Naturally, civilizations are built on rules and societies all benefit from enforcing and following them. We all expect people to follow the law like we do, as that creates a mutual trust in one another and is the foundation of the modern world. Which is why we also expect people to be sufficiently punished when they break those rules, and the justice system is designed just for that. However, nothing is without faults, and at this point, all the countries in the world have to face the problem of occasional mismanagement of the justice system and some mistakes in prison facilities.
And unfortunately, the people that are most impacted by these errors of judgment are the ones who are serving time. While arguments can be made for either side, it's likely we can all agree that people deserve humane treatment even while in prison (especially since many of those people are minor offenders).
Some stories have a happy ending, but not a happy start. Jessica Kent is currently living in Chicago. She's engaged and is raising her two daughters. She's 31 now, but during her youth, she suffered from drug addiction. This led her to spend some years in prison, starting as young as age 17. Her first offense was criminal sales of a controlled substance, for which she served one year in a New York prison. She was later arrested for violating her parole and several other charges, and she ended up in an Arkansas prison for 5 years.
She was released from prison 7 years ago and has been on the straight and narrow since then. She received a Bachelor's degree in correctional program support services, started a YouTube channel and became a full-time YouTuber, and is even in the process of writing her own autobiography. Currently, Jessica provides much-needed but rarely talked about content—what it was like to be in prison, as well as drug addiction and recovery.
Inmates Are Chained Even When Receiving Treatments
"Do inmates get shackled to the bed if they go to hospital while they're in prison? Well, that's a really good question. And they 100% get shackled to the bed. I gave birth while I was in prison and that was the most traumatic experience I've ever gone through in my entire life. And as soon as my daughter was delivered, my legs were shackled to the bed. And I was in prison for drugs, if you guys don't know that. She was born healthy, then she was placed in the foster care. After I got out of prison I worked for over a year to get full custody, I have full custody of her now. But the image of holding my new born baby, with chains and shackles on my leg, is forever seared into my memory and that was the reason why I completely changed my entire life. I looked down and I saw that beautiful baby and those light chains and I just decided, I just knew that I was done. I was never going back to prison, I was never picking up another substance and I now have 9 years sober. It was dehumanizing and terrible and I have PTSD from that." [watch the video here ]
Medical Needs Are Often Neglected
"This is really hard because there's a lot of bad things that happened in different categories, I think. So I will have to make this part 1, part 2, part 3... The worst thing that I saw correctional officers doing was neglecting the medical needs of inmates, including but not limited to, women having their period and bleeding everywhere. Sometimes it would take them hours to bring them clean clothes, sometimes they wouldn't if the stain was not big enough or it wasn't a big enough mess, then they wouldn't give you clean clothes. So, ignoring the inmates' medical needs is a big deal. I saw woman have a seizure and we're pounding and pounding on the doors, this was in a county jail, we're pounding on the doors for 5 hours before they came in to even assess the situation. Paramedics were finally called. And she did not come back. I don't know if she passed away, I don't know what happened, no one ever saw her again after that night, though. And I think that's a major problem. Many correctional officers think inmates are faking everything cause they've been lied to." [watch the video here ]
Women Get Only 2-3 Pads Per Day, Tampons Are Forbidden
"So, I was serving time in a prison in Arkansas and that prison did not want to give women tampons. So, they would give each woman 2 or 3 pads per day, if you asked for them. But sometimes a correctional officer said "No, sorry, we're all fresh out. Can't get one." And then, what do you do right? So, because they did not want to provide tampons and they would only provide 2 pads in a 24-hour time period, we had to take it upon ourselves to take the pad and turn it into a tampon, which is unsafe, don't recommend, not a good idea. But we didn't know what else to do. So we had to take the outside of a pad, where it's protective from the cotton, and use that as the outside of the tampon, put a cotton in there, wrap it up and make our own tampons, just so that we had period products so that we were not bleeding all over the place. In New York it was a non-issue, we got as much as we needed because blood creates danger for everyone. So yeah, we need a prison reform and we need it now." [watch the video here ]
