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Sure, there are the obvious things. You thua your family, your friends. You can"t go outside when you want. There are no kids or dogs. Smiles are scarce.
But these are the things you expect.
Then there are the things you don"t — or at least I didn"t.
MORE: My dog didn"t forget me when I went lớn prison
In thủ đô new york prisons, we got five rolls of single-ply per month. Which I"m sure is adequate if you"re a dude. If you"re a woman, it"s only enough lớn remind you that you feel lượt thích an eff-up.
If you had money và the timing worked out right, you could potentially buy more on commissary. If not, you used notebook paper, magazines, newspapers. You learned not lớn wipe every time. You sacrificed a towel or two — still knowing that you"d have to lớn get them clean enough to lớn use again at some point. Because towels don"t just grow on trees, either.
You learned to lớn lock up your toilet paper in your locker và never bring the whole thing khổng lồ the bathroom — lest you get toilet paper-jacked en route. (It is prison, after all — some of your friends may have a history of jacking people.)
You can"t just nicely ask for more — they say they"re not supposed khổng lồ give it lớn you. So you beg, you plead. Once, I heard a woman offer sexual favors. For nhà vệ sinh paper.
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That was never an issue in county jail — at least not in the county I was in. There, the toilet paper was plentiful. But the privacy was not.
The old-school cellblocks featured three to five cells with bars. Along one wall, a row of horizontal windows looked into the cells. All day, every day, inmates và guards traipsed back & forth down the hallway, men peering in at the women inside. Changing a pad, getting dressed, peeing.
The twinge of embarrassment never really went away, but it wore down quicker than I expected. Dignity, it turns out, can be a fairly malleable idea.
But then I went to prison, & it was a different ball game. There was blissful privacy in the dorm-style bathroom stalls. Sure, if the guard on the unit was being creepy, he could stick his head over the stall door or repeatedly walk through the shower areas. He could walk by while you were changing, request that you stand naked in your cell during count. But then, at least, it was only the guards — there weren"t any male inmates.
Of course, there were still the strip searches to lớn contend with. Some women asked their loved ones not khổng lồ visit just khổng lồ avoid them.
There"s the squatting and coughing & all that, but pulling out a tampon for an inquiring guard during a strip tìm kiếm is a special kind of humiliating. The guard stares stoically, pretending this isn"t at all gross or weird.
Not everyone behind bars is lucky enough lớn have tampons. For one, not all prisons or jails offer them. & in thủ đô new york prisons, a specified allotment of maxi pads came không lấy phí every month, but tampons had khổng lồ be purchased through commissary.
Some people made their own with repurposed pads. It"s possible, but probably not sanitary. You have khổng lồ rip out the padding in the middle and mold it into shape, then wrap the sticky part around to lớn hold it all in place, và rip off a little strip to lớn make the string.
Sometimes — depending on how much sticky is on the pad — there"s even the possibility of making two tampons out of one pad.
LISTEN: Ever been nhà vệ sinh paper-jacked? No? Then you"ve never been in prison.
I know, I know — just don"t go lớn prison, & you won"t put yourself in this situation. We all heard it a million times, from the officers. From our families. From ourselves.
For all the scarcities in prison, some things are quite plentiful. There"s regret. There are broken people. & there"s shame. But you can"t buy forgiveness on commissary.
If you"re lucky, you"ll jury-rig a solution on your own, stealing moments of hope in dark places — Thanksgiving surprises, outbursts of song, moments of normalcy that, fleetingly, feel as though they could be anywhere. You take those moments, và you stack them together, building up a new person one piece at time. If you"re lucky, you cobble together someone with a little more introspection, a little less shame, a little more hope.
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The tools to vày that are all there, but they"re not easy khổng lồ find in a concrete cell.