Thursday, July 17, 2008

Death Penalty?

Before you assume what this blog is about I suggest you read first... as the content may surprise you! I know this is a long blog and I apologize for that but please read;)Correctional facility in SC......
The electric chair better known as "sparky" and yes I sat in it!
Infamous Susan Smith...if you don't know who she is you can read more here


Television show on HBO called "OZ" about life behind bars....never a more "reality" based show about life in prison than this! This show was the real thing!

Now before you jump to conclusions I am not here to state an opinion just to give some facts.
Several people have asked what brought me to South Carolina, and I can tell you it was simply because of weather, and job availability. As a graduate nurse I was excited to embark on a new career but as fate would have it, jobs were little to none in Canada at the time..Nurses with 10+years experience were getting laid off, so the odds of a new nurse getting a job were slim to none. That started the momentum of looking elsewhere...I wanted to go to Hawaii where I had been offered a great job with great pay, but the distance was too far for family. I then considered Australia, again same issue distance..I finally decided Florida, the weather was nice and one could get there within 24 hours of driving...but alas my husband just wouldn't agree. Then my school friend suggested SC as that's where the "golf" was and since my husband is an avid golfer the decision was made. Then so began the process of sending out applications, to a strange country, in a strange place where we knew "nobody" (gulp) very scary to say the least! I managed to line up 3 interviews.
The first was at a quaint little hospital in the middle of nowhere! Although it would have been great experience in the ER, I thought no way too far removed from everything, after all I was a city girl through and through! The next was at a small local clinic, just didn't like the atmosphere, I was running out of luck. Then the third at the state medium/maximum security prison locally in the heart of the city.
I remember driving deep into the facility to find the building where my interview was..I remember walking into the underground path that led to the main building..I remember going through a metal detector and having my belongings (pocketbook) investigated...then they asked me to step forward to the front of the gate... I gulped the gate clanged open I stepped in and then closed shut behind me! OMG there I was in a space no bigger than 4x6 surrounded by 3 metal sets of bars. The guard was in a booth to my right...I am sure he kept me there for what seemed like forever to see my reaction! I know that at that moment my heart raced beyond control, I started asking myself " what the he__ are you doing here"? Finally the gate opened and I was escorted by another officer to the infirmary. This is where I met the nurse that was interviewing me. She was a sweet little women, I remember how kind she was and how nice all the nurses were as they greeted me.. then I began to think what great people! We talked for what seemed like forever and then she asked if I wanted a tour of the facility, and of course I said yes! I mean how many people get to see the inside of a maximum security prison, right? She warned me as we were about to go outside to not put my face down or appear frightened, the whole time I was thinking to myself " yeah right, I am about to shit myself" (sry for cussing)
As we walked out to the yard there were several groups of men doing different activities, for the most part they were standing and talking, I remember how loud it was....
We then proceeded about 10 steps into the yard and suddenly it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.....I gulped and kept my head up and continued walking...I can't tell you how I felt, because honestly most of it was a blur after that moment...I only remember thinking put on your straight face and keep walking! I do remember thinking most of them could probably hear my heart beating because it pounded as though it was going to come out of my chest!
We finally arrived to the other side of the yard and entered into another small building. This was the intake room. As prisoners were transported here for blood work, and several different shots were given, a history taken and then eventually sent to their new home (cell).
She told me to survive here you have to remember 2 things... first, don't ever let them see you scared! Second, although they are prisoners the place usually runs by their rules so pay attention to your surroundings at all times! What the heck did that mean? So eventually we walked back into the first building and she said..."we also have a psychiatric facility" behind the infirmary, for the criminally insane, I will take you there also. But please be warned, these are very dangerous criminals and expect the unexpected" My head was screaming at me now~~"run for your life" but my curiosity kept me intact! So we walked into yet another hall, greeted by yet another officer.. this time the feeling overcame me quickly, this looks really creepy! You know that feeling, when you know something is just not going to be good...well we entered into the double locked doors, we stood on what seemed like the second floor looking down at the cells, she started telling me how these inmates were extremely vile and how they never acted accordingly. Well you know the movie
"Silence of the Lambs"?
Hannibal said he could smell her before she entered the prison? That's how I felt! I figured with all the talk about them being so vile we would never go down the steps and be in their view? Right? Wrong!!! Down the stairs we climbed, she started quietly telling me some of the crimes and behaviours of these inmates, some so ghastly I shivered as we walked 3 to 4 feet away from the cell doors I listened to her ramble on and then "whop" on the floor in front me! OMG! She saw my disgust and fear and we quickly returned up the stairs! We then returned to her office where she offered me a job in the infirmary, a closed 34 bed unit and I accepted! She said simply because of how I maintained my composure was why I got the job? (huh)? I worked there for almost 4 years until moving into another state facility...the stories I could tell!!


