Since high security inmates are not allowed access to classes, my learning has come through conversations, observations, and reading. It is amazing, the things you can learn in that fashion. Let me share some of the lessons with you now.


  1. In jail, uniforms do not identify the bad guys. Some wear badges and other blues. Same for good guys.
  2. In jail, an hour can seem to last forever, while a year is gone in the blink of an eye.
  3. The kindest acts come from the most unlikely people.
  4. So do the cruelest ones.
  5. You can and do survive, even when you don’t want to.
  6. Sometimes one day at a time is too much. Go hour to hour.
  7. If you seek, you will find, so be careful what you seek.
  8. Chocolate can subdue copious amounts of sadness but the claim it can satisfy and relax like sex is B.S.
  9. A cage may challenge but it can’t silence the persistent. The silent surrender their voice. In doing so they dampen the voice of the collective.
  10. In the end, only two things are forever — faith and family.


Our doctors look like Doogie Howser and approach patients like a short order cook does breakfast. It’s easy to believe we’re part of some unknown experiment. I often have visions of us all being like Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly” — sitting around coughing out our teeth and morphing into something grotesque.

To avoid abuse of the medical services, the jail has standards for triage. You must submit paperwork. Priority is given to non-annoying inmates with money for the co-pay, then non-annoying with no money, next emergencies, followed by those with money, then everyone else.

Dorothy MaraglinoThe staff is well trained at weeding out non-emergencies. They are not swayed by hysteria or pleas for help. It’s well known if you can’t breathe, you can’t talk. The fact that you called for help using the intercom proves it’s not an emergency. If you have an asthma attack, you should be blue as a Smurf and unable to speak.

If you’re cut but can’t see the bone, try to hold off for the next shift. Paperwork is terrible. Do not use pads or TP to clean blood or press on the wound. That is not their intended use, and using county issued items for other than its intended use leads to write ups.

Self-induced injuries such as a concussion from beating your head against the wall will not be considered an emergency unless you’re unconscious, so stop vomiting. When you need help quickly, bypass the box and simply try using the toilet, a staff member will appear at your cell door momentarily in compliance with de-privatizing efforts.

Don’t miss Dorothy’s “Day In The Life of A Female Prisoner


If you know of any, please share. The only one that works effectively is “when in doubt, face the wall.” This works whether you’re with staff or inmates.


It’s only violence if it’s documented, so I can’t write about it. Kindly ignore the black eye, bruises and limp.


Too personal to share. Also TP is rationed and laundry exchange is days away so I can’t risk crying.


While I am sure there are some gangs, I have not met anyone whose declared gang would claim the person. Most of the gang members I met are girls, with contradicting tattoos, who fight like Barney Fife, and cry in the fetal position monthly due to PMS, or sad movies, or the fact that their lunch tray was missing a cookie.


I’ve been in ADSEG [solitary] for 532 of my 940 days. That’s lockdown. 23/7 at a minimum, [1 hour/day out of the cell.] Usually I elect 24/7. This is like seeing a fresh red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting but only being able to lick the spatula. You take what you can get but crave more.

ADSEG reduces your world to only as far as your eye can see. This is not necessarily bad. My cell door window provided comedy, drama, suspense, tragedy and everything in between.

The negative impact is I no longer appreciate the acting skills of Hollywood. It does not matter how many awards an actor has, people in jail are far superior at acting and they don’t need a scriptwriter. In Hollywood, agents search high and low for people who can cry on cue. I dare you to find an inmate who can’t.


Watching others leave can be bittersweet.

For some it’s easy to wish them well. For some you try really hard not to say, “there is no way the sexual favor you performed for that deal could be done under a desk, is there?” There are goodbyes you know are temporary, ones you hope are not, and those you have faith in being forever. Most do come back.

The goodbyes to those leaving prison life behind are sad. You marvel how no matter the case, even the ice-cold killer becomes just a scared young woman. The worst part of releases is too often the person has no idea where to go, which almost always means they’ll be back.

I look forward to the day I can walk out. I pray for the opportunity and balls to shout, “I told you I didn’t do it.” Maybe I’ll get the staff to grill me one of those prime ribs I’ve been forced to smell through the air vents during holidays. More than anything I want to wake up and see my little girl, knowing she won’t disappear.


Dorothy Maraglino is serving time in California for 1st degree murder.