Institutional Stage

I recall the day I sat in the Judge’s chamber. My parents and sister were there to provide their support.

I already knew that I was going to get the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity because my lawyer had hired 3 psychiatrists to evaluate me and a deal was made between my lawyer and the D.A.–The deal was that if the D.A.’s psychiatrist evaluation came to the same conclusion (I was psychotic and had schizophrenia), then he would accept the NGRI verdict.

And after yet another round of tests, the D.A.’s doctor came to the same conclusion. I felt happy and giddy because I knew I’d be allowed at least some sunshine. I had spent the last ten months locked away in the courthouse basement where the county jail was located. The floors, walls and ceilings were all made from cement.

No windows,

no radios,

no TV,

no canteen or snacks,

no outside yard time,

and no one to wash your underwear except you, who had to do it by hand in the little sink attached to the back of the toilet and then hang them up on the lines made from torn sheets and blankets that stretched from the protective metal mesh around the light bulb to the old heavy metal doors.

But now, at least I knew I’d be leaving soon.

I had no idea that this was just the beginning of a long journey back towards finding my true self. I hear the song from Creed: “My Sacrifice” and it gives me chills every time I hear it.

One of the first things that angered me in the institution was the fact that the aides made us shower everyday. They literally had a list of everyone’s last names next to the bathroom door and would mark them off as each female took her bath.

I thought, now there’s a waste of water…I can see every day if you sweat a lot or something, but around here most the people either slept or were zombies in front of the TV.

So during that first week I believe, I got mad when I noticed this list. I ripped it from the wall and started shouting: “What is this? The army? I’m not in the army! You can call me by my real name, not my last name only like some soldier.”

Then the other item that really, really made you feel like a branded cow was the enforcement of wearing name tags with an ID number so they could quickly look up your number and see what kind of pills they were shoving down your throat. For example, if a new nurse came in to hand out pills he/she would have to look at your tag first to see who you are just in case you tell them you’re Jesus.

The nurses’ station on the ward had about two feet of Plexiglas all around it with a door that locked. This was for their protection. There were metal bars that looked like a fence on all the windows. They also made you make your bed every morning, or you would be wrote up as “non-compliant” to the rules. Which can and does increase your stay in the pit of the “crazy ones.”

Eventually I received “ground freedom” which started with like two hours/day. I always had to sign out, get an aide to open the door, then sign back in once an aide heard my knocking and opened the door.

This was my life for over ten years; I had some good times there. For example, one young lady came in that was deaf. I knew the alphabet in sign language and that was about it. An aide brought me a book on sign language and from that and this deaf woman, I learned a second language.

I also learned the joy of playing card games; however, I refused dominoes. My granddad always played dominos with me and my sister and he never let us win. As a result, I can’t stand the game.

Anyways keep reading the website and blog for more insights into the institutional life.

Thanks for stopping by!

LaVancia

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