Interview with Hilda Berghammer
by Hilda Berghammer

 domestic-violence  motherhood  prison-life  prostitution  substance-abuse

Carolyn Watson: Hilda, tell me a little about your early life, your family life, your upbringing your children. Get to that, in that order, prior to your incarceration.

Hilda Berghammer: I was born in Austria, came here when I was nine years old. My parents were already here. I was raised by my mom’s aunt and uncle. So, when I came over here to live with my parents it was kinda like I came to live with people that I didn’t even know. And in a way I guess that was the beginning of a lot of my problems because I didn’t get along with my mom. And, I started running away from home when I was about eleven/ twelve. By the time I was a freshman in high school I was living with foster parents. You know, not getting into…not doing drugs and not getting into legal problems, but just running away from home and not getting along with my mom and not wanting to live with her. So, I think that was kind of a beginning of some emotional problems that I was having. And, by the time- I was in a couple different foster homes. By the time I got out of high school I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I wanted to live on my own. That was my main goal. I didn’t want to have anybody to boss me around. So, I kind of uh… went off on my own, ended up getting pregnant. And that kind of, cut short my whole youth. I got pregnant, had a baby. Ended up not getting married. Got into prostitution and did that for about two or three years. Ended up marrying… getting married.

C.W.: How old were you?

H.B.: I was 17, 18. And by the time I was nineteen, I got married for the first time. I stayed married for a couple of times. I got out of that kind of life. I tried to get back in to some kind of normalcy and I thought it was working for me for a while. I got married for a second time and tried to raise my son in a family atmosphere. That lasted until I was about… until my son was about 16. Then I got divorced for the second time. Shortly after that I got married again. That lasted for about 2 or 3 years. And as time went on, I became involved in drugs and then I started having legal problems. I started using, became addicted a few years down the road and I was having a lot of runs ins, legal run ins, that stemmed from driving. Driving while intoxicated and then after a while it became driving while under the influence and then it became driving on a revoked, under the influence, and a… with possession of drugs. So, it just kind of snowballed and the end result was I got 2 or 3 DUIs, and several driving on revoked and several possession charges. And when it all came to a head, I ended up in prison.

C.W.: The relationships, these were three marriages or four, were any of them abusive?

H.B.: Yeah.

C.W.: Tell me about it.

H.B.: Well, my first marriage was very abusive and it was not just toward me, it also toward my son. It was between. His age, between one and three, and the guy would beat me, he would beat up on my son and it got… I was married when I was nineteen. I thought I was pretty smart and I was really pretty naive. And, he threatened me to the point where I was pretty scared to leave. The type of thing where: “If you leave I’m going to find you. You’re never going to be able to leave.” You know, stuff like that. After a while, after trying to leave a few times and him finding me and getting the shit beat out of me. I kind of started believing it and eventually I got away from him. I planned it out. I took my son. Most of the time when I tried to get away form him, to leave him, he had my son as a hostage just about. I could leave, but I couldn’t leave without him knowing, with my son as well.

C.W.: Was that the boy’s father?

H.B.: No. So, there was a lot of abuse. I have scars from that. It was a bad scene because it was all in front of my son. And he was not only abused, but he was neglected as well. There just wasn’t time for him. I think that ultimately did a lot of long term damage to him, mostly but… I don’t know if it was mostly to him or not… It did a lot of damage to me too.

C.W.: So, you went through 3 husbands, 4 husbands… kept picking the same kind of guy?

H.B.: Yeah.

C.W.: We do that. And then you got involved in the criminal justice system?

H.B.: Yeah. Actually, amazing as it is, it was quite a while down the road. I didn’t get involved in that until I was in my 30’s. I got my first DUI in 1986 and at that time I was primarily drinking. I smoked a little pot here or there but, very rare.

C.W.: You are from an Eastern European country? Is that considered that?

H.B.: I have to think about that.

C.W.: Because they have a lot of drinking.

