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Lessons From The Shu

By the end of my stay at FCI Dublin I was being called over to the Lieutenants office every time I wrote a blog post. One of the Lieutenants asked me, “Do you like coming to the Leutenants office Louder?” I said, “No, not really.” He said, “Well, you better get used to it, because every time you write on your blog I’m going to be calling you over here.” He told me an outside investigator might be coming into the prison to talk to me, possibly even the FBI. He asked me, “Do you have any idea how many government agencies read your emails and listen to your calls?” I told him I didn’t know, and I didn’t really care. I said, “I don’t have anything to hide so I’m not concerned.” They had a town hall meeting at Dublin before I was shipped and said, ” If any of you have a problem with a staff member or an inmate here I want you to come talk to SIS(the investigative department) instead of writing on a blog.” I’m quite certain I was the only one writing on a blog:)

I wasn’t willing to quit writing, but the pressure on me became intense.  One of the Lieutenants stopped me on the compound one day and said, “Hey Louder, you’re going to make your time here a lot harder on yourself if you keep writing about the officers.”  Later an officer with the inspector generals office came to the prison and asked me questions.  He told me that if the BOP could legally stop me from writing they would.  He said, “We can’t stop you from writing, but we can put you in the Hole(meaning the SHU) and that will slow you down.” He asked me if I would be willing to cooperate as a CI (confidential informant) and go to SIS with any officer misconduct or inmate sex/fighting. I told the investigator I wasn’t interested and that I had gone to a counselor in my unit when things got really bad in a cell next to mine and the counselor talked to another inmate about our conversation leading to me being bullied and I felt like my safety was at risk. I told him that I would be willing to help any other way that I could. I even drew a map of places that I had seen women having sex and gave it to the investigators. I don’t know why they were so worried about what I was writing, they could have put their energy into solving the problems in the prison? When my family came to see me over Mothers Day I told Chad the prison seemed very concerned about my blog, that they would likely put me in the SHU if I continued writing.

My first night in the SHU was horrible! Many of the feelings that I had at Weber county jail started to resurface and it really scared me! I kept telling myself that if I could just get through the night I would be able to go outside in the morning and everything would be okay.  I waited by my door for over an hour the next morning, and finally asked the officer when we were going out to rec. He told me he had already taken the other inmates out to rec and that I had missed out. I was beyond upset! I said, “Why didn’t you take me out? I need to go out!” He said, “I didn’t take you out because you weren’t ready to go when I took the other inmates.” I said, “What do you mean I wasn’t ready! I was standing right here in this cement box waiting all morning!” He told me, “You didn’t have your uniform on properly, so I skipped you.” That was it! I told him, “You’re a real jerk! You saw me standing here all morning! How would I know I had to have my uniform on a certain way, you haven’t even given me a rule book!” The officer said, in what I considered a very condescending tone, “Your okay Louder, you’ll be okay. If you want to file a complaint go ahead, you won’t be the first, and you won’t be the last.”  I said, “Ya buddy, but I’m the one that’s going to make it public!” That made him mad, and he yelled, “Louder! I’ve heard all about you, and I don’t really care what you do!” Then he walked off and came back to the range with the SHU rule book and started reading the rules while he walked up and down the range. He said, “Everyone on the range, If you don’t want me to enforce all these rules you better check inmate Louder and put her in her place!” I started clapping as he was reading the rules and said, “That was a great performance! Go ahead and encourage inmate retaliation, your a class act buddy!” Let’s just say this officer and I had a very rocky start!

Of course the officer didn’t know that I was having a panic attack in my cell.  That I had waited all night to go out to rec and needless to say, I wasn’t any calmer after our interaction. I had a decision to make, and my choices were limited. What was I going to do? It was a long day for me, and an even longer night. I stayed up half the night angry, then I started to pray! I told my Father in Heaven that I couldn’t do it on my own, that I needed his help or I wasn’t going to make it. By the time the officer came in the next morning I was in tears, I humbled myself and came to the realization that even though I didn’t control what was being done to me, I did control my response to what was being done to me. That morning when the officer walked by my cell I told him that I was sorry that I had been so disrespectful. Later when the officer took me out to rec he said, “Hey Louder, something’s been bothering me all morning. Why did you apologize to me?” I started crying and told him that I was wrong to react the way I did, that I was angry and scared. “I feel really bad that I talked to you the way I did,” I said. I told him about some of the trauma issues I had from the abuse that I suffered earlier.  I said, ” I am really struggling in that cell, and I can’t afford to lose my mind.” I told him that I apologized because it was the right thing to do.” The officer thought maybe I had apologized because I figured out that he could help me get my property, that I probably wanted his help. He said, “Thank you for the apology, no hard feelings between us okay?”  I agreed.

During my stay in the SHU that same officer ended up being a great source of comfort for me. I began to trust him, and knew that I could ask him questions and would get honest answers. I asked him if he thought my prosecutors could be behind putting me in the SHU?  I said, “I know my blog bothers the prison, but I don’t really write negative things about the prison. The county jail and my prosecutors get the brunt of my negative blog posts.” He said, “I don’t know Louder, I’ve seen prosecutors pressure inmates in prison before so it is possible.” He suggested that I move out of Utah when my incarceration was over. He said, “It seems like you have made some very powerful people angry in Utah, I would leave that state when this is behind you.” One day when I was having a really hard time he told me, “It might help you if you see your time in the SHU as R&R instead of punishment. He said, “There is a lot of evil on this compound, maybe you needed to get away from it for a while.” After our talk I saw my time in the SHU differently, I was able to read and study and found a lot of peace there after that. While I was in the SHU I learned a very valuable lesson on freedom, our freedom to chose our response in every situation is the most valuable freedom that we have. It’s our response to what is done to us that can really change our circumstances. I’m learning many valuable lessons in prison, I would probably prefer to learn them a different way, but right now I don’t get to decide weather I’m in prison or not. But I do get to decide how I’m going to respond to being in prison, and that makes all the difference!

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