and it also prepared me for my role after Tiffany was released.

3. Baking: when you think of baking, I am sure that the first thing to pop into your head is not baking in jail. Well, baking in jail is also not very…conventional. The first time I had a dessert in jail I did not know what to expect. Tiffany and I gathered together several different types of sweet dessert foods. Once we determined the ingredients that we wanted to use, we then would utilize the plastic bag that the dorm's community pads (sanitary napkins) came in. Inside the empty bag, we would place layers of the sweets we picked out. Once we placed all the sweets in the bag, the contents were then smashed together inside the bag while closing the bag. Then, the bag was wrapped in newspaper (newspapers are brought into the dorms daily) and then wrapped in your sweater and finally, it was placed in the “oven.” When I say “oven,” what I mean is, you sit on top of your sweater that contains your dessert.

4. Makeup: while it seems petty, we are women and we like to look nice. To fill this desire, women figured out how to make some sort of makeup that many liked to use for court days. All that is needed is colored pencils and Vaseline or jail toothpaste. Smashing up your color of choice can make blush or eyeshadow, and adding Vaseline, or the basic jail toothpaste, you got the lipstick.

5. Glue: inmates need memories of the outside world to keep them focused and not lose themselves in jail. I loved that we could have photos (max four) but I did not understand how some of the women were able to have their photos stick to something and be able to have them up all the time. When I asked, I found that the inmates had discovered how to make a makeshift glue with one item: jail toothpaste that was provided in the Health Pack family members can buy and send to inmates. The toothpaste could be placed on the back of a photo and then stuck onto a piece of cardboard (from the pad of legal paper inmates could purchase from commissary). This made a strong glue.

6. Make a fitted sheet: I never thought I would ever need to know how to make a regular flat sheet into a fitted sheet, but I found that it was a nugget of knowledge I would eventually use in my everyday civilian life. Inmates are not provided with a fitted sheet to fit their mat, and if a fitted sheet is not fashioned, fixing the sheet would become a daily task. Instead, many inmates, on laundry day, would lay their thinnest flat sheet on top of their mat, then lift the foot of the mat and pull the sheet in from the left, the right, and above. The above piece would simply lay flat on the left, and right sides would be pulled together and tied into a knot. This process was repeated at the head of the bunk.

The deputies do not require that the inmates keep their bunks made. However, it is a requirement that the dorm is kept up, clean, and orderly. Maintaining a clean bunk simply made it easier to uphold the cleanliness requirements.

My life for the remaining months I had in custody of the San Diego County Jail became one of routine. Every day I woke up at five in the morning. The meals were on a rotating weekly schedule, so I knew what my meals were going to be every day, which meant I knew what days I would not be eating the meals provided to me and that I would be making commissary meals. I started going to church and class twice a week. There were classes available that inmates could take to help pass their time and/or to better themselves. However, this list of classes was not readily available for inmates to view, so unless you were informed of how to go about requesting a list of classes, you never would find out about the available classes. Every evening before dinner, a few of the inmates and I would walk the yard for exercise. Every other week, we could use tweezers to pluck our eyebrows and a Trustee would give haircuts to inmates that desired nothing more than a trim. The only exception to the trim rule was that, if an inmate has dreads and lice is found, then the inmate will have their head shaved. Once a week on Friday evenings, after dinner, the inmates had to prepare the dorm and their bunks for the guards to search. This meant that the dorm had to be cleaned top to bottom, everyone had to lay all their personal items out to be checked; all their clothing items and bedding had to be easy to search, and each side of the dorm (north and south) was only allowed to have a maximum of five infractions during the search. If there were any more, then weekend privileges would be taken away, the severity of the punishments depending on the severity of the infractions. The dorms and yard would be searched, as would each inmate, and then, after re-entering the dorm, the inmates had the responsibility to clean up the dorm and their bunks from the guards going through everything. If the dorm did not pass the inspection and weekend privileges were taken away, typically the first things to go were TV hours, Saturday TV extension (the extra hour of time Saturday night), and visits. In my time at Las Colinas, I think we failed inspection a dozen times or so. Passing inspection really depends on what deputies are searching and what kind of mood they are in. Like I said, things became predictable and I just continued to count down my remaining days. It was always when I got comfortable that something would shake things up.

