My friend Anne wrote to me and said:
"Hi Sarah! I have a special request for a blog posting from you. Will you write about your experiences teaching prisoners? (you really did that, didn't you? I mean, I'm so gullible that I'd probably believe you if you said that you taught ASL to chimps.) (which would also be a fun post)."
Anne, I really did teach prisoners at the St. Louis County Jail. I really really did. I taught them computer basics and poetry. We even published a poetry newsletter! I was trying to think if anything really blog-worthy happened while I was working there and I guess I have a few stories.
I taught a two hour class of basic computers for the men, and then a two hour class of poetry for the women, and a two hour class of poetry for the men. The guard would escort about 8 or 10 people in to my classroom and then leave and lock the door behind him. Locking me in the room with a bunch of inmates. If anything happened I was to use the phone and call for help. Or just scream. I don't think I was ever in any danger, but one time during the women's class a couple of the ladies got into a shoving match which threatened to turn into a full-blown fist fight. I got in between them and broke it up. Does that sound brave? It wasn't. They were both tiny and weak and one was about 6 months pregnant, and the other was about 8 months pregnant. They both had big bellies and they were willing to get in a fist fight. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I thought I was on candid camera or something. I only had to step between them and say, "Seriously??? You're going to fist fight while you're pregnant? Really???" Then they sat down and called each other horrible names until the guard could come and bring them back to their cells.
I really liked talking to them about their lives. They were very interesting people. Some were quite intelligent, but had lives where if there was a chance of bad luck, they got the bad luck. And some of them were incredibly stupid. One guy came in and told me that he was so mad that he is in jail because he got busted for being in possession of Oxycontin or something like it. He said he was already on probation and then he got the Oxy and took it but he didn't get high because earlier that day he smashed his thumb with a hammer and the Oxy only took the pain away from the thumb, and didn't get him high. He was more upset about not getting high than being back in jail. Idiot.
There were some murderers in there with me too. Guys who killed their girlfriends. They creeped me out. There was one guy that was there for over a year. He was soooooo creepy. He was in for being 28 years old and having a 14 year old "girlfriend." I think they call that "rape." He says they had a beautiful relationship. I say GROSS. He was skinny and pale and had a devil beard and he became obsessed with me. I can't remember the exact details of all the creepiness, but I arranged it so he wouldn't be brought to class anymore and then he wrote me letters. Ick! The ladies that worked at the jail were really good about not letting him see me or anything, but in the break room they called him my boyfriend and laughed and laughed.
One guy was there because he went nuts one night when he was high on meth. He was having paranoid hallucinations and thought someone was after him so he stripped naked and ran down the fire escape and broke into another apartment and took the baby that was in there and he ran. Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to see a naked guy come into your apartment and take your baby? In his drug addled brain he thought he was saving the baby from the people who were after him. I don't know exactly how it turned out, but I know the baby was returned unharmed and he had to go to prison for about ten years. Whew! I actually liked that guy when he was off the drugs. He looked a lot like Jesus and he had a calming effect on the other inmates. Sometimes they would be rude to me and he could totally defuse any impending conflict and make everything calm and peaceful. I was really glad to see him every week. I'm sure he would have scared the crap out of me when he was on drugs.
There were a lot of drug addicts in jail. Meth was usually the drug of choice and let me tell you, Breaking Bad makes meth use look glamorous. It's not. At all. It's disgustingness can be summed up in two words; "meth mouth." People that smoke lots and lots of meth have little, smelly, rotten, black stumps where their teeth are supposed to be. Apparently it is incredibly addictive because when a new meth head would come to jail, covered in scabs from compulsively scratching at his/her skin while high, the other meth heads would "buy" (with whatever the currency is in jail) the new meth head's scabs, yes SCABS, because apparently if you eat a meth head's scabs, you can get a little meth bump. Here's a little advice for you; if you are ever in the presence of a bunch of meth addicts in withdrawal and they tell you they are willing to eat another person's scabs for a taste of meth; don't say, "Wow, and what would you do for a Klondike Bar?" They don't think it's funny.
I have another jail story but this post is getting too long so I'll save that one for tomorrow! See ya!