Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jail Life

I suspect that most of my readers have never been in jail.
Am I right?
Hopefully.
As I mentioned in a recent post, 
I am now working as a clinician in our maximum security county jail.
It's awesome.
My job that is....not being in jail.
I only work on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
And NO "on call" in this job....yea.
This is the jail where I work, with the Sheriff's office on the first level.

You may be wondering what a clinician in a jail does....
and if you're not, I'm going to tell you anyway.

My primary function is to complete psychosocial assessments
of newly incarcerated inmates
who have a history of mental health issues,
and those who are currently having new issues.
After I assess, I either diagnose and refer to our Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
(who happens to be a darling preppy-Lilly-loving cute blonde)
to be evaluated for medication management,
or I send them on their merry way back to their cells.
(we get a very large number of "fakers"...the clinical term would be "malingering")

I also handle crises....which there are a lot of.
Jail can be a little stressful for some people, 
and many people become suicidal or are at risk of harming themselves or harming others.
I conduct risk assessments to determine if someone needs to be put on a watch,
and what level of watch they will be on.
I also determine when someone is ready to come off of a watch.

And finally, I facilitate three support groups.
They are all focused on coping skills and recovery from addiction.

My office is a cell.
Not kidding.
I work on what's called the SHU (pronounced the "shoe')
which stands for Special Housing Unit.
The SHU houses the day room for the inmates with serious mental illness,
who must be monitored regularly for their own safety and the safety of others.
I am talking about the schizophrenic and psychotic inmates.

The SHU also has the "hole" where you go if you are either VERY naughty,
or if you are very actively suicidal.
We also have the camera cells on the SHU,
for those who need supervision, but not constant one on one supervision.
And the clinicians' offices are on the SHU in what used to be cells.
Fortunately they took the toilets and beds out of them.
Thank God.
So I am locked in my office.
I can get out, but no one can get in except my supervisor
and all of our awesome Deputies
who have a master key.
I have a master key.
I can get anywhere I want in the jail.
There are some places that I do not want to go though...yikes.
This is actually inside the jail I work in.
My office/cell is on this floor.
Found this picture on the internet, and not sure how it got there since there are 
NO photographs allowed.

I will probably do several posts throughout the year on jail life...
here are a few things I have learned about myself while working in the jail.

First, I miss windows.
I didn't even think about this aspect of working at the jail,
but the only windows in the jail are on the second floor outside of the units/pods
and face inside the courtyard where the inmates have recreation.
They are seriously about a foot wide by two feet long...
so it's hard to even see the sky when you look out...
you really only see the other side of the brick jail.
I have come to work on a sunny day and left work in a thunderstorm.
Talk about taking something simple for granted...
I miss seeing the sky during the day.
I love sunshine and I also love rain....and just watching the way the sunlight changes during the day.
My husband reminded me that he would not see the sky for days, or even months at a time
when he was on his submarine.
I would not like that at all.
So I am grateful on the days I don't work, for whatever weather is currently happening,
and that I can see the sunshine.

Second, I am not judgmental.
Or at least as judgmental as I thought I was going to be.
Actually, I would never consider myself a judgmental person,
however I was not sure how I would react working with
murderers and child molesters, rapists, and other violent felons.
I surprised myself.
Of course I don't condone in any way the actions of the inmates.
But I am able to view each inmate that I see as a human being,
and I can feel empathy or sorrow for these individuals
and think about who they are in their soul.

Lastly, I am shocked by the amount of drug addiction.
Seriously.
SHOCKED.
I went into this job knowing I would see a lot of addiction and substance abuse.
No idea it was as wide spread as it is.
And it's NOT just the "sketchy" people who are the addicts.
They are housewives who are addicted to Percoset,
and switched to heroin when the prescriptions ran out.
They are successful businessmen who drink excessively
and then drive and kill someone on the way home from a golf outing.
Addiction knows no social class and it does not discriminate.
I pray for these inmates to find peace in their hearts,
and for them to be released from the emotional pain
that is most often fueling their addictions.
This photo is inside our jail and shows the only windows in the jail.
This picture is from a FASCINATING article that was written about addiction.
Please visit here to view the article and read about seven women in my jail,
and their addiction to heroin.

There you have it.....a few things you may not have known about jail life.
If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them in my next "jail life" post.
I was very curious to know what it's "really" like.
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7 comments :

Katie Clooney said...

Wow Christine! What a fascinating job!!! You should write a book. I love shows on prisons - fiction and documentaries. Enjoy your weekend.

Vicki @ lifeinmyemptynest said...

I know I couldn't do what you do, but God bless you for doing it! My sister is a social worker at a high school and we were just talking about the serious issues she deals with on a daily basis. It takes a special kind of person!

Living Life in the Lowcountry said...

Wow, so interesting! Thanks for sharing!

miss andrea lee said...

So interesting! I used to work at a law firm in college and every once in a while I went to the jail to drop off a suit for an inmate going to trial, but I guess that was only the entrance LOL. Also, now I work in a large government office building with no windows nearby and I pretty much feel the same! I need the light!

Preppy and Proud of it! said...

What an interesting job. I started my legal career as a District Attorney and saw a lot of crazy stuff, but more from the other side!

Maggie said...

You're meeting some of the same issues that I found when I served as a chaplain at a state mental hospital. Good luck! Working with this population is both fascinating and exhausting.

Eliseo Weinstein said...

You have a very interesting job and I really enjoyed reading this post. The first thing I thought about when you began describing your job is what the atmosphere must be like working in a jail. Also, I am glad you talked about how widespread drug addiction is not only in jail but in places we wouldn’t even suspect such as housewives. It truly is an epidemic and hopefully you will be able to shed some insights on the subject.

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Christine