Germaine Steudler was arrested on September 19 for a probation violation. What follows are excerpts from her journal.
9/26/96: Awakened at 1 a.m. and asked what size pants and shirt I needed for court. The guard returned a half an hour later . . . we were shackled together and loaded into vans . . . No seatbelts . . . Once at Madison we were taken to the dungeon and uncuffed. This facility used to be the old city morgue. It is filthy, and swarms of sewer roaches fill the darkened, shadowy corners. My life is surely at its lowest, most humiliating point.
At 7 a.m. we were recuffed, herded into a van and transported to Southeast Mesa justice court. On arriving, we were herded into a 10 by 10 foot room where we waited for our appearances, remaining handcuffed in a cell. We were taken from the cell and shackled together with a long heavy chain and taken into the courtroom. Once there the public defender explained court etiquette and handed out printed allegations. He began to speak with me about my charges and I stopped him, informing him that Brian Strong was my attorney and he would be here shortly.
We all rose noisily when the judge entered as we were instructed. Brian spoke on my behalf. The judge refused to release me. I was then returned to the cell to await transport back to Estrella. I had to use a restroom, as there is no toilet in the cell, and was allowed to use the one in the main area of the hall with no privacy from guards or male inmates.
While waiting in the cell to be trafficked back to Estrella, the guards were in close proximity. The following words and phrases were shouted by the guards: "Fuck" 21 times, "Cocksucker" 14 times, "Suck my dick" 8 times, "Get some pussy" 5 times. This list goes on but these were the most offending.
On the way back to Estrella four stops were made. The air conditioning was turned off for several minutes each time and the van became extremely uncomfortable. On three of these occasions we waited for the transport guard to drink a Pepsi and smoke a cigarette. Upon arriving at Estrella we were unloaded, lined up and patted down. I received no lunch and was refused my medication.
At 10 p.m. an inmate with a fractured foot was refused help by guards when she said her splint needed to be rewrapped. I rewrapped her splint and put an extra blanket under her foot and leg to elevate the injured extremity above the level of her heart.
I cry myself to sleep.
9/27: I just noticed a video camera is aimed directly at the shower stalls. This transmits to the tower where the guards view the video screens.
If someone could smuggle me some contraband, my first choice would be Correctol. I've not had a BM for 9 days. I am feverish, have a chronic abdominal distortion [?] and pain. The nausea is constant.
I sit in front of the TV watching cartoons and drawing a calendar for October with colored pencils on a Saturday evening. My downward spiral is continuing but on a different plane--an intellectual one. I exercise my mind as much as possible, my body as much as I am allowed. . . . If I have to listen to Mary Poppins on the Disney Channel tonight for the sixth night in a row I will end up hating her and everything she represents.
9/29: Mean guards today. More fighting. End Room is infested with ants and guards refuse insect spray or bleach to get rid of them. . . . New inmate at lunch. She was crying. She defended herself against her husband as he broke her arm. Because she was cutting chicken with a knife when he attacked her and she had a knife in her hand, police arrested her. She is crying for her kids who are 9, 8, 6, 5. She was taken to the hospital and her hand is in a cast. She has never been in jail and has no "priors." My prison vocabulary is increasing.
2 p.m. Sent to medical for reevaluation of my meningitis. In medical holding tank for four hours. Sent for evaluation to Psych counseling. Missed dinner. When extra was brought to tank for me another inmate who had just eaten grabbed my dinner. When a girl from my pod began to defend my right to the food, I told her to calm down, saying that starting trouble would just end badly for all of us.
Spoke with psych counselor. . . . I told her that medications (for meningitis) were brought here from home . . . she stated that she would get them from my personal belongings and recommend that they be given to me. . . . Prior to my leaving . . . the medical nurse came and gave me [the meningitis medicine.] The guard that accompanied her saw the four capsules in my hand and said "You really should get off of those pills." I told him I took them for a life-threatening disease--viral meningitis. He said "It's all in your head."
10 p.m. When I returned from medical I find we are on "lockdown" because some people were smoking. This seems unfair that we are all punished, even those of us that don't smoke (no phone, locked in cell, no shower, no talking, etc.). The guards are essentially causing us to police ourselves which would result in becoming "snitches," and subjecting ourselves to serious bodily harm.
10/1: Still no newspaper. My mom called the AZ Republic and they said the order was started Monday 9/30. They also said papers delivered to Estrella frequently are stolen by guards, and inmates rarely receive the paper consistently. I want my paper. Not sure how to proceed with a grievance.
10/2: Every bone and muscle in my body aches since they took my extra padding away. It's like sleeping on a metal slab. If I turn on my side, my shoulder and hip bones rest on the metal. I have bruises on all four areas. I've had no exercise for 14 days. When I get out of bed too quickly I almost pass out. I can feel my energy level and good health failing.
