Here at the Criminal Affairs Desk, we've tried to aid the rehabilitation process by offering newly convicted felons some insiders' advice for that difficult transition to life behind bars. We've provided former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio with tips on maintaining personal hygiene and avoiding snitches and bewildered newbies help in dealing with men pretending to be women. And now we have some helpful guidelines for female prisoners, too, straight from the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.
DWCF resident Krystal Voss, whose conviction in a fatal child abuse case despite a number of problems with the investigation has been explored in several Westword articles, routinely briefs family and supporters with regular updates on prison life. Among other issues, Voss was one of the prisoners who protested the facility's degrading "labia lift" search policy in 2010, which was then curtailed under the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU.
A recent missive from Voss to her support network offers other helpful hints for women trying to negotiate their way through the Colorado prison system. Some excerpts:
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- Do not leave your toilet paper in the bathroom, or it will be stolen. You are issued only six rolls a month. If you run out and cannot afford the $0.50 per roll, you had better find someone to beg from.
- Keep yourself consistently dehydrated; if you live under minimum security, there are long stretches of no restroom use allowed.
- At any moment, you could be roused from bed for a strip search and/or room search, no matter what time of day or night.
- If your appliance breaks down (coffee pot, clock radio , etc.), it may take a month of more to get another (if you can pay for it) with the order cycles the way they are. Your regular groceries, including hygiene products, are delivered a week after you pay for them, if in stock.
- It is a good idea to keep one phone call (approximately $4.00 cost) on your phone account at all times, for emergencies. If you earn $10/mo., that may not be possible.
- Obsessively hoard water in the cell, since you never know when you'll not be allowed to get to a sink. At times, you must brush your teeth at the desk.
- Be prepared to wait three hours for a medical visit, only to be told the doctor left for the day, and you will be rescheduled. During this time, you could have washed laundry, walked outside, and written many letters.
- The P.A. system tells you when you can walk from one building to another. If you are in a place without speakers overhead, or if 50+ women are talking all around you and you do not hear the announcement, you will miss appointments, meals, and visits.
- Mail call is the very best time of the day. Weekends and holidays drag on, without it. Visits are great as well, as long as you don't mind strip searches.
- Your two-inch mattress is replaced each 2-6 years and may become paper thin before it is determined to be replaced. The vinyl-coated pillow will wrinkle your face prematurely.
Voss, who is currently under consideration for parole, adds a final thought: "I intend to take no small thing for granted when I leave prison."
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Tara Perry and the Clemency Six: Where are they now?"