Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

I have missed a lot of people since coming to prison. I gave birth to my daughter in prison, and she and I only had a few hours on a handful of days to get to know one another, but I have missed her every second of every minute since she slipped from my arms. She doesn’t have a single memory of me, but I have a thousand memories of her; from her conception through the moment I lost sight of her when she was two. 

I miss my parents and family who remember the person I was the last time they saw me. With our infrequent phone calls and even less frequent letters, I try to hide the reality of the broken, hate filled woman I am today. More than all of these, I miss my God most of all. He was in my solitary county jail cell for three years. Leaving the county jail and heading to prison he was here. When I got off the prison bus in reception and through those the weeks of adjusting to life here in hell he was here. But over the years, he has faded as I let people come between me and him. 

My family and friends who knew me remember an overly trusting girl who saw the best in people. They would not recognize the shell of a woman I’ve become. There is a similar but older face than the one they said goodbye to. It is hard to explain where and when the change happened. A humiliating arrest and the subsequent public display of all the sordid details takes a toll. A trial that dredges up details of your life, revealing how little you knew about reality and those around you, takes a toll. Jail, with its isolation, fighting, insults, judgement, yelling, tears and soul ripping days, takes a toll. 

Prison, with ten times the drama of jail, and endless days with no hope of freedom, takes its toll. Having a self-proclaimed Christian hold you face down in a pillow and try to rape you, leaving bite marks and bruises, takes a toll. Having those who identified themselves as your Christian friends curse you, calling you a liar and a snitch, running you out of your prison home for reporting your own rape, takes a toll. Having to be locked up in segregation for months while the prison investigates your claim takes a toll. 

When they then disregard your claims and tell you to “let it go,” this takes a toll. Being released into a prison population that still condemns your voice takes a toll. The loss of property, a job, school classes and friends from your confinement takes a toll. Having every aspect of your voice silenced in the name of prison etiquette takes its toll. To witness corruption on every level and being told to basically “Shut up and do your time until you die,” takes its toll. 

Living with a hymn singing, discourse-inciting, hate-spewing, judgmental, Bible-reading Christian cellmate has made it impossible for me to pray without waves of nausea hitting me. It is embarrassing to consider we might worship the same God, so I stopped worshipping at all. I can’t curse God himself, but I do curse the life he gave me. All of these wonderful Christians sing their hymns and raise their hands in praise, while the demons inside them laugh at their success. It is easier for Christians than heathens to drive a wedge between you and your God. 

Self-declared Christians taught me hate and cruelty. All of their proclamations of faith and love ring hollow and void. Their self-serving acts of kindness reveal them to be unlike Christ. It’s only through my loved ones’ prayers and my own faith that I am not totally lost.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Dorothy Maraglino

Dorothy Maraglino is a writer incarcerated at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California. She is serving a life-without-parole sentence under the state’s felony murder rule. Writing is how she processes the world around her to remain sane. She devotes most of her time to short works that share the realities of prison.