Title : Safe as a kitten.
Author : Kiwikatipo
Rating : F15
Disclaimer : The BtVS folks belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Faith's bio from ‘Go Ask Malice’ by Robert Joseph Levy. All incidents were inspired by the Amnesty International report on CCWF and VSPW in 1999, or letters and articles in the California Prisoner Focus Website. All statistics come from California Government departments.
Humor: None, but it’s certainly not angst.
Warning: Coarse Language.
Faith woke up in her cell early. Her cell-mate, Sandy, snored heavily the way she did every morning.
The cell had only been designed for one person, but North California Women’s Prison, built in 1987, on 187 acres of farmland, had been built to house 400 prisoners and be able to handle 800 if bunk beds were installed.
There were 839 inmates at present.
Faith slid off the top bunk, and walked over to where Sandy kept her books. Sandy said Faith could read them if she wanted to. Sandy could only have five books at a time, like every one else in NCWF, which made it hard for her to write essays sometimes.
Sandy was doing a college course in one of the classrooms in NCWF. She paid for it herself. The professor who took his ten students for philosophy was quite a cool guy apparently. Sandy had been telling Faith about this German heavy thinker called Nietzsche, and his ideas about good and evil, the strong preying on the weak, and might is right.
Faith flipped open to where she was up to in Sandy’s philosophy text book. Faith would kinda like to do a college course, but there was no way she could ever afford it. She could never afford to take a high school diploma here. If she’d been as thick as shit, she would have been given a G.E.D. course for free, like seventy percent of the inmates turned out to be eligible for - not being able to read or write past ninth grade level. But Faith had always been able to read well.
Sandy was wicked smart and like Faith, a lifer and white. The prison authorities always made cell-mates the same race. A third of the prisoners at NCWF were white. Faith was reminded of the fact every day she was white, whenever she picked up the card in the box outside her cell door that informed her of work assignments. Prisoner Number: 4300 19. Birth date: 12/14/80 Race: White, Laundry Duty. Faith got paid 5c an hour for laundry work.
Sandy was inside for murdering her husband, who beat her up so bad, he broke nearly every bone in her face at one time or another. Sandy had snapped one night, suffocated the bastard in his sleep with a pillow, and buried the body in the back yard. Big mistake. Her obviously premeditated, murder, according to the judge who sentenced her back in 1995, when Sandy had been thirty three, landed her twenty five years, exactly the same sentence Faith got handed down.
Sandy and Faith shared another thing in common, they never got a trial. Only 6% of felons in California, ever got a trial by their peers. Faith’s pro bono lawyer had told her nineteen year old self that for murder two, Faith should only have got fifteen years, but the DA wanted her on death row, so Faith should take the plea bargain.
Who cared that Faith had suffered physical abuse as a child that left her fucked in the head? Forty to sixty percent of female prisoners in California were victims of physical or sexual abuse as children. Probably fifty per cent of them had been raped at one time in their lives. Faith nearly got raped in her previous prison, Valley State Prison for Women, by two male guards.
The guards took her by surprise in a store room, because Faith was drugged out on happy pills, the prison authorities distributed to the female prisoners like candy. But she was still super strong and broke one of the douche bags arm’s in the struggle.
Faith hadn’t taken Prozac since the incident happened, a year and a half ago. Nothing ever happened to the guards. They belonged to the strongest union in California.
Sandy woke up and put on her drug store glasses, she kept by the side of her bunk.
“Reckon we’ll get our mail today?” Sandy mused hopefully. “They’re punishing ‘us’ for the hunger strikers up in Pelican Bay, I heard.”
“Two weeks now, huh? Maybe it’s that weird weather shit happening over L.A.?” Faith added up in her head how long since their last mail had been given to them. Faith knew three people and one vampire, that sent her mail.
Her mother’s sister, back in Boston, who wrote to her once a month. Faith’s lawyer contacted her Aunt Karen, and Faith had been surprised and as pleased as hell, long past shame, when Auntie Karen started to correspond with her.
There was this feminist chick from Berkley, who had adopted Faith as her little charity project. And again, Faith was over the shame of it. You lived for letters in prison. For Faith’s last birthday, the girl sent her a card.
Then there was this fifty year old man in Alaska, who worked as a miner. Faith’s pen pal. He sent her photos of him, his dog and his cabin. Faith displayed the picture of the husky. Faith had laughed at Sandy advertising for a male pen pal, and then thought, why the hell not? She advertised, described her appearance and got two marriage proposals, and an offer of fifty bucks from one guy in Oklahoma, if she posted him her used underwear. If Faith had been allowed to, she would have. This guy, Grant, in Alaska, just sounded lonely.
Finally, Angel: an occasional letter, Christmas Cards and once a series of Postcards from places in Asia, straight after B. died. Faith would have loved to still have them, but she pissed off a guard in VSPW once and he not only destroyed all Faith’s personal property but the other seven women’s stuff she shared a cell with at the time, too.
They’d been eight to a cell in VSPW.
Sandy and Faith shared their bland breakfast together, with four other white women at their table. One of the guards, a six foot tall, ex-marine, prick, transferred recently from CCPW, was annoyed one of the women at Faith’s table hadn’t flirted with him, when she stood in line for breakfast.
