I was picked up from Montgomery Womens Facility on Monday 12/22/14 at approximately 12.30 pm. My court date wasn’t until Tuesday 1/6/15 at 8.30 am. When i asked the transport officer, officer Hill, why i was being transported so early, he stated there would be no transport prior to my court date due to the holidays. As officer Hill was shackling me at the gate i asked him if Houston County was still as bad as the last time i was there and his exact response was “It’s probably worse”.
I was the only inmate on the van and officer Hill was the only officer. The handcuffs (I was also belly chained and had shackles on my feet) were extremely tight and uncomfortable. By the time we arrived at HCJ (about 2:30 pm) and the hand cuffs were removed, my wrists were swollen and bruised. I was taken straight into docket and was strip searched and put into an orange jumpsuit. I was then put into a cell for about 7 hours. I was taken out at about 9:30 pm and made to strip again. I was sprayed with some sort of “de-lousing” agent on my head and genital area. I was then told to shower. The water was ice cold and i was given no personal hygiene items with which to bath or wash the chemicals off. After getting dressed, I was then taken back to “N” pod and put into cell #N-5. It was “Roll-in” time (10:00 pm) so i was able to go to bed. The pod and the cell were very cold. I was given the following items at this point:
- Mattress cover
- 1 Blanket
- Green mesh zippered bag
- 1 Roll of toilet paper
- 2 Stamped envelopes
- 1 Small bottle of liquid shampoo & body wash (about enough for 2 showers)
- 1 Towel
- 1 Wash cloth with 2 holes in it
When i asked about commissary i was told the orders had to be in by Tuesday morning at 8:00 am. My Mother was unable to put money on my account until Tuesday afternoon because i was not “active” in their system until then. She tried on Monday 12/22 but was told she couldn’t. Because of this, i was unable to put in a store order until the following week and didn’t receive my first order until Wednesday 12/31/14. I was there for 9 days with only the “Indigent Pack” given to me upon arrival for which i was charged $2.95. This pack included the afore mentioned toilet paper, envelopes, 0Z bottle of shampoo/body wash in addition to 4 sheets of writing paper, a tooth brush which is about 2 inches long and a tiny tube of Dawn Mist toothpaste.
The shampoo was gone in 2 showers and the toothpaste was gone in 4 days (brushing my teeth twice per day). Other than that, i had no shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant or additional toilet paper until Wednesday 12/31/14 when i got my first store order. On Tuesday 12/23/14 i was taken to a classroom in the jail for a video first appearance before Judge Lewis. I was back in N Pod at about 11:00 am. We were given our lunch and allowed to stay in the day area until 2:00 pm. At “Roll In” time (on your bed, cannot cover up or lay down) I went into my cell. When i left prison, i wore 2 bras, 2 panties, 2 pairs of socks, a thermal top and bottoms, a long sleeve shirt and a short sleeve tee shirt, yet i was still cold to the point of extreme discomfort. There were many women who had nothing on but their jumpsuits because they were not allowed to wear the under garments they had on when they were arrested. After 2:00 roll in on 12/23, we were let out of our cells again at about 4:00 pm for supper and medicine and put back into our cells until about 4:00 pm on Thursday 12/25/14.
The only time we were allowed out was to get meds/food. I couldn’t shower because the only shower was only accessible from the day room. So from the time got there at 2:30pm on Monday 12/22 until 4:00 pm on 12/25 i was locked down with only the cold shower i had in docket (with no soap). In addition to all of this, the toilets in N Pod are on a timer and will only flush 2 times per hour. I was one of 2 people in my cell. On Wednesday 12/24at about 6:00 pm the other woman in my cell fell ill and from that time until about 10:00 am on 12/25 (16 hours) my cell mate had bloody diarrhoea and was vomiting which all had to sit in the toilet for hours due to the flushes being on a timer. It was extremely repulsive. I was told by the officers on duty that nothing could be done. On Monday 12/29 at about 4:00 am me and another inmate Jayne Lynn B. were told to get our stuff together. We were moved to “O” pod. It had the cold conditions, but there were open cells (no doors).
Also the toilets were not on timers. O Pod has seats for 20 people and we had 32 women there at the most. We were made to be in the day room only from 10:00 am – 10:00 pm (with the exception of roll in from 2-4 pm, on your bed, no laying down, no covering up). Many women had no place to sit and either stood or walked for hours at a time or sat on the cement floor. Several women also had to sit on the floor to eat. During my stay there, we were allowed outside for one hour. I was there from 12/22 – 1/15. HCJ will not give you sanitary napkins unless they first come in to see the blood on your panties or toilet paper.
They then give you 12 pads and you are charged $6.40. The funny part about this is that you can buy 12 pads on the store for $2.70. If you are caught going into your bed area at anytime during “Roll Out” you can be sent to lockdown. While i was there officer Barber sent 3 girls to lockdown for going to their beds for toilet paper during roll out. I was taken to court on Tuesday January 6th and Monday January 12th. Both times i was handcuffed, put in a belly chain and my feet were shackled. Once again my wrists were swollen and bruised upon returning the jail. On Monday January 12th we were told that 2 of the girls in O Pod had lice. We were made to turn in all bedding and under clothes at about 10:30 am and didn’t get them back until about 10:30 pm. At that time we were all sprayed and had to shower. Almost everybody underclothes were still wet when we got them back and we had to put on wet clothes or go to bed with nothing on. We didn’t even have our orange jumpsuits because they were taken to be washed when the “Whites” were brought back.
At breakfast on Tuesday 1/13 officer Branch brought everyones trays to their beds because no one had any clothes on, we didn’t get our jumpsuits back until about 8:00 am. There were several days when the telephones didn’t work or were never turned on. The water was ice cold the entire time i was there. The only hot shower i had was on Wednesday 1/14/15 when i guess they finally turned it up. Many girls went days without bathing because the water was so cold. Also even when you took a cold shower, it was almost impossible to get warm because the temperature in the pod were so extremely cold. There were 2 bathrooms in O Pod. One on the top tier and one on the bottom tier. Each had 4 toilets and 3 showers, although we were not permitted to use the showers upstairs (except for the lice incident). Both bathrooms had leaky toilets. Blankets had to be kept on the floors to absorb the water that constantly leaked. If the blankets weren’t changed daily, the smell would get so bad that you couldn’t stand to go in there. There were many days when the same wet, dirty blankets were left and nothing was cleaned for 3-4 days. We could only clean when the officers brought the supplies to do it.
In closing i would just like to say that although i am not proud of this fact, i have been in many county jails and Houston County Jail is by far the worst. I realise it is not supposed to be an enjoyable experience, but i certainly expected to be provided with certain necessities and to be subjected to conditions at least 1 level better than what i would find in a third world country. Please understand that my cases in Houston County are all concluded now so i never have to go there again. It would be very easy for me to just put it behind me and forget it because i have nothing to gain by speaking out. But I’m involving myself on behalf of the men and women who are there now or will be there. We are not animals and should not be treated as such.
We are somebodies Mother, Father, Sister, Brother etc. who have made bad choices. We are human beings who’ve done no more or less than anyone else, but we were caught, when many others weren’t. We deserve to be treated humanely and we are not at Houston County Jail. I am not a problem inmate, my institutional record will reflect that. I am just someones Mother, Daughter, Sister who would like to help those that come behind her.
The following quote by Gandhi says it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I’m just asking for whats fair. Since I’ve been back at Montgomery women facility (1/15/15) I have had extreme nerve pain in my right arm (elbow area) which started at HCJ due to which i believe was the handcuffs being too tight.
Stacey Ross #277198
PO Box 75