H.B.: Yeah. The culture is a lot of drinking. There was a lot of drinking in the home and by my step dad. But, you know, drinking was always considered okay as long as you can still function, as long as you can still take care of your family. It was a social thing. It was… The family would get together on the weekends and some days either here or there and drinking was a main activity. But, I didn’t drink while was at home. And I didn’t drink for a good five years after I left home, really. Through my first marriage I didn’t drink at all or do drugs. The second guy I married, he was a drinker and loved to smoke pot. So, I started.

C.W.: Do you think that you were defined by your husbands?

H.B.: Yeah… yeah. Never really thought of it like that but, yeah.

C.W.: Could you talk a little about that?

H.B.: Well, my first husband, he more or less, he totally isolated me and I became pretty withdrawn. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to. The first one was really bad and I got caught in a situation and by the time I figured out, knew what hit me, it was too late to get out, you know. It was just an unfortunate situation. The second guy I could’ve left, but I had this idea in my mind that I was going to make it work because I need to be in family setting, family life. Mother, father, bringing up a kid. So, I stayed in that marriage for 14 years. And I guess as far as being defined by that: He was a drinker. I got into the crowd, his crowd. Some of the crowd I knew from high school because I did a year of high school in that area, too. So, I knew some of the people, but as it turned out they were drinking and doing a lot of drugs. This guy was in that kind of crowd, so that’s what I did. You know eve… you know I kind of wanted to do that and that was okay with me, but I still wanted to do other things, I still had my ambitions and my goals in life, which were to you know maybe own some property, and get some rental property; do some investing, and put some away for the future. Stuff like that.

C.W.: Absolutely.

H.B.: But, the guy I was married to, it seemed like I was a lot more ambitious then he was.

C.W.: You succeeded to him.

H.B.: Yeah, where I wanted to go wasn’t happening. I wasn’t getting there. I started seeing that, but I still stayed in the marriage because the family thing. And umm too for my son it wasn’t really working well either because my son and him didn’t really get along. So, what I thought would do him good and would be a good thing for him, turned out to be a bad thing. Again. But I didn’t divorce him until Rich was about 16 going on 17, and at that time he was pretty much raised and grown. That relationship ended up hurting him more than the first husband, I believe because it was in his growing up years and he started seeing a lot of arguing and a lot of fighting and a lot of just uh… controversy all the time. And, naturally, he thought that he was part of it or to blame you know, whatever… He got pushed on the side again more or less. His needs were not being met.

C.W.: Do you have any brothers or sisters.

H.B.: Yeah, two sisters and a brother. They are all younger.

C.W.: So, you end up in the criminal justice system you’re in the county jail?

H.B.: I never got sentenced to the county jail. But, yes, I started out in the county jail.

C.W.: How much time did you spend there? Could you describe what that is like?

H.B.: I spent only a few weeks at a time there. I was probably there for a few days or a week or so a few times. I guess um… the worst part about that is that it’s the beginning of the whole prison thing. You start out there and you go from there and while you’re there you don’t know what to expect yet. You don’t know how long you are going to be there. You haven’t been sentenced to anything. You’re just kind of in limbo… sitting there waiting. And um… it’s um… I don’t know… it’s scary. You’re confined there’s nothing you can do about it.

Salome Chasnoff: What’s the environment like… physically, emotionally?

H.B.: Well, you’re umm… I was at the point where I realized that I was there and you know under somebody else’s rule and there wasn’t a thing that I could do about it.

Carolyn Watson: If you take a look at that, you’d have experience with that—in the same sense as the men that you were with and you come to the realization.

H.B.: Yeah, Good point.

C.W.: Putting that aside and moving on to the Illinois Department of Corrections, that had to be a culture shock.

H.B.: Yeah.

C.W.: Tell me your… Close your eyes and flashback for me and then come back and tell me what it was like.

H.B.: It was like having to set your mind to “you know what you have to do, you know what’s going to happen,” or you have a good idea, you’ll just gonna have to deal with it you know, harden up and just do it.

C.W.: See you got that. Most people don’t get it. Set your mind.

