February 20, 2011

Woman Starts Her 10-year Prison Sentence

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Patricia Spottedcrow carries her mattress and belongings to her dorm-style building inside Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the facility. Spottedcrow received a 10-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present in Kingfisher, Okla. Spottedcrow, a mother of four, had no prior criminal record.

Adam Wisneski/Tulsa World

Patricia Spottedcrow carries her mattress and belongings to her dorm-style building inside Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center on the first day of her incarceration at the facility. Spottedcrow received a 10-year prison sentence for selling a small amount of marijuana to a police informant with her children present in Kingfisher, Okla. Spottedcrow, a mother of four, had no prior criminal record.

After a two-hour trip from Mabel Bassett Correctional Center wearing ankle and wrist shackles, Patricia Spottedcrow and six other women all wearing gray were taken into a barren room with chairs at 11:15 a.m. Dec. 22.

Officers removed the chains, checked their paperwork and conducted a visual, non-invasive strip search.

Each were given a handbook of regulations, and an officer gave an overview of rules and campus logistics.

Visitation is once a week and on holidays, and only immediate family can visit during the first 30 days. Telephone calls must be for approved numbers, which can be arranged through a case worker.

Officers then took each inmate aside to go over specific needs, such as medication, get emergency contact and a status on their mental state.

“Do you know where you’re at?” the officer asked.

“Yes, I’m at Eddie Warrior,” Spottedcrow answered.

Spottedcrow is a first-time offender serving a 10-year sentence for selling $31 of marijuana to an informant in her hometown of Kingfisher. Her children were present during the sales.

She was assigned to Dorm 3 and upper bunk No. 47 and smiled when she discovered another inmate from the bus is in the same housing unit.

Next, the group walked to the laundry building to receive prison-issued clothes and bedding.

She will always have to wear shoes, just like she will never truly have privacy. The dorm-style life means not having personal space and another person or staff member will always be nearby.

Sgt. Skip Taylor, who refers to the women as “ma’am,” asked them to try on the clothing in a nearby changing area and said exchanges can be made only for damage or a change in the inmate’s size.

“I’ll get some women wanting to get new clothes because it gets old for them,” Taylor said. “I’ll ask why they want to exchange and they’ll say, ‘I’ve had them for four months.’ That’s not a reason.”

In a bag, Spottedcrow received three pants, three shirts, three bras, five T-shirts, and five pairs of socks and panties. She keeps the pull-on shoes she was given at Mabel Bassett. Everything is a shade of bluish gray.

Recently, the military donated battle dress uniforms, which are cargo-type pants and shirts that have been dyed to match the gray of the other clothing. They are sought-after because of their durability and fitted look, Taylor said.

A “care package” is given with generic shampoo, soap, razor, toothpaste, toothbrush, a roll of toilet paper, deodorant, sanitary pads, shower shoes and eight pieces of paper and envelopes.

No makeup is provided, but it is on sale in the canteen, which are limited to about two general-store brands. The only makeup allowed is foundation, mascara and lipstick.

Prices are about the same as discount stores, such as Maybelline lipgloss for $4.63 and mascara at $5.54.

Clothing can be purchased, with jeans ranging from about $6 for plus sizes to $46 for Levi brand. Shoes cost between $19 for tennis shoes up to $98 for a pair of Nike brand.

Tobacco products can be used outside the buildings, with a pack of Newports selling for $7.37 and generic cigarettes at $4.16 a pack.

Inmates are limited on what they can spend based on their earned credits, ranging from $10 to $80 a week.

No hair color is allowed, but women can buy perm kits at the canteen and have the prison beautician apply them. Haircuts are free but cannot be exotic, Taylor said.

“It’s a safety issue,” Taylor said. “They can’t do anything to alter their appearance drastically.”

After receiving everything, Taylor told Spottecrow the easiest way to carry it all to the dorm is to roll it inside the bedding.

But Spottedcrow dropped the bundle halfway, and two inmates walking by helped her carry the load.

“I’m glad they stopped to help because I was going to leave that stuff there,” she said.

Inside the dorm, women milled around, reading, knitting, writing, applying makeup and talking. Two women helped Spottedcrow make her bed.

At certain points in the day, the women must be in their bunks for a head count.

Inmates can earn enough privilege over time for an assignment in a cubicle located along the walls. Those women may have a personal television and watch it using headphones.

For the majority who bunk on the floor, one community television is located in a day room. It is turned on from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekends.

DOC contracts to have the local stations and nine cable channels such as ESPN, Discovery, CNN and TNT. No movie channels are included.

Women who are in the top two tiers of the four-level privilege system have a drawing supervised by staff for control of programming in two-hour increments. The lowest level inmates are not allowed to watch television, and women in the second tier may watch but cannot choose channels.

Meals are served in a large cafeteria with menus planned by nutritionists. In the summers, gardens harvested on prison grounds provide part of the meals, prepared by inmates and overseen by staff.

It is not uncommon for women, especially those coming off substance abuse problems, to gain weight while incarcerated, officials said.

For her first lunch at Eddie Warrior, Spottedcrow was served pinto beans, pineapple, boiled cabbage and cornbread.

“I’m not going to eat this,” she said. “I had this last night at Mabel Bassett. You don’t realize the things you will miss when you’re here, like the food. I’m a picky eater anyway. But I just can’t go through a drive-through somewhere.”

She has been assigned to the labor pool for her first job, meaning she will do basic maintenance around the prison grounds. As she proves her work ethic and stays free of discipline problems, she will earn jobs with more responsibility and wages.

When case manager Ken Goodyear speaks to her about available education and self-improvement programs, Spottedcrow said she wanted to participate in as many as possible.

“Sign up and get on the waiting lists,” he said. Only Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous do not have a wait.

Goodyear suggests she write down questions or thoughts so she can remember to ask a case manager later.

“If you are patient, you’ll be just fine,” he said.

At about 2:30 p.m., Spottedcrow is left in the dorm with the other women. She goes into a nearby empty part of the day room to sit for a while.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night,” she said. “I’m so depressed. You take for granted the things you can control, like what you can eat.”