It was February 26, 2012. Oscar Night. Being incarcerated meant that I had much more available time to partake in things I normally never would. Watching the Oscars would be one of those things. The Oscars were airing on Sunday at 5:30 PM and so, the Friday before, we made sure that we passed inspection, assuring that we kept all our weekend privileges. After dinner, the dorm was aflutter getting prepared for the evening's festivities. This meant that several groups of girls got together and prepared many different commissary meals, creating one big banquet that all the inmates participated in. It was the beginning of a fun evening. The only downside was for me, personally. Coming off heroin meant my body was going through a lot of different things; trying to balance itself out. This meant that, after my time in medical, for three straight months I had a consistent period. On this night in February, I was still having a heavy period.

Just before eight o’clock in the evening on Oscar night, all the doors in the dorm flew open and, in an instant, there were several deputies swarming into the dorm, all calling out in a loud and repetitive voice, “Everyone outside, deputies outside will give you further instruction. Do not grab anything, do not touch anything. Everyone, outside now,” as they shuffled all of us out into the yard. Any attempt to do anything other than follow orders was quickly met with further demands to go outside. Once we walked outside, there were several more deputies standing at the open yard gates, instructing the inmates to follow suit and go into the visitor’s area. This was the area that had telephones behind bulletproof glass where inmates could visit with people who, earlier in the week, scheduled a visit. This space also had a couple of cubicles where people could have contact visits with children. Having the deputies lead us into this space was odd. They had never done anything of this before. As we walked in, we were instructed to sit in the cubicles against the walls and to remain completely silent. As we all sat silently, a deputy patrolled back and forth, keeping an eye on us. By the front door, across from the visiting spaces, were two rooms that had one-way windows and doors. After we were all sat and quiet, two male lieutenants walked in and went straight into the two rooms. Immediately after the lieutenants' arrival, two at a time, inmates were asked to stand and were quietly taken into the rooms. We all knew what was happening at that point, and I was just happy that I was at the back of the line. We all knew that the deputies had a reason to suspect an inmate had drugs or something they were not supposed to have inside the dorm. With that suspicion, deputies will completely rip a dorm apart and search inmates (to the degree they deem necessary; ie. strip search or pat down) for anything to prove there were drugs somewhere in the dorm recently.

The deputies ended up spending about an hour ripping through our entire dorm, bathroom, and yard while the inmates were strip-searched two at a time. As I watched the number of inmates going into these rooms and get searched, concern began to grow deep inside my heart. When the patrolling deputy was not close by, I leaned over and whispered to one of the girls next to me who had not only done time before, but who was currently doing a year. I asked her, “Are those male lieutenants doing the strip search?” She looked at me like I was a naïve child and nodded yes. I became filled with disgust thinking about having to “bend over and spread ‘em” to one or both male police officers. The strip searches were about halfway through after about thirty minutes, when the doors to the rooms opened and the lieutenants walked out and two women deputies and two women sergeants walked into the rooms and resumed the searches. It was a very odd sequence of events, but once again, there was no point in asking questions or making complaints. Finally, myself and the last inmate were called into the room and strip searched. By the time we were done and led back to the dorm, over an hour and a half had passed, and the Oscars were nearly over, and the dorm was a complete wreak. However, it was not all bad. The deputy on guard came in and announced, “We will be giving you an extra hour before lights out,” and walked away. I chuckled to myself and one of the inmates looked to me and said, “What? You’re not happy about the extra hour?” 

I looked at her in complete amazement and then responded, “Yeah, we get an extra hour…because they don’t want our dorm to be messy. That extra hour is for us to spend cleaning up the mess they created.” It was then that I could practically see the lightbulbs going off in heads all over the dorm. I could not believe that this point was not obvious to everyone. I also felt horrible because what little joy these girls get from small simple things, like an extra hour of lights on, I just took that away. We all spent the additional hour doing exactly what the deputies wanted; cleaning the dorm. However, the deputies did leave the TV on, so we were able to have something to help us feel normal.

