I used to go to church in the Spanish girls’ cells. One of the women in our pod was a pastor. She held prayer meetings. A lot of crying and wailing went on and they had these songs they’d sing, like I’d never heard before, with a particular harmony and rhythm that felt alien at first, after being surrounded by gospel music for four years. They prayed in Spanish. I prayed in English reading from a book of Baha’i prayers sent to me by my beloved. In that space I imagine I felt some of the solace slaves may have felt when they sung together, expressing their suffering and praying to be set fr
Marie-Lourdes was 46, Mexican by birth and a mother of four. She’d divorced from her husband and brought her children to America to find a new life. She was a kindly woman, feeling the pain of separation from her children, three of whom had been taken into care after she was arrested in a raid on the factory she slaved in.
About 3 weeks into her time in jail, she was on the telephone to someone on the outside.I was standing near by. She screamed, dropped the phone and fell to the ground weeping. She’d just learned that her ex husband had been shot dead by Mexican gangsters. Apparently life is so worthless there that there are many executions every week, drive by shootings, someone looked at someone the wrong way or showed ‘disrespect’ or didn’t kowtow to the Cartel’s minions and they were offed.
Before she was arrested, she’d been talking with her husband of reuniting. I remember sitting on the floor with her, holding her, stroking her hair while she wept and wept. The other Hispanic girls gathered round and took her into their care. There was a tremendous amount of kindness and caring in that jail and there was also a lot of bullying and meanness.
A couple of weeks later, another ‘angel’, the kindly Miss Mitchell, who was an officer designated to help with our welfare. got me moved to a pod where there was a German Scottish girl. I’d met her briefly because she delivered food. She handed me an envelope with a jail biro, some paper. This was her calling card. She was also interested because she’d grown up some in Scotland but lived most of her life in Germany as a German citizen. Her jail name was ‘Germany’ – even Lieutenant Brown, the man in charge below the Warden called her that.
‘Germany’ or Christiani as she was named, had been in there a year, fighting to stay in the US.. She’d married a Southern guy who was violent. They’d run a rescue centre and she and he had been accused of animal cruelty, reported by angry neighbours. I saw the print out’s she had of her internet infamy. She maintained her innocence. You can never tell. After being investigated for the animal cruelty, she’d gone on the run with her two sons, with whom she had a special bond, almost too special.. it was always the 3 of them.. she even had a name for them as a threesome. She had gotten to Niagra Falls when she was caught and transported back to Georgia in a long bus ride, the only female prisoner in a bus full of men.
Her mother and father in Germany had washed their hands of her but taken custody of her children. She did get to write to them but never to speak with them or her parents. She was fighting her case to stay using the abused woman’s loophole where a woman who was the victim of abuse, if she could prove it, might be granted leave to stay.
Christiani was tough. She’d done a year in a federal pen after being arrested up North and had been involved in gang fights. Such had been the ‘gang’ warfare in her last jail that they were locked down often to separate the warring factions. She showed me a tattoo that she’d done herself with the symbol of her ‘gang’. She truly liked me and was a good companion for a time.
She also had the best job in that jail. She and Lulu delivered the food. Who delivered the food was automatically powerful. People are easily bribed with food, which is a commodity in jail, like gold is on the outside. An extra tray of slop would buy loyalty for as long as the tray appeared. Christiani liked me. Probably because I was the only other Brit in there, even though she was German by nationality, she had also lived in Scotland for some years.
She had long hair that she often wore braided. Braiding was a service the Hispanic girls would offer in return for food and sometimes just because they wanted to be liked. Christiani was 40 and still in bloom. She was also angry and mean and was conducting a love affair with a Haitian male prisoner who was fighting deportation and working in the kitchens. She and he had trysts in the kitchen and many notes were passed on those food trays.
Lulu was top dog and Christiani a formidable second.
Lulu had crossed the border through Canada ten years prior to her ending up in jail, originally getting to Canada as a child from the Congo. She was gay and risked persecution if sent back to her country which she had left so long ago. But she also had a record of assaults, theft etc. Lulu was big and strong and ruled with a velvet covered rod of iron.
She was also self appointed ‘in charge’ of the pod. The officers, most of whom were black, loved Lulu. I understand this. She could be charming and she actually liked me. I finally broke into the card playing cartel, and made Lulu laugh out loud.. she liked hearing me speak. I loved playing Spades with her and two others. Spades saved me from insanity/We use what we can. BUT Lulu was also a bully and she dominated the TV and she and I eventually came to verbal blows. But not before I’d shored up my allies and my information.
Next Story > Jail Tales – 4 – The TV Wars