Posts Tagged ‘inmates’

“I just want to go home!”

Posted: October 14, 2013 in jail
Tags: ,

“Yeah, well good luck with that,” I said as I stood over her and watched her sob with her head down on the table.

There wasn’t a person who was incarcerated who didn’t want to go home.

But go home to what? The life they decided on that got them here in the first place?

“Stop crying, wipe your face and quit your whining,” I said.

She proceeded to cry and slam her fist on the table. “It’s not fair!” she said.

“You either knock this off or I’m kicking your ass right out of here,” I said.

She thought about it for a moment. The other students waited quietly. They had never seen me talk so harshly and bluntly to a person before. I had told them all before, I was there to help but would not put up with any outbursts or blaming. They were here because THEY screwed up and it was time to step up to the plate and deal with it.

She kept her head down and continued to cry and protest.

I walked over to my purse, pulled out a whistle and stood behind her. I blew it as loud as I could. Everyone put their hands to their ears and winced. Her head shot up and she turned around and glared at me.

“What the…?”

Steve came around the corner and stood in the doorway. He looked at me. I smiled to let him know everything was OK. I knew he would give me an earful for doing it later. He put his hands on his hips, pointed his finger at me and smiled. He walked away without saying a word.

“Stop talking,” I said. I put the whistle back up to my lips. “Do I need to do that again?” I asked.

Everyone shouted “No!”

She remained sitting up and wiped her face. I held onto the whistle and looked down at her.

“What was one of the first things I told you when you arrived for this class?”

She thought for a moment.

“I’m waiting. I don’t have all night,” I said.

“You said a lot of things…”

“Do you not remember me telling you that I don’t want to hear any type of victim talk? Do you not recall that I said I would not tolerate any bad behavior and that all that was important was today? That the past is gone and what is done is done? Does any of that ring a bell?”

She nodded her head.

“But I’m just so home sick…”

I held up my hand. “Stop right there. I don’t care.”

“What? You don’t care?”

“Nope. Not in the least. You’re the one that decided to do drugs. You’re the one that made the decision to rob and steal. You’re the one that neglected your children and because of you, they’re in foster care and until you own up to the fact that YOU’RE the one that got yourself here, there’s nothing anyone can say or do to help you. And if that’s the case, once you get out, you’ll be right back.”

“But none of it was my fault!” she said and started crying again.

“Get out,” I said.

The room was as quiet as it had ever been.

Suddenly her tears stopped. She looked around. The other women stared at her.

“Your tears won’t work here,” Maggie said. I felt a slight smile cross my face.

“I have to leave?” she asked. Suddenly she was sweet as pie.

“Yep,” I said and motioned towards the door. “This isn’t the right program for you. This is only for women that want to be better people and that means taking responsibility for their actions. No blaming, no finger-pointing and no crying about things they can’t change.”

She stood up and wiped her face. “If I promise not to cry again, can I stay?”

“Nope. I’ve got limited time and resources and this is the 3rd time I’ve told you to knock it off. Three strikes and you’re out,” I said.

I watched her walk towards the door. When she got there, she turned around and glared at me. “You know what? You’re a real bitch!” she said.

Maggie started to stand up to confront her. I told her to sit down. She did so, reluctantly.

“I suppose all of this is my fault, right?” I asked her.

She started to say something but stopped as Maggie started to stand up again.

She stormed out of the room. After class, I wrote up my report about her and handed it to Steve. He read it.

“Some people just refuse to learn,” he said.

“Yes and thank God I’m not trying to save the world,” I said.

“Yeah, right Lewis. You keep telling yourself that,” he said and smiled.

Once she was gone, the class settled down and the fun returned.

Sometimes you have to make hard choices in life and one of the hardest is who to walk away from without looking back.

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“I don’t get this,” Eddie said. “You’re not making sense.”

I quickly counted to 3 before responding. I often had to do this with him. He was so blunt at times.

“OK Eddie, where did I lose you?” I asked. A few of the other student’s snickered and sighed. Eddie looked around quickly and then shook his head.

“No, it’s OK. I get it now,” he said and nodded his head.

No, he wasn’t understanding but as soon as he heard the others chuckle, he shut down. He looked like he was about to cry. I decided to ignore it for now and continue with the lesson.

He didn’t utter another sound the rest of the evening.

Afterwards, I asked him to stay for a moment. I again heard some snickering.

Eddie’s face turned red.

“Did I do something wrong again?” he asked.

“Nope, not at all. You’ve done lots of things right. I just want to talk with you for a moment,” I said.

Eddie was in his mid-30’s and the entire time I had known him, he always seemed to struggle with expressing himself. He seemed swallowed up in the class and unsure of himself. Subtle comments were lost on him. He had been incarcerated 6 months ago for burglary and didn’t seem to understand why he was here.

I pulled up a chair next to him after everyone had left. He would make quick eye contact with me and then look away.

“How are you getting along in here?” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Is everyone treating you alright? Are you having any problems that I can help you with?” I asked. I leaned forward a bit and put my hand on top of his. He stared at it for a moment and then pulled his hand away.

“No, but I’m used to it,” he said and began to think very hard. “I keep doing things wrong, but I don’t know what they are. I just want to read my books, but they don’t let me.”

“Who is ‘they?’ I asked.

“The guys here. Don’t you understand anything?” he asked.

“Apparently not,’ I said and smiled. He looked at me for a few seconds and was once again in deep thought. Then he smiled back at me.

“Eddie, did you just think about whether or not to smile at me?”

His face turned red again and he nodded.

“You don’t know how to act, do you?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I know you’re supposed to smile at people when they smile at you.”

“That’s OK. You don’t have to worry about it with me. Just say what’s on your mind and it will be fine,” I said.

He struggled through the program but when he turned in his lessons, they were amazingly intelligent and articulate. I could tell that a great deal of thought was put into each and every lesson.

He learned to not say anything in class but to talk to me afterwards. I tried as best as possible to explain things to him so he could understand them.

He wasn’t dumb; he was very bright. He just lacked social skills.

One night, he sat down and said he was distressed. He was getting released the following week and was scared.

“Why are you scared? Don’t you have any place to go?” I asked. I hated this part of my job.

“Yes I do. I’m moving back in with my parents. They want me back.”

“Well that’s great! What are you upset about?”

He turned red again and began to fidget. “I won’t get to talk to you anymore.”

I felt a lump in my throat. He was right, but I had already figured out what to do.

I reached into my purse and grabbed a pen and a piece of paper. I wrote down an address and handed it to him.

He looked at it. “What’s this for?”

I ruffled his hair. “It’s a PO Box that you can use to write me. They will make sure I get it, so no matter where you go, I’ll get your letter.”

“Really?” he asked. He looked like a child who had just been given a huge bowl of ice cream.

“Yes, really,” I said.

He stood up and shook my hand. “OK Susan, maybe I will write you.”

“That would be nice,” I said. He left and I never saw him again.

Three days ago, I got a letter from him. He said he was doing alright and had found out he had Asperger’s and didn’t know it.

It was a long letter, filled with his thoughts, ideas and what he does everyday, what books he is reading and anything else that came to mind.

He signed it “Thank you Susan for being the first person to listen to me. Please write back and let me know you are OK.”

I wrote my letter back that night and mailed it the next morning.

Life is good. I have a new friend.

Care for those around you. We all need it.