A story begins where it begins. Tomorrow my story may begin 40 years ago but today it begins here.
I sat in the back of the cop car, handcuffed, watching through a blur of tears and window bars as the landscape of my life disappeared. The house faded behind the trees as we sped down the little dirt track away from my home, my doggies, the land, the community, and the man I loved.
It was a typical, hot, sunny, sultry North Georgia Mountains August day – August 20th 2012 to be precise. I had just hung out the washing on the line and was walking back to my house, when I heard the words ‘Ma’am’. I turned round to see a cop emerging from the trees behind the garage. Cody Jones was the cop who had arrested my partner, Robert a week ago, and now he was here for me. It was over.
My first thought was to run. I wanted him to put a bullet in me and end it. Instead, I froze. I realize now that he wouldn’t have shot me unless I’d indicated I had a gun and was going to use it. Instead, he would have thrown me to the ground with 10,000 volts from his taser. I could not escape my fate.
Two hours later, I was being shunted into the sheriff’s office to be ‘processed’.
Standing in front of the computerized fingerprint machine, I knew that it was only a matter of time before they discovered I had overstayed my visa by four years. If I’d entered the country illegally there would be no record of me, but I hadn’t. I’d been fingerprinted on entry.
They made me strip and put on a set of ‘oranges’ and a pair of matching fake crocs. I had no underwear or socks. I was given a plastic box containing a mini set of toiletries, a worn white towel and a thin, blue plastic covered foam mattress, a fitted sheet and a grey blanket with blue checks. A male cop marched me down the corridor and opened the door of D wing where I was assigned the top bunk in D5, one of only 8 cells in this small women’s block.
Robert, my man, found out when he got home from work and rushed to bail me out. The UK debit card he used failed . There was $10k in the account. I watched out of my narrow cell window as came out of the jail, got into his truck and sat there crying. I banged on the window and caught his eye… the sadness and depth of despair was palpable. Fifteen minutes later I was called to the front where I was handed a piece of paper stating that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement ] had put a hold on me.
I went back to my ‘pod’ and lay down in the empty unused shower room. I cried and cried until there were no more tears.
Robert had been arrested on the same charges a week earlier than me and had been bailed out by friends. On the recommendation of a drug dealer I befriended in jail, he hired a lawyer, giving him virtually every cent we had. The lawyer was paid to defend my husband and influence my case. Two phone calls later, he had got my bail reduced and persuaded the bondsman to go surety for me, despite me being an ‘international flight’ risk.
If he hadn’t done that, I’d still be in that jail today, awaiting trial. As I filled out paperwork with the bondsman, I saw my beloved standing behind the glass and bars. The next 48 hours would be decisive. The hope I’d held onto for two days was shattered when, at 8 am on Wednesday 17th October 2012, six hours before my hold was due to expire, the ICE man came for me.
I was now officially in the custody of the Department of Homeland Swastika and I was transferred to Irwin County Jail in South Georgia 6 hours drive away from my home and my man. My last ‘meeting’ with him was a 30 minute visitation, behind a glass screen, talking through a telephone, with one hand pressed against the glass and tears in our eyes, just like the movies except this was for real. It wouldn’t end aftertwo hours of screen time.
I clambered into the front bench seat of a transport van. There was one other occupant, a young South American male, sitting in the back. He was in a straight jacket and had a plastic gag strapped round his mouth.
I was kept in Irwin County Jail for three months. More stories here Jail Tales – 1 Depression and learning to play the system
On the 17th January 2013, I was hauled from my cell in Irwin County Jail at 1.30 am and told to pack my stuff. It was time. I was finally being deported; barred for 10 years and likely forever because of the felony charges hanging over my head. I had lost everything that I truly loved. And now I guess I have a few Orange is the New Black stories to tell.