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How to Survive Prison if You Are a Princess

How to cope with going from glamour to the slammer.

by Kristen Cochrane
19 June 2012, 2:20pm


Illustrations by Cei Willis

One of my besties, a modern recreation of a Clueless Valley Girl, just spent three days in a provincial prison in Ottawa. After some radio silence and a no-show at a party I was having, I received a text message from Sadie (not her actual name, BTW) that said “Hi, I have a legit reason for not coming out, I just spent 3 days in jail xoxox.”

I stared at the text message as I wondered how she must have felt in jail. A mere week prior to her stint in "the slammer"*, she was paying cab drivers to fetch her midnight snacks. For "legal reasons", she said she couldn’t tell me the exact nature of her crime, but she said she would've spent a month in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre if she hadn't been bailed out by a generous family member. Which sounds serious-ish. I usually call Sadie when I need to know which company makes the best weaves or glittery eyeshadow, but this time my phone call was a rather exploitative one. She immediately obliged when I asked to do an interview while she was on house arrest. Listening to her story confirmed my long-held suspicion that I would probably die if I ever went to jail.

Locals jokingly call the jail she was in “Holiday Innes” due to its location on Innes Road in suburban Ottawa. But the ironic nickname suggests something a lot more sinister. Some professional research (ie Google) led me to this story, which discusses the prison’s majorly bad vibes (and lack of soap/ abundance of creepy-crawlies, YUK).

If you're reading this, that means you're a VICE reader, and are probably a bit of "a Sadie" yourself. So here, princess, is what you should expect if you ever like, get sent to "the big house"*

*There are no euphemisms for jail that aren't lame, btw.


 

FRIENDS IN JAIL
Give your food away or get your ass kicked, says Sadie. “The food was disgusting, I didn’t eat for three days. I also gave it to my schizophrenic cellmate who had cornrows. She literally threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t give her my food.” Is food truly that big of a deal? According to Sadie, yes. “This woman said she would put money into my jail account if I gave her all my sugar. I said, ‘Look, you can just have all my sugar.’” Cornrows was also turning tricks to make some extra cash inside. “She charged 15 dollars.” Payment would be transferred to her jail account.

JAIL ACCOUNTING
This is an account that family members, friends, or anyone else can deposit money into. Sadie said if you wanted to buy a tampon, it’s one dollar. Otherwise, they give you a pad when Aunt Flow comes knocking. Inmates can also pay for a hairbrush, Chapstick, or extra snacks. This is also the account your female "Johns" can put money into if you decide to become a sex worker during your stint in prison. I’m not really qualified for this kind of advice, but I’m not entirely certain that this is a wise career move. Gambling would perhaps be a lot more advantageous.

SCHEDULE
If you're the kind of girl who stays up all night on the internet and then needs beauty sleep, your circadian rhythm will be seriously perturbed. Inmates are woken up at 7AM, and “breakfast” is served. Sadie described the breakfast of oatmeal as "a composite of discharge and throwup”. Sadie says that the cells are not rooms with bars facing a hallway like the jails you see in music videos, but rather, a room with a small glass window. Until lunch is ready at 11.30AM, you’re confined to your cell, which Sadie shared with her schizophrenic, cornrow-sporting, prison prostitute cellmate. When said cellmate wasn’t soliciting Sadie for sex, she was speaking in various voices: “One second, you would be talking to her, and next thing you know, she’s doing this little girl’s voice. It was sooo creepy. She would sing to herself all night in that voice.”



VOYEURISM
Luckily, in an all female prison, nobody has a penis. So you're not gonna have to worry about whether that tired "dropping the soap" thing is true or not. But Sadie's shower wasn't entirely without disturbing incidents. During her shower, Sadie noticed a woman pull a Kinder Surprise egg out of her vagina. Upon opening it, she saw that it was full of crack. I'm not sure what would be more horrific for me, having to actually bathe in front of strangers or watching this scenario unfold. This being said, Sadie advised that you close your eyes during your shower and pretend you’re at a day spa. It won't work. But at least you won't have to look at someone pulling a Kinder Egg out of their vag.

ADVICE
If you’re easily frightened by strangers who scream at you on the street, and can’t handle confinement for hours at a time, don’t do anything illegal. Also, Sadie says that most of the female inmates were doing time on their boyfriend’s account. If you have a shitty boyfriend who begins to ask you for certain favours, get out of that relationship now. “A lot of the girls would be doing, say, a month, while their boyfriends did a year,” she said. Sadie mused that her petty crime and subsequent sojourn at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre is not worth it. “I’m the perfect advocate for no one ever going to jail. I’ll fucking save kittens from trees, I don’t care, I’m just never going to jail again.”

BEING THANKFUL
“I can’t live without my Blackberry Bold, my iPad, and MacBook Pro,” Sadie told me when she was released. Basically, Sadie went through being the storyline of Aladdin, but in reverse. The experience was not fruitless, however, as it made Princess Sadie a lot more thankful for the things that she does have in her life. Sadie said that “Being inside made me thankful for, a) being able to do my hair – I didn’t even have a brush there, or moisturiser. I looked like a dirtbag when I got out. Also, b), I was thankful for not being trapped in a confined space with people who are suffering from crack withdrawals.” Which I think is a sentiment that everyone, Valley Girl princess or not, can get behind.

Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KristenCochrane

Other attempts to provide guidance in confusing circumstances:

A Beginners' Guide to Drugs for Girls

The VICE Guide to Partying

The VICE Guide to Girls