Life In Prison

The Struggle

I’ve been plagued with feelings of anger and discouragement lately, and it’s been, well, discouraging! I hesitate to share how I’ve been feeling because I pride myself in being strong and capable of handling any challenge, but in this case my feelings have me licked!  Some of the thoughts that I’ve had are, “This is enough! I’ve been through enough! I’m tired and don’t want to keep going!”  and “I’ve been beat up, held naked in a cell, and traumatized to the point of insanity! I was forced into a guilty plea that I had refused to give under any other circumstances, and it’s not fair!” “I was healing with the love of my family, barely getting on top of the nightmares, trauma, and absolute loss of dignity I suffered at a Utah county jail when a judge gave me the highest sentence he could impose despite many mitigating factors. Why?”, “I miss my children too much!! I can’t do this anymore!” “I don’t want to build a life here, I did that at Dublin and they shipped me, I don’t want to start all over, I miss my friends.” I know these feelings don’t help my situation, but that’s how I’ve been feeling.  Also causing stress is heat.  It’s over 100 degrees in Waseca right now, with humidity that’s very difficult, and we have no air conditioning! Having so many bodies in small rooms make the noise and heat unbearable! I’m on the top bunk, on the top floor of our unit, and it’s been too hot to sleep the last few nights. The tension has been running high, and many of the women have started fighting. The physical conditions in jail can be difficult, but I’m capable of handling difficult physical conditions, It’s the emotional suffering that threatens to break me.

Survival in prison requires a tough persona. In the free world friendliness, smiles, and engaging conversations are part of a healthy life; In prison, gentle, and kind people are often seen as weak and taken advantage of. We see shocking and atrocious things every day, but have to learn quickly that trying to protect others will only bring pain to yourself and sometimes the very person you are trying to protect. In the free world we watch out for each other, we are taught to act on injustices; In prison we often have to subordinate our sense of right and wrong to our physical safety. Many women suffer a loss of dignity and self respect in prison, the lack of privacy and individual identity make it hard to have a healthy self image. In the free world we hug and show affection to those we love and care for; Caring for our children, family members, and friends, is a vital part of life. In prison affection is unacceptable! Affection in prison is usually between girlfriends, a practice I find very prevalent despite the fact that many of the women engaged in these relationships were not gay before coming to prison. I believe the women get involved in these unhealthy relationships in an attempt to fill the basic need of loving another human being; It’s a form of comfort from the suffering that takes place here.

Long term relationships are difficult in prison, finding trustworthy friends to build relationships with is rare. As inmates we can be transferred at any time, moved to a different unit, or sent to the SHU; When these things happen we are not allowed to stay in contact with former friends. Many of the women I’ve met in prison continue to love their children, family members, and friends, but have to learn how to deal with the loss of some of these relationships without counseling or support. I believe only about 5% of the women I have met in prison will leave prison a better person; In most cases women will leave prison scared and damaged by the difficulties they face, and return to society much worst off than they came in. I have tried to be objective in my opinions, because despite my struggles and suffering I am determined to leave prison a better person. I do believe it is possible to do so, through the power of God! I don’t know the answer to the problems we face in prison? I know there has to be punishment for crime, and in some cases society needs to be protected. But, if you could see how many women are serving years and years of their lives in prison, without any hope of release, it would horrify you! No one benefits from it except the people that it provides jobs for.  Certainly we should start with fair sentences?

Over the last few weeks I have begged my Father in Heaven to take these feelings of discouragement from me. I am usually a very optimistic person, and find it uncomfortable to be so discouraged. Many tearful prayers have been offered, but the pain was not subsiding. I haven’t been able to go to church or meet with LDS visitors yet, or get a blessing. Chad sent in the photography class curriculum I wrote for Dublin, I gave it to a staff member that was very impressed and wants to run the class, I’m hopeful I will find some purpose when I start teaching again. Yesterday through tears I said a fervent prayer, I told my Father in Heaven that I was willing to suffer right now if that’s what I needed to experience, no matter what I trust him! I want to be humble, I want to grow, and I’m willing to turn my will over to my Him absolutely regardless of the outcome. I asked Him to help me see the best in the women here, to truly love them. I asked specifically if my Savior Jesus Christ would help me carry the burdens of my heart, and help me see my situation differently. I didn’t feel immediate relief, but today has been a much better day for me. I believe it’s the struggle in life that brings the greatest growth, if we humble ourselves our weaknesses can become our strengths. I know in time deliverance will come, and it will be sweet and lasting! I talked to Chad last night and was quite tearful, but this morning I’m feeling hopeful again. I know this too shall pass, and I’m looking forward to being reunited with my friends and family. Thank you for following along through the good times, and the hard times. I so appreciate your love and support
Love you all so much,
Portia

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