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Blurry hospital hallway with figure of doctor walking away
Photo by sudok1 on iStock

Sometime between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., I was jolted out of a dead sleep, gruff voices rushing me along, telling me to get up and get dressed — get to Building 8 for transportation. 

As an offender, I knew this day was coming, I just didn’t know when, exactly. Every month leading up to this day, I had a medical appointment where I sat with the others from my building, and waited for my name to be called, only to be told I would need to go to an outside appointment. 

In the time I spent waiting for my name to be called, medical could have sent me a reminder in the mail. 

Once I finally arrived at Building 8, I was placed in a holding cell, locked inside for at least an hour and 45 minutes. The officer came to get me and allowed me to use the restroom before I was stripped of my dignity and placed in an orange jumpsuit. I was placed back in the holding cell for another half-hour or so before the accompanying officer (usually a female) returned to cuff and shackle me, locking a tight black box over top of my handcuffs and securing me in a wheelchair. The wheelchair was for safety, as too many women have fallen while walking shackled to the van. 

We make it to the van, and I climb the two steps to be seated a few feet behind the officers. One male officer joined the female. The ride, for me, was rough. The windows were covered with black mats with tiny holes, making me carsick as I tried to peer through. My wrists were already aching from the cuffs cutting into the skin, and the black box over them were clamped down tight, making it impossible to wiggle so much as a centimeter.

We arrived at our destination and waited for the all-clear before entering the building through the back entrance. Only when the doctor arrived and was ready to do his work did the shackles and handcuffs come off. Waiting times varied. Once I waited for a cardiologist for over two hours. Once I was seen, I waited several more hours to be fitted for a heart monitor. 

The female officer stayed with me the entire time; the male officer stood guard outside the exam room door. I have never had to stay in the hospital, but I have heard other women say they had to wear their handcuffs into the bathroom. How do you pull your panties down or wipe? When I had to use the bathroom handcuffed during a previous appointment, it was a major issue. When does humanity trump unnecessary security? 

The trip back was the same in reverse. Once we returned, I was stripped of my dignity again. I had to put my clothes back on, and walk to the infirmary for a vital check before returning to my building. 

An entire day wasted for a 30-minute appointment.

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.

Donna Hockman is a mother of two grown children as well as a grandmother. She is incarcerated in Virginia.