People you once would’ve swiped left to are now right, right, right. A few years in and everyone’s a 10.

You’ve thought of countless different ways to take yourself out and weighed the pros and cons of each.

You start believing you’re in love with book authors, artists, musicians, poets who “speak to,” “understand” you that you’ll never meet and who are either twice or half your age.

You become one of the two personality types: a) obsessed with showering as frequently and as long as possible, fantasize about it; b) shower not when your celly threatens to beat your ass, but only when they threaten to pour water on your TV.

Torture is epitomized by the restaurant advertisement commercials on TV.

You wake up just a few minutes before they ring the bell and bellow “COUNT!” in the morning because you’re #institutionalized

Every single recipe you see in a cooking magazine you try to emulate, prison-style, with crazy substitutions. Every. Single. One.

Someone asks you your religion, you respond with “David Sedaris.”

Can sleep for 18 hours straight, because oblivion is the only way to Forget.

You eat, sleep, self-mutilate, shit, repeat; Because Depression.

Just managing to wash a few pairs of underwear is a major accomplishment for the day.

You call people who (never) answer, and (never) will.

Sex either dominates your thoughts or you become completely uninterested in it.

You cease to care or care too much.

“Who fucking cares, I’m gonna die here anyway.”

You start to question your sexuality, when just a few months earlier you were bashing those who were “gay for the stay.”

You take offense to drop-the-soap jokes and go to great lengths to explain why they’re so offensive.

You’ve mastered multiple musical instruments, languages, academic subject areas, and The Art Of Keeping Pepper Spray Out Of Your Orifices When Shit Hits The Fan.

You become more cynical than Diogenes. Woof.

Prison Tip #1637: Don’t spit on people. Just don’t. K, thx.

You get your skull bashed in with a lock-in-a-sock before 6 am count; what’s a ‘Good Morning?’

You have to piss in a cup because the COs won’t let you out of your cell to use the common restroom. Not fun, trust me.

Gel pepper spray sticks to the surfaces of The Block for weeks, continuing to burn and cause pain because it was just Created To Suck.

You listen to officers’ radios, just ear hustling because you’re nosy and have a need to know what’s going on.

Other incarcerated people usually do not make credible sources if they’re storytelling. Widely and ironically dubbed ‘inmate.com,’ they’ve been certified fake news by us pseudo fact checkers.

When you hear someone say “I didn’t do it, what happened was…” you can’t help but roll your eyes and say “Frankly I don’t care if you did or didn’t, I still want you out of prison, like, yesterday.”

You give yourself pathetic prison-hacked pedicures on the reg because some things never change.

You start to look at your Prison’s Administration as omnipotent, omniscient, supreme Beings. You can’t help it– especially if they’re nice!

While getting ready in the morning and loudly exclaim to no one in particular “Hmm, what outfit should I wear today? Cocoa Brown Uniform #1, Cocoa Brown Uniform #2, or Cocoa Brown Uniform #3?” At first glance they may appear the same, but #3 is your “Church Outfit” and #2 you’ve distressed for that Grunge Look.

Your incarcerated lifestyle allows you to be More Hipster Than Most. Pshhh, sellouts.


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)


#YouKnowYourLockedUp when …

You have to learn how to thread your eyebrows with a piece of string you’ve pulled from your pants.

You have to make instant coffee with the lukewarm water in your sink.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks are all different variations of Ramen.

To keep your sodas somewhat cold, you plop the bottles in your toilet’s water. Pinkies up when you sip, ladies!

“Bend over it and spread ’em open” ceases to have a sexual connotation.

You have to wash your clothes by hand in any available receptacle: a wash basin, a mop bucket; even a cleaned-out trash can when times get tough.

You master the art of the bird bath during lock downs or stints in solitary confinement. Gotta hit the hot areas, people.

You stand by the cell door waiting in anticipation for mail every afternoon, even those days you know none is going to come.

Coffee, water, brush your teeth since the dental department exists only in name and couldn’t be more indifferent. Rinse, and repeat.

You forget trivial things like what your cell phone number was, but remember what your mother’s favorite sweater felt like when the fabric was pressed against your skin.

You get a flashlight beamed in your face every 30 minutes as you try to sleep at night.

Your private, personal, emotionally and psychologically raw, vulnerable journals are read by and the contents inquired about by the search team during routine cell searches. Privacy? Common human decency? What foreign concepts are those?

Your voice is suppressed, your rights violated, your opinions dismissed on a daily basis because you are subhuman: an “Inmate.”


