One week ago today I self-surrendered to federal prison. It was surreal, to say the least. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for months, and other times it feels like I stepped inside this place yesterday. It wasn’t as scary as I expected it to be. The colorless block walls, steel doors and reverberating noise was accurately depicted in movies. It has its own culture, much like the outside world.
Power dynamics, social norms and broad diversity are undeniable within our confined community. I’m fascinated by all of it. I speculate about what led to one’s present circumstances, and try to imagine the life staff members return to after work. Are they happy and fulfilled? Do they have a deeper appreciation for life and liberty as a result of working with us? What motivates them to work here — purpose, desire or just a paycheck?
Despite the diversity, comformity is required. Wearing matching uniforms disguises our individuality and economic differences. It ensures we know our place as prisoners here. The clanking sound of keys confirms who holds authority. Even within confinement the threat of more segregated isolation is always present.
I’m still learning the ins and outs, and doing my best to make sense of all this. Several other white collar criminals are here for their first time (and last) as well. We understand each other in a unique way and form friendships we wouldn’t otherwise experience.
I miss my family, their hugs and my son’s messy bedroom. I miss quiet, private moments and bathroom privacy. I miss trees, flowers, the breeze and sunshine. I’m eager to return to being a contributing member of society. For now my purpose is personal growth and helping other women through their journey.