Federal Prison Inmate Story: I’m Not a Person, I’m Just a Number

My name not important. I am just a number in the Federal Justice System. Being an inmate in the federal justice system takes on a new life for many on the inside. I myself have experienced the federal justice system. Not knowing what to expect and being female, I was in a bad situation that just got worse. Injured with a gunshot to right arm about two months prior to being picked up by federal law enforcement, and having to have care on a daily basis still for my wound,  being locked in the whole for 5 days without knowing the system and what to do and what to do or who to ask. Time going by and not knowing how family is handling everything, especially my small children, who were there when law enforcement came.

The Wait

Time went by and got a visit from several of my family members, telling me how could I and what about your children, Then next finding out that my family had called CPS to take my children away from my in-laws, who at that time were doing what they could with the children, not knowing what was going to happen next.

After about 72 hours was able to meet with my court appointed lawyer, who by the way I do not think even knew what he was doing. Him telling me that I was looking at staying locked away for the next 5-10 years and being told that my boyfriend, now my husband, was not from the US and probably would be deported back to Mexico. Me not even knowing this before and not being able to speak to him to confirm if true or not.

Over the next few months waiting for a final court date. Here where I am from, the federal court system wait to get a trial or court date is about 6 months or more, depending on the severity of your crime.

So during the next six months there are many things that happen. One thing in particular that sticks to memory is when this young girl comes in from Mexico. She is young girl, about nineteen, pregnant and without money. She is put into our room or tank, as they call it, of five other girls. All was well until she joined us. She wrote a letter to the Lieutenant telling her that I was stealing from her and she had also managed to turn some of the girls against talking to me or having anything to do with me. Well push comes to shove and one of the senior guards comes in to take care of the situation after my complaint against her as well.

This person not having anything from the time she came in until the time that this happened. Well things got heated and everyone decided that I needed to be moved, so they moved me right about two weeks before I was to go to court, after being with the same people for the longest time. This person ended up getting put into the whole after causing a fight in the tank some weeks later.

Day of Final Court

The day that I went to court my father, mother, and my in-laws showed up. My in-laws being my support throughout the whole six months that I waited for this day. I got to see my boyfriend, now husband, that day in the courtroom. Again being told by my attorney that my boyfriend was not from here and probably would be deported. Still not understanding and telling myself he must be talking about the other guy involved in our case. But I found out during the hearing that it was him. But something happened during our sentencing. I felt a great calm come over me as he was up there being sentenced, which was telling me that everything was going to be fine. He got sentenced to three years. I got sentenced to one year and one day.

Then we got to ride the bus back together to our location. The guards allowing us to be able to talk while on the ride back, which was usually not allowed. This made my day, knowing that we both would be ok, not looking at the time that our lawyers had told us. My husband was looking at 7-10 years due to his history through the state legal system. And even then we could not figure out how the judge managed to get confused and only sentence him to 3 years, knowing that he should have gotten a lot more time.

The Move

Now it was time to be moved now that we had been sentenced. Still not quite understanding the system, and not knowing where I was going to be moved to. That day came when I was told at 4 am to pack up my things and it was time to be moved. First I was sent to one location, then about a month after being there I was sent to my final destination. This final location was somewhere that from the beginning was not agreeing with me.

Some months passed, when I should have been given my daily medication with meds roll call and the guards were not complying so I filed a grievance against them. Again not knowing completely how the system worked, I got myself put into the whole during a four day holiday weekend. Scare of already being locked in small spaces since a young child, and even worse not having anyone that I could call to help me out of this jam that I was in. I finally got out of the whole and put into a tank that was non English speaking.

I finally learn that I just need to stick to myself until my time is out. That is the best thing to do while in a state or a federal prison system. You can only protect and care for yourself and no one else. You have to learn to be alone and learn to deal with things that happen calmly and patiently. But the most important thing when on the inside in any type of facility is to respect anyone that comes within your path.

The Release

I was released a few days earlier than planned. So luckily one of the other girls that was being released was a local and I was able to stay with her until my ride came to get me. I was out and the only thing that I wanted to do was to be with my family.

I was picked up by my uncle and got to stay for three days with my littlest son, at the time who was going to be 8 years old that year. I had decided that the best thing for him at that time was for him to stay with my uncle. He had already been there for one year. So he was staying and I was leaving, hard to do when you know that it is the right thing to do.

I left a few days later on the bus headed home to live with in-laws until my husband would be released almost two years later and deported back to Mexico. Today, we now live in Mexico and it has almost been three years since going from bad to worse to the best we have ever been.

I now work from home, a jack of all trades for anything internet. My son adopted last year by my uncle and his wife and my girls live with us. My older son went off to his first year of college in August of 2012. Everything is going very well and we are now enjoying life the good way, one day at a time. Thanks to God!