doing time

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I had my first official probation house inspection today. It was fairly traumatizing, but we made it through.  Frankly, I’m a little numb, so I wrote about it– and my Stories family was kind enough to make emergency space here because it didn’t quite fit on Rarasaur blog.

Do you have Stories that don’t fit on your home? Have you submitted them here yet?

– Ra

Forget Me Nots_Ft_image

I was delivered to prison, fully-shackled. For the uninitiated, this means there were cuffs on each of my ankles, cuffs on each of my wrists, and a few chains connecting them all together.

When you’re fully-shackled, you clang and you waddle. It’s a funny little side-to-side shuffle that instinctively keeps you balanced… upright… moving forward. Upon arrival, they remove the chains and institutionalize you. It’s a different sort of shackle.

I served 438 days, the majority of my incarceration hosted by the state of California’s best rehabilitation facilities. I am now in the free world, living under the provisos of probation.

It isn’t the same as free. It’s just a different sort of cage. One with no bars on the windows, just fancy blinds.

This morning, the knocking at the door was determined enough to rattle the window coverings. I guessed it was morning, but I wasn’t sure. The twilight of dawn was still set into the sky and I was sleeping.

LA COUNTY PROBATION was shouted through my house so I rushed off the bed and to the door, to present myself. I didn’t want them to shake down the whole house. I was still blinking sleep from my eyes.

STEP OUT OF THE HOUSE, they repeated, I don’t know how many times. There was 4 or maybe 5 that I could see– fully-armed cops in full gear.

9The Little Foot stomped behind me and I shushed her back a few feet. There was chaos, a dog, a girl, her dad, myself, and Mamasaur. There was a door. And cops. I wasn’t really sure of anything else, but it struck me that I was living my favorite short story– The Night the Bed Fell, by James Thurber.

Except it was terrifying, and not funny at all.

It was morning, probably, I decided as I was patted down. I faced the car in my driveway as I was cuffed.

There’s a girl inside, I said. A little girl.

Is she yours? they asked.

No, I said.

They exchanged glances and kept switching off between each other. There were 9, I think. Like dangerous giant ants.

I hadn’t had coffee yet. I wasn’t wearing a bra. I was standing in the middle of my street, handcuffed.

Mamasaur stumbled out of the house, propelled by a cop. Her lip was wobbly. Her cheeks were tear-stained.

Why are you doing this? she asks, and they explain again.

It’s just a house inspection.


What a ridiculous word.

8I shift so the cuffs aren’t visible as the 8-year-old walks out, cuddling her stuffed wolf. She’s in her nightgown, too.

I never break eye contact with her, and she’s brave with every step. I start babbling about school, and she tells the cop about her Columbus Day map. I want to look down, to see if they let her put shoes before kicking her out of her house, but I don’t want to break eye contact.

After some time, a minute or maybe thirty, the angry ants wave everyone back inside and I stand outside with them. They go over the stipulations of my parole. A long list of things of which I have no prior history of entanglement. I promise to not suddenly develop violent tendencies or drug habits or gang affiliations.

I ask where my probation officer is, and they tell me I can call him after. I don’t want to sound like a child, but I want him now. This would still have been terrifying, but less so.

They keep saying PROBATION in a near shout, as we talk, and the word echoes down the street. All of my neighbors will know, if they didn’t notice my braless-self handcuffed in front of a battalion of police officers.

It doesn’t really matter to me, but it might to the people whose house I’m renting. The people who have just had their child dragged from bed.

I wonder if I’ll be homeless again soon, but it’s an idle sort of wonderment.

The cop speaking to me seems like a nice lady. She’s outraged over my sentence. A male would have gotten half the time. The male cop argues– a Los Angeles resident would have gotten half the time. No matter to me.

I did the time I did.

I wonder if my blankness shows, but it’s an idle sort of wonderment.

I think about the women who are not me. The women who don’t have friends and family who will be horrified. Who don’t live in safe, private neighborhoods. Who don’t have good jobs and strong educations. How could they build a life with probation doing everything possible to destroy it?

11I wonder, but I don’t feel.  I turn when they say turn.
The cuffs come off, but not really.

I hear the clanging of chains when I breathe. It drowns out the sound of emotion, embarrassment, anger, and fear.

It’s morning now, for sure. The light is shining through my cage. The day is striding forward and I shuffle on, continuing to do my time.

93 thoughts on “doing time

    • Thank you, Ka. What I love most about this space– other than it being built off the idea of a great legacy site– and other than it being assembled by Dave and myself in one of our late-night-idea-binges– and other than it being kept alive by bloggers as I was away–

      is that EVERY story fits here. It’s a beautiful thing. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    • At the time, while it was happening, I was thinking that — well, this is LA county. Many of the homes they visit probably do have drugs, weapons, big dogs, etc. But then I thought– no, this is terrifying, for children. Plus, they had my full report before coming to my house.

