Caroleena sat at the little table in her Hawaii prison cubicle for ther nightly pre-tv recreation time talk with a fellow inmate, Stephanie. It was not surprising that the two of them had become close friends because they had a lot in common. In a mainland U.S. prison the fact that Caroleena was half black and Stephanie was white might have been the source of a strict division.There were no gangs at all in the Women’s Community Correctional Center, a medium security state prison for about 300 women from the Hawaiian Islands sentenced anywhere from one year to life. The women were mostly drug offenders like possession or sales, often because boyfriends who never visited had turned on them. Also common were the drug related crimes of theft, burglary, stolen cars (Unauthorized Control of a Propelled Vehicle–UCPV) and identity theft. There were four baby killers during Caroleena’s tenure who were finishing highly publicized sentences they’d received in the 1990’s. These women and the few serious child abusers were not treated any differently beyond occasional gossi;, they’d been around long enough to be accepted. There were a smattering of boyfriend killers. Also unlike the mainland, no armed robbery or gang offenses. Gun violence was not entirely, but almost non-existent. Prison was no more dangerous on Oahu than the gun-less streets of drug ridden downtown Honolulu.
The prison was as diverse ethnically as the rest of Hawaii. There were ten black women. Each one of them strikingly pretty and they all shared histories of being targeted by bullies and perverts bc of their good looks. Quite a few white women,who, like the black women mostly hailed from out of state. The local population was the Hawaii standard mix of Asian and Polynesian, especially Samoan, Hawaiian, Japanese and Chinese. Most local whites were of Portuguese descent and Caroleena was never sure if they were considered the same as mainland whites who were called “ha’ole” or “foreigner”, literally translating to without breath/soul. Ha’ole could be a casual way to indicate a minor division or a serious insult. If the term was preceded by the words “dumb, fucking,” it was serious.
Caroleena and Stephanie were both educated, and they obviously thought highly of themselves because of it, though they denied their blatant superiority complexes. They both thought they knew better than the staff,which was largely female,and entirely local. The most important sources of unity among sober locals were familial and shared experiences, like attending the same high school. The two women did not speak with the regional pidgin accent, they valued their achievements over their non-existent local connections. Both women had a propensity for telling staff how to better run the place. Yes, they had conflicts.
Stephanie was unanimously disliked, except by her prison “wife” or the inmate she with whom she had a monogamous relationship. “Wives” were assigned to opposite dorms within the building because sexual contact was against the rules. Monogamy amounted to giving or receiving cunnilingus perched on the toilet while another inmate kept watch at the bathroom entrance in exchange for a Snickers bar off the commissary. If Stephanie thought anyone interfered with her rec time with wifey, she complained so much the frustrated guards cancelled tv time in the common area for both dorms, ctq-ing everyone (confining all to quarters).
Caroleena was not gay. In fact, she had a dalliance with a male civilian staff member who produced inmate plays. Aside from a single encounter with a 19 year old white girl from Texas who performed raps about raunchy sex acts, she had had no same sex physical relations. She did not participate “in the mix”which was primarily gossip about homosexual goungs-on, and acquiring contraband items, like tweezers, from guards. Caroleena obsessed about her married side piece. Or she worked on writing about life in prison. Much to her amazement, women who didn’t like her, trusted her. The women thought her compulsive exercise odd, but they appreciated Caroleena for her eagerness to listen to stories they’d never told. Caroleena had no friends, but she had no enemies either. Women did not spend time with her unless she was interviewing them, yet the same people who ignored her were eager to talk. The women finally had someone who cared to know about the deep taboos. Like abortion.
Ironically, the first conversation about abortion didnt start with the women who were the primary sources, but with Stephanie. That conversation changed Caroleena’s view of Stephanie, that pre rec hour.
“How do they treat you when you go in for an abortion in the sixth month? I didn’t know it could be done so late, ” Caroleena asked to confirm she actually heard what she thought she heard.
“They are much nicer to you than they ordinarily are. Everyone is really gentle. The cleaning lady too. I had to stay overnight when I did those. ” Stephanie said glibly
“How many abortions did you have?”