H.B.: Yeah. I had a, actually had a choice because I was fortunate enough to have a lawyer. I had spent a lot of money on a lawyer. In fact, I owed him money when I came out still and I started paying him. But, He um asked me… because there was an option of getting county time. But, I would’ve had to do a year and more than one year. Probably about a year a piece for each charge. When I started figuring that out - how much time I would end up doing to avoid having the state time and the prison record, the X, you know it was like possibly a few months versus minimum one year up to possibly, who knows, three or so. One year, one at a time and at the county there’s no day for day…

C.W.: Straight time.

H.B.: You do straight time, so I was learning about that, too. So, when he the question: “Does it matter to me which I do?” I said, “Whichever one I get out the quickest.” So, I went to Dwight.

S. C.f: How did you when you were young… when you were still in your teens you got involved in prostitution, could you talk about how that happened? What brought you to that step? What was it like at your age?

H.B.: I got involved in prostitution when I was 18 and how I got to that was, that I really didn’t have a family so to speak to… you know… I didn’t want to live at home, so I left there, I ended up going into a foster home and I was there for a while and then I went into a different foster home and from there I went to an all girls residential school, House of Good Shepherd. During that time, that whole time, I really had no contact with my parents or very little, you know. As far as I was concerned they weren’t really my family. The foster parents weren’t really my family either. So, what I was looking to do was to be out on my own as an adult and support myself and not have a family because I was going to start my own family. Not necessarily by having a baby, but, you know, just being an adult. And, what had happened was that I got pregnant in the process and right after I got out of the boarding school I went back to a foster home that I was in before and I was taking beauty school, cosmetology…

C.W.:Let me interrupt you. Did the court send you to these continuation places? How did you get there?

H.B.: Yeah, they did. But it’s not like they did it against my will, my probation officer, yeah, I was actually a ward of the court at that time.

C.W.: Were there a lot of white girls that this is happening to?

H.B.: Yeah.

C.W.: And so you got into prostitution because it’s a family kind of thing? The man and…

H.B.: Yeah, I got into prostitution because I found myself pregnant and I was going to marry my son’s father but I moved in with him and after Rich was born we weren’t married yet and I started seeing some ways about him that I didn’t like. Like that he couldn’t keep a job and I saw myself working and supporting him. So, I thought… “Well, this isn’t what I really want.” Also, he was bossing me around I really didn’t want to be bossed around… becoming an adult and that’s what I wanted to get away from, you know, I wanted to do my own thing. So, when I started seeing that about him, I left him and I took my son with. And, this was when, Rich, my son, was about two months old. So, I how I got into the prostitution was that the area that I was living in, in Chicago when I had my son with my son’s dad, I had worked part-time in a beauty shop on the same block. While I was hanging around there these guys started coming in there, these pimps started coming in there and talking about making some money. You know, “Don’t you want to make some money? I know how you can make some money.” This that and the other and one thing led to another… so, actually, before I left him that was what… With me hearing this and the situation that I was in that I wanted to leave, that gave me the way to leave, so that I could make some money and I not have to be stuck. Well, that was the beginning of a lot of bad stuff.

S.C.: Did you experience violence or abuse while you were prostituting?

H.B.: Yeah. You know, not with this guy per se, but then it wasn’t long before I moved on to somebody else, another pimp and that’s the guy that I ended up marrying when I was 19. So, we were together for about a year and then I ended up marrying him.

C.W.: Was he black?

H.B.: Yeah. Not only did I get into that, but we went to Las Vegas… so, when that happened I was kinda, totally isolated, and I didn’t know anybody. There was a lot of violence, a lot of abuse, a lot of threatening and you know, in a lot of ways that was probably a lot more scary than being in prison for all practical purposes.

C.W.: Tell us about it.

H.B.: It was like just being totally… being kidnapped.

C.W.: Across state lines.

H.B.: Yeah, which I went on my own free will, but I didn’t really realize what I was getting myself into and I’m sure that he knew exactly how to play that game, but I didn’t.

