life is beautiful
Life In Prison

Life is Beautiful… Even in Prison

IMG_3506B’s Armenian roommate has a reputation as the hardest person in the unit that you could live with. I told her not to let the woman push her too far but she is kind and gentle and very strong so she just put up with her annoying habits. The Armenian would leave the lights on all night while she crochets and then wanted it quiet and dark until at least 10:00 am in the morning while she sleeps. When you have to get up early for work going to bed early is a must:) She also confessed some very serious criminal behavior that scared “B”. According to the Armenian, she had some dealings with the Russian Mafia involving murder. I told “B” she should find a new room because the woman has a bad vibe but “B” said she liked her room and thought she could handle things.

Around the middle of the week “B” finally snapped. She was already having a very hard time, her first grandchild was born and she was unable to be with her daughter and didn’t have any phone time to call her. The Armenian started in on her one morning and finally “B” said enough! She felt bad afterwards and came to me in tears. Later that day her roommate came to me and said,”Portia, you don’t know how bad “B” is, she’s a snake and I have 8 women I can pay to bash her face in if she isn’t careful.” I was upset and told her not to talk to me about “B” again. I went to “B” and told her that she needed to leave that room as soon as possible. Things progressively got worse when I quit talking to the Armenian woman.  I learned that she has successfully paid to have another inmate beat up in a different unit and when I stood up to her she was very offended. Another friend in our unit told me the Armenian was shopping around, that she had put a $300.00 “incentive” to have me beat up. I had to take the threat some what seriously because $300.00 in here is like $3,000 in the free world. When I talked to Courtney she said, “Well I’m upset Portia. I can’t believe she only offered $300.00.   You’re worth so much more than that:)” She was joking but in the end I decided I needed to talk to my counslor about the situation.

Things came to a head the next day when the Armenian was harassing her again at the chow hall. I finally stepped in and told the woman she needed to stop! She didn’t respond as I had hoped:) Instead she called me a slew of vulgar names that would make even a sailor, drill sergeant or gangster rapper proud.  As we were walking out of the chow hall a couple of the lieutenants saw the verbal struggle and asked what was going on? Here’s where things get tricky… In prison there are 2 things every inmate knows not to do. First of all NEVER tell an officer anything! Second, never tell an officer anything, especially that you feel unsafe or are in danger. I think these are silly rules and have let it be known that I have no problem telling an officer if the situation calls for that. I have told my fellow inmates that if I think the conduct of another inmate could jeopardize me going home safely to my family I will absolutely tell!  However there’s an inherent problem with “telling”. I don’t want to go to SEG/SHU(Protective Custody) and If you tell an officer that you don’t feel safe they can put you in segregation or isolation for, “your safety”, and that is all bad! So I have to be careful how concerns are expressed. I imagine many an inmate would use the words “I don’t feel safe around a certain inmate just to get the person punished if they thought they could do that and not go to SEG themselves so I understand the logic behind what they do here but I still didn’t want to go into protective custody. I felt there was a very real reason to be concerned though. Talking to the Lieutenants was a little nerve racking because the next step could very easily have been the SHU. I calmly explained the problem to the Lieutenants and they asked me to go get “B” so they could talk to her. In the end I did talk with my counslor but made it very clear that I wasn’t afraid:) The prison took action and removed the Armenian from the room and even told the Armenian if “B” or I so much as trip and get hurt it will be very bad for her. I told “B” she might have to hire us both body guards so she knows that we are safe, otherwise she could be shipped to a maximum security prison:) (Just a little prison humor)

I had my first video visit with Chad, Jackson and CJ. It was scheduled for 25 minutes but got cut short because there was a fire drill going on. I wish that I could say it was AMAZING.  It was great to see them but little CJ was so broken hearted when she saw me she started to sob and could hardly talk. Of course I started to cry. All I can say is that children should not be seperated from their Mothers.

I asked for a blessing on Sunday from our volunteer couple that comes in to teach us and I have felt so much better the last couple of days. I love our all powerful God. He orchestrates miracles for his children in simple ways and I feel blessed to have so much happiness and peace in my heart right now. Last night was our scheduled family home evening and 15 new spanish women showed up:) I had invited a less active bilingual sister from our unit who was able to translate and it was only her and I that showed up with 15 spanish speaking sisters. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in the TV room and a woman said, “Portia, what part in the Book Of Mormon talks about tithing.” I wasn’t prepared for that question! First, I never go in the TV room, second I was surprised that the woman knew my name and lastly, how she knew that I was Mormon. I asked, “Are you a Mormon?” and she lifted up her scriptures saying,”Moroni is my favorite”.  They were marked and obviously well read. It was strange because I used to notice this woman going through the chow line when I was a kitchen server and thought, “I would really like to get to know that woman, there is strength in her.” I was so excited to talk to her and asked her how she knew that I was Mormon and why she wasn’t coming to church. She said, “I just knew.” Then she told me she loved the church but has found prison a very hard place to be a Mormon. “The prison will give time to all religions before ours. Even those that practice witch craft and worship the devil, you’ll see.” I took it that she wasn’t ready yet:) Last night I planned on a few spanish sisters coming to family home evening and thought I might need a translator so I asked Chena (The girl from the TV room) to help translate and she said yes.

When we got over to the chapel I realized there were many Spanish speaking sisters that don’t speak english.  I asked Chena to help me set up a TV so that we could watch Meet the Mormons in Spanish and it worked out perfectly! I felt such an amazing sweet spirit and all the sisters wanted to know more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am hoping to find out if missionaries can come in and teach the discussions. Many of the Spanish women are here on simple re-entry charges and would probably be worthy to be baptized. I really wish that I knew some Spanish and had studied Preach My Gospel. Our Heavenly Father’s work is in the details of all things and I am very excited to get to know Chena better.  She has agreed to translate again and I’m excited to have her join me. A dear friend sent some Spanish, LDS 12 step books and they are gone! I need 20 more:) if anyone can get them sent to me 5 at a time I will put them to good use:) The BOP allows us to have 5 books sent to us in a package in our personal mail.  If I try to go through the church there is much more red tape? I could also use more Spanish Book of Mormons it would be really cool to have Book of Mormons with testimonies in them:)

One of the sweet sisters from our group came tonight and left a little upset, I think she wanted to have a family home evening with just us few English speaking sisters. I came back from the chapel and asked Orianna what she thought and this is what she told me, “Portia, you aren’t here to do prison time. You are so different than any other inmate I’ve ever met. You are here to bless us in a very unique way and will make a difference in many lives. I have prayed about it and I know you have a very special purpose here, it’s your mission.” I felt peace when she spoke and she told me not to worry about the other sisters that might have been bothered. She said, “We have become selfish because we get so little chapel time and we have forgotten the higher law of sharing the Gospel.” I told her that all my friends in the Gospel would love to have people over for family home evening that want to learn about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How could I turn them away:) The video was perfect and I’m working on getting more church time so we can have spanish and English lessons from our volunteers and maybe even get Spanish speaking Missionaries to come in.

So far this week has been great! I woke up at 4:00 am this morning, said my prayers and read my scriptures then went to breakfast and went for an hour walk on our dirt track and watched the sun come up while I listened to the Piano Guys and the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Then I came back and showered and went to education and talked to the woman I work for, I admire and respect her greatly! Then I went upstairs to organize some files and rework my Photography class curriculum, It’s been a good day so far:) I have a scheduled video visit tonight with my family and hope the technical difficulties we have been having will not prevent me from seeing them. It will be the first time I have seen them all in over 4 months, I will let you know how it goes. Life is beautiful………..even in prison:)

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