The Felonious PhD.

White Collar Female PhD. Felon, Prison Camp, Re-Entry, Criminal Justice Reform. Women, Lesbian

300 Minutes Gone…

October 24, 2013

Okay peeps!  Here is a true depiction of how my life has been managed over the past three years.  My main connection to my friends and family has been through my cell phone.  Truly, I was saved because of my unlimited text and talk plan.  (Shout out to Verizon!) I would call or text those close to me all day and all night……literally!

Here at camp you are only allowed 300 phone minutes per period.  Well mine are all GONE!  Really!!  I have used all 300 minutes in ten days!  The women in the unit looked at me with confused disbelief.  What?  They hadn’t done the same thing?  Almost in chorus the said, “You have not been here two full weeks!”  For once, I had no comeback other than, “You live and you learn.”  Little J chimed in by confessing that she only has 60 minutes left and she is saving them!  I had to laugh out loud!  All I could do was crack up and think, “WOW! This is what I’m stressing over?!”

I am forced to rely solely on email.   What if that is limited too, I wondered!  I was suddenly desperate to know the email limitations, so I quickly went to read the information on the email system, TruLinks, and to my relief, I saw a familiar word…Unlimited!  Yaaay!  It will be all good, and I might survive.

So, my peeps, if you don’t get a phone call from me, you know why.  And also know, I’m good!  You better write and send your email address because I fear this won’t be the last time I run out of minutes!

So thankful for CorrLinks….

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October 22, 2013

Most of the unwritten rules and guidelines here are provided on an as-needed basis, which is pretty much ongoing, by the other women in the camp.  In our unit we have dubbed that pipeline of information  Now, the only problem with that source is that it may or may not always be dispersing facts.  It may be old news, which could lead you into some form of unintentional mischief that you could truly do without.

I stay keenly aware of what is being said at  Like most underground, newsworthy stations, most often, it actually is the real deal when it comes to how things are managed in this camp.  I have learned who is who, what to and what not to eat, when to shower, what to wear.  All from this valuable information source.

Thus far, most of the women are quick to tell anyone what not to do and if you do it anyway, what the consequence would be.  At times I have flashbacks.  Not the harsh kind that people with PTSD suffer with, but the kind that make you shake your head and say to yourself, “Is this for real? Am I dreaming because it feels like I’m in a group home just like the ones I used to run!”  It really feels as though I have stepped back in time.

When speaking to the women, many of them feel the same.  This process does not feel as much like a punishment for some of us as it does for others.  I try to keep in mind that I have been here a short time.  And, as the time goes by for me, soon I will also be part of the network!

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A Week and a Day (A Year and a Day)…

It is amazing to me how our system finds ways to correct its imperfections when it becomes clear that it has screwed up and caused a cluster for itself.  Over the past week I have met several women who are serving 12 months and a day.  Yes.  A year and a DAY.   When I finally asked what in the heck is with the one day, I was told that the extra day is added so that one can be eligible for reduced time for good behavior.   Apparently if the sentence is merely 12 months then they require every last day of that 12 months be served, but add one more and you can get time off.  So, by adding that day,  the judges themselves have found a way around the dysfunction of their own system.

My laughing partner, Little J, was sentenced to a year and a day.  When she started to complain about the length of time she was going to be away from home, I told her she better be quiet.  There are people in here who have been here longer and have longer sentences than both of us.  So now we try to whisper when we complain.

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The First Week Down….

October 21, 2013

Today  marks one week that I have been in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.  I have learned a lot in just one week.   Today I learned that if you don’t have an assigned job at the camp that you could spend a lot of time going in circles.  There are so many women here and at times there is not a lot for us to do.   The camp is a revolving door-some leave, more come, and some return.  Just in one week, I have witnessed all of those things happen.  Then there are the ones who feel like they will never leave.

Today a young woman left but she felt extremely nervous about the prospect of leaving.  I now understand why!  In the camp she is surrounded by support and connections.  The women in her circle encouraged her to be her best and she had that positive contact daily for the majority of her waking hours.  A lot of young women, and older ones too, really enjoy and feel safe with how they are treated by the ones with whom they’ve made connections while here.  I get it because that is how I felt when I was in college and shared space with people 24/7. Women can’t help but connect.  Those college connections are some of my longest and most lasting relationships.  But once you are a felon, I have learned that there is one big catch……while on probation, which most BOP women will be, you are not allowed to associate with another felon!! Where does that leave these women who have been bunkies or friends for months, even years?  Most will have to risk being violated or be out there alone to maneuver through the community that they no longer have a connection with.

