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Alyce, 71
Incarcerated: 7 years
Housed: California Institution for Women, Corona, CA

Let’s see, my husband has died, my relationship with Fred is still up and down–more down than up. I’m living with my sister Cathy, and her man David, a control freak. Then she decides to do the ugly and marry the guy, hoping she would fare better than the last two marriages. Seriously? The good news, they were going to do it in the Bahamas and I was invited! In all her weddings Cathy has never asked me to stand up with her so I thought…well, that’s what I get for thinking- she asked Georgie, her mentor and traveling partner to dog shows. Oh well, I get to go. But get this – she’s flying first class and I’m flying coach! Hmph! Okay, I’ll say it again – I get to go. Cathy and David had taken scuba lessons and are adept at diving and the Bahamas is their favorite place to dive. The water was crystal clear blue and oh my, the most colorful fish: vibrant reds, blues, yellows – it was a kaleidoscope of colors. The little beggars would come right up to you and bump you as if to maybe taste me to see what I was – then just move on. I think Cathy tried to make up for not asking me to be her maid-of-honor because they surprised me with some scuba diving lessons, expensive ones to remind me to forever hold my peace, because once I start there’s no refund. I was excited and tickled pea green. The lessons were taking place in a huge, really deep pool. We first were instructed on the uses of the tanks, then they fitted us with face masks and weights. The weights were extra heavy to take us to the bottom where we could practice everything and not worry about floating up to the top. Once we got the tank info down, we put on our weights, tank and facemask; lined up along the side of the pool. The instructor gave us the signal and we all jumped in feet first backward. Man, I felt like I was right out of the show, Sea Hunt. As soon as I hit the water, the force of it made the mouth-piece to the air-tank jerk my dentures right out of my mouth- the mouthpiece floating one way and my dentures another. While I’m frantically trying to grab my dentures and the mouth-piece for air, those extra heavy weights are dragging me down, down, down. I’m kicking like a mule for all its worth, trying not to sink to the bottom with no air. Now I was able to grab my teeth in hand, but couldn’t grab the mouthpiece, so I just fight my way up – my chest is screaming, burning and I feel like an impending implosion is a hair’s-breadth away. I kept looking up, thinking where is the top, please someone see me – help me – but nope, nada – nix. I’m on my own – down! The panic kicks in and so do I. I kick all the harder until I finally break through the water and hit air- a monumental bellow brings one of the guys running over. He grabs me, pulling me out of the pool, asking me what happened. At first I couldn’t verbalize – all I did was gasp with exhaustion. He asked again, “What happened?” I opened my hands and showed him my teeth and my eyes screaming “HELP!” He looked dumbfounded, clasping his hand over his mouth. I was sure it was to keep from laughing. Im safe, I sat back and started cracking up, thinking what that would have made on the six o’clock news! Woman drowns at diving school chasing her dentures! The manager told me the no-refund policy would not apply because that was definitely an unforeseen problem they had yet to encounter. That was the end of that adventure, one for my tally book. I still can’t understand with all of us in the water why no one saw me in trouble, didn’t even miss me until they came up. I went back to the room and told Cathy and David what happened. They both laughed, “Only you!” The wedding went off without a hitch at the end of a creaking pier, with the most beautiful cloudless blue sky and emerald-green water as a backdrop.

Alyce, 70

Incarcerated: 6 years

Housed: California Institution for Women, Chino, California

It’s been a humid and sticky day.

July 21,2023, we came back from chow-it’s 5:30 P.M. and the thermostat just inside the front door has a digital display and at that moment it read 89°. The heat has been unbearable for the last four days and it’s predicted to climb. Upon entering the building we’re smacked in the face with a wall of torrid air and after turning in, it never got better. We do not have air to cool things down. By midnight, I wake up sweltering in this tiny brick room. I feel like I’m in a kiln, being fired for posterity. During the days the brick walls radiate heat and of course there is still no air to be had. In the hallway, there are three huge standing fans that sound like arriving jet engines. It seems the only thing they are good for is preventing the hearing impaired from hearing. We miss announcements which cause arguments between inmates, fighting to place the fan facing their room. Seems we have a lot of inmates suffering from menopause. I’ve written in a number of complaints, to no avail. It’s like beating a dead horse trying to get decent treatment. What chaps my ass is two weeks ago we watched as they installed a brand new air conditioner in the cop-shop. It runs 24/7 and they keep it like a refrigerator – a great deal of inmates stop by the office to chat… A couple of days ago a friend of mine and I met for a chat after dinner. We walked around the circle area where inmates can capture some Vitamin D and visit. All the benches and picnic tables were in the hot sun. We found only one bench in the shade but there was a sergeant sitting there and upon seeing us looking her way, she waved one of the other staff over to sit with her. My friend pointed to a spot that had spots of shade and helped me get my walker through the lumps of dirt and gopher holes. I mentioned I was worried about getting in trouble. They do not want us ADAs with walkers stumbling through the circle, for fear of us falling. That sergeant was not about to give up that bench for a 81 year old inmate with a walker. But get this.

The next day when we went to chow for breakfast, what did we see? They brought out six dark brown hard plastic seats that used to be in our dayrooms, permanently screwed them into the ground on the perimeter of the circle – in the sun and stamped them ADA only. Wasn’t that sweet? This is one of those facilities that over a year ago installed giant swamp coolers on top of the buildings…they never worked. Yet, when one of the libraries quit working they pitched a fit and there were workers there for a week, it’s nice in there now. I suspect, if lucky, ours will be repaired by the time winter sets in. That’s how it seems to work here. Summer we have the heat running and in the winter it’s air conditioning like last winter. But hey, they did give me an extra blanket because I was freezing cold.

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