Fights in a Women's Prison

Fights in a Women's Prison

Fights in a Women’s Prison

I witnessed my first violent fight, just ten feet away. Hippie Chick and I were circling the yard. On the opposite side, Helen of Troy, the fancy call girl was walking with her girlfriend. From a distance, we could hear her girlfriend shouting. Helen of Troy kept her head down and walked close to the fence line. She looked frightened.  Fights in a women’s prison are frightening.

Girlfriend is a mean motherfucker

Hippie Chick shivered. “Dude, my cellmate, Angry Girlfriend is a mean motherfucker. If she don’t like you, you gotta worry about it, and she don’t like me. I am only in that cell when I have to be. She’s jealous of anyone who talks to Helen of Troy. Those two argue constantly, then she bitches about it to me.” We walked slower, keeping our distance.  “Sounds like she’s had some pretty fucked up relationships, lots of domestic violence.” 

As we turned the corner, Hippie Chick stopped walking and turned to me. “I used to fight. I saw red when I fought. I blacked out and kept on fighting.” Does everyone fight in here? We preceded in silence.

“I used to love it. Fuckin’ scares me.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “I don’t ever want to do that again.” She wiped the tears with the heels of her hands.

Oh shit, Karen. I don’t like it.

We were circling closer to the argument between Helen of Troy and Angry Girlfriend. “Oh shit, Karen. I don’t like it.” We were about ten feet away. There was a third girl involved, it looked like a lover’s triangle.

Fights in a Women's Prison“You stay away from my girl, bitch.” Girlfriend shouted.

“I guess I’ll talk to who ever I want.” the third girl countered.

That’s all it took. Suddenly, right in front of us, Angry Girlfriend started to swing. We froze in our tracks. This wasn’t bitch-slapping and hair-pulling. It was pummeling. The third girl fell on the second punch. We tried to scoot back but were blocked by the instant crowd of spectators gathering in sick fascination. The loser was on her back, Angry Girlfriend kneeled over her and just kept on swinging. The only sound was fist and face. Blood flew through the air in chunks, not droplets, maybe it held some teeth or a chunk of cheek. It seemed like an eternity, someone beside me puked. Finally the alarm, whoop, whoop, whoop. The cops dragged Angry Girlfriend off the unconscious woman, her face sweating with rage. They cuffed Angry Girlfriend and Helen of Troy and led them away. Then they loaded the wounded woman into a wheelchair and wheeled her off the yard.

I never knew women were capable of fighting like men

I was shaken. I never knew women were capable of fighting like men, it was like the fighting scenes in a Tarantino movie, only this was in swinging distance, not on a movie screen.

“Why are they taking the girl on the ground?” I called out. “She never even swung. Helen of Troy was just standing there.” A girl in the crowd next to us said,

“They take ’em all. They figure if you’re playin’ with fire, you’re burnt.”

“I am just glad it wasn’t me.” said Hippie Chick. 

I wanted answers. Why do women fight and who taught them to swing like that?” Mittens would know.

My prison survival strategy: Run, Scream and Hide may not be enough.

“Most of the fights in here are between cellies.” My head jerked up, she did not see my alarm. She was pacing, “You don’t have to get all Clint Eastwood and pull a publicity stunt, yellin’ at your roommate. That’s punk ass shit. Just put a lock in sock and get it over with, uh-huh.” Just when I was feeling comfortable with her. I watched her powerful body pace back and forth, I looked at her arms. What did I expect? This was the information I was seeking after the fight at yard. My prison survival strategy: Run, Scream and Hide may not be enough.

I learned to fight from men

“For some of us, fighting is a way of life.” I looked at Mittens as she was trying out hair-do’s in the tiny mirror. I wondered if she was beaten as a child in her own home. As though she was reading my mind she continued, “Yep,” she drawled as she put grease on her hair and wrestled it into high pony tail, her exotic eyes slanted upward. She stopped and stared into her reflection.

Fights in a Women's Prison“Our mama’s fought, we fight. I learned to fight from men. One day I got in trouble in school. The principle called me down to the office. He chewed me out and told me he was going to call my mother. I laughed and told him, “You can lecture me as much as you want. I’ll listen. But, you do not want to mess with my mother. She gets mad. It ain’t safe.”

She went back to pacing without looking at me. When she continued, it was in a soft voice. “My dad didn’t trust women. One time he got so mad, he took it out on me, held me down by the back of my neck and made me eat food out of a dog dish, he yellin’ at me, ‘all you women are bitches.’” Mittens stopped pacing and looked in the mirror. She picked up her comb and just stared at it in her hand. I was quiet, I kept my eyes down to give her privacy. I imagined that scene with her young head over a dog dish, kneeling on the floor. How old was she? How did she get through it?

I was taught to square off and box. I’m fast.

Mittens went back to pacing, this time with purpose as to shake off the memory. She stopped in front of my bunk and held up her fists, “I was taught to square off and box. I’m fast.” She feigned a fast fury of fist work. “I use my hands, legs, and any object I need.” She was grinning, then the smile slid away and she went back to her perch at the window, “It’s gotten me in a lot of trouble, I’ve broken legs.” She was quiet, I waited. “I re-broke the same leg. That’s why I am here. I can’t fight ever again. I ain’t never coming back here.” She stared out window and said in a breaking voice, “I can’t come back here.”

Our cell was quiet the rest of the night. I held back my questions and let the violence rest. How could I make a safety plan living in a closet with another full grown adult who had such a violent history? How could this young girl ever learn to trust anyone?

Fights in a Women's Prison

Fights in a Women’s Prison

Fights in a Women’s Prison