He took out his car keys from his pocket and waved them in Becky’s nose. “What’s your name, snob?”
“Mrs. Donovan.” Becky put down her spoon. Becky was pretty in a faded way. In her late thirties, she’d been sentenced to prison for twenty five years just like Faith and Sandy. Her crime? Possession of a joint. Her teenage son’s actually. At eighteen, she’d been busted for burglary. At twenty six, for being drunk in charge of a vehicle. Three strikes, Becky was out.
“A piece of shit like you, expects to be called, Mrs. Donovan?” The guard went off at Becky, yelling, screaming, calling her a fucking cunt. Telling her to eat her breakfast, why wasn’t she eating? He’d write her up on a disciplinary report unless she ate. He continuously thrust the keys in her face.
One woman at Faith’s table started to tremble, having flashbacks to past abuse.
Faith could see Becky clenching her fists, wanting to smack the crap out of the guard.
Faith could have made a wisecrack to get the guard off Becky’s back, but she was feeling fucked off with Becky, about an argument they’d had last night over dinner. Anyway, Faith just wanted to stay out of trouble. She’d spent enough time in the Segregated Housing Units, which was where Becky was going to be headed shortly if she didn’t lose the attitude.
A female guard came over and told the ex-marine to lay off Becky. Crisis averted.
There were only a third of the prison guards that were females. Apparently there was some United Nations Charter somewhere, that said female prisoners should only have women prison guards pat them down and strip search them.
Faith got randomly patted down after breakfast by a male guard. She was hot, she was young, and she got randomly patted down frequently. Most women in prison were not young.
California male prison guards were allowed to strip search female prisoners only in ‘emergency situations’.
Faith had witnessed her first ‘emergency’ strip search at one in the morning, in her first week after being transferred to the main wing in VSPW.
She and everyone else in her cell, had been awake since eleven, listening to the women in the cell next door to theirs, screaming and banging on their cell door. Yelling for a guard to take a cell-mate to the medical unit, she was hemorrhaging.
The woman had AIDS full blown and had been lying in a pool of her own blood for two hours, everyone knew who had AIDS. They made the women line up for their medicine in public.
The woman had been trying to see a doctor in the infirmary, but it was a six week wait, and you had to pay five dollars to do it. Five dollars was what you earned in a year in prison. If you didn’t have family paying you money orders from the outside, you were screwed. For instance you only got issued five sanitary napkins a month, and could only buy tampons at the prison store at over inflated market prices.
Finally the male guards came. They were so peed off at being made to remove their fingers out of their asses, that they declared the cell a ‘crime scene’. The guards pulled the seven women who’d been screaming for help out of their cell, and strip searched them in full view of everyone else in the wing, to teach the inconsiderate bitches and everyone else a lesson.
But Faith learned the lesson she was less than human on day one in SVPW. She and seven other inmates had been put in the Receiving Center. It was meant to take less than thirty days to process them into permanent cells, but such was the overcrowding, it took ninety.
Mysteriously, there were only seven mattresses for eight women. Faith looking out for number one as usual at nineteen, made damn sure she got a mattress and it was hard as iron. But this old lady with a hip problem missed out. It got very ‘survival of the fittest’ in SVPW often.
So a Hispanic janitor, another inmate, showed human compassion and initiative, and sourced a mattress for the old lady.
The guard on seeing the newly acquired mattress, screamed at the janitor for being a Spic whore, and who told the bitch to think?
This particular guard hated Hispanic women. Another time, Faith was on gardening duty outside and he separated the Hispanic women from the main group, made them sit down in the dirt and spent half an hour telling them how ugly they were.
Whatever got you off, a drugged Faith on Prozac, guessed at the time.
Faith like most of the other women prisoners didn’t care too much about race. Women tended to be more live and let live about shit. There were never race riots in women’s prisons, like in the men’s prisons in California.
When Faith, after having being patted down again, was allowed in the exercise yard that morning, she didn’t have W B and H marked on her equipment, to mark the different races like the male prisoners did, to avoid brawls.
Women didn’t fight in prison much. Half were zonked out on sedatives for a start. There had never been a single recorded murder, of a female inmate by another inmate in California, in the last fifty years.
Therefore, Faith began her work out in happy confidence, her back to other women, watching the rabbits and gophers hop about in the field beyond.
So it came as a complete fucking surprise, that Deb tried to kill her out of the blue, that morning. Deb had been looking at Faith funny since last week, but Deb was kind of violently psycho to begin with. Deb was a rare chick in that way.
Faith found out when she was admitted to prison, that the other inmates were shit scared of Faith, because she was a cold blooded murderer, who’d killed a guy in a professional hit. Only nine percent of the female inmates were in prison for violent offenses, the rest were in prison for drug or property crimes.
Faith tried not to come across like she was begging when she asked the guards to let it be, she didn’t want them to press charges for attempted murder, because then Faith might, Christ forbid and highly unlikely, end up being a witness in a court trial, which meant she would be placed in the Segregated Housing Unit.
