Today, February 4, we didn’t get let out for breakfast. Or after breakfast


When this happens, the hatches in our cell doors get opened so the range workers can pass our food through. (range workers are inmates who’ve been around for a while. They do laundry, clean the range and help with meal distribution). Then the nurse comes and passes the meds through. When that happens there’s usually a guard too, so when they got to us my cellie took the opportunity to ask her why we were locked down. “There’s something going on,” she replied. Wow, really? What a spectacularly informative answer, thank you.

Mid-morning canteen arrived. One cell at a time we were let out to pick up our order, and -yes!- my scrabble has arrived along with a deck of cards. Good timing, as it appears we’re not getting out any time soon. And we still don’t know why – as my cellie likes to say “We’re just mushrooms, they like to keep us in the dark.” So I write a letter. I read. The day drags on. Lunch comes through the door so we eat. We play scrabble. My back is aching from sheer sloth.

But then, around 3:30…

“Oh shit. . .they’ve got gloves on!”


I’ve heard of these. A bunch of guards come in and trash your cells, leaving a huge mess and possibly confiscating things they decide you can’t have. They’re filing in through the door yelling at us to get out of our cells and line up against the wall. They’re wearing single-use blue rubber gloves, all except one. He’s wearing black leather. Gross. Maybe he’s an environmentalist and doesn’t like disposables? Or maybe what he really wanted to be when he grew up was a cop. . .

The pissiness level is high. We’re not moving fast enough/being quite enough/ ______ _______ enough. Whatever. We’ve been cooped up all day. We are annoyed. We get taken out (“Single file, ladies. MOVE IT!”) to the yard. There aren’t enough jackets for everyone but luckily it’s a climate change kind of winter here in southern Ontario so it’s not too cold (sorry island nations). And now, a few at a time, we go in for the strip search. I go last because it’s nice to be outside, and I overhead the guard at the door saying we’ll all be going right back to lockdown. “May I ask why?” someone says. “Because there’s a protocol for when certain things happen.” Again, a fantastic answer, just amazing. Thank you for your assistance.

Eventually it gets to be my turn. The guard at the door tells me to take out my ponytail. I do, and put the elastic around my wrist. The white shirt (a higher-up kind of guard than a blue shirt) inside the door gives me a scowling, I-can-make-your-life-miserable look and asks:

“What is that?”
“An elastic.”
“A hair elastic?”
“An elastic band from underwear.”
“Throw that out, it’s contraband.”
“Really? You people are fucking hilarious.”
“I don’t think I’m hilarious, you can’t rip up underwear.”
“It was going in the garbage.”

They something else but I’m walking away and no longer listening.

I pissily throw the Evil Contraband in a garbage bag on my way to the strip search, muttering crusty nothings under my breath. Okay, I admit I’m making no claim to maturity here but you treat people like children and childish behaviour is what you’ll get.

Now, here it is important to speak of underwear. Underwear is not to be put through the laundry and used by other people because that is unsanitary. You have to wash it yourself in your cell’s sink and if it breaks you have to throw it away. It breaks quickly too – it is quite possibly the cheapest underwear known to humanity. So anyway, a pair of mine broke. Cool I say to myself, I can use the elastics for my hair and the rest as face cloths or cleaning rags. So reasonable, you are probably thinking. Perhaps you’re even thinking that not just tossing the underwear after five uses is slightly more respectful to the planet and the child in a sweatshop somewhere who undoubtedly made them. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right? WRONG. Apparently it’s Against The Rules. I was never given a reason, so I will assume that underwear elastic is dangerous, treacherous, maybe TERRIFYING. Luckily, tax dollars are hard at work making sure I use a rubber band in my hair and not a scrunchie made from soon-to-be garbage. We can all relax, folks, society is safe!

But now back to the story.

My strip search ends and they’re satisfied that whatever they’re looking for isn’t hidden in my hair or up my ass. “Put your clothes back on.” Why thank you, don’t mind if I do. “Go into that room” where everyone else is waiting. Okay, oh, but hang on. “Stand against the wall.” It seems I am getting a talking to.

“Tomorrow, if the other girls get out, you’re staying on lockdown.”
“Okay, what’s the reason?”
“Showing disrespect to a lieutenant.”

Uh-huh. Now, as I see it, pettiness and power-tripping sure are going to earn that lieutenant a whole lot of respect from me. No doubt about it.

Oh, jail, I sense that you and I are not going to get along.
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[One week later]

When I wrote that I was sitting at the desk in my cell, on lockdown, seething with anger and frustration. Hand shaking, teeth clenched, hatred and sarcasm oozing out onto the page. But it’s been a week now, I’ve calmed down, and I’m hesitant to put this in the mail because it really doesn’t represent how I feel most of the time here. But I said I’d share the good, the bad and the ugly. . .

The thing is, while the rules make very little sense, most of the guards are quite nice. Some are downright friendly and there are very few complete jerks. My interactions with them are polite and impersonal – and infrequent, because we’re on one side of the glass and they’re on the other.

Usually, if one comes in with a bad attitude I just bristle and ignore it. But lest you think it’s all fun and games and reasonable adult behaviour around here, I guess you just got a glimpse of something else 🙂

From now on I intend to save up my anger and resentment for when I get out, to be directed at the state where it belongs.

On a happier note, tomorrow (February 13) will be my one month anniversary in this place. I’m going to celebrate with a bag of Lays BBQ chips and a Kitkat (sweet, sweet canteen!) and a changeover of the poster and pictures on my wall. One month down, nine and two thirds to go!

This was first published on bored but not broken

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