I can only say this...as we treated them we were never told their crimes but after awhile it was very apparent....I even got sent to the woman's facility to work and had the DISPLEASURE of meeting Susan Smith face to face.......That's a whole story in itself!
So the long and short of this is simple, if I can handle myself in a maximum security prison I can handle anything! Trust me! So if I seem a little rough around the edges to some, I have good reason, I had to learn to be that way to survive!

French;)

19 comments:

Bridget said...

OMG, You are one tough cookie to have done that for four years. It must have been so hard to have to face someone like Susan Smith. I remember when that horrible crime was in the news. How could anyone do such a thing?
I have great respect for you!

artis1111 said...

French, I think you are ever bit the lady . You have lived, some go through their lives and never know anything except what is in their small world. Thank you for being you. Kathy

Penny said...

What an amazing story French. You told it so well too. You're such an interesting person. I would love to hear your stories working there sometime. I would have thrown up all over Susan Smith.
Thanks again for your story.
Hugs,
Penny

mrsben said...

Thanks for the tour French. Not your usual home-tour but still interesting to say the least. I didn't realize you were a Canadian. (From what I hear, it is pretty well still much the same for graduating Nurses (and in many cases depending where you live in Canad), unless you are bilingual you may as well not even apply. Sad, to think 'merit and experience' is no longer a requisite and language is. Reason why many of our younger Nurses take full advantage of U.S. job offers for which I don't blame them.)
Wishing you a beautiful day. -Brenda-

French said...

MrsB how nice of you to visit! I actually am bilingual and can't even use it here in the states! Go figure? Guess I should have kept up with my Spanish because here it's everywhere! French;)

Donna said...

Good Morning French Fry!!!!! I am soooo not suprised! I could see you getting through anything!!!! I am the same way... I roll with the punches! You are a true survivor!!! Four years huh??? Wow... I bet you do have some stories to tell....

TTYL....
Hugs!!! Donna

onlymehere said...

Oh my heck French! What a brave woman you are. I'm a medical transcriptionist and type inmates now and again that are taken to the hospital. Those of course are not in maximum security and only once or twice has the crime committed been mentioned in the H&P, never a murderer though. I don't think I could walk down into the bowels of the prison without having a stroke or a heart attack. You have to be one gutsy lady and I admire that! I've read a book about Susan Smith (must re-read it now!). As a mother I just can't imagine what was in her head. Was it like looking into pure evil when you met her and looked in her eyes? I have to say I'm fascinated. If you read my sidebar you know that I love true crime books!

twintoo10292 said...

Wow it sounded like-Dead man walking! I was afraid. I was captivated by the Susan Smith deal because my kids were so close in age to her two and I just couldn't grasp what she did. And I know it's a horrible thing but I always end up feeling sorry for those people. Why is that? Why do people think they can commit a crime-especially murder and think they can get away with it? To have loved someone (like a spouse for example) and then to take their life. I read alot of true crime (not the gross ones) and I wonder how someone can take another persons life and carry on like no ones business. You have probably heard of Drew Peterson whos young wife Stacy is still missing. That is about 60 miles from where I live. No body or enough evidence so far. Now he gives me the creeps. Loved your story French and I think working in a place like that would be life changing. I'll bet it felt good to go "home" at night. Twin

twintoo10292 said...