Another incident was also during the 2011/2012 winter. It was around one in the morning when, suddenly, we were all jolted awake when the dorm doors flung open, the lights were turned on, and several deputies quickly rushed into the dorm, ordering us, “everyone outside on the fence. Do not grab anything other than your shoes” and pushed everyone out the doors. As I grabbed my sandals and jumped off my bunk, as I dropped, I felt the pad I was wearing fill up, and I knew that I would not be allowed to change my pad. I had to just deal with it until this was over.

Walking outside was like walking into a freezer. While we were in Southern California, it does still get cold in the winter and on this day, the day prior had been a day filled with rain storms. The inmates all complied with the deputy’s orders to stay on the fence while they searched the dorms. I did what I had to do. I kneeled on the fence until a deputy saw me and called out, “What, is this your first day? Stand…on the fence.” 

I tried to respond, “I apologize, I just am on my per…” when the deputy cut me off saying, “I don’t care, stand up and get on the fence!” So, I stood up and suffered in silence until I could run into the bathroom and change. I silently thanked goodness that, as laundry mom, I already had a backup pair of pants.

Nearly forty-five minutes after the deputies forced me and my fellow inmates from our slumber in our bunks, to the freezing cold air in the yard, the deputies emerged from our dorm. Finally, we could return to our bunks and they informed us that the mess created by their search could be attended to after breakfast. Many of the inmates simply grabbed their sheets and went back to sleep. I was not so lucky. I quickly made my way to the restroom and took care of my needs in there, including washing my underwear and pants I had been wearing. After completing that task, I went to my bunk and, unfortunately, I could not relax with my bunk in complete disarray. I quickly made my bed and then sat in my bunk organizing all my letters, pictures, hygiene products, and other personal stuff. Finally, I was done, and I looked at the clock and it was just about the be four in the morning. I realized that if I allowed myself to go to sleep now, getting up for breakfast would be a task. With this realization, I grabbed a book I had been reading—A Tree Grows In Brooklyn—and I continued to read it until the announcement to get ready for chow was made. The following days saw numerous inmates develop colds because we were forced outside to stand in the cold, winter night without any clothing beyond blues and/or yellow moo-moo. In a dorm with sixty-four girls maximum on any given day, about half ended up getting an illness immediately after the midnight search.

Before I ever did time in jail, I remember watching those TV shows about jail life and having pre-conceived ideas about what it would be like. I thought that drugs were brought in all the time and the inmates made toilet liquor and were violent due to the constant tight quarters, so fights occurred regularly. Once I became an inmate, I realized how far off I was. As far as fighting goes, during my 182 days in custody, I witnessed and/or was part of four fights. The first fight I witnessed was between two inmates that were three bunks over. One of the inmates involved in the fight was Angela. Angela was in her late thirties and she was addicted to pain medication. She had a real injury that she sustained while riding horses and so she would receive multiple regular pain medications daily. These would leave her so high she would sleep until the afternoon every day. On this day, she had begun the morning by yelling at the dorm for being too loud and privately requested the deputy to turn the TV off. The inmates do not get much, so when their TV was turned off it was upsetting, because you never know when it will get turned back on again. This clearly irritated everyone. Her bunkmate, Jenny, had similar habits regarding her sleep. Except Jenny would sleep the for the entire day and then be awake and active after dinner until lights out. On this day, the two of them were in bad moods. Angela was the bottom bunk with her “handicap” and Jenny was on the top bunk. At about, nine thirty in the morning, the two of them had reached their maximum for how much they could handle out of each other. I was sitting on my bunk and many of the girls were sleeping or outside, there were only about ten people awake and in the northside of the dorm. A conversation had begun about Angela’s request for the TV to be turned off between Angela, Jenny, Tiffany, and Purps (another inmate apart of the main clique).

“Angela, everything in here doesn’t revolve around you. The entire dorm shouldn’t have to cater to you. If you want to sleep after breakfast through to lunch, that’s on you, but you can’t possibly think that the rest of us should not be able the watch TV, hang out, and talk in the day room, or whatever it is that we want to do," I spoke up and said.