C.W.: Did you take the baby with?

H.B.: Yeah.

S.C.: When you were married were you still in prostitution in Las Vegas?

H.B.: Yeah.

S.C.: Could you talk about that?

H.B.: Well, I was there for almost 2 years. What would happen was that I would go out and work and he would be at home with my son. So, there was really never any opportunity for me to leave. I did leave several times without my son, but I’d always have to go back to get him.

C.W.: What kind of money were you making?

H.B.: Anywhere from $100.00 to $1,000.00 a night. But, you know, then you’d get arrested, and once they get to know you, you start getting arrested and it was probably, I don’t even remember, it was at least six months to a year before I ever got arrested, but once I did, they start knowing you and Las Vegas was a pretty small town. So, after a while, it’s difficult to make money when you can’t show your face. With the prostitution it’s always if you don’t get the kind of money that you’re expected to, you get beat. That was a pretty painful period. I really don’t know what more specific to say about that except being stuck in a situation that I didn’t know how to get out of . . .

C.W.: How did you get out of it?

H.B.: The last time I left I had… the kids were at a babysitters…

C.W.: Kids plural… you had more children?

H.B.: Yeah, this guy had a baby from another girl who was five months younger than my son and we had them both and she wasn’t around. One night both boys were at a babysitters and I was out working and I had made some money, and I had decided to… I had quite a bit of money and I went and got the kids and just went to a hotel room and put them in there and we stayed there for two or three weeks. More or less until I had enough money to come back to Illinois. I guess I didn’t have that much money because I only had enough money to pay for a room and I needed to go out and work more to make more money so I could get the plane tickets and some money to come back here on and be able live for a little bit. So, between the hotel room and a babysitter every night it cost me about $200, plus I had to buy a change of clothes every day because I left with the clothes on my back and the kids with what they had on, I left everything behind. So, that meant me having to make at least $200 a night to be able to stay another night to try and make a lot of money so I could get some plane tickets and some spending money for when I got here. And, that took me about, I don’t know, a couple of weeks or so. What I did was, I called my foster parents in Oak Brook and told them that um… I didn’t tell them what I was doing, that, you know I was being a prostitute, but I told them that I had some problems and that I needed to come back here and could I stay with them and they said, “yeah.” That’s what I did.

C.W.: And you brought the other child back with you?

H.B.: Yeah, I brought that one back and I got a hold of the guy’s mother and told her what the situation was and that I didn’t think that he was fit to take care of em, so I brought them back. And said would she keep them and she said, “yeah.”

S.C.: You talked before about all of this having an impact on your son. What kind of an impact did it have?

H.B.: Well, overall it’s that I didn’t have the time to spend with him when he was young that he needed. I mean was out working, when I wasn’t out working I was at home sleeping or doing whatever. It was a real tense situation because me and this guy really didn’t get along. At first, it was okay but after a while it was just me being there because I had to be there. Cause I couldn’t figure out how to get away and I had to make this guy think that I liked him.

C.W.: What I ‘m getting is that you just thought you were a bad mother and that you had bad parenting skills and that you think you neglected your child. Is that it?

H.B.: Well, yeah. I didn’t just think it, but I did it.

C.W.: How is he doing now?

H.B.: He’s doing real good. But I think as a result of that it took him quite a bit longer to do a lot of the things that he should’ve done when he was a teenager, like…

C.W.: No. We do things when we are supposed to do them… the preconceived ideas of the family, you know, you try to make that family… only in the time. Let’s talk about your son. He’s a multicultural boy?

H.B.: Yeah.

C.W.: Tell us about him. I know about him, but tell them.