Wow it sounded like-Dead man walking! I was afraid. I was captivated by the Susan Smith deal because my kids were so close in age to her two and I just couldn't grasp what she did. And I know it's a horrible thing but I always end up feeling sorry for those people. Why is that? Why do people think they can commit a crime-especially murder and think they can get away with it? To have loved someone (like a spouse for example) and then to take their life. I read alot of true crime (not the gross ones) and I wonder how someone can take another persons life and carry on like no ones business. You have probably heard of Drew Peterson whos young wife Stacy is still missing. That is about 60 miles from where I live. No body or enough evidence so far. Now he gives me the creeps. Loved your story French and I think working in a place like that would be life changing. I'll bet it felt good to go "home" at night. Twin

Justine said...

Ooh French, this whole post gave me the heebie jeebies! And you actually took the job and worked there for four years? Yikes! I'd be afraid for my life! You are one strong woman. Roar baby, ROAR!!!!!!!!!

Justine :o )
Btw... I'd like to hunt you down in SC and kill you for getting me involved in that quiz! I am now completely stuck on #42!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pat said...

Woah! I give you a lot of credit French! I trained in a NYC city hospital and when I had to do the rotation through the infamous psychiatric building where the criminally insane were being treated, I trembles in fear. We were told to "never turn our back" -- always walk in and out of the room facing the patient. In the short time I was there I have a million stories, so I can only imagine how many you have!

cindy said...

Hi, loved the blog about your job...fascinating! Laughed my a-- off at the waxing story!..I too love the British Colonial style. I think I am going to add you to my favorites...you are funny and real! thanks Cindy

Buffie said...

Oh girl, you have balls!!! I don't think I'd have done so well...lol! I'd have thrown it right back at him and then beat the livin' hell out of him with the mop, THEN make him clean it up! GROOOOOOSS!!!!!! Seriously though, I want to hear more!

Kathy said...

OMG!! French, you are a braver women than me that's for sure.
I cannot even watch prison shows/movies on TV.
Makes my job history seem really boring now although I did once have a job dishing up the dinners at an old peoples home, I was told off for overloading the plates, I thought the poor things needed feeding up they looked so frail. Kathy. Kathy.

Donna said...

Hey French!!! I love that new Donna Karan fragrance.. I recently had a sample.. I think its called Cashmere???? (Not sure) I will have to check out P.Diddy! Treat yourself Girl!!! Get that new Parfum!!!! You deserve it!! That's the excuse I use everytime!!! LOL

Hugs,
Donna

Penny said...

Hey French! Did you see Angelo's show tonite? I know you like him like I do. :-) That has to of been one of the best bathroom designs I have ever seen. It looked like a million bucks. He really knows how to pull together the inspiration element from each selected space, as well as still bring in the personalities of the homeowners. I loved how the husband who is a photographer was so touched that he was speechless and brought to tears. Wow. What a great episode.

Did you see the beautiful birds I found you? :-) I hope you like them. They have great personalities. tee hee

Hugs,
Penny

Donna said...

Hey French!!! I had no idea.. but it does look like KK's taste! :) LOL... I love that room!!!!


Donna

Gollum said...

I have great admiration for you. The story is fascinating. My Honey worked at an asylum the summer before medical school, and oh, the stories. It takes great courage to move to another country, and maybe even more courage to work as a nurse behind bars. You are an amazing woman...and you can decorate!!

Old House Junkie said...

Just goes to show, you never know about someone until you hear her story. I would have thought you were marshmallow-soft, but now I know you have a very strong core. I understand that working in corrections is as stressful as being incarcerated. You always have to be vigilant and cannot let your guard down. I will be reading your posts in a new light, now.

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South Carolina, United States
Never say what if... Just do. Live life without regrets...RN /Author/Interior Decorator