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The first night in a jail cell for me felt like a bad dream. I remember waking up to a plastic tray with small portions of food tossed into each slot. But I could not bear to eat it. Who eats in dreams? I remember taking in the room around me. The walls were made of orange foam. The floor was covered in the same foam padding. My body trembled from my nakedness. I was directly under a full throttle air conditioning vent. I remember looking around to find something to cover me up, but nothing was available. I closed my eyes wanting to find a new dream. A new reality. 

The door was half plexiglass and I remember people looking down at me as I laid lifelessly on that floor. The door opened. “Inmate are you going to eat?” a Black officer asked. I couldn’t feel my lips, so I shook my head. He reached down to grab the brown tray then closed the door behind him. I slept for what felt like a lifetime. 

Then I had to piss badly. I attempted to stand but my legs felt like mush. A hole with steel bars rested on the floor directly beside my resting head. The sight of the shit hole instantly activated my sense of smell.  My sinuses had been invaded by the smell of old shit and piss.  Upon further investigation, I saw that the steel bars had old shit smashed between them, so I decided to hold my piss until I woke up. 

I closed my eyes extra tightly and wished myself back home in bed with my beautiful soon-to-be wife. But my door swung back open. I had new visitors. 

“Inmate would you like to make a phone call?”

I looked up at the same Black officer in disbelief. Why was this officer asking me to make a phone call? I couldn’t stand up, my legs were too weak. The door closed again, and I drifted away into a dreamless sleep. 

After three days, I finally accepted that this wasn’t a dream. I had been given a suicide blanket tossed to me on the second night. I also became used to the forced needles. The staff figured out I was afraid of being tased, and I figured out this was not a dream but a drug-induced slumber that removed me from the reality that this padded room was my new home, and the hole cut into the floor was my restroom. The 24-hour halogen light was my sun. The officers were my superior. I would never again hold my beloved in my arms. 

The tears I shed came from deep within my soul. I wished God would take me away. I wanted to die. I couldn’t think about moving forward, so on the third day I took the plastic spoon given with each meal and attempted to cut my wrist. 

It didn’t take long for my attempt to be discovered by a White woman officer. My padded home had 24-hour video monitoring, and I was not allowed the easy way out. I was taken to the infirmary into another orange padded room. When my attorney came to visit later that day, I was finally given an orange jumpsuit. I was excited to finally be able to cover my naked body. It had been three days since I was clothed. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.


Richard is a writer incarcerated in Georgia. He has chosen to not disclose his last name for fear of reprisal.