I'd like to share a little information with you about one of my favorite books which is a far cry from my normal genre, historical western romance.
When I first moved to Tennessee, and my husband was having a difficult time finding a job, I decided to see if I could locate something suitable. As I had just retired from the University of California after twenty-three years of working with students, I knew I possessed skill enough for any clerical job. Imagine my surprise when the employment office sent me to the White County Sheriff, and I ended up with a Correctional Officer position.
Even when the Jail Administrator showed me a picture of himself beat to a pulp by an inmate, I never expected they would offer a woman my age, with no experience, a job.
I left the interview, went home, and found a message asking me to report to work the following morning. Color me shocked!
If I was younger, I would definitely try to re-establish myself in that field. It was probably one of the most exciting and interesting jobs I've ever had.
Most of the fodder for First Degree Innocence came from the year I spent working with the inmates, even those sentenced to extended stays, but boarded with us because of lack of space in the prison system. If you believe what you hear, everyone there is innocent.
My heroine is patterned after so many of the incarcerated women I met there, and those I booked, searched and assigned cells to. Writing Carrie's story in FDI was easy because I drew on the frightened faces, trembling legs and horror-filled eyes when the reality struck that for the women arrested, jail was a reality.
Most women are incarcerated because they made poor choices in men. That wasn't the case with Carrie, but her sentence was just as real. And as in every walk of life, bullies exist within the population. Jet was fashioned after one trouble-making wench who kept us all on our toes.
I considered I was one of the nice guards, but believe me, there were more than enough to go around who considered it their duty to continue to punish the inmates. I think law enforcement sometimes brings out the worst in some. Those who have no control in their own personal lives need to control what they can, and jail/prison gives them a great place to exercise that right.
As for me, I considered the inmates had already been given their punishment by the judge. I was there to see to their needs and follow the rules. I had no problems with the inmates...in fact I think they liked me.
Here's a glimpse into what Carrie felt when she was booked into prison despite her innocence:
“Okay, Lang, strip!” The guard’s bark made Carrie’s stomach roil. She cowered in the corner of the women’s processing area, shivering under the blast of cold air from the ceiling vent.
“I said strip! Don’t make me have to tell you again.” The pudgy, uniformed female slapped a baton against her palm in a constant rhythm. In the empty room, the sound bounced off the depressing gray cement walls and echoed in Carrie’s head.
She forced herself to take a faltering step out of her shoes. Her frigid fingers fumbled with the buttons as she struggled to remove her favorite pink cotton blouse. She unfastened her jeans and let them drop to the floor, then gazed through bleary eyes at the other woman, praying she didn’t require the removal of anything more.
“This is all a big mistake. I shouldn’t be here.” Carrie’s voice trembled. “Honestly, I’m innocent.”
With deeply-furrowed skin and graying hair, the guard looked well past fifty. She walked closer, stopping when her face was only inches from Carrie’s. “Do you have any idea how often I hear that in here?” Her breath reeked of cigarette smoke, and Carrie wrinkled her nose and turned her head. How could someone she’d never met hate her so much already? Was there even an ounce of compassion buried beneath that deep sneer?
The older woman pressed the edge of her baton against Carrie’s jawbone and forced her face forward. Her stomach clenched. Evil gleaming in her eyes, the guard delved the wooden stick under Carrie’s bra strap, slowly guiding the silky string off her shoulder and down her arm. Gooseflesh peppered her skin and she shivered.
“Stripping means everything, inmate Lang. Panties, too, sweetheart. Move it! I’m a busy person, so quit wasting my time.”
The matron strode to the other side of the room, leaned against the wall, and ogled Carrie while she finished undressing.
Lowering her head, she dropped her bra atop the pile on the floor then kicked her panties off next to it. Feeling the cold invade every pore, she wrapped her arms around her upper body. Threatening tears blurred her eyes, but she squeezed her lids together and tilted her head toward the ugly pipes snaking across the ceiling. "Oh Lord, what did I do to deserve this? Please, help me. You’re my last hope."
“Praying are you?” the gravelly voice taunted. “It’s a little late for that. Put those hands down to your sides and look to the front, missy.”
Carrie opened her eyes and swallowed hard. Did the woman expect her to know what to do? “N-Now what?” she asked in a quivering voice.
Just a short time ago, she’d been frisked, photographed, and finger-printed for the second time in her life. Her initial arrest had been horrifying enough, but she at least made bail for a time. Now this? She gazed down at the black ink smudges still visible on her hands. Why was this happening? Never had she felt so humiliated… and disbelieving. How could the judge have sentenced her to ten years in prison?
The guard laughed, drawing Carrie’s thoughts back to reality. The evil cackle indicated delight in her predicament and turned the room even colder. Ms. Ogden, as her name tag read, placed her black baton under one arm and, with the other hand, reached into a pouch on her utility belt to retrieve a pair of plastic gloves. She slowly pulled them on her age-spotted hands, leering at Carrie the entire time. When she finished, she put the baton into a special holder on her belt then stood with her hands on her hips. “Now, lift up those breasts so I can make sure you aren’t smuggling contraband.”
Carrie’s cheeks burned, but she did as she was told. With her eyes squinted shut, she turned her face away, trying to halt the sobs wracking her insides.
“Okay, now bend over and spread ’em.” The matron’s snicker was the final stab of humiliation.
Aghast, but shaking with fear, Carrie bowed at the waist, letting her hands dangle just above her toes. The welling tears now fell, splashing against the darkly tiled floor. Her breath seized when the cool feel of plastic touched the skin of her buttocks, daring to invade places that should remain private from prying eyes and strange hands.
“Okay, that does it,” the guard said, stripping off the gloves. “Now get in the shower. There’s soap on the ledge and shampoo in the big plastic bottle on the floor. It’s a ‘lice’ preventative, so make sure to give your hair a good wash. We don’t want any more critters around here than we already have.” She turned to leave.
Carrie crossed her arms over nipples erect from the cold and cursed the legs that didn’t want to support her. She paused for a moment before entering the stall. “What do I put on when I’m done?” Her voice was a mere whisper.
The simple question brought another evil guffaw. “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll bring you a pretty little matching outfit and a new pair of shoes.” Ogden pulled a towel from a hook by the door, threw it in Carrie’s face and left.
The heavy metal door slammed with a clank. Carrie glanced around the empty room, listened to the stone silence, and fought the nausea bubbling up from the pit of her stomach. Her legs felt leaden with each step toward the faucet, and with trembling hands, she somehow managed to turn on the tap. At least the water was warm. She stepped beneath the soothing stream, feeling the heat spread across her chilled skin. With her face raised to the pelting shower, she prayed for divine intervention. Her remaining tears bubbled to the surface, mingled with, and washed away in the shower spray. She muffled her sobs against her fist, daring not to tarry.
After her shower and shampoo, she toweled off, wrung the excess water from her long brown hair, and forced herself to don the prison-issued dirty-gray panties and equally disgusting sports bra. She’d ignored the grating of the door as it opened and closed during her shower, and now spied a uniform hanging on a wall hook. Her skin prickled at the thought of how many people before her had worn the bright orange shirt and pants. Once on, the uniform’s baggy fit completely hid all of her feminine attributes, and the accompanying well-worn shoes felt disturbingly strange. She pictured all the previous feet that had molded the cracking rubber of the brown slip-ons, and an appropriate saying crept through her mind. Walk a mile in my shoes
Had prior wearers been this petrified?
Dampness from her hair spread onto her shirt. She shivered at the coldness of the cement bench, hugged her knees, and waited.
First Degree Innocence is published by Books We Love and available on my Amazon author's page
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