Author’s note: Frog Gravy is a depiction of daily life during incarceration in Kentucky, first in jails and then in prison, during 2008 and 2009, and is reconstructed from my notes.
This post is from jail.
Frog Gravy has graphic language.
Inmate names are changed, except nicknames that do not reveal identity.
Cell 107, McCracken County Jail, early March, 2008.
I am in a women’s cell situated on a hallway, Cell 107. On one side adjacent is another women’s cell, a four-person cell housing six, Cell 104. On the other side adjacent is a four-person men’s cell housing six, Cell 111. Adjacent to Cell 111 are three isolation cells housing men.
The cells communicate with each other by various means. Talking through the wall, tapping on the wall, and talking under the door are common.
One of the women next door, Stacey, is six months pregnant and due in late June.
Stacey has not been convicted of a crime. She is a Federal War on Drugs pretrial inmate.
At 12 AM, inmates in cell 104 tap on the wall to our cell and ask YaYa to help them yell for some help. YaYa is 5’9” and weighs 315 pounds. To say she can be loud is a massive understatement.
Cell 104 reports that Stacey is bleeding.
We start yelling for help and pounding on the doors. Harry, in isolation at the end of the hall, also yells: “HELP! Helpme Help me HELP! HELP Helpme helpme help me HELP!”
The men join in the pounding and screaming, so now the entire hallway is yelling, pounding on the walls, kicking the steel doors.
Stacey says, “I’m scared to death.”
I yell, “We need some help down here! Call an ambulance!”
Our pounding, yelling and screaming goes on for five minutes. Stacey’s cellmates report, “It’s gushing.”
12:05 AM: Three guards arrive and remove Stacey from Cell 104 and walk her down the hallway. The guards tell the rest of us to go to bed.
While Stacey is being walked, the women in the two adjacent cells pray.
12:19 AM: Stacey returns to her cell.
12:20 AM: A sergeant guard tells Stacey to go to bed and put her feet up.
12:22 AM Guards swing by and threaten us with the hole if we do not go to bed. They say that they have called another male guard at home to come in and take Stacey to the hospital, instead of calling an ambulance.
I scream repeatedly, “Call an ambulance. Get a fucking ambulance right now!”
12:25 AM: The male guard coming from home has not arrived and no one has checked on Stacey since guards walked her down the hall and back to her cell.
All of the cells continue to yell for help.
12:27 AM: Guards tell Cell 104 to stop yelling and Cell 104 replies, “Come look in the toilet and then we will stop yelling.”
12:28 AM: Another guard informs us, “She had a pelvic exam earlier in the day and that’s why she is bleeding little spots, pink spots.”
He also informs us that the jail has contacted a female RN staff member and summonsed her from home, because “it has to be a woman to take her to the hospital.” He adds, “That’s all we can do.”
The phones are off in all cells in the hallway, so we cannot contact Stacey’s husband or attempt to raise any outside intervention.
12:31 AM: No one is here and no one has checked the toilet in Cell 104 to see how much blood there is.
12:33 AM: We ask Stacey if she is having cramps and she replies, “Yes.” We ask her “When was the last time the baby moved?” She replies, “The baby has not moved.”
12:35 AM: Cell 104 tells us there are “big chunks of blood in the toilet.”
12:38 AM: Stacey reports, “It’s more than little spots.”
12:40 AM: A female guard goes into Cell 104 and then leaves.
12:42 AM: Cell 104 tells us that the guard came in looked in the toilet and then told them that Stacey would have to wait for the male guard that the jail originally contacted at home, to arrive and then fill out paperwork, before the female RN guard can accompany Stacey to the hospital.
12:45 AM: No staff here.
12:49 AM: No staff here.
12:55 AM: No staff here.
1:02 AM: A female guard removes Stacey from Cell 104 and walks her down the hall in handcuffs.
For the next hour, all of the hallway cells remain upset, yelling, pounding at the doors, outraged.
The guards come to Cell 111, remove two men, and take them to the hole. We will lose our television privileges.
5:00 AM: A male guard comes to our cell to deliver the mop bucket. We ask him how Stacey is and he replies, “She had the baby.”
We say, “It was serious,” and he says, “Yes.” This guard’s facial expression is one of sorrow, the first and only that we will see. He tells us Stacey “won’t be back until Monday or so.”
6:15 AM: I ask Cell 104 about the baby. They tell me the baby was “flown to Vanderbilt,” but we will find out later that the baby was actually flown to a closer center at Cape Girardeau, MO.
By the time Stacey arrived at the hospital, carefully restrained in handcuffs and shackles, with all of the proper paperwork filled out, she was experiencing the following crisis: She had a 75% effacement, and the baby’s foot was through her cervix. The baby was delivered by emergency C-section, and weighed two pounds. Stacey nearly lost her uterus, and although the baby survived with early tests indicating no oxygen deprivation or brain damage, long-term effects of his traumatic birth remain unknown.
Stacey returns to the jail on Monday with an incision.
She begins to use menstrual pads to cover the incision because the jail does not provide enough clean gauze.
When the jail finds out about the pads, they place Stacey on a “pad watch,” where she is allowed only three pads each day. We try to ‘fish’ pads under the door and into her cell without getting caught.
Collectively, we decide not to submit a grievance about this situation because we fear the hole or some other retaliatory punishment.
I decide to write the Governor. He will respond in a positive manner for future pregnant incarcerated women, but the jail will view my letter negatively and I will be shipped to a more horrific, privately owned jail known as “Ricky’s World,” but I do not know this yet.