H.B.: Well, his father was black, so he’s mixed. He’s… pretty much of his younger life, grew up… his father was black and this first guy I married was black. Okay, so you know that was his black experience. But after that my second husband he was white and where I moved to was just about all white and this is when he was about 3 1/2 to 4 years old. So, he basically grew up with white people. And then, he had… I had a lot of problems with him, too. I don’t know all about the ‘why’s,’ I can’t tell exactly why, and a lot of things contributed to it, but the second guy I married wasn’t much better than the first. The physical violence and all that, and the prostitution wasn’t involved, but he was, as far as a father figure, he wasn’t, that didn’t work out the way that I had planned. It never, they never clicked and that relationship between the two of them wasn’t there. And that caused a lot of friction between me and the husband. Then, you know, that caused Rich to feel that probably he was the problem. And we started having a lot of problems in the home. Like Rich, in Kindergarten, He… I had to come and get him because he wouldn’t do what they told him. Problems just continued through school with him and a lot of that had to because of the home environment and I think the part I played on that was that I was always so busy trying to get my life together. My marriage to work, and things to work and I didn’t realize that the one thing I should’ve been focussing on was him. Forget about the family thing because he and I were the family and it wasn’t necessary that a third person be brought in.

C.W.: I learned that from you.

H.B.: But I was still myself looking for that person and I mean, when I had him I wasn’t even 18 yet and I hadn’t grown up and I hadn’t had the opportunity to be a teenager and a young person, you know experience all those things. That’s what I wanted. I really wasn’t ready to settle down.

C.W.: Well, he’s a grown man now a very articulate, well-spoken, just a wonderful guy. I know that he’s had some issues. Did he have some counseling while you were at Grace House or something?

H.B.: No, he didn’t have counseling, but we got to know each other better because for a while, before then, through his teenage years and while he was growing up I was doing a lot of drinking and there was just never the part where he and I- bonding just never happened, you know. Because there was a third party involved, he and I never had the opportunity, or I never took the time to make him and me work before bringing someone else in, you know. So after… when I was at Grace House, I kind of… I did make up my mind that I am going to change my life around and start doing things differently and look at things the way they really are and not the way I want them to be. Him seeing me change… I think he really respected what I was doing and the effort I had to put into it and the results. And he kind of… he supported me throughout the whole process… emotionally. He saw that I was doing better and that I as changing and I think that brought us closer. I think that for a long, long time he didn’t trust me. Probably because there was always somebody else involved and it was never… I didn’t take his side all the time. I just wasn’t there for him, the way that I needed to be. I’m not sure how it all happened, but…

C.W.: I had a long talk with him. Could you describe the different cells you were in while you were incarcerated? I know I kinda jumping, but, . . .and how they impacted you.

H.B.: Starting from the county?

C.W.: Yeah.

H.B.: Well, DuPage County, I’ve been in DuPage and in Cook. DuPage County, it’s more like, you had your own cell, but there was a… I don’t know what you call it, there was a main area where you come out to eat and you have some time to be out in the main room where you watch TV and you shower and do the very few little things that you do. For the most part you are in the cell by yourself. There’s like five on one side and five on the other side and they all face the open area in the middle where you eat and when you come out. It’s all cement, painted cement, gray, beige, whatever, with metal support, I guess frame for a plastic cot. You get one scratchy blanket and a flat pillow. That’s it. Toothbrush, toothpaste, I guess a bar of soap. You get commissary if you are there long enough, I guess a week or two. If you leave, you almost never get take anything with you that you accumulate, so, but I guess the difference in the county and Dwight is that the county you know you’re still waiting for something to happen… to see what ‘s going to happen, to see what kind of sentence you are going to get, to see where you are going. You’re with a bunch of people who are just coming in. People are really in there and ready to go back out and do the same thing that they came in there for, it’s not reality yet. And, after I got sentenced and went to Dwight, that was the realization of, “Yeah, something happened, and this is your punishment of it and this is what you gotta do.” Once you go there it’s a totally different ball game. The minute you walk in there- you have to do a strip search. They take everything you have and give you an orange jumpsuit to put on and from there I think you go to where they have your uniforms or your clothes and you go there and get your picture taken for an I.D. You get some clothes issued to you. A couple pairs of this, a couple pairs of pants, a couple of shirts, a couple of bras, a couple of underwear and a couple of socks. And that’s your wardrobe and you get a great big box to put it in. From there, you get told where you’re going to go and then you go to the building they put you in and you drag the box with you and they tell you what cell you’re in and you take it in there and then from then on you have your roommate telling you what to do. It’s usually, the rooms I’ve been in were 2 bunks and a toilet. Everything’s metal, metal or concrete and a little bitty sink.

