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A colorful assortment of pills
Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Everywhere I step, I have to watch for broken shards. Who knew that shattered people and shattered glass had so much in common? You can see right through them. They’re both jagged around the edges and will more than likely cut you if you’re not careful. Sometimes you see a rainbow in them, and they are broken in such a beautiful way that you want to keep them.

I saved someone today in the mental health hall. A girl was waiting to see the psychologist and said that she was going to try to get all the mental health pills she could so she could stay high until she was released. She had thin, oily hair and a face full of adult acne. She looked as if she weighed 90 pounds. She obviously had a drug problem. By the looks of her melted teeth, meth was her drug of choice. 

My heart broke for her. She was so young and didn’t know she was about to trade one addiction for another. I convinced her not to abuse the mental health system by getting pills she really didn’t need. 

Too often, the prison system fails to take a holistic approach to the mental health needs of those incarcerated, but she shouldn’t take advantage of their neglect. Realistically, she needed a good therapist. She needed some unconditional love. She needed patience from someone who didn’t want anything from her. A couple good meals and some shampoo wouldn’t have hurt either.

The worst part is that I see women like her everywhere I go. Her brokenness is a longstanding disease running rampant in the hell I’m in. There is a senselessness that surrounds us while we  try to keep ourselves sane in a place where everything and everyone is so detached from humanity. 

Though the prison is rehabilitating me from my abusers, incarceration breaks me down and steals the last bit of my humanity. It prepares me for society by making me cut grass, paint a sidewalk, wax floors, and cook for 1,700 people. Yeah, I’m really ready for the world.

They take my drugs and replace them with theirs. They tell me to face my fears and get over my trauma, while creating new fears and traumas for me every day. Should I really thank the penal system for locking me away for nine years so that I could be a better person and successful citizen?

I fit in here perfectly, with my jagged edges and see-through soul. I am just as broken and unstable as my peers. The only difference is I’ve replaced my addiction with the mental health pills, and I’ve accepted that the goal of this place is to keep me broken down. I refuse to stay down. No more pills, no more complacency with my circumstances. I choose to rise above. And stay there.

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.

Ladrina Johson is a writer and beekeeper incarcerated in Georgia.