      I understand because I have military in the family and I’d like to think that if they went into an unknown, dangerous situation, they’d do it safely. But as much as I can imagine by brother’s dimples… I can see this 8-year-old’s wide eyes… there has to be a balance that can be found.

      Thank you for the bravery! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I get that they have to do these house inspections and that they have to be a surprise, but do they have to be so rough about it? Why did they have to handcuff you first? Hasn’t your parole officer spoken of your character? So many questions…I’m sorry. And that’s really it. I’m sorry.

    Liked by 4 people

    • To me, it all feels like dehumanization: exercises in what they do just because they can, with no concern whatsoever for how effective it is, if it changes anything for the better … or for anything other than reminding They Have Power, and You Do Not. Ugh.

      Liked by 10 people

      • Unless I completely misunderstand, which is possible, prison is to reform and parole is the opportunity to prove reform has occurred. This behavior by the cops shows they don’t believe in the system they are a piece of. For someone not as strong (or innocent) as Rara, this would have the opposite effect it should. Instead of being motivated to maintain freedom there’s little reason not to re-offend, since treatment incarcerated and free is identical.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Sometimes, while you’re going through things like this, it’s hard to know if you have a fair perspective. Maybe it’s reasonable, you think. I especially try to remember that cops are people– oftentimes, in my experience, awesome people. I don’t want them running into hazardous situations without protection. BUT, they knew my situation and my case. That’s the part I keep replaying. He said, “What were you in for? I mean, we reviewed your file in the car, but why were you in?” … which is a standard question, but the reviewing meant they had to have known. And even if they did come in blazing, they could have settled down quicker. I don’t know. I guess at this point… it happened. Hopefully next time it happens less painfully. Thank you, Melanie. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

      • Power and control is a hard habit to break. Who knows. Maybe they are completely reasonable cops and just in the habit force. Hopefully next time will be less rough, less traumatizing. I hope it’s less rough and not that you get so accustomed to it that it seems less rough. I just want to wrap you up in a warm hug and sing silly songs.

        Liked by 1 person

    • A and I see it all the time down here in non-correction situations. There’ll be some disorderly bicyclist being pulled over by ten cops in a half-dozen cars and we’ll go, “Welp, there’s taxpayer money well spent.” :/

      Liked by 4 people

    • I hope for the same. So far, the family I am staying with has extended every kindness imaginable and shown every level of patience humanly possible. They even had to sign this “contract” saying that I’d be living there for 3 years… just so I could live here. Can you imagine trying to get an apartment manager to sign that without a corresponding lease? It’s been… crazy, and they’ve been awesome. I’d understand either way, but I have strong hopes.

      But yep, like Deb said… overkill is the name of the game down here when it comes to cops. Often, it’s explained as a safety concern for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well. that sucked. I never knew it was so rough when they did home inspections. I learned a new thing today. Not sure that’s good or bad. Do they warn you at any time about home inspections? I mean I know they are done random but did anyone ever tell you that they would be….well….like a dystopian novel? It seems so…..much more than it needs to be. Big hugs my dino friend. When does your probation end? I’m sorry if I seem so nosy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Not nosy at all, chica. Probation for me can be to 3 years. Assuming I’m good, it’ll be over July 2016. They did tell me they’d come in their vests, but I didn’t know anything about the overall experience. I’m grateful that the OC probation officer told me that much at least, because I had some expectation of disruptiveness… not the raid-feeling, but the potential embarrassment at least.

      I have heard that other counties and other areas are not so extreme. A friend of mine from the thimble-sized town I lived in, when I was in WA State, says he and his partner sit on the sofa quietly as they rummage through the house. So, different tones depending on where you’re at!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This totally sucked. Like JackieP, I did not know they did this kind of stuff, . Girl you handled it well and with the grace I know you have. Do not think of what others will think of you until they get to know the awesomeness that is you. You did good! xo

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you! 🙂 We did what we could. I was very proud of everyone involved. I lived this for over a year… they’ve never seen anything like it. I really wish I wasn’t the one who brought the experience into their life, but … at least now this one is past. I’m hoping for 9 or less of these.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I just don’t understand why they had to be so “rough” about it all. It isn’t as if you were a hardened criminal but I guess there is no distinction in their eyes when they have a task to do. I am sure it was traumatic and you managed to get through it with grace somehow. Keeping you all in my thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Beth Ann. Yes, it was quite traumatic and a bit of a reset when it comes to how far I’ve grown since coming home… but that’s alright. Two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward, right? ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Noelle. We had just spoken about how sometimes Dave feels present, and I swear I haven’t felt him more visibly than during this whole thing. I think it was the only thing keeping me from checking out entirely. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh girl. I just found out this afternoon. No wonder I’d been composing letters to you about the giant blue sky here all day! You are amazing under pressure and the rest Of the time too. I’d offer you hugs but I stink like someone who’s been camping, bird hunting and sleeping with the dogs for the last four days. But, they are all yours if you need them. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope future house inspections are more civil, less dehumanizing. Surely, once they’ve done one they know you aren’t violent or otherwise dangerous to them. I would pray that it isn’t like this every time. This shouldn’t be like this.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. But, psst, you are in a gang: the blogosphere pressers.