C.W.: What was it like using the bathroom in front of somebody for the first time?

H.B.: Well, it’s pretty degrading, kind of primitive, like an animal. You may as well just squat anywhere. But, you had no choice. And um… It’s not just using the toilet in front of your roommate, but it’s the showering. On one unit you had a single shower, on 14. In the X House the showers held 6 people, I think, 6 women. Everyone takes a shower all together. There is no privacy.

C.W.: I’ve never been in the X House.

H.B.: No, that’s good. It’s not much different. It’s no big difference.

C.W.: Can you talk about the noise?

H.B.: The noise. . .most of the noise that you hear is steel doors opening and closing. Keys going into locks, unlocking doors and then slamming. Lots of steel doors slamming. People walking down the hallway, which would be the guards. Other than that, it’s people shouting orders all the time, the guards. It’s people coming to your room, knocking on the door for a room check. Floor head count, I almost forgot that, that you have to get up or shake you leg or something. To let them know you’re alive. As far as the inmates, you always hear someone calling for a guard because they need something because they want to ask a question about this or that or that they’re sick, they’re in pain.

C.W.: Do they listen?

H.B.: No.

C.W.: Have you ever experienced anybody really needing help and not getting it?

H.B.: Yeah, not my roommate in my cell, but, yeah, there were a lot of people on the tier that were sick. They couldn’t barely walk, were pregnant and were having pains like could be miscarriage possibly, who knows. Nothing is done about it. As long as… you have to walk. If you have to get in line to go eat, you have to get in line and stand there. It doesn’t matter how sick you are. Either that or you don’t eat. So, there’s people complaining about toothaches all the time. And I know that tooth aches are very bad… Stuff like that for medication. There’s really no medication that really helps. What they give you is just kinda like an aspirin, aspirins which usually don’t help when you have an abscessed tooth or you know if you’re in major pain. You know, there’s women that were on my tier that had surgery, or that had cancer in fact and when they go to the sick… to the hospital they literally get nothing while they’re in there. One lady was in there, she had, I don’t know what you call it, she had her breasts removed. . .

C.W.: Mastectomy.

H.B.: Mastectomy. She had that done while she was there. Then she came back on the tier. And it’s very painful, but they don’t allow you even to recuperate. And lay in your cell. You still have to come out. When it’ s time for everybody to come out, you still have to come out. And when it’s time to stand in line, you still have to wait to go eat.

C.W.: How long do you have stay out? Like 8 hours, like that?

H.B.: I don’t remember. There’s several periods. I went to school so part of my day wasn’t on the unit, but a lot of times during the day you would have be out in the main room. You’d have to sit up, there’s no place to lay down. We did have a couple couches at one time, but you couldn’t lay down on the couch, so you were stuck out there in pain and just dealing with it. It doesn’t matter what your physical problem is or what kind of pain you are in, you are the same as everyone else. They make no exceptions.

S.C.: What were your relations like with the other women? Any relationships?

H.B.: Well, because it was my first time in there, I didn’t know anybody, for one. I really didn’t talk to anybody. I tried really not really socializing too much or not make any friends. I was kind of on the mindset that, “I need to figure out what I’m going to do while I’m in there and how I’m going pass my time and I’m gonna just stick to myself more or less and find what’s available and what I should do an how to go about doing that.” I talked to my roommate because I had to, but I tried not to really get off into that buddy thing. I had a choice whether to try to go into Gateway and I had looked into it and it was a tough decision because at that point I had no intentions of not drinking or changing my life around. I wasn’t at that point yet. I was tossing it around, but I didn’t want to go about the motions if I wasn’t serious about it. So, I was really had to… I was struggling with myself and at first, I didn’t go into Gateway because I thought, “No, this isn’t going to be what I’m doing. It’ll be a waste of my time.” At that point, I never graduated from high school I was three months short before I quit, so I decided to try and get my G.E.D., which I did in 10 weeks, I think. And I got that just before I left. So, it worked out for me and it pretty much occupied a lot of my time.

