I decided to use the title of this post to bring awareness to those of you who will be fortunate enough to never step foot into a jail/prison. Before I was arrested, I too had the same mentality. First, we are all one mistake away from being in the same position that I put myself in. Let me give you a few scenarios to bring to light the possibility. Did you know that PA’s “self-defense” law has so many facets to it that a good prosecutor will arrest you and will send you to prison? (https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/18/00.005.005.000..HTM) I can share some stories with you I heard while incarcerated that even if an ounce of them were true it would make you scratch your head. A lot of folks have a hot head/temper, and you just get sick of it and end up punching someone in the face. Maybe not even the face, but the chest. You end up accidentally killing them or you mess them up pretty badly. Next thing you know you’re arrested for assault or worse involuntary manslaughter because of you got ticked off. Here’s another one, you decide to move or buy a new mattress/sofa. You pick it up and put in in your truck. Oops, the straps come loose, and it flies off the truck and ends up killing the driver in the car behind you. (https://law.justia.com/codes/pennsylvania/2010/title-75/chapter-49/4903) You now have an unsecured load violation, but you’re also looking at possible manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges. You get my point, and hopefully understand that I will never say never again. I never had a record, not even as a juvenile. You’re lucky if I had a speeding ticket! (I recall 1 in my entire driving privilege, and 1 warning just to be honest). So now, if you do the crime, should you do the time? Because now I’ve put you or a loved one into this scenario. Still don’t have you convinced. What if I told you that the newspapers don’t always print the truth? I mean, they have papers to sell and in the words of a reporter to my family, “people don’t want to buy or know the truth”. Hmm..is that true? Again, I don’t want to drive too far into personal details, but something occurred during my case. The one family made accusations. A county police officer called the DA’s office and told them that these statements weren’t true, and he had video proof. One of the family members had a friend that was a reporter at the paper who would write EVERYTHING involving my case. Well, when my family called to request the story be updated with the newfound info, they received the statement above. Of course, everyone went to social media demanding, “send them to jail…” That’s frustrating to say the least. The paper publishes these articles, then your “peers” read it and then come to sit on your jury. Next, there’s a cost to housing to inmates and you are paying the bill. Did you know it costs approximately, $41,000/year to house 1 inmate? Your hard-earned tax dollars are footing the bill. (don’t say then kill them either because that’s a whole other debate and you’re still housing them years on end until if/when they’re executed). Now as a former inmate of the SCI, here is what I can tell you as a known fact. You do get 2 ok meals per day (lunch/dinner), and breakfast isn’t even a meal. There are items that we as inmates believed we should have been getting but were denied. We knew other SCI’s were receiving them through families of other inmates, correspondence from prison societies or inmate magazines. Three times during less than a month, announcements were made that special staff appreciations were being hosted. You all work and I remember maybe my employer doing something once a year for appreciation, not including Christmas. This was 3 times in less than a month. You pay the staff’s salaries/pensions (which was assumed). I never understood the pension. None of you receive a pension unless you’re a state/federal worker. Most people have 401K’s, where you and your employer contribute. Not just taxpayers. Part of this money goes to medical costs, of which inmates are still charged a $5 copay per visit unless it’s for a chronic illness (high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.). You as an inmate are charged then for your meds unless they are for chronic illnesses. This is paid with your $.19-.50/hour wage. that’s cents not dollars! When you go to medical, you’re faced with either being called a liar because we, “we’re just inmates and they all lie”, therefore not taken seriously. There is some staff who care, others who are there to put in their shift and go home. Somedays I saw fellow inmates go to the medical annex to pick up meds they requested 5 or more times only to be told to re-request it. Everything in prison/jail is via a request form. Fill it out, drop it in a box and wait. And wait..and wait some more. When given your meds at the annex, you don’t see the actual pill pack they’re dispensed from. You receive your pill in a cup. You should always check what they are giving you and question it if it’s not looking right. In county I received someone’s meds by mistake. I ended up sleeping all afternoon after receiving what they think was Seroquel. I again received something incorrectly in county, only to have the nurse get snippy when it was questioned. I mean, who am I to question a nurse when I’m JUST an inmate. Once when I was upstate I was handed a very very bright pink pill. I said, “oh no, that is not mine! I get nothing pink”. She laughed and said, “oh yeah you’re right, that’s not yours. You’d have been ok but it was just a Benadryl”. Why, because I’m just an inmate? How did she know I’d be ok? So, the staff YOU are paying, aren’t even capable of doing the job they’re hired to do. Again, I’m not saying all, because I trusted a few while i was there and I knew who they were. When I 1st got there, they did a complete physical exam, eye exam, dental exam, etc. In the 3 years I was there I never saw the dentist again until I went to SCI Pheonix. The dentist there was horrified and told me he cussed out the staff in the women’s facility for not taking better care of us. I never got to see him again because of covid and were sent back to Muncy/Cambridge. I never saw another dentist until I needed an emergency extraction. They wouldn’t schedule me for anything else because my min date was approaching. I mean, I’m just an inmate-why do I need good teeth right? I suppose out of that $42K the taxpayers contribute, you’d think we’d get toiletries. Well, sorta…they provide you with an indigent bag upon arrival. It contains hotel sized shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, a black comb and a razor. None of the item’s work. You stink after using it. If you do need another one, they make it that you have to request it and if the counselor is out then you don’t get it. I believe this is part of the bigger picture to then force you to purchase commissary. (https://www.witf.org/2020/02/05/in-pa-jails-women-are-paying-more-than-double-for-the-same-tampons-theyd-get-on-the-outside/) A way for your friends and family to send money so you can at least have the necessary items to survive. If you have a headache, medical says buy it off commissary. if you have an itch, buy it off commissary. You have dandruff, by it off commissary. (Wait, I thought medical was supposed to help us?) They will for $5 copay, plus $5 for aspirin. The $.19/hour you make has 25% taken out automatically to go to your fines/restitution. So out of $25, you keep $18. I was fortunate enough to have family/friends to help me. They put money on my account, sent me books/magazines and access packages. (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/commissary.html) They also put money on the phone system. The money alone that they spent while I was there the 3.5 years is well over the thousands. (https://www.prisonphonejustice.org/state/PA/). The housing is moldy, broken, and run down. Inmates run everything under the supervision of staff. During covid, everything came to a screeching halt because we weren’t allowed out to do the work. I can continue to go on and on. I’ll continue to tell you more of my story as the days unfold. What I can tell you is this, I WAS NOT JUST AN INMATE. I am someone’s wife, mother, daughter, sister, grand-daughter, niece, aunt, cousin and friend. Many state representatives are starting to see that something needs to change. (https://www.pahouse.com/Briggs/InTheNews/NewsRelease/?id=122501) So next time, before speaking educate yourself and know that you could be next.
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