“Please don’t kill yourself.”

Posted: October 12, 2012 in jail, Uncategorized
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Looking down at Julie I wasn’t sure I heard what she had just said. She was sitting quietly with her head down. It was a subtle and quiet statement. I asked her to look up at me. She refused. I put my hand under her chin and lifted her head up to me.

“Look at me and repeat what you just said,” I said and gently pushed her chin up further.

She looked up at me and then quickly looked away. I pulled her face back up. “What did you just say?” I demanded.

“I don’t want to live anymore,” she said and started to cry.

Julie was young. She was in her late 20’s and had been incarcerated 6 months before for intent to sell meth. She lost her child to foster care and had been a runaway since the age of 14. Somehow she had survived on the streets and her stories were gut wrenching. She was sent to me because Steve felt there was hope for her. Steve was my firewall and no one got into my program unless he said they could.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because I’m a bad person and my daughter deserves better than me. If I’m gone then she’ll be better off.”

I was obligated and contracted by the County to report any and all statements of threatened suicide, violence and all sorts of other things. It was a snake pit to go that route. It was not something I wanted to do yet.

“So you’ve done some bad things. I pretty much figured you guys didn’t end up here because you are all such angels,” I said and sat down.

She smiled for a moment and then it was gone. I looked at the time and it was running out. I told her I would be right back. I ran over to Steve’s desk and pleaded with him if I could keep Julie a bit longer. I explained that we were talking and I didn’t want to stop her. I said nothing of what she had said.

He sighs and throws his pencil down. “Lewis, if she’s not back in her bed by 9:00, she gets written up and sent back. You want that?”

“No, but…”

“But what?”

“Who’s doing the head counts tonight? Maybe I could talk to them…”

He rubs his eyes. “No, I don’t want you talking to anyone. What is so damn important that it can’t wait until you come back here?”

I tell him. He sits down and swears. He looks at the clock and then back at me. “I’ll handle it. Just go talk to her and then come back here and tell me everything. We’ll figure something out.”

We ended up talking for an hour.

When it was time for her to go, I asked her a question. “Julie, did you know that anything your skin comes into contact with is absorbed into you?”

“Huh?”

“You know, if I touch anything, some amount of it goes into the body. You don’t have to be cut for that to happen. Did you know that?” I asked.

“Yes.”

I put out my hand and spat on it. “Go ahead and spit on your hand,” I say.

She looks at me funny.

“I said, spit on your hand and do it now!”

She does. I shake her hand with mine and hold hers for a few seconds. “Part of me is now in you. Part of you is now in me. That means if you hurt yourself, you hurt me too. Please don’t hurt me,” I said.

“I won’t, I promise,” she said and wouldn’t let go of my hand.

“Good. I am going to trust you to take care of me. I’ll see you next week,” I said.

She looked better when she left and hugged me. She was escorted back to her cell. I walked up to Steve and told him what she had said.

“Is she talking to anyone around here?” I asked.

“Yeah, you. You’re elected. I’ll keep an eye on her, but you’re going to be the one she will talk to,” he said and walked away. I swear I could hear him chuckle.

Every time after that, when Julie came to class she told me she was taking good care of me.

She turned out just fine.

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