C.W.: You were there for 4 months?

H.B.: 4 1/2 months.

C.W.: What’s the most horrible experience you had while being incarcerated?

H.B.: I guess, there were a few things that stand out in my mind that were really horrible. That thing with the strip searches. They did that 2,3,4 times when I was in there… when they come in there and just rip everything apart in there and you have strip down and squat and… they take… if they so chose, take everything that’s contraband, so any little thing that you may have accumulated while you were in there is gone. Then it’s that and just the humiliation of being ordered around all the time. There’s no personality in there. An inmate is… everybody is the inmate. It’s like everybody is one inmate. There’s not much difference in one inmate and the other. It’s just like… It’s us and them. The realization of that you’re so helpless in there. That there is nothing you can do. If I needed- a really bad thing is if I needed to make contact with someone, you have to do it on their time. You can’t just uh… You’re cut off from everything and everybody unless they allow you to have contact. And if they don’t allow it, you won’t. You can’t just be in there and lay around and keep to yourself. You have to be… You have to do what the schedule calls for.

C.W.: You had some thoughts about what we may put in the book and you wrote some ideas down and what you wrote down just hit me because I’ve not been able to outlive it, it stays with me, you know. I committed a crime, I paid for it, but I keep having to pay for it. In my life experiences, so far, for me. Has that been for you?

H.B.: Yeah, it’s a constant and I really resent that.

C.W.: I’m angry, I’m really angry about it. It brings up emotions in me and you know we kind of think alike on a lot of things. I read that and I keep having to pay. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep paying.

H.B.: It’s like once you are in the system you have that prison time, you’re in the system and you’re branded for life and nothing, anytime any altercation were to happen and if you ever were questioned by the authorities, just the fact that that is there is a major problem.

C.W.: That’s what I am alluding to. In my job, it came about, it was inferred. I’m not going to keep paying this.

H.B.: So far In my jobs, but I’m doing telemarketing type work, that’s usually a kind of a job where it doesn’t matter that much. However, if I ever wanted to move up or do some other things, it would matter.

C.W.: Dealing with money.

H.B.: Money, definitely. That is a big thing with me. Not that I maybe would want to go into politics, but what if I did? What if you want to run for some kind of an office or be even, no even that… but if you were to be head of something, some kind of an organization, even if it’s not political, still, people, tend to want to know who is representing them and they don’t want somebody to represent them like me or you. Not because they don’t like you or I, it’s because what people will think if find you know. . .

C.W.: Absolutely.

H.B.: It’s not acceptable… it’s not acceptable in society to be an ex-offender and be considered as good as everybody else, or equal, we’re not equal anymore. By being labeled an ex-offender that separates us from everybody else and it sucks.

Salome Chasnoff:When you were in Dwight or even in County, was it a problem for you that you were white?

H.B.: No. There’s a lot of white women in prison, too. In DuPage County it’s mostly white because it’s white. In Cook County it’s mostly black. But, at Dwight, still mostly black, but while I was there I saw a lot of white women coming in.

C.W.: Actually you kind fit in with black people. I know you’re white, but you don’t have a lot of white mannerisms. I think you’re treated differently from other white women.

H.B.: I try to treat people the way that I would like to be treated.

C.W.:Absolutely, by you know what she meant and you know what I’m talking about you fit in basically, the way some other white people don’t fit in. Have you found that to be true.

H.B.: Yes.

C.W.: Do white women have a harder time?

H.B.: Probably, It depends on how many there are.

C.W.: You’re older, more mature. You get mostly young white girls.

H.B.: It’s the younger ones who get pushed around.