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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

(Editor’s note: Dorothy Maraglino wrote this to tell another prisoner’s story)

Dear Mr. Correctional Officer,

I am a new prisoner in your facility and am trying to survive. 

When you look at me, I can feel you putting me into one of your preconceived boxes you have for inmates. You might be right — but there is a better chance you are not. 

As I walk away from the cop shop, I watch you read through my file on the computer. That file won’t tell you much. 

My file will tell you about the first degree murder charge. My file will not tell you that I was a young woman curled up under the table while my abusive boyfriend got into a fight with a drug connect. 

My file will not tell you that all I ever wanted was to stay high so I could not feel the fist hitting me or the bodies that violated me to support his need. 

My file won’t tell you about my daddy who liked to pretend I was mommy, or that mommy barely remembered my name.

It won’t tell you about how I got here, my chances of getting out, or my chances of staying out. 

Do you think your once-over will tell you that? 

I am a survivor: even without many choices, I will still choose to survive. Since you seem to think of me as criminal scum, I will turn to other criminal scum who will teach me to survive here in your prison.

Your prison.

Dorothy Maragliano, on behalf of another inmate

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.

Dorothy Maraglino is a writer incarcerated in California. Writing is how she processes the world around her and devotes most of her time to short works that share the realities of prison.