I have always been a firm believer that the one thing that keeps us whole, happy, and alive is our need to feel like we are connected to someone and that we belong somewhere!  This system is counter productive in many ways.  I won’t spend my next 22+ months focusing on these dysfunctional systemic issues because I’d rather focus on the people for now.  Hopefully someone higher up will one day focus on our system.  I am too sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I will just tell the stories because they are the TRUTH!

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She’s a doodler for sure, but an artist?…..

She's a doodler for sure, but an artist?.....

I just had to share this little look back at The Felonious PhD’s first day at Camp Victorville!
Hope you get a nice giggle!


Women are Resourceful and Creative…

Before I came to the camp I read a lot about the “jail house spreads.”  Let me clarify for those of you who are on the “outs.” Ha!  There are ways to cook noodles, dehydrated rice, chips, pudding, etc. that you, nor I until now, could never have fathomed.  You can compare it to episodes of Project Runway when Tim Gunn says to contestants, “Take these Frito’s bags, some seatbelts, some bailing twine, and this tulle, and go make a wedding dress!” People take “squeeze cheese” and Spam and transform it into a meal that drips of “Foodie!”  Yes, a foodie-like meal in minutes!  I will discuss that further in a later blog.  I want more time to witness how these chefs in training throw down!

The amazingly creative things I have seen from these women have been how they make jewelry, blankets, slippers, socks, locker organizers, hats, gloves and many more items that are beautifully hand-made.  There is a woman, who will be leaving us soon, who is a crochet machine.  I’ll call her Mel.  Mel has been crocheting since long before I arrived, but since I came I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several finished projects including wonderful bags and blankets which she lovingly creates to make others feel welcome.  This weekend, two older women came to camp.  This turn of events sent Mel into action crocheting each of them a little purse for them to carry their I.D.’s.  I am not only taken by her desire to help and give to others, I enjoy watching her at her craft.  crocheting has made her smile, and her love of giving to others has been expressed through her purposeful craft which produced so many finished projects.

Mel will be leaving soon and I wish her the best.  I want her to remember that she can start and finish anything that she puts her mind to.  She has proven that to me in only one week.  Good luck, Mel.

Keep that crocheting spirit!

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The First Sunday…

October 20, 2013

Sundays here are no different from Sundays all over the country.  The camp chapel offers every religious service possible.  There is a Catholic service, Latter Day Saints services, Buddhist, and Christian services.  Every spiritual-at least religious-need can be met.

As I sit under the shade covering my familiar table listening to the birds chirp and the chatter from the other women within earshot who are grouped together to discuss God and His Word, I almost forget that I am in a Federal Prison Camp.  That is, until I hear over the loud-speaker, “Inmate number _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ , please report to the education department.”  That is when I am abruptly reminded….I AM IN PRISON CAMP!!

The campus is very peaceful though, so I sit and watch a group of women play a card game called Golf.  I was told that soon, I too, will be playing cards, knitting, and crocheting to pass the time.  These day, I am a little afraid to say what I would never do or what will never happen to me.  I won’t even put any of those thoughts into the universe anymore.  Shit, I am here, a federal prisoner in a federal prison camp. A felon!  I never, ever thought that would happen.  So, I will just say, “Time will tell!” For right now, I like spending my ample free time writing, walking the track, and talking to the ladies here.  Their stories are engaging, they are PEOPLE, and while hearing the ridiculousness of some of their experiences doesn’t make me feel any more hopeful, and frankly more disheartened about our punitive system, for the moment, it’s far better than crocheting!

Just stay tuned…

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The T.V. Room….

October 18, 2013-5:25 pm

One week here and I have learned a lot about the culture of camp living.  Not much is different in regards to how things are out in the community.  There are the same racial and ethnic divide issues here as there are anywhere else.  Because of the over-crowding in the camp, the t.v. rooms have been consolidated .  From what I have been told through news, there used to be a room that showed only Spanish channels, another room for just sports and news, and yet another room that typically had BET, Law & Order, or Wendy Williams on.  Now there are only two t.v. rooms and the other room, nicknamed the “fish bowl,” has four women housed in it.

