TDC Inmate Rhonda Ermis
My name is Rhonda Ermis, inmate #694307 in the Texas Prison system. To the system I’m only a number and a statistic. I am doing a 20-year sentence for forgery and have been here almost five years. My days are filled with work and my nights are long and lonely.
Here is a typical day in Prison……
3:30 a.m. Count clears as the head lights beam into my eyes. I crawl out of my bunk knowing I have another day to face the punishment of my crime inside, yet I’m another day closer to freedom.
4:00 a.m. I shower, trying to beat 107 other women to an open shower. Everyday I feel like one in a herd of cattle. There are lines for chow, pills, commissary, even to turn out to work. I get so frustrated ’cause I have no choice to do what I would choose to do. As I walk back to my bunk, I see a woman crying, curled up in a ball on her bunk. Someone tells me she lost her daughter to a stray bullet from a drive-by-shooting. I see so many people lose loved ones while in here. The thought of not being able to have spent time with them while they were alive hurts deep in our hearts.
4:45 a.m. I continue to get ready for work making sure I have my house (cell) in order, We have so many rules in here to abide by, if we have more than one book out, or clothing we get written up (it’s called a case) and then we receive extra work or lose our trusty status and good time if we get more than one case. I hold sadness in my heart with thoughts of the girl crying.
5:30 a.m. Go to breakfast – another line, more rules – and on the way down the sidewalk, walking along the right side of the yellow line, I see two girls fighting. One holds a razor blade (shank) in her hand and cuts the other girl’s jugular vein. I get out of the way as officers, in their goon vests and helmets, bring the girl down on her face on the cement and they get the blade out of her hand and handcuff and shackle her. The nurses take the other girl to medical for treatment. She is passed out from loss of blood and the nurses are telling the officers she might not make it.
6:00 a.m. I lost my appetite and went back to the dorm. Inmates talk that the fight stemmed from bulldagging (fighting over a woman lover). I go back to my cubicle and wonder, “When will this nightmare be over?”
6:30 a.m. I turn out to work and have to be strip searched with 107 other women, Twenty at a time, we strip naked in front of everyone, cough and squat, spread our cheeks to see if I’ve had any contraband (stamps, tobacco, etc.) up my private parts, and let down our hair. Another daily ritual. I feel so degraded and disgusted as 20-30 women watch me do this every day. Soon all female bodies look alike to me. Dignity goes out the window as we are treated like a herd of cattle.
7:00 a.m. I arrive at my job and I’m told by my boss that I’m on a crew of women to go clean the main water drain where a trap catches everything that gets flushed down the toilets. Great, I get to dig for used feminine products and God only knows what else. ” When will this nightmare end?”
10:30 a.m. Time to go to chow. As you can imagine, the things I see and have to do affect my hunger. I only go to eat out of habit. While in line, again, we are only allowed to talk to the person in front of us or in back of us. Bosses (officers) stand around screaming at inmates to not talk table to table, to not get up from the table once you are seated. If you forget your fork, oh well, you eat with your hands. We have 20 minutes to eat.
11:00 a.m. Return to work (have to be stripped again). A woman (inmate) hides a cigarette lighter under her breast and is caught with it. She’s escorted to segregation to go to UCC (unit classification committee) to be served her punishment. She’ll lose one year good time and have to be placed on the hoe squad.
11:30 a.m. I get to work and we find pieces of a shank, JD cards, used Tampax and Kotex as we sift through the debris.
4:30 p.m. I return to the farm and have to be stripped – again. I go to my cell for some solitude. Privacy is so hard to get, we use the bathroom and shower in front of everyone. Disgrace sets in my mind.
5:30 p.m. Everyone goes to chow as I stay in my cell (a few of us stay in the dorm) and I eat tuna and crackers I have bought off of commissary.
6:30 p.m. I go to the bathroom, and as I clean up the dishes, I see blood on the floor coming from the showers. I go back there and a woman ( the girl who was crying) has slit her wrist. I run to get the officer and show her. I go back to my bunk. I feel so much pain in my heart for her. She’s dead and no one really cares. I watch them take her body away with no emotion in their faces as they carry her. I feel she wanted to join her daughter and took the easy way out.
8:00 p.m. I lay down on my bunk and try to sleep. Thoughts of the day run through my mind. So much bloodshed, so much pain, and no one cares.
Why is this world so cold to let our lives have no meaning or value? To the system, we are only a statistic and a number. One, (maybe two, if the girl died earlier) lives taken in vain, I fear for my life on a daily basis ’cause each day is a chore to survive. I’ve made it one more day, and I thank the Lord above. I’m one more day closer to going home.