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)

Tampon Christmas at SCI Muncy

I was in for a surprise when I returned to my housing unit, the Young Adult Offender Program, after a visit with my father, June 29th, 2018. After I checked in with my housing unit officers, one of the two of them instructed me to wait a moment. She disappeared into the staff bathroom, which doubles as a supply closet. When she reemerged, she wore plastic gloves and held a large brown paper bag. Immediately I felt confusion, even irrational feelings of dread: what did this mysterious, unsolicited bag contain? My officer approached me while opening the bag, and with a grin on her face, produced three individually wrapped tampons. “Merry Christmas!” She exclaimed. Accepting the tampons, my confusion heightened. What was going on? Did I make it back to the right housing unit after my visit, or one that looked eerily similar with identical mural paintings decorating the walls? Stunned, I watched as she made her way to each cell door, doling out exactly three tampons per person. I turned to my other housing unit officer for some clarity.

The awe of the unit must have been palpable, because the officer I turned to for an explanation stepped out of the office and into the hallway to make an announcement regarding this tampon Christmas. She informed us that our prison is supplying every inmate with three tampons in addition to the thirty pads we receive monthly as a sort of trial run. Contingent upon how it goes, the DOC may start providing us with more free tampons.

Realistically, three free tampons won’t make much of a difference considering the frequency with which tampons are supposed to be changed. However, that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, or PADOC, may begin providing incarcerated people who menstruate with tampons is certainly small progress. Currently, the PADOC only provides people who menstruate with thirty free, individually wrapped pads a month. If a person bleeds heavily and needs more than thirty pads, they have to battle the bureaucratic medical department to be issued more.

Incarcerated individuals can purchase menstrual products through commissary in addition to the free state-issued pads: a 22 pack of generic panty liners costs $1.08, and a 20 pack of Always brand unscented party liners costs $1.86. A 28 pack of Always brand ultra thin pads with wings costs $7.17!

The average inmate pay is $0.19 an hour, which for most goes towards other personal hygiene products and food. Many prisoners do not have outside support, forcing them to work long hours with slave-like wages for the things they need and want.

Until now, tampons have only been available through purchase off commissary. The price of an 8 pack of regular absorbency tampons is $1.82, and an 8 pack of super absorbent tampons costs $2.05. Many people who menstruate prefer tampons as they are hygienic and allow one to comfortably remain active while menstruating.

Tragically, society has treated menstruation as a dirty, shameful issue. Thanks to many activists this perspective seems to be changing. Every woman in every place on Earth, free and incarcerated, deserves free feminine care products. Incarcerated women are one of the world’s most marginalized populations: it is imperative that we change this fact by bringing attention to and illuminating the issues incarcerated women experience. These issues include topics more frequently exposed such as inhumane treatment, disparate and unfair sentences, as well as those issues discussed less often– even period problems!


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)

Strip searches: a daily, degrading routine I have been subjected to since the tender age of 14

Strip searches: a daily, degrading routine I have been subjected to since the tender age of 14. Less than a month into being 14, I was still experiencing some pretty awkward, uncomfortable, and funky things going on with my pubescent body, and I hadn’t yet fully embraced that I was, indeed, very much a woman. These factors made my first few strip searches all the more excruciating.

I remember how terrified I was, being certified as an adult and being transferred from a juvenile facility to an adult county jail. It felt surreal. Almost immediately after my arrival I was stripped naked and placed on suicide watch– also naked, but for a scratchy turtle suit.

When I first arrived, a female officer brought me into a small, dank, dungeon-like room with harsh lighting and ordered me to take off all my clothes. Dumbfounded, I just stared at her for a moment until she clearly repeated herself. I quickly realized that I didn’t have much of a choice, and I found her uniform to be quite intimidating. Trembling, I went through the motions of removing my clothes until I stood before her, the totality of my flesh bared. I was suddenly hyperaware of my hammering heart, the blood roaring in my eyes, my flushed cheeks, the cold sweat trickling down my back and under my breasts. I felt so exposed, so humiliated. My eyes were squeezed shut, my fists clenched at my side, my head down: I was deeply ashamed of my nakedness, silently apologizing for it. With my eyes shut I swore could feel the searing heat of her eyes roving across my body, dissecting it, though logically I knew she did no such thing.

