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Here's the story of a girl from Commonwealth of Virginia, U.S.A. who came out of jail just a few days ago after being convicted for three months on the charge of possessing heroin more than legally allowed. She has shared her experience of her life in jail, the conditions of inmates in jail and the stress of finding a job that follows after being released.
She is happy that prison saved her life and brought her losing health back, but she is also not able to find any job since she is a fresh felon out of jail and is afraid she'd be homeless soon. Currently, she is under indefinite probation, and it only allows her to travel to Henrico, Hanover, Richmond City, and Chesterfield.
Many people have come forward to support her after knowing about her condition and are showing a positive attitude towards her. She believes addiction should be treated as a medical issue and not a criminal issue, and the charged people should be sent for rehabilitation so that they can get back to their life before jail.
She was arrested for heroin possession above allowed quantity. Back then, she was losing about 5 lbs per week before she was arrested and sent to prison.
County of Henrico is pretty big area wise, and thus there are two jails, namely Henrico County Jail West and East. Out of the two, West one is in quite awful state and is overcrowded. The convict was kept in West Jail and she had real bad experience there.
The jail is so overcrowded, six felons are made to share one single cell. There are two bunks in each cell which is occupied by two felons and the rest of them sleep on mats laid horizontally such that their feet are under the bottom bunk.
She got one on the back of her neck. The 'tattoo gun' they used is made using a ball pen, a staple sharpened with a nail file, and a string from a sheet. The tattoo ink they used was made using burning Vaseline and collecting its soot. The soot collected was mixed with state shampoo and the mixture was used as tattoo ink.
'Swole' is prepared by adding ramen noodles, beef and cheese sticks, hot pickle, various chips, and cheese puffs, all crushed up and put in a bag and finally squished after adding water to the bag. Since dinner is served in the jail at 4 PM, the jail inmates get very hungry before lock-down rolls around at 11:30 PM. So they cook 'swole' with ingredients they can buy from the jail canteen. Since the girl was low on money most of the time, she would draw things for people or gamble on spades games to earn food.
American Correctional Association ( A.C.A.) is the American Government body which keeps check on jails and prisons of the country and accredits them. When the East Jail received the notice that the A.C.A. would inspect the West Jail, many felons, including the girl were transferred to the East Jail. She liked the clean and less crowded East Jail a lot.
The convicts of East Jail spent a lot of time playing cards, drinking coffee and watching soap operas on daytime public access television, something which wasn't available in West Jail. Jail inmates of West Jail used to joke around that East Jail was more of a Convict Retirement Home for felons.
Convicts are brought to the holding cells before being taken to court for the hearing of their case. The convicts are brought here 4 hours before the hearing and taken back to the jail after 7 hours. She says these cells are good because they give you the time to think but staying in them for so long increased anxiety to extreme levels.
She was released on 27th May after serving for three months. She is under indefinite probation and is happy as the probation will keep her away from drugs.
Since then, she has gained 30 lbs and is happy about her health. She believes jail saved her life.
Now that she's a felon, it has become very difficult for her to get a job. Before getting arrested, she was working as an IT Consultant. Sadly, she's not able to get any job in her own or any other stream. Since she's freshly out of jail, none of the jobs she had applied for, including food service, have been offered to her.
Back in 2013 when she was homeless, she used to sleep in Monroe Park and is afraid she'll be back there soon, now that she has no job and money. Of all the time she spent in jail, she imagined how amazing life would be outside jail. The irony is, now she doesn't have food to eat whereas in jail she received regular meals.