Working at a jail gives me plenty of opportunities to watch the abnormal become normal. Let me explain.
When the female pod officers call over the radio for additional officers to respond this means that something is going on and they need assistance. When the call is made no additional information is given. Myself and another Deputy arrive first and find that a female inmate has tied a sheet around her neck in an attempt to hang herself. She did NOT do a great job (thankfully) but she is a high risk inmate, therefore, you need at least 5 officers in order to enter her cell. A shit load of other officers arrice and we definitely had five officers. The cell door was opened and this inmate, we’ll call her Brandy, begins screaming as if she is being murdered.
I like to take these opportunities to watch the officer’s reaction. All officers stayed focused and in calm voices began telling her we need to take her property, to include her clothing. I know this may seem strange to some, but she will use her clothing to “hang” herself again. We begin explaining that we are placing her on suicide watch and we need her clothes. It is obvious that Brandy is not listening, as the voices in her head are much louder than any Deputy in the room. She begins answering the voices and telling them that we are going to kill them. It is obvious that we are dealing with a full-blown psychotic episode. She again begins screaming but is compliant in allowing staff to take off her bra and underwear, as she is just lying there screaming.
As the staff members begin to help her to her feet she turns quickly towards one of the staff members, with fear in her eyes, and claims that the Deputy is going to kill her. Quicker than you can blink an eye she is once again taken to the ground and allowed to lie there so that we can explain, again, what we are going to do. The voices must overpower what we are telling her and she again is screaming that the President has pardoned her because they had sex last night. She goes on to say that if the time were 6:66 she would be able to kill us with her mind. It’s important that staff listen to her but not feed into her “craziness”, meaning we can’t tell her the voices are real, but we can’t tell her they aren’t real. Remember, ALL of this is real to the inmate. Can you imagine? I can’t even begin to think how damn hard it must be to have a mental illness, and even though I know this is a high risk situation, I can’t help but feel for her. I can’t help but think that I too would want to end my life if this is what I had to face everyday. This woman is only 30!!
We finally get her in a new cell, with a suicide blanket and medical gives her a shot to calm her down (Brandy agreed to it).
A few hours later we are called again to give Brandy another shot, I guess the first shot didn’t work, as she was doing cartwheels for those few hours. When we enter again and begin hand-cuffing her she pees EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t help but think to myself. . why the hell do I continue to do this job. But I really do love it, even if I get pissed on and bitten. I know that I have true compassion for people, no matter their life choices or circumstances. And truly, doesn’t the world need more compassion and empathy?
I’d be a liar if I didn’t mention that it irks me like no other that felons and immigrants are allowed to marry while incarcerated and I’m not granted the same privilege, but in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t change who I am or what I believe. I just hope the US will have the same compassion for me as I do for schizophrenic Brandy.