    I told the queen what happened and she said, “that’s the worst thing I’ve heard all day.”

    Thank you for sharing here. I think it’s important for everyone to see this other side of things they might not fully understand. We can’t change things for the better if we don’t have the knowledge of what was wrong in the first place.

    And there is so much wrong with this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We are totally a gang. #Pressers <- We even have our own hashtag.

      Because of the time and place and context, I think it was up there with one of the worst things I've ever lived. Weird. My brain still doesn't process it correctly.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kerri. That’s how I feel too… probation is the only thing that makes me feel like rebuilding is hard. My heart breaks for the girls who don’t have thousands of things propelling them past it. In that respect, I am lucky. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have no words Ra, only hugs, and prayers of support for you and Mamasaur and the child and her family. So absurdly and terrifyingly unnecessary. (((((((RaMamasaurLittleFoot&Family))))))).
    This too. This too. This too.
    Alison ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think they stepped around my PO… normally it’s supposed to be the local police and him. I hope that’s who it is next time. Even if it was the same, replacing the faces with ones I’ve seen at coffee shops makes it less threatening. A little less fight or flight. *hugs* Thank you, Lyn. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  9. People don’t realize the brutality of the State. Even when you’ve NEVER been convicted of any crime, they’ll come after you with a mug shot if they have one, attempting to destroy you in social isolation and unemployment. So sorry they are doing this to you, hang in there Rara. Looks like you have a nice support group, genuinely interested in your wellbeing.
    Regards, Onno.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There’s a lot of flaws in the system, for sure. I remember in County Jail, where the cops and policies were most brutal, many of the girls I was with were still undergoing trial proceedings. Innocent, right? Till proven guilty? The treatment would have at least made some sense if they thought were all guilty repeat-criminals. It’s been a big eye-opener for me. But I swear if my eyes get much bigger, they’re gonna fall out. 🙂 Thank you. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Every post you teach me something new about grace and love and forgiveness. I am so sad that today I learned something new about injustice and misplaced distrust. I am sorry for you, the girl, and yes, all the women who have even less help moving forward than you do. How in the world do they expect you to move forward? (Please, keep moving forward.)

    Liked by 3 people

    • For me, probation is someone holding me back. But it’s impossible to stay still or fall backwards– not with a hundred arms pulling me forward. My heart just breaks for the girls who don’t have anyone. I hope they feel me pulling, even if they aren’t allowed to talk to me. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I don’t even know what to say Rara. I know I can not possibly fully understand all of the emotions of those moments….yet….your writing was so brilliant and impactful I feel as if I was at least standing there next to you. Kind of in shock myself . Not knowing what was going on. Being woken up and not really sure what it was or why it was I was awakened and feeling ten steps behind the rest of the world…..

    I’m sorry you are going through this. Still.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Colleen. I’m glad to know the writing was impactful. I didn’t want to overstate, or understate, or rush, or hyper-focus. I just wanted you to feel what I felt, just a quick version, since no one should have to live through all that. I’m sorry anyone goes through this, chica. We can do better. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I am appalled. I teach criminal justice courses right now, and we talk of the issues going on between police and civilians, but I feel terribly naive right now. This is the way people on probation are treated? And they do this without your parole officer present? My students (and I) have some more research to do. I’m so sorry you went through this. But I’m glad you’re telling the story. More people need to know what is going on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is how I was treated. I can’t speak for everyone, but yes, it didn’t seem uncommon to them to not have my PO there. If you ever need or want a voice in your class, for the kids to ask questions to– I’m always available. Education is the way to fixing this. I’m sure of it.

      Onnovocks is right about the mugshots, too. I saw it with my own eyes.
      We can do better.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The ONLY thing I could think of explaining the level of response was if they pretty much are going down a list of randoms to complete and have no idea who has what history and they treat everyone the same. Which is still very, very WRONG on so many levels. Regardless of why a person is on probation/parole, the dehumanization element here is scary.

