Two collages and a letter from an inmate
Inside/Outside Prisons: A Day in a Life at a Prison Camp
August 20, 2006
Sometimes the gap between the realities inside prison is huge. Today I worked out. I felt better after I got off of the elliptical. Last night the four o-clock count had been late by an hour. We knew something was going on…somewhere. This morning we found out one of the inmates had attacked another woman and she had to be taken to the hospital. The inmate had put a lock in her sox and beat the woman’s face with it. Scary. Later today Leah and I made popcorn balls for the birthday “party” we’re having for one of the inmates. What a 24-hours. Which way do I look… which way do I turn? Chaos inside, chaos outside… go to work, get counted, workout, read — relax (if you can). I have to admit some days the prison looks stunning, situated where we live in the basin of a mountain. The animals remind me of a Walt Disney movie. The squirrels walk back and forth across the sidewalk and eat Jolly Rancher’s out of our hands — then, there are these crazy things that happen. No matter how may times I’m seduced into believing I’m not in prison, immediately I’m shaken back. I remember I’m a prisoner every time we have Standing Count. When I reach into my locker for the ID badge I have to wear — can’t go out the door without it. Oh…a day in the life of a federal prison camp. I feel sobered, my mind tough. I’m tired of wishing, wanting, and dreaming — not action. Tired of my desire to win… sick of ambition and jealousy. I wish I just wanted to give to the world. But actually, what a part of me really wants when I get out of prison is to be taken care of, by a yuppie husband in a nice home by the sea. Yet, I know I’d be bored with this life within a year. I don’t have energy left over at the end of my prison day to resist my ego’s demons. I guess I have no choice but to surrender and let go of the inner torment… and breath. Is this the gift I’ve been given — an unlocked heart? I’m beginning to think so. Prison takes away, but does it also give? I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is after the chaos of prison I don’t want “complicated”. But I can’t escape myself, and I feel complicated. Although I’m physically locked-up, I’m still racked with painful self-judgment, and pain from other’s judging me. Every day when I walk the compound I feel the uncomfortable feelings I can’t escape. I hate to admit this, but it’s easier to cover up the feelings I don’t want to face on the outside. There I can choose my distraction; iced-mocha coffee from Starbucks, a glass of wine, soft music, incense, fluffy pillows and nice sheets. I’m not saying I want to be in prison — I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone to spend even one day locked-up. In prison I’m confronted with myself like I’ve never been before. Something needs to change, but inside… I’m tired of living with “fear.” During the past year I’ve been incarcerated I’ve had moments of glorious inspiration. The rest of the time I’m mentally hanging by a thread. I want to run… I want to escape myself… I want to clone myself and live six different lives at once; find my life-partner, have children and a business, live in another country, take a backpack and walk the Santiago, go to India, find a guru and travel to Morocco, live in a house by the sea, live a yuppie life, a bohemian life, be an intellect, and then throw it all away and come home at night to my white picket fence house with a Mercedes 500 in the drive, and a husband with a stable job. I don’t know how the different parts that live inside myself will ever come together.
What the hell is going on?
It’s manic in here.
I love you.
Jennifer Myers received her BFA in modern dance from the Ohio State University in 1991 and spent the next seven years of her life performing and choreographing in Chicago. “It was during this time,” she says, “when, romanticizing the dark side — and the wrong kind of men — I placed my love and trust in a marijuana dealer: Within a year, I was driving the drug cross-country myself. In 2003 I was charged with marijuana conspiracy, and in 2006 sentenced to three years in Federal Prison Camp. In prison my love of writing and art became a vehicle for the pain and isolation I experienced.” Upon her release, she founded LAMYERS, a company that prepares people for the experience of federal prison, and she is finishing up a memoir, Trafficking the Good Life. Her writing received an honorable mention in the 2008 PEN prison-writing competition and has appeared in the SUNY Press anthology Razor Wire Women.