Journey of Faith

An Open Heart

Can a person be too nice? Hmm. When you enter into the prison system, one of the first things that takes place is you need to take a bunch of evaluations. They schedule a day when you and a whole group of other newbies go to a classroom with the staff Phycologist to work on these packets. They include different questions, containing different scenarios, some have photos containing 2 or 4 in a group. You need to choose the one that doesn’t fit. Those kids of tests. It’s funny as I sit here, one of the photos comes to mind. It’s a baby changing a tire. They were illustrations, not actual photos. Included in this group of packets was the 300+ question one that the crazy roommate stated she was not completing because she didn’t have time to study. Several weeks after completing these evaluations, we’re then called down to the phycologists office to found out what they found out. Well, I was told that I am too nice. I’m a people pleaser. I didn’t know how to take that information. I mean, aren’t we taught to be nice, be kind, care about others? One of the things that my husband said to me when I found out I was going to prison, was that he prayed it wouldn’t harden me. So now armed with this new information, what am I supposed to do? Ms. Gates was nice. That was her name. She went on to explain to me that people may “try” to take advantage of me when I get out into general population. She also explained that because of my age (MY AGE! I’m not old), that people most likely will leave me alone. I’m just sitting there staring at her, taking this all in. Up until this point, all of us were new inmates. Some had been incarcerated before either on the county level or some had been “upstate” in the past. I realized that I was being prepared to go out into the general population. Up until this point, we were sheltered. We lived in our own separate pod, behind out own separate gate, with our own separate yard. We didn’t leave for meals, we only left for appointments throughout the campus or commissary. All appointments had to be walked to. It didn’t matter if it was rain, shine, freezing or hotter than you know what. We walked and you had 5 minutes to get there. It was called “move time”. You were only allowed to “move” during the announced move times, unless you had a pass. There were times when there was “cease movement”. That meant, it didn’t matter if you had a pass or not, your butt didn’t move. These occurred during shift changes, count, emergencies or if there was some other event going on in the campus that they didn’t want us getting in the way. Anyhow, back to being too nice. I had learned somewhat in county how to negotiate the lending, borrowing and barter system. Upstate, it the methods are pretty much the same but at a higher risk. People there have no craps to give in some of their situations. If you know what I mean. I learned quickly that the only people I would lend, barter or share with were my roommates or people that I actually considered friends. Anyone outside of that group, I would evaluate them as best of possible to see what their angle was. In prison, everyone has an angle. Someone comes to the door, asks if you or anyone in your room has such and such they can “come up off of”. I learned that I had to lie sometimes and say, “no, I didn’t”. Then, I later realized that I wasn’t lying. I didn’t have it to give or lend because I needed it. So, by giving it away or “selling” it, then I would be out. So, I was learning how to negotiate this “being too nice” thing after all. There’s actually rules that you are NOT allowed to lend and borrow. I explained this before, however it’s a very necessary process of being in prison. Our facility was 2 weeks behind when we would order commissary. The other facilities that I was in (Muncy and Phoenix), you would order one week and get your stuff the following week. Cambridge, you would order and wouldn’t get that order for 2 weeks later. This is one of those things that was decided by the lady that ran the commissary department. It’s just one of the many small things that didn’t make sense to me. Shouldn’t this be consistent across all facilities? You would think something small like this shouldn’t matter, but it does. Waiting 2 weeks for cough medicine you need now doesn’t help when you need it NOW. Therefore, you sometimes need to go out and start asking around your unit to see if someone is able to sell you a bottle, give you a teaspoon or whatever. If someone came to me asked me for 2 Tylenol and I knew they weren’t someone that asks EVER, I might be inclined to just give them 2. If I see you around the unit asking for stuff constantly, well then you might be outta luck. This is how things worked. You gained a reputation in prison and even if you moved from one unit to another, people knew your reputation. When moves took place, you can best believe that people were up at the officer’s desk asking who was moving where. Who was going in what rooms and if it was someone that you knew was a thief-All hell would ensue. Many officers wouldn’t disclose the move sheet until the morning of for this reason. During an emergency move off out unit, I saw a lady get refused 2 times from being allowed to enter a room because of her reputation of stealing. The other inmates in the room would guard the doorway and YOU WILL NOT enter. You would think that staff wouldn’t allow this, but they would keep reassigning her to a room until there was no fuss. Your reputation can go the other way too. I ended up being forced to move because someone in a different room was stealing. They wanted to switch me to get this thief out of that room. Now my current roommates weren’t happy because that meant I was leaving for a now accused person that steals. Well, before I even knew what was happening, I heard my friend Bernadett at the offer’s desk demanding that she wanted to know, “where they were putting me”. The officer on duty that day was an ass. He was cocky and loved to just agitate people. He was nice, but he was just a pain in the ass that liked to cause problems then get pissed when inmates would push back. Anyhow, she was wanted to know where they were moving me. He asked her what business of hers was it. She said to him, “because she’s my friend and you aren’t sticking her just anywhere that’s why!”. I love Bernadett. Her and Tiffany were two ladies that I meet in C unit when I first got to Cambridge. Tiffany told me on day one I was going home. This was how my time was while I was incarcerated. People knew my reputation, they knew I was respectful, minded my own business and I wasn’t afraid to speak up for myself. I came across as quiet but poke the bear and I will growl back. The easiest thing though is that when someone is barking in your face, I would just walk away. When they would say something about you walking away, I would just tell them that I didn’t have time for their crap. People would purposely try to annoy someone else I think out of boredom. Also, living with all women meant someone was always on their period. Yeah, bet you didn’t think of that! So, while I was labeled as “being too nice” it was the beginning of learning how I ended up here in the first place. A lesson that I wish I’d have learned before it was too late.

Female hands giving red heart

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