Jail Tales 7 – Depression and learning to play the system

In jail, if you’re trying to get some help, it’s OK to say you’re depressed but everyone learns very quickly, when they ask you if you’ve ever felt suicidal, you say NO.  If you admit to that you’re done for.  They will isolate you.  I had to have a ‘lose it’ episode before I got an urgent appointment via a TV screen with a psychiatrist.  I came out of there with anti-depressants and sleeping pills. You don’t get sleeping pills if you say you can’t sleep. You have to be more subtle.  Those pills came in useful and helped me build bridges…

Losing it in jail is risky.  The chances are high that they will put you in solitary in a turtle suit which is a bit like a straight jacket. I understand why. There is no official way of dealing with people who are emotionally upset than to remove them from ‘general population’ so that they don’t disturb others or become the potential for a nasty law suit.

I walked past the isolation rooms several times including when I was brought in, taken out and on the two visits I had to the dentist. It was like a horror movie. The people in the isolation cells would stand at the window, sometimes mouthing words, faces contorted with pain and suffering, a deranged look of despair and madness. That is how I read their faces.

Two times in jail, I kicked up and lost it. Two times I was saved by human angels. The first angel was an older jailer, Sgt Christopher, who, instead of shipping me to isolation, he pulled me out and talked with me. I calmed down. I was freaked by being on lockdown. I had gotten under the bed in my cell and started screaming and banging my head against the metal. Sgt Christopher treated me like the intelligent adult I am and removed the lockdown order.

I’d been put in ‘lockdown’, cut off from the rest of the people because I told them someone had threatened me. It was true, but I wasn’t afraid and when threatened with being thrown over the balcony simply said ‘go on then, I don’t care’.   I just wanted to move my cell to be with someone who I’d gotten more friendly. I wanted to get away from my current bunkie, who was weak and a follower of Brandy the bully. I used Brandy’s threat as a reason to be moved. BIG Mistake.

In jail, you NEVER tell anyone in authority that you’re being threatened unless you really fear for your life. Isolation in any form is the worst punishment, yet it is the authorities only form of ‘protection’. They cannot afford to be held responsible if someone does something ‘stupid’. I saw a few moments of a TV show based on life in jail. A ‘trusty’ is introducing a new girl to the way it works. As she walks away she turns back and says ‘and see that panic button out there. NEVER push it, ever’.

In Fannin County jail, there is a communication port in each cell. You press a button and get to talk to one of the officers guarding you. I remember standing in my friend’s cell, the one I wanted to move to, putting my case.  I didn’t realise that there are some things you just do NOT say and definitely don’t say as an attempt to get ‘better treatment’.

As soon as I said ‘I’m being threatened’ all hell broke loose. A general announcement came across the tannoy. – everyone was to return to their cells except Christina who was in the single cell She was moved to where I wanted to be and I was moved to the single cell.  That was the cell they used to lock you down. I was put in lockdown. The cell turned out to be a total blessing, but, on lockdown, it was my worst nightmare.

Lockdown works like this. You are shut in your cell.  You cannot fraternise. It’s not possible to enter the day room while others are there. You don’t get to exercise with the rest of them. Every time you need to be out of your cell, they get locked down in theirs.  If you want to make a  phone call, they are herded back into their cells. Imagine how they feel when they are watching TV and because *I* need to make a call they are deprived of precious TV moments.  They do not feel compassion. They feel anger towards me as the cause of their deprivation.

That is NOT a route to take.  As soon as they shut that door I realised the extent of my mistake.. and if it weren’t for Sgt Christopher, god knows what would have become of me.   He invited me outside and ‘had a chat’ at which point I became lucid and articulate and told him my story calmly and intelligently. He got it.  He removed the lockdown 12 hours after it started and I got to keep the single cell and avoided being the object of anyone else’s anger.  The cell proved to be a blessing for more than just me. [The Prayer Cell stories are in development 😉 ]

Next Story > Jail Tales – Moving to another Jail – The Next Breakdown

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