Suzie is back from the dungeon. She tells a story about a heroin addict in a fight over tobacco with a lesbian. The lesbian charged with attempted murder.
6 p.m. Canteen order arrives. Yes, a radio! Ben Gay for my aching muscles, deodorant, talcum, lotions. Hurray! I'm listening to 94.5 and Paul Revere and the Raiders. I don't think anyone here had heard of grievance forms before I came and began to use them and get some results--not all.
10/3: Awakened 4 a.m. for breakfast and then read my newspaper! God--media, contact with the outside world. Yes!
Sewer backs up from showers into dayroom. Black, odorous sludge covers the floor in our eating area. We notify guards and they wave us away. Finally we push emergency button and guards are furious. They shove a mop in the room. We suggest a plumber and after five hours a plumber is here. Several of the girls are ill. We were told earlier by guards, "Just don't flush your toilets."
10 a.m. Mail comes and Suzie is refused her sister's letter because her sister enclosed a magazine. Therefore, she is not even entitled to receive the actual letter. She is crying.
Noon. We are locked down so we won't take the plumber hostage. Maybe we will be able to flush soon.
I received [only part of my medication today]. It occurs to me, the way the prison works and the guards treat the inmates must be similar to how the viet cong treated the POWs--a psychological approach to wearing them down and gaining control of their minds. This is truly the cruelest of punishments. And when the inmates are released back into society what kind of behavior can we expect from them after this miserable treatment?
10/4: No paper.
Awakened for breakfast at 4 a.m. I have been accepted into the W.O.W. program which meets for three hours a day. It provides readiness training, career exploration and self-esteem building. It offers assistance finding employment after we are released, as well as other support services. Four week program with a graduation and a certificate of achievement.
Violence at dinner over a burrito. Burrito flies to the floor, owner of the burrito tries to retrieve it when the perpetrator assaults burrito owner. Results in lockdown for perpetrator and medical for burrito owner. Life is very simple here in Estrella jail.
Wanda got a visit and the place is going wild--must be tobacco. Don't understand how people can think of taking the risk of smuggling in contraband when the consequence is lockdown.
Mail comes. Still no paper. I ask guard where my paper is, and he says, "Oh, that's yours? It's in the tower." And then, "Come with me, I'm not your paperboy."
10/5: Today is passing so slowly. Nice guards today. Suzie and I have named several other inmates. For example: "Dolphin Lady." She has a tattoo of two dolphins having intercourse on her butt.
Reading travel magazines. Bored. Dinner here. No food fights.
7 p.m. Julie comes to our room. Very nice, articulate. Embezzlement, facing 3.5 to 10 years in state prison. Her attitude is very positive. Talked for two hours. She says she was sexually abused as a child and is currently enrolled in a program here. She is awaiting sentencing and has been here since February.
11 p.m. The natives are restless. There are four inmates here from federal prison. They were sent here for punishment. Estrella is considered "the hole." One is screaming "I want to go home!"
A good 75 percent of our population is black or Hispanic. "Yo, girlfriend, what ya'll up to?" There is a different language in here. I'm beginning to understand and speak it.
10/6: Fight at lunch over cornbread. Ann is accused of stealing lesbo's cornbread. Verbal assault ensues.
6 p.m. Two new fishes in the aquarium. We are full to capacity unless they put mattresses on the tables. The noise is unbelievable. Wish I was hiking in the Superstitions.
No mail today and no paper.
10/7: I go to my first W.O.W. class today. Julie says it's a great class. We pair up face to face and ask the following questions: Who are you? What do you want? Next is written test on employment.
8 p.m. The nurse tells me [I missed my medicine order]. I asked about receiving meds during W.O.W. class. Nurse says "I don't know, I only do night jails."
I think she may be an android.
No newspaper tonight.
10/8: W.O.W. good today, but I missed my meds again. I'm told by a guard that they will call me later for missed meds.
I am in a foul mood. I haven't received my newspaper, no meds, and I'm tired of yelling, swearing, and loud T.V.
Tonight we order from the canteen. The frustrating thing for me is not being able to pick up the phone and solve problems quickly. I'm used to resolving problems as they arise. I'm at the mercy of the guards' moods.
4 p.m. [My boss] comes to visit. She informed me that she had to terminate me. She says, however, that she has a lot of respect for me and so do all of the people I work with. She says she told everyone that I had a family crisis that I had to deal with, and I wouldn't be coming back.
I'm sad about my job but maybe there is a reason or a lesson I need to get from this. Perhaps I need to be out of nursing. . . . I will see what business I can start at home. I've been thinking how I can destroy [my ex-husband] with lawsuits--not healthy for me. . . . I need a good shot of positive energy.
8 p.m. "Gorilla in the Mist" just came in and reminded me to order 12 Snickers for "Rastafarian."
