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I am a Seven Sisterseducated, middle-class, professional woman with a loving family and a solid work history.But a brief and reckless involvement with the narcotics trade in my early 20s came back to haunt me years later (because, believe me, there is no escaping the consequences of one's actions and I was sentenced to federal prison for a ten-year-old crime.I did most of my time in the minimum-security prison camp at the women's correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut.On the gray February day that I arrived at that low, large fortress encircled by a vicious razor-wire fence, I was neither looking nor feeling my best.
My eyes were swollen after a night spent sobbing in the arms of my fianc.Left alone with a cinematically frightening female guard, I was quickly stripped of every personal item in my possession and transformed, thanks to a scratchy nylon bullet bra, granny panties, and a baggy, khaki men's uniform, into one of America's then.5 million prison inmates.I looked more like Aileen Wuornos than my usual Waspy self in the photo on.Everything about the physical reality of prison is harshfrom the lighting to the cinder-block construction to the unyieldingly drab palette.After intake I was transported to the unit where I would spend the next year of my life.
I was bundled into a white van holding a pillow and sheets, some blankets, towels, and a sandwich bag that contained a stubby mini toothbrush, tiny packets of toothpaste and shampoo, and a rectangle of motel soap.The driver greeted me cheerfully, and after a moment of frightened silence she told me that it was OK"I'm an inmate, too.".She was the prison's errand runner and official greeter of new prisoners in "The Camp the 200-woman unit in which I would live.She was vigorously efficient in getting me settled in my top bunk, though I was disoriented by shock and the cacophony of hundreds of women living in close quarters all around.