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a day in bravo
by jane d

Jane lives in Bravo pod in a county jail. She has been sentenced to 15 years for vehicular homicide. She has been incarcerated for 15 months, sentenced only last month. She was allowed one contact visit with her husband for Christmas. Other visits are limited to closed circuit television. Besides the jail staff they have contact with 12 Step Programs and a church service once a week. We feel very privileged to be allowed in for 1½ hours every two weeks for our storytelling/writing time. The women’s prisons are greatly overcrowded and she must wait for a bed to open up to her. In prison she will have much more freedom than in her current situation. She still manages to show her hope and humor in her words. I have added footnotes to explain the jail jargon.

It’s another Monday in Bravo!
As the lights come on at 6:45 a.m., I roll over and cover my head to keep from being blinded from the brightness. I can hear the jailers come in as they do the usual head count, as if someone has escaped during the night. Sometimes as they pass I glance at my window and wave to them as they go by. Other times I’m too sleepy to move.
After a while, I can hear the incoming door open again and I know it’s breakfast. I make myself get up, put my oranges1 on, grab my cup and stumble downstairs to start another day. As I get downstairs I can see the other sleepy heads starting to line up to be fed. I can hear someone in the background hollering, “Where’s that ole mail at, Mindy?” Of course, it’s Lori eagerly waiting to get her fan mail or should I say another one of those “well, we won’t go into that” letters.

As everyone is eating and reading their mail, I get the mop and broom and clean my room, then I eat later. Today’s breakfast consists of pancakes, sausage, hash browns, applesauce, toast, coffee and milk. After breakfast I go to my room and read my mail. I have gotten a card from my husband and shared it with my roommate whose name is Jackie. I like her. She’s a lot of fun. We have some good times together. We talk and laugh for a while, then she goes downstairs and cleans the pod.2 Jackie is our rock3 person.

After she cleans we have inspection and stay in our rooms until 10:30. Then I usually take a shower, wash my clothes and just relax in my room. I try to keep my room neat but it’s hard living out of a box, which holds all my clothes and hygiene. I like where my room is and being upstairs. I like being on top of things.

Well, here comes lunch, which is the usual sandwiches: cheese, bologna, peanut butter or tuna. Today it is tuna and grape kool-aid.

After we eat we get to go outside in the rec area for 2 hours. That’s the part of the day I like most. To be able to smell the air and feel the breeze, watch the butterflies and just feel at ease. It’s a relaxing time for me. Then we come in and everyone more or less does her own thing. Me, I just go with the flow, doing whatever I want like reading my book, which is a thriller-killer book. I love those kinds of books.

Being this is Monday we have church this afternoon, which is held here, in the pod with the chaplain and his wife. We all talk and listen to music and then the chaplain delivers his message to us. After church it’s time for dinner. Tonight’s special is, of course, beef. It’s what’s for dinner along with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables and red kool-aid. By the way, all our dinners are TV dinners. What I miss the most at dinner is candlelight, fine wine, soft music and my handsome husband! I can dream big, can’t I? Well, here comes head count again. It’s time for “the changing of the guards”. I’m almost finishing up my day

Well, I have to say my roommate is losing it. She has been working on her math for school4 Thursday. I told her I was going to hide that dam math book before we both lose it. I told her it’s hard to figure the answers out when one is dumb and other is dumber! I told her to quit school and get a job. That solved that problem!
As I regain my sanity, I decide to take a walk around the pod if the traffic’s not too heavy. After walking I go to my room and write my husband and sister a letter. Jackie decides to write her granddaughter. On the envelope she draws a beautiful flower and butterfly. She’s a very good artist! What’s that I hear? Oh, it’s Mr. “B” on the speaker saying “Lock down NOW”. I know it’s 11:00 and it’s time to go to my room for the night. After I brush my teeth and get ready for bed the lights go out in “Bravo” I lie there talking and laughing with my roommate. After a while it gets very quiet and it’s that special time I talk to God. I know another day has come and gone. As I drift off to another place, I say goodnight to Bravo!

Footnotes
1 Oranges are the standard outfit for those jailed. They are coveralls and come with matching fabric sandals as they are not allowed to have shoes.
2 The jail is divided into pods. The writer lives in Bravo pod with 23 other women when it is full.
3 The rock is the designated person for cleaning the common area of the pod. She is selected by the jailer.
4 GED class offered to the select.

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