If you've ever wondered what prison is really like for women, Reddit is a good place to start. Numerous threads from the site's "Ask Reddit" section tackle the subject, and several ex-cons have chimed in with their experiences. Some of these stories of women in prison do indeed play out like real-life Orange Is the New Black scenarios, while others stray far from the hit Netflix series. Read on for an intimate and eye-opening glimpse into the world of incarcerated women.
From Redditor /u/afakefox:
I got locked up in women's prison when I was 21. When you first get there they ask if you're addicted to anything. If you said benzos or alcohol, they dosed you up with 4mg of Klonopin a day. Anyone who's been there before knows this, so for the first two weeks when I was in the drug treatment area (for other things, I didn't know about the Klonopin) things were very chill. There were a few verbal fights, but kind of a camaraderie between the women like, "We're all just addicts trying to get through this together." We had groups and AA, it was a daily thing for all (which was most except me) the women with children to break down crying about missing them and how they'd literally do anything for their kids now that they're sober. You were in a trailer with two floors. There was rooms with four bunks in them and a community bathroom with individual showers. Lots of hooking up in the bathroom stalls and showers. Something really weird, every few days they passed out electric shavers, there was one for each bunk and there would be a line of girls using these old shavers to dry shave their legs and pubes in the bathroom. Some of them would flip them and use the non-cutting side as a [stimulation device] on others. F*cking gross, I never even considered shaving. There was a microwave you could sometimes use and access to hot water to make noodles and coffee. They gave out stamps, paper, and pens to write home if you asked and gave you pads, one roll of toilet paper, ghetto shampoo/soap and toothbrush/paste. During rec time you could walk around the compound, but there were also classes like yoga, AA, Zumba, gym, library, etc.
After two weeks there I got moved to the maximum security part. Here you were in a high tech building with one bunk in each room and locked in for most of the day. Or else you could go in the community room and watch TV a few hours a day. No more access to hot water. Women who didn't pay a fine were locked up with baby killers, they were the most shunned. One baby killer got attacked because she asked for my oatmeal I wasn't eating. No more classes of any kind. You had to be there for over five years to be put in the trailers by where the drug program was. They even had dogs and could go to the library and pick out books instead of just picking from books left behind. I saw a girl almost get her face smashed into a metal door frame. Lots of fights. It really was awful.
From Redditor /u/afakefox:
That really was the worst part. Being stuck with all these aggressive people all the time, having no control whatsoever. I remember one time when I first got there, a woman [confronted] another lady at my table where we were eating. It happened so fast. I was still sitting there when another girl had to pull me up and away from the fight. I saw why soon after because a different girl who had nothing to do with it (like me) caught fist right to the face and had a broken eye socket or something. She was rolling on the ground screaming and crying until she got taken away by the COs to go to medical and then to segregation for fighting. I never saw her or the instigator of the fight again in my time there.
No one ever tried to fight or start anything with me, but I never gave them reason to. I stayed in my cell a lot of the time and just read and drew and wrote really long letters even when we were allowed out. I didn't talk about anyone in there, good or bad. I just tried to stay positive and listen more than I talked. I actually got the nickname "Smiles" even though I was probably the most depressed and anxious person there.
From Redditor /u/LizLemonIRL:
The best way I can describe it is like a boarding school full of every type of female you can imagine. I spent about two months at a facility with around 400 women, whose charges ranged from small petty [violations] to [serious offenses]. Everyone had there own things that they kept to, but there was a lot of stupid drama. Try to think of the most troubled girls from high school, and then imagine 400 of them stuck together, in a place that is miserable, where they are isolated from their family and the rest of society. That's basically the gist of it. But like any community, there are good people and bad people, and most of the time you can find a like-minded individual to make friends with.
The facility I was at had a huge library, pretty good food, and cable TV, so I considered myself lucky in that aspect. I mostly kept to myself and read a lot, and I never got into any fights, and stayed out of trouble for the most part. Drugs and contraband still got in... a lot. That always made things interesting. I met some really strange people, and saw women who committed unspeakable [acts]. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I had never seen before. Overall though, my time wasn't as bad as it could have been, and I learned some things, and hopefully I will never go back.
From Redditor /u/JunkieJailbird2014:
Back in 2014 I spent 36 days in the county jail on a contempt charge. I unfortunately had jumped aboard the [opioid] bandwagon that has been riding around my town which led to my brief stay at the County Inn... My experience there was very eye-opening and scary for me as far as addiction goes. At this point I had only been using for less than a year, so I fortunately had not gotten too deep into it yet. I would say about four out of every five women who came through the pod were already withdrawing... or were about to. The scary part of being there for me was with each woman I talked to about addiction, it was like I was looking at my future if I didn't get my head [on straight]... The first week I was there was absolute hell going through withdrawal. The only way to get Tylenol or anything to relieve the pain was through commissary, which could only be ordered on Sundays and would be delivered on the following Saturday. However, the one good thing about everyone there being an addict was that they were all more than willing to comfort you in most any way they could while you were sick...
Also for anyone wondering, I have been clean from... all hard drugs since my arrest. Jail sucks, try to avoid it.