I spent the next 45 minutes making; then re-making my bed. Mrs. Riggins was standing in the observatory platform watching. I would finish making what I thought was the perfect bed; and pleadingly look up toward where she was waiting, to see if it was made to her liking. I felt as if my fate rested on what she would say; because each time I had to remake mine-the rest of the pod did as well.
She would buzz in over the intercom and say, “Nope.”, and all the females would collectively groan,then begin cursing and threatening to “whoop my ass if I didn’t get this shit right.”
When I finally did somehow manage to do it correctly (which, I’m pretty sure it looked the exact same every time; she was just f***ing with me at this point), the entire pod sarcastically applauded. I breathed a sigh of relief and began walking back to my cell, accompanied by the sound of random outbursts such as: “Finally!”, “I was about to snap“, “One dumbass bitch can’t make a bed and the rest of us have to suffer“, “4 eyes is lucky I ain’t tryin to go to lock or I’d smack dem glasses off her ugly face”.
I stood outside the cell for what seemed like an eternity waiting for them to pop it open. I just wanted to crawl into my perfectly made bed and sleep the rest of my time here away. I didn’t know what was going to happen once the doors opened; but I had images of getting blindsided and jumped by 5 women-playing over and over in my head.
“Those girls aren’t gonna do shit“, Brandi said, apparently noting my expression of concern. “They talk a lot of shit; but they’re all pussies when it comes to going to lock. The worst they’ll do is talk shit; I promise, and if they do try anything else-I’ll shank em in their f***ing throats”. “With what? I asked. “With this“, She said, whipping out a sanitary pad from her bin. We both began laughing hysterically. I needed something to take my mind off of the mix of emotions I was experiencing all at once.
Usually whenever any type of negative emotion began creeping in; I ran as fast as I could to my drugs. I numbed my feelings the moment they tried to make themselves known. Now I had no choice but to feel them; and I found, I was incapable of handling them very well.
I pulled the sheet up over my head and snuggled into my bed. Just as I was dozing off I heard the doors pop. Brandi, along with my butch lesbian bunkie (apparently this is what you call a roommate in jail, it’s more edgy), Sharon, promised to keep an eye on the cell while I napped.
I was awoken a short time later by my name being called. My eyes popped open and I jumped out of bed instinctively. I looked out into the dayroom where everyone was and realized everyone was staring at me. I made eye contact with one chick who had to be in a gang of some kind; because she had tattoos on her face and looked like she wanted to murder me.
“You got mail, Estupido“, she said. Now I don’t speak Spanish; but I have a pretty good idea of what she had just called me right then. Most people would probably challenge her; I however am a big wuss; so I smiled and said “Oh, thank you so much”, while walking with my head down at a fast pace to get my mail.
I studied the envelope on my way back to my cell and it appeared to be from a lawyer. I’m assuming my lawyer. I had spent all of my money on drugs and cigarettes so affording a fancy attorney was not in my budget. If you can’t afford an attorney; the state appoints you a public defender. We had something in the jail that was referred to as the “public defender phone”. It was the only phone in the pod that made incoming calls; and when it rang-the women turned into ravenous animals; knocking one another down to answer.
The reason being, if you answer and it happens to be your attorney on the line-even if he’s calling for someone else-you are allowed to ask him questions about your case. I hadn’t received my first call from mine yet- so I was eager to see what the letter was about.
“Brandi!” I said running up to her with the letter, “I just got this, what the hell does it mean?” I said shoving it into her hands. It only took her a glance to realize what it was, (apparently she had received plenty of these), “Oh, it’s just saying who your attorney is and, ewwww, oh man, Phillip-he’s the worst. That sucks dude“, she said handing it back to me. “Wait!” she said, pulling it back out of my hands and examining it. “Holy shit, you have court tomorrow.”
I was laying on the cold cement floor for literally hours. My hands and feet had been shackled to my waist and I was using a toilet paper roll as a pillow. 7 other women and myself had been crammed in a holding cell; waiting for them to call each of us out before the Judge.
All but 2 of us had gone and pleaded; only myself and another woman remained. The anticipation of the unknown had wreaked havoc on my body and mind. I was utterly exhausted from all the worrying I had done since I found out I was coming here today. The girls gave me an idea of what to expect; but it didn’t help. Every case and every Judge was different. I had finally met my attorney briefly in the hallway on the way in. He apologized for not calling and said “he thought he had”. Essentially, I was going into this blind, with no instruction from him, or anyone else.
“Johnson, you’re up” The deputy said, peeking her head in the door. I recognized her; her name was Tara and I had been to her wedding, (where I actually threw up on the dance floor….long story.)
I rolled around on the floor for a second with my hands and feet shackled trying to get my footing. I looked like a walrus and the girl in the cell with me was pretending not to watch. I finally stood up and headed toward the door where Tara was waiting and gave her a sheepish smile. She didn’t even look at me, just said “let’s go” and grabbed the chain between my wrists guiding me toward the court room.
As we stood outside the door, waiting for them to give her the go ahead to bring me in; my heart felt like it was going to explode. My hands were sweating and my teeth were chattering-I was shaking uncontrollably. “You gonna be aright?” she asked; looking me up and down indifferently. “I’m fine” I lied; trying to play it cool.
Someone said something inaudible into her radio and she opened the door. The cold air of the court room hit me in the face as she pulled the door open and I realized the seats were packed full of onlookers.
I wanted to turn and run, I wished I could disappear, a million things were going through my mind at that moment but I knew I had no choice. It was time to answer for the choices that I had made.
You could hear a pin drop in that room. The only sound I could hear was the chains of my shackles jingling with each step as I approached the podium in front of the judge. Once we reached the podium, Tara placed her hand over the microphone and whispered in my ear, “Don’t speak until spoken to” – and walked away. It had been so strange having a friend talk to me that way. It was as if she was able to just flip a switch that erased any memory she’d had of the times we’d shared; and I was now just another no name criminal she was in charge of transporting.
I watched as a young woman with blonde hair and really high heels crossed in front of me and handed the judge a folder. She then turned to face me and the rest of the courtroom- and read me my rights. “Do you understand your rights, Miss. Johnson?”
“I do” I said into the microphone, and for a split second wondered if I was supposed to say that or if you only said that at your wedding.
“Then let’s begin. The charges against Tiffany Johnson are as follows:
(8) Counts of Dealing in stolen property
(8) Counts of Defrauding a pawn broker
(1) Count of Grand Theft
(3) Grand Theft – Stolen Firearms
“The victims of the above stated crimes were her boyfriend at the time, a Deputy for the ******* County Sheriffs office, as well as his mother and father. Over the course of a year; The defendant stole-then pawned the victims items at various pawn shops. She then allegedly staged a burglary at the home they shared and stole his wallet containing $200 and his badge. We deployed numerous officers to investigate the crime, while Miss Johnson was present, and helping them by answering questions about “the robbery that occurred after she had left for work”. She also admitted to stealing 3 of his firearms, one being his off duty weapon, and exchanging them with a local drug dealer in exchange for narcotics.”
The judge -attempting to hide his revulsion- slammed the file down in front of him and took of his glasses.
“Miss Johnson, how do you plea to these charges?”
“Guilty, your honor”.
“And why are you pleading guilty today”
“Because I did it.”