Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by miflippo via Depositphotos

On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, our chaplain announced that they arranged for all 900 women incarcerated here to receive a free three-piece chicken strip dinner from Popeye’s as a gift, using donations from outside volunteers. 

We were all very excited. I could feel the electricity in the air, particularly because the pandemic has had us feeling isolated and abandoned. This event gave us hope that the compound was starting to open back up. We felt blessed to have awesome chaplains who looked out for us. 

At 9:30 a.m. that Saturday, the corrections officer (CO) in our housing unit called out, “Stand by, Mother’s Day event!” 

Everyone jumped off their bunks and readied themselves for the big feast. Many of us, including me, had not celebrated Mother’s Day in years. We waited for three hours. Some women laid back down in their bunks. Then the same correction officer came back to the barracks door and announced, “Line by chow.” 

We soon discovered that this was not the Mother’s Day chicken dinner we were promised, but the regular meal in the prison chow hall, where hot dogs were being served. My friend and I looked at each other. “Hot dogs are always good, right?” I said. “We might as well go. Want to?” 

We proceeded to join the line at the door. Everyone else was lining up too, except for one young lady who was going from person to person, asking if she can have their hot dogs. 

She had an empty flour tortilla bag, which I saw her storing in her bra. She looked like she was on a mission to take as many hot dogs back to the barracks as she could, but I thought, who was I to judge? Supper chow was a long time after breakfast, and we would go hungry if we didn’t have commissary purchases. 

When chow was finally called, the lady with the plastic tortilla bag in her bra was in front of me. As we walked down the hallway, she noticed an unfamiliar CO standing outside the chow hall. 

She started to get nervous and asked me who the guard was. 

“She’s a captain,” I responded. “Don’t do anything stupid in front of her.” 

The lady with the bag was a short timer, but I had been locked up for six years now, so I knew all the COs. I hoped she would listen to me and abort her mission. 

As I got my tray and walked into the chow hall, I saw her standing with her bag as several ladies handed her their hot dogs. I saw the bandit wrap a rubberband around her bundle of wieners and shove them down the front of her pants. She wasn’t paying any attention to the fact that the chow line had ended and the captain was walking into the room. 

“Don’t y’all be doing anything that you don’t want to get caught doing!” the CO said. 

“Yes, ma’am!” we responded. 

But the captain wasn’t finished. 

“I saw something!” she shot back, looking directly at the hot dog bandit who looked like a deer caught in headlights. “If you don’t want to be in big trouble, I suggest you come clean.”

The hot dog bandit stood up and pulled out a huge bundle from the front of her pants and laid it on the table. She swallowed hard while looking up at the captain who pointed to the door and told her to get out. 

I could hear exclamations of “Wow” reverberating across the room as everyone looked at her stash. Her bundle had at least 12 hot dogs.

“I didn’t get to be a captain for nothing,” the captain said as she took them away. 

When we got back into the barracks, the hot dog bandit approached me in the bathroom while I was washing my hands. She asked me if I had any burn cream. 

She told me that she now had second degree burns on her lower stomach from shoving the hot hot dogs down the front of her pants. 

And it was all for nothing. Not only did she not have any dogs, she was facing a possible disciplinary write up. 

Now I would call this quite a mis-de-weiner! 

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.

Kathy Jane Hart is a writer incarcerated in Arkansas.