I recall the lead in my stomach, the bile in my throat as I was ordered to open my mouth, raise my tongue and run my fingers along my gums. Reach my arms to the ceiling and pick up my breasts, lift up one foot at a time while wiggling my toes, and finally turn around with my back to the officer, squat down, spread my butt cheeks, and cough.

Afterwards, she left the room, allowing me to change in privacy, though I viewed it as giving me the chance to regain my nonexistent composure. She noticed the tears that burned in my eyes, my quivering lip. I was in neither psychologically nor emotionally equipped to handle the experience that brought me to prison, nor the ones that followed it.

Strip searches continued to be as humiliating, degrading, and difficult throughout my year in county jail– I was always a reluctant participant. After I pleaded guilty and was sent to state prison, eventually things began to change as I adjusted and adapted. The sad reality is that I became numb to the dehumanization I was regularly experiencing. Eventually, strip searches ceased to perturb and humiliate me to the extent they once did. I came to accept them as one of the unfavorable facets of my life in prison; I became desensitized to objectification.

One should never stop being bothered by something as degrading as strip searches, no matter how frequently one is subjected to them. However, it is important to realize that it is one awful and inevitable aspect of being incarcerated that, until it is amended, must be tolerated. Sometimes, courage isn’t always having the loudest voice: it is knowing the difference between when to remain silent and when to speak up and stand up for what is right.

So I will continue to endure squatting and coughing if it means I’ll be able to see my loved ones, friends, and family in the prison’s visiting room. We all need to make sacrifices sometimes, compromise our values for a greater purpose– even those of us on the Inside.


(Photo Credit:  Ms. Magazine)

Incarcerated women like myself practice Hygge on a daily basis

Since our slightly less urbane and definitely not gluten-free ancestors performed magic by discovering fire, the desire to be cozy has become innate for far more than just survival. I had no idea the love of coziness had a name: all I knew was that it was one of my reasons for existence, and there was nothing better after a long day than to don my favorite sweatsuit, taking care to look as lumpen, misshapen, and questionably inhuman as possible. I would heat up a fluffy blanket in the drier, grab a hot beverage of choice, and delve into whatever I was currently reading along with my mother, who was an avid reader as well. Apparently a love of reading is hereditary. Oddly enough, I only discovered the sense of comfort and well-being I adore so much has a name, Hygge, while in prison, which I learned reading an article in Time magazine. Thanks, Time!

After reading the article, I quickly asked a loved one to order me a copy of “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking– the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen. I was charmed by the book’s enriching techniques and suggestions as to how to make your life more “hyggeligt”; areas included lighting, ‘togetherness’ and socialization, food and drink, clothing, and the furnishings of your home. What inspired me the most is how incarcerated women like myself practice Hygge on a daily basis, in spite of our oppressive, restrictive environment.

Hygge practices are highly individualized and unique for everyone, and behind prison walls they are as well. Some of my favorite Hygge practices mirror what brought me comfort at home. When I’m not busy, I still love to change into my favorite sweatsuit and crawl into bed with a book, and I enjoy listening to music, effectively tuning out my environment. Every night to wash off the sweat of the day I take a long, sauna-like shower; as the steam envelops me and the hot water massages my muscles, I am able to relax and unwind, let go of whatever worries and emotions have been gnawing at me throughout the day.

I’ve observed, fascinated, as my peers knit luxurious scarf and hat sets, blankets, mittens and gloves, and, my personal favorite, socks, that appear professionally made. Not only is wrapping yourself in these soft, woolen, colorful items comforting and the definition of Hygge, but the very act of knitting and crocheting is, as well. I’m sure I would find it very soothing if I had the patience.

In addition to our artistic creativity not being stultified, we women prisoners have proven ingenious in regards to our cooking abilities. What could be more Hygge than prison-made macaroni and cheese, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, stromboli, chicken stir fry, or cheesecake? Maybe a lot of things, but still.

Though activists like myself may be ardent in our belief that an environment such as prison is one that no human being deserves to be confined in, America continues to incarcerate more people than any other country, making us a Prison Nation. Human beings having the uncanny gift of resilience and adaptation, many of us incarcerated individuals adapt to the situations we are in, and try to make the best of them. However, no amount of positivity and humanity we prisoners bring to the penal system, no amount of “reform” that lawmakers vow but never quite seem to put into action, will ever mitigate the Draconian, cruel, backwards mentality that human beings are disposable and should be thrown away when we make bad choices instead of teaching us to make better ones.

Comfort can be a great thing– but Noam Chomsky warned us about its illusions.