“Your talking with Tiffany and the news on the TV this morning kept me awake. So… I asked you to keep it down. You guys couldn’t manage to do that, so I did what I had to,” Angela responded. The tone of her voice and the words she spoke were done so in a way that she clearly felt like she was more intelligent than us and she thought she could manipulate and lie her way through everything.

“OK, that is all crap! You didn’t simply 'ask' us to keep it down. Any little noise we made, you would yell at us and, by the way, we were in the day room. If you don’t like it, tough! It’s the day room, that is what it is meant for,” I replied.

“Why can’t you talk outside? I am not the only person who likes to sleep in the morning,” Angela stated.

“No, you’re just the only one who complains about it!” Jenny spoke up. Her statement made everyone laugh and agree. Something Angela clearly did not appreciate. Angela decided that she needed to do something to show her irritation with Jenny and her sound and factual disagreement. Angela then kicked her strong, thick legs up and kicked the bottom of the top bunk with all her might. She ended up kicking the bunk so hard that I could see Jenny’s body fly off her bunk at least a foot in the air. The entire room went quiet for a moment while Jenny’s body landed. Almost instantly, Jenny jumped from her top bunk onto the floor, leaned over Angela’s body in her bunk, and began to repeatedly swing and land punch after punch to Angela’s head and body. The room erupted with movement from the other inmates as Angela pushed her way off her bunk. Angela pushed Jenny away to give herself time and space to land her own attack strikes. Jenny made her way back towards Angela when Angela threw and landed a punch on Jenny’s chest. Then, Purps jumped into action and pulled Angela back by pulling her arms behind her. Jenny saw this as a moment to completely barrage Angela with punches. Jenny tried to quickly make her way to Angela to get as many hits in as possible before the fight was broken up. Just before Jenny was able to reach Angela, another inmate named Trish, who was very quiet and a short-timer, grabbed Jenny with a bear hug and held her. The entire event only lasted less than two minutes. The rest of the girls who were not involved all got onto their bunks in anticipation of the deputy’s arrival and attempt to control the situation. Within seconds of Jenny getting stopped by Trish, the deputy burst into the dorm yelling, “Everyone on their bunks now!” and acknowledging the involved inmates and telling them to go outside. After the deputy spoke with the involved inmates, she then came into the dorm and asked the remaining inmates what had happened. In jail, the rules are clear. The main rule in jail, "snitches get stitches and wind up in ditches." This meant that you never crack and rat on your fellow inmates. When we were asked about the fight, each of us would say something like, "I don’t know, I was in the bathroom," or "I just heard yelling and by the time I came in here everything was done," never providing any information that could hurt another inmate. The only time this rule did not stand was if the inmate causing a problem had child abuse/neglect charges. Women inmates do not handle child abusers well. Typically, inmates will beat a child abuser without a second thought. The only way to escape that beating, would be to tell the deputy to transfer the child abuser for fear of life.

The second fight I witnessed was shortly after prisoners were brought in to Las Colinas. The prisons have become so overpopulated that Las Colinas had to open their doors to about one hundred prisoners. With that decision made, the prisoners had to first be distributed throughout the dorms until N-5 was completely rebuilt after being ripped down to eradicate the black mold problem. This meant that five or, so prisoners would go into each dorm. Over the next week, our dorm saw a huge increase of days on lockdown. The deputies ended up finding that several girls were making "pruno," an inmate-made liquor from fruit, and there were numerous fights. When you do not know much about jail and prison, it is easy to look at these issues and not understand why something as simple as the addition of new inmates would cause a rise in lockdowns. Prisoners are doing longer terms and jail inmates are typically not doing more than one year terms. So, when you are thinking about the mindset of prisoners, you must remember that they are looking at our consequences of lockdown, no TV, canceling visitors, solitary, etc. as a joke because they are doing multiple year terms anyway, so they have nothing to lose. With the prisoner addition came the addition of a police informant. She was quickly detected and once it was figured out, the word spread among the other inmates, and the decision was made that she was going to get jumped. The prisoners made the decision and made the plan. The informant had her bunk on the southside, so it would be the prisoners from that side that would carry out the attack.

