Home > Imprisonment > Two collages and a letter from an inmate

Two collages and a letter from an inmate

August 30, 2011

by Jennifer Myers


The Affliction by Jennifer Myers
The Affliction (click image to enlarge)


Stillness in Chaos by Jennifer Myers
Stillness in Chaos (click image to enlarge)


Inside/Outside Prisons: A Day in a Life at a Prison Camp

August 20, 2006
FPC Alderson

Dear Ian,

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.

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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.

Categories: Imprisonment Tags:
  1. Donna
    August 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Go, Jen! Here’s to all women who suffer though dark times and return to share the light with others.

  2. Claudia Kinnaman
    August 30, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Dear Jen, I’m really touched by your letter! Your way of describing and expressing your deep thoughts and feelings speaks directly to my heart and I can see myself in much of what you’re describing. I love your style and I now look forward even more to read your memoirs! Thank you Jen for sharing your story!

  3. Tim
    August 30, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Rock on Jenny, Thanks for sharing your journey. I connected to the dark and the light and the desire to keep moving forward. Not giving up, not giving in to less than what is real and what is true. I feel the distraction in life and when they are taken away something more real and beautiful can come in. Thanks for having the courage to write about you path!

  4. Lane
    August 30, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Jen…you are a very talented writer…you are able to bring people into your world…im proud of you and the way you have moved in so many ways

  5. mugs
    August 30, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Jen.. I want to read more and more and look forward to your writings in all areas.. essays, poetry, memoir… commentary.. your use of art and your help for others.. lights up our world..
    keep on keeping on and giving us a look at .. the other… mugs

  6. August 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    ” Prison takes away, but does it also give? I don’t have the answer…” The answer is YES it does also give. It gave me a wonderful, very dear friend. Thanks for your writings. It brings back some memories – good and bad.

    Great Job – Congratulations!

  7. August 30, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Prison gives us many things, but it cannot prepare us for the isolation of the free world. I felt more free in prison than I have ever felt before or after prison. Do I want to go back? No, I don’t, but life out here is hard and after doing 11 years in prison I feel like I am still paying my debt to society and will be doing so until the day I take my last breath.

    Great writing Jen, but only women who have been incarcerated can feel your pain and confusion.

    Dominique Scalia

    • Rebecca Banks
      October 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm

      Ms.Domonique you are one of the wisest women I have ever met.Meeting you for the first time was scary….Knowing before I met you,about how long you had “been down”for, Walking down the long hall of A-2 thinking oh my gosh…I was very intimidated by you.,.,.Now since we have been “out” reading your comments on FB and now this you have put many things in perspective for me!Thank you for showing me what a strong wise woman I can try to become. Becky

  8. August 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

    This is a powerful and heartfelt expression of an experience many of us have never imagined. Jennifer is a very gifted writer!

  9. Kathy Haluska
    August 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    It’s a wonderful essay, Jen. I agree with Sonia – prison gave me so much in terms of spending time with brilliant, talented, and yet flawed women that I otherwise would not have met. It’s such a release knowing that I am not the only flawed person – we all are, including the yuppies with the white picket fence) and yet only some of us get the chance to face our flaws and realize we are so much more than them. Like Dominique I feel that many times we were freer in prison than we are out here. There, we had each other. I certainly don’t wish to go back but I will never regret the experience of our lives touching. Keep writing and touching others.

    Kathy Haluska

  10. Karen
    September 1, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I absolutely love your writing and the style in which you convey your inner most fragile feelings! You are a true artist and I appreciate the creativity of your writing style in which you bring me into your feelings and inner world within prison. I can relate to your vulnerability and I am so amazed at the strength you have found through this experience. I truly look forward to reading more of your material and I’m so glad you’ve shared your journey with us!

  11. Debi Campbell
    September 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

    BEAUTIFULLY written, and so true! The choices we make and the consequence that follow make up our interesting lifes…

  12. Chris
    September 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

    It’s a rare gift to be able to open your heart and bare your soul with the use of mere words alone. Your words draw us in and make us want to read more.

  13. Stella
    September 2, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Jen’s writing is so touching. She shares in such an honest and loving way. Inspiring!

  14. Ian R
    September 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    What a fascinating window into for many, an unknown, scary world that you manage to humanize. I like more than anything that you bring prison into the ‘real’, not just a place where bad, marginalized people go. I really hope the book makes it because it has a place in the whole prison vocabulary, “prisoners are people to – just like you.” Not only that but you are able to express what real changes can happen for people inside themselves, so that prison isn’t only a wasteland. You bring hope in a hopeless situation Keep going!

  15. Jodi
    September 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Wow Jen…keep writing and loving and living and asking. xo

  16. Angie Dovel
    September 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Very good work Jen. I met you in prison and never knew the depths of your talent. Some of the most talented people in this world are incarcerated. Not only did I meet some of the most wonderful people and made quite a few friends I still comunicate with to this day but, it was also a healing ground for me. If I had it to over again, I’d do it all over again. I learned alot along the way and it made me a better person. Thanks Jen.

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