I remain fully aware of the life I helped to take while strumming my guitar, watching a movie, playing chess, or participating in sports here in prison: most days the guilt threatens to swallow me whole. I’m sure many of my peers experience similar feelings of remorse. Prison isn’t filled with monsters. It’s filled with people like you and me, who have made terrible decisions. It isn’t an ugly place; you can find beauty and compassion if you know where to look. If you are ever in Muncy, Pennsylvania, I’ll gladly show you.


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)

Women as villains (Part 2)

When I was 13, I entered a toxic, unhealthy relationship with a military man years my senior. Unsophisticated and inexperienced in relationships and insecure, I misinterpreted the red flags of an abuser to be signs of his love for me. When my mother learned of our relationship, she tried to do her duty as my mom, protector, and best friend, because she loved me unconditionally and without reserve. Her attempts to end the relationship prompted us to eventually consider murder as our only way to remain together.  Even then, I still was envisioning my mom supporting us at the wedding of our dreams, to demonstrate how naive and out of touch with the gravity of the situation I was at the time.

Afterwards, it was a media frenzy, and I was portrayed to be more of a monster than my codefendant was, in spite of the fact that he was the one who committed the physical act. The media devoured the salacious nature of our relationship, and played up every juicy detail they could, taking every angle. They didn’t care that a tragedy had occurred: a mother’s life was taken senselessly, for no reason; a family had been torn apart, was devastated and would never be the same. A father had suddenly lost both his wife and daughter, a brother his sister and mother in one fell swoop. Another family lost their son and brother as well. The media didn’t care to ask what drove a normal, healthy, bright young girl to help murder her own mother. They only wanted to sensationalize and exploit a tragedy to sell papers, re-victimize a victimized family.

So where does the woman-blaming theme come into play in my case? Both the prosecution and the media — and even my (female) judge — took the stance that I alone was the puppet master, that I manipulated my unsuspecting codefendant into committing murder. That he was so blinded by his love for me, so wrapped up by my lies, feminine guiles and irresistible powers of seduction that he was powerless against me: putty in my hands. My intellect was used against me, my articulation and eloquence thrown in my face; even my opinions and ability to express my views on religious, social, and political issues – positive attributes, now signs of witchcraft, evidence of guilt. If this would have happened a few hundred years ago, I would have gone up in flames.

I took full accountability and ownership for my role in my mother’s murder. My mom, my family deserve that, and I couldn’t live with myself without doing the right thing. What offended me wasn’t my unconscionable actions being scrutinized in the public eye. What bothered me was the media not viewing my codefendant and me in an equal light, not seeing our case for what it was. My codefendant and I were equally responsible for my mother’s death. We both had choices, decisions, and we made the wrong ones. To pretend now that we weren’t responsible, culpable, or had a choice is cowardly and dishonest.

I would do anything to bring my mom back, but I can’t. So now it is up to me to be truthful about how things escalated to that point, educate society about such tragedies, try to prevent other young women from entering abusive relationships like the one I was in, as they all end in tragedy and disaster. It is incumbent on me to make my mother proud, to let her passing not have been in vain and make the rest of my family proud as well. I’m determined to show society how much I, an “evil” woman, have changed.

I’m surrounded by other ‘nasty,’ ‘evil’ women like myself every day, whose situations may differ greatly from my own, though our stories are the same. We’ve all been labeled the marked, untouchable, scorned woman by society for what we’ve done, or, in some cases, failed to do. The tragedy remains to be, in my opinion, a lack of understanding. If the experts, judge, and prosecutors in my case would have tried to understand the deep-rooted insecurities from my physical flaws I was dealing with as the time and the dynamics of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, they could have gained the insight to apply to other teenage girls in similar situations to myself, but they didn’t. In regards to my peers serving life for killing their newborn babies, as an example, if their prosecutors would have made the effort to understand the pressures each of them were under in their individual situations, fear for some, the fact it was an accident and they didn’t know what do for others. Once again, the prosecutors didn’t. Like me, these women were labeled with disgust, scorn, out of a lack and refusal to try to understand, and they were hastily thrown away like used condoms. Years later, many of them have proven they are deserving of second chances, though in my opinion, that isn’t something they should have to prove. Generally, justice should assume people are capable of change and rehabilitation; only in the absolute worst of the worst, rarest of cases should it not, and only for the safety of community and society.