Officers And Inmates Might Get Into Relationships, But There's A Huge Power Gap
"Do officers and inmates get into relationship, from a former inmate, let's go! In a nutshell - yes. People that are there for a long time, they are human beings and they get lonely, and they want that intimacy and that feeling from another person. And that definitely happen to correctional officers. I've seen it, most inmates have. And it starts out very small, with a look or a smile, if you walk by them and touch them, which I would never do. I wouldn't even talk to them for toilet paper. But I have seen it happen. And guards take advantage because inmates are in survival mode. We're just trying to have basic hygiene items and food items and we're hungry and lonely. We are starved for affection and attention, and it's a very tough situation on both sides. It's a crime and correctional officers that do that will be charged when they're caught. Cause they always get caught; all inmates see everything, we know what's going on and you will get caught and go to prison because this is essentially rape." [watch the video here ]
Prison, Like Most Things, Has Its Own Social Ladders
"What's the hierarchy or social ladder in prison? Who has the most respect? Who has the least respect? Let me tell you right now, I did not create this, this is not up for debate. Your feelings and your opinion on this don't really matter. Cause this is going on every single day in prisons across this country. So, who's at the top of this hierarchy? That would be lifers, people who committed murder. And I'll do an entire video on all the different ways that people have committed murder that I have done time with. That's the worst day of their life and they're spending the rest of their life in prison for that. So, if you don't have a release date and you didn't hurt a child (we'll get there), then you have respect. The bottom of the totem pole are child molesters, predators, people that hurt innocent child or a woman. In between, second to murder - drug dealers have a lot of respect in prison because we all know the war on drugs is complete bullsh*t. Robbery charges, you have respect. Top of the totem pole is people who don't have release dates, adult that killed another adult, not an innocent child. And the bottom is chomos." [watch the video here ]
On Your Last Day In Prison, It's Recommended You Give Away Your Things
"So, what does your last day in prison look like. You have to pack up all your stuff, give away your stuff. Now, it's a little disrespectful if you take things home, like deodorant or shampoo stuff, hygiene items, makeup, if you have it. Food, especially. It's disrespectful if you try to take that stuff to the free world. So, you would give away your stuff to your people, give them everything that you possibly could that doesn't have your number on it because a lot of prisons don't let you have anyone else's property, that's a whole charge. Then you go up to intake and you change out, and you put your stuff on, you sign a bunch of stuff that says "I'm leaving". Sometimes they give you gate money, sometimes they don't. Sometimes you have to take a bus, sometimes your family or friends will come pick you up. And it's a very nerve wracking time, you don't know if you're gonna get out at 8 A.M. or 2 P.M., you just never know and you're nervous and stressed. I was especially nervous last time because I was homeless and I was an addict and I had nowhere to go. So it was a very challenging thing." [watch the video here ]
You Cannot Terminate Pregnancy While Incarcerated
"If you find out you were pregnant in jail, can you terminate the pregnancy? Well, in my personal experience, no. That was not an option for me. Not that I would have wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but I'm just letting you guys know the reality of it because I get this question every single day. Women don't get options like that in jail. Especially in the south. I was in a jail that refused to get women period products, you had a pad or two a day, maybe, and there were no tampons. Also, that country jail that I was in, waiting to go to prison, didn't give the women underwear or sports bras. Because they just don't care. So, I can have a pad, but I can't have underwear - where am I supposed to put it? So, back to the abortion question - you cannot terminate pregnancies. It took me three months to even get prenatal vitamins, cause they hope you'll be out of their facility before you have a baby. I was absolutely terrified to have a baby alone in dirty jail cell, which I have seen time and time again on the internet. F*cking scary place to be pregnant in jail. I went to jail for drugs, thank you for asking, I am 9 years sober and I have custody of my kids." [watch the video here ]
Inmates Are Served Mystery Meat Called "Meatwad"
