“I I see no other option than to impose a custodial sentence for a period of two and a half years ”. I still hear those words as if I said them yesterday. My stomach sank and my head spun. A million things ran through my mind when I started having trouble breathing and I started feeling nauseous.
He had never been to jail. I never had a criminal record. As the visions of the Wentworth episodes flashed through my head, I suddenly had to pull myself together because shit was about to get so real. He was going to prison for fraudulent activity that he had committed under the influence of ice.
My freedom was immediately compromised and I became a number. I quickly learned that the system favors no one. It is a real ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude when it comes to the guards in remand centers and I can see why when they deal with such a wide spectrum of criminals. But it really depressed me.
I had to wait for my GP to confirm my mood stabilizing medications and it had been five days without them so I was anxious, sad and coping badly. By the time I saw the clinic, I was out of my mind and had serious thoughts of self-harm. I talked about my problems with the system and it didn’t work to my advantage. They put me in solitary confinement for three days.
Once I had my medication and felt better, I had a conversation with a nurse about her attitude towards inmates with mental illness. The answer was: “If we had to deal with everyone’s mental illness individually, we wouldn’t have time to do anything else.” I left the meeting shocked and shocked.
Everyday life once you are in jail, after being classified and placed, is quite pleasant. I compared it to a school retreat. You make friends, you learn who to avoid, you get into a rut, and if you can avoid the drama, life is good. There are unspoken rules: don’t touch other people’s belongings, don’t say shit, you’ll get hit, and never under any circumstances call someone a dog or an informant.
I defended myself when necessary and told others when they were behaving out of order. He treated everyone with respect and avoided drugs at all costs. He helped me both with the guards and with my fellow prisoners. I struggled with too much time on my hands and was over the moon when I was offered a place to work in the kitchen. It felt great to end the day exhausted and knowing that I had done something with a purpose.
My biggest struggle within the system was the lack of communication. Six-minute phone calls a few times a week with the family were difficult. It is also almost impossible to get an immediate answer for most things. Unless it is an emergency, do not act urgently.
As I came from a stable family, I had a good education, I worked in corporate roles for many years and I was very confident, I stuck out like a sore thumb. My communication skills worked to my advantage with the guards and I found myself forming strong alliances with people on both sides of the fence. Much of the communication within the system is reactionary and volatile. I helped a lot of girls get their point across in a more meaningful way and that earned me a lot of respect. I didn’t have much experience with indigenous people before jail, and my fellow prisoners called me aunt or sister, it meant a lot to me.
My time in jail opened my eyes. I witnessed fights between other prisoners that made me shudder. I saw girls openly smoking heroin on the patio. But despite everything, I refused to give in under pressure and stayed true to myself. I learned from my mistakes and vowed never to repeat them. I do not regret my time and thank the universe daily for the new opportunities available to me. I am living life with a new love for myself. And I plan to keep it that way.
• In Australia, the crisis support service Life line is 13 11 14 and support is also available in Beyond the blue at 1300 22 4636 and 1800 Respect (1800 737 732). In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans He can be contacted at 116 123 or send an email to [email protected] or [email protected] In the USA., National Lifeline for Suicide Prevention is at 800-273-8255 or chat for help. You can also text HOME to 741741 to reach a text line crisis counselor. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org
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