After lights out at ten o’clock in the evening and the deputy had done her walk through, things went into motion. An inmate popped her head over to the north side from the bathroom and said, “Preparations are happening. Anyone who wants to participate or watch, come over in three.” I knew better than to get involved, but I also was not going to stop it from happening or inform the deputies of any of the preparation details. Unlike the prisoners, I did have things to lose and I did not want to be there any longer than my “county year” sentence (“County year” was equal to six months due to overcrowding, one day in jail was equal to two days). Suddenly, it began. We could hear the punches landing repeatedly and you could hear the pained groans coming from the informant. All the inmates on the north side stayed on their bunks and listened in silence. Everyone knew it was only a matter of minutes before the deputies would come bursting through the dorm doors, and if we stayed in our bunks, we had deniability. I noticed that the front door slowly opened and an inmate from the southside crept in. I watched silently as the inmate quietly tip-toed over to the intercom and pressed the emergency button and then quickly turned and ran out the door. It quickly became clear to me what she just did. The deputies can see if the emergency alarm is set off by north or south side. After the deputies come in and remove the informant and anyone they catch in the act, the deputies will then turn to the dorm. It will be at this point the deputies ask if anyone knows anything and when none of the inmates speak up, they will focus on the north side because that was the side the alarm was triggered. This will begin a fight between the sides, because southside will see it as a betrayal by the northside. When northside speaks up and tells southside what happened, either the story will be accepted, or it will be asked who it was that came to the northside, and why was she not stopped? Moments later, the deputies came rushing in and quickly removed the informant. The prisoners heard the deputies coming so they were able to all retreat to their bunks, and none were caught in the act. Frustrated that no aggressors were caught in the act, the deputies turned to the dorm and were met with no helpful responses. The entire dorm was on complete lockdown for the weekend. This meant that we were sequestered in our bunks and could not speak to one another. The only time we were able to come off our bunks was to use the facilities. When the deputies did their walkthrough, if there was any amount of sound coming from our dorm, we were further punished. This extended punishment led to arguments between the inmates. In the end, no prisoners were caught, and the informant never returned to N-6.

When the deputies found the pruno, that seemed to be the last straw with the deputies. The deputies had heard whispers of pruno being made, so they kept a vigilant eye out. I am not sure how, but they found out one day that the pruno was on the roof of one of the coverings in the yard. We were instantly put on lockdown. However, this time was different because we were not even allowed to leave for meals. We were brought paper bag meals for the day. The deputies never asked any of the northside inmates about the pruno, so I assumed that they knew. It was the following day that all the prisoners were removed from N-6.

On April 15, 2012, I was released from jail.  Scott was released the same day, so my in-laws picked him up first and then came to get me. I was the first inmate to be processed for release on that morning. This meant that I was waiting to be picked up for about two hours. I did not care. I was excited to be free. When Scott arrived with his parents, I ran to him and jumped into his arms and just held onto him. I enjoyed every aspect of that moment with him.

The jail experience was not at all what I would have expected. When you watch TV shows about jail, it looks scary, and there are times when it is. However, there are times when you feel broken and lost and alone. It is at those times that your fellow inmates will surprise you. It’s the women you do your time with that you become close to. They become your friends that help you get through your incarceration. I thought that doing time in a cell by myself would be the best way for me to get through my time. I was very wrong. Being in general population, in dorm living, was scary and difficult to get used to, but it allowed me to come out of my shell and be more Kylee than I have in a very long time. They say it takes falling and hitting rock bottom before people will accept change and get help for their problems. I absolutely believe that ending up in jail was my rock bottom, but it was the best rock bottom. Now I know I will never relapse because of the pain and experience I went through, and I know that the real Kylee is still there. Derrek did not destroy her completely.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility in Santee California. If you liked my story, please look out for my book with far more details about my experiences, which will be released later this year.  

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