Faith hadn’t been in the Segregated Housing Unit the whole eight months she’d been in NCWF and intended to keep it that way.
Faith got released from the inquiry into the incident by lunchtime.
“So, Deb losing the plot, lovers tiff?” Sandy passed Faith over the pre-made boxed lunch, the prison received from a private contractor. Everyone received 2,500 calories a day, the minimum requirement for good health. Many larger women always felt perpetually hungry.
“Hell yeah, I’m a raving dyke. Didn’t I tell you that, cellie?” Faith and Sandy sorted out their sexual orientation, the night they were put in the same cell. They were both heterosexual. Any bisexual tendencies Faith might have secretly possessed, were firmly sublimated. Lesbians were at the bottom of the pecking order, and why give the guards yet another reason to harass you?
Faith regarded her carton of fake juice dubiously. “Swap you the drink, for a smoke, Mandy?” A chick needed a cigarette, after someone tried to kill them for something that all her senses were screaming, had to do with slayer shit, at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning.
Her table companion nodded. “When did you start smoking?” Mandy had been Faith’s cell-mate in Faith’s first month at SVPW. Mandy was back in prison on a parole violation. It was hard to stay out of trouble when you were an unskilled, convicted felon, and no one wanted to employ you because you were an insurance liability.
“After I came out of S.H.U. the last time, in State Valley.” Faith tucked the cigarette away in her breast pocket, to smoke later.
Faith spent a lot of time in the Segregated Housing Units in her first year in prison, for mouthing off at guards. It was solitary confinement. The S.H.U.s’ at SVPW often held insane women no one could cope with, who would smear their own crap on themselves and their cell walls. They would scream like animals for hours.
Faith could hear them. It set her own nerves on edge, more than the twenty three hours daily, without any human contact did already.
But after assaulting the guards who tried to rape her, Faith was put in solitary confinement for three months.
She turned to her childhood friend in stress, disassociation. It was hot, SVPW being in the middle of the freaking desert. Red ants that bit in the main cells were always a problem.
Faith had been naked, in her cell, having conversations with herself, for two weeks. During that time, a guard thought she was doing it for his benefit. He’d spy on her and kept slipping her cigarette packets as a reward, for finally agreeing to put on the peep show he’d been nagging her to perform.
At SVPW, the male guards had a viewing platform where they could see the women take showers, they would discuss loudly what they thought of the women's bodies. Faith had been offered numerous bribes by numerous guards, to play with herself in the shower. Faith had told them to screw themselves.
She had come to prison to serve her time, not suck off guards.
Some women did, Faith didn’t blame them, no one did. If you had no money…
Angel had arranged for the ten thousand dollars left over, Faith received from Wolfram and Hart, for her failed hit on Angel, sitting in her duffel in his apartment, to be paid to Faith in installments.
Christ, she hated some of the Correctional Officers guts with an intensity she never knew she possessed, and Faith had hated a lot of douche bags in her time. There was no way she was letting any of them fuck her.
“Hey, do you know, the State’s gonna provide freaking Kosher meals to Yids?” Mandy was seven months pregnant. One out of ten women who arrived in prison was pregnant. “So like, they’re not gonna give me any fucking nutritional supplements or extra food for being knocked up. But they’re gonna give Jews, pork free meals. How many fucking Jews, have you met inside here? Ain’t they all rich?” The vast majority of prisoners in California, like Faith, were from blue collar or poverty line backgrounds.
Faith made a face of sympathy, she might need to bum a cigarette off Mandy down the track. “Sucks.”
What Faith did feel genuinely sorry for Mandy for, was that the chick just had five teeth pulled, to gain entry into this program that would allow her to be with her baby for a whole whopping two days, before the kid was taken off her. You didn’t get that privilege unless you had good dental health. Why? Needless to say, preventative dental care was not offered in prison. Faith took a gulp of water and swilled it in her mouth to dislodge any remaining sandwich pieces, reminded of that fact.
And Faith thought it fucking inhuman; Mandy would be pushing the brat out, in shackles. All women prisoners had to give birth wearing leg cuffs. Even though all the women swore when they were in middle of labor, running away was the last thing on their minds, they had to be shackled on their hospital beds, with an armed guard in the room, because they were off prison premises.
Faith received her second major surprise of the day. She had a visitor apparently.
Angel visited Faith in prison three times in VSPW. They changed the visiting hours to daylight hours only. Correspondingly, no more visits for Faith. Faith would have cried in the toilets about it, like a little kid, except the male guards had full vision of the women using the toilets as well.
Faith didn’t understand why her lawyer would be coming to see her unexpectedly. About what? She wasn’t eligible for parole for over another twenty years. There was no incentive to rehabilitate so she’d get out early.
Her lawyer turned out to be Wesley Wyndam Pryce.
It was a five hour drive from NCWF to Los Angeles. Faith made history by being the first prisoner to ever escape from the medium security institution.
AN: Female prisoners in California stopped being shackled during childbirth in 2006.
On 2/28/03 NCWF was deactivated because of budget cuts and the prediction, female prison numbers would fall. They have risen.
Valley State Prison for Women was designed to hold 2,024 inmates, at present it contains 3,810.