"Do you wanna hear a prison story in my office that has terrible lighting and horrible audio? I thought that you might! The last prison I was at would serve us something called "meatwad". Makes me noxious just thinking about it. This was not just what the inmates called it, it was written on a menu as "meatwad". It was a ball of mystery meat, it was hard and weird and smelled bad. Sometimes it would have, I don't even know, like fibers in it or something. And they would serve it with cold beans straight out of can and then some kind of thing they called cornbread. That wasn't cornbread. And I would starve those days." [watch the video here ]
The First Day Of Prison Is Very Rough
"What does your first day in prison look like? Well, it's a really rough day. Every state is different, every place handles it differently. But usually you're transferred from a county jail. You're chained and handcuffed and sent to prison in a van or a bus. That's usually a really long ride because prison's in the middle of nowhere, no you can't stop for bathroom breaks or food. That was very difficult when I was pregnant because you have to pee every ten minutes. For four hours I had to sit there, having to pee, it was really painful for me but you can't stop. Then you get to prison and they strip you naked. They cover you in lice shampoo that smells for three days. You have to squat and cough to make sure there's nothing inside of you, that's really traumatic, really awful and humiliating. You sit there naked as they either photograph or write down your tattoos, every place handles it differently, like I said. Intake is like, "If you die, who do we call?", then you have to go to medical and tell them if you have any issues. Then the psychiatrist is like "How are you feeling today?" and you're like "What?". You look shell-shocked almost because it's so traumatic to go through all that, and then you get your housing assignment and it's just weird and you have to understand when they're screaming at the barracks what they're actually saying - that's a learning curve." [watch the video here ]
Some Prisons Have Their Own Version Of Chain Gangs And Labor
"I was in a chain gang in prison. Yeah, that happened. So, when you get in trouble in this prison, they bump you down into a class 4. Class 1 means you're not getting any tickets, you're not getting any write-ups and you're good. Class 2 is when you're brand new and if you get in trouble and you're bumped all the way to class 4 you have to work your way up (but that's a whole another story). But I was put on a chain gang without a chain and basically, for hours and hours a day, I was outside, in the blistering Arkansas heat, I couldn't get water breaks, couldn't really take bathroom breaks, but I did get an extra glass of water in the chow hall and my hands were all cut up and bleeding and I had to have a gardening hoe, you know, like a tool hoe. So call it field squad of chain gang whatever you wanna call it, and you have to hit the grass over and over again with the back of your boot, to the middle of your boot over and over. And they play "Break the Yankee" which means they are really f*cking hard on me because I'm from New York. And my hands are all cut up and bleeding and I'm like, "this is illegal!", cause in New York they don't do sh*t like that, this is crazy. I was miserable and I absolutely hated it." [watch the video here ]
Prisons Have Psychiatrists, But It's Hard To Get An Appointment
"Do prisons have psychiatrists on the ground? It's a good question and yes, it is the law that they have to have medical staff and mental health professionals in the prison. Unfortunately, you don't see them that often. You have to fill out a sick call to go to mental health other than the entry process where you go through medical and see a mental health person, then you get sent to your dorm. That's a very brief interaction. Beyond that, you have to ask to go see them and you can be waiting for a long time. If you say you're suicidal, you'll be stripped of everything, put in a cell and monitored for 72 hours until you verbally say you no longer want to take your life. Because protecting your physical life is all they care about. Mental health is a very low priority. I did time with women who would self harm and psychiatrists would give them rubber bands and they would snap them if they felt anxious and prison guards were taking these rubber bands from them. The psychiatrists wanted to do so much more than they were allowed to do. But unfortunately, per state law and the guidelines, they can't do what they want to do." [watch the video here ]
Women Get Creative And Make Intimate Toys Out Of Soap
"In my personal experience, I have seen toys made with soap. There's a lot of different recipes, some women decide to make them with other things, that's story for another time. But what they would do is take state issued bar of soap, most commonly in my experience, and they would shape them into the size that they want and the shape that they want and all that. But because you can't put soap in your body like that, they would want a glove. And a lot of women were afraid to steal from staff, not me, that was my entire hustle. I'm not gonna steal from an inmate, I'm gonna steal from the staff. It's us vs them in there. So, I would steal the gloves from the nurse's station and I would sell that to the people who try to make those toys for the girlfriend. You wanna do that, if that's gonna make your time better, cause we all have needs, cool! I'm gonna sell you the glove that I stole. Did I ever use that? Absolutely not, I was always too nervous of infection. Also, I cared a lot about my personal privacy and space, and you don't get space in an open dorm. So, I would steal things, that's a whole another video for another time. But that's how they do it." [watch the video here ]