    I am so glad you have your mamasaur and your support system, though my heart aches for them too at the same time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • My heart aches for everyone. Strangely… even the cops. I don’t know what I’d do differently, except for making standing down quicker. I just don’t know what the solution is quite yet… but I’m working on it. 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I too feel for you. If I had been there, after it was all over, I’d have hugged you and cried with you.
    I know this seems that it will never end, but it will.
    One day they WILL go away.
    One day you WILL be at home with your family and no one will ever force you out of bed and humiliate you in front of your neighbors.
    Until then, remember you do have family and friends who do love and support you.
    And there are those of us on WordPress who remain by your side.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. My jaw is flapping in disbelief — that it could happen like this, not that you are not truthful, Rara. I have no knowledge of what any of this is like, so I can simply be outraged. I had always imagined that you would just go to some office and meet with a parole officer and that would be that. No cuffs, no angry police banging on your door (BEFORE Coffee? WTF?). no mistreatment. Just a lot of box-checking.

    All of this really sucks. And I am sorry for more shit heaped upon you. I’m also sorry you’ve become the poster child for “When Bad Things Happen To Good People.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • I do go to an office and meet with my parole officer, once a month. House inspections before coffee are also a thing. A terrifying thing. I swear I never want anyone to knock again!

      And yes, I would like to be a poster child for something new next year. That’s what I’m going to ask for from Santa. “The Poster Child for Spontaneously Good Things Happening” sounds good. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Though it’d be easy (& generic) for me to say “this is shocking” – it’s not. It’s not because sadly I have friends that’ve gone through this kind of treatment/process before.

    That thought upsets me. I’ve almost become numb to it. The system is so beyond broken. What is new to me is why they felt the need and/or followed some b/s protocol to cuff you. Yes, you are under probation, but last time I checked, you weren’t what the county or state would consider a “flight risk”.

    I have to agree with @notapunkrocker on how they maybe are going down some list & treating everyone the same. Which is so wrong, wrong, wrong on a sickening, cheap bevvy of levels.

    My heart sank when I got your message yesterday. I very much wanted to punch things.

    This story does belong here. Thank you for telling it, because this is something we need to continue to have a NATIONAL dialogue about. & I hate that in today’s society everything just gets pushed under the rug to make room for the next “trending topic”- makes me sick.

    I could go on even more…but the rest would include lots of cursing….

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I am tempted to engage in one of my rants about the nature of the prison complex, but I won’t. Not here. I have this dialogue often and it always ends with fist-pounding and angry words and tears. On behalf of those who get treated this way. On behalf of you, and the men and women who don’t have loving families and the words that could, when spoken frequently enough and with enough venom, change the universe. I will join in the cacophony of voices that will not allow this subject to be swept away in the face of other, sexier, cleaner topics. If we don’t dirty our hands on behalf of our brothers and sisters, who will?

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I hardly know what to say. I don’t care the situation I can’t believe that it would ever be okay to drag you or anyone out like that half dressed and cuffed. Not that you need anymore but is there somewhere you can report this? I’m in Canada so I don’t know much about that there. Can you go to the media with it? It’s just so awful and I’m sorry they did that. To me,their behaviour is criminal.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. How do you rise above something like this? Where do you get the resolve? It serves to remind me of what a whiner I am.

    I understand how it can stay with you and gnaw away. I grew up quite poor and it never leaves you. You can end up doing okay for yourself but inside you’re still poor.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Honestly, Mark… I have no idea if I’m rising above anything. Moments like this, and my blankness, make me feel like I’ve sunk in.

      A friend of mine recently brought up John Stephen Akhwari… “My country did not send me five-thousand miles to start the race. My country sent me five-thousand miles to finish the race.”

      and that thought came to me when I was reading your comment. I don’t wake up with the idea that I’ll ever rise above this, or — good grief– beat it… but I can keep running till I get to the end. I’ll be scarred and bloodied, even more than I already am, but hey, finish line. I didn’t live through almost 12000 days of Life so that I could have the grace to try to survive this. I lived almost 12000 days so that I’d have the strength to finish this.

      So I will.
      … I hope I will. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. It wasn’t until I finished the last sentence of this post that I realized I’d been holding my breath. I came away shaken and gasping, and I wasn’t even there. I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve any of this. No wonder the system fails so many if their idea of reintegrating you into the world is not to help you get back on your feet but rather keep knocking you over until you are too weary to do anything but crawl.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well said. I especially dislike how the people who reach out to help get sucked into the brutality, too. It’s upsetting. In my case, my people are resilient and big of heart and stance. I can’t imagine other circumstances. I was in with a 19 year old girl who was driving in a car accident that killed her best friend. She’s doing 6 years, and coming home to this? She has a little girl who will be about 8. The idea of it shakes me. We can do better for our women.

      And we will. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  21. Sometimes I think the police forces get so over-worked they forget compassion. It’s got to be hard to remember to be a human being when people don’t treat you like one.

    I’m sorry they were so unpleasant to you, Ra. Here’s hoping that if there’s a next time, it’s less traumatic for all.

    Liked by 1 person

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