The action in the tv room is ongoing…usually the battle is over which show to watch or where to put your chair.  Yes, it’s serious in there!  For once in my life I do not care to watch t.v.  It happens to be way too political to enjoy.  Whew!  As a result, I am using all of my free time to write and walk in circles on the track….oh, the irony!

The t.v. room requires a level of responsibility that I am not prepared to handle at this time.  So much information in only five days.  I am sure I will have many more lessons over the next 22-28 months.  The fortunate thing is that I am open and prepared mentally and emotionally.

How long do DVR’s store recordings….


A Place to Call Home….

October 18, 2013

Today is Friday.  That, “Hooray, it’s Friday,” mindset doesn’t really hold the same meaning while one is in camp.  Other than they serve us fish for lunch, and if you have a job that pays (near slave wages) you may be off for the weekend.  Today, to keep myself busy in the morning, I helped with waxing the floors in the unit where I stay.  It is incredible to me how women will find a way to make their environment clean and livable.  I say that because I spent the morning putting wax on a concrete floor! Yes, for real!  And I have to admit it does look better!  But, in my mind I was thinking, what the hell?  This is a concrete floor!

Many of the women have been and will be here for a while and for them camp is home.  There are over 300 women here and on each side there are three unit staff members. Also, each side, North and South, have designated leaders in each unit.  Many of the other women don’t like the structure because they feel like no one in the same camp color (green) should be telling them anything.  Well, this structure is familiar to me, mainly because in the college dorms we had Resident Assistants. So I understand the process fully.

I truly admire the dedication these women take to keeping the environment clean.  It is their home and for 22 to 28 months it is mine also.  So, I have no problem mopping or cleaning bathrooms and showers because I love a clean sanitary environment.

Watching a few of the women today made me think about what wonderfully productive people they could be in the community.  Their dedication, tenacity, leadership, and passion for their roles really has me thinking about how they can transfer these fine qualities OUT when they leave here after serving 10-15 years incarcerated.  What are we as a society going to do to help some of these “possibilities” who are living in here at this camp?

I am one who knows my capabilities and have some connections to the outside, yet I will still face challenges.  So, how can we help some of these very capable women, who demonstrate such incredible leadership skills in this micro-community do the same in the real world?

That’s all I was thinking as I was sitting in the library which has an ample supply of  fictional books but extremely limited readings on what to do next.  I did find a book called Beyond Bars written by Jeffrey Ian Ross, PhD and Stephen Richards PhD an ex-con.  Okay,  the one book I’ve found is four years old and written by men (nothing wrong with men, but this is a women’s camp.)  I have yet to see any up to date information for this female population.  There are so many stories to be told on this subject.  I want to find a way to help tell them.  My story is only a small piece of this big, crazy, confused, dysfunctional criminal justice novel.

I need to find a way to make it happen.  Until then, I will just lay low and continue to be my loving, caring self.

Until next time…….


Laughing Is Contagious…

October 19, 2013

Saturday – 12pm

The day that I self-surrendered, another woman also turned herself in .  “V” is from Los Angeles and we immediately connected because we both found our new prison wardrobe hilarious!! Also, we were the joke of the camp because we self-surrendered on a holiday – which, I gather, is unheard of in these parts.

“V,” from Los Angeles, initially had a difficult time with being here.  No more than any of us, I guess, but she had no problem with letting it be known.  No tough exterior or pretending to be taking her transition well.

Now, “V” is walking around telling jokes and laughing.  Last night we had everyone in our area cracking up over the silliest of jokes.  I am horrible at telling jokes, but I am a hearty laugher.   I mean, when I laugh, I laugh and it can be heard! I think “V” has me beat!  We were laughing over the most basic, juvenile jokes.  You know, the kind that only make you laugh when you’ve had a little too much wine and everything is funny, or when you’re punch drunk from sleep-deprivation.  Those kind of jokes.  Here’s one for you.  What did the three-legged dog say to the bartender?  ” Who shot my paw?”  What the hell?  Did you laugh? I’m pretty sure you did NOT! But, we did!  And i mean we laughed hard enough to draw a crowd.  As they gathered, I realized that even under the most extreme and painful times in one’s life, laughter always changes the moment.  It brings joy to the most unbearable circumstances, and at times the most unbearable circumstances force you to laugh because, well, there’s nothing you can do to change those circumstances.

I am so thankful for my ability to laugh!