Cancer Patients Are Transferred To A Medium-Security Prison For Treatments
"What happens if you get cancer and you're in prison - where do you go, what do they do, do they send you home, do they give you treatment? Keep in mind, every facility is different, every state is different, every person is different, serving a different sentence. I have seen women that have cancer in prison, I was serving time very briefly at a medium security prison (I was kicked out of that and sent to max). What happens if you have cancer in this state is they would transfer you from maximums security to medium security where they would transport you to medical doctors to receive chemo. I did time with a woman that was so positive and encouraging and uplifting. She was in there for drugs and she had cancer, we watched her hair fall out, we helped her as much as we could. And she was such a badass, I wish I knew what happened to her. I'm not sure if she survived because I was transferred out of that facility before the end of her sentence. But she was a fighter and I am glad that I got to spend a little bit of time with her." [watch the video here ]
Meals Have Just Enough Calories To Get You Through The Day
"So, what do inmates eat for breakfast. Now, this was difficult to pull up on Google, I finally found one that was kind of close, but just remember - every state is different, every facility is different. Jail and prison are completely different things. So I tried to find what is most accurate for what inmates are eating for breakfast in prison. So, we have juice, milk, coffee, pile of oatmeal, eggs and bread with a piece of butter. Only if you consume every single bit of that, all of the liquids and the butter, then you're gonna get enough calories for the breakfast meal that you're supposed to intake. But let me tell you something - that oatmeal is mushy and gross and weird and it's so disgusting; the eggs are powdered, super super gross; and the bread is probably few days old. What I would do is take my eggs and my bread and get it down that way. If that's not motivation to not break the law, I don't know what is, fam!" [watch the video here ]
Money Is Just As Needed In Prison As It Allows Inmates To Buy Necessities
"Do you really need money in prison or is it just for the extra things? You need money. It's not just for the extra. If you want to shampoo your hair, condition your hair, shave your legs (yes, they sell razors, but I guess every place is different). We could buy razors on commissary or sign them out in New York. Yes, you need money. You have to buy hygiene items, toothpaste that is not glue. The state issued paste is awful, it doesn't really clean your teeth. You have to buy these items. You have to buy deodorant, they don't provide that. You have to buy all kinds of hygiene items. If you want to write home, you have to buy stamps, envelopes and paper. If you wanna call home, that costs money too. Inmates need money, it's not just for extra things like food, although we are always hungry in prison because they feed you the bare minimum and we were starving. So yes, we want to make food and have snacks. So yes, it's a necessity, the money, anyway." [watch the video here ]
There's A Way To Substitute Careful Folding For Ironing
"How do inmates iron their clothes in jail or prison? Maybe you have a visit, maybe you have a court date... In prison you'll have class A, and that's an iron pressed starch uniform. But say we're in jail and we have a court date and we want our uniform to look fresh. Because we care about that, don't think because we're in jail or a prison we don't care about looking good, we do! We would spend a long time folding [white tee] exactly right. We'd fold it, then we'd take some water and put some water on the crease. After we get it just the way we want it, we put it under our mattress, sleep on it for a day or two, and it is going to be "ironed"." [watch the video here ]
There Are No Secrets In Prison, So Everyone Knows Your Business
"How do you know why someone is in prison. Let me just start off by letting you know there are no secrets in prison. None, absolutely none. You have no privacy, everyone's in your business. Everyone knows what's going on, everyone saw you look at that correctional officer a certain way, you know what I'm saying? So, everyone knows everything. If you have a bad charge and you're on the unit, everyone knows you have a bad charge (bad charge means chomo, somebody that hurt a child or a snitch). They know that you have that charge. And there's a target on your back for that. If you don't just know, if it's not common knowledge in the unit, you can ask to see the paperwork, you can ask them, "What are you in for?". And if they lie to you or if you get the feeling they're not being honest about why they're there, you just call home, write home, email home and say, "Look up this person." Look up their number, their DIN number or inmate number you get when you go to prison, just look it up. You can very easily find out online why someone's there. Or you can even ask a correctional officer, which I would never do because I hated talking to them." [watch the video here ]
