I thought I would be jubilant when I walked out of SeaTac Federal Detention Center. I was, and yet---a little bit of me stayed in Unit EA, cell #59-- not with the life styles or the control or the sensory deprivation. It stayed with the women inmates I met and got to know during my thirty days of incarceration.
Their stories were bleak. Abuse, neglect, abandonment, too trusting of men and not enough trust in themselves. Making wrong choices, usually not once but many times. In and out of jails, violating probation. Being seperated from their children and elderly parents for months and years at a time.
How dare I go among them for a reason difficult for them to understand, with an unbelievable support system and enough money to call home as often as I liked, and only staying for 30 days. But they included me in their lives, shared with me their stories and hopes and dreams of a life free.
I invaded their world for 30 days--with their permission and their generosity. I was honored and overwhelmed. Release came with a cost, because they came with me. They taught me that dignity is taken from them only if they let it be taken, and it was protected at all costs.
It was a jail--after all and there were constant controls--lock downs and counts and strict rules and DON'T CROSS THE LINE, or you will end up in the SHU, the jail within the jail. The food was not good. Starches and fat. I never got used to it. Sometimes I only picked at it and took a few bites and left the rest. Only white bread, and limited fruit and milk. Not much taste to anything. Coffee was a gray color. I took the first sip and didn't drink anymore for the rest of my stay.
The bunks were metal frames with thin mattresses. It was like sleeping on concrete. We had two thin blankets. I slept in my clothes, or sweats, with socks and sometimes my jacket on to keep warm.
It was a liberating experience. I learned I could do it and survive. I learned I could live without television, and radio and coffee and all the other stimulants thrown to us by a consumer crazy society. And it created a serenity inside of me. And my insides are rearranged, and I will never be quite the same again.