The sentence of 35 years to life that I accepted at such a young age sends society the message that I, and others like me, are incapable of change, disposable and not worth rehabilitating while still vital. This is a narrative I’ve already defied and will continue to prove wrong for the rest of my life. Never mind me; what message does it send to our youth? ‘If you make a terrible decision, we the state will throw your life away, you will no longer be worth anything.’ Children, especially teenagers, need to feel supported. The knowledge, even if it is subconscious, that they are disposable to the state will reinforce what negative feelings about themselves they have.

I definitely have the propensity to be a ‘nasty,’ ‘evil’ woman, a royal bitch. I own it. Every other woman I know has that same proclivity as well, as does every man to act in the same way, and every person regardless of the gender or sex they identify as. Good and evil exist in us all, but it’s up to each of us to choose what kind of individuals we want to be. How we want to treat fellow humans is a decision me must make ourselves. Don’t allow your assigned gender or the popular culture to dictate how you treat others. Think for yourself; do what feels rights. Write your own narrative. Be nasty.


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)

Women as villains (Part 1)

Bitch, tramp, slut, whore, witch, skank, home wrecker, tease, prude. These are just a few examples of the plethora of derogatory terms used to describe women. Despite the progress women and feminism have made, there is still a long way to go before gender equality is achieved.

A prevailing theme throughout history, and one that still dominates today, is that of the ‘evil’–or in more 21st century political terms-‘nasty’ woman. I’m no historian, only a lover of history, but I’ve been able to discern the oppressive, patriarchal narrative in early cultures from areas all around the globe. Intrinsic to this belief is that all men are rarely capable of committing atrocities or behaving badly on their own: they are always motivated, inspired, or encouraged by woman, whether that woman is involved in or privy to the man’s plan’s and actions is moot.

Looking at the animal kingdom doesn’t portray women in a more favorable light, either. Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize-Winning ethologist described a behavior common among females in many species of ducks. The female duck runs to the very edge of her partner’s territory with the intent of provoking another duck, and then runs back to her partner, egging him on to fight for her. Talk about instigating!

Take the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, for instance. It’s a prime example of the perceived innocence and blamelessness of the male, being taken advantage of and misled by the corrupt, beguiling female. Poor Adam surely would have never taken a bite of the forbidden fruit and Eve not tempted him into doing so! Their mutinous actions, according to the Bible, resulted in humanity’s sinful nature, in our division from the perfect image of God. In this religious text, the finger of blame is undeniably pointed at Eve for man’s fall from grace. This woman blaming isn’t unique to biblical times.

Today, when women are victimized by rape, the questions are always asked: “what was she wearing?” “Was she alone?” “Was she drinking?” When a woman falls victim to domestic violence and abuse, questions like the following are posed: “Did she provoke him?” “Why didn’t she leave?” “Why didn’t she ask for help?” “Was she cheating?” “How was their relationship othewise?” I’ve often heard men make jokes about how, upon learning of a woman’s unfaithfulness or unsatisfactory cooking or cleaning abilities, she was “asking for it.” Though their comments may be in jest and I can always take a joke, I believe their humor reveals their true sentiments towards women.

When members of society ask these unnecessary questions after a woman is victimized, it perpetrates the illogical, false notion that somehow she was at fault, and that men cannot help or control themselves when in reality they can. The idea that men are enslaved and impotent to their raging hormones and sexual impulses is preposterous: they are sentient, self-controlled human beings who are ultimately responsible for making choices, deciding how to act each and every moment of their lives to the same degree that women are. Men aren’t pigs, animals; slavering, salivating creatures whose simple logic is overridden by the sex organ protruding between their legs. They have the ability to choose to degrade, to objectify, or to respect women, and the importance of that choice should be instilled in them from an early age.

Though men are often considered to be purely sexual beings who can’t control themselves, they often get a pass from society: almost like dogs that hump everything in sight. The behavior may be disgusting and repulsive, but they’re dogs; it’s what they do, so you excuse them.

Women don’t get the pass for being inherently ‘evil’ like the guys tend to. We got burned at the stake centuries ago, accused of practicing witchcraft. We have naked images of ourselves leaked by our vengeful former flames for the world to see on social media. We’re not taken as seriously as men are in positions of power when we deserve to be. When a man commits a crime with a woman, the blame is often put on the woman for corrupting or misleading the man, or the woman is portrayed to be the mastermind of the crime regardless of is she was or not.

I can relate to the latter personally. The feelings of guilt and remorse that haunt me due to my involvement in the mother’s murder will never diminish or fade.


(Photo Credit: Ms. Magazine)