New and unusual friends in the Watch-House
An excerpt from Treasures of Darkness:
When it was my turn, I contemplated the little room. Metal walls with a filthy little metal shelf moulded in the corner, presumably for my towel and clothes; and some little bumps in the metal floor to prevent slipping. No taps, just a shower rose and a button. I pressed it expecting cold water to spray me or a tiny trickle to dribble down the wall. I was surprised to have a proper shower, until it stopped automatically after 3 minutes. I dried off and dressed in the same shorts and T-shirt that served as underwear and pressed the button to be let out again.
Ill-fitting replacements weren’t issued until Sunday. It was the only change of clothes we were given in the 6 days we were there.
A small rectangle of polished metal was screwed to the wall above our basin to serve as a mirror. It was so high we had to stretch to see a cloudy image of our faces. I don’t remember if we were issued a comb. We had nothing for our skin.
Six days without moisturiser in air-conditioning takes its toll. By the time I got to the prison my face was tight and my lips were so badly chapped that pieces of hard, broken skin were standing up like razors. Both sides of my mouth were split.
It was Friday, and a new member was introduced to our pod.
Bernice was a large, foul mouthed young woman with long, thick hair, very pale skin and rotten teeth. She sailed in, announced she was having withdrawals from heroin, went straight to the other cell and lay down to sleep. My first close contact with what was obviously a “hardened” criminal!
Amanda and I looked at each other and wondered what we were in for when she awoke. The reading I had done regarding withdrawals painted a frightening picture of screaming pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and flinging oneself about for several days.
Our next guest arrived and we pointed to the cell where Bernice was sleeping.
She looked frightened, and asked us anxiously, “Will she attack me?” Not having a clue, we answered, “No, you’ll be safe, she’s OK.” We did our best to reassure her but we weren’t the ones sharing a cell with Bernice!
Francis was a young woman with big curls, a baby face and sad eyes. She had worked in the payroll office of a supermarket. She was also a gambling addict. Her job provided her the opportunity to misdirect funds she could then use to gamble with. She is still amazed at how easy it was to create fictional employees.
Francis came from a blended, yet respectable home. She didn’t drink much or do drugs. However, she had begun buying scratch-it cards as a lonely young teenager, quickly becoming addicted. She was to serve 14 months.
In the afternoon, an uproar of catcalls arose from down the corridor. As we craned our necks, we watched in awe as a young wild-haired Indigenous woman strode towards us. With blanket and towel in one hand, the other flipped “the bird” to the male prisoners as she swept past them.
Sophie entered our pod like it was her lounge room, dumping her gear, flopping down with a big grin and a string of profanity.
We liked her instantly.
There was something reassuring about her confidence. I was fascinated. She had got caught with drugs at Southbank, a popular city play area where families gather and security is greater. Cops can generally tell when someone is suspect, and she and her boyfriend just looked, well, suspicious. Giving cheek is a quick way to get more attention from the police, too, even if you are not doing anything wrong.
Sophie was familiar with a variety of watch-houses. She claimed to have miscarried in one due to a police beating. I didn’t know if she was telling the truth, but from what I have heard and observed since, it wouldn’t surprise me. There are many stories from Indigenous women about police brutality but they are difficult to prove.
People like me are not normally bothered by police. As a well-mannered, well-dressed, white woman, I have “respectable” written all over me. By comparison with many women, I have nothing to complain about. In prison I made a point of being polite to everyone, especially officers, regardless of how they spoke to me. I carefully worded my requests, so they would respond favourably. I didn’t feel like a criminal, I didn’t see myself as a criminal, so I didn’t talk to them like I was inferior. This didn’t always endear me to some staff, but those stories will come later...
About the Story
FREEDOM ON THE INSIDE
Prison was not on the “Goal Chart” of entrepreneur Trish Jenkins. A breach of the Corporations Act meant losing her multi-million dollar portfolio, including her family home.
It also meant Trish served 8 months in prison.
Isolated from her husband and 3 little girls, living among Queensland’s most dangerous criminals, Trish could have succumbed to despair.
But treasure is found in dark places.
Refusing to give in to self-pity, Trish answered a new calling to make a difference in the lives around her. In doing so she found a different kind of freedom and healing.
Real and raw, these pages are better than a memoir; made up of letters, personal journaling and hindsight.
“I assumed I would be a model prisoner because I was a Christian. So how did I get into so much trouble, so often, yet with the best of intentions?”
Like when she was reported escaped…
Or setting the alarm off in the officers’ quarters…
Or having to explain why the woman she prayed for fell to the floor…
You’ll laugh, cry and shake your head at hilarious stories, tragic circumstances, discouragement, hope and ever present faith.
“You may have no razor wire around you, but you may feel more like a prisoner than me! Let me share my keys to freedom with you.”
Buy theBook: .99 e-book; 19.80 print