Jail Is Temporary, Prison Is Where You Serve Your Sentence
"What is the difference between jail and prison. So, everyone goes to jail after they're arrested, everyone from capital murder to non-payment of fines, all goes to the county jail. They fight their case and wait, either get probation, get bonded out, you know. They are waiting there for resolution of their cases. But jail is, essentially, more often than not, every state is different, is a locked down facility where you just sit in there waiting to go. You might have a GED class in jails, you do. And that's basically it. You just sit there and you wait, and there's basically nothing to do. Prisons run like a little city. So, you're sentenced, once you're in prison. And it runs like a little city, as I said. Everyone has a job and their working assignment. And people take more classes than just GED class. Not that county jails can't offer that, sometimes they do, but prison's just where you go after you're sentenced. And it's just a whole different vibe where you get more "freedom" than jail, which sounds weird, I know." [watch the video here ]
There Are Two Types Of Sleeping Arrangements—Group Or Paired Up
"What is it like sleeping in prison? Well, there are two kinds of dorms. One is the open dorm and it looks like a gymnasium with 50 bunk beds. And the other is a closed tier, so you'll have one or two other cellmates. Now, sleeping in an open dorm caused a lot of issues for me because that's probably where my PTSD comes from. I was always on edge and everyone would fall asleep and I would stay awake until most people were asleep and then I would feel comfortable enough to go to sleep. A lot of things happened at night. People would want to hang out or party or do whatever at night (party is a generous term for what was actually going on). There's some girlfriend stuff going on at night, you gotta mind your own business. A closed tier where you have one other cellmate is where I felt most relaxed. And you sleep on the bed, not in the bed. Which means you have a blanket, you have to tie your mattress really really tight, and you sleep on top of that with one blanket that you keep either folded or in your locker (every prison is different). But you sleep on the bed, not in it, so your bed is always crispy and clean. Everything has to be clean in prison." [watch the video here ]
Showers Should Be Kept Short Because There's A Waiting Line
"What are the top 5 rules when showering in prison? Nr. 1 - don't leave your stuff out. These are in no particular order, by the way, but don't just leave your stuff and walk away. You will learn the hard way because you'll leave your stuff there and then someone will take your stuff, and that's a bad day. Nr. 2 - get in, wash your bits and get out. Don't take a long time, don't try to have a Celine Dion concert or whatever you're into. Shower, wash your bits and get out quickly because other people are waiting. Nr. 3 - do not wash your body aggressively. Don't get your shower water anywhere near me. If I get hit with your shower water, I'm gonna be so mad, so don't. You know what I mean? That's a big one. Of course, Nr. 4 - you have to wear shower shoes or you'll get a fungus. Don't ask me any questions, just trust me. And 5, if you drop soap that you're using, you have to throw it out because the floor is disgusting." [watch the video here ]
Inmates Have To Work Each Day, And Have Some Free Time In The Evening
"What do inmates do all day to pass the time in prison? Well, you have to work. You can't just decide to stay in the dorm and chill on your rack or your bed. You have to go to your job unless there's a physical limitation and you're physically unable. A lot of senior citizens can't physically stand for 12 hours a day in laundry, but you have to go to your prison job. After dinner chow, you can go back to your barracks and you can do whatever you wanna do, you can make a meal, you can write a letter, you can hang out with your people, you can take a shower, things like that. There are scheduled times to get your haircut, there are scheduled times to go to a library, there's rec once or twice a day depending on the facility, every place is different. You can call your family. Now, there's usually a line for that. There's also a line for the good shower, if you know, you know. And on the weekends, your family can come visit you for a few hours. And that's prison life, every day is the same." [watch the video here ]
Women Fix Their Eyebrows Using A Thread Instead Of Tweezers
"So, how do inmates do their eyebrows in prison? Threading eyebrows is a whole hustle in prison and it's always easier to do one site than the other, but that's just the eyebrow game."
[the video presentation of the technique can be found here]