So...what are you in for (part 1)?
In case you've missed it, I was offered an opportunity to write a post for the Oiselle blog on the way in which running helped me cope and create some order during a very challenging time of my life, the 17-month period during which I was incarcerated in a federal prison camp for women.
I've received incredibly kind messages from so many and I am endlessly grateful to those of you who have provided your support; as I mentioned to a running friend earlier this week, it is much more interesting to note those who have said nothing.
Thanks to that experience, and I am truly thankful, I have lots of stories (for example, one of my prison pals was once housed two doors down from Martha Stewart) and perspective that I'd like to share; however, I find that the next question most would like to have answered is "what did you do?"
Notably, it is a question that I was rarely asked by my fellow inmates, especially not at first. The first question asked is "how much time do you have," followed closely by "where are you from" and "do you have family?"
There are reasons behind this line of questioning: for a woman who is going to be estranged from her family and friends for 70+ months, as some of them are, forming a connection with someone who is only going to be around for eight of those months is not worth the effort. It's nice to know if your fellow inmates have family in an effort to determine what type/amount of support they have, outside of prison life. You also need to know who has money; can I ask her to borrow shampoo until I receive money in my account again, or is she solely dependent upon her prison income?
The biggest reason, by far, is the fact that it doesn't matter; the charge upon which one is convicted rarely answers the question, "why?" The stories that answer that question are what made my prison experience so remarkable; the stories are why I returned home and began training as a clinical chaplain.
But, I digress. It's a tough question to answer and it requires vulnerability and opening myself to judgment, which is always scary; nevertheless, it is a huge part of my story. The short answer? I stole money, pure and simple. I can scarcely think of a woman I encountered in prison whose crime was not motivated or influenced by some type of financial outcome. Money makes the world go 'round, right? Money can't buy happiness, you say? Well, it can buy a lot of things that substitute for happiness, in a pinch.
I'll save the long answer for another post; it's way too long to detail here. Suffice it to say that, having given a lot of power and influence to someone I'd placed in a fatherly role, I made some really bad decisions, was paid handsomely and rewarded with kindness and respect (or so I thought at the time), cultivated a false sense of security and family, and I'll be paying the consequences for the rest of my life.