Journey of Faith

When things go to hell in a handbasket

By March of 2019, I had settled into my new dorm and with my new roommates on “C” unit. The only access we had to the news was through whatever news channels we could get on our TV’s. We started hearing about COVID-19 and how it was spreading fast across the globe. Never did I ever imagine that it would become a pandemic and shut the entire world down. As someone who was never incarcerated before, the new rules that were imposed upon us seemed ok with me. It meant that actually, I felt that life for me was a little easier. We were told that we weren’t allowed out of our rooms, unless it was to go to the bathroom, to use the phone or kiosks for our tablets. Our meals where now being brought to us (no more having to walk in the rain), and we could doctor up our food with items we bought off commissary. Our meds were delivered to us, and they started to give us incentives. Normally cable is $17/month, but because of Covid I only had to pay for it maybe a total of 6 months out of the 3 years I was there. They started giving us coloring books, puzzle books and colored pencils. There was even a time or two that we received incentive meals. They ended up making every single inmate a mask that was made out of white uniforms that the kitchen workers used to wear. We each received 2 of them. Everyone started decorating them, well that didn’t last long. After the incident involving George Floyd and some of the other BLM incidents, they made a rule that no one was allowed to decorate their masks. They were afraid of some problems cropping up on the inside that was happening on the outside. Luckily that never happened. Most of us spent the entire time keeping up with the election drama between Trump and Biden, the arrests, convictions and sentencing of the officer’s involved in Floyd’s case as well as the 2 men that shot Ahmaud Arbery. If we weren’t watching this, then it was sad just watching the numbers climb day after day of covid cases and deaths. It was tough being on the inside and feeling helpless that you couldn’t be home with your loved ones during such a scary time. The ironic thing is, we were probably safer in there from the virus than those on the outside. We were only going to catch it if an employee brought it in. We lived like this for about 72 days! By about July 2019 things settled down enough that the DOC decided to do a mass move within the institution. They someone thought that moving everyone around and creating cohorts that they could get things back to “normal”. The idea was that if you worked in the kitchen, all they kitchen workers lived together and so on. Before, it didn’t matter where you lived. You just went to work when you needed to. The inmates run the prison with the supervision of the guards. So, when were locked down, the staff had to then do these jobs. They weren’t too happy, so getting everyone back to work as quickly as possible was priority. I was accidently then moved to the 2nd floor and guess what? A top bunk! Well, they fixed that immediately, but I couldn’t stay on the unit where I was. They ended up moving me temporarily. I lived on another smaller unit for about a month, along with a parole violator program that they were starting. That was sort of odd for me because it almost reminded me of being back in the county jail. When you are in prison doing a longer sentence, there’s a different vibe than when you are in a county setting where you might only have a short stint. The parole violators were essentially there for a short stint until they saw the board and received their board action for violating. It was like the Lord was trying to give me a glimpse back to remind me of what I’d come from to where I was. (Like when the Israelites’ kept complaining about leaving Egypt and saying they were better off back there.) In August then, I was approached by the Unit Manager. She informed me that she was given my name by the Central Office in Harrisburg about being an honor inmate. There was a small group of us that apparently made this list out of 3,000 female inmates. She proceeded to tell us that a new high honor inmate program was starting at SCI Phoenix outside of Philadelphia. I had one day to decide if I wanted to go or not. It was called the Female Transitional Housing Unit. We would all have to agree to be transferred there, which was about a 6-hour ride, shackled in the van. The perks were that, because it was a high honor unit, it wasn’t technically considered prison anymore. It was transitional housing. I didn’t hesitate. I said yes, especially knowing my family was going to be less than 2 hours away instead of 6. We were supposed to then have unlimited visits, we could talk on the phone anytime we wanted except during count and during the night. We had brand new bedding, brand new uniforms, game systems, dvrs, and furniture. The food was amazing. I was supposed to leave the end of September, but it was delayed because they had to reclassify everyone going. It was a classification that showed that we could work and live outside the gates. That we were trusted. I ended up in September, instead being transferred to the unit behind a door that I mentioned in a prior post. I lived there until the middle of November. They realized that I was living with the parole violators and shouldn’t have been, so I had to move. This made no sense since I was on the list to be transferred out of the facility. The DOC does everything backwards. If it makes sense, they don’t do it. lol! I lived with the room there that asked me if I was afraid to die. I didn’t mind living behind a door. Especially when you have a decent roommate. She worked all day so I was there pretty much all day by myself. That gave me again time to reflect, journal, read my Bible and watch tv. Then finally around mid-November they told us we were leaving. They gave us all covid tests, packed us out and away we went. it felt really good to think that I would never see Cambridge Springs again, that I was on the “last leg” of my journey to eventually going home. Or was i?