9 p.m. Time for head count. They could count toes and have ten times the number of inmates.
10/9: Called to medical after I submitted two tank orders to have the times changed for my meds so I would not miss them due to W.O.W. class. Orders changed and I am to receive my meds tonight.
While in medical a nut from B tower was in tank with me. She went through the garbage and ate several half-eaten sandwiches. The guard saw her and told her we are having an outbreak of hepatitis here. She doesn't care.
10/10: Awakened for breakfast at 4 a.m. Read newspaper until we are called for W.O.W. Class very good this morning.
Learned one more trick that inmates use. When we get salad for dinner they save lettuce and potato skins, dry them out in their rooms, and roll them and smoke them.
New girl states she is Lickity Splits and Stud Muffins' Gay for a Day.
Suzie calls her attorney and finds out she will be out 10/21! We all celebrate.
7:30 p.m. Another head count. How in the world would they expect us to escape? Suzie is at church and I hope they will accept that explanation.
10/11: Lunch was disgusting.
My attorney here. So-so news. Hopeful about going home. We will plea bargain and I will go home. I'm going stir crazy.
Call mom: [My daughter] was here to visit but they refused her because she didn't have proof she was from Pinal County even though her driver's license says Apache Junction and the zip code. She has driven 65 miles one way; she talks to two supervisors but they all refuse her. . . . I'm furious.
10/12: Dolphin Lady and Baby Cakes have a big fight.
7 p.m. Julie came to room to talk. Told funny story. Her roommate smuggles in drugs and tobacco, but her source got banned from visitation. The roommate called her source and said you still better get me stuff on my next visitation. So the next time she was called for a visit who shows up but some derelict with long, matted hair, tattered clothing and no shoes who reeks of tequila. Her friend had hired a homeless guy for $20. After the exchange she got up to leave and the homeless man says softly, "Easiest 20 bucks I ever made."
The sources who smuggle the drugs or tobacco in do it by putting the contraband in a sock. Then they put their foot up on the opposite bench and the female inmate takes it and puts it up her vagina (that she has oiled before she comes to visitation).
10/13: Suzie goes to church and I read Saturday's paper.
There is a new girl who is in here for armed robbery. She says she terrorized the southern USA for 13 months. May be extradited to Texas.
10/14: Change of clothes and sheets today. First clean sheet I've had in three weeks.
10/15: Court date moved to 23rd. Please, please. I'm going crazy.
10/17: W.O.W. instructor Beth crying when we got there. She recovered quickly and declined to talk about it. None of us is immune to pain and tragedy. She has the next four days off and I hope things will be okay for her.
10/18: Suzie back from legal visit. Attorney told her she would be here for 30 more days. She is crying and terribly upset. I try to comfort her. I'm angry with her lawyer. He really led her on.
Newspaper and mail delivered in the middle of the night.
10/19: At 1:30 a.m. they yell for me to go to medical. I have no clothes so they take me in my nightgown--no underwear--down the cold hall for meds. Then rather than go back to my cell, the nurse takes me on the rest of her rounds. I froze to death. Then after about an hour I was returned to my cell. It's freezing in here.
10/21: Don't feel like writing.
10/22: Don't feel like writing.
10/23: Suzie's gone home.
No hot water for four days and air conditioning running continuously. I wash my hair in the sink in room last night with cold water. Freezing. I can't get out of bed it's so cold and wear all of my clothes.
Arpaio here with TV cameras today. What an asshole.
11:45 a.m. Visit with my attorney. Across the hall the excess guards are laughing and eating. They eat to stay fat.
[Two hours later.] I wait all this time for an "escort" back to my cell.
I must remember to give books to Estrella. I want to give or donate whatever I can to help.
10/24: They forget me for court so I go to W.O.W., and at 9 a.m. they come back for me--but I didn't have to go to the dungeon!
Officer M---- and Officer D---- stopped at Circle K for a smoke, New Times, a cop magazine and coffee.
We end up 45 minutes late to court.
They bring me in to the courtroom and back to the holding cell three times before they figure things out. Don't get back to Estrella until 7 p.m. No food and it's freezing.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
10/27: Attorney finally here. Worst case state prison 8 months. Best case reinstatement and go home. Middle of the road: go home [and probation]. May not be able to be released until Tuesday. They will allow me to look for a job but I must tell them where I am at all times.
11/5: Transferred to Tents.
11/6: So cold and no heat or thermals. No phone--on restriction because the yard is dirty.
11/7: Hot in day and freezing at night.
11/8: Guards called me out at 3 a.m. for yesterday's newspaper.
11/9: Wrote grievance yesterday. Told to "roll up" and sent to lockdown because I wrote grievance. In tiny room with four girls and one toilet. Guard broke one girl's leg and she had to have surgery and pins. He broke it with